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Sunday, October 12, 2014

County Namesakes : Knox, Mercer and Schuyler Counties of Illinois

Have you ever wondered how counties are named?  Apparently it takes a local, state or national hero's story or a legacy to be broadcast over the area to make way for the nomination.  Political figures and other legislators discuss amongst themselves probable names for counties and their townships.  Agreements and handshakes were exchanged in the distance past, and a new county was born.

Knox County in Illinois was named after General Henry Knox, an adviser to General George Washington.  He was also the first United States Secretary of War. Actually, a great number of towns, cities, townships and counties across the nation are named for General Knox.

General Henry Knox,
General Knox was born in Boston in 1750.  He attended school until, at the age of 12, his father passed away.  Henry left school and took a job in a book store to help his mother with expenses.  In 1771 he went into business for himself, and had much success.  His future wife, Lucy, was a frequent shopper in his bookstore.  Henry joined the fight for freedom from English rule with his fellow Bostonians.  He rose through the ranks from colonel to brigadier general in 1776.  After George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States, Knox became the Secretary of War, and held that office until the end of 1794.  He passed away in 1806 in Maine. Rumor has it he swallowed a chicken bone and suffered an infection that caused his death.

Mercer County in Illinois was named for General Hugh Mercer, He gained favoritism of George Washington from his participation in the Revolutionary War, and earlier in the French and Indian War.  Many counties and towns across the nation are named for this military hero.

General Hugh W. Mercer,

General Mercer was born in 1726 in Scotland.  There, he had trained as a physician and began his career in America in Pennsylvania, until the beginning of the French and Indian War.  He volunteered for the unfortunate expedition of General Braddock to Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh).  He was wounded in 1755 and unable to keep up with the other soldiers.  He wandered alone through forests until he reached Fort Cumberland.  After being presented with a medal for bravery and endurance, he was promoted to the rank of captain, and later lieutenant colonel.  After the war, he resumed his profession as a physician in Virginia, marrying Isabella Gordon in Fredericksburg. In 1775 he began to drill the minute men of Viriginia.  He was placed in command of the patriots called the Flying Camp.  General Mercer was badly wounded in the Battle of Princeton, and died from his wounds in January of 1777.

Schuyler County, of Illinois, is named for General Philip Schuyler.  Schuyler County in New York is also named for him.  General Schuyler is noted for his leadership in the French and Indian War, as well as the Revolutionary War.  

General Philip Schuyler,

General Schuyler was born in Albany, New York in 1733, His father, owner of several thousand acres in New York, died in 1741, leaving Philip all of his estate.  Philip divided the estate among his siblings, as he later inherited an estate from his uncle in Saratoga County.  When the French and Indian County was underway, he organized a group of his neighbors and joined the fight, gaining some military experience.  Later, he became an assistant to George Washington in the Revolutionary War.  Philip married Catherine Van Rensselaer in 1775.  He aided in the organization of the Sons of Liberty.  He was elected to become a member of Congress in 1779, as a senator for the State of New York, and held that post for several years.  General Schuyler died in 1804.    

Who's name provided the inspiration for your county name?  You might be surprised when you uncover the answer.  And, you'll get a refresher course on American history at the same time.

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