This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Aug. 2014, before the launch of this weblog.
The indomitable Jacob Funk
By Jared Olar
In the list of Tazewell County’s earliest pioneer settlers was Jacob Funk, whose name appears with relative frequency in the old county records and histories.
Born on Dec. 28, 1793, in Lexington, Kentucky, one of the children of Adam and Nancy Funk, Jacob married Susannah Popejoy (1798-1845) in 1813 in Ohio and had several children. He and his wife and children moved to central Illinois in the 1820s. On page 207 of his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” Charles C. Chapman names “Jesse, Absalom and Jacob Funk” among those who arrived in 1825 and made their homes in what would soon become Fon du Lac Township, Tazewell County, “on the river bottom above and opposite Fort Clarke.”
On page 228 of Chapman’s history, Jacob Funk is named as one of three men appointed as election judges for Ten Mile precinct “at the house of Thomas Camlin.” Funk also served on Tazewell County’s very first grand jury, which was appointed in June 1827 to serve at the October term of the Circuit Court, according to page 231 of Chapman’s history.
In the following year, on March 3, 1828, we find Funk applying for and receiving a license to operate a tavern, for which he paid the county a fee of $2. At the same time, Funk sought to go into the ferry business – but found his ambitions blocked by his neighbor John L. Bogardus, who held exclusive rights to operate a ferry across the Illinois River in that area. Funk then filed a petition in court to challenge Bogardus. This is how Chapman tells the story of the case of Funk vs. Bogardus, on pages 232 and 234 of his Tazewell County history:
“At the March term, 1828, the County Treasurer came into court and settled his account with the county . . . . At this meeting Jacob Funk petitioned the Court to revoke the ferry license of John L. Bogardus for non-attendance to his duties. It appears that the fault-finding Jacob looked with covetous eyes upon Bogardus, and by pure selfishness was prompted to thus petition the Court. Bogardus was contentedly ferrying the people with their goods and chattels across the Illinois opposite Peoria, while Funk sat upon the bank and sought to find fault that would rob Bogardus of that right, which he would then himself seize. After summoning Bogardus before the Court and a careful investigation of the charges the petition was refused. Unable to gain his point in this way Funk applied for a license at or near the same point where Bogardus was engaged, but the Court desired no competition and so refused the application.
“On the 3rd day of March, 1828, Rufus North, Jacob Funk and Jonas Hittle applied for tavern licenses, which, upon filing good and sufficient bonds, and paying into the county treasury the sum of $2.00, were granted. . . . It now appears that while Funk was providing entertainment for man and beast, his neighbor Bogardus had his ferry license, which he had obtained from Sangamon county, proved and spread upon the records here. He also secured the passage of an act prohibiting any one to establish a ferry within one mile of his own.
“Bogardus was evidently an old and extensive operator in the ferry business, for we find he held his license granted while Tazewell county was under the jurisdiction of Sangamon, and further, we find on Sept. 5, 1828, he made application to this Court for another ferry. He selected, as the most remunerative place for his branch ferry, the Illinois at the mouth of Fox river. . . .”
Thwarted in his initial attempt to secure Bogardus’ ferry rights for himself, Funk tried again in 1831, as Chapman relates on page 245, in a section that Chapman titled, “The Irrepressible Funk”:
“If the Court thought to escape the importunities of their old petitioner, Jacob Funk, on making the move to Pekin, they soon found they were sadly mistaken. No sooner had they found a room wherein to convene in official capacity than the indomitable Jacob appeared and again importuned the Court to revoke Bogardus’ ferry license. A citation was immediately issued commanding the said Bogardus to appear and show cause why his license should not be taken from him. Promptly at the convening of the Court at the September term, Funk was on hand and requested that attention be given to the citation issued against Bogardus. The Court, however, let other matters take the precedence until Sept. 8, when Bogardus appears before the Court and is confronted by Funk and [Abner] Eads, and, in the language of the record, the ‘trial is gon into.’ After hearing the evidence pro and con the Court gravely decided ‘that the ferry license issued to John Bogardus by the Sangamon county Commissioners and confirmed by this Court is hereby revoked.’ Thus Funk had at last gained a victory over his enemy, Bogardus, and no doubt was content. Abner Eads, however, was not satisfied with having Bogardus ousted, but applied for a ferry at the same place; but this the Court promptly refused. Bogardus again petitioned for a ferry across the river at Fort Clark, but the Court not wishing more trouble, refused to grant it.”
Funk did not have long to enjoy his victory over Bogardus, however, because Funk died just one year later, in October 1832. Chapman mentions Funk’s death in a brief and tantalizing aside, on page 470 of his history, where he names “Jacob Funk, who was shot by the Sheriff.” Unfortunately Chapman does not say anything else about the circumstances of Funk’s death. Since it happened in October 1832, presumably the sheriff who shot Funk was James Scott, who served as sheriff from 1832 to 1835, or perhaps it was Scott’s predecessor Philip B. Miles, whose term as sheriff ended in 1832. Various family trees at Ancestry.com say Jacob died in Groveland. He was buried in Deacon Street Cemetery in Morton.