John Reynolds (1788-1865)

John Reynolds was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrant parents. Shortly after his birth the Reynolds family moved house to eastern Tennesee, a region at that time marked by significant conflicts with Native Americans. In 1800 the family removed to southern Illinois, first near Kaskaskia, and eventually near Edwardsville. Reynolds returned to Tennessee for two years in order to attend college and study law, and in 1812 he was admitted to the bar in Illinois. In that same year he took part in the War of 1812, serving primarily as a Judge Advocate.

In the fall of 1818 Reynolds was elected an Associate Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court by the State Legislature. In 1825 local voters sent him to that body, and in 1830 he was elected Governor. Reynolds characterized himself as a supporter of President Andrew Jackson, which made him a Democrat. He proved to be a devoted champion of internal improvements and especially the Illinois and Michigan Canal. But the most celebrated event of Reynolds' administration was the Black Hawk War of 1832. In the spring of that year white settlers in northern and western Illinois expressed grave concerns, and in many quarters even panic, over the return of Sauk and Fox Indians, once banished to the west bank of the Mississippi, to Illinois. Governor Reynolds responded by calling out the state militia and requesting federal troops. Led by the veteran warrior Black Hawk, the small band of Native Americans quickly perceived the gravity of their situation, and attempted to surrender. But inexperienced and ill-trained militia troops mishandled the situation, and the conflict wound down to a bloody encounter at Bad Axe, Wisconsin, which largely wiped out the Fox and Sauk tribes.

At the conclusion of his gubernatorial term in 1834, Gov. Reynolds was elected a Member of Congress. He subsequently served in the Illinois State Legislature, becoming speaker of the house in 1852. In 1860 Reynolds attended the national Democratic Convention at Charleston, S. C., as an anti-Douglas Delegate, and supported Breckenridge for the Presidency. During the Civil War Reynolds consistently championed the southern cause, and even went so far as to urge the Buchanan administration to seize arms held in the St. Louis arsenal so as to prevent their use again the South.

John Reynolds' history and autobiography, My Own Times: Embracing Also the History of My Life is available on Lincoln/Net. Click on the title to view the book.