WILLIAM MICHAEL "BILLY" MC FATRIDGE
Donated by ©S. Ausmus
©Illinois Trails History and Genealogy
Progenitor of VIENNA, JOHNSON COUNTY, ILLINOIS BRANCH
William Michael was the son of Matthew. William's brothers were Samuel, Daniel and John.
William Michael was born in Chester County, PA. Chester County which is some 30 mi. W of Philadelphia. His father Matthew, is listed on the 1779 tax list for Randolph County, NC for the first time. There are 3 records of William Michael serving with Capt. Hugh Reed's company from Chester County, Pa., between 1781 and 1783; he was probably 16-19 years old. In 1790 we find him with his father, Matthew, another brother and 3 sisters in Randolph County, NC in the Census. It appears that William Michael did not accompany the family to NC, but remained in PA to serve in the Revolutionary War, then joined them after the war. In 1799 he married Ann Dixon in Guilford County. They were adjacent counties, Randolph being formed from Guilford in 1779. These counties are in the central part of NC, Greensboro being the largest city. The next year, 1800, the census finds William Michael, his young bride Ann, and 2 older women living with them, probably their mothers. They are now living in Guilford County. Later that same year their first child is born, a son named John.
Before continuing the adventures of William Michael in Johnson County, let's first trace the journey the family must have taken and establish the type of country into which they moved.
Johnson County, IL is in the SW corner of the Northwest Territory. The west had become a tantalizing allurement. It offered opportunity to the landless, a challenge to the adventurous, an escape to those hunted by the law, freedom for those suffering from intolerance, a new beginning to erase any kind of failure. There were no taxes, no boundaries, no limitations. But it's time had not quite arrived. The land was isolated. The Appalachian Mountains created a formidable barrier and few provisions could be carried. First the Spanish and then the French controlled New Orleans, and thus the Mississippi River.
Existence was dependent upon resolute self-reliance.
The west-ward looking statesman, Thomas Jefferson took the lead in adopting a plan in 1784 whereby the regions would be governed as territories until population justified statehood and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 determined how the states would be formed. The Harrison Land Act of 1800 provided procedures by which individual settlers could get title to their western landholdings.
In 1790 there were some 4.300 white people settled north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. By 1800 there were 45,000 in Ohio alone, the east side of the territory. When James Monroe negotiated the Louisiana Territory in 1803, thus opening the Mississippi River for commerce, the Territory exploded with growth.
The year 1803 is also the year that William and Ann stopped off in Herrodsburg, KY long enough for her to give birth to their second son, George Washington McFatridge.
William and Ann did not wait for the ease of travel which would be afforded by the National Pike (begun in 1811). They traveled the rugged Wilderness Trail, first started by Daniel Boone and his men by blaze marking trees thru the mountain gap to Kentucky.
Their journey to Vienna was either a continuation across the Wilderness Trail to Paducah and then into Illinois, or traveling some 80 miles to 100 miles thru the wilderness to the Ohio River. Here they would have boarded a " Kentucky flat"-- a glorified raft with sideboards. About 30 miles before the Ohio joins the Mississippi, just 15 miles as the crow flies, is the present city of Vienna.
The first settlers found a heavily timbered swamp with much stagnant water--ideal for mosquitoes and the inevitable malrial fevers, The first settlers came in 1777, but had left by 1783. In 1800, no one was living there. The Ray Family came in 1803; then the William Simpson Family from Kentucky came in 1805; also from Kentucky came the James Bain family in 1807. His brother, John Bain, moved from Hopkinsville, KY in 1820 and operated a horse mill for grinding corn. The Bains were born in NC and migrated to KY then IL. The John Elkins Family also came from NC in 1809. Perhaps William and Ann had known them previous to their move--some of them may have made the move together. A little later William Michael's oldest son, John, married John Bain's daughter, Margaret. Certainly, they all knew each other in this area for Vienna had only 25 or 30 families in 1837.
Vienna, located on the east fork of the Cache River, started as a trading post to the Indians. The Johnson County History written by Chapman in 1929, states that the original houses were made of logs and were later weatherboarded. History records the cabins as being very utilitarian--sometimes with a wood floor, but most often with a bare earthen floor. The windows were usually a section of log sawed out and covered with an animal hide and perhaps greased paper to let light in when the hide was tied up. Lighting at night was most often a dish of bear fat with a strip of cotton rag as a wick. When the Mississippi was later opened up to commerce, candles became available.
Most of the early settlers had no claims registered because there was no claim office until one was established at Kaskaskia in 1804, but when it opened, the roads were so crude that no one made the trip. In 1812 one was set up in Shawnee Town. Some of the early registered landowners were Ivy Reynolds, Squire Choat, James Bain, Samuel Simpson, and WILLIAM Mc FATRIDGE ( lot 30)
William Michael made several land purchases: On Dec. 24, 1814; the W 1/2 SE 1/4 Section 18, township 12 South, Range 4 East of the 3rd P.M., Illinois, containing 80 acres at the rate of $2.00 per acre. For this he received a patent dated March 23, 1815. Under the credit system in the District Land Office at Shawneetown, Illinois he received final certificate No. 849 on Dec. 30, 1825. He deeded the same to W.M. Baker on April 28, 1832.
--Inquiry of the General Land Office, Washington, D.C. & Records of Johnson County, Entry Book #1, pgs. 97 & 110.
About the time William and Rachel moved to Illinois, there was a series of Indian massacres. In 1812, congress was petitioned to raise four companies of mounted troops from the state to defend the frontier. Fort Massac, built in 1804 at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, was considered too exposed and people were leaving the area. Their fears were justified because the next year two families were killed by Indians on the Cache River about where Mound City is now located. The following territorial law was issued," All free white males 18 to 45 shall be enrolled in the militia within whose bounds they reside." WILLIAM MICHAEL was appointed Ensign in the 3rd Regiment Militia.
-- Johnson County History, Chapman, pg. 170
Nearby Ft. Massac was the favorite landing for immigrants and it was here that the first post office was built in 1803. The second post office was in Elvira, which at the time housed the Johnson County Courthouse. Mail delivery was twice a month.
The people of the community to be later named Vienna, however, were ambitious to located the county seat in their town. They sold lots to construct a county building. In 1816 a road was opened from the community center toward Ferguson's Ferry as far as the McFATRIDGE farm. He lived on Mack Creek (named for him) in Illinois; The July term of the commissioners court in 1818 met to decide where the new seat of county government would be located. Presiding was Justice of the peace WILLIAM McFATRIDGE. We may assume he had some influence locating the County Seat near his home!
In this same year, he was elected to serve in the State Legislature and chosen as a delegate to the First Constitutional Convention of the State of Illinois.
Illinois was almost equally divided between free-soil northerners and slave-state southerners. A bitter regional contest resulted. When a proposal to call a constituitional convention for the purpose of legalizing slavery was introduced in 1824, it resulted in a narrow victory for the northerners. WILLIAM MICHAEL voted "Nay" on all issues related to legalizing slavery. Evidently, his Pennsylvania background held his sentiments solid during his sojourn in North Carolina and Kentucky.
It is interesting to note that Abraham Lincoln also became a member of this legislature in 1834. It would have been unusual for Lincoln & William Michael not to have known each other, as they shared the same views at the time, however no record has been uncovered of any relationship between them.
A colorful description of his character in 1824 records," Mr. McFatridge was, I judge, of Scotch-Irish origin; a man about 60 years of age, of kind heart and generous disposition. He had fallen into the very general evil of the time, and drank more liquor than his legislative duties required. Late in an afternoon session, a member moved for adjournment. McFatridge, raising his voice above the general noise occasioned by departing members exclaimed," Mr Speaker, Mr. Speaker! You may adjourn the house and be hanged, but Old Billy McFatridge will remain in session till the sun goes down and look after the interests of his constituents, while you no doubt are cavorting at Copp's Grocery and getting drunk on the hard earnings of the people."
Return To The 1818 Signers