Samuel Douglas, 1870


by Matthew Engelhardt 


Samuel Douglas was mayor of Monmouth in 1870.[1] Born in February of 1819 in Antrim, Ireland, he came to the United States at the age of nineteen with his mother and brother.[2] After arriving in New York, Douglas traveled to St. Louis, where he stayed until 1839.  Sometime between 1939 and 1842, Douglas met Mary Ann Greenfield, who was then living in Bond County.  n June 1st, 1842, they were married in Edwardsville.[3] After spending a few months in St. Louis, the couple moved to Madison City, where Samuel made a living as a farmer. In 1846, the two moved again, to Monmouth, where Douglas bought a house and lot while renting farmland just outside the city.[4]

In August of 1847, with the United States at war with Mexico, Douglas joined Captain Wyatt B. Stapps’ Company of volunteers.[5] The company was mounted and during the short war the company traveled to Perote, Mexico in December of 1847 and would see Jalapa and Vera Cruz as well. Douglas was discharged on March 11, 1848.[6] At this time he returned to Monmouth and was greeted by a new family member, a son, Hercules Sylvester.[7] Upon his return, Douglas bought farmland two miles outside of Monmouth and returned to his farming pursuits.  Three years later, Douglas sold this farm and moved into Monmouth, managing a tract of land which he had purchased during this time.[8] Between his move to the city and the outbreak of the Civil War, Douglas managed to accumulate wealth in various business pursuits.[9]

Douglas was an active businessman and would later get involved in real estate, though he would never lose his interest in farming.[10] Whether in business, farming, or a combination of the two, Douglas’s personal wealth accumulated quite a bit during the 1850s.[11] With the outbreak of the Civil War, Douglas was among the first of many Monmouth citizens to volunteer to enlist with the Union army. As a veteran of the Mexican War, Douglas was made First Lieutenant of Company B, First Illinois Cavalry. Receiving wounds while fighting rebel forces in Lexington, Missouri, Douglas was captured by soldiers serving under Confederate General Price.[12] Due to his wounds, a lack of prison facilities, and a virtually non-existent prisoner exchange system, Douglas was set free on parole under the condition that he would not fight for the duration of the war. He resigned from the cavalry in June of 1862[13] and returned to Monmouth where he continued to be active in business and real estate.[14]

            Douglas’s wartime history was a part of his reputation back in Monmouth, where people continued to call him Lieutenant.[15] In addition, his many business dealings and connections made him a logical candidate for mayor in 1870. A noted Republican, Douglas was selected at a town meeting to run as the party’s candidate, which meant Douglas had little competition. Furthermore, Douglas’s business background was ideal for the town’s progressive agenda.[16] Railroad growth was booming and Monmouth was looking to grow, too. This was one of the biggest issues and decisions facing the city. Another issue that likely played into the 1870 election was the temperance movement.[17] Finally, the sitting Mayor Templeton had been receiving poor publicity due to some of the city’s financial dealings.[18] By the time it came to a vote in April, as the chosen Republican candidate, Douglas won the mayoral election in a landslide, basically without opposition.[19] 

            During his term as Mayor, Douglas was active and led the city council with a progressive agenda. The first sixteen days in office demonstrated the council’s desire to accomplish their goals.  Meeting five times in those first sixteen days, the council established the “progressive” direction they were going to lead the city for the next year. On their second day of meeting, the council passed City Ordinance number forty-three.[20] The ordinance declared the sale or consumption of alcohol in places of entertainment to be stopped at ten o’clock PM.  Levying a ten dollar fine for each offense demonstrated both Douglas’s and the town’s commitment toward the temperance movement.  Also during the first few weeks, Douglas formed a mayor’s committee consisting of himself, Alderman Harding, and Alderman Tracy to investigate the fire department in order “to determine and obtain all necessary equipment.”[21]  Throughout the year, the council repeatedly returned to issues[22] regarding the fire department that included the purchasing of items[23] and the annual levying of a fire tax.[24]

Meanwhile, the council remained focused on improving transportation in the city as well. Since an 1867 ordinance gave the sitting mayor the power to oversee and enter contracts in regards to local public improvements, Douglas ordered the construction of many sidewalks. The construction of sidewalks and other public works, while generally approved and wanted, could be controversial. The payment for such works could spark debate, as the council was in charge of assessing extra payments to those people whose property benefited from the work. One of Douglas’s first moves in this matter was to recluse himself from the assessing of dues for payment because one of the proposals affected him.[25] In regard to the sidewalks, after some debate[26] over maintenance and location, the city passed ordinance number forty-seven near the end of Douglas’s term, repealing and revising a pre-existing ordinance in an effort to provide more organization in the process of building and assessing costs for public improvements.[27] The next mayor would further revise this project with the passing of ordinance number forty-eight, which further designated street labor and costs, on May 20, 1872.[28]

Another major project undertaken by the city council in 1870 involved approving the Rockford Rock Island and St. Louis Railroad Company to build tracks through the city.  After securing the railroads commitment (along with enough investment[29]) to go through Monmouth,[30] the council struggled to designate which street it was going to pass through. Douglas and the railroad company wanted the route to go down Elm Street, but the council initially said no. The council later agreed to this, but the railroad had already established a new route west of Elm Street.[31] About the same time as the new railroad was being discussed, the city council recognized a need for speed limits and passed city ordinance number forty-four, setting speed limits in town at eight miles per hour and assessing fines for violators that ranged in value from ten to one hundred dollars.[32] Keep in mind that it took ten and a half hours to reach Chicago from Monmouth by rail![33]

Outside of these two major issues during 1870, Douglas and the city council passed two other new ordinances.  Ordinance number forty-five established fines and determined the legal process needed in order to stop animals from running loose in the city.[34] As for ordinance number forty-six, it did little, other than organize and confirm the pre-existing 45 ordinances.[35]

While the council was busy undertaking many important tasks in 1870, they also had to overcome problems from with-in their own ranks.  At a July sixth meeting, the council voiced their approval of Mayor Douglas’s actions on June seventh, in which he discharged policeman Josiah McIntire. However, the problems with the police force did not stop there.  Following the discharge of McIntire and the council’s approval on July sixth, City Marshal, Josiah Martin, resigned.[36] At the subsequent meeting on July fifteenth, two more policemen resigned.  In addressing the problem, the council voted unanimously at the July fifteenth meeting to appoint J. M. Berges as City Marshal. On August first, new guidelines regarding the procurement of claims for services to the city were established and the council established a new position, assistant to the Marshal. Lastly, the council gave raises to the new Marshal and his assistant while at the same time ordering Marshal Berges “to procure ball and chains to be used for purposes of collecting fines from those unable to pay.”[37]

As was common, Douglas did not receive the Republican nomination for re-election at the town meeting in April of 1871. He would go on to receive four votes in the general election and yielded the position to William B. Boyd.[38] It also should be noted that, following the election in 1871, the lame duck council decided to drop the investigation of former Marshall D.C. Brady and cancel his indebtedness in return for his back wages from the city.[39] Also, in the final weeks as Mayor, Douglas and the city council continued to make public improvements, starting even more sidewalk construction.[40]

For the remainder of his life, Douglas stayed active in the same pursuits that had kept him busy in real estate, farming, and politics. Serving as township supervisor from 1878-1881, Douglas remained abreast of current events and continued looking for new ways to help Monmouth develop.[41] Just as Douglas had been dealing with railroad companies before and during his term as Mayor, Douglas was found trying to bring new transportation to the city in 1883. Along with J.E. Alexander and Dr. N.S. Woodward, Douglas was able to incorporate a 2nd streetcar company for Monmouth with a capital stock of $25,000, yet the project did not progress beyond that point.[42] Also during the 1880s, Douglas showed the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease.[43] By 1888 the disease had affected Douglas to the point that he was declared insane by the county court.[44] Samuel Douglas succumbed to his disease while at his home on August 25, 1891.[45] 

The latter half of the 1880s was not a pleasant one for Mary Ann Douglas. Preceding her husband’s death, their son, Hercules, had passed away in 1887, which was shortly followed by a worsening in Samuel’s Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, the Douglas’s had taken precautionary measures, with Samuel “selling” some of his land to her in 1879.[46]Additionally, Samuel willed his remaining possessions to his wife.[47] Mary Ann would live to be 77 and with the help of her husband, influenced the lives of many children, taking in and boarding at least seven children while living in Monmouth.[48] Following her death in 1901, Mary Ann Douglas joined her husband and son in Monmouth Cemetery.

While many mayors have come and gone since Samuel Douglas’s one year stint as Maple City’s leader, his guidance and dedication to both his city and new country is a testament to his character. Douglas, an immigrant, is an American success story. One of the early settlers of Monmouth, Douglas helped steer the course of Monmouth’s future and should be remembered when walking down the sidewalk, crossing the railroad tracks, passing the statue in front of the Court House, and every veteran’s day.



 Matthew Engelhardt wrote this biography in the fall of 2005 for the historiography class at Monmouth College under the direction of William Urban.

[1] The term actually covers part of 1871.  The elections were held each April with the newly elected officials taking office in May.  City Council Minutes, pp 177-228, found at Monmouth City Hall.

[2] Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County (Chicago, Chapman Brothers, 1886), p.566.  Born in Ireland, Douglas was of Scottish descent.  He would stay in New York “for a few months” after a six week voyage across the Atlantic.

[3] Obituary Collection, WAR 1004, 3 July 1899- 5 June 1901, p. 155. Monmouth Genealogical Society; located in the public library in Monmouth. Mary Ann Greenfield was born in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1824.  Soon after, the Greenfields moved to Bond County. 

[4] Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County,  p.566.

[5] Ibid,  p.567.  According to his biographical account which may or may not be inflammatory, “The company was independent, and was mounted and did effective service as volunteers.”  The biography also stated that Douglas “went to the ‘halls of the Montezumas.’” [meaning Mexico]

[6] Elliot, Isaac. Adjutant General’s Report Illinois: Record of the Services of Illinois Soldiers in the Black Hawk War 1831-32 and in the Mexican War 1846-1848, Vol. 9, Springfield, IL, 1902. p.308. Samuel Douglas was mustered into service along with the majority of the other volunteers in Quincy, IL on August 6th, 1847. 

[7] Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County, p.200; Obituary Collection, WAR 1004, 3 July 1899- 5 June 1901, p. 155.  The following is Hercules’s biography that was published in 1886, a year before Hercules’s death in 1887. “Hark S. Douglas, manager of the Star Livery, Sale and Feed Stables, of Monmouth, is a native of that city, having been born Sept. 13, 1847…Hark S. was educated at the Monmouth schools and studied law some time with Mr. Almon Kidder, but the “turf” was always more attractive to him than were the pages of Coke or Blackstone, so we find him in 1880 engaged in the livery business, to the management of which he has since devoted himself with an assiduity that fully betokens his eminent fitness for that particular sphere in life.  And, in point of fact; aside from a horse show or a horse race, his present business affords him more real pleasure than anything else that he could possibly engage in.  He was too young for a soldier and too honest for a politician, so the name of Hark Douglas will probably continue for some time to be found among the plain, every-day people, though it is not likely that as a rule the class named will have quite as much fun as he will.  In politics, the Republicans claim him, but as he boasts of being a “Mugwump,” it is evident that his great love for the old land –marks of that party did not include a certain ‘plumed knight.’  Mr. D. was married at Abingdon, Ill., Feb. 15, 1872, to Miss Lidie Reynolds, a native of Warren County, Ill.  They have two children, a girl and boy, bearing the names of Leota and S. Leonard.” 

[8] Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County,  p.567. 

[9] U.S. Census 1860. The Census lists Douglas’s occupation as a dealer in machinery. However, land records indicate that Douglas was probably doing well in real estate speculation too. 

[10] Monmouth Genealogical Society, Obituaries- Monmouth, Early Newspapers, 6 MAR 1885 TO 23 DEC 1893 vol. 2 p.102; U.S. Census 1880. According to the 1880 census, Douglas’s profession was listed as farmer. Douglas served as President of the Warren County Agriculture Board and was a member of the State Board of Agriculture too.

[11] U.S. Census 1850; U.S. Census 1860.  The 1850 census lists Douglas’s gross worth at 800 dollars while he is listed in the 1860 census as being worth 12,200 dollars.  The vast majority of this wealth was tied up in real estate which accounted for 11,000 of the 12,200 dollars. 

[12] – American Civil War Battle Summaries.  “Lexington, Mo., Sept. 12-20, 1861.  U.S. Forces under Col. James A Mulligan. Maj.-Gen. Sterling Price with the cavalry of his army approached Lexington on the 12th and encamped within 2 miles of the city.  At daylight next morning Col. Mulligan made a sortie from the fortifications and drove the Confederates back 2 or 3 miles, at which point their infantry and artillery came up and together drove Mulligan back within his intrenchments.  The artillery was posted in a position to sweep the college, but late that night was withdrawn to the fair grounds.  On the 18th Price again deployed his forces about the Union intrenchments and during the day several charges were made which put the Confederates in positions from which they could control the water supply.  During the 19th and part of the 20th a continuous artillery fire was kept up on the Union position and about 2 p.m. of the 20th Mulligan surrendered, after having suffered a loss of 39 killed and 120 wounded.  The Confederate casualties amounted to 25 killed and 72 wounded.”

[13] Adjutant General’s Report Illinois: Roster of Officers and enlisted men from 32nd to 156th INF. 1st to 5th CAV. Regiment, 1861-1866 Revised, Vol. 7, Springfield, IL, 1902. Douglas enlisted July 5th 1861 as 1st Lt. of Company B (records found at the genealogical society list him in Company G, but that is probably a printing error), First Illinois Cavalry and resigned June 23, 1862.  His name can also be found on the commemorative statue outside the Court House in downtown Monmouth.

[14] Land Records, Warren County Clerk’s Office.  According to land records in Warren County, Douglas (and later his wife) bought various properties on at least 41 occasions.  Douglas would re-sell most of the properties but he would retain a few for himself and his family.  Of these properties he still possessed, Douglas would manage and lease to boarders.  At the time of his death in 1891, Douglas was renting out multiple properties that continued to provide income for his wife, Mary Ann.  Also, prior to his death, Douglas had arranged and completed the sale of some of his property to his wife, presumably as a pre-cautionary measure (in the case of his death), as was common at the time. In the land records, one such sale to his wife was written, “This Indenture Witnesseth, That the grantor, Samuel Douglas of the town of Monmouth in the County of Warren and State of Illinois for and in consideration of (crossed out are the words “the sum of”) love and affection and also the sum of Ten Dollars, in hand paid convey and warrant to Mary Ann Douglas his wife…”  This transaction was for multiple lots of land in town and 80 acres of farmland as well. 

[15] Atlas, February 11, 1870, 4.  Prior to the 1870 mayoral election in Monmouth, Douglas was actively involved in matters concerning the growth and development of Monmouth as he would be throughout his life. The Atlas stated that “Lt. Douglas and Jas F Owens interviewed Vice President Young in Rock Island on Feb 2.”  In the Atlas, on April 15th, shortly after the town elections, Young was quoted as saying the railroad would be ready to go by July 4th; provided that the town met the needed amount of subscriptions to the Railroad.  The first railroad had come to Monmouth in 1855.  It was called the Peoria and Oquawka Railroad which later became known as the Chicago and Burlington and Quincy Railroad. This railroad would later run right next to Douglas’s farm. Luther Emerson Robinson, ed., Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County, Vol. 2.(Chicago, Munsell Pub. Co., 1927); Monmouth Genealogical Society, Monmouth Plat Map, 1886

[16] Genealogical Society, Obituaries- Monmouth, Early Newspapers, 6 MAR 1885 TO 23 DEC 1893 vol. 2 p. 102.  Douglas was a noted Republican who was known to support much of the Republican’s progressive agenda as noted in his obituary, which stated that he could be “identified with all of the city’s progressive movements.”

[17] Atlas, March 25, 1870, 3.  In referring to upcoming the upcoming elections an article claimed that a “great interest is of temperance.”  Whether or not this helped Douglas in the election is unknown although later actions as mayor indicate support for the temperance movement.

[18] Atlas, January 7, 1870, 3.  Jenks and Gregg wrote that Mayor Templeton was “bleeding the city” by overcharging for his own lumber and not paying the same wages to others.

[19] Atlas, April 8, 1870, 3.  Douglas received 567 total votes, while his opponents garnered 14. This wasn’t uncommon at the time, as the Mayoral elections appear to be settled by a town meeting of Republicans the week before the election.  At this meeting, the Republicans in Monmouth determined their candidate, and as shown in this election, their candidate usually won.  The more interesting elections were in the Alderman races.

[20] City Ordinance #43, Monmouth City Hall Records. Passed and approved on May 4th, 1870. 

[21] Atlas, May 6, 1870, 3; City Council Minutes, May 2, 1870 p.177.

[22] City Council Minutes, June 6, 1870, p.183. One of these issues was a suit brought forth by the city of Monmouth v. Henry Spriggs.  The council settled the matter at their June 6th meeting, remitting the case upon payment of costs by Spriggs.

[23] City Council Minutes, May 13, 1870, p.179; City Council Minutes, June 6th, 1870, p.183; City Council Minutes, February 6, 1871 p.217. In response to the mayor’s committee in charge of determining what the fire department’s needs were, the council approved the purchase of the following: one 10 ft suction pipe, one 1and ½ inch nozzle for the Fire Engine Co., and one wagon for the Hook and Ladder Co. At a later meeting the council would order the purchase of a 600 foot hose and couplings for the Fire Engine Company. Finally, in February, Douglas ordered the purchase of uniforms for the Hook and Ladder Company that consisted of hats or caps and belts. 

[24] City Council Minutes, September 5, 1870 p.202. The council determined that a fire tax of ten cents per every 100 dollars of real and personal worth would be levied for the year.  

[25] City Council Minutes, May 2, 1870. p.177; City Council Minutes, August 1, 1870. p.194; City Council Minutes, November 7, 1870, p.204. Douglas assigned a committee to estimate approximate costs of proposed public improvements and assess the amount owed by those involved. In one case, after complaints of the proposed costs, the city council backed off and reduced the size and costs of a proposed sidewalk in local public improvement #34.  Another case involved the routing of a new road.  The road (an extension to Pine St) which was to be built across two peoples property (James Thompson and H.E. Root). However, when H.E. Root brought forth a suit to be compensated for the land, the council determined there were no damages and Root was awarded nothing.

[26] Atlas, March 17, 1871, 2. An article discussed the town’s proposal for “an ordinance for the levy and collection of assessments for local and public improvement.” Sidewalks were to be put in starting on the North side of McClanahan Street at Chapel Street, and run to the depot of the Rockford Rock Island Saint Louis Railroad.

[27] City Ordinance #47, Monmouth City Hall Records. The council passed “An ordinance for the levy and collection of assessments for local public improvements” on May 17, 1871. 

[28] City Ordinance #48, Monmouth City Hall Records.

[29] City Council Minutes, July 27, 1870, p.193. The council held a city vote on Saturday, August 6, 1870 “for or against a subscription of ($75,000) seventy five thousand dollars to the Rockford Rock Island and St. Louis Railroad Company in bonds of the City of Monmouth payable in not less than 5 or more than 20 years on the option of said city, said bonds to draw interest at the rate of 8 per ct from date of issue payable annually conditioned as follows.  That the said Rockford Rock Island and St. Louis Railroad Company then agents of assigned shall build and permanently locate within the corporate limits of said city of Monmouth a Round House and the main machine shops of company and that said Round House shall be of capacity sufficient for not less than fifteen stalls or engine rooms.”  Following the vote, the railroad went ahead with its construction of the new line. 

[30] City Council Minutes, May 17, 1870. p.180. The council had passed “An ordinance to permit the Rockford Rock Island and St. Louis Railroad Company to locate their track through the city of Monmouth.”

[31] Atlas, May 20, 1870, 3.

[32] City Ordinance #44, Monmouth City Hall Records.

[33]  Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County, Vol. 1, p.171. This was the time it took to reach Chicago from Monmouth by rail until March of 1884. It should be noted that train accidents were fairly common at this time, thus necessitating the speed limit in town.

[34] City Ordinance #45, Monmouth City Hall Records; City Council Minutes, July 15, 1870, p.192. Milk cows were an exception to this rule. The actual ordinance was quite long and detailed in comparison with the other legislation of 1870.  Prior to this ordinance, the council, on motion, directed the new city marshal, J. M. Berges, to enforce chapter three of already established ordinances that provided for the killing of dogs running at large without registry.

[35] City Ordinance #46, Monmouth City Hall Records.

[36] City Council Minutes, July 6, 1870, pp.190-191.

[37] City Council Minutes, November 7, 1870, p.202.  The pay was increased from fifty dollars a month to seventy-five dollars a month for the Marshal. The assistant Marshal was awarded a salary of fifty dollars per month; this amount being substantially higher than the twenty-five dollars received by ordinary policemen.  As for the ball and chains, those not able to pay off their debts/fines to the city were to be put to work for the city until such time as their debt was deemed paid by the work done.

[38] Atlas, April 7, 1871, 2.  utside of Boyd, Douglas received 4 votes, John Turk received 6, Jacob Holt received 3, and Champion Miller received 1.

[39] Atlas, April 14, 1871, 2.

[40] Atlas, April 14, 1871, 2. The last construction started under Douglas was on the east side of West Street, starting at N. Broadway and ending at N. Summer St.

[41]  Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County, Vol. 2, p.306.

[42] Ibid., Vol. 1, p.172. 

[43] Genealogical Society, Obituaries- Monmouth, Early Newspapers, 6 MAR 1885 TO 23 DEC 1893 vol. 2 p.102. The obituary claimed that Douglas had noticed a “softening of the brain” since November 7, 1883.  The author of this article has surmised that Douglas’s disease was Alzheimer’s due to this description which was often used to describe people with Alzheimer’s at this time.

[44] Atlas Review, April 21, 1888. 

[45] Death Records, Warren County Clerk’s Office.  Douglas’s death was officially blamed on “chronic inflammation and softening of the brain.” 

[46] Land Records, Warren County Recorder's Office. 

[47] Warren County Clerk’s Office. Last Will and Testament of Samuel Douglas.  Douglas left approximately 1000 dollars in personal wealth along with real estate that continued to provide income for Mary Ann as the each tenant paid approximately sixteen dollars a month.  The estimated income generated from these various payments was listed at 1000 dollars/year.

[48] Monmouth Genealogical Society, U.S. Census Records from 1860-1880.