Continuing on with my series on the Governors of Illinois down to the end of Reconstruction, we come to the fourth Governor of the State, John Reynolds. Born in Montgomery County Pennsylvania on February 26, 1788, his family moved to Kaskaskia in the Illinois territory in 1800. From his family upbring Reynolds abstained from alcohol all of his life which made him something of a novelty among Illinois politicians. He attended college for two years in Knoxville, Tennessee, and embarked upon the study of law but ill health forced him to return home.
He was admitted to the bar of the Illinois territory in the fall of 1812. He enlisted in the Army as a private and served as a scout in battles against Indians during the War of 1812, rising to the rank of sergeant. In Illinois politics his nickname as a result of this service was the “Old Ranger”. Returning from the war, he opened a law office in Cahokia.
In 1818 he was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court by the Illinois General Assembly. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate that same year. In 1826 he was elected to the Illinois House, quickly establishing himself as one of the foremost members in the State of Andrew Jackson’s newly formed Democrat party. In the House he earned a reputation as not being a fierce partisan and a man who could work with members of all parties.
In 1830 he was elected Governor of the state. He was a soldier Governor. His term was dominated by the Black Hawk War, and he often personally assumed command in the field of the Illinois militia, including a then little known Abraham Lincoln. President Jackson appointed him a Major General and authorized him to make treaties with the Indians.
Reynolds resigned as Governor on November 17, 1834 to take a seat in Congress. Reynolds would continue to have an active political career for the remainder of his life, serving in both Congress and the Illinois House. He died on May 8, 1865.