English and Journalism

John McConnel

John McConnel (1826-1862)

By Bill Knight

One of the most important Illinois writers of the mid-19th century, John McConnel was a young newspaper publisher and magazine writer who’d be the state’s first native-born writer to receive acclaim in the East.

Born in Jacksonville in 1826, McConnel was the son of self-taught lawyer and state legislator Murray McConnel. At age 15 John McConnel published The Regulator, a small newspaper primarily featuring his own essays and articles.

He later studied law under his father and attended law school in Kentucky, and served as a captain in the 1st Regiment of Illinois Volunteers during the Mexican War in the late 1840s.

Afterward, he contributed to magazines published in the East, wrote three novels, and became active in politics. He died at the age of 36 from an illness related to his war injuries.

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