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Shadrach Bond
First Governor

Kelly Griswold
Eldorado Junior High School, Eldorado

Shadrach Bond (1773-1832) was Illinois' first governor, and for six years before that, the first representative of the area to become Illinois. Bond was elected to both positions without opposition.

Bond's uncle, a scout with George Rogers Clark's Illinois regiment in the Revolutionary War and one of the first English-speaking frontiersmen to make a home in the Mississippi River basin, persuaded his nephew to become a farmer. Bond heeded his uncle's advice and eventually became a wealthy landowner. He also balanced farming with a second, and equally successful, political career. On some days after important trips to the capital and between meetings, he could be seen feeding his chickens during the late afternoon. Being the son of a farmer and always tending to the farm, he seldom had time for school; therefore, his education was limited.

That did not stop him. Most of his adult life he held public office and was always working. Between being a governor and farmer, Bond was very active. As governor he was a member with the Justices of the Supreme Court in the Council of Revision, and in one of his most important gubernatorial acts he vetoed a bill that would have allowed an uncapitalized state bank. He believed it would have put Illinois in debt. The bank failed, and many thought he did the right thing by rejecting the bill. Nobody blamed him when Illinois was in great debt.

Governor Bond was committed to improving transportation for the young state. At the time, water was the best means of transportation; thus he proposed construction of a canal that would connect Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. He also proposed that a road connect the capital, Kaskaskia, with the largest city, Shawneetown, as well as passage of a law authorizing the building of a toll bridge over rivers and creeks by individuals. He hoped to use toll revenues to build the road between the capital and the largest city.

Governor Bond frequently read through the criminal law and asked for revisions of such things as the pillory for minor offenses. Bond also asked that whipping be abolished, that jails be built solidly for criminals, but that offenses like rape, arson, and murder should result in the death penalty.

After Bond's single term as governor, President James Monroe appointed him chief record keeper of the Kaskaskia land office, an important job in a land-hungry frontier state. In the 1830s Bond was elected Illinois' first grand master of the first Masonic Lodge. In his old age he still held many jobs like serving on the council to help fund the first state penitentiary at Alton.

Bond's public career came to an end only when he died of pneumonia on his farm. Many think he was a great man and an illustrious first governor of Illinois—[From Solon J. Buck, Illinois in 1818; Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men; and Theodore Calvin Pease, The Frontier State 1818-1848.]

Shadrach Bond
Shadrach Bond, Illinois' first governor

18 ILLINOIS HISTORY / DECEMBER 1993


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