We do not know what route the McGehee family and other relatives took to get to Illinois from Tennessee. We only know that Primitive Baptist church began on September 1, 1830, in what was then Greene County, Illinois, near the towns of Barrow and Roodhouse, near the border of Morgan Co Illinois. The church was called “Union Church,” and its charter members included James “Megeehe” and Elizabeth “Penalton” and Jane “Megeehe.” A list of “surnames” of members of the church included Pennington and “MeGeehe.” (http://pblib.org/FamHist-Greene.html
These church records, along with the 1830 census is the first we hear of James and Jane and their family in Illinois. At this time in Illinois, there were concerns about attacks from Native Americans and was just before the Blackhawk war.
In April of 1832, as our family was settling this area of Illinois, a group of Native Americans known as the “British Band” crossed over the Mississippi River into what is now the state of Illinois. Their leader was known as “Blackhawk.” There were different tribes of Native Americans on different sides of the fight. Some were on the side of the United States. Others had experienced difficulties with European Americans and had grudges to settle. Whoever may have been at fault is not something we could judge this far in ahead in time.
We can say that our family was right in the middle of this fight. We can find their names on documents of the day. We do not know precisely when our McGehee Family migrated from Morgan County up to Knox County or why. I remember hearing that people lived south of Knox County, Illinois, because of the fear of Native Americans and then moved back north when the threat was over. I cannot say for sure that this was the case with our family.
We know that they were in Morgan County in 1830 and were in Knox County in 1832, so the migration happened sometime within that time frame. While in Knox County, Illinois, our family lived in the small area known then and even today as Henderson’s Grove (then also known as “Henderson River”) just west of the present-day town of Henderson Illinois, and just North of the principal city of Galesburg, Illinois.
At one point, the settlers made contact with the army requesting weapons, and they received those weapons. That petition is the one shown above The record below shows the delivery those weapons.
"We, the undersigned, citizens of Henderson river and Knox and Warren counties, do hereby acknowledge to have received of Thomas McKee, Jr., and Fantelroy Freeman the several articles of arms and accoutrements set opposite our respective names." Those marked with star subsequently served in the Black Hawk war.
F. R. Freeman, William McMurtry,* James McMurtry,* Edward Martin* J. B. Criswell* Ebenezer Criswell * J. M. E. Criswell, Westly Pennington, John McGeehee, Nicholas Rice,* John McMurtry,* Edmond Adcock,* John Robertson,* Elbert Robertson,* Joseph Wallace,* Joseph Holliday,* John McAdams, Rees Jones,* Alex. Williams, James McGeehee, John Criswell, Jesse Adkins,* Stephen Pennington, James McMurtry, Sr., Joseph Roe, John Miles, Benjamin Brown,* William H. Bell,* Daniel Fuqua,* James Roundtree,* Matthew Coy, Thomas Maxwell,* Willis Pecenpaugh,* Henry Pecenpaugh, John Vaughn,* Henry D. Bell, Elijah Osborn, Erbin D. Coy,* James Reynolds, Andrew Osborn,* James Maxwell, James B. Atwood, Stephen Osborn, Robert Bell, Alexander Osborn, William Lewis,* Jesse D. Gum, Jones Osborn, Henry Maxwell,* Obadiah Fuqua,* Nicholas Voiles, John Norton, Josiah Vaughn,* J. G. Sanburn, Henry M. Gillette, Charles Hansford, Erbin Reynolds, Benjamin Jennings," Daniel Tanner,* Riggs Pennington, Jacob Adams,* F. V. Barber,* Benjamin Tucker, Wilson Brown,* Pleasant McGeehee, Simeon Pennington, Corbin Pennington, Alexander Frakes,* Jonathan Rice,* George Brown,* William Hill, Moses F. Freeman.”
(Source: History of Knox County, Illinois, Chas. C. Chapman & Co., Open Content Alliance, Chicago: Blakely, Brown & Marsh, Printers, 155 and 157 Dearborn Street, 1878)
The names in bold above are members of our McGehee family, or they are collateral lines of our family.
In 1832, Abraham Lincoln began his first political campaign in the state of Illinois. His campaign, however, was put on hold when the Blackhawk war broke out. One battle that took place just about 150 miles north of Henderson's grove (where the McGehee family lived) was called the battle of Stillman's run. Mr. Lincoln and his company came upon this battle after it had ended and helped to bury the dead. Our
James McGehee was involved in the subsequent "Blackhawk War." James entered the war on June 24, 1832, under Captain William McMurtry. "Capt. McMurtry's Company Odd Batt'n, Mtd. Rangers, Illinois Volunteers" is first reported arriving at the Camp of Major Samuel Bogard, 25 miles East of Gum's Fort. At one time, Robert McGehee, likely James' son, was also a part of this same group, but documents do not show the remaining members of the family to have taken part in this conflict. James was discharged from service on September 4th1833.
Several of James and Jane's children were married while in Knox County, Illinois. The first to marry was my great great grandfather, John McGehee. He married Sarah B Williams in January of 1834. Next was Jane McGehee, who married Hayden Hilton. They married in February of 1834. Then in August of 1836, Lucy McGehee married Ben C Campbell.
The picture above is an illustration of Black Hawk, from "History of the Indian Tribes of North America"
According to an affidavit given by Asa and Rachel Pennington, James McGehee, died February 13, 1835. His burial place is unknown.
This is likely why on August 5, 1836, it was Robert C McGehee, who was a witness to the fact his mother, Jane McGehee, consented to the marriage of her daughter, Lucy McGehee, to Benjamin Campbell.
I do not know what temperament or personality James possessed. I cannot attest to what he was remembered for by those who knew him best. He was born during the time of our nation's founding and would have known nothing of the "United States" that I know today. The time in which he lived was wild on a scale that none of us will likely ever experience. He may have heard names today you and I would consider "legends," such as Daniel Boone, or Thomas Jefferson. To him, they were contemporary men, just as we would see John Glenn or Donald Trump. He fought in the same war that Abraham Lincoln fought and would not have known him to be anything special had he walked passed on the street. I have wondered, in fact, if his group of volunteers might have ever made contact with a young Captain Lincoln at any point in that short-lived war.
I often wonder many things about him. What did he see in the world around him? What were his hopes and dreams? What were his beliefs about life and family? What did his voice sound like? I wonder what long-forgotten skills he used to provide for his family?
As a young man, he would traverse the wilds of Tennessee. As an older man, he would travel through the vast expanse of Tennessee and Illinois, attempting to bring his family to a better place.
I hope he was a Christian because I certainly hope to meet him someday again