Notes: VII. The Bissell Affair

Notes for William Chribbs: VII. The Bissell Affair

Note 1. See the biographical sketch of Daniel Bissell published by Saint Louis County, Mo., at: http://www.stlouisco.com/ParksandRecreation/ParkPages/BissellHouse. Saint Louis County now owns the house that Bissell built north of the city of Saint Louis after 1815 and that the Bissell family lived in for 150 years. The biographical sketch is reproduced in full below at Note 49. The most comprehensive account of Bissell’s life was published by Carl John Zell in his 1971 Saint Louis University doctoral dissertation, “General Daniel Bissell,” available in the University Archives.

Note 2. See Public Member Tree “St. Louis County Parks-Daniel Bissell Family Tree” on ancestry.com.

Note 3. See Chribbs v. Julius Saunders in Part V.

Note 4. Randolph County, Ill., Deed Book K (1797-1806), pp. 35-37 (Microfilm #956815, FamilySearch). The earliest Randolph County deed books were later transcribed into new volumes with some original portions omitted, presumably those that had been deemed unnecessary. Chribbs’s “Deed of Gift” does not appear in the transcribed deed book (“Deed Record GIJK”), but only in the original, which is the fourth volume on FamilySearch Microfilm #956815.

Note 5. The “Deed of Gift” was described in The Laws of Indiana Territory 1801-1809, Francis S. Philbrick, ed., Springfield, Ill.: Illinois State Historical Library (1930), p. clxv. In that historical survey, Philbrick, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, wrote:

In the county courts conditions were very different. The unschooled judges of those courts undoubtedly would not have known when they crossed the border of equity, or of any recondite province of the common law. What, for example, could a court untrained in equity and future interests make of a “deed of gift” of livestock, household furnishings and utensils, and a “crop” of corn and oats given by William Chribbs to his daughter in these terms?—

“The total of these items . . . I do freely & of my own accord grant & convey unto the said Mary Chribbs under the following restrictions to wit the said property or at least the use of the said property is to be & remain subject to the control & direction of my wife Eliza Chribbs during her natural life or untill by & with the free consent of the parties concerned it might or may be thought proper to revoke the within given under my hand & seal this 22d day of September 1804.

Witnesses present
W. King
Mathew Adams.”

What William Chribbs wanted done, undoubtedly they tried to do; and that was equity. The bar did not know enough to litigate such matters.

Note 6. No records that have been found specifically reflect that the Chribbs household included slaves, indentured servants, or persons otherwise bound. If the entry of 13 Chribbs family members on the 1805 settlers’ petition to Congress described in Part III was correct, however, that figure might reflect slaves as well as other children that have not been identified.

Note 7. Document B229-1, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 8. William Chribbs notice, Tennessee Gazette and Mero District Advertiser, Nashville (Nov. 28, 1804), Newspaper Microfilm #4798, Library of Congress.

Note 9. Susanna Haswell Rowson (1761-1824), Charlotte Temple, Chapter XVI, “Necessary Digression,” available online at Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org). The book was first published in England in 1790 as “Charlotte; a Tale of Truth.” The first American edition was published in 1794. The full passage reads:

Alas! when once a woman has forgot the respect due to herself, by yielding to the solicitations of illicit love, they lose all their consequence, even in the eyes of the man whose art has betrayed them, and for whose sake they have sacrificed every valuable consideration.

“The heedless Fair, who stoops to guilty joys,
A man may pity—but he must despise.”

Note 10. Document B1264-1, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch. The quoted text reflects edits to the indictment that appear in the court docket book. See Randolph County Court of General Quarter Sessions, Vol. 2 (Sept. 1802 – Oct. 1807), pp. 70-71 (Microfilm Roll 5, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 11. Randolph County Court of General Quarter Sessions, Vol. 2 (Sept. 1802 – Oct. 1807), p. 70 (Microfilm Roll 5, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 12. Randolph County Court of General Quarter Sessions, Vol. 2 (Sept. 1802 – Oct. 1807), p. 71 (Microfilm Roll 5, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 13. Randolph County Court of General Quarter Sessions, Vol. 2 (Sept. 1802 – Oct. 1807), pp. 73-75 (Microfilm Roll 5, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale). Page 74 is the bond relating to the Stephen Ramsey prosecution. Page 75 is the bond relating to the prosecution of Elizabeth Chribbs.

Note 14. Document B1264-4, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 15. Document B1264-2 (March 1805), B1264-3 (June 1805), B1264-13 (September 1805), B1264-8 and B1264-12 (December 1805), Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 16. Document B1264-11, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 17. Document B229-9, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 18. Document B229-4, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 19. Document B229-2, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 20. Document B70-3 (order) and B70-5 (capias), Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688924, FamilySearch.

Note 22. Daniel Bissell v. William Chribbs, Case No. 68, Randolph County, Ill., Court of Common Pleas Book 3, pp. 280-82.

Note 21. William Chribbs to Charles Wilkins, March 4, 1805, James Brown Papers, Mss. 44, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, La.

Note 23. Document B1264-6, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 24. Document B1264-5, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 25. Document B229-6 and B229-7, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 26. Document B1264-10, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 27. Document B1282-3, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 28. Document B1264-7, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 29. Document B1282-2, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 30. Document B1264-9, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 31. Document B229-8, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 32. U.S. v. Elizabeth Chribbs, Randolph County Court of General Quarter Sessions, Vol. 2 (Sept. 1802 – Oct. 1807), p. 84 (Microfilm Roll 5, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 33. U.S. v. Elizabeth Chribbs, Randolph County Court of Common Pleas Book, Vol. 3 (Dec. 1807 – Aug. 1810), p. 306 (Microfilm Roll 1, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 34. U.S. v. Elizabeth Chribbs, Randolph County Court of Common Pleas Book, Vol. 3 (Dec. 1807 – Aug. 1810), p. 307 (Microfilm Roll 1, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 35. United States v. Stephen Ramsey, Randolph County Court of Common Pleas Book, Vol. 3 (Dec. 1807 – Aug. 1810), pp. 304-06 (Microfilm Roll 1, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale). See also United States v. Stephen Ramsey, Randolph County Court of General Quarter Sessions, Vol. 2 (Sept. 1802 – Oct. 1807), p. 84 (March 1805 capias), p. 95 (September 1805 capias) (Microfilm Roll 5, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale).

Note 36. Document B1264-1, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688934, FamilySearch.

Note 37. Document B229-5, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 38. Document B70-4, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688924, FamilySearch.

Note 39. Document B70-6, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688924, FamilySearch.

Note 40. Document B70-7, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688924, FamilySearch.

Note 41. Document B229-3, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch. A capias dated July 28, 1806, had also been successfully served on Bissell. See Document B229-2.

Note 42. Document B229-1, Randolph County, Ill., court records, justice of the peace records, early notarial records, etc., 1737-1885, Microfilm #1688926, FamilySearch.

Note 43. Despite the results in court, the historian Norman W. Caldwell took Chribbs’s allegations at face value. Here is what he wrote about the matter in “The Frontier Army Officer, 1794-1814,” Mid-America, An Historical Review, Vol. 37, Chicago: Institute of Jesuit History, Loyola University (1955), p. 101 (footnotes omitted):

Most notable for his escapades was perhaps Captain Daniel Bissell, who served as commandant at Fort Massac, 1801-1807 [sic]. Bissell, married and living with his wife at the post, was indicted in 1804 for an attempt on the life of William Chribbs, a merchant at Fort Massac, with whose wife Bissell was enamored. This attempt, planned by Bissell to be executed by one of his soldiers with the connivance of Mrs. Chribbs, consisted of a plan to blow up Chribbs’ house with gunpowder! Bissell having escaped criminal conviction, Chribbs brought a civil suit against him for debauching and seducing his wife, seeking $3,000 damages. Bissell countered by bringing a civil suit against Chribbs for $1,500 for damages and expenses he had been put to in defending himself against Chribbs, which defense he alleged had caused him “to undergo great labors as well in body as mind. . . .” Nothing more is heard of these suits. As for Mrs. Chribbs, the French girl who caused all this turmoil, she married a third man in 1809.

Note 44. Petition, Aug. 7, 1806, Elizabeth Chribbs v. William Chribbs, Indiana Territory General Court Case Files, Box 9, Folder 614, Indiana State Archives, Commission on Public Records.

Note 45. John and Mary McClain deposition, Sept. 22, 1806, Elizabeth Chribbs v. William Chribbs, Indiana Territory General Court Case Files, Box 9, Folder 614, Indiana State Archives, Commission on Public Records.

Note 46. Livingston County, Ky., Deed Book A, p. 295 (Chribbs & McCawley to Andrew Snoddy, Smithland Lot 15, on June 1, 1807).

Note 47. October 1806 General Court orders, Indiana Territory General Court Case Files, Box 10, Folder 678, Indiana State Archives, Commission on Public Records. The divorce proceedings apparently took place on Tuesday, October 7.

Note 48. The court order entry is accompanied by margin notes consisting of seven individuals’ names, including “Drury Pritchard” and “Margaret Eady.”

Note 49. Following is the biographical sketch of Daniel Bissell published by Saint Louis County, Mo., in connection with his house now in the county’s possession:

The General Daniel Bissell House was built between 1812 and 1820 and is an outstanding and early example of the Federal style of architecture in the Missouri Territory. Daniel Bissell was an important figure in the early military history of the region, and the house reflects its occupancy by five generations of his family before they gave it to St. Louis County in 1961 with many of its original furnishings. The house is open for tours by advance reservation only.

Daniel Bissell was born in Bolton, Connecticut in 1768. As a boy of nine he enlisted in the Connecticut militia as a fifer during the Revolutionary War. Bissell returned to the military when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1788, and he rose quickly through the ranks. In 1802 he was given command of Fort Massac, near Cairo, Illinois, where he also served as the port of entry inspector and collector. In 1809, as a lieutenant colonel, Bissell was appointed military commander of the Upper Louisiana Territory and took command of Cantonment Belle Fontaine, later known as Fort Belle Fontaine. This military post had been established in 1805 in the bottom lands of the Missouri River about five miles west of the confluence with the Mississippi River. It was the first American military post west of the Mississippi River. Bissell found conditions at the fort to be unhealthy and the buildings in poor repair. He also considered the site to be in a poor strategic position. In 1810 Bissell received authorization to relocate the fort on higher ground and completed the rebuilding effort in 1811. The fort was later abandoned after the army constructed Jefferson Barracks in 1826. Today part of the site is Fort Belle Fontaine Park.

With the onset of the War of 1812, Bissell was promoted to a full colonel, and in 1814 he given a brevet promotion to brigadier-general and assigned a brigade in Izard’s Right Division at Plattsburgh. He commanded this brigade throughout 1814 and won a tactical draw at the small action fought at Lyon’s Creek or Cooks’ Mills, Canada, on October 19, 1814.

In 1815, after Bissell returned to the St. Louis area from the war, he began to construct this brick house around a stone kitchen that dated back to 1812. Using slave labor the house was constructed in stages and was finished by 1819. The placement of the house at the top of a rise and the fine proportions of the Federal Style home made the house a prominent landmark in the sparsely populated area north of St. Louis and east of the village of Florissant.

In 1821 General Bissell left the military and retired to his estate which he called Franklinville Farm. He built up the estate to 2300 acres and became a prominent community leader in the early affairs of the St. Louis area. He lived in the house with his wife Deborah and their four children until his death in 1833. His family remained there for nearly 150 years, each successive generation contributing to the house and its furnishings. The Classic Revival front doorway and ground floor mantels date from the 1840s. The Victorian frame wing was added about 1890 to replace the detached stone kitchen. The Bissell House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

In the early 1960s the house and what remained of Franklinville Farms was donated to St. Louis County. A variety of historical and recreational activities are offered throughout the year including costumed reenactments, fairs, lectures and seminars.