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Edwards County, Illinois
Mayo, a young Virginia school teacher who had for a time resided in the neighborhood of Albion, and shown considerable aptitude in figures, was appointed clerk of the court to fill out the unexpired term of one Jesse B. Brown, resigned. The coming of young Mayo into this English settlement at this opportune time when the affairs of the county were in a badly tangled condition was a fortunate circumstance, since it was mainly through his wonderful executive ability, his untiring energy, his unimpeachable honesty and his unceasing devotion to this best interests of the people that name Edwards county became everywhere known as a synonym of law, order and good government.
Mayo was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, March 7th, His father, Lewis Mayo, was a planter, slave-owner and teacher. A nephew of Lewis Mayo was mayor of the city of Richmond just prior to the civil war. The father of Lewis Mayo, also named Lewis, was one of the three brothers who came from England to America; and their genealogical table seems to indicate that they were of the same family with Rev. He was the first pastor of the second church built in the city of Boston. Walter L. Mayo was one of a family of five children- three sons and two daughters.
One of these brothers, Samuel T. Mayo, settled at Carlinville, Illinois, where he married the sister of John M. Palmer and became a widely known citizen. Stopping first to visit an uncle at Tateville, Kentucky, he soon resumed his journey westward to Edwards County, Illinois. This occurred in the year Upon his arrival in the English settlement he found himself among strangers and without any bank account.
He was soon given employment as a country teacher, boarding in the family of County Commissioner Hunt. The young teacher made him self useful outside of his school hours and through his adeptness in figures he was called upon to perform all the difficult calculations for the county.
This finally led to his appointment as county clerk, a position he continued to hold during the almost unprecedented period of 39 years. In the meantime he also held the offices of circuit clerk, probate judge and treasurer. Judge Mayo during all those years acted as the arbiter of the disputes that arose among the people, and it is notorious that he adjusted more difficulties between neighbors than did the courts.
No one hesitated to seek his advice which was freely given with out fee. Naturally of a genial, jovial, sympathetic disposition it not infrequently happened that men went to him with their quarrels, estranged, and went away the best of friends. The result of this was seen in the small amount of litigation in the county and the fact that during more than 40 years no lawyer could earn a living within the bounds of Edward County.
With two terms of circuit court a year, courts have adjourned without a jury trial and grand juries have been discharged without the return of a single indictment. It was oftentimes within the province of Judge Mayo to issue a marriage license, and then to perform the marriage ceremony. Soon after accepting the appointment to the office of county clerk, young Mayo tendered his services to the Governor to assist in quelling in Black Hawk Indian outbreak, and he was promptly accepted and commissioned quartermaster for the battalion from Edwards and adjoining counties.
Illinois County Courts
His clerical qualifications especially fitted him for the work in that department. At the close of the Black Hawk war he returned and resumed his duties as county clerk.
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Judge Mayo was thus referred to by George Flower in his History of the English Settlement: "In the first years of the settlement, the public business of the county was rather loosely conducted, and the county deep in debt; but for the last twenty years public business has been punctually and promptly performed, and the records of the county kept in order for the ready reference.
This is due to the good administration of county affairs by Walter L. Mayo, Esq. The gatherings of the people from the country are now marked by decorum, quietude and respectability. Mayo forget that he was a Virginian, and his conduct toward his fellow man was always that of a Virginia gentleman. He was warm and steadfast in his friendships, but he had small compassion who would betray that friendship. March 3rd, , Walter L.
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Mayo and Elizabeth Hall were united in marriage. The two sons are dead, but the four daughters still survive. William Hall raised a family of nine children, and all were educated beyond the standard of their day and generation. One of Mrs.
Mayo's sisters became the wife of Rhymer Kohlsaat, an honest German butcher at Albion whose sons are now so conspicuous in the great city by the lake in law, and journalism. At the November election of , Judge Mayo was elected on the Republican ticket to represent the 20th district in the lower house of the twenty-seventh general assembly, in which body he made a creditable record as chairman of the committee on finance and as a member of the committees on legislative apportionment and revenue.
In , while the judge was still a member of the Illinois legislature, his family removed to Leavenworth, Kansas, where resided the eldest daughter whose husband, Major Hopkins, was warden of the federal penitentiary. Although residing with his family at Leavenworth, Mr. Mayo continued to call Albion his home; and it was there that he exercised the rights of citizenship.
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During the years of his public service he had by careful saving and prudent investment, accumulated a competency which no one begrudged him, for all admitted it was a well and honestly earned. A goodly share of this wealth was in keeping of the First National Bank of Olney, Illinois, an institution in which he was a director and with the business affairs of which he was quire generally understood to be thoroughly familiar. This brings us to the sad and closing chapter in the life of Walter L. Judge Mayo died the victim of assassins. The story of his death, the names of the guilty fiends and the place of his burial are sealed mysteries, scarcely less mysterious today than they were the day the deed was committed more than 34 years ago.
On Friday, January 17th, , Judge Mayo departed from Leavenworth for Olney, whither he went to attend a meeting for the bank of directors. His safe arrival at St. Louis the next morning was noted on the register of the Laclede hotel where we always sojourned when in that city. He left the hotel at about six o'clock the same evening for the Union Station where he entered a coach on the old O. It is known beyond question that he got aboard the train and that he arrived on the Illinois side of the river about seven o'clock, but after that all is a blank.
The bank meeting was held on the following Thursday, and not until then was Mrs. Mayo apprised of the fact of his disappearance. This information first came in the form of a telegram from the bank officials to the Mayo family asking an explanation for his non-appearance.
The answer returned that he had left home for Olney on the Friday previous. To this the bank official that they knew absolutely nothing of his whereabouts; and then the first serious alarm of foul play was aroused. The valise and cane of the missing man were carried on to Cincinnati and returned to St. The son, Lewis Mayo, now deceased, but then and for years succeeding one of the best known citizens in Leavenworth, went immediately to St. Louis where every possible effort was made to discover some clew that would give light, but all without results.
Beyond the fact that a great crime had been committed nothing was positively known. That he was either murdered outright or else carried away into captivity no one doubted, for he was not the man to desert his family and go into hiding with friends. And that he took no wealth with him was positively known. There were theories advanced without number. It appeared reasonably certain that a crime had been committed while crossing the bridge. Some investigators surmised that the body had been thrown into the river.
Others that it was dumped into Cahokia creek, while a respectable number believed and still believe the body was cremated in the furnace of a boiler. Yet others held that the victim was thrown from the eastern approach to the bridge and carried away by accomplices into captivity, possibly to be held for a ransom.
Cahokia creek back of the old Relay house in East St. Louis was dragged in the hope that the body might be found; experienced detectives were employed and telegrams flew over the country. The theory of robbery, so often advanced, was scouted by his family and friends who knew that he never carried arms and would be the last man to offer resistance if he fell into the hands of highwaymen.
Edwards County Arrest Records by City
Suicide, which some suggested, had no basis of probability, since he was not of that morose or melancholy nature which begets self destruction. Moreover, his financial affairs were in a prosperous condition and his family relations the most congenial, and nothing could be presented that would suggest the idea of self destruction. Unquestionably the most plausible theory was that of abduction, but now after the lapse of years nothing was developed to substantiate such a theory.
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