30 August 2012

Did The Demise Of Rice Jones Involve A Backus?

An influential resident of Illinois, land commissioner Elijah Backus, was mentioned in Early Chicago and Illinois, as a nemesis of Rice Jones.  Mr. Jones was a participant in an aborted duel with Shadrach Bond (first governor of Illinois).  At a later date Mr. Bond's "second" in the duel,  Dr. Dunlap, killed Rice Jones, claiming self-defense.

"The assassination of the popular Rice Jones was openly attributed by his friends to the machinations of [land commissioners] Michael Jones and Elijah Backus... ."  Letters were sent "...in the hope of having the land commissioners deprived of their offices."

"On July 20...[1809] a grand jury indicted Michael Jones for feloniously and Maliciously inciting James Dunlap to murder Rice Jones [he was exonerated]."

A Rice Jones supporter characterized the Land Commissioners' actions in the following way:

The ill feeling ...had its origin in the arbitrary official conduct of Michael Jones and Elijah Backus, land commissioners at Kaskaskia...; conduct which was deliberately pursued with the purpose to militate, as it did greatly, against the interests of not only Rice Jones and his father, but many of the people of the district large numbers of whom as their personal and political enemies the commissioners, especially Jones, taking advantage of their official position to wreck vengeance upon the objects of their dislike, years subsequently "branded with perjury and forgery to an alarming extent--many of the best citizens in the county being stigmatized with those crimes, without cause and when they had neither means nor manner of defending themselves"  against the infamous and unfounded charges.  Source: Early Chicago and Illinois

Perhaps some of the seeds of the politically-charged atmosphere were sown when Mr. Jones' father, John Rice Jones, and William Henry Harrison, former allies, severed ties and issues remained unresolved.

Elijah Backus and I share a mutual ancestor, William Backus.

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