The Jordans in Illinois -A story of "firsts"

There are two things that I have noticed while studying the Jordans. One is they were true pioneers. They would go into the wilderness, build a home, establish a church, build a school and move.... to the wilderness, build a home, establish a church, build a school and move.... and on and on. The second is there are many "firsts". That is to say they were the first to settle an area, the first to marry in a particular county, etc.

Thomas Jordan brought his large extended family from North Carolina to Smith County, Tennessee, then to the wilds of Southern Illinois. When reading Illinois history, one finds mention of the seven Jordan brothers who built forts and settled there. These seven were Thomas's sons: Francis, Thomas, James, Elias, Reuben, William and Joseph.

When arriving in Illinois, in 1804, they first built a three sided log cabin in what is now Franklin County. They kept a blazing fire on the open side to keep warm. This became the first white settlement in Franklin County. Francis was the leader of his brothers who built seven forts in southern Illinois. The first fort, the Thomas Jordan Fort, has much rich history. Great Britain had encouraged the Indians to attack the whites to discourage them from moving west and settling. There were many incidents of Indian attacks which was one reason that lead to the War of 1812. While James and brother-in-law William Barbrey were away from the fort gathering wood, they were attacked by Indians. James was wounded in the leg but managed to get back to the fort. Barbrey was killed and scalped. His burial was the first in the fort cemetery. In 1812, this was the first cemetery in Franklin County. Elder Thomas Jordan died in 1815 and was also buried here. The Jordan Fort Cemetery is said to have about 60 grave sites. In 1930, the Illinois Central Railroad put their tracks right through the cemetery. Jordan and Barbrey along with others are beneath these tracks. A fence now encircles the half dozen remaining grave markers.

In 1818, a log building was built about a half mile from the Thomas Jordan Fort and later, in 1826, became the Liberty Methodist Church, the first church in the area. This building also served as a school and was also the first school house.

In 1810, the Francis Jordan Fort was the first white settlement in Williamson County. It was located on an old buffalo path known as the Jordan Trail which became the first local road of Franklin County.

In 1812 and about four miles northwest of the Francis Jordan Fort, Frank Jordan built his seventh fort, called Frank Fort. It was built on present-day Frankfort Heights and near Ewing Creek along the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Post Road. Since this fort was west of the Francis Jordan Fort, the Jordan name was dropped and became Frankfort and then West Frankfort. Frankfort became the first town in Franklin County in 1818. In 1821, Frankfort became the first county seat of Franklin County.

Just north of Franklin County is Jefferson County, where Garrison Greenwood and Elizabeth Jordan were married on September 16, 1819. This was the first marriage in the Jefferson County. On March 26, 1819, Garrison Greenwood and Joseph Jordan organized and formed Jefferson County, Illinois. On June 7, 1819, the first (log) courthouse was built in Mt. Vernon, Jefferson County. Builders of the courthouse were: John Sanders, Joseph Jordan (furnished the timber) and his sons Thomas and John Jordan.

After operating a tavern along Goshen Road in Jefferson County, Thomas Jordan paid a $5.00 license and operated the first licensed ferry on the Mississippi River to the Dubuque's Mines. He strapped together two very large canoes to serve as the ferry. During an Indian battle, fleeing Indians came to the river and could not find a way across. They then cut the ferry in half and used one of the canoes to escape.

In 1814, Mary Ann Jordan was born to Francis and Mary Jordan in the Francis Jordan Fort. At the age of eleven, she rode horseback behind her father to Shelby County. Here, the Jordans established the first settlement of Shelby County.

Henry Sadorus was the first settler of Champaign County and is the name sake for the community of Sadorus. Having made a land trade with a neighbor, he was responsible for the first real estate transaction of the county. John Jordan married Henry's daughter, Eliza Jane, in 1832 and they moved to Texas a year later.