The agenda behind the gift

March 16, 2014 

George Blair may have been a generous man, but Belleville was not his "gift," as common mythology and the BND news story about Belleville's birth, published on March 10, suggest. Blair would "donate" to the county an acre for a public square, according to the the agreement he made with the commission that decided to move St. Clair County's government to his land in 1814. He also promised to "donate" to the county every fifth town lot surveyed for a town soon to be called Belleville, but he planned to sell the rest for personal gain.

In the language of the agreement he would "relinquish" the town site. The term is a bit obscure, but Blair's actions reveal his intent: He retained ownership of the town lots not promised to the county. He sold lots to individual property owners until 1816, when he sold all remaining lots to Etienne Pensoneau.

Belleville's Bicentennial provides a good opportunity to review the original documents and correct the record.

Robert Brunkow


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