Family lore has it that my great-great grandmother, Eliza Ann (Wilson) Patton, was the first white child born in Illinois, on December 6, 1817. I do not believe this can possibly be true, as the town she was born in, Palestine, was already a thriving frontier town. The Illinois territory was established by Congress on March 1, 1809, and it became a state on December 3, 1818. The population of the state was over 12,000 in 1818, and I am sure that number included some children older than Eliza Ann, who were also born there.
Eliza Ann’s father, William Wilson, was a successful Democratic politician, serving in the State House of Representatives, as Postmaster of Palestine, and as the U.S. government’s Land Registrar. (It is a point of pride in Crawford County, where Palestine is located, that the land grants for the City of Chicago were issued there.)
Eliza Ann married a doctor, Dr. Ebenezer Leith Patton, who had moved to Palestine from Tennessee, on December 31, 1835. The house they built in Palestine was inhabited by them and their children until 1948. (As a child in the early 1960s, I remember my father showing me the abandoned house, shortly before it was torn down.) They didn’t throw anything away. Not only do I have a photograph of the house, I also have a number of documents and invoices concerning its construction.
One of their children was Carroll Ebenezer Patton, my great-grandfather. He built a house in Palestine near his parent’s house. It is still standing, and still in the family. Another child, Allen Mathes Patton, was killed in the Civil War, and the family saved his letters, as they saved nearly everything. Other family members sailed to the California Gold Rush, and fought in World Wars I and II.
One of Carroll Patton’s daughters, Harriet Patton Cox, my grandmother, saved the letters, documents and photographs which make up this web site. Harriet married my grandfather, Manford E. Cox, on June 21, 1911. They lived in the house his father, John Thomas Cox, built in the 1870s, in Robinson, Illinois, six miles from Palestine. That house is still standing, but was sold by the family in 1977. (Bryant Cox, John Thomas’s father, came to Crawford County on June 1, 1830.)
Following my grandmother’s death in 1974, my late father Carroll Thomas Cox and I cleaned out the Cox house for the first time in a hundred years, prior to selling it to a cousin. The continuous residence in the family homes allowed us to save a wealth of historically important documents, and sharing them is the purpose of this web site.