Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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(ca.) August 3, 1833

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The General Assembly passed legislation providing for the incorporation of towns in 1831. When a town reached a population of not less that 150 people, qualified voters were authorized to assemble, select a president and clerk of the election, and cast their votes viva voce (orally). Qualified voters were white males, over the age of twenty-one, and either residents of the town for over six months or owners of real estate in it. A two-thirds majority was required to incorporate. If incorporation was approved, public notice was to be given and after five days an election of town trustees was to be held. Incorporated towns could establish ordinances to prevent and remove nuisances, restrain and prohibit disorderly conduct, license public shows, regulate markets, sink public wells, construct streets and sidewalks, and provide for fire protection. They could impose fines for violations of ordinances, collect fees on licenses issued, and levy and collect taxes on real estate not to exceed fifty cents per one hundred dollars of assessed value in order to finance town expenses.

The exact day of this vote to incorporate is not known. It is known that on August 10, an election of the town's first trustees was held. The vote to incorporate passed by a vote of twelve to one with Russell E. Heacock (spelled "Hickok" in the document) dissenting. Heacock, a justice of the peace for Cook County, administered the oaths for the president and clerk of the incorporation election. He resided outside the town limits and probably was not eligible to vote. Of the other voters, many were leading merchants and real estate promoters.

Points to Consider

Why would Heacock vote against incorporation? Why did the majority vote for incorporation?

What were the backgrounds of some of the men who participated in this election?

Why was there only thirteen voters in this election?

Why was there not a secret ballot?

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