History of the County and Courthouse, Macoupin County IL


by Dennis H Watkins

George Huston Holliday was born August 5, 1824 at Harrisburg, Kentucky.(1) He was from the large family of Charles and Elizabeth (Spears) Holliday. George was the youngest son of Charles. The Holliday family settled in Chesterfield, Macoupin County, Illinois in 1834 or 1836. Charles and his first wife Sarah were direct ancestors of Alouise Holliday, who married Charles Clement Watkins.

George was fortunate in securing a good education. He became known as a scholar of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and English.(2) This would have undoubtedly prepared him for higher education. He attended McKendree College in Lebanon, St. Clair County, Illinois, finishing his courses in 1848.

In the 1850 census, George was living with his recently widowed mother, Elizabeth Holliday. The census noted that Elizabeth (now 65) had property valued at $2,000 and George was as a farmer.(3)

April 15, 1852 George married Cinderella Chism,(4) who was born in Macoupin County.(5) They were married one day after receiving their license from Enoch Wall, Clerk of the County Court, by P.B. Solomon, Justice of the Peace.(6) Cinderella was almost 10 years younger than George, and would have been 18 at the time of marriage. Her father, William Chism, wrote a note dated April 12, 1852 as follows: "Dear Sir, It is with my certain consent that Mr. George H. Holliday makes application for him to marry my daughter Cinderella Chism."(7)

George and Cinderella had six children, four boys and two girls. The boys were Willie, George, Henry and Albert and the girls were Susie and Nanny.(8) George Spears Holliday went on to be a graduate of Blackburn University, class of 1875. He studied in the office of William R. Welch and was admitted to the bar in February 1879.

George was the publisher of the "Spectator" at Carlinville, which is the County Seat of Macoupin. The Spectator was the Democratic paper in the County. This gave George an outlet for his writing talent. He only published the Spectator for a short time however. After disposing of the paper George continued to write for several other papers. George also was editor and proprietor of the "Conservative" paper. This also was a paper Democratic in its editorial views. The paper only ran from March 24, 1868 to June 2nd of the same year.

Since he was a learned man and literary man, it was no surprise that he owned one of the largest libraries in that part of the country. When his estate was cleared, many of his volumes were purchased by Easterners and shipped to New York.

In 1850, George Holliday, working with John H. Shipman, laid out the streets and lots of the village of Shipman, Illinois. They laid out the part of the village that lies "east of the railroad"(9) He served as the County Surveyor in Macoupin County for several years and served a time as school commissioner.

It was noted that George was deeply involved in politics. In 1851 he was elected county surveyor.(10) He was a member of the Illinois Legislature for the term 1855-1857. In 1858 George was appointed County Clerk when the then current clerk, Enoch Wall, died in office. At the end of his term in 1860 he was nominated by the Democratic party for the same position and subsequently won the election that year. In 1865 Carlinville, already the capital of Macoupin county, became incorporated as a city. Along with Bernard Lorenz, John T. McConnell, C.H.C. Anderson, J.W. Hankins and R.B. Minton, George Holliday was a member of the City Council.

In 1860, Holliday built what became the "Mounts Home," which later became the Weatherford Nursing Home on West Buchanan Street in Carlinville. The supervising builder and architect was L.W. Mounts, father of the late Senator L.W. Mounts. Mounts' family occupied the home after the Hollidays. The grounds of that home were beautifully landscaped with trees and shrubs from around over the world.

After his term in the legislature, he became more active in building and finance. He was President of the Henderson Building and Loan Company and a wealthy man. This allowed him time and money to give to his many activities. This Building and Loan was the predecessor of the C.H.C. Anderson Bank of later years.(11)

George Holliday was a strong Democrat and was in the "Courthouse Crowd" before and during the construction of the "new" courthouse. In 1867 he was appointed, along with A. McKim Dubois, T.L. Loomis, County Judge and Isham J. Peebles, Associate Justice, as a member of the commission to erect a new court house in Carlinville.(12) This was a very controversial project.

The building of the courthouse began in 1867. Construction was completed in 1870 after many years of financial maneuvering by all involved. The county had insufficient funds to pay for construction, so the commission lobbied the State Legislature to pass a tax to complete the project. Costs kept going up and the construction was not completed on time. Many County taxpayers continually fought the project.

In November of 1869 three new members were elected to the court commission. They were P.C. Huggins, A.A. Atkins, and M. Olmstead. These new members were "anti-court house" and asked for a report on the courthouse by February first, 1870. The report was submitted and the old commissioners resigned in February 1870. At this date the building was just being completed. The County then employed an architect to value the building at replacement cost and came up with a value of under $650,000. Total cost for the Courthouse was over $1,300,000.(13) The County eventually issued bonds to resolve the financing in 1878. The issue was finally resolved financially for the town when on September 7, 1904, Carlinville staged a celebration for making the final payment on the Courthouse bonds.(14)

While a center of controversy, the Courthouse was considered a beautiful building. It was the largest courthouse in the United States with the possible exception of one in New York City and larger than the Illinois Statehouse.(15) A rectangle 181 feet in length crossed by a transverse rectangle of smaller dimensions, the building resembled a Swiss cross. Built as a massive home to a 4,500 square foot courtroom, it became a major Macoupin County landmark.

This was undoubtedly a difficult time for George Holliday. There were questions about the finances of the courthouse, but no evidence of personal monetary gain from the building was proven. Apparently the controversy became so heated that George left town in 1870, never to return. Speculation was rampant about Hollidays' disappearance but never factually confirmed. His estate eventually settled and later the rest of his family moved to Missouri.


  1. Centennial History of McKendree College with St. Clair County History, 1928.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Abstract of The 1850 United States Census, Macoupin County, Illinois, transcribed under direction of Irvin David Hess, Yuma, AZ 85364, Copyright Irvin David Hess 1972. From sheet 187, Aug 20, 1850.
  4. Marriage license and certificate, Macoupin Co., IL.
  5. Centennial History of McKendree College, ibid.
  6. Marriage Certificate, ibid.
  7. Macoupin County Records, in Marriage record file, Macoupin Co., IL.
  8. Holliday and Watkins family history, information provided by Oscar and Helen Brown, Chesterfield, IL.
  9. History of Shipman Village of IL, February 1923. Macoupin County Searcher, Macoupin County Genealogical Society, Vol XIV, No.2, October 1993.
  10. History of Macoupin County, Brink McDonough & Co, Philadelphia, 1879.
  11. Macoupin County Centennial Book, 1867-1967 Biography of George Holliday.
  12. History of Macoupin County, Illinois and Biographical Sketches of some of its prominent Men and Women, Brink, McDonough & Co. Philadelphia, 1879.
  13. History of Macoupin County, Illinois, ibid.
  14. Macoupin County Searcher, Macoupin County Genealogical Society, Vol XV No 3, January 1995 quarterly Newsletter, Page 53.
  15. Macoupin County's Famous Courthouse, Cynthia K. Leonard, from a handout from the Macoupin County Clerk, John Saracco, reprinted in the Macoupin County Searcher Vol. XVI, No.3, January 1996.

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