Asa Tyrer, the first coroner of Adams County, was a native of Hampshire County, Massachusetts, born 1788. He first visited the Illinois country in 1818, that he might locate a quarter section of land in the Military Bounty Tract, which he had purchased from a soldier of the War of 1812 for the sum of $300 [actually purchased from Stephen B. Leonard of Broome County, NY, who had himself purchased it from John Garrison, the soldier] At the time of his visit there were no steamboats, or other public conveyances, to be used in reaching Illinois.

He provided himself with a knapsack and provisions, with flint, steel and punk, and after wearisome days of travel, reached St. Louis. There he crossed the Mississippi River and started northward for his intended home, afoot and alone. Reaching the Illinois River, he met a man who had camped on the bank and was on his way to some point about one hundred and fifty miles above, journeying in a skiff, which contained a cargo, a barrel of whiskey.

Mr. Tyrer spent the night there and the next morning was rowed across the river, thankful for the assistance as he continued his trip up the ‘Father of Waters.’ After several days of travel, he reached the bluffs upon which we live today and started searching for the land he had purchased. Because the government surveyors had only recently been working here, he had no difficulty locating the tract which was the southwest quarter of section 12, 2 south, 9 west in what would some day become Melrose Township. The next day he started back to St. Louis.

Near one of the government lines, he discovered a spring, which he [eventually] named ‘Watson Spring’ for his son-in-law. This was a natural plateau covered with a forest of trees, while on the lower level, the spring bubbled up from its rocky bed with a constant stream of pure cool water…On both trips to St. Louis and back to the bluffs, Tyrer saw and heard bands of Indians, herds of deer and great amounts of wild game.

Realizing the possibilities offered by this new country, he was determined to bring his family here. However, his wife could not accept the idea of leaving civilization for this ‘howling wilderness’ with wilder Indians for companions, and he returned alone…

In the year 1822, Tyrer returned to his land on the bluffs overlooking the river and built a cabin on his tract, located about two miles southeast of the original town of Quincy. Two years afterward the entire family settled on it [actually only the older children settled there with him], coming up the river in skiffs, two being lashed together, which served as a foundation for a platform, the structure resembled the present day houseboat, although in a crude way.

Tyrer set up a blacksmith shop and corn grinder on his land, which for years was the only ones in the county. In 1825, with the organization of county government, he became the first coroner, serving for two years. After a few years, he moved to Galena, returning then to the old homestead where he lived until his death on August 6, 1873.

Source: Quincy and Adams County History and Representative Men, pp. 100-102; by David Wilcox. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1919.

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