Recollections of the
Pioneers of Lee County
(Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1893)
Hooks Emma Hale Lewis's Hales
William B. Smith Phelps' sketch
PIONEERS + _ + _
--- OF LEE COUNTY.
INEZ A. KENNEDY, PUBLISHER.
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Of the times as they ust to be;
"Pillar of Fire," and "Shakespeare's Plays,"
Is a'most too deep for me!
I want plain facts, and I want plain words,
Of good old-fashioned ways,
When speech run free as the songs of birds,
'Way back in the airly days.
Tell me a tale of the timber lands,
And the old-time pioneers
Somepin' a pore man understands
With his feelins', well as ears.
Toll of the old log house about
The loft, and the puncheon floor
The old fire-place, with the crane swung on,
And the latch string through the door,
Tell of the things just like they wuz
They don't need no excuse;
Don't tetch 'em up like the poets does
Till they're all too fine for use!
Say they wuz 'leven in the family
Two beds and the chist below,
And the trundle-beds, 'at each holt three;
And the clock and the old bureau.
Then blow the horn at the old back door
Till the echoes all hallo,
And the children gathers home onc't more,
Jest as they ust to do;
Blow for Pap till he hears and comes,
With Tomps and Elias, too,
A marchin' home, with the life and drums
And the old Red, White and Blue!
Blow and blow till the sound draps low
As the moan of the whipperwill,
And wake up Mother, and Ruth, and Jo,
All sleepin' at Bethel Hill;
Blow and call till the faces all
Shine out in the back-log's blaze,
And the shadders dance on the old hewn wall
As they did in the airly days.
-- JAS. WHITCOMB RILEY.
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To those, therefore, who care to become better acquainted with this little book, we will tell something of its birth and parentage.
The Lee County Columbian Club, in common with others throughout the entire state, was organized by an officer of the Illinois Woman's Exposition Board for the purpose of opening communication with all parts of the county, of securing, for the various departments of the great exposition any and every item in our county which would add to its interest or give evidence of the history, growth, resources, culture, or natural features of the county. Also to facilitate communication with the State Board; to encourage the study of the Exposition; awakening interest and enabling us to enjoy it more intelligently.
At one of our earliest meetings Miss Elizabeth J. Shaw spoke with much earnestness of the great historic events which are connected with Lee County, making it a point of interest not only to the state, but to the nation.
This led to her being requested to prepare a sketch of those events, for the instruction and entertainment of the Club.
We also wished to commemorate these events in some way by a county exhibit at the Exposition, and decided to offer a window, on which should be suitably represented, as a center panel, Father Dixon's cabin, the first white man's home on Rock River, and on either side of it pictures of Father Dixon and of Black-Hawk, types of the advancing and receding races.
That such an exhibit would have been an appropriate and beautiful one, is beyond doubt. That the plan met with insurmountable difficulties and was reluctantly abandoned is a source of inexpressible and unceasing regret but such was the case, and we record it here that there may be at least this proof of the taste which proposed, and the cheerful willingness which would have carried out the project had it been possible.
Meantime the Club had listened to Miss Shaw's admirable paper, (which forms a chapter in this book,) and to a second by Mrs. Chase, of Amboy, on the "Pioneer Women" of that township, which so awakened interest that we began to realize the opportunity for co-operation afforded by the county organization and to ask that similar papers be gathered from the entire county.
We asked for papers referring to facts and experiences in pioneer life especially that of the pioneer women, which had not already been recorded in the various histories of the county, endeavoring to make them more like the fireside chat of old friends than a mere formal record of names
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But alas! many others equally willing and anxious for our success "would gladly aid us but it was so long ago they had forgotten, etc., etc." One of our best contributors says: "Sometimes I gave up, here; sometimes I followed them up with a "Columbian Shorter Catechism," and in this way I became possessed of some interesting and picturesque incidents. At one time about all I could get was 'the way they heated the water to scald the hogs.' I thought if our book lived and should ever reach those whom we shall never live to see, my part of it would be those hot rocks a thunderin' down the ages!"
Others wrote more formal particulars, but all have been preserved and all are of interest.
When we were obliged to abandon our hope of the window, it was too late to attempt any other project, so we decided to collect all this material at once, and publish it as a book for our exhibit.
Not that it is as desirable an exhibit as the window would have been, or as it might have been made had we known the end from the beginning but we had no better resource.
So, whether you see it among the varied exhibits at the great exposition or place it among your household treasures, this is its history, and it is yours as well as ours. It is not all we wished or hoped, probably not all that you expect, but if you are inclined to criticise the omission of any matter remember that the omission is your own. If you say, "why did you not put in this, or that?" we shall address the question to you, in reply. Such as has been given us, we give you, wishing no less than you that it was more complete.
Look upon its failings then, with allowance, drop a tear on the sad pages, and laugh with your children over the merry ones. Teach them how true it is, and that it was written for them. Then we shall feel that the mission of our little book has been fulfilled, for as Webster says: "Those who do not look upon themselves as a link connecting the past with the present, do not perform their duty to the world."
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Midway between Chicago and the Mississippi River, in north latitude, between 41 and 42 degrees and in west longitude 12 degrees and 30 minutes, lies Lee County. Fifty years ago the Indians roamed at large over the vast billows of prairie land, glided up and down the silvery streams in the light canoe, and lodged beneath the protecting branches of the beautiful trees that bordered the winding rivers. No boundary line of town or county then intersected this part of Illinois. Since 1680 the Illinois country had been subject to France or Great Britain, and not until 1783 had the United States claimed possession of it. Even then the Starry Flag waved aloft in imagination only, for no white man had claimed its protection. As late as 1818 the settled part of the state extended only a little north of Alton. A remnant of the French Colony founded by LaSalle in 1680, many of whom had intermarried with the Indians; and American emigrants, chiefly from Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania, had increased the population of Southern Illinois to the number of twelve thousand. These, strengthened with the aid of one company of regular soldiers, resisted, in the war of 1812, the combined encroachments of the English with the Kickapoos, Sacs, Foxes, Pottawattomies, Winnebagoes and Shawnees. These tribes still encamped at intervals in Northern Illinois, and not until after the close of the Black Hawk war in 1831 and 1832, when the Indians were relegated to their claims beyond the Mississippi river, was this portion of the state open for the peaceful abode of the white man. Here, a few miles east of us, lived Shabbona, chief of the Pottawattomies, with his tribe, and Black Hawk, chief of the Sacs, dwelt at the junction of Rock River and the Mississippi, while farther north were the Winnebagoes, and farther south the Kickapoos and Shawnees.
The atrocities and treacheries of the Indian have been commented upon until every one has sufficient information in that direction, and we will turn to other characteristics not as often described; and as this
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section of the state of Illinois was inhabited by the tribes above mentioned and the Foxes, (as named by the French, but called Ottogamies by the other Indian tribes), we will direct our attention to what we can learn of them; our predecessors on these prairies. Here in our groves and beside our streams they built their lodges, hunted and fished, fought, loved and died, while down in the southern part of Illinois, as in southern Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri, the first faint gleams of the dawn of civilization were beginning to illumine the green and flowery wilderness of the Great West. Here and there, miles apart, the rising smoke from the solitary cabin would send a gleam of hope to a weary traveler, or a ray of light from some lonely hut would beckon the benighted wanderer to the comfort and joy of human companionship. It is true that in these wild regions the human beings were sometimes inhuman, and the unhappy explorer found a terrible welcome; but far, far oftener the mercy which had come from heaven net him, and having been sheltered, warmed and fed, he proceeded on his way to untried fields beyond. Year after year brought new inhabitants, and farther and farther west and north the pioneer opened up a high-way for multitudes, in time, to follow, and to reach, at last, the homey of the red men here. The hardships of those who led the way to civilization there, were soon to be borne by the brave spirits who inaugurated prosperity for us here, and before this story is ended, we shall see with admiration what noble men and women were led forth by the unseen hand to prepare the way for us who followed. One short extract describing pioneer life in Southern Illinois and adjacent territory years before the pioneers had reached here, and then we will tarry awhile with the original "settlers" before we take up the histories of our own. It is from the autobiography of Peter Cartright, the renowned itinerant Methodist preacher who commenced his labors in 1804, at the age of nineteen years, and continued them for sixty years; and whose circuit extended 600 miles, and who is said to have preached 18,000 sermons.
"We killed our meat out of the woods, wild, and beat our meal and hominy with a pestle and mortar. We stretched a deer skin over a hoop, burned holes in it with the prongs of a fork, sifted our meal, baked bread eat it, and it was first rate eating, too. We raised or gathered out of the woods our own tea. We had sage, bohea, cross-bone, spice and sassafras teas in abundance. We made our sugar out of the water of the maple tree, and our molasses too. These were great luxuries in those days. Ministers of different denominations came in and preached through the country; but the Methodist preachers were the pioneer messengers of salvation in these ends of the earth. People unacquainted with frontier
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life fifty or sixty years ago, can form but a very imperfect idea of the sufferings and hardships the early settlers of these western states underwent at that day, when Methodist preachers went from fort to fort, from camp to camp, from tent to tent, from cabin to cabin, with or without road or path. We walked on dirt floors, sat on stools or benches for chairs, ate on puncheon tables, had forked sticks and pocket or butcher knives for knives and forks, slept on bear, deer or buffalo skins before the fire, sometimes on the ground in open air for downy beds, had our saddles or saddle-bags for pillows of feathers; and one new suit of clothes of home spun was ample clothing for one year for an early Methodist preacher in the west. We crossed creeks and large rivers without bridges or ferryboats, often swam them on horseback or crossed on trees that had fallen over the stream, drove our horses over and often waded over waist deep, and if by chance we got a dugout or canoe to cross in ourselves, and swim our horses by, it was quite a treat. The above course of training was the colleges in which we early Methodist preachers graduated and from which we took our diplomas. Here we solved our mathematical problems, declined our nouns and conjugated our verbs, parsed our sentences, and became proficient in the dead languages of the Indian and back-woods dialect."
The Abbe 'em, Domenech, a missionary to the Indians, has given an account of some of the customs, traditions and legends of those tribes, which from having once inhabited this part of Illinois, are of greatest interest to us. He described many lovely and beautiful traits in these poor untutored children of the wilderness, and translated some of their songs and legends, specimens of which are introduced here.
Those who have read the life of Black Hawk will recollect his long and heavy mourning for his departed children, and also, that his greatest sorrow and regret in leaving the country, which had been ceded to the whites, was in bidding adieu to the graves of his ancestors.
One historian who had known the Indians well, speaks of their great tenderness for their children. Not having any regular time for eating, and depending much on wild game for sustenance, they are sometimes a long time without food, as the hunters are not always successful. Sometimes the father returns home without sufficient game to supply the family, in which case the parents invariably continue their own fasting while all which has been taken is given to the children.
Black is the sign of mourning among Indians as among us. Among several of these northern tribes, a woman who has lost a child in the cradle, places it in its little wicker bed which she has lilted with black feathers, and carries it about with her for one whole year, in all her
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emigrations, places it in her cabin, speaks to it and sings, gay or sad as if the child were still alive and could smile and answer her. The widows of the Fox Indians remain several months without changing their clothes or giving any care to their dress. This custom is common in many tribes of the north.
The Sacs and Foxes place their dead, wrapped in blankets or buffalo skins, in rude coffins made of old canoes or the bark of trees and bury them. If the deceased was a warrior, a post is erected above his head painted with red bars, indicating the number of men, women and children he has killed during his life and who are to be his slaves in the land of shadows.
The grief of these children of the desert has in it something so touching and simple that it strikes even the coldest hearts; and often they are seen talking, weeping or singing by their graves as if the dead could hear them.
Although some of the Indians are very poetical, the sweet cadences of measured rhyme have never been known among them, but like the Orientals they chant their songs of love or of war. "The finest song known " is the one improvised and sung by the celebrated Chippewa Chief Onaoubogie before and after a great victory which he had gained over the Sioux, the Foxes and the Sacs. The translation is by the Abbe' em Domenech.
A chief of a tribe not having a permanent army at his command, is obliged to have recourse to voluntary enlistment whenever he wishes to declare war against a hostile tribe. Then, through the medium of couriers whom he sends to every lodge and village of his nation, he assembles all the men capable of bearing arms; after which, in a preparatory ceremony, he extemporizes a few stanzas of energetic poetry, which he sings with fiery enthusiasm gesticulating and accompanying himself with the drum and raquetts. The auditors' imagination is gradually excited by all they hear; they become animated with the warlike ardor of their chieftain, and generally finish by enlisting en masse to fight and die under his command.
"Hearken to my voice, you brave heroes!
The day is coming when our warriors
Will fall upon our cowardly enemies.
My heart burns with a just vengeance
Against the cruel, treacherous race
Of the Sioux the Foxes and the Sacs.
Here, my breast is covered with blood.
Behold! behold the wounds caused by the conflict!
Mountains tremble at my cries!
I fight! I strike! I kill!
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They fly in the prairie like foxes;
They tremble like the leaves during a tempest,
Perfidious dogs! you have burnt our children.
We will hunt during five winters.
And we shall mourn for our massacred warriors
Until our youths having become men,
Shall be instructed for war.
Then will our days end like those of our fathers.
You are no more noble warriors, you are gone.
My brother, my companion, my friend,
To the path of death, where all the brave go;
But we live to avenge you
And we will die as died our ancestors."
The following is selected by Abbe' em Domenech from a great number of Indian love chants that had become popular on the prairies, and translated by him.
Hearken to the voice of my songs, it is my voice.
Do not blush, all thy thoughts are known to me.
I have my magic shield, thou canst not escape.
I shall always draw thee to me, even shouldst thou be
In the most distant Isle, beyond the great lakes.
I am mighty by my strength and valor.
Listen, my betrothed, it is to thy heart that I speak.
* * * * * * * *
The finest bears of the prairies shall become my prey,
I will exchange horses for necklaces;
Thy moccasins shall become shining beads.
Fly not from me; I will go even up to the clouds to keep thee.
The Great Spirit is for me, my betrothed;
Hearken to the voice of my song, it is my voice."
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below being impossible, the translator was oblige to be content with reproducing the sense, and not word for word of the original.
"Balance, balance thou pretty cot.
Roll on, roll on aerial wave;
Sleep, sleep, baby, sleep, sleep,
For thy mother watches over thee.
It is she who will ever rock thee,
Sleep, sleep, baby, sleep, sleep.
Little darling, thou art thy mother's love,
Sleep, sleep, my child, sleep sleep.
Tiny cradle, balance, balance.
Rock my baby near me;
Sweet darling do not weep,
For thy mother watches over thee.
Roll on, roll on, aerial wave.
Gently rock my sleeping babe;
His mother is near him watching
That he may not be alone,
Wave in the air thou pretty cot;
Wave, wave, sweet little child."
Many can doubtless recall the sad story of the Indian woman who, distracted and heart-broken at having been abandoned by her husband, embarked in a canoe with her baby, and allowed herself to perish in the St. Anthony Falls. When she saw that the current carried off her frail skiff, and that all hope of life was lost, she rose, holding her infant in her arms, and began losing in a solemn and sad air the following words:
It was for him that I prepared the freshly killed game and that my cabin was so daintily bedecked;
It was for him that I tanned the skin of the noble stag and that I embroidered the moccasins which adorn his feet.
Every day at sunrise I anxiously awaited the return of him whom I loved;
My heart beat with joy as soon as I heard the step of my brave huntsman;
He would throw down his load at the door of my cabin it was a deer, and I would hasten to prepare it for the repast.
My heart was attached to my spouse, and to me his love was more than all the world;
But he has forsaken me for another and now life has become a burden to me which I can no longer support;
My child is also a grief to my heart, for he is so like him.
How can I endure life when all its moments are so cruel and so poignant to me!
I have elevated my voice towards the Master of Life; I have besought Him to take back the life He had given me, for I wish for it no longer.
I am going on with the current that carries me off, and that will satisfy my desire and my prayers
I see the waters foaming. I see it gush forth impetuously, it shall be my shroud.
I hear the deep murmurs of the gulf, it is my funeral song, Farewell!
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The Sacs and Foxes, as Well as Several other tribes, believe that at the time of the deluge, a man and woman remained on the summit of a high mountain, after all the rest of the human race were drowned. When the waters subsided the Great Spirit took pity on these two beings, and sent them fire by the raven whose plumage was then white; the raven, having stopped to feed on the carcass of a buffalo, let the fire die out, and returned to heaven to fetch more. Then the Great Spirit as a punishment, changed the color of its feathers from white to black and gave the fire to another bird, which carried it faithfully to its destination without stopping. Different tribes have varieties of the same traditions more or less embellished, and which it is useless to introduce here.
At every step in the study of the religion of the Indians, one perceives that if not of Hebrew origin it is, at least, strongly imbued with Biblical tradition, more or less perverted by the fantastic and vivid imagination of these simple beings with their passionate love for all that is marvelous.
Some authors equally distinguished for their erudition and their practical knowledge of the Indians, have looked upon the legend we are about to relate, as a distorted reminiscence of the redemption which was sealed upon Calvary.
Ascending the Mississippi, a little above St. Louis, between Alton and the Illinois river, there, is a narrow pass confined between two high hills, at the bottom of which runs the Piusa, a rivulet which flows into the river. At this place is a smooth, perpendicular rock, upon which at two or three yards high, an immense image of a bird with outspread wings is chiseled on the stone. This image, from which the streamlet takes its name, is called by the Indians, Piusa, that is to say, the man-devouring bird, and is thus named from the circumstance that follows.
"Many thousand moons before the arrival of the white men, Nanabush, the benevolent intercessor for mankind, destroyed the great Mammoth or Mastodon, the bones of which are still to be found in many parts of America. At that time there was a bird of such prodigious strength
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and size, that he could easily carry away a stag in his talons. This bird having once tasted of human flesh, from that time forward, would eat no other food. He was as cunning as he was strong; he used to make a sudden dart at an Indian, carry him away to one of his caves in the rock, and there devour him at leisure. Hundreds of warriors had been unsuccessful in their attempts to destroy him. Entire villages were thus laid to waste by him, and terror was spread among the tribes of Illinois. At length Outaga, a warrior chief, whose renown extended far beyond the great lakes, withdrew from the rest of his tribe, spent a whole month in fasting and solitude, and prayed to the Great Spirit to deliver his children from the fangs of Piusa. During the last night, the Great Spirit appeared to him in a dream, and commanded him to select twenty warriors, and to hide them in a place which he pointed out to him, each man being armed with a bow and a poisoned arrow. One warrior alone was to show himself openly, and become a victim to the winged monster, at whom all the others were to let fly their arrows, the moment the bird fastened on its prey.
"When Outaga awoke, he gave thanks to the Great Spirit; he then went back to his tribe, related his dream, and the twenty warriors were forthwith chosen, armed, and placed in ambush, Outaga himself offering to become the victim and so perish for the rest of his tribe. From the rising ground where he stood, the brave Indian beheld the Piusa perched on his rock. He drew himself up with majestic bearing, planting his feet firmly on the soil; and laying his right hand upon his calm and unmoved heart, he lifted up his voice and began the death chant of the warrior. The monster spread out his wings, and quick as lightning fell upon the Indian chief. But every bow was ready strained, every warrior let his arrow fly, and each arrow pierced through the body of the Piusa, who sank and expired at the feet of Outaga with a savage and terrific shriek. The Great Spirit rewarded the sacrifice of the generous chief by suspending over his head an invisible shield which preserved him from being hurt by his friends' arrows, or by the talons of the bird."
In remembrance of this event the image of the Piusa was carved on the rock, and no Indian ever goes past this place in his canoe without aiming a shot at the monster's effigy. The rifles have left innumerable marks on the stone, and the whole fable seems to borrow an air of truth from the fact that all the natural caverns in the surrounding hills are filled with bones of thousands of human beings.
The celebrated Methodist preacher, Peter Cartright, D. D., who
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labored for more than sixty years chiefly in the Mississippi Valley, leaves this in his autobiography published in 1856, in describing his first visit to Rock Island Mission, which corroborates the truth of the above.
"Here on the north side of Rock River, on the rising ground from the Mississippi bottom, stands the sight of one of the oldest Indian towns in the north or north-west. It is a beautiful site for a city. There are to be seen lying, bleached and bleaching, the bones of unnumbered thousands of this poor, wild and roaming race of human beings. It was the center of the vast and powerful, unbroken, warlike tribes of the north-west. This particular spot was claimed by the notorious Black- Hawk and his tribe. If they had been civilized, and had known the real arts of war, it would have been utterly impossible for the Americans to have vanquished and subdued them as they have done. When I looked at the fields in cultivation by the whites, where the ground had been for ages the country of the Indians, a spirit of sorrow came over me. Had they been an educated and civilized people there no doubt would now be standing on this pre-eminent site, as splendid a city as New York. But they are wasted away and gone to their long home. I saw a scattered few that there crowded back by the unconquerable march of the white man."
A tradition prevails among the Sacs and Foxes in which we can trace a great analogy to the Mosaic account of the creation of man and the confusion of tongues. According to those Indians the Great Spirit created, in the first place, two men; but on seeing that His work was thus insufficient for its purpose, He took from each man a rib, of which He formed two women. The Indian race are descended from these two couples. All men were at first united in one great nation: but they became wicked, and after that the Great Spirit visited them and gave them the knowledge of several tongues, thereby creating among them confusion, which compelled them to separate and to form all the different tribes which are yet in existence.
Before bidding adieu to the first inhabitants of these prairies, let us cast a kindly glance at the departed, and, as it were, leave a wreath of prairie flowers over the remains of that diminishing race whose once loved acres we now inhabit. No longer can the green mounds, their sacred tombs, receive the pathetic care of friend or descendant. The proud race of the children of Nature has drunk of the bitter cup of humiliation and desolation. Let us cherish compassion for their misfortune, and in the twilight of their setting sun linger in tender reveries before we say farewell.
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How many a Columbus we have met and have not known it. How many grand spirits have crossed our pathway and, perchance, walked and talked with us day by day, whose earthly environments have blinded us to the regal honors we were receiving in sharing their company. They may have been rough in speech, unlettered and awkward, and coarsely clad, and yet all these external appearances were but as the husks which had hidden and protected the finest, noblest souls that shall be unveiled in Paradise.
And through marsh and fen and bog and slough and dangers seen and unseen, in the years gone by these Columbians, both men and women have pressed on, hoping and believing that somewhere in the Great West, sweet Mother Nature with smiling face and green and sunny garments, was waiting to receive them to an earthly home which, to the wanderer's vision, appeared a type of "Canaan's Happy Land," beyond the swelling flood of Jordan.
On a day in the latter part of May, 1835, when not a human habitation, save the ruins of some Indian lodge, marked the landscape, two heavily laden wagons, each drawn by two horses, and containing household goods, a tent, two men, two women and four children, moved slowly onward until they reached some rising ground, sheltered by trees near
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the banks of Green river, just east of the present locality of Binghampton. Here they alighted and pitched a small tent, the two men preparing for an encampment, while the women were busy in making ready the evening meal. The elder woman tended and watched the twin babies, two little boys; the younger woman performed the more active service. The older man was smaller than the younger and wore spectacles. The younger was a great, strong, stalwart man, ruddy and grey eyed, his step fearless, the work of his hands as if a determined will reached through every fiber to finger tips. The elder woman was thin and quiet, with a look in her face as if motherhood was in her heart but perchance not in her life, while she lavished on the little ones the tenderness of a real mother. The young mother was a "perfect woman nobly planned," of full habit, finely proportioned, with large blue eyes and beautiful complexion. The little Thomas, five years old, and Mary, three, with the twins, Matthew and Mark, complete the group of the first white inhabitants of Amboy -- the Dexter family.
The older man was he whom we have heard spoken of as "Old Doctor Dexter," and was an uncle of John Dexter. He married a maiden lady just before emigrating west, and they soon located in a little cabin between Lee Center and Inlet Grove.
John Dexter was born October 8th, 1803, of hardy Welsh parentage, whose ancestors emigrated to America in the early part of the 17th century and settled in Connecticut; their descendents emigrating to Maine, New York, Canada, Michigan, Illinois, and later on, to Iowa, Kansas, California, and the Sandwich Islands.
Mrs. Dexter's maiden name was Margaret Mclnarrie Dudgeon, of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian ancestry, that came to America the latter part of the 17th century and settled in the state of New York, their descendents moving into Canada and the western reserve; and from Canada came John and Margaret Dexter with their four children.
They first reared a cabin twelve feet square with a shed roof, and in this they lived for some time before building the addition as represented in the engraving.
The country around seemed inexpressibly beautiful to our new inhabitants, and Mr. D. named the place Palestine, because it seemed to him the Promised Land. If not "flowing with milk and honey" it yielded wild honey and fruit, and every kind of game in abundance.
Here was the grove with its singing birds and the music of the running river, far broader and more beautiful then than now, since the swamp lands from which it takes its rise have been drained. The voices of
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children and all the sweet sounds of nature broke upon the sublime and majestic silence of the vast expanse around them; and on a clear morning, sometimes the whole country from Palestine Grove west, and from Dixon to Sterling on Rock River, was mirrored on the sky in the wonderful mirage.
About six miles from Mr. Dexter's cabin lived Adolphus Bliss, who had settled there the year before. This was considered a near neighbor. Mr. Dexter planted a garden and some sod corn, and with cows and chickens, which he had obtained, they made out to live and wait for the future. But a cold winter was at hand, and notwithstanding the joy of the summer days, the hardships of pioneer life were at the threshold. The hungry wolves prowled about the dooryard, and Mrs. Dexter had often to drive them away and watch to keep her children safe from them as well as from rattlesnakes; and later on, from fever and ague and the diseases of a new country. The only roads then were the Indian trails. The nearest grist mill was fifty miles away, and when out of flour they ground wheat in the coffee mill, and instead of bread, often ate hulled corn. The long winter wore away, and in the spring James Doan and wife arrived and settled near; in the autumn Mr. John Doan and family came, and three miles east the Ingals family settled. Andrew Bainter came in the spring of 1837. Asa B. Searles and Benjamin Wasson in the fall, and the Blairs and others soon followed.
From different sources we have glimpses of the home life at Mr. Dexter's. We hear of Mrs. Dexter lending books, among them the "History of the Reformation," and an ancient bible, its leaves yellow with age, yet in good preservation as if evidently cared for, is in possession of the family. On a blank page is the following in Mr. Dexter's writing:
With which this world is blest.
Take that away and do but look
What nonsense is the rest.
Therefore that Book, the Bible true,
My heart shall ever prize.
And when despise its truths I do.
May darkness close my eyes.
John Dexter is my name.
Great Britain is my nation,
Vaughan is my dwelling place,
In Christ I hope for salvation. -- March 17, 1833.
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and Doan and Frost and Bainter and Badger and Bridgeman. The uncertain eye of youth made me see them as unapproachable. In 1837 an old Congregational minister from Maine, Mr. Stinson, stopped with us. He was thoroughly orthodox, and drilled us on the King's 'Highway. Don't forget that he and Mr. De Wolfe, an Episcopalian, and James Hawley, a happy Methodist, helped to lay the foundation of Amboy's Spiritual Zion. Mr. DeWolfe used to hold services about once a month in our old log house, and Father Corbett alternated."
Mrs. Dexter let no opportunity be lost for her children's benefit. As the years went by and the new settlers moved in and a school-house was built, at every meeting and on every school day they were sent, dressed with perfect neatness, their bright faces and shining hair reflecting the mother's love. A lady who used to see them at church, says: "I never saw sweeter looking children. I knew very little of their mother, but I can recall her lovely complexion and large blue eyes." Mrs. James Doan, still living, says: "You cannot say too much in praise of Mrs. Dexter. She was exquisitely neat and an excellent cook, a most devoted wife and a very affectionate mother. As intimate as I was with her, I never heard her complain throughout the years of her hardships. Every one loved her." She was always busy. In her husband's absence she had the whole care of ten cows. She sold butter and eggs at Dixon, the nearest market, and paid for a cooking stove with butter at five or six cents a pound giving $66.00 for it. The stove was oblong, about three feet by eighteen inches, with an upper story about half way the length of the stove for an oven, and three griddles on top. Rut after all her sacrifices to obtain it, she soon discarded it and went back to the old fireplace. She made crab-apple dumplings for a treat for the children and stewed green grapes for a feast with their bread; and let the neighbor's boys come to play in the house, never frowning at the noise they made.
After the Dexter's had settled here the Indians encamped near them and raised corn on land where Mr. Badger now lives. The young Indians were playmates with the white children and there was no little spirit of emulation between them in the skillful use of the bow and arrow. Mr. Thomas J. Dexter writes: "On our old farm wandering bands of Pottowattomies, Sacs, (or Sauks), Foxes and Shawnee Indians would pitch their tents, and never offer violence to any one unless first aggravated. Shabbona was a grand Indian who loved peace, and undertook to save white families from the rage of other warriors who had determined to slaughter all in northern Illinois. Many times I have gone with him when a boy to Chicago. As to trips to Chicago, I recollect, as yesterday, taking a faithful old team that knew if they followed Lewis Clapp, or "Uncle"
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Ben Wasson, Andy Bainter, Uriel Bridgman, Simon or Chester Badger or Asa Searles they would get to Chicago all right, and sell wheat, threshed with a flail for 30 or 40 cents a bushel. It is hardly probable your average Lee County boy of today, from 11 to 15 years of age, would care for that sort of a job. It was a good school, nevertheless. Mrs. John Doan, mother of James Doan and Mrs. Andy Bainter, was good as gold refined. She was earnest in all that makes men better. Mrs. Bridgeman, Mrs. Wasson, Mrs. Badger, Mrs. Patience Searles, and on Memory's walls I find high toward heaven 'Aunt' Mary, a good Catholic and Christian, wife of Elisha Dexter, and Mrs. James Hawley, and Mrs. Farwell and Mrs. Davis. Are their names not written in the Book of Life?"
The night cometh as well as the day. and Mrs. Dexter had need of the ministry and sympathy of these good neighbors. Sickness often came to her and twice death had entered her home and left the cradle empty.
A little while by the golden gate
Of the holy heaven to which you are gone,
Wait, my darlings, wait."
The cabin's well swept puncheon floor;
The tea-kettle sings on the swinging crane,
And a bannock browns in the ruddy flame,
The children, weary of work and play
At home or at school all the live long day,
Sleep sweetly, nor dream of coming care,
While the gentle mother watches there.
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Through the burr-oak trees sings its lonely tale;
Its tale of the home of long ago,
So far away, yet remembered so!
A light is set in the window for him
Who is coming home in the starlight dim;
By the cheerful hearth stands his vacant chair,
And the fragrant supper is waiting there.
Above the rude couch where the children rest,
She bendeth low like a heavenly guest;
She stops by the youngest in loving guise,
And shades the light from the tender eyes
Then rocks the cradle with gentle swings,
And softly the notes of a lullaby sings;
Her needles flash bright in the fire-light's blaze,
As she knits and dreams of the coming days.
And she knits and rocks and dreams again,
And the lullaby sings with its sweet refrain,
While the stockings grow for the little feet,
And the weary mother fain would sleep.
Fold up the work and lay it by;
The moon is bright in the bending sky.
The one thou hast watched for is at the door,
And thy loving vigil, at length is o'er.
Best, rest weary mother, nor care for life's pains,
As heaven grows nearer and earth life wanes;
Just as thou art watching their needs to see,
So the white winged angels are guarding thee!
Heaven's light they are shading from thy dear eyes,
Not ready yet for the glad surprise;
He who had not where for His beautiful head
Is breaking for thee thy daily bread.
"The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak,"
Thou hearest not what the angels speak;
"As is thy day so thy strength shall be,"
"The arms everlasting are underneath thee."
Plume, plume thy wings for the sparkling air;
They are making ready thy dwelling there!
If thou leavest thy darlings a little space.
More surely shall they behold His face!
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and a nameless dread around the place where the dying mother lies. Over the prairies, the white faced, black horses of Dr. Adams are speeding to the stricken home, and from Dixon Dr. Nash is hurrying to meet him. Mr. Thomas Dexter writes: "I remember our faith that they could cure her, and our poor, helpless prayers. I remember the mournful cortege of friends who bore her body to that sand hill burial place; Rev. Luke Hitchcock's prayers and the presence of Father Birdsall, the Wassons and Badgers and Doans and Hawleys and Frosts and others all are photographed on my memory.
Forty-eight years have passed away since these scenes were enacted. Mr. Dexter died May 22, 1888, in the Soldiers' Home at Quincy, Ill. His last wife, Mrs. Leapha M. Palmer, who was the widow of his partner killed in the mill, died May 15, 1863, and Mr. Dexter, although sixty years of age, enlisted in the 46th Ill. Infantry. He had been in the army while in Canada. He had a martial spirit and, like the brave Massena, he loved the terrible music that rolled and reverberated over the battle field; withal he was a stern lover of justice, and he believed he was enlisted in a holy cause. Had he lived in the time of the Crusade he would surely have followed Richard Coeur-de-Lion to Palestine.
Thomas J. Dexter married Miss Eliza Hills, a sister of Dr. Harmon Wasson's wife, and ex-Sheriff Hills, of Dixon, in 1852, and had four daughters. The eldest was named by her aunt, Mrs. Wasson, Nina Lee, for one of Columbus' ships and for Lee county. Who has a prettier passport to a place in our Lee County Columbian book? Her home is in Honolulu. Mr. D., her father, lives in Woodland California.
Mary Jane married John Tourtillott, of Sublette, Oct. 5, 1856, and died Oct., 1878. Two of her four children are living -- Thomas and Ella Mary. Matthew died some years ago. Mark is living at Clear Lake, Iowa. Simon is at Rice Lake, Minn. He served through the war in the 34th Illinois Infantry with honor.
Martha Ann married Lyman B. Ruggles and removed to California. She, too, has passed away. Harriet married Mr. Fessenden and lives near Mason City, Iowa.
Jane Dexter was born Feb. 11, 1772. Died, July 14, 1839.
John Dexter and Jane Niece were married at Genesee, N. Y., 1796.
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CHILDREN.Amos Dexter was born February 3, 1797.
Elizabeth Dexter was born October 31, 1798. Died, September 1816.
Hiram Dexter was born April 24, 1801.
JOHN DEXTER was born October 8, 1803. Died, May 22, 1888.
Mary Dexter was born July 27, 1805. Died, December, 1849.
Elisha Dexter was born June 8, 1807. Died, April, 1859.
Asahel Dexter was born March 14, 1809.
Ahijah Dexter was born February 6, 1811.
John Dexter and Margaret Dudgeon were married September 24, 1829, at Youngstown, N. Y., by Mr. Hinman, both being residents of Vaughan Upper Canada. Margaret (Dudgeon) Dexter was born Sept. 5, 1812, in Masonville county, N. Y., and died at 7 o'clock a. m., May 21, 1845, at Amboy, Lee Co., Illinois; then called Palestine Grove.
CHILDREN OF JOHN AND MARGARET DEXTER.Thomas J., born October 22, 1830.
Mary Jane, born November 8, 1832. Died October, 1878.
Mathew Ralph and Harvey Mark, born July 27, 1834.
Simon, born July 22, 1836.
Martha Ann, born May 13, 1838. Died Augusts, 1887.
Jesse, born March 18. 1840. Died, March 21, 1840.
Harriet Elizabeth, born May 2, 1841. Died, March 17, 1843.
Harriet Elizabeth, born April 7, 1743.
A daughter, born April 22, 1845, Died, April 30, 1845.
Thomas, Mary, Mathew and Mark were born in Vaughan, Home District, York County, Upper Canada. Simon, Martha Ann, Jesse, Harriet Elizabeth and Harriet Elizabeth 2d, and a daughter, (eight days old) born in Palestine Grove, Inlet Precinct, Ogle County, Ill., now Amboy, Lee County, Illinois.
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Soon after their arrival they commenced making a temporary shelter to protect them from the rain and sun, living in the wagon in which they had journeyed until it was done. The mosquitoes were a terrible annoyance, a large brush fire being the only protection from them.
They began immediately to break prairie and to plant crops for the coming summer and winter. This being done, James' father, John Doan, with son Gibson and daughter Jemima, returned to Michigan for the remainder of the family, leaving James and Susan in care of the crops, etc. The few months following are strongly impressed on her mind as being some of the most lonely and desolate of those early times. After the routine of household duties was over for the morning and noon she would go where James was at work and spend the time as best she could until he could go back to the house with her. At that time she was but seventeen years old. Tears were plentiful and cheap with her in those days, yet she felt it was best for them to remain and she would not ask to return to the old home.
At last a day of rejoicing came. On the 19th day of September they saw in the distance the returning family, John and Charlotte Doan with their sons and daughters.
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Young hands in a new country cannot be idle, and James set to work to build a better house. The site he selected was on the bank of a small creek that they called Willow Branch, a lovely, picturesque place. The house must be made of logs, the one thing plentiful. He hewed them on both sides, and then made a raising to place them one above another. The men who helped him do this were Darius, Cyrrino and Cyrenus Sawyer, Mr. West, Mr. Stearns, Mr. Reynolds from Inlet Grove, John Dexter and C. F. Ingals. The dinner that Susan prepared on this occasion was pronounced delicious by the hungry house-raisers. It consisted of mashed potatoes, wild squirrels, pumpkin pie, coffee, wild honey and bread and butter. This was the second house built and occupied in this section. The first was John Dexter's. A small shanty had been made by Mr. James Hawley, half a mile farther south, but he and his family occupied it but a few days. It was afterwards improved and used for a while by Asa Searles on his first arrival, and still later was owned and lived in by Mr. Bridgeman, but James Doan's was the second house that was occupied. The Hawley place was the regular camping ground of the Indians, and used by them for several years after the white settlers came, many Indians camping there at different times. They were peaceable and quiet and were not feared by any one. Their little tents or huts made of poles and bark in the old Indian style remained for several years. There were a number of graves made of poles and dirt, but unlike similar graves of the Pottawattomies in Indiana, there was no dead Indian seated in one corner, surrounded by gun and camping outfit as if en route to the "happy hunting grounds." In one place, near, the remains of a child were fastened to the top of a small tree. James bent the tree so that they could see the little bones that lay in the rude open casket of Indian manufacture.
Their chief pastime was wandering through the grove in search of berries and wild honey, there being plenty of both. They would often walk to Inlet Grove and to C. F. Ingals', one of their nearest neighbors, who lived about three miles east.
The old Central railroad was surveyed and partly built through this town, passing nearly through Rocky Ford. In 1838 Mr. Doan worked on it for a time, but sickness overtook him and his family and at one time he and the youngest were so near to death's door that the watchers knew not which would be the first to go; but, happily, both recovered.
People living here now can hardly realize the many, many hardships the earliest settlers had to contend with. In 1836 Mrs. Doan, in company with Mr. and Mrs. John Dexter, made a visit to Dixon. The way was
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desolate, not one house in those long twelve miles, and they neither met nor saw anyone on the way. On their arrival they found one double log cabin, one side being used for a store, and the other for a living room for the merchant and his family. The store contained groceries and dry goods. Of the latter one could have carried nearly all away in his arms. This store was kept by a Mr. White, and John Dixon, jr., was postmaster at this time. The mail department was in its infancy, as well as the country.
Their post office was at Inlet Grove, and every letter cost the one who received it twenty-five cents. A newspaper was a luxury seldom indulged in. Mills were few and far between, the nearest being Leeper's mill, forty miles distant, several miles below Princeton. It was a small, inferior affair. James was a jovial fellow and fond of a joke. He praised the little mill and told the miller he thought he had a very good mill, for just as soon as it got one kernel ground it commenced immediately to grind another. This is a sample of all the mills in those days. They sometimes would have to wait a number of days for their turn, and then wait for the grist. When they had eaten the lunch they carried with them they would work for their board and for what the oxen would eat, by cutting and hauling logs. One time Susan used up all the flour and meal and ground corn in the coffee mill to make a meal or two before their return. This was to her a small matter compared with the anxiety for the absent ones so long gone.
The first death was a little girl of John Dexter's in 1843. John Fosdick preached the funeral sermon. The second was Frederick and Delilah Bainter's little boy, Franklin, in August, 1844. Rev. Luke Hitchcock attended the funeral; and in October of the same year James' father, John Doan, died. Rev. L. Hitchcock led the services of this funeral also.
After enduring the hardships of a new country for eight years, Susan with her husband and three children, William, Sarah and Francis, returned to South Bend, Ind., near the home of her girlhood. In the spring of 1849 James left his family to try to make a fortune in California. He made his trip overland and was quite successful. When about to return he was cruelly murdered on the 13th day of August, 1853. No clue to the assassin was ever discovered.
The following year she returned to Illinois, having laid her little Francis in the grave, and her husband in an unknown grave, unknown at least to her. Here she has since resided. In September, 1866, she was married to O. J. Fish, of Franklin Grove, when she removed to his home where she lived until his death, which took place October 20, 1888, since
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which time she has lived, part of the time, with her daughter, Mrs. William Gray, of Dixon, and the remainder at her home in Franklin Grove.
Since the above was written other incidents in the lives of this family have been given by one familiar with them. They are of too much interest to be omitted.
Mr. Doan was a kind hearted man, never passing a little child without a gentle word or laying his hand upon it; and he was a most useful pioneer. He invented the plow which he manufactured in company with his brother-in-law, Mr. Bainter, and which was the beginning of the plow manufactory at Binghamton, conducted by others afterwards.
Many instances of his kindness are recalled by some now living. Once, when two sons of Chief Shabbona were riding on horseback in the vicinity, one of them was thrown and quite severely hurt. Mr. Doan took him home, and seconded by the assistance of his wife and the young Indian's brother, tenderly cared for him until he could be taken home to Shabbona Grove. This was indeed the act of a true neighbor, when their cabin had but one room. This son of Sahbbona was so badly injured that he never recovered, although he lived for some time.
Mrs. Doan was of the same kind spirit of her husband. She was an intimate friend of Mrs. Dexter, and spent much time with her, when Mrs. D. by reason of sickness, or the care of her little ones, could not leave home She was a gentle, refined woman, skilled with her needle, and better adapted to assist in the lighter than in the heavier work of pioneer life, although sharing in both. She helped Mrs. Dexter in making her children's clothes, and fashioned and made at home the first wardrobe of Col. Simon B. Dexter.
Once, when Mr. Dexter had gone to Chicago with produce, Mr. Doan happened to be passing the creek on his way to Inlet Grove. He saw Mrs. Dexter cutting ice to water the cattle. He immediately went to her relief, and finished the work for her. His quick perception discovered to him that Mrs. Dexter was a sick woman. He took her into his "jumper," a vehicle which he had fashioned from the boughs of trees, and went to her home, got the baby and carried both to his house. Leaving her and the infant in care of his wife, he went for his mother to "help nurse her up;" and got a sister to go and stay with the Dexter children. This was in the morning. At evening, Mrs. D. felt so much better that they took her home, Mr. Doan's mother going with her and remaining several days, until she could leave her well, her daughters gladly fulfilling her duties at home, so that their mother might comfort those who needed her.
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It is pleasant to dwell on this side of pioneer life when the infant settlement abounded in the infantile graces of Christian life, and thought more of doing good, hoping for nothing in return, than of sectarian tenets and the external things of religion. Truly, in these waste places there was a ladder where the angels of God ascended and descended, although the eyes of mortals were holden, and saw not the heavenly vision.
On the 19th day of September, 1836, John and Charlotte (Odell) Doan, with their children, Joseph, William, Jemima, Sarah, Gibson, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Anna, Jonathan and Ruth, arrived in this settlement to receive the glad welcome of their oldest son, James, and his wife Susan who came in May and who had been watching anxiously for the arrival of father, mother, brothers and sisters.
They commenced immediately to build a house and ere long had completed one, the largest log house in this section for some time.
John Doan was a man of excellent character, kind and true. He had been raised with the Quakers and partook of their quiet demeanor, sound principles and undemonstrative disposition. His wife belonged to the Methodist church, and in all her good works and usefulness in the community, she was sanctioned and encouraged by her husband. She was one of a number of women doing the most good in those early days, constantly seeking the sick and needy and rendering every possible assistance to the sufferers within her reach. She had a large family and could leave the care of the household with the older ones. She was strong and healthy and ambitious in all her undertakings. The itinerant ministers often held their services at her home; these generally occurred on week days. The first minister was by the name of Lumery, who alternated later, once in two weeks, with another by the name of Smith. Smith died at Corrydon Dewey's while on the circuit, and Lumery went on the rest of the year. Smith died in the winter of 1838. Then came Father Gorbitt, a good old man from Indian Creek; then a Mr. White; after that Rev. Luke Hitchcock, stationed at what is now Lee Centre, often held meetings and officiated at weddings and funerals.
Mrs. Doan was a devoted and reverent student of her "blessed Bible," and regretted that, having always lived on the frontier, her advantages for education had been so limited. Those who knew her spoke of her as a "Mother in Israel." Mr. Thomas J. Dexter, in writing of her and his mother and Mrs. Col. Badger, Mrs. Wasson and Mrs. Patience Searles and Mrs. Varner, says there was a "Holy of Holies in everyone of their lives."
Her husband died in 1844, at the age of sixty-two years, having been born in North Carolina September 10, 1782. They had lived together
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thirty-five years, their marriage occurring December 28, 1809. Rev. Luke Hitchcock preached the funeral sermon, and in one short year a beloved daughter followed her father. Mrs. Doan outlived several of her children and died at the ripe age of eighty-one years, while with a daughter in Missouri.
She was in usual health; her grandaughter entered her room in the morning to see if she was ready for breakfast and found her just reaching for her cap, almost ready to join the family. After a few minutes, as she did not appear, they went to see what detained her and saw her lying across the bed, dead. She was born September 25, 1788, and died December 28, 1869.
Flows onward, how lonely soever its course,
But that some land is gladdened. No star ever rose
And set without influence somewhere. No life
Can be pure in its purpose and strong in its strife,
And all life not be purer and stronger thereby."
Jemima Doan Bainter was born in Wayne county, Indiana, March 8, 1816. She was the oldest daughter of John and Charlotte Doan who were natives of North and South Carolina. When about eighteen years of age she moved with her parents to Berrian county, Michigan. In the spring of 1836, she came with her father and two brothers, James and Gibson, and James' bride, to Lee county, Illinois, then known as Jo Davis county. They came in a large wagon drawn by three yoke of oxen, as there were no railroads in those days; and twenty-one days were spent in this journey of two hundred miles. They passed through Chicago, a dirty, muddy, little trading post, with no attraction for the home seekers, who were bound for Palestine Grove, where their ideal of a perfect farm was to be with timber and prairie adjoining it.
The greatest hardship of the journey was in crossing the first seven miles of country directly west of Chicago. The ground was mostly covered with water from six to eighteen inches deep, and the weary travelers were obliged to wade through to lighten the load for the poor tired oxen. When the sun went down they were only part way across. After turning the oxen loose to care for themselves as best they could, they ate a cold supper and slept in the wagon. There were no roads and many times all the things had to be taken out to get the empty wagon through the sloughs and across the bridgeless creeks. When the roads were good she sometimes would ride, but she walked most of the way. No wonder she
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was delighted with the beautiful sight of what was to be her new home. She and Susan, her brother James' wife, had secretly planned that, no matter how the place looked, they would say they were pleased; so glad would they be to end that long tedious journey. James had visited the place in October, 1835 and selected his own, as well as a claim for his father, and another for his brothers Joseph. The day of their arrival was May 13, 1886. After making a shanty and getting the early seeding done, she with her father and Gibson, returned to Michigan to bring the remaining part of the family to the newly prepared home, leaving James and his young wife here to welcome them back in the following autumn.
The 3rd of May 1838, she was married to Andrew Bainter, from Michigan, a brother of James' wife. This was the first wedding in this part of the country and was attended- by a great many, and was a merry time. Mr. Frank Ingals and his sister, Deborah, who afterwards married Dr. R. F. Adams. Mr. Wasson's family Mr. Sawyer's and a number from Inlet Grove were present. The young people enjoyed it so well they kept the games going until the break of day. In the following fall they commenced housekeeping in a small hewed log house which Mr. Bainter had built with no tools except axe and hammer. This was the third house built in this section. The floors, as in all the others, were hewed out of logs. They called them puncheons. It was situated near a little creek called Willow Branch, on a claim, there being no land in market at that time. Here she spun and wove for themselves and others, making beautiful flannels, bed-spreads and blankets, table linen and towels; and as her family grew, making all their winter clothing, sewing and knitting by the light of a single candle, thinking it extravagant to burn more than one at a time She delighted in fanciful patterns in weaving, and the one piece of fancy work indulged in was netting, which adorned the curtains around the bed and across the one little window. As their living was plain one might think that good health would have been assured; but this was not the case. They had fever and ague and many diseases common to a new country; and the young physician, Dr. E. F. Adams, was kept busy, riding on horse-back many miles each day.
Chicago was the nearest market and a week or more was spent in taking a load of produce to this place. A load of dressed hogs would be sold for $1.25 a hundred, and oats for ten or fifteen cents a bushel. Everyone who took a load must carry a lunch basket and live entirely on its contents, or his expenses would exceed the price of his produce sold. One man who indulged in a few luxuries had nothing to bring home but a
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calico gown for his wife; but he was an exception, as most of the early settlers were economical. These trips were mostly made in the winter, the women attending to the chores, and doing the best they could. When the nine days had passed there was great uneasiness about the absent ones and great would be the joy when the creaking wheels in the cold frost would be heard in the distance Sometimes the cause of delay would be the death of a horse, and again a broken wheel, sometimes an unusual storm. When the market at Peru and La Salle was opened, they thought it only a small trip to go there with their produce. When the I. C. R. R. was built, and Amboy was located, it seemed like a new era, as indeed it was, to the pioneers of so many years. Mr. and Mrs. Bainter were members of the Methodist church for many years. Then came the war -- the cruel war. They gave their oldest son to the country's cause, and many parents can tell the anguish these few words contain.
After this they removed to Indiana, their one request being to have their remains brought to Illinois for burial. Andrew was the first to go. He died March, 1884, and Jemima followed him in December of the same year. Their graves are side by side in the little cemetery at Binghamton, near the place where, when life was full of hope, they met, with loving cheerfulness I/he hardships of those early days.
LATER GLEANINGS.Jemima was full of fun. Once when returning from some gathering at the "Inlet" with her brother James, his wife and a sister, they found the creek risen so that they could not cross in the wagon; there was one way to cross; James could swim the horse and one girl at a time could tuck up her garments and by riding on her knees behind James and holding on to him, cross high and dry in safety. Jemima watched the droll spectacle and laughed until she cried. The ring of her jolly ha! ha! used to make the woods echo with her glee, and reach ears too far off to know the cause of it.
Another time, she with her brother James, wife and sister, strolled out in the grove on one of the long Sunday afternoons, and forgetting the distance from home, found themselves obliged to cross a branch of the creek where the water was several feet deep. So the girls had to do just as anybody would wade in, carrying their shoes and stockings. So they had a little drama all to themselves on that quiet Sunday; but Jemima's laugh reached the ears of her mother who was enjoying a solemn meditative walk, somewhere on the other side of the stream; and good mother Doan knew the laugh. One can imagine a gentle chiding with some of Solomon's words as an accompaniment.
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Mrs. Cynthia Varner lived in the Doan neighborhood, near the log school-house, She was a widow with three small girls, at times depending on the neighbors to keep the wolf from the door: yet aver ready to do all she could for the sick and afflicted; her neighbors taking care of her children when she could be of service to any one in trouble. Many of them appreciating her usefulness and aware of her necessities, always left a sack of flour for her when returning from mill, and contributed many other things. She was a "hardy pioneer," and a devout member of the Methodist church often leading in prayer-meeting and other services. Her greatest horror was heresy. One old settler writes: "I recollect her rising in her seat at a meeting in the old log school-house when Joe. Smith and Sidney Rigdon were present, and calling on God to smite the "blasphemers." No mention is made whether any one else was disturbed by them. Mrs. Varner died June, 1892, aged 82 years.
______There is a little anecdote related by Dr. H____ of Minneapolis, with regard to the capture of Black Hawk, which may not be out of place here Dr. H____ said he had never seen it published, although he could vouch for its truthfulness, his home having been in the vicinity of the place referred to in the story.
Lying between Appleton and Oshkosh, along the southern and western side of Lake Winnebago, was a valuable tract of land included in what was known as the Black Hawk purchase of 1832. This land was given to an Indian by the name of Juno, as part of the compensation for information leading to the capture of Black Hawk. Juno was a confidential friend of Black Hawk and had married into his family -- Dr H____ thought was a brother-in-law of the warrior. He with his family continued to occupy the land long after his betrayed and defeated comrades had gone in search of new homes beyond the Mississippi River.
On the first day of January, 1864, the most terrible blizzard that had ever been known swept over the northwest, and, unlike others, was so cold that mercury congealed. Juno had gone to Oshkosh; the storm abated, but he did not return. His family (he had a large one), watched in vain. The weeks lengthened into months and no tidings of Juno reached them. At last when spring came, and the warm sun and winds melted the great banks of snow which had drifted around their dwelling, his body was discovered lying prone in the path a few feet from the door
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of his home, where he had fallen, and over which his own children had been walking for many weeks.
In Ford's History of Illinois, mention is made of "Three Winnebagoes," who "gave intelligence that Black Hawk was encamped at Cranberry Lake." Doubtless further knowledge of the whole transaction would reconcile the not altogether conflicting narratives.
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Mr. Asa B. Searles was a native of Chenango county, New York, and was born January 27, 1810. Later in life he was for several years in South Bainbridge, New York. He there attended a school which his brother taught, and had for a schoolmate Joseph Smith, the future Mormon Prophet, whom he described as being kind-hearted and possessed of much brain, which was supported by a large, strong body.
At the age of nineteen years he was engaged in piloting on the Susquehanna River. He then became acquainted with those who were afterward some of our most noted pioneers. He continued in business on the river for six years. On the 19th of September. 1832, he was married to Miss Patience Stockwell, of Bainbridge. On the 19th of August, 1837, he left there for Palestine Grove with a two-horse team, in company with thirteen others. He arrived here October 11th, and for a while lived in the cabin which James Hawley began; but soon entered land and moved to the farm still owned by his children in Binghamton, near where the Tile Factory now is. It was he who laid out Binghampton and named it for the town by that name in New York. He erected a hotel and was the first postmaster here. His son Lemuel has favored us with the document which has the seal of the postoffice department stamped upon it, and the signature of the Postmaster General, John M. Niles. The name of Winooski was given to the Palestine Grove postoffice. It is the Indian name for Onion River. The document reads thus:
"JOHN M. NILES, POSTMASTER GENERAL
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office of postmaster, with all the powers, privileges and emoluments, to the same belonging, during the pleasure of the Postmaster General of the United States.
"IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the SEAL OF THE POSTOFFICE DEPARTMENT to be affixed, at Washington City, the 30th day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty, and of the Independence of the United States the Sixty-fifth.
The mail was carried through once a week by a man on horse-back, who had been a soldier in the Black Hawk war.
The remains of the old log building in which the mail was distributed was standing a few years ago. After Mr. Searles resigned, Mr. Warren Badger succeeded him. Mr. Searles was the first assessor of Amboy. His wife died December 19, 1846, and was the first one buried in the cemetery at Binghampton. She was a sister of Mrs. Alvan Thompson and of Mrs. Leapha M. Palmer, who afterwards married John Dexter. She was an excellent woman, who enjoyed the sincere respect of all.
Six years afterwards Mr. Searles married Miss Amanda Headlee, who had five sons. The oldest, Lemuel, served his country under Gen. Custer, in the 7th U. S. Calvary. Mr. Searles was possessed of excellent qualities, and was untiring in his efforts for the prosperity and increase of the settlement in its early days. The city park was once a part of his estate.
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FROM MRS. BACKENSTO TO HER NIECE, MRS. PERKINS."I regret the history you speak of was not written during my mother's lifetime, as her memory was so much better than mine. Those trying times made a more vivid impression on her mind. I was too young.
"My father, Benjamin Wasson, and his family, consisting of his wife Elizabeth, three sons, Lorenzo, Harmon and Warren, two daughters, Clara and Roxy, started from Harpersville, Boone [sic – Broome?] county, New York, some time in the latter part of August, 1836; his destination Knoxville, Illinois; his outfit, two teams and wagons, one a large covered wagon for goods: He expected to go through Ohio, but the second day out he heard that the Black Swamp, in Ohio, was impassable, so he crossed into Canada, at Lewistown, passing through Detroit and Chicago, down the Illinois River to Peoria, and from thence to Farmington, where he found an old neighbor from New York, Mr. Samuel Johnson, jr., who was just ready to move his family to Dixon, Illinois, having his goods packed and waiting for the teams which did not come; so father unpacked our goods from the wagons into the log-cabin vacated by Mr. Johnson, packed Mr. Johnson's goods and family into our wagons and leaving us in the log-cabin took Lorenzo and accompanied Mr. Johnson to Dixon's Ferry, as it was then called. So you see we found a home, such as it was, at the end of our long journey of six weeks. Father drove one of the teams for Mr. Johnson and the journey proved to be a longer and more tedious one than they expected, both for teams and drivers. Mr. Johnson, who was a shoemaker, had some sides of sole-leather with him, and these they were obliged to spread down as bridges for the teams to pass over the quicksand swamps. They could never have completed the journey had it not been for them.
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"Your grandfather was so charmed with the country in the vicinity of what is now Amboy, that he concluded to locate claims for himself and two oldest sons, and did so on what is now the old homestead.
"He then returned to Farmington and found us settled. Harmon had dug potatoes on shares until he had enough to last us through the winter; also by husking corn, had bought some pigs; so father concluded to stay there a year, so as to raise provisions to last until he could get started in the new place, as the country was so unsettled that it was impossible to get provisions.
"In the winter, he and Harmon and Lorenzo went to what was then Palestine Grove, where they cut the logs for the "Old Log Cabin," and with the assistance of John Dexter, John Doan and his two sons, James and Joseph, rolled them up and put the roof on, after which they returned to Farmington.
"The next summer, in August, after the crops were attended to, he and the boys went back to Palestine to get out rails and fence a small piece of ground, make hay, build a stable, break prairie and sow some wheat, taking Clara (myself) along to cook and keep house for them. For six weeks I lived in that lonely cabin on the wide prairie (I was but fourteen then), and many a scare I had. The last day and night we were there, father and the boys went to the timber, cut some logs and hauled them to Rocky Ford, where there was a saw-mill, run by Meek, I think, and had them sawed into boards, from which they made our floor the first floor made of sawed boards in that country, the others being made of. puncheon, that is, logs split into strips. They did not get home until ten o'clock at night. The next morning they laid the floor, after which we started for home in the afternoon. It was about ninety miles from Amboy to Farmington. My father made several journeys between the two places and we moved to our new home in December, 1837, a cold, cheerless wind and snow in our faces most of the way.
"Father used to have to go to Peoria to get his grain ground into flour. The last journey he made was in the winter; he expected to get back before we got out of bread, but before he got home there came up a furious storm of snow and wind, drifting it into hollows and sloughs so they became impassable. Father reached Greenfield, now LaMoille, late in the day, and notwithstanding that it was dangerous to cross the prairie during the storm, he had been delayed so long he feared we were in need, so he resolved to push on. He did, but was obliged to go before the horses and beat a track for them through the hollows. He reached Thomas Fessenden's late at night completely tired out. He stayed there the
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remainder of the night and reached home the next morning, just as mother was making the last corn-meal into a Johnny cake.
"Mother always kept a beacon light burning in the little north window of the old cabin, so that if any person was wandering on that wide prairie it would guide them to a shelter.
"In about three years father built a frame house, Uncle Jesse Hale, from Pennsylvania, occupying the log house. Father brought the lumber for the new house from Chicago across the country, ninety miles.
"In the spring of 1849, father went to California. He died on the way back, of congestive chills -- never reached home."
So here, in the winter of 1837, the Wasson family took possession of their new home with its one small window, and that toward the north -- but how much light and cheer and comfort flowed forth from that cabin as the years went by, it needs a mighty pen to tell.
Little Clara, fourteen years old, had been the first to consecrate it to home. Her light footsteps had sounded on the puncheons which would fly up at one end when she trod on the other. She had acted the woman's part in preparing the food and in "keeping house" for her father and brothers, she had roamed about the prairie in their absence, gathering grapes and plums, often calling on Mrs. Dexter, who loaned her books, among others, the "History of the Reformation," which she read through. She had staid alone when father and brothers were belated, from being detained at the saw-mill, and in the darkness had hidden, trembling in the covered wagon, listening to the howling wolves, and not daring to enter the cabin lest some dreadful creature might be lurking in a corner. She did not then know of the "Banditti." Was it the fore-shadowing of their dark deeds which even then filled her with terror? But, at last, she heard the welcome sound of the coming wagon with the boards for the floor, which were laid the next morning, and in the afternoon they were all on their way to Farmington. This was in September, and in December all the family returned, the trip requiring two days. The first night they stopped at a Mr. Bond's, the next at Mr. Doan's.
In Mrs. Backensto's letter we see what wise and prudent forethought had been displayed by Mr. and Mrs. Wasson, in making ample provision for the winter by improving the opportunities, both here and at Farmington. Hence they were prepared to make themselves comfortable and to do good to all whom Providence might lead in their way. They seemed never to think of their own comfort or convenience, either physically or financially, when they could assist others in this new and sparsely settled country. From the time of Mrs. Wasson's coming she always endeavored
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to keep a light in the only window at night, especially on dark and stormy nights, so if there were any belated travelers wandering on the prairie it would guide them to a shelter; and any who came received the warmest welcome and the best the house afforded. The light could sometimes be seen for miles, to the old Chicago road.
Mrs. Wasson was a ministering angel in sickness. During a long season of ill health she had studied medical works, and in this country, where doctors and nurses were not to be had, such knowledge proved to be invaluable. She would often leave, her bed on dark, tempestuous nights and ride miles to attend upon the suffering where her ministrations were most successful. There was a strength and self-possession in her character which invited the confidence of the sick: there was a firm, sedate, yet cheerful kindness which carried a most salutary influence into the chamber of sickness. She was above medium height, straight and strong, with a commanding presence. Her complexion was fair, her eyes blue, and her hair a soft brown. No one could have doubted her straightforward, uncompromising integrity. It came to be a saying, "Mrs. Wasson can do anything for everybody," and her husband kindly lent her his aid.
Not very long after their coming, a death occurred about two miles away. A family by the name of Abbott lost a little daughter; there was no lumber to be had for a coffin, so Mr. Wasson took the remains of an Indian canoe, made of a black walnut log which one of the boys found on the prairie, partly consumed by fire, and made a pretty casket for the little one.
Whenever a wandering missionary came along, as they sometimes did, Mr. Wasson would send one of his sons on horseback to notify the settlers that there would be Divine service at his house. Mrs. Wasson would set the cabin in order and every one who could come would do so.
We have seen how ready Mr. Wasson was to assist his wife in her usefulness, and there are many like instances remembered. Twelve years after their settlement here the excitement caused by the California gold mines induced him, in company with his youngest son, to try his fortune there. They proceeded to Nauvoo, and after resting at Mrs. Smith's, Mrs. Wasson's sister, crossed the river into the then trackless west. After long and anxious waiting, the sad tidings of Mr. Wasson's death, which occurred in February, 1851, reached his family; and Mrs. Wasson was destined to walk the rest of Life's pathway in the shadows. To her might have been dedicated the following lines, so literally did she seem to realize them in her life:
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Thy darkened house with cheerful feet;
Yield not one jot to fear nor doubt,
But baffled, broken, still repeat;
'Tis mine to work, and not to win;
The soul must wait to have her wings;
Even time is but a landmark in
The great eternity of things.
Arise and all thy tasks fulfill,
And as thy day thy strength shall be;
Were there no power beyond the ill,
The ill could not have come to thee.
Though cloud and storm encompass thee,
Be not afflicted nor afraid;
Thou knowest the shadow could not be
Were there no sun beyond the shade."
She continued her active life, carrying on the farm and "going about doing good." She had joined with Mrs. Col Badger, Mrs. De Wolfe and others in sustaining worship in the form she most loved, while she could, but when that failed she worshipped in the Methodist Episcopal church. With her social nature she entered into the work of that society, held socials at her house and assisted in every way. When Mr. Broaduax was here, and the Episcopal church again held seivice, she attended it. Her son, Harmon, had studied medicine and was practicing here. He often spoke of the great assistance his mother's experience and advice had been to him.
Mrs. Wasson had three brothers who settled in this county; Jesse, David and Alva Hale; also a sister, Mrs. Trial [sic - Tryal?] Morse, who was killed in a tornado in the summer of 1859. At the same time her oldest daughter, Emma, was so badly injured that she died after two weeks of intense suffering, having nearly every bone in her body broken. Mrs. Morse was killed almost instantly, being caught in the whirl and transfixed through the abdomen with a fence-stake. When Mrs. Wasson was notified of the calamity, she hastened to the dreadful scene. With stony face and tearless eyes, she looked upon the wreck of her sister and niece she could not weep. She said it would do her good if she could, but she had passed through so much trouble she was beyond it. She consoled herself with the reflection that her sister had "gone home to her God in whom she had always trusted and was better off."
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Our very anguish does our anguish drown:
The sea forms only just a few faint bubbles
Of stifled breathing, when a ship goes down."
Mrs. Wasson continued to live on the old place until near the end of 1863, when to the hardships of pioneer life and numerous added afflictions her health gave way and the old home was broken up. She went to live with her youngest child, Carrie, who married Rev. Erastus DeWolfe, and went home to her reward, May 18, 1874.
The older children, Lorenzo D. Wasson, Dr. Harmon Wasson and Roxy Emma, who became Mrs. Simon Badger, all died at Amboy, in the prime of life, and Mrs. DeWolfe is now numbered with the departed ones. Mrs. Clara M. Backensto is at Fort Logan, Colorado, and Mr. Warren Wasson is at Carson City, Nevada. Mr. Arthur P. Wasson, son of Lorenzo D., owns and lives on the old farm and has sons and daughters. The remaining grandchildren and great-grandchildren are scattered from New York to Colorado and Nevada.
The old "Wasson house" has gone to decay and disappeared. Until within a few years, the two-story, weather-beaten mansion which contained the first floor of sawed boards in the place, and which had held a welcome for all who sought its hospitable doors for so many years, stood dark against the sky, a landmark indeed, and for some years unoccupied. How often have been recalled to passers by some of the lines of "The Deserted House."
O silent house! once filled with mirth;
Sorrow is in the breezy sound
Of thy tall poplars whispering round.
The shadow of departed hours
Hangs dim upon thine early flowers;
Even in thy sunshine seems to brood
Something more deep than solitude.
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In June, Mr. E. Blair, with a brother and two sisters, traveled the same route, and at length reached the new home in the "far distant west." So the whole family were here with the exception of the oldest son, James, who followed in 1846.
It is hard to conceive what must have been their feelings on reaching this wilderness, after having lived in a place like Jamestown, a village on the outlet of Chautauqua Lake, where the boats plied up and down, and where there was a fine water-power for extensive business; good society and many advantages to leave with regret. Some of the sketches of pioneer life which have proceeded this, have depicted the trials to which the family were soon to be introduced. Fever and ague and billious difficulties were prevalent, and often there were not well ones enough to care for the sick. Mrs. Blair possessed the heavenly gift of knowing just what to do to relieve the suffering and in some cases which called for the greatest skill, she was the means of their restoration to health.
At one time Mrs. Wasson was ill and weak and unable for a long time to perform her accustomed duties. Mrs. Blair visited her frequently and once recommended her to make an infusion of timothy hay and to drink it freely, having known a similar case cured by that means. Mrs. Wasson followed her advice and was very soon benefitted by doing so. Many instances of Mrs. Blair's usefulness and neighborly kindness and successful treatment of alarming maladies are related. Sickness came to her
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own family and she had need herself, of the ministrations of her friends; and she was not without them. Indeed, instances of reciprocal kindness warm from the heart, of noble forgetfulness of self, unshrinking firmness, calm endurance, and sometimes reckless bravery are so often brought to light in searching out these incidents of pioneer life, that the faith in human nature which only happy childhood knows comes back, and "a light that never was on land or sea" glimmers through the mist.
Mrs. Blair was a quiet home-woman. Her oldest children were daughters who married and left home early, leaving her with a large share of household labor to perform; yet she had cast her "bread upon the waters," and in due season it returned to her.
One cold winter night when the prairie was covered with snow and ice, she was taken very sick. So alarming was her illness that it seemed impossible for her to live until morning. Her son Edwin went for Mrs. Hook; she was at home alone with her three little children, her husband having gone on one of those pioneer journeys. When she heard how Mrs. Blair needed her, she thought at first, that she could not leave her children; but she had taught them filial obedience in her cheerful, loving decided way, and she knew she could trust them. So she awakened her oldest daughter and told where she was going, and, covering the three together in the warm bed, gave directions for them to stay there until she returned, and she would come as early in the morning as she could. She started with Edwin straight across the prairie, for there were no roads or fences then. She found it so very slippery that it would take a long time for her to get there -- no rubbers in those days -- so she sat down and took off her shoes and went in her stockings, that no time might be lost. Fortunately her stockings were thick woolen ones, of her own knitting. She, too, was one who knew just what to do in sickness and trouble, and her prompt assistance brought relief to Mrs. Blair; and Mrs. Hook returned home in the morning to find her children safe where she had left them.
It would be gratifying to Mrs. Blair's children and descendents to hear all the kind and respectful words that are spoken of her by those who have known her all these years, and the tender and appreciative things said of her by her daughter-in-law. Mrs. E. M. Blair. Her last sickness was exceedingly distressing, the result of a fall, and after lingering many weeks and receiving the loving care of her son and family she went Home!
Mr. James Blair was born at Blanford, Connecticut, June 3, 1788. Mrs. Fanny (Hamilton) Blair, was born at Worcester, Massachusetts, February 15, 1792. They were married about 1814, at Stockbridge, Oneida
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county, New York. They had eight children. One son died in childhood. The others were James E., Winthrop H., Edwin M., William W. and Charles L., and two daughters, Elmina and Caroline.
James R. came to Illinois in -1846, and died March 18, 1857. Charles L., the youngest, was drowned September 3, 1850. Elmina Jane, died March 10, 1853, at East Grove, Bureau County, Illinois. Mr. James Blair died at Amboy, Illinois, June 12, 1851. Mrs. Blair, his widow, died at the same place, January 17, 1881.
There are at this time, 1893, three sons and one daughter living: E. M. Blair, who lives on the old homestead, two and a half miles southwest of Amboy, W. W. and W. H. Blair, of Lamoni, Decatur county, Iowa, and Mrs. Caroline Kimball, of Neilsville Clark county, "Wisconsin.
Who their Savior obey,
And have laid up their treasures above:
Tongue can never express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love."
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Mt. Morris, with a load of grain, crossing Rock River at Dixon, on the ice. He reached the mill in safety, had his grist ground and was on his way home, reaching Dixon about ten or eleven o'clock in the evening. He drove onto the ice, following the track over which he had passed in the morning. When in about the middle of the river, in the current of the stream, his horses broke through the ice, and horses, wagon and grain were drawn under. Mr. Mead had the presence of mind to throw his arms out over the ice, and having on a thick coat, the ice held him, freezing onto the coat-sleeves. He shouted for help. For a long time his calls reached no ones ears. At last, some travelers who stopped at the Phoenix hotel, which was near the river, were shown by the clerk to their room, which, providentially, had a window which was not quite closed. As they were preparing for bed one of them said he was sure he heard some one calling as if in distress. On going to the window to open it to listen, he found it partly open, which fortunate fact allowed the call to be heard by him. They immediately descended to the office and a party of them started toward the river in the direction of the sound. On arriving where Mr. Mead was, they found it would not be safe to venture further without returning to the house and getting boards with which they could reach and rescue him. He was taken to the hotel and everything was done for his comfort. In the morning the good people of Dixon contributed money enough to buy him another wagon, a pair of horses and a load of grain, and as there was some money left it was given him, and he was sent on home rejoicing. It makes one feel like breaking forth into singing the anthem of the angels of Bethlehem when hearing of such things
_____Mr. Blair relates an incident in which his father was the actor. He bad been to Wilson's mill on the Elkhorn, about thirty-two miles northwest of here, and was on his return home. He crossed the river at Dixon and came out on the Peoria road. It was in the evening and he lost his way. After traveling a long time, and it appeared as if he was coming back to where he had been, his oxen were getting too tired to go farther. He had no way to judge what direction to go, for the night was dark; so he moved his flour to the other end of the wagon and prepared to wait until daybreak. It was in December and he was suffering with the cold. Fortunately his dog went with him and taking him under the blankets which he had, he waited until dawn, the warmth of the dog keeping him from freezing. With the first light he espied the grove in the distant horizon and lost no time in reaching home.
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Mr. Blair describes the ruins of Indian lodges which were in the vicinity of his farm, in two or three different places; also the manner of disposing of the remains of the dead. The body of one Indian was standing tied to a tree and a fence was built around it higher than the head; the rails fastened close together as if to afford careful protection from incautious intrusion. This was quite near to the ruined lodges. Mr. Blair has seen two similar sepulchers of the Indian dead, in his journeyings in Northern Illinois.
_____Mr. Blair, on one occasion, took ten barrels of flour from Grand Detour to Peru, from which place it was to be shipped; crossing the river about three miles north of Dixon. It was in the latter part of May or first of June. On the way he got "sloughed" three times, each time having all the barrels to unload and reload. At one place his horse and heavily laden wagon sank so deeply in the mire that they were extracted with great difficulty. He was alone and it was evening. Usually two or more teams went in company to avoid such solitary disasters. Mr. Blair waded in and unfastened his horses from the wagon and led them out, and then started off to find help. He reached a house and found no one at home but the children; but with their knowledge he took a wagon and with that returned to the slough He wheeled it near the other wagon and alone lifted five barrels into it, attached his horses to it and drew it out, unloaded and repeated the work for the other five barrels, and so finally drew the mired wagon out, all the time the rain corning down.
_____At another time, he with his brother-in-law, Mr. Abbott, took a load of wheat to mill in Grand Detour. It was in December and wheat sufficient for the winter was to be ground, lest the- mills should freeze up so that grinding would be impossible. They started in the morning with oxen, and reached their destination about five o'clock in the afternoon, there to find many waiting with grists which would require three days work. The river was frozen partly over, but chaining the oxen to the cart, they left them, and managed to get the grain over the ice to where a kind of wharf was built out to reach the ice, making a way to get the grain to the mill. But what could they do? There were no houses within several miles, and to wait three days seemed impossible. So appealing to the kind hearted miller and telling him how far they were from home, he told them that if they would have the grain at hand and
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would wait until after all the others were asleep, he would grind theirs so that they could get away. About nine o'clock all were asleep and their grist was soon in the mill. A young man from Mt. Morris was there with a team on that side of the river, with whom Mr. Blair had formed some acquaintance that afternoon while waiting. He ventured to awake him and ask him to help them with the flour over the river, or out to the ice where they could transfer it to their wagons. He good naturedly consented and when the task was accomplished he refused to receive any compensation for his night's labor; Mr. Blair promising to return the favor if he ever had an opportunity.
It was nearly or quite midnight when they started for home. They suffered extremely with the cold, especially Mr. Abbott, Mr. Blair taking care to exercise all he could. They arrived at Mr. Hannum's "hay-house" about five o'clock the next morning, when Mrs. Hannum prepared them a nice breakfast, and thus they were able to reach home in the morning, greatly to the surprise and delight of the family.
_____The summer of 1844 was one unusually wet and the stream at Rocky Ford overflowed its banks, washing away the south part of the bridge, over which the stage from Galena to Peoria (afterward from Galena to Peru) used to pass, stopping at Mr. Hook's. When the mail wagon arrived, the crossing was accomplished by swimming the horses over and taking the mail and passengers, if there were any, across in a boat, borrowing another wagon for the remainder of the route, and on the return trip crossing the same way, leaving the borrowed wagon and taking the mail wagon again on the other side of the stream. It was difficult to build a bridge at that time, the facilities for the heavy work required being unobtainable; so the bridge could not, at once, be repaired.
It is not strange that in the quietude of these prairie homes, any unusual event like the rising of the river, and the destruction of the bridge should attract the neighbors to the scene; and here, on this day to which the story refers, were gathered Mr. John Hook, wife, baby and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael and child, who lived in a cabin near the Ford, and the stage-driver; some of them quite eager to take a trip in the boat across the water. Standing on the north part of the bridge which had withstood the flood, were Mr. Edwin Blair, and his brother, who had come down to view the swollen river and the destruction caused by the flood. Mr. Blair saw, with fear, the party get into the boat and remonstrated with Mr. Hook; but Mr. Hook's perfect confidence in the ability of his mother, who could control a canoe while standing in it, made him
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blind to the danger. All ventured aboard, Mr. Hook remaining on the bridge with Mr. Blair and brother to see the departure of the pleasure seekers. Mr. Hook's mother, a tall women, standing in the center of the boat, Mrs. Hook and baby and Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael and child, and the stage-driver, all in the boat. It sped from the shore, but immediately commenced careening and in another moment capsized, all sinking in the water. Mr. Hook was too much alarmed to know what to do, but Mr. Blair, whose presence of mind is proof in cases of danger, with his brother, rushed to their assistance; snatching a long stick as he ran to aid in helping them to shore. While Mr. Blair waded in to reach out the pole to them, he kept hold of his brother's hand, his brother holding on to the bushes in the water, tor the current was so swift and strong that it would have been useless to venture in unaided. With great difficulty they were drawn out, Mr. Carmichael reaching the stick with one hand and holding to the women and children with the other. Mrs. Hook was unconscious when brought to shore, but through all had never relaxed her bold upon the little girl who was clasped tightly in her mother's arms all safe and uninjured. Mrs. Carmichael and child were brought safe to shore. Mr. Hook's mother and the stage-driver were drawn by the strong, rapid current further down the river, and it was not without courageous efforts that they were rescued, while Mr. Hook was trying to restore his wife.
The little one was Mrs. Hook's third daughter, who married William Livingstone and lived near Jacob Doan's.
Those who came in later years, to whom many of these landmarks are without associations, can hardly realize how much they suggest to the pioneer, to whom, like the "Bells of Shandon," they must tell "many a tale" of "youth and hope" and the departed days.
_____Mrs. Clara (Frisbee) Davis, widow of Josiah M. Davis, related some very interesting incidents relative to her early life here. She was a little girl of only seven years at that time, but she well remembered the journey and her father's horses, old Tom and Jerry, and just how they looked. Her father, Sylvester Frisbee, came from Apulia, New York, in company with Ransom Barnes, in 1838. They came in covered wagons, bringing what goods they could with them, Mr. Frisbee going back for the rest afterwards. Little Clara, for rest and amusement, would ride a part of the time with Mr. Barnes and then go back to her father's wagon. The route was the old Chicago road, and Mr. Tripp kept the tavern at "Inlet." They went to Hannum's hotel, called "The Temperance House." When
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people who ask where the "bar" was, Mr. Hannum replied, "that there was no bar, but plenty of good cold water and tea and coffee." Benoni Hannum was a most excellent and useful man, always ready to do good as he had opportunity, and he found many opportunities. He was a true Christian and gifted in the use of language, consequently he was called upon to lead religious services at funerals and on other occasions, in the absence of ministers. He had previously learned the cabinet maker's trade and as he was a very kind man, he would sometimes, in cases of death, make the coffin and take all the charge of the funeral.
Of Mrs. Hannum, whose likeness is in this book, Mrs. Davis said: "She was such a good woman, a lovely Christian day by day, always ready to do good and lend a helping hand whenever an opportunity presented itself. She believed, as the Lord prospered one, in laying aside a tenth for Him, and she kept a purse for the Lord's money; so, where there was a worthy object she had something ready to give. She had learned the milliner's trade before coming here, and she used to make over and trim bonnets for women and girls around I remember so well of her making one for Mrs. Dexter. Mrs. Hannum's home was a model of neatness and comfort. Once inside the sod or "hay-house" one forgot its humble exterior. Mr. Edwin M. Blair tells of the comfort and good cheer received by him and his brother-in-law, Mr. Abbott, on one occasion when on a cold return trip from Grand Detour where they had been to mill. It was very early in the morning of a December day, but so kindly were he and his companion provided for that the mention of the sod house or "hay-house," of Mr. Hannum, has ever since awakened a train of pleasant recollections, notwithstanding the trip was one of great discomfort.
Mr. Hannum died in 1851. The next year Mrs. Frisbee died, and two years after Mr. Frisbee married Mrs. Hannum. Of her step-mother, Mrs. Davis said: "I always felt that I was highly favored in having two such dear, good mothers. I was a great mother girl and my mother was a very affectionate, devoted mother, so amiable and sweet-tempered, and a sweet singer, too, and a good Christian; and my father was also."
Dr. Gardner was our family physician. I have very pleasant recollections of him and his wife. They lived three miles from us, but with the exception of one family, they were our nearest neighbors for a long time. My sister and I were delighted when Mrs. Gardner was coming, for she was such a dear, sweet lady, and her babies were always so sweet and pretty, we had great pleasure in tending them. We had great confidence in Dr. Gardner, who carried us through some very dangerous illnesses; and
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he was a christian. I remember hearing my father say it was worth a great deal to "have a physician that was a christian."
Miss Clara Frisbee was married to Josiah M. Davis, son of Joel Davis, in 1849, Rev. Luke Hitchcock performing the ceremony. (Joel Davis was a brother of Cyrus Davis and of Mrs. Farwell. He earn e west in 1848.) Mr. Joel Davis and his son erected a frame house on a farm just west of the city limits. It was not finished during Joel Davis' life time, as he lived but a short time. Josiah went to California and was gone several years, his wife remaining with his friends here during his absence. After his return he finished the house which his father had commenced, with much taste. He planted trees, shrubs and rose-bushes. At the eastern entrance of the grounds was a broad gate, the upper part surmounted by a real bird-castle, of several stories height. There were trees at each side of the gate, and it looked so hospitable and delightful that it seemed to speak for the inmates of the retreat and say, as it gleamed white in the shade of the trees:
And I will give you news so very sweet
That you will thank me. Where the branches meet
Across your road, and droop, as with the weight
Of shadows laid upon them, pause, I pray,
And turn aside a little from your way."
Mrs. Davis remained at Summer Hill Farm until the best interests of her children seemed to favor a change. when with rare judgment and gentle firmness she parted with her "sweet home, "and went to Chicago, where she educated them to nobly fill their places in life. Her son, Millard, has a family, and a beautiful home of his own, and is a prosperous merchant in Chicago. Her daughter Lizzie married Rev. Mr. Pearse, a Congregationalist minister and is settled in Turner, Illinois. Mrs. Davis made her home with Mrs. Pearse, and was deeply interested in all the
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duties which devolve upon a pastor's family up to the time of her sickness and death, which occurred the last of April this present year.
Mr. William Main now owns and occupies "Summer Hill Farm."
_____Curtis T. Bridgeman came here in 1838, and bought a claim of 160 acres of James Hawley, for $700. It was the finest piece of timber in Palestine Grove, mostly white and burr-oak. Mr. B. sold $300 worth for the old I. C. R. R., which was projected just after the close of the Black-Hawk war, in 1833, and was laid out and partly built in 1837, but abandoned in the financial revolution of 1840. The line is yet visible west of Rocky Ford. Mr. Bridgeman's claim is known as the Blunt farm, although now owned by William E. Ives. It was the favorite camping ground of the Indians, with its large trees and its contiguity to Green River. Here, sometimes hundreds of them encamped, led by their chief, Shabbona.
Mr. Bridgeman lived on this claim five years, when he sold it and moved to Crombie Lane, and took up 160 acres of land, now the farms of Adam Mynard and Hiram Bates. Part of the building Mr. Bridgeman lived in is standing on the Bates farm and is used as a corn-crib. It was eighteen feet long and ten feet wide. This was their sleeping room. On the side was an addition made mostly of sod.
In the fall of 1843, the weather had been mild and balmy as the "sunny south," and no precautions had been taken to bank-up the house which was only an unfinished frame building. One evening about the middle of November there was a light fall of snow. In the morning the family awoke to find the snow a foot deep in their sod kitchen, and it had to be shoveled out before they could get breakfast. From this time until spring the ground was covered with snow to a great depth and there were no signs of spring until the middle of April. The weather was bitterly cold nearly every day that winter. Mr. Bridgeman made a trip to Inlet Grove and got out timber for a new house that was made into lumber at Dewey's Mill. A building was erected which was considered quite a structure for those days, but the family never moved into it. Mr. Bridgeman sold his claim to David Searles and moved to the farm now owned and occupied by Mr. G. P. Finch. That was the suburb of the settlement then. All beyond was unbroken prairie to Rock River.
Mrs. Bridgeman was a lovely woman, and highly esteemed in the community. She was the mother of our townsman, Mr. Cyrus Bridgeman. She reared a family whose lives are an honor to her.
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Frederick Bainter, with his wife and one child, came from South Bend, Indiana, to this place in the fall of 1838. In the spring of 1839 he built a log house on the place now known as the John Warinck farm, where he farmed for several years, and then turned his attention to blacksmithing and making plows, erecting a blacksmith shop on his farm. In the spring of 1846 the house burned down, and he moved to the little burg of Binghampton, where he, with James Doan, built up quite an industry at the stand now known as Kreiter's Mills. Many of the people will remember the improvements there made in the old style plow which he furnished to a great many farmers of Lee, Bureau, La Salle and other counties. It was at their home that Death made the first call in this neighborhood, taking their sweet baby boy Franklin. After a number of years they moved to Goshen, Ind., and later, to California, where Mr. Bainter died in 1875. His wife, who was always his helper and adviser, with the remainder of her family, are still spending their days in that most noted of beautiful countries.
_____Mr. Cyrus Davis came here in 1839 from New lpswich, N. H. On January 30th, 1823, he married Miss Mary Appleton, of Dublin, N. H., fifth child of Isaac and Sarah (Twitchell) Appleton. Mr. Joseph Appleton, who was one of the early settlers here, was the oldest child of her brother Joseph. Mr. Davis was a brother of Mrs. Farwell. His farm was upon the site which is now a part of the city of Amboy, and was bounded on the north by the road now running past "the Hawk's house," now owned by William Armour, and past Mr. Rush Badger's; on the east, by the creek crossing Main street, by Wm. E. Ives and south by Division street. His log house was a few feet east of the Baptist Church on Mason street, in what is now the middle of the street. His barn was where the Baptist Church stands, and his orchard just north.
A little anecdote is told of Mr. Davis' attempt to mark where the regular road ought to be. He plowed a few furrows for the line of the road. The next morning as he "viewed the landscape o'er" he looked in vain for his turnpike. Some of the roguish young men had carefully turned all the sod back in place. Mr. Davis stood and looked at the joke n few minutes and walked silently away.
In 1845 he built a convenient frame house, the first of the kind in the place. It is one of the "old landmarks" and is among the illustrations. After the streets of Amboy were laid out, it was moved a few rods east and now stands directly opposite the Baptist Church. The little child sitting on the door step in the picture is a grandson of Col. John. B. Wyman.
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In 1840, Chester, son of Chester S., then but eighteen years old, drove a team from Broome County, New York, through to this place, where he found parents, brothers and sisters. The meeting, though joyous, was not without sadness. There was such a contrast between the pleasant home and the \social life which they had left, and the pioneer life with its privations and hardships to which they had come, that even after all the years which have intervened it seems painful to Mr. Badger to recall the meeting.
The house was a small, story and a half frame house, without lath or plaster. It had warped and shrunk so that although the family covered interstices the best they could, the northwest winds would drive in the snow until it not only covered the floor but the beds also. In coldest weather, to use Mr. Badger's own words, "We used to hang up three bed-blankets, or quilts around the fire and enjoy ourselves sitting inside and eating crab-apples, as we had no other kind of fruit." For our fencing, we drew logs a distance of three miles and split them into rails and then made fence. The Pottawattomie Indians, of whom Shabbona was their chief, roamed at will through here and encamped near Green River. Game was plentiful. I have seen forty deer going to drink in the creek. More rabbits than a strong man could carry away could be taken in a short time and but a short distance from home; and fish also, could be caught in abundance, each weighing from four pounds to some times much heavier weight."
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In 1837 a man from New Jersey by name of Erastus De Wolfe, an Episcopalian minister, came into the country. He lived about half way between here and Dixon, on land now known as the De Wolfe farm, and preached in the Wasson school house. Mrs. De Wolfe organized a Sunday School, commencing with six little girls, two of her own, two of Mrs. Wasson's, and two of Mrs. Badger's. This was in 1845.
Sarah Badger, the older sister, taught school in Sugar Grove at $1.50 per week and had luxuries -- pumpkin pie and crab apple sauce. Rowena taught in the old log school house, and afterwards near Mr. De Wolfe's place, and also near Grand Detour.
The Badger family have been useful members of society. Mrs. Badger is remembered with respect and love. She was a quiet, retiring woman of much refinement, and her sons and daughters have filled many places of usefulness in Amboy. Her daughters were among the earliest teachers, and her sons, Henry, Simon, Chester and Warren, have all contributed to Amboy's prosperity. The brothers engaged in the manufacture of plows and also built a mill, afterwards rebuilding it into a steam mill. Warren died in the prime of life, Simon in 1876, leaving one son, Mr. Rush Badger, and three daughters. He filled various offices of trust in the town, having been justice of the peace sixteen years previous to his death. Chester enlisted in the Eleventh Illinois Volunteers, and served in the Mexican war under Gen. Sterling Price. He afterwards went overland to California in company with his brother Simon. He has been a prominent man here, serving the town in many ways. He can remember numberless interesting events connected with the county which would have been worthy of record. He lives in retirement on his farm, which has been his home since first coming to this country in 1840. He has three children.
Henry E. Badger was one of the early teachers here. He was, with his brothers, engaged in the manufacture of plows, and also in the mill known as the Badger Mill; has been supervisor, road commissioner, school trustee, postmaster, merchant and farmer. During the war he was most loyal, giving liberally to the Union cause. No soldier's widow or family who applied to him for aid was ever sent away unsupplied. No one has given more generously to support every good cause. His life has been embellished by a most excellent wife, who has filled her place at home, in church and in society with a devotion to be remembered gratefully by many long after she can fill it no more. Mr. Badger has two daughters and one son living, Mr. Warren Badger, a prominent merchant here.
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John Hook and wife, Mrs. Matilda (Berry) Hook, came to Rocky Ford in the fall of 1839. They were natives of Howland, Maine, a town on the Penobscot River. They came in covered wagons, each drawn by two horses, Mr. Berry, a brother of Mrs. Hook, and others accompanying them.
After reaching Buffalo, New York, and learning that travelers through Ohio encountered many marshy and difficult places of crossing, they took passage to Detroit on the steamer Milwaukee, and from there pursued their journey with wagons to Peru, where they resided until they came here.
Mrs. Hook's narrative of the incidents of their trip is intensely interesting. Many were the kindnesses they received on the way, when they encamped near settlements and farm houses; many the invitations to rest and lodge under some one's roof-tree, while additions to their store of food were smilingly given. To hear her recount the story of her life in her cheerful and pleasant way, one would think that "the hardships of pioneer life" were but a series of pleasure excursions and encampments for the sake of the enjoyment of them. It would be hardly safe to have the story in her own words, even were it possible to remember them, least some young readers might be missing some day, to be found as young Daniel Boone was surprised by his father -- trying pioneer life on his own hook -- somewhere beyond the Rockies.
Her house at Rocky Ford was for years an Inn, where the weary might find rest and the hungry, food, although it bore no sign. As stated above, it was the mail carrier's stopping place on his route from Galena to Peoria, afterwards changed to Peru. Travelers would seek lodging for the night inside their hospitable doors to be safe from the wolves, and they were not turned away, though a place on the floor were the only vacancy.
Men whose names, in after years were widely known have been served here, and Knowlton and Frazier on their passing from Dixon to Peoria or returning, were frequent lodgers, and often Sheriff Campbell was their guest. Here young Backensto alighted and made his toilet when first he visited Amboy to present himself before the queen of his heart, Miss Clara Wasson, whom he had met at the house of her aunt Mrs. Joseph Smith of Nauvoo.
Our illustration of the bridge at Rocky Ford marks the place near which the Indian trail from Council Bluffs to Chicago crossed the ford; and in the time of the Black Hawk war, the command under Major Stillman forded the stream at this point on their way to Stillman's Run.
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In 1842 it was the mail route, and the carrier made the trip every week on horse back without failure stopping at John Hook's Monday nights as he went north, and Friday nights going south. A few years afterwards the post office was removed to Binghampton.
The site on the ridge where Mr. Hook built his house, was on an old Indian camping ground on the trail which crossed at the ford. The Indians came frequently and in large numbers, on their way to and from Chicago to receive their annuities. When they found their old camping-ground occupied they withdrew to the wooded knoll south of the place owned by Mr. Bear, and east of Mr. Edwin Bliss. Mrs. Hook relates how the Indians rode up on horse back and surveyed their old place of encampment, and finding it occupied, rode away, and selected the site already described. They would frequently remain for a month, hunting and fishing; for deer, prairie-chickens, rabbits, etc. were abundant.
Before breaking camp to pursue their journey, they would prepare for it by roasting pieces of venison which they would put on the point of a stick, and keep it over the fire by confining the other end of the stick slantwise in the ground. After it was broiled and smoked in this way, it was packed for the journey. They appeared to enjoy a call from their white neighbors. Once when Mrs. Hook went to call on them in their tents, a pleasant young half-breed Indian, whose father was a Frenchman, of Milwaukee, where the young man and his brother who was with him had been educated, begged to take her fair haired, blue eyed baby to show to his people in the tents, promising to return it soon in safety. This was the first trip the young men had ever taken with their mother's people, and the parents were both with the company. The little one was not afraid and the young man carried it tenderly to the other tents where the women patted the baby's arms and cheeks and smiled upon it, as did the young man. He soon brought it back, pleasantly, the baby enjoying it all. His father's name was Juneau. His mother was a famous medicine squaw and used to be called to go twenty miles to cure the sick.
Mrs. Hook used sometimes to carry them presents of milk and other food, taking a pail of milk and a dipper and so treating the Indian children all around. In return the mothers would treat with berries, or a drink made of maple sugar which they had made mixed with fresh water from the creek. They were frequent callers at Mrs. Hook's house where they received such favors as she could render them. Once as she was sitting at home, a shadow darkened the room, and on looking up she saw a tall Indian standing in the door, attracted there by the odor of something which was being cooked. He entered and raised the cover of the kettle,
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asking many questions about it. It was a turtle from which they were extracting the oil, and when told that it was for medicinal purposes, he was much interested. The Indians gathered many herbs, and roots which they washed and put up carefully to take away with them. Once, when two or three Indians called and asked for something to eat, Mrs. Hook sent out to them by her husband, bread, meat, etc., on separate plates for each, with knives and forks, just to see how they would use them. They good-naturedly laid them aside and taking the meat in their fingers and saying, "this is the way Indian eat" they ate it in their own way.
Mr. Hook's family had been accustomed to Indians, for on the Penobscot River in Maine there have always been many of them; some beautiful specimens of their work in baskets and moccasins finding the way around the country, and often being for sale. Mrs. Hook seems to have had an unusually happy faculty in dealing with them. If some of our Indian agents on the frontier might learn something from her, it would be a happy thing for both Uncle Sam's red and white children.
The first school-house was built in 1839. It was a log house not far from where Seneca Strickland now lives. Mrs. Strickland, daughter of Andrew Bainter, remembers the log threshold over which she climbed when she ran away to school at the age of two or three years. This school-house had three windows, with twelve panes of glass in each, six by eight inches, and they were put in sidewise. Long benches were placed on three sides, with a broad board back of them, fastened to the wall by a support from the under side, which served as desks for the children to lay their books on, as well as to write upon. Near the long, high benches were two or three smaller ones for the youngest children. Here they sat, holding their books in their hands while they spelled b-a, ba; c-a, ca; d-a, da; etc. A blackboard was unknown to these little pioneers, neither were there maps or charts; only the rough, dark logs and the small, low windows; yet they were happy and faithful, and to obey the teacher was one rule seldom broken. One of the first lessons the new teacher always gave to all, both large and small, was the first part of the spelling-book. To the small ones the great puzzle was to tell diphthongs and triphthongs, interrogations and exclamations; but if they could close the book and say the words, all was well. The teachers, in those days, were thorough; for example, there were two little girls not five years old, who had to stand on the floor and study their lessons because they had misspelled "chintz" and "stiltz," almost breaking their hearts.
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The first teacher was Miss Clara Wasson, greatly beloved by her pupils. Here afterwards taught Miss Lucy Ann Church, Charlotte Doan, the Misses Badger and Wasson, Ann Chadwick, and "a long line of distinguished" teachers whose names we have not been able to obtain. Miss Clara Wasson, now Mrs. Backensto, writes, "I now remember my little school with great pleasure. Although quite inexperienced myself, the dear little people thought me a perfect teacher, which shows how inexperienced the most of them were, having never attended school before. They were so quiet and obedient that the little ground squirrels would come into the school-room to eat the scattered crumbs."
Mrs. Backensto relates another incident. "Just after the Dexter children had started home from school they came running back to me saying that Thomas had been bitten by a rattlesnake. We soon found the snake and with a long switch whipped it to death, as this is the surest and easiest way to dispose of those venomous reptiles. Andrew Bainter tied his whip-lash tightly around the leg, just above the wound. I soon found some Seneca snake root, and gathering a quantity, bruised some between two stones and bound it with my handkerchief on to the wounded foot and took him, with a quantity of the snake-root, home to his mother, instructing her to steep some of it in milk and give him to drink, and to bind some fresh root on the wound, which she did; and much to my surprise and satisfaction the next morning he came to school just a little lame, and soon recovered entirely. What a blessed Providence to provide an antidote for that deadly poison within our reach; and thanks to my mother's instructions, I knew just what to do."
There must be many interesting reminiscences connected with this school-house were there time and opportunity to collect them from those who participated in them. Later, when the larger log school-house was built between Col. Badger's and Mr. Wasson's, the old log house was moved farther east, near to the Lewis farm, and the new school-house was the usual place for preaching; but for some years it remained where it was first located and was the place for religious services as well as spelling-schools, singing-school, etc. Previous to the building of this, in the winter of 1837-8, religious services were held in the cabins. We hear of a Mr. Vincent, a relative of the eminent eastern divine, Rev. Dr. Vincent, preaching at Mr. Bridgeman's cabin. Messrs. Lumery, Smith, Gorbitt, White and others at the Doan and other cabins. Mr. Stinson and other lay preachers and Rev. Erastus De Wolfe at the Dexter cabin; also at Mr. Benjamin Wasson's. The meetings were often on week days, the men leaving their labor to worship at this Shekinah in the wilderness;
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coming in their carts or wagons, drawn by oxen or horses; often following the Indian trails through thickets of wild fruit trees and groves of oak, all converging toward the creek and vicinity of the old encampments.
Rev. Mr. Farney preached the first sermon in the old log school-house; afterwards, Revs. Luke Hitchcock, John Cross, Charles Gardner and others supplied. At one of Mr. Gardner's meetings he had for an auditor Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Mr. Gardner invited him to close the services with prayer, which he did. He and Sidney Rigdon held meetings there, afterwards, and Smith had followers here who speak of him now with a look of reverence and sorrow as "The Martyred Prophet." They have always been good and upright members of the community, cherishing no sympathy with Brigham Young, whom they consider as one who "defied the laws of God and man."
The old school-house was of use to all in the settlement. Some of the stories told of the spelling-schools held there are most amusing. Old and young attended, and one bright little girl of six years, who was a good speller, so interested Simon Badger that he managed to keep near enough behind her to whisper assistance when a particularly "hard word" came to her. Once when she was chosen on the other side she went with anxiety at the loss of her gallant assistant, but it was not long before he had changed seats and she found he was at hand.
Emma Hale, the sister of Elizabeth Wasson, was born in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, July 10, 1804. Her parents, Mr. Isaac and Mrs. Elizabeth (Lewis) Hale, were pioneers of a self-reliant race, brave, honest, of unshaken fidelity and unquestioned integrity. She grew to womanhood amid the rural scenes, labors and recreations incident to farm life on the banks of the Susquehanna River. She was a good horse-woman, and a canoe on the river was her plaything. She was a fair scholar for the common schools of the time, and a good singer and possessed of a fine voice. She was of excellent form, straight and above medium height, features strongly marked, hair and eyes brown, while her general intelligence and fearless integrity, united with her kindness of heart and splendid physical developments commanded both admiration and respect.
In 1825 Miss Hale became acquainted with Joseph Smith, celebrated in the history of the religions of the United States, as the founder of "Mormonism," "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," to whom she was married in the town of South Bainbridge, New York, at the residence of 'Squire Tarbell, January 18, 1827. Mrs. Smith lived in
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the family of her husband's parents, at Manchester, New York, until December, when they moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania, and settled near her father's farm.
In September of this year, Mr. Smith became possessed of the plates from which he is said to have written the ''Book of Mormon." These plates Mr. Smith had during their residence in their home near Isaac Hale, and of them Mrs. Smith states:
'I knew that he had them. I made a linen sack for Mr. Smith to carry them in. They lay on a stand in my room, day after day, for weeks at a time, and I often moved them in cleaning the room and dusting the table. They were of metal, and when thumbed, as one sometimes thumbs the leaves of a book, would give off a metallic sound."
A gentleman, now a resident of Amboy, who was, three or four years ago in business in Binghampton, New York, gives an interesting account of a visit which he made while there to Harmony township, Pennsylvania, where the plates were said, by Mr. Smith to have been found. The historic spot is on the summit of a high hill not far from the Susquehanna river, and is still visited as a place of interest. The stones which formed the foundations of the derrick used, still surround the deep excavation, which, although partially filled, by the caving in of the earth, is some eighty-five feet deep. A Mr. Benson, whose farm joins the land once owned by Isaac Hale, Mrs. Smith's father, and who was familiar with the early history of both the Hale and Smith families, was the guide and instructor of our informant. Smith was about a year in reaching the depth of a hundred or more feet, where he claimed the Angel Meroni had made known to him the plates were to be found. He, with some of his friends, would work at the place until the money gave out, when the work must wait until more means to carry it on were obtained. One enthusiastic follower spent his farm and beggared himself in the search for the hidden treasure. Some people thought Smith insane, but his preaching drew to him crowds of followers.
In February, 1829, Mrs. Smith became an amanuensis to her husband, and from his dictation she wrote much of the celebrated Book of Mormon; and in this year it was completed and published in Palmyra, New York, by E. B. Grandin. It was in this year that Oliver Cowdery joined his fortune and influence with the new religious movement begun by Joseph Smith.
The persecutions which followed now compelled a removal from Harmony, and in August, 1830, the family moved to Fayette, Seneca county, New York. From there, in January, 1831, they went to Kirtland, Ohio,
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where Newel K. Whitney, one of the leading men in the Mormon society, befriended them. The sickness incidental to a new country prevailed, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith having lost their first child, adopted a little boy and girl, twin children of Mrs. John Murdock, who died, the father consenting. September, 1831, they moved to Hiram, Portage county, Ohio, thirty-five miles south-east of Kirtland. The converts to Mr. Smith's preaching were constantly arriving from all parts of the country, greatly to the disturbance of antagonists to the Mormon religion, and in March, 1832, the most violent persecution followed. Mr. Smith was dragged from his bed, beaten into insensibility, tarred and feathered and left for dead. A strange part of this experience was, that his spirit seemed to leave his body, and that during the period of insensibility he consciously stood over his own body, feeling no pain, but seeing and hearing all that transpired.
When, after returning to consciousness, he managed to drag himself back to his home, Mrs. Smith fainted at the sight; and the little adopted boy, who took cold on that fearful night, died the next week. It was a long time before Mrs. Smith recovered from the shock of all these accumulated sorrows. The same night Sidney Rigdon was subjected to the same treatment.
He now started on a mission to Missouri, Mrs. Smith returning to Kirtland and stopping with her friends, the Whitneys. It is here that Joseph Smith, now of Lamoni, Decatur county, Iowa, was born, November 6, 1832.
In April, 1838, the family moved to Missouri, in Caldwell county. Here Mrs. Smith hoped for the quietude and peace for which she longed, but great numbers of converts flocked to their leader. The people became alarmed and violent persecutions which it is useless and painful to detail followed. Accusations of every kind were made, and the extermination of the Mormons seemed to be determined upon. The leaders, Joseph and his brother Hiram Smith and others were imprisoned, and a summary death from shooting was expected by them. Mrs. Smith was now left with her family of four children; her adopted daughter, her three sons, the oldest six years old, the youngest five months, at the beginning of winter, her husband in jail for his religion's sake, powerless to help him. What could she do? She bravely visited her husband in the jail, taking her oldest son with her, and while she was permitted but a short interview, she obtained permission to leave the child a guest of his manacled and fettered father, until the next day.
After making such arrangements for the safety of herself and children
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as she could, Mrs. Smith left the home from which she had been driven, and turned her steps toward Illinois. The winter shut in early, and when the fleeing pilgrims reached the Mississippi River it was frozen over and Mrs. Smith, weary, sad and heart-broken, crossed the mighty river to Quincy, Illinois, on foot, carrying her two youngest children, with the oldest boy and little girl clinging to her dress. She found a hospitable welcome at the home of a family by the name of Cleveland, where she remained during the long winter, sad, but trusting, and in faithful expectancy, waiting for her husband's relief and delivery from bonds. When, at last, he was free, she welcomed him with a wife's rapture, and was ready to begin again the life of devotion to his happiness as she had ever been.
The little town of Commerce, in Hancock county, Illinois, at the head of the Lower Rapids, had been chosen for a resting place for the refugees, and the family reached it on May tenth. A celebrated river pilot, by the name of Hugh White, owned a farm on which was a hewed log house with a clap-board annex, which Mr. Smith bought, and into which he moved his family. Yet, even here, Mrs. Smith knew not what awaited her. All her married life had been such as to call forth the strongest courage and fortitude and faith of her soul, and in none of them had she faltered. What she had and what she was, she had placed on the altar of her devotions; and if God willed, she was content.
The seasons of 1839-40, were seasons of severe trials to the new settlements. Fever incident to the new countries, the long exposure and crying want endured by many in their forced exodus from Missouri, the fogs from the river and miasma from the swamps -- all combined to make the season sickly, and hundreds became victims, many of whom died. Mrs. Smith realizing the weight of the general burden and the necessity of proper nursing of the stricken people, opened her house for hospital service. Numbers of the severe cases were removed to her home and placed under her care. She, with her family of children, took shelter in a tent in the dooryard, she, and her children under her direction, doing all that they could to minister to the suffering. At one time she had ten of these unfortunate people in her care, herself and oldest son being the only nurses that were available, the boy doing little except to carry water from the spring near the river's brink to quench the thirst and lave the hands and faces of the fever tried souls.
During a great portion of this trying time, Mrs. Smith's husband was at Washington, D. C., seeking to secure the intervention of the General Government, to obtain an official and final examination of the difficulties
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between the Mormons and their restless neighbors, and security from the Government in their rights. Mr. Van Buren's answer to their plea when obtained was, "Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you." Commerce was changed to Nauvoo, the postofflce department recognizing the change April 21, 1840.
On June 5, 1841, Joseph was again arrested, as a fugitive from justice, by Sheriff Thomas King, and taken to Monmouth, Illinois, where the case was tried before Judge Stephen A. Douglas, on June 8th. Orville H. Browning, of Quincy, Illinois, afterward Secretary of the Interior under President Lincoln, appearing for the defense. Mr. Smith was discharged, the judge giving expressions of indignation at the manner the prisoner had been harassed by his persecutors.
On May 6, 1842, Mr. Smith was again arrested, tried at Springfield, and acquitted on proof of innocence.
From this time until about June, 1843, there was a season of rest afforded to the family, which Mrs. Smith was well prepared to enjoy. She was chosen to preside over a society called ''The Female Relief Society," formed of prominent women of the large and rapidly increasing city (which had reached a population of 15,000), the object of the society being to seek out cases of necessity, sickness and distress in the city, to take cognizance of and institute measures for their relief.
Mrs. Smith was chosen to preside because of her well-known probity, clearness of perception, experience and decision of character. This position she held until after the death of her husband, and the dispersion from Nauvoo took place.
Mr. Smith's father died in the fall of 1841, and in the summer of 1842 his mother became a part of his family. Of Mrs. Smith's care of her mother-in-law, that lady herself states: ''Soon after I took up my residence at her house I was taken very sick and was brought nigh unto death. For five nights in succession Emma never left me, but stood at my bedside all night long, at the end of which time she was overcome with fatigue and taken sick herself. Joseph then took her place and watched with me the five succeeding nights as faithfully as Emma had done." From this sickness Mr. Smith's mother soon recovered, but she remained an inmate of the family until her son's death, after which, for some two or three years, she was cared for by her youngest daughter, Lucy Miliken, and her husband, when she returned to the home of Mrs. Smith, where she remained until May, 1855, when, in the presence of Mrs. Smith, her grandson Joseph, and a neighbor, she passed into the great beyond. This aged mother was confined to her bed, a sufferer from rheumatism, by which
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her feet, hands and arms were distorted and misshapen for many years, during the greater part of which time she was provided for and taken care of at the home of Mrs. Smith, the widow of her son, Joseph.
On June 13, 1843, Mrs. Smith, with her husband and children, started by carriage, at that time the only mode of traveling inland, to visit her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Wasson, the wife of Benjamin Wasson, living in Amboy, Lee county, Illinois. On the same day Gov. Thomas Reynolds, of Missouri, appointed Joseph H. Reynolds, sheriff of Jackson County Missouri, to proceed to Illinois with a new writ to operate with Harmon T. Wilson, of Hancock county, Illinois, in arresting Joseph Smith, on a renewal of the same charge from which he had been discharged by a competent court. These two men followed Mr. Smith to Mr. Wasson's place, which they reached June 23rd, while the family were at dinner. They professed to be elders of the church, and desired to see "Brother Joseph Smith." When Mr. Smith appeared, in answer to the inquiry, these men presented their pistols to his breast, at the same time seizing him, but without stating their object, or showing a warrant or serving a writ. Mr. Smith asked what the meaning of the arrest was. To this Reynolds replied, with an oath at the beginning and end of the sentence, "Be still or I will shoot you." Wilson joined in this blasphemous threatening, and both struck him with their weapons, and without attempting to serve any writ or presenting any process warranting the arrest, they hurried him to a wagon near by, and would have taken their prisoner away without hat or coat but for the interference of a friend, Stephen Markham, who seized the horses by the bits and held them until Mrs. Smith ran from the house with her husband's hat, coat and vest.
Here, as in Missouri, he was taken from the presence of his wife and children without explanation and without opportunity to bid his agitated and tearful wife good-bye. His captors hurried him to Dixon, where they confined him in a room in a tavern, waiting the hitching up of fresh horses. Mr. Smith's friend, Markham, had reached Dixon and undertaken to secure legal services. Hearing of it Mr. Reynolds again threatened to kill Mr. Smith, to which Mr. Smith replied: "Why make the threat so often? If you want to shoot me, do, I am not afraid." When Messrs. Shepard G. Patrick and Col. E. D. Southwick, whose services Markham had secured, attempted to communicate with Mr. Smith, Reynolds and Wilson peremptorily refused them access to him. By this time considerable excitement had been aroused in the town, and Col. John Dixon, the founder of the town, put himself in the front of an inquiry as to the facts of the arrest; and, learning that the sheriffs had shown no
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writ, or served any process, he became indignant and plainly notified Reynolds and Wilson, that it was possible such proceedings might do for Missouri, but that no man should be taken from the town of Dixon, without proper process, or without an opportunity for legal counsel and defense.
The sheriffs then allowed the attorneys to hold consultation with Mr. Smith, declaring, however, that they would only allow one half hour for the prisoner's benefit. So outrageous was the treatment of Mr. Smith, by these self-appointed custodians, that the indignation of the citizens of Dixon was roused to a high pitch; and but for the intervention of Col. Dixon and the dispassionate appeals of Mr. Smith, himself, and his attorneys, Reynolds and Wilson, would have been lynched. During the ride from Wasson's to Dixon, they had constantly thrust their pistols against his side, with threats, until he was sadly bruised. As it was, however, the demand for proper treatment, seconded by the firm attitude of Col. Dixon and others, secured time to procure legal action.
Col. Dixon sent messengers to the Master in Chancery and to Attorney Walker to come to Dixon at once, which they did. A writ of habeas corpus was issued and served by Sheriff Campbell, of Lee county, ordering that Smith and his captors be brought before Judge Caton, then holding court at Ottawa. Reynolds and Wilson were arrested for assault upon Smith, and for false imprisonment. The party started for Ottawa, but stopped for the night at Paw Paw, twenty-five miles on the way. Here the next morning, many having learned of the arrest and the circumstances attending it, gathered at the hotel, all anxious to see the "Prophet," and to hear him preach. This would not suit Reynolds, who was fearful of what the effect of a speech from his prisoner might be, so he shouted, "I want you to understand that this man is my legal prisoner, and you must disperse."
At this juncture, David Town, an elderly man, citizen of the place, who was an influential man of affairs and carried a hickory staff, approached the irate sheriff from Missouri, and said to him with decided emphasis, "Sit down there!" pointing to a seat, "and sit still. Don't open your head till General Smith gets through talking. If you never learned manners in Missouri, we'll teach you that gentlemen are not to be imposed upon by a nigger driver. You cannot kidnap men here. There is a committee in this grove that will sit on your case; and, sir, it is the highest tribunal in the United States, as from it there is no appeal." This speech caused the sheriff to remain quiet, and Smith talked to those gathered for an hour and a half undisturbed.
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It proved that Judge Caton had adjourned court, and was then on his way to New York, so the party returned to Dixon. A new writ was issued returnable to the nearest court. This was the court of Judge Douglas, of Quincy; so the party started for that place, distant some two hundred and fifty miles. At Fox River, seven of Smith's friends met the posse, when Smith said to the sheriff: "I think I will not go to Missouri this time." This was June 27th, four days after the enforced arrest, and as yet, the sheriff had neither produced nor read a warrant, writ, or process, by virtue of which they were trying to take a citizen of Illinois out of the state with a hostile threat of evil treatment, if successful.
From this the party proceeded to Nauvoo in spite of the protests of sheriffs Reynolds and Wilson, whom Sheriff Campbell had compelled to give up their arms, because of the threats they had made. They reached Nauvoo, the home of Smith, on June 30th, he having been all the time, since the 23rd, in the custody of these sheriffs without legal writ.
As soon as Mr. Smith was arrested, Mrs. Smith determined to reach her home as soon as she could. After ascertaining the course affairs were likely to take at Dixon, under the vigorous regime of Col. Dixon, and Attorneys Patrick and Southwick, Mrs. Smith started with her children for Nauvoo, a young man named Loring Walker driving the team. She reached home some three days before the cavalcade accompanying her husband, and when he and his captors, Sheriff Campbell and the posse reached the city and her home, she was ready to receive them; and notwithstanding there were many to partake at her board, all were amply provided for and treated by her with every mark of kindness, hospitality and respect. The executive ability and energy of Mrs. Smith are demonstrated by the fact that at every stage of her husband's peace, prosperity, peril and distress, she proved equal to the emergency and conducted the affairs of his household, her station in society, and her public appearances, in the calm dignity and conscious rectitude of splendid womanhood. In August, 1843, she became landlady of the Nauvoo Mansion, a hotel quite noted during the last year of Mr. Smith's lifetime and for many years after.
On June 12, 1844, Mr. Smith was again arrested and again dismissed. June 24th Joseph Smith and his brother, Hiram, were again arrested on the charge of treason. After consultation with Gov. Ford and others who advised that they should put themselves into the hands of the civil authorities to answer whatever charges might be made against them, and upon express promise of the governor that they should have a fair and impartial trial, Joseph and Hiram Smith did, on the 24th of June,
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1844, proceed to Carthage and presented themselves before him to be taken into custody. At this interview with the governor he pledged his own faith and that of the State of Illinois, that they should be protected from violence, and have a fair and impartial trial. At dark that night the constable appeared with a mittimus commanding him to commit Joseph and Hiram Smith to jail on a charge of treason against the state, issued by Justice Robert F. Smith. Appeal was made to the governor, but he permitted them to be lodged in jail.
On the morning of the 26th, the governor, at 9:30 o'clock, visited the prison and had a lengthy interview with Joseph and Hiram Smith, in which he was fully informed of what had been done at Nauvoo, and upon which action the charge of treason had been made, and that it was done at the direction of the Governor himself. Governor Ford again gave his pledge that these men should be protected from illegal harm. At 2:30 of the same day, on June 26th, the Smith brothers were taken by Constable Bettisworth before Justice R. F. Smith to answer for treason, and, on proper showing the trial was adjourned until noon of the 27th, to allow of getting witnesses from Nauvoo, eighteen miles distant. Afterwards, without notice to defendants, the trial was postponed until the 29th, and the prisoners were remanded to jail.
On the morning of the 27th, Governor Ford and his escort went to Nauvoo. He had disbanded a portion of the state militia, but left the Carthage Grays in charge of the place (Carthage) during his absence, a detail from which body of troops had been stationed as guards at the jail.
Threats had been made openly that the Smiths would not be permitted to leave the town alive. These threats had been made in the hearing of Governor Ford; one Alfred Randall stating that he heard one of the soldiers say to Governor Ford: "The soldiers are determined to see Joe Smith dead before they leave town." The Governor replied, "If you know of any such thing keep it to yourself."
About five o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, June 27, 1844, while Governor Thomas Ford was addressing the citizens of Nauvoo, a mob of armed men, some two hundred strong, disguised by faces blackened, coats turned, and in other ways, approached the jail, a stone and wood building in the south western edge of town, and overpowered the guard, who tired over their heads, killed Joseph and Hiram Smith, and wounded John Taylor nigh to death. There were in the room, Joseph and Hiram Smith, John Taylor and Willard Richards, the last two named being the only friends of the two men killed whom the officers
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would allow to stay with them. Each of the men killed and Mr. Taylor were struck by four balls. Hiram Smith fell in the room; Joseph ran to the window and in making an effort to get out was struck by a ball and fell some feet to the ground. The mob, by order of the leader, set his body against a well-curb near the house, and would have fired a volley at it, but he was already dead.
Mr. Richards remained unhurt in the debtor's room where the prisoners had been confined. Their work accomplished the mob retired.
The tragedy was over; the long, long struggle was ended; the loving wife who had been faithful through all things for "better or worse," had only to wait in tearless woe the last home coming of him with whom she had plighted her faith for seventeen years.
In the afternoon of the 28th the bodies of the two men were brought home to their grief stricken families and friends. The long pending stroke had fallen, and Mrs. Smith was a widow with a family of four children, the eldest thirteen. She shed few tears, but in stony eyed, silent grief bore her trial, and waited until thousands had passed the bier on which her dead was lying, when, with her children by her, she sat down by the silent form. ''My husband, O, my husband! Have they taken you from me at last?" That night she parted from her only steadfast, earthly friend, and began the singular life of patient endurance and self-denial to which his death subjected her.
An administrator was appointed to take charge of Mr. Smith's estate. That it was not large may be known by the fact, that with the usual widow's exemption the sum of $124.00 per year was allowed her for the care of herself and family. A number of creditors appeared, and what property there was left became the prey of the creditors and the legal costs, so that, by the time the estate was settled, it gave Mrs. Smith a few lots with their buildings in the town of Nauvoo, and some acres of land lying in the country. With this, and patient industry, she set herself to the task of rearing her family, which on the 17th of the next November after her husband's death, was increased by the birth of a son, whom she called David Hiram, for her brother David and her husband's brother.
The troubles between the people of the adjoining counties and the Mormon people culminated in the expulsion of the latter from the state. Mrs. Smith had, by her opposition to the measures and policy of President Brigham Young, become obnoxious to him, and to those who accepted him, so that when in the fall and early winter of 1846 the Latter Day Saints left the state, she, ostensibly one of them, and yet opposed
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to their policy, was included in this extradition. Determined not to be compromised with evil and its consequences, Mrs. Smith, to avoid possible insult, if not injury from the anti-Mormon forces when they should enter the city according to the terms of capitulation, left Nauvoo with her family on board the steamer "Uncle Toby," Captain Grimes, commander, on the 12th day of September, 1846, for Fulton City, Whiteside county, Illinois, whither one of her friends, William Marks, had preceded her. She was accompanied by parts of four other families, whom she took under her guidance and care. Wesley Knight and family, Loring Walker (who had married a daughter of Hiram Smith) and his family, two orphan girls, (Angeline and Nancy Carter), and a young man by the name of William Clapp. Mrs. Smith remained at Fulton City until February, when, learning that the man whom she had left in possession of her hotel was going to dismantle the house and embark for Texas with the spoils, she made the trip by carriage to Nauvoo, which she reached in the afternoon of February 19, 1847, and so determinedly pushed her claims, that in three days she was again installed in her house as its mistress.
Mrs. Smith nobly and faithfully fulfilled a mother's duties for her children until by marriage and death they left her. She continued to live in Nauvoo until her death, April 30, 1879. Her last words were, as looking upward, with feeble arms outstretched toward some one whom she seemed to see, "Yes, yes, I am coming."
She became a member of the church over which her husband presided in June, 1830, and remained always in the faith she then embraced, so that when at Amboy, Illinois, in 1860, her son joined the Reorganized or Anti-polygamous branch of the so-called Mormon church, she was with him, and also united with that church. In that faith she lived; in it she died, undeviatingly devoted and faithful.
The life of this rare woman was passed in a remarkable period of our Nation's history. The same firmness and independence, love of right and hatred of wrong, which characterized her sister, Mrs. Wasson, and others of her family, also characterized her. From her own statement, if her husband was a polygamist she did not know it. She was not taught plural marriage, either before or after she united with the church in 1830. She knew of no such tenet in connection with the published faith of the body she was religiously associated with. If Joseph Smith ever had or claimed to have had a revelation from God authorizing the practice, she was not informed of it; and she stated positively and frequently during her lifetime that she neither saw nor heard such a document read during
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her husband's lifetime. After Smith's death and the succession of Brigham Young to the leadership of the church, Mrs. Smith steadily and positively opposed, not only the dogma and practice of polygamy, but Mr. Young's rule as well. She was never a convert to plural marriage or spiritual wifery, but always, from her innate womanly qualities, vigorously opposed to it. She was trusted by Mr. Smith in every station to which his work or station called him, and she always proved herself equal to the situation.
She was patient and just with her children, reared her four sons to manhood, to honor and revere her name, and to bear the cross she bore so long, and to represent her in her opposition to the evil wrought to her husband's life by the introduction of false doctrines, productive of the evil with which the Nation has wrestled in Utah. She had the courage of her convictions, she hated tyranny and oppression, and her sons inherited from her the same spirit. Patiently she bore what she could not avoid or correct, fully believing in the law of compensation, and waiting until He who can, will make the evil give place to the good, the wrong to that which is right.
Her advice to her son Joseph, on his leaving home to study law with Hon. Judge William Kellogg, at Canton, Illinois, is the key to her character and the steadfast policy of her life. Handing him a Bible, she said to him: "My son, I have no charge to you as to what your religion shall be. I give you this book with this admonition; make it the man of your counsel; live every day as if it were to be the last, and you will have no need to fear what your future shall be."
In 1840 Reuben Bridgeman and wife. Cynthia (Dort) Bridgeman, and children arrived here from Bainbridge, Alleghany County, New York, and located a claim about one mile north of this city. After land came into market Mr. Bridgeman bought several eighties and when his four sons, Curtis, Lewis, Edgar and Otis, became of age he presented each of them with a farm. Their daughters were Sally and Emily. Mr. and Mrs. Bridgeman were honorable people and always willing to lend the helping hand to their neighbors. They have long since passed to their reward, Mr. Bridgeman dying in 1866, Mrs. Bridgeman in 1871. Their son Otis was one of the first from here to enlist in the Union army. He was a member of Co. C., 12th Illinois Infantry, and was a brave soldier; but was taken sick while in the service and came home to die. The only member of the family living here now is Curtis T. Bridgeman, who resides on his farm south of the city.
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Jacob Doan, with wife and six children, came here in 1840 or 1841 from Ohio. They came by way of the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, taking a steamboat at Cincinnati. The boat was named "Old Detroit." They had a very pleasant journey which lasted about two weeks, the weather being warm and comfortable; but when they landed at Peru, Illinois, it was so cold that they nearly froze making the trip across the country to Palestine Grove. Mr. Doan soon bought the house which John and William Church had already built on the place now owned and occupied by Ira Smith. Here they lived for a number of years; then they moved to Rocky Ford and kept a store and hotel, but at last moved back on a part of the old farm, where they lived with their son David until after Mr. Doan's death. Mrs. Doan and her son David and family now live in Louisiana.
Mr. James Daley, one of Amboy's oldest citizens, was born in Ireland in 1818. When nineteen years of age he emigrated to America. In the spring of 1841 he married Miss Ellen Prindle of Ottawa. Soon afterwards he came to Amboy and worked for several months on the old Illinois Central R. R. He received not a cent for his labor and the five hundred dollars which he loaned one of the contractors is due him to this" day. Mr. Daley was left without anything. He next worked for Thomas Fessenden two months at fifty cents a day. In the spring of 1842 he moved to the Wasson farm, where he remained nearly three years. In 1845 Mr. Daley settled on the farm where he now resides; and through a life of economy and fair dealing he has amassed a competency. Mr. and Mrs. Daley are quiet, kind, excellent people who command the respect of all who know them. (Since this was written Mrs. Daley has died.)
Rev. John Cross, a Presbyterian minister, lived at Temperance Hill and named the place Theoka, but for some reason it has outlived that name. Mr. Cross was a warm advocate for human freedom, a friend and fellow worker with Owen Lovejoy, and was imprisoned at Ottawa for his services as conductor on "the under-ground railroad." He made no secret of his work. He posted bills in Mr. Bliss's bar room side by side with Frink and Walker's stage route advertisement: -- "Free ride on the Underground Railroad, and signed his name "John Cross, Proprietor." He had a pair of horses, one cream colored and the other bay, with which
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he took his passengers, who were flying from slavery to freedom, often going through from here to Chicago in a day, sometimes having as 'many as four passengers. Palestine Grove being but about forty miles from the Mississippi River, it was easily reached by those who were sheltered and directed by other friends of the slave, who often helped them on their way to this point. These under-ground depots were stationed all along the way from "Dixie's Land" and the station-agents were in communication with each other. There was another station at Aurora. There were young lads who used to hear and take note of all these proceedings, who, when they grew to manhood, buckled on their armor and fought valiantly for the Union, and for that Freedom of which our starry flag is the ensign.
In 1841 Martin Eastwood left his borne in Alleghany County, New York, when a young man with his wife and one child, nine months old, to seek his fortune in the west. They came all the way in wagons. A man named Munger, with his wife, agreed to drive one team through, but stopping in Michigan with relatives they were persuaded to remain, and Mrs. Eastwood was thus obliged to drive in his stead, the rest of the journey. The two wagons were covered and contained their household goods. Three chests were made to fit inside the wagons. They crossed the Illinois River below La Salle, and came north to Inlet Grove, stopping a few days with David Tripp. At that small place there was one store kept by Mr. Haskell. From there they went to Temperance Hill and stopped with Mr. Hannum's family, who were living in a sod house at that time. After remaining there a few weeks, Mr. Eastwood commenced western life by breaking the sod for a living. He built a house which could be moved from place to place by the ox team, and he, with Mrs. Eastwood and child, lived in it; changing their locality when the work of breaking prairies was done for the last employer; his oxen, with which he had done the work moving them, his wife and child living in the house at the same time. This was the way he supported his family for a while. After a few years he was able to buy a tract of land, paying $1.25 an acre for it. He built a house 14x28 feet, with two rooms. The posts were set in the ground and boards nailed on them. At this time there was but one house between them and Dixon. That was occupied by Levi Lewis. Mr. Farwell's farm comprised the track of land where Amboy now is. They did their trading at Grand Detour.
Mr. Eastwood succeeded in raising a crop, but his only way of realizing
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any money from it, was to take it to Chicago, and that was easier said than done. The roads were not in as good condition then as now, and a great many times they mired down in the slough. One man could not ventured go alone, as it was often necessary to unload the wagon, and take two teams to draw it from the slough. After all this hard labor and privation, which required so much time, they would sometimes return with nothing, their expenses having exceeded the amount received for their produce, although having taken provision with them from home, which they hoped would be sufficient for the trip; as places where it was possible to secure a lunch were few and far between.
One day when Mrs. Eastwood was alone with the children, she discovered that a drove of cattle that was herding on the prairie, had broken down the fence and was in the corn. At first she knew not what to do. She could not take both the children with her; but, equal to the emergency, she soon found a way. Tying the little boy firmly to the bed post so that she would know where he was, she took the youngest in her arms and went a mile to the boundary of the farm and drove the cattle out of the corn and then repaired the fence as best she could to save the crops which her husband had toiled so hard to raise. At another time she left her little boy alone playing on the floor for a short time while she was engaged with her work. She returned just in time to see a snake crawling on the floor, and the little one reaching out his hand to take it, thinking it a pretty plaything. Mr. Eastwood lived on this farm twenty-one years, after which he moved to Whiteside County, and from there to Kansas. He and his wife were both living when last heard from.
Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Cyrus (Davis) Farwell moved to this place in May, 1841, and bought a claim of 160 acres of Mr. Sawyer for $100. His farm embraced all south of Division street as far as the river, and as far east as the brook which crosses Main street, east and west to the bridge on West Main street, extending over all the ground on which the railroad buildings are now located.
This farm house was a log cabin situated where Mr. Zeek's house now stands, on the corner of Main street and Adams avenue. It was the one owned by Mr. Sawyer, removed from the head of Dutcher's pond to that place.
Mr. Farwell planted the cotton wood trees which now shade Main street on each side, past the Congregationalist church, in 1847. In 1852 Mr. Farwell sold his farm to H. B. Judkins, who bought it for the Illinois Central R. R. Co. He then purchased the farm now owned by Mrs. A. H. Wooster, where he lived till the weight of advancing years caused
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him to sell his farm and move to town. He owned and occupied the property now improved by Dr. Travers.
Mr. Farwell built Farwell Hall, which was used for religious services, schools, place for polling, public hall, etc., etc. He was a public spirited and useful citizen, foremost in every good work. He was an anti-slavery man when it was unpopular to be so; was for temperance and the reforms of the day, and occupied many places of honor and usefulness in the town.
Mrs. Farwell was very active and capable. "She looked well to the ways of her household and ate not the bread of idleness." In 1875 her husband died, and after spending some time in her daughter's family she went to a son's in Colorado, where she died. She expressed a great desire to be buried by the side of "that dear friend," referring to her husband.
The following is taken from a local paper. "Died. In Amboy, Illinois, March 5, 1875, Mr. Joseph Farwell, aged 85 years.
"The deceased was born in Fitchburg, Mass., May 14, 1790, of the original Puritan stock, which settled throughout the New England States. While a child, his parents moved to Harvard, and at the age of 25 years, he united with the Congregational Church of that place. The aged couple, who have lived so long and happily together, were married in 1819, and they moved to Lowell, Mass., in 1826, where Mr. Farwell united with others in forming the first Congregational Church of that place. In a few years he helped establish the second Congregational Church in Lowell, and again the third church of that order, in all of which he was held in high esteem, and officiated as deacon.
In 1836 the family moved to Amboy, Michigan, where Mr. Farwell aided again in founding the first Congregational Church of that place. In May, 1841, he moved to this place, then Palestine Grove, where he and Mrs. Farwell united with the Lee Center Congregational Church, but in due time they united with Mr. and Mrs. John C, Church, Mr. and Mrs. Blocher, and Dr. Abbott, wife and daughter, in organizing the present Congregational Church of Amboy. Mr. Farwell remained a consistent and influential member of the church until his death. He built the old Farwell Hall, on the west side, near the old U. B. church, and for a long time his church, and nearly all the public meetings were held in that building. At the time Amboy was laid out, he was the owner of the land in the original plot. The Monday before he died was the first election at which he ever failed to vote. Mrs. Farwell was ten years his junior. Their children are Joseph, Cyrena (wife of Deacon Church), Cyrus and
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Brainard, and this is the first death in the family. His last expressions gave evidence of the faith and hope with which he lived. His last sickness was brief, having suffered but a day or two, and retaining his consciousness to the close. His last utterances were about "going home," and 'Glory to God in the Highest.' His funeral last Sabbath was largely attended."
Among those who came at an early day, to what is now, the pleasant town of Amboy, was Mrs. Gyrene Church. In the year 1836, Mr. and Mrs. Farwell, with their three sons and one daughter, then Miss Gyrene Farwell, left their home among the hills of Massachusetts to journey to the far west; settling for a few years in the wilds of Michigan. These few years gave them a severe experience of frontier life, and in 1841 they left a region filled with malaria and ague and finally settled at Palestine Grove, as it was then called. For a time they shared the log house of Cyrus Davis, a brother of Mrs. Farwell.
Those log houses by the way, were a little like the traditional omnibus we hear so much about, for they not only could always hold one more, but could take whole families into their elastic embrace. In those days it was comparatively a simple matter to enter a claim, and build a little house, so a short time only, passed, before our friends found themselves in their own home.
In 1842, Miss Farwell was married to John C. Church, familiarly and affectionately known to many, in his later years, as Deacon Church. For years they enjoyed the simple pleasures, and shared the more sober incidents, which always attend life on the frontier. One experience our friend enjoyed, which seldom falls to the lot of people in these days; and that was, assembling with her husband, and four others, at her father's house, on the 27th day of June, 1854, for the purpose of organizing a church. It was the first religious society, and was the first church formed in the town. It must have been a great pleasure, to see from this small beginning, a church grow and prosper so wonderfully, and become such a power for good.
The most conspicuous trait in our friend's character, was her intense love of home. She was in all respects a most devoted mother.
The society of the gay world had little attraction for her; and when sorrow came to her, as it does to all, and she saw, one after another, her little children go away to the better land, she did not murmur or complain. To her friends, she was ever loyal, and those In sickness or sorrow
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knew the kindness of her heart, and the largess of her hand. What higher honor can we pay her memory, than to quote a few words from the great Solomon, in his beautiful tribute to woman. "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her," and, "Her children shall arise up and call her blessed."
The following interesting letter from Mrs. Lucy (Church) Ramsey, written to her niece, Miss Ella Church of this city, has just been handed in.
MY DEAR ELLA: -- You ask me to contribute something to the early history of Amboy, and I will try now.
This is the third time I have been solicited for items for the Lee County History and I have just begun to realize that I am a pioneer woman myself.
We came from central New York to Lee County in the Fall of 1841, and my first Illinois winter was spent near where Amboy now is, teaching their first school -- and boarding 'round -- so had unlimited opportunities for observation.
Where Amboy and adjoining towns now are was called at that time Palestine Grove, and different places referred to as "North Side," "South Side," or "East End of the Grove."
A majority of my patrons were from Ohio, Indiana, or states farther south; but their dwellings and manner of life were quite similar, whether they were emigrants from Carolina or Connecticut.
The houses were built of logs, and most of them had floor of puncheon and roof of shakes.
One side of the room was a huge fireplace, and there all the food was prepared in skillet, kettle or bake oven.
On the opposite side was a bed or two -- the other sleeping places were in the loft overhead.
One night after we had all retired and were asleep, we were awakened by that hoarse, distressed breathing of a child with croup. The father ascended the ladder, brought down the little lad. held him a little while before the fire, there placed him in bed and all was quiet again till morning.
When I enquired what cured him so quickly the answer was: "I took my pocket knife and started the blood a little between the shoulders." I never heard of the remedy before or since, but it was effective that time.
I think in looking backward to fifty years ago, we discover more hardships than we actually realized when we were actors upon that stage.
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But soldiers like to "fight their battles o'er again" and a story loses nothing in the telling.
These people interested me. They were kind, hospitable, and genuine. The men were good husbands and affectionate fathers; the women real home makers. They spun, colored, wove, and fashioned the garments for their families. They toiled, of course, but it was for those they loved, and it could not be called hardship.
Every one likes to do as well as his neighbors, and they never come nearer to it than they do on the frontier.
No time or place is entirely exempt from sickness, and almost every one had to suffer with ague and fever; but cancer, diphtheria, and nervous prostration were unheard of.
Perhaps I ought to tell of that little first school house. It was of the same style of architecture as the homesteads -- its furniture a desk across one side, a few rough benches, and a chair. But the children were just as precious as those of the present day; and for docility and brightness would compare favorably with those of 1893.
I do not suppose the legend of "Academus' Sacred Shade" had any thing to do with the choice of site for this temple of learning, but it was built among the oaks south of the Inlet, and when summer came with its birds, greenery and wild flowers it was very pleasant.
Religious privileges were not wanting. Besides the circuit-rider of the frontier, there was an Episcopal clergyman, a Congregationalist minister, and a Baptist elder settled on farms in the vicinity, who occasionally gave out an appointment to preach; and settlers for miles around came to hear and meet their neighbors. All were neighbors then who lived no more than ten miles away.
Well, those days are remembered with those of [long] ago. May I never lose the memory of them!
Joseph B. Appleton was the oldest child of Joseph and Hannah (Knowlton) Appleton, of Dublin, New Hampshire, and was born March 9, 1819. He was a nephew of Samuel Appleton, of Boston, Massachusetts, one of that city's "merchant princes." Of this noted uncle there is an interesting sketch from which the following is taken for the encouragement of Amboy boys: "A few weeks previous to his death he was heard to say that, before he began the business of a merchant, he worked chopping down trees on one of the lots of land which his father had purchased in Dublin, New Hampshire, and that he then thought of settling upon it. But as it was in the month of June and the weather very hot he was not
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satisfied with that kind of labor, and concluded to procure a living in some other way. Accordingly he left the woods and engaged in trade. The result is well known." From a letter written in his 87th year to the committee of arrangements in response to a letter requesting his personal attendance at the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the settlement of Dublin. New Hampshire, the following is extracted. After expressing regret that age and bodily infirmities compel his absence, he says: "I have always taken an interest in the town of Dublin. In or about the year 1786. I resided there four months, and was engaged, during that time in teaching two different schools, say of two months each, at eight dollars per month. * * * In one district it was arranged for the schoolmaster to live with the family that would board and lodge him the cheapest. Having been informed where I was to board, I set out for my new home on foot, carrying the greater part of my wardrobe on my back, and the remainder tied up in a bandanna handkerchief. On arriving at the place of my destination, I found my host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks ready and apparently glad to see me. They were to receive for my board, lodging and washing sixty-seven cents per week. Their house was made of logs with only one room in it, which served for parlor, kitchen and bedroom. I slept on a trundle-bed, which during the day was wheeled under the large bed, where the master and mistress of the house reposed during the night. Every morning and evening there were family prayers and readings from the Bible, in which I sometimes took an active part. After spending two weeks at Mr. Fairbank's, I removed to Mr. Perry's. He was a good farmer, his wife an excellent house-keeper; and I finished my school term very pleasantly to myself and, I believe, very satisfactorily to my employers. Since that time great improvements have been made in the public schools of Dublin. I am informed that it contains as good schools, and turns out as competent teachers as any town in New Hampshire. In consideration of the "good and healthful condition" of its public schools, and of the "spirit of improvement" which appears to animate those who are engaged in them, I am induced to send to the town of Dublin my check for the sum of one thousand dollars, to be appropriated to educational purposes in such manner as the superintending school committee shall deem expedient." Mr. Appleton sent the following toast: "The Common Schools of Dublin. -- Uncommon in Excellence." This letter was written in 1852 and the school which he taught was in 1786, more than a hundred years ago. When Amboy shall celebrate her centennial, which of our children's children will remember her in this way?
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So Joseph Appleton was not the first one by the name to try pioneer life. He came to Illinois in 1842, stopping at Batavia, New York, and teaching school awhile. He bought land in this place from the Sawyers, remaining little over a year before returning east, and tarrying with his aunt, Mrs. Cyrus Davis, while here. He came to own several hundred acres, a part of his land being the homestead known as the Appleton Place, on Main street, West. He married Miss Abbie H. Hunt, of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, on September 17, 1844, and they started for Illinois the next month. On arriving in Chicago they met Asa B. Searles, with a lumber wagon, who brought them to Palestine Grove. The same fall Mr. Appleton built a log cabin on his farm, and afterwards a good frame house which was destroyed by fire a few years ago.
Samuel E., Isaac J., Abby R. (Mrs. Charles Thayer) who lives at Waverly, Iowa, and Maria N. (Mrs. George Woods), of Canton, Illinois, are their children living. Julia, an infant daughter, died August 17, 1855 and on the 28th of the next month Mr. Appleton died He was one of the most capable, active and prominent citizens of the town.
Mr. Appleton's widow married Dr. T. P. Sleeper, of St. Albans, Maine, and they have two daughters, Anna A. and Emma A.
Our fellow townsman, Samuel E. Appleton, was born September 7th, 1845, served in Co. I, 134th Regiment Illinois Volunteers in the war, doing garrison duty in Missouri and Kentucky. He has, at this writing just been elected town collector by his friends, of which he has and deserves many.
William Rolf reached Amboy in 1842, and a few years afterwards married Mary S. Pyle, a daughter of Samuel Pyle. Mr. and Mrs. Rolf lived in Rocky Ford and for a time the postofflce was in their house. When the mail carrier arrived all the contents of the mail bag would be dumped upon the floor, and the letters and papers which belonged to this office selected from the rest, which were put back into the sack to be assorted in life manner at the next postoffice. Soon after the city of Amboy was laid out Mr. Rolf bought a lot here and built a house, where he lived several years. They now reside in Albany, Illinois.
Rev. John Ingersoll, the father of Robert G., followed Rev. Joseph Gardner, and preached for two years in the Wasson school-house, dividing the time between Amboy, Inlet Grove and Bradford. He, with a daughter and two sons, Clark and Robert, boarded for a time in the family of Asa Searles. He afterwards lived just north of the Chicago
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road and supplemented his meager professional income with the proceeds of farming. He used to speak with reverence and tenderness of the mother of his children who had died previous to his coming to Illinois.
Mr. Ingersoll was a stern Presbyterian of the old school. He is said to have borne a striking resemblance to Gen. Jackson's pictures; and he was a warrior, too, ready to fight Apolyon whenever his Majesty appeared with young or old.
"The Elder" transmitted not his form and features to his jovial son, who was even at that age irresistibly charming to some of his playfellows, so that some boys forgot their work when he was near.
One day, on his way to school with other scholars, there was a place to cross where the water had overflowed the rustic bridge, and there was no way to pass except to wade through the cold and ice-laden water. Little Clara Frisbee was one of the number, and the kind hearted boy took the little girl up and carried her carefully over. Mr. Wheat, the teacher, already at the school-house, was looking from the window and witnessed the gallant service, and when the children arrived he looked at Robert with a roguish smile which would have annoyed some boys, especially as the other scholars joined in the mirth. But Robert, as he dried his wet clothes and warmed himself at the fire, looked as if nobody enjoyed the fun better than he did; and the little maiden, all unconscious of anything droll in the picture from the window, wondered what pleased them so. Robert was, at that time, about fifteen years of age, very "self sustained" and sociable. Years afterwards, when the notoriety of Robert G. Ingersoll first reached Amboy, his old schoolmates here were surprised to learn that it was the veritable Bob of the old log school-house.
One who knew his father well, and had often entertained him, remarked that it was not surprising that Robert swung to the other extreme in matters of a religious nature, for although he was not the boy of whom it was said that his father kept him tied up all day Sunday and made him sing "Thine earthly Sabbaths, Lord, we love," yet Bob's experience was not altogether unlike that boy's.
Mr. Ingersoll owned a horse named Selim which he traded for cattle, the result proving that either the minister or the owner of the cattle was not a judge of horse flesh.
He was a strong advocate for temperance and on one occasion when he was in company with Mr. Sylvester Frisbee, he was invited by an acquaintance to a barn raising. The Elder asked if they were to have whiskey there. On being answered in the affirmative, he replied that he could not attend. Mr. Frisbee followed the example.
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It is related by one who used to attend his meetings, that if any of his hearers arrived late, he would stop, and then begin the sermon again; and that his discourses were rather prolix.
Among those who moved here in 1844, was Orres Adams, of Milford, Otsego county, New York. Mr. Adams was then fifty-two years old, and his wife, Mrs. Mehitable. two years younger.
Himself and wife and their two youngest children, aged eleven and nine years, Henry and Ellen, constituted the family. They lived, for several years, near the Wasson School House, at that time, the center of the settlement. The school house was newly builded, and people came from all directions to attend church. Mr. and Mrs. Adams soon became acquainted with all their neighbors. Rev. Luke Hitchcock, Rev. Mr. Harris, Rev. Charles Cross and other pioneer preachers were callers at their home and were always given a cheerful welcome. Mrs. Adams was one of the early members of the Methodist church and was ever ready to speak a good word for the cause of Christianity. Those who knew Mr. and Mrs. Adams, speak of them as kind neighbors, enjoying the confidence and respect of all. Their married life was nearly three score years and ten. Sixty-seven years they walked together and died at a ripe old age at the home of their son, Henry Adams at Binghamton. Their daughter Ellen who married Jay Andruss, died when about thirty-seven years of age. No kinder woman ever lived.
Mr. J. W. Beresford has kindly consented to furnish some of his recollections of early times. Although a resident of Amboy but 36 years, he came to Illinois with his parents in 1822, at the age of seven years; and it is probable that very few people are living in Northern Illinois who came here at that early date. Mr. Beresford attended the Old Settler's Picnic at Ottawa last fall, and among them all, none except himself could go back farther than 1829; Mr. Beresford being seven years in advance of them. His brother James was one of the number murdered in the historic Indian Creek Massacre.
Mr. Beresford says: Perhaps for a better understanding of what follows, it would be well to describe the part of Illinois referred to, and its inhabitants, as found in the spring of 1822. The vast and beautiful agricultural region of country from Peoria to Chicago, a distance of 160 miles; and from near the Wabash river on the south, to near the Mississippi on the west, there were no permanent white settlements at that time. The land (or most of it) belonged to the Government and was not organized into counties, but was attached to Tazwell county, Peoria being the county
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seat. Over this large scope of country were various tribes of Indians. Among them was the Pottawattomie tribe, peaceable, friendly and well disposed toward the white people. To this tribe it was resolved by the Methodist Episcopal Conference, at one of their annual meetings of the St. Clair Conference, to send a missionary for the purpose of educating and christianizing them. Rev. Jesee Walker, a member of that conference was appointed Missionary, and large contributions and supplies were entrusted to him for this mission.
Two ox teams and wagons, eight or ten cows and calves, a few young cattle and pigs, flour, bacon, corn, buckwheat, potatoes, groceries, clothing, farming tools, carpenter and blacksmith tools, etc., etc., were turned over to Mr. Walker with instructions to establish a mission at or near the mouth of Fox river, or where the Fox river unites with the Illinois, about eighty miles above Peoria, midway between Peoria and Chicago.
To carry out these instructions, a large keel boat was chartered, the supplies put on board, together with the household goods of two families etc. The teams were loaded and driven overland together with the loose stock. The party at this time consisted of Rev. Jesse Walker, Aaron Hawley, wife and two small girls, Pierce Hawley, (brother of Aaron) wife, and daughter Caroline about 16 years old, and two small boys, John and George.
At Peoria they were joined by Robert Beresford and family, consisting of his wife and two small boys named James and John, also a school teacher Allen. Being thus re-enforced, together with four or five hired men, the party proceeded to their place of destination, where they arrived, after many hardships and privations, in the month of June 1822. They were here met by about two hundred Indians, also a white man named Countryman, who had lived with the Indians a long time and who spoke their language fluently, acting as their interpreter. Here we also met Shabbona the head chief of the tribe, who afterwards, in 1832, rendered such valuable service to the settlers by warning them that Black Hawk, with his band of savages, was coming to kill all the settlers in the country. Here the Indians remained and held a Pow-Wow lasting two or three days, and received presents from their white friends.
Every thing was arranged satisfactorily. Some of the men were set to work erecting shanties for shelter for the families, and storage for the contents of the boat. Other men "started breaking team," planted sod corn and potatoes, and sowed buckwheat and turnips, in all about fifteen acres. Others of the party were preparing timber and erecting log cabins on the South side of the Illinois River near the new noted Sulphur
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Spring. When completed they were occupied by one of the Hawley families and the Beresford family.
About this time it was discovered that the place was not on the Reservation, and it was thought best to erect permanent buildings on the East side of Fox River, about fifteen miles up that stream. Here were erected large and comfortable log houses. To this place most of the Mission party moved, and spent the following winter preparing to fence a large farm in the spring; the Hawley and Beresford families remaining in the first houses built.
Here we record the first birth and death of a white child in the country. There was born to Robert and Mary Beresford a daughter, who lived only two or three months, and was buried not far from the cabin.
About this time a few settlers came; -- a Mr. Brown and son settled on the South side of the Illinois River, about one mile above the mouth of the Fox River. Mr. Bailey settled at Bailey's Point, John Ramsey and family, near the cabin first built; also the Pembroke family and a few others settled near these two Mission Stations.
In the fall of 1825 the families of Hawley and Beresford moved to what is now called Holderman's Grove, three miles from Mission Grove. About this time was solemnized the first wedding in the country. A young man, named Williard Scott, frequently going and returning between Chicago and Peoria, and stopping at the Mission, formed the acquaintance of our Mission girl, Caroline Hawley. In due course of time arrangements for a wedding were made; and Williard Scott and his brother Willis, accompanied by a young lady from Chicago, came to the Mission, where Willis and his intended remained while his brother went to Peoria and returned with marriage licenses for all four of the high contracting parties. They were married at the Mission Chapel by our worthy Missionary, Rev. Jesse Walker.
A short time before this marriage, a young chief offered Mr. Hawley ten ponies and a large amount of furs for his daughter Caroline. To this proposal the young lady demurred, her father informing the savage that it was not the custom, and it was contrary to the religion of the whites to sell their daughters for wives.
Late in the autumn of 1829 three families from Ohio, viz., John Green, R. Debolt and Henry Baumbach settled at and near where the town of Dayton is now located. During the following two years, other families from the same place in Ohio, came and settled near the first comers in Dayton. Some of their names we will enumerate. Win. Stratton.
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Mathias Trumbo, Mrs. Pitzer and sons, the Govens, the Donovans, the Armstrongs and Doctor David Walker and family, two sons and three daughters -- all grown persons.
From these points settlements spread in all directions; some on Rock River, Desplaines, DuPage and Fox River and their tributaries.
Shortly after this the country was organized into counties; elections were held, county officers elected and courts of record established. This brings us up to the spring of 1832, when the Black Hawk War broke out. Settlers Scattered all over the country, heeding the warning given by our friend Shabbona and his sons at the risk of their own lives. The settlers had barely time to gather at a central location, build fortifications and organize for mutual protection before Black Hawk was on the war-path in full force. The first outrage was the massacre of the Davises, Halls and the Pettegrew families on Indian Creek, on the 20th day of May, when thirteen men, women and children were butchered. Two of the Hall girls, young ladies, were taken captive. A month later, near this place, James Beresford was killed and two men named Schermerhorn and Hasseltine on Fox River were killed. The history of the Black Hawk War is so familiar to many that, the outrages committed need not be repeated here.
David Searles and wife moved from Otsego County, New York, to Lee County in 1844 and located in Crombie Lane on the farm now owned by Hiram Bates. His family consisted of his wife, Eliza Ann, daughter of Mr. Orres Adams, and daughter Eugenia. Mr. Searles was a prominent citizen and considered quite wealthy for those days. When land first came into market, many settlers were not able to pay for their claims, and they came to him for assistance. He held the office of Constable and afterwards Justice of the Peace. When township organization was adopted, he represented Amboy as its first Supervisor. About 1850 he bought out the dry goods and grocery store of Wasson & Crocker at Binghampton. Soon afterwards he was appointed postmaster; the office was kept in the store. Mr. Searles died in May 29th, 1857, and his wife followed him the next year, January 12, 1858. Mrs. Searles was blessed with an amiable disposition and she had the spirit of a true Christian. She spoke ill of no one. Eugenia Searles, the daughter, now Mrs. Booth, resides in Chicago.
Addison Brewer was married to Miss Maria Adams, daughter of Mr. Orres and Mrs. Mehitable Adams, in Milford, Otsego County, New York, in 1844, and arrived here in the spring of 1845. He bought the 160 acres
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in Section 12, which is now owned by Mr. Josiah Little. Henry Adams, who drove breaking plow fur Mr. Brewer, bare-footed, says that the killing of a rattlesnake was almost a daily occurrence. Mr. Brewer was the first town collector of Amboy. His widow is now the wife of T.D. Yocum and resides in Amboy. Of her hospitable home and generous traits, her friends are not weary of telling. Her only son, Harlan L. Brewer, enlisted, when only sixteen years of age, in the 12th Illinois Infantry and served through the war. He now resides in Rock Falls.
Mrs. Yocum can tell of many of the hardships of pioneer life and of the kindly ministrations of the pioneers to each other which brightened the dark days, when both herself and husband were sick, yet obliged to work, he fainting away over the wood he was sawing.
J. Henry Adams, son of Mr. Orres and Mrs. Mehitable Adams, came here with his parents in 1844, at the age of eleven years. He worked on the farm and attended school, improving such educational advantages as he had at that time. He lived near the Wasson school house, which was a central location then. Mr. Adams relates, from his great memory, pleasing incidents of "Uncle Ben Wasson" and others. Robert G. Ingersoll, then a neighbor, was a playmate, who, with his father, then a preacher here, is elsewhere mentioned in these sketches. Mr. Adams has always remained in Amboy, taking care of his parents, who lived to a good old age. He married Miss Catherine M. Crafts of New York, formerly a teacher, and who is a relative of the present Speaker of the House by that name at Springfield, Illinois.
Although living on his farm a short distance from this city, Mr. Adams finds time to "follow the bent of his genius." and engage, more or less, in work for the press of Lee County, with which he has been connected in different ways for many years. He was correspondent for the Dixon Telegraph six years, and was three years local editor with Wm. H, Haskell. He, with Wm. M. Geddes, established The Amboy News, and they continued together in its publication five years. He was associated one year with Capt. Wm. Parker, of the Rock Falls News. Mr. Adams sold out his interest to W. M. Geddes; was afterwards local editor for Dr. Loomis. Perhaps no man in town has a more extensive acquaintance, both from his long residence here and from his public duties, which have brought him in contact with many. His kind and genial disposition, making him ever ready to confer a favor, has won him many friends. In the collection of reminiscences for these days, he has been of the greatest service, and has placed the descendants of the pioneers, and all who may
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treasure these records of the past in after years, under perpetual obligation, much being preserved which, but for his untiring assistance, must have been lost beyond recall.
A fellow laborer and friend, Mr. William Keho, of the Journal Office, pays him this tribute:
"As a general man upon a country weekly and as a newsgatherer, Mr. Adams had but few equals and no superiors. With an experience of eighteen years, a wide acquaintance, and possessing that peculiar faculty of separating the wheat from the chaff, he is able, at all times, to present the news to his readers in a bright, crisp manner. He has been associated with different papers as correspondent, served for years as local editor upon the Amboy Journal and Amboy News, at one time owning a half interest in the latter; at no time posing as a bright star in the literary field, still, his quiet, unassuming ways have won for him hosts of friends who are grateful for the words of consolation and solace to the bereaved, encouragement to the disheartened, and the well wishes to those starting afresh with brightened prospects. He is gifted with a wonderful memory, and having lived during a period when matters of local historical importance transpired, he possesses a wealth of information which should be recorded and placed to his credit, that generations to come may know the true worth of the man whose presence we now enjoy."
It was a matter of general regret when Mr. Adams closed his regular work with the News and Journal, and readers and subscribers for those papers felt that they had met with a personal loss. His gentle companion seems always imbued with the same unassuming desire for being useful to every one, and is ever interested in Mr. Adam's pursuits. The refining influence of her presence is evident in her home and family. She has set her life to his "Like perfect music unto noble words." Their children are Lulu, Leo M., Jessie, Kate and Harry.
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Levi, the oldest son, left four children; Joseph, a minister of the U. B. church, and Reuben, and two daughters, Phila A. (Mrs. Peter Maine) and Mrs. M. L. Virgil. All settled in Amboy and are still living.
Nathaniel's children were Mary, Julia Ann, Addison, Zebulon, Louisa, Ira, Anthony, Milinda and Sarah. This family left Amboy.
Timothy P. had one son, Charles, and two daughters, Lurena and Eliza.
Joseph married Miss Rachel Cargill, of Cheshire county, New Hampshire, and came here from Pennsylvania in 1845 with five children, all of whom are now dead. Their names were Gaylord J., James C., John, Andrew J. and Electa Jane. Joseph Ellis was born in Amboy.
Hiel had Ira W. (now Circuit Clerk), Orin, Percy Irwin and Dayton, and one daughter who married Win. Dresser.
Miles had two sons and three daughters: Everett and Robert, Alice. Alpha and Elizabeth.
Sarah married Sabin Trowbridge and lived in Lee Center. She had two daughters and one son. He starved in Andersonville prison.
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Ann married Austin B. Trowbridge and had five children.
Lurena married Augustus Trowbridge.
Olive married A. G. Skinner and had children.
It would require far more space than we have here to record the bravery and patriotism of the descendants of Nathaniel Lewis. There were twelve of them in the Union army at one time. Three died in Andersonville prison, none of them knowing the presence of the others. Three sons of Joseph, brothers of our post master, J. E. Lewis, gave up their young lives to their country. Their mother, Mrs. Rachel Lewis, now living here with her son, J. E., still mentally gifted though eighty-seven years of age, has related some of the events of her pioneer life which are treasured in this article. Could the reader have heard the stately, noble looking old lady relate her pioneer history with the beautiful, kindly smile, as if it was but a dream which she was telling for the pleasure of her hearers, the contrast between that and these written pages would make them dim indeed; for the wondrous smile told of the dissolving toils of earth and the sweet peace beyond.
They with their five children, Timothy P. and family, Miles and family and their sister Elizabeth -- Mrs. Hezekiah McKune -- and family, and two young men, came together from Pennsylvania to Illinois. They had constructed a flat-boat and on this they all took passage up the Delaware River to Binghampton, New York, where they sold the boat and came by canal to Buffalo, and from there by steamboat to Chicago. They reached Chicago Saturday night, and Sunday morning employees from the different public houses flocked to the boat to secure the passengers. "The Great Western" hotel had just been completed and to this our company came. Here from the window of her room Mrs. Lewis looked out upon a vast and seemingly unlimited prairie, with scarcely an object in view. With her little daughter, Electa, brought all the long way in her arms, she remained at the hotel, taking care of her own and the other children, while other members of the party were preparing for the toilsome journey in the ox-carts and wagons across the country to Palestine Grove. After the usual fashion of camping out by night and alternately riding and walking by clay, they at last reached the Inlet where they met John Dexter, who, having recently lost his wife, offered them the use of his cabin until they could be otherwise provided for; himself and children still remaining there. They were soon stricken with fever and ague, which no one seemed to think at all alarming, though they suffered greatly from it. Everyone had it, and seemed to take it as a matter of course.
In the fall they moved to a house which stood vacant, on the Chicago
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road, just beyond the house built some years ago by Captain Pratt, and on the opposite side of the road. Some of the family were carried on beds, some could hardly sit up through the long, hard ride, so it was a cheerless and difficult "moving." But they found very kind neighbors, and Mrs. Lewis says she doesn't know how they could have lived through the winter, had it not been for them -- Mrs. Davis, a daughter of the man who owned the place, the family of Solomon Parker, who lived on the Peru road, and Mr. Campbell, then sheriff, who lived on what is still called the "Campbell Place," just beyond the North - Western railroad crossing on the Chicago road. His wife and daughter came almost every day to see them, prepare food and try to make them comfortable. Sometimes only one of the family would be able to be out of bed, and not infrequently, they could only creep out of bed, fix the fire, or make a kettle of hasty-pudding, and get back again, weak and shivering.
Dr. Gardner lived near, and his visits gave them hope, and he was welcomed with joy. Sometimes Mrs. Gardner visited them, carrying broth or gruel, or helping to make the beds and sweep. One time Gaylord cried because he " couldn't eat any more "of her gruel " it was so good." Any one who ever had the ague, would know the fierce hunger that follows the chill and the burning fever, and appreciate the child's tears.
There was no water within a half a mile, and the little boys had to go between chills to get it. This was no light task in that long, cold winter, and they finally rigged up a sled, or broad, boat-like arrangement on which they could draw a barrel. To this they hitched a young steer, borrowed of a neighbor. The frisky team made then a good deal of trouble, and cost them some tears and trials, with runaways and upsets, but they persevered, and succeeded at last in getting a good supply of water with comparatively small labor.
While the family were all sick, and in the coldest of that long-to-be-remembered "hard winter," the baby died; the only little daughter, Electa (for whom her little niece, the daughter of James Lewis and his wife, Lucy Burnham Lewis, was named, many years after). The father was very dangerously sick, the mother hardly able to sit up. The daughter of a neighbor, Miss Hankerson, came in, just as the dear little girl lay dying, took her in her arms and held her till all was over. Then she gently robed the little body for its last rest and laid it in the upper drawer of the old fashioned bureau. A Mr. Ferguson made the little coffin of plain wood, without paint or stain or covering of cloth, and Mrs. Lewis says: "I shall never forget how I felt to see my baby laid in that cold, hard box." Only one boy, Gaylord, was able to sit up during the simple
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funeral services. The father lay unconscious, and it was six months before any one of them could visit the spot where the baby was buried.
Then, the spring had come. They had spent nine months at South Dixon, had passed through experiences which forever after leave a different light on all the world, and with sadness and in gladness they returned to Amboy and located on the farm which had been vacated by James Doan. Here they still found many of the "hardships of pioneer life" yet they were prospered and beloved. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis were members of the Methodist Episcopal church, he being steward, trustee and class leader, sometimes holding all the offices at one time.
The oldest son, Gaylord, whose youthful ambition was aroused with the cry of "Ho for California!" followed the example of Josiah Davis, James Doan, Benjamin Wasson and son, and others from this vicinity, and went from here in company with two others with ox teams. He passed through "hair-breadth 'scapes," but reached there in safety and did well. He was not a miner, but captain of a supply train, riding his white mule at the head of a line of pack-mules, the six days' rough journey from San Francisco to the mines. Those were hard, rough times, but he wrote cheerfully, and hoped to help his parents a great deal. In August he had seven hundred dollars ready to send them, when he went to San Francisco the next time, but he spoke of Indian trouble with some apprehension. That was the last they ever heard from him; though after a long time they learned that a large company were killed by the Indians in a canyon, and they feared that he might have been one of the number. Hope was abandoned by all but his mother, whe says: "He was nineteen years old then, he would have been fifty-nine now, and all these years I have lived in suspense, hoping against hope, that I might, at least, learn his fate."
Then came the cruel war, and when President Lincoln's call for 75,000 men reached Amboy, and the Lewis boys heard the summons, and enlisted, their parents gave them up like the Spartans of old; and there is something now in the stately mien of that widowed and aged mother, that makes one doubt not that she would not hesitate, yet, to sacrifice those dearer then her own life, in a sacred cause. James C. volunteered in Company I, 89th Illinois Volunteers, was wounded May 9, 1864, and died at Chattanooga, July 23d. John enlisted in Company G, 39th Illinois Volunteers, (Yates Phalanx) August 20, 1861, served under McClellan, and Shields, and in January, 1863, came home to die within the year, November 29, 1864, from disease contracted by exposure in the army. Andrew J. enlisted in Company G, (Yates' Phalanx), August 2, 1861, and
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died at Foley Island, Charleston harbor, July 4, 1863. The only son, or child, left was too young to go.
On January 15, 1882, the aged couple celebrated their golden wedding, and that day was the last that Mr. Lewis was able to walk out. He died a few months later, in the early spring.
Only for lack of time and space many interesting reminiscences for this work might be gathered from this pioneer mother whose memory is remarkable. Her little granddaughter, who resembles her, said to-day: "The bureau that grandma's little girl was laid out in, is up in her room now."
With tender reverence we leave her, surrounded by her loved ones, and the mementoes of those gone before.
May a rich "Harvest Gathering of the Heart" await her in the Beautiful Land.
A. D. Smith was born in Ithaca, New York, September 11, 1821. In 1843 he came to Lee Center intending to practice medicine, but as the people of those early days were more ready to invest their all in land in lieu of pills and powders, he joined the mass and purchased a great amount of land. In 1854, despairing of a railroad, he sold out for a pittance and returned east. The next year the railroad was laid out, and land rose beyond all precedent. In March, 1855, he was married at the residence of his brother, Dr. N. W. Smith, of Wilmington, Vermont, to Harriet W. White, of Erving, Massachusetts. After traveling through Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, he came to New Boston, Illinois, the following October, where he remained for three and a half years. He then came to Lee county, where he resided until his decease, which occurred in Amboy, January 9, 1886, having been crippled, and in. poor health for twenty-five years. In his last, lingering illness, his mind often reverted to the old pioneer friends and the trials they had shared together. When hauling grain to Chicago they would camp out, sleeping under their wagons, as hotel fare would have cost the price of their loads. He and Deacon Jonathan Peterson and Joseph Eddy were the only Republicans in Lee Center and vicinity, to call a caucus, when a gang of roughs attempted to break up the meeting; but he and Mr. Eddy went out and soon restored order among the belligerents. So from small beginnings mighty revolutions are wrought.
Mr. Smith left a wife, five sons and one daughter, his oldest married daughter having preceded him eleven months to the spirit laud. His oldest son, Oren E. settled in Wendell, Kansas, Newman W. on the
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home farm, Fannie Jane married in Chicago, Abram L. in Lee county, George A. resides with his mother in Amboy, John E. E. is a resident of Amboy.
It is not undue commendation to say of Mrs. Smith, who was an educated teacher in New England, that she is one who would justly remind one of the words
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
John H. Gardner came west in 1844, with his wife and three children, from Steuben county, New York, and bought of Ransom Barnes the farm in this township now owned by Sylvester Chamberlin. Mr. Gardner sold it to Isaac Gage and bought where his son John M. now lives in Lee Center. While still a young man he buried his wife, and was left with five children, one an infant, five days old. Mrs. Gardner died November 19, 1849, aged 32 years. He struggled on and in due time secured a reward for his labors and privations in a fine competency, after giving his children many advantages.
The oldest child, Robert M. Gardner, was born August 7, 1839, and died June 26, 1860. John M., the second son, lives on the old homestead in Lee Center. He is a useful and reliable man, well read on all subjects, trusted and depended upon by all who know him; has been supervisor in his town for years -- married Miss Alice L. Clapp. Lucy E. Gardner is a valued resident of Amboy. Nancy E. married Thomas Houghton. They have one daughter, Lucy Emma, educated at Rockford Seminary. Mr. Houghton is freight agent at the Illinois Central railway station, and never fails to look after the interests of the company as if they were his own; is faithful in all his duties, in small as well as in large things. He was a soldier in the late war, and was wounded for life. Emma L. married Henry C. Bond and lives in South Bend, Indiana. Malvina married Henry Maynard and lives in Harvey, Illinois.
Mr. Gardner died September 11, 1871, aged 62 years. He was a singularly straightforward man, owed no man anything and "his word was as good as his bond." His children are proud of his memory. He would be proud of his children were he living.
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It is impossible to make as extended mention as the subject deserves of Martin Wright, one of the early settlers of what is now Amboy township but so near Lee Center that his interests have always been more closely connected with the latter place. Mr. Wright was a typical New Englander, firm in principle, upright in life, and unflinching in adherence to duty. We have not been able to learn at what time he came west, but know that he was one of those who aided in establishing the Congregational church, and the Academy in Lee Center, being one of the first, if not the very first of its Trustees. His first wife was a daughter of Deacon Ransom Barnes, and died in the summer of 1860, leaving a daughter, Helen, now the wife of Curtis C. Hale and residing in Iowa. His second wife was Miss Eliza Clapp and she survives him. His pleasant home was swept away by the terrible tornado of 1860, but he rebuilt on the same spot, and lived there until his death about ten years since. It is now the home of Mr. Sylvester Clapp.
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Jesse Hale married Mary McKune. Their children were Silas, Julius, Charles, Franklin, Tyler, Robert, Tamar, Anna, Elizabeth and Hester. Mrs. Hale was the beloved "Aunt Polly Hale" of all the neighbors far and near; the friend in sickness and sorrow as well as in joy, and a devoted wife and mother. She brought the seeds of flowers and herbs from her old home and shared them with her friends, and made the herbs useful to the suffering pioneers. Three of her sons gave their lives to their country. Frank, lieutenant in the 12th Illinois, was killed at Corinth. Tyler, a captain in the same regiment, was killed at Fort Donelson. Capt. Robert, of the 75th Illinois, was killed in July, 1865, while on duty for a sick officer whose place he volunteered to fill. Elizabeth, the only surviving daughter, who lives in Missouri, is remembered still by her old neighbors with gratitude and affection.
Alva married Clara Rouse and lived in Sublette. Children: Oliver, Jesse, William, Stalira, Lydia, Betsy and Eunice. Two sons were in the army -- viz., William, sergeant in Co. C., 13th Illinois Volunteers, and Jesse in 89th Illinois. William served several years and was wounded. He is well known in Amboy, is a prominent member of the Episcopal Church, a kind neighbor, and has been, for many years, a faithful and efficient conductor on the I. C. R. R.
Mr. Alva Hale died April 18th, 1882 -- his wife the 11th of January, 1880. He was a genial man and never sick until the sickness preceding his death. He possessed remarkable energy in his old age. Sept. 30th, 1871, he, with his brother David, started for Missouri to visit a brother.
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On returning, David proceeded to Nauvoo to visit his sister Emma, while Alva came directly home. Arriving at Mendota and the train for Sublette not being due, he started home with satchel and gun, walking all the distance without apparent fatigue.
There were three brothers and three sisters of the Hale family living in this vicinity, all greatly respected. Alva, Jesse and David Hale, and Mrs. Benjamin Wasson, Mrs. Morse and Mrs. Joseph Smith; the latter not a resident of Lee county. The following extract from an article written by Mr. David Hale, and published in one of the Amboy papers, May, 1876, is worthy of preservation.
I, David Hale, was born March 6, 1794, in what is now Oakland, on the Great Bend of the Susquehanna River, near where the Susquehanna depot is now built, on the New York railroad, Susquehanna county, Pa. First settler, my father, Isaac Hale, with my Uncle Nathaniel Lewis and their wives emigrated from Vermont to Pennsylvania in 1790.
I joined the Methodist Episcopal church at the age of seventeen years. I was enrolled in the Pennsylvania malitia at the age of eighteen. In 1812 I was a drafted malitia man; in 1814 joined Col. Daniel Montgomery's regiment that was ordered to march and defend Baltimore; but we met an express with orders for Col. Montgomery to discharge his men, which he did; peace soon followed.
In 1823, I married Rhoda Skinner; my age twenty-nine years and hers nineteen. We had two sons and three daughters. We moved to Lee county, Illinois, in 1847. During the summer of 1847 we lived with brother Jesse Hale, in the Temperance Hill settlement, where we found Uncle Nathaniel Lewis and wife (who emigrated with my father and mother from Vermont to Pennsylvania in 1790), with all his family except Nathaniel C., who came after awhile, viz: Six sons and six daughters: while my father's family numbered six sons and four daughters. Brother Alva Hale was here with his family of three sons and four daughters. My wife's brother, Alpheus G. Skinner, was there with his family of three sons and three daughters. Between Temperance Hill and Rocky Ford lived Francis Northway and family and Elder Joseph Gardner and family: next Reuben Bridgman and family; next Curtis Bridgman and family; next John C. Church and family; next Cyrus Davis and family; next Joseph Farwell and family; next Joel Davis and family; next Joseph Appleton and family; next Shelburn; Frederick R. Dutcher and family, with Widow Hook and her sons, John and Aaron and their families. On the Crombie Lane lived Lyman Bixby, Wilder Crombie, Samuel Bixby, David
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Searles, Moses Crombie; west of the lane lived Orres Adams; Lorenzo Wasson's farm, a quarter of a section; west of this Benjamin Wasson, father of Lorenzo, owned a quarter section with good house and barn and the land well improved. At Binghampton I found two old acquaintances, Col. Badger and Asa B. Searles, for over fifty years ago we were pilots on the Susquehanna River. At Inlet lived Esquire Haskell, who kept a store and the postoffice. East of Palestine Grove lived Dr. R. F. Adams and C. F. Ingals, well known in the time of the Grove Association for the protection of claims. But after awhile this passed away and the township organizations came tip, of which some abler pen than mine may or can write.
Had Mr. Hale passed on one mile further west he would have mentioned Mr. Seth Holmes, Mr. Elijah Hill and Mr. Warren Hill, all excellent citizens who, with their families, were a benefit to the town.
Mr. Holmes had seven children, Mary Jane, wife of Cyrus Bridgman, Demmis H., wife of Henry Cushing, Isaac A., James W., Warren H., Almira and Jacob C.
James W. was one of the first volunteers in Co. I, 46th Illinois Regiment. He fought at Donelson and Shiloh, was in the siege of Corinth and the battle of Hatchie and the siege of Vicksburg, where he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was discharged Dec. 1863 on account of his wound, leaving a noble record as a gallant defender of the flag of our Union. All the children but Isaac, James, Jacob and Mrs. Cushing have joined their parents on the other shore. Mr. and Mrs. Warren Hill, and Mr. Elijah Hill have also passed away.
Mr. Moses Crombie was born in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, in 1804, was married to Miss Louisa Morse, a native of the same state, in 1828, and moved to Lee County in 1837. While living here he was one of those engaged in work on the first plows manufactured in Lee County. His home was where Mr. William Acker now lives, his brother, Wilder Crombie, living on the same road, which ever since has borne the name of Crombie Lane. Mr. and Mrs. Crombie were useful citizens, and their memory will live as the generations pass away. Mrs. Crombie opened a school in her house before any school house was built, and "was like a mother" to her pupils, who remember her with affection. Among her scholars were Roxy Wasson (afterwards Mrs. Simon Badger), Warren Wasson, Lewis Bridgman, Sally Bridgman, Emily Bridgman, Sarah and Rowena Badger, Mary and Clara Frisbee, her own sons, Thaddeus and John, and two little girls, Delilah and Rhoda (last name forgotten.)
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The little Frisbee girls were carried to school every Monday morning and sent for Friday night. Mrs. Frisbee sent with them a basket of roast chicken, doughnuts, pies, etc., and they sat at the table with the family through the week, exchanging the good things of life and partaking of Mrs. Crombie's warm food with her children. Mrs. Clara (Frisbee) Davis speaks now with enthusiasm of Mrs. Crombie's motherly care; of the kindness, friendship, and hospitality among the people; of the good they were ever doing each other without money, if not always without price.
Mrs. Crombie taught every useful thing to her little flock, not neglecting knitting and sewing. Among the books used were Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, Olney's Geography, History of the United States, Common Arithmetic and Grammar. But few as charming reminiscences have been related as those of Mrs. Crombie's home school for her own and her neighbor's children, before "the first log school house" was built in 1839.
At this same home, on July 5th, 1843, the first religious society here was organized, called "The Congregational Church of Palestine Grove." Mr. Crombie was chosen one of the deacons. The first minister was Rev. John Morrell, the second Rev. John Ingersoll, father of Robert G., the third Rev. Joseph Gardner.
Samuel L. Pyle came to Amboy from New Jersey in 1845, and bought of the government 160 acres of land in the western part of the township. A son-in-law, P. Battles, now owns the place. "The Wood Hotel" painted on a sign in front of Mr. Pyle's house, brought to his door many farmers who stopped with him on their way to and from LaSalle, where they went to market their produce.
Through Mrs. Pyle's efforts a Sunday School was opened at her home, where, during the summer months, children received religious instruction. Mrs. Pyle was a most estimable woman. There was a large family of boys and girls, all highly respected, who married, one after another, and moved away. The old couple spent their latter days in the city of Amboy.
Samuel Bixby came here in 1844 from Hornby, New York, and was 44 years old. His bell-crowned white hat and dialect proclaimed the genuine Yankee. He was born and reared in Vermont. He purchased a claim of Rev. Joseph Gardner and is still living on it, his house being on Crombie Lane, while Mr. Gardner's was on another part of this farm.
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Mr. and Mrs. Bixby were excellent people. They had four children. When they first came they united with the Baptist Church and be is now the only living representative of that early association. His house was the stopping place for pioneer ministers and they were always given good cheer. His first wife, who was familiarly known to the neighbors as "Aunt Lucretia," died many years ago, but her good influence still lives. Mr. Bixby is enjoying his ripe old age in the society of his second wife, who was formerly Mrs. Elijah Hill.
Lyman Bixby came the same year.
Mrs. McKune gives us the following story of her pioneer experiences, which, written by one nearly eighty-two years old, is a veritable "old settler's story." She says:
"My husband, Hezekiah McKune, with myself and four children, left our native home in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, June 10th, 1845. We came to Binghampton, New York; from there we took passage on a canal boat for Utica, thence to Buffalo, from there by steamer to Chicago, where we were met by a man by the name of Peterson from Palestine Grove, our place of destination, in this country.
"Mr. Peterson had two yoke of oxen and a wagon. We had four wagons, and purchased a pair of oxen, and after four days travel we reached our home, which we bad traded for. It was a log house with lean-to and attic, which we reached by climbing on pegs driven into the wall. We could count stars through the roof; sometimes as many as twenty at a time.
"On our trip I sometimes got tired of riding, and would walk until a rattlesnake would buzz across my path, then I would take my place in the wagon again. I saw one rattlesnake crawl through the floor of our house, it was a small one and I killed the intruder.
"We had the usual amount of sickness and privation incident to a new country. Three times we took families in to live with us, of from three to six in number, who stayed as many months apiece. We entertained ministers, travelers and tramps, and as we were on the road from Dixon to Peru it was a convenient stopping place. I recollect several of those early settlers who used to call at our house; among the most noteworthy were Dr. Gardner and Rev. DeWolf, as they were hauling onions and other produce to Peru.
"We had no great trouble with wolves, although when Mr. McKune was returning one evening from helping a neighbor butcher, they came
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so close to him he could hear them breathe and snap, but he hung on to the liver he was carrying, and reached home safely with no further trouble.
"I am now in my eighty-second year and have survived my entire family except one, my only daughter, Mrs. Thayer."
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testify, a most estimable, judicious woman; indeed of all the typical pioneer women of the early settlement 'round about Amboy township there was no more compendious, representative woman, whose own personal history was almost the history of the region itself, than Mrs. Benjamin Wasson; and I personally know she was good. She was a joyful presence at the bridal, an angel of mercy at the bedside of the dying. There was no trouble within her range, she was not ready as far as possible to alleviate."
_____Frank Northway and family came here in 1844 from Steuben county, New York, and took up a claim two miles north of Amboy. His house stood in the track of the cyclone of 1861 and was torn to pieces, his family almost miraculously escaping death. Some years ago the family moved to Chicago, where Mr. Northway died at a good old age. His wife and daughters still reside there.
Some of the good people of "Inlet" joined in the celebration with ready heart and willing hands, rendering such aid as to insure success. Dr. Welch, then a young man of enthusiasm and great executive ability, did much to make it what it was -- a most satisfactory and delightful occasion. The people met in the Wasson School House, where, after religious exercises and music, Rev. James Brewer delivered the oration.
The choir was made up of Dr. Welch, Rev. James and Deacon Ira Brewer, Mrs. Brewer, Mrs. Welch, Miss Pratt and Misses Sarah and Rowena Badger -- Deacon Farwell adding the music of his violin.
Mr. Brewer, in his address, dwelt upon the advantages and beneficent working of our government as established by ourselves to satisfy the demands of our circumstances and needs as a people. He compared the heavy burdens of taxation and labor resting on the populations of other and what were considered the most favored people of other lands; of the shameless extravagance of wealthy and titled classes, as witnessed by the
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suffering poor of those lands, etc., with the freedom and the comparatively happy condition of the people of this land. Deacon Farwell, as one of a committee, asked it for publication, but Mr. Brewer modestly declined the honor.
The choir sang "with spirit and with the understanding" "The breaking waves dashed high," "My country, 'tis of thee," and the following hymn to the tune of Dort:
Firm may she ever stand
Through storm and night;
When, the wild tempests rave,
Ruler of wind and wave.
Do Thou our country save
By Thy great might.
For her our prayers shall rise
To God above the skies ;
On Him we wait.
Thou, who art ever nigh,
Guarding with watchful eye.
To Thee aloud we cry
God save the state!"
A bountiful and delicious dinner had been prepared, to be served in a charming spot under the shade of large trees on the banks of Green River, near the Binghampton bridge and Plow factory. All the ladies in the vicinity had been notified, ''and many, like the Badgers and Wassons, were paragon caterers and cooks." Mrs. Welch and her sister, Mrs. Haskell, roasted a pig, too large to go in an ordinary stove oven, so each roasted a half, titling each half skillfully together when served. Dr. Welch contributed a large quantity of delicious peas. Mrs. Jonathan Peterson, the champion biscuit maker, furnished biscuits, butter, and honey, and others furnished chickens and various other dainties. The tables were spread with the cleanest and whitest of table cloths brought from the family stores of New England, New York and Pennsylvania.
Grace was asked by a Free Will Baptist minister, Mr. Chamberlain, of Inlet. Mr. Warren Badger was toast-master. Squire Haskell's toast is the only one remembered -- "The spirit of '76! It has kept well for seventy-two years; and is good proof yet, thank God! and please Him it will preserve its strength and purity untold ages yet to come! "
Dr. Welch pronounced the speeches, toasts and responses equal to any he had ever heard in Buffalo, New York, his eastern home, and the dinner a sumptuous banquet.
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Rev. Jas. Brewer writes: "We were independent of Oranges Groves or Oyster beds. Our ice cream was in its liquid state, as it always had been. We were in Palestine, yet near to Paradise, and feeling almost as independent as certain ones we read of when they were there. We were a family gathered from the north, south and east, and were at the extreme west. Not one of us but might boast of the fact that he had by labor earned what he had, and was using, and that he coveted no advantage over others which was not justly his own. Each of us saw in every other a brother and a friend. I would go farther to attend another like it than any I have attended for many a year.
"It has done me good to turn my thoughts for this little while to the 'long ago' of my own life and the lives of so many others in your vicinity who were blessed and a blessing while living there, some of whom dear friends, may God bless them ever! still remain, while others have passed into the skies."
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It is with deep regret that we bring this imperfect sketch of the pioneer women of Amboy to a close, having left so many of the most beautiful lives unmentioned. We leave them with the unfaltering belief that an angels' hand has recorded every gentle deed of every earnest, loving women, whose life may often to herself and to others, appear to have been too much obscured; whose lot in life may have seemed to be cast in a place for which Heaven had riot designed rt. but who will find as the shadows of earth flee away, that she had never been forsaken even "for a small moment, and that through the furnace, one had walked beside her "whose form was like the Son of God."
How many of those sweet women who found it impossible to "realize their ideal" have idealized their "real," and like gentle, stately Deborah Ingals, who prepared and served, in the rude cabin, from a puncheon table with puncheon stools for seats, a repast which was a foretaste of Heaven's banqueting to her loving brothers, and like the aroma of Paradise in their memories for more than fifty years afterwards, have dispensed hospitality with refinement, and cultivated the most beautiful graces of womanhood, as truly and effectually as can be given now amid the rich supplies and the formalities and fashions of later years. The
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self-respect, and the giving of reverence due to others, the gentle courtesies and kindly acts between fellow-mortals are not dependant for their loveliness upon the latest fashion and the silver plate. The more simple the more heavenly. That "Heaven lies about us in our infancy'' is not more true of individuals than of settlements and townships and nations. The ox-cart for a chariot, the dry goods box or the crockery crate for a sleigh, holds more smiling and happy, loving faces than the thousand dollar coupe or the escutcheoned brougham. "We are but children of a larger growth" and like the boy astride a stick for a prancing steed, and the little girl with a row of corn cobs for her Sunday school class, imagination has greater room for play, and contentment is more sure than when the ideal is realized in the things that man or woman can form, It is from such facts that we learn to know indeed that "The beings of the mind are not of clay," that nothing of earth can satisfy the soul.
One of the first settlers in this vicinity, of whom it may almost be said his "eye is not dim nor his natural force abated," although more than seventy-six years have rolled over his head, says: "The women of those early day were usually sensible, plain, industrious, economical and uncomplaining. Their family cares and daily duties appeared to be their continual recreation. Domestic happiness was the rule. Conjugal divorce was unthought of. 'Is marriage a failure' none but a lunatic would inquire about. In those days the aid of every member was essential to family success. The people were too poor to afford war with their friends. If happiness, as many claim, is the only human good, how does the case now stand? The human family have more wisdom, but some ask, "Is it not folly to be wise." In those days labor and capital had no controversy. Acquisitiveness is the lion faculty of our age. Why will sensible people be so foolish?
Assemblies of the people enacted local civil laws, 'Vox populi, Vox Dei' (The voice of the people is the voice of God), being the controlling spirit. It was enacted that all the controversies might be submitted to a board of three men regularly elected annually, from whose verdict there was but one appeal, viz: To the People assembled in Grove meetings. Thus the time, expense and annoyance of the Maw's delays' so much in vogue today were all avoided. The salary of this unpretentious court was voted to be $1.00 each per day. Justice and equity were, in those days, more highly esteemed than technicalities of statutes or even common law. In cases of assault where both men appeared to be in fault, it has been known that both plaintiff and defendant were fined alike, with popular approval."
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For eighteen years the settlement made small progress, and good wild land was still to be obtained at $1.25 per acre. Then came, in 1854, the Illinois Central railroad which gave business and emigration an impetus which has continued with more or less activity until the present time.
As late as 1857 there was scarcely a farm south and west of the city fenced in, and one could drive miles west from Amboy with not a house in view, save two or three against the distant horizon, like ships far out at sea, A pocket compass is treasured now, the size of a watch, which was used in those days by a physician to find the most direct bearing toward some settlers' houses to be visited. No tree or fence or stone was to be seen, only wagon tracks in every direction; and the howling of wolves was no unusual sound on winter nights out on the prairie.
In summer the vast expanse of "living green," the loneliness and silence, as the traveler rode over the plain, all combined to awaken a sense of sublimity kindred to that aroused by the grandeur of the ocean. Then, after the long, still ride in the sunshine and wind, the grazing cattle, and the tinkling bells of flocks and herds would herald the human habitation. Will any one who has heard them in the first great despair of homesickness, ever forget the sound of those tinkling bells as their strange music fell upon the listening ear; when the bright sunshine and peaceful herds were so discordant with the sad harpings within the soul? But homesickness is not incurable.
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In writing a sketch of this particular part of God's heritage we have drawn largely upon the memories of the oldest settlers, their sons and daughters, for stories which contain all the fascination of personal experience and personal encounter.
We have striven for accuracy in dates and locality, without which history is but driftwood in the tide of events. In our search for ancient landmarks we hope not to be so entirely surpassed as was a certain English gentleman who was boasting to a Yankee that they had a book in the British museum which was owned by Cicero. "Oh, that's nothing,'' retorted the Yankee, "in the museum in Bosting, they've got the lead pencil that Noah used to check off the animals that went into the ark.'
When our grandparents raked the ashes over the glowing coals upon their hearthstones, and retired to dream of the sons who had gone to the new country to make for themselves a home, they could not then realize what a garland, of honor already encircled their heads, or what a sceptre of power awaited their hands, for we hold that he who makes the opportunity of discovery possible to another, himself refraining from the gratification thereof, justly deserves the conqueror's meed. All honor then to those who "remained by the stuff" and kept the hearthstone warm and bright for those on the frontier.
It is with pleasure that we present the name and face of Mrs. Adolphus Bliss to the readers of this sketch. She was ninety-three years of age on Valentine's day, the 14th of February, 1893. She. with her husband, settled in what is Lee Center township today, in May, 1834 -- the first white woman in the present township and the second white woman in the county. Here she lived one year before she had a neighbor nearer than Dixon. Our informant, her son, Mr. Volney Bliss, says "We have
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lived in three counties without moving," referring to the three names, Jo Davies, Ogle and Lee, which have been given this county.
Near Mr. Bliss' home two hundred red men were in camp, awaiting payment and the repairing of their guns before their westward march. John Fosdick was a blacksmith and gunsmith and was 'employed by the government to repair their guns. These Indians were peaceably inclined, but nevertheless they must have struck terror to the hearts of many a woman by appearing in the most unexpected manner. One of the early settlers, Mrs. Ira Brewer, was sitting alone in her log cabin one day when suddenly the window was darkened and looking up she saw Indian faces crowded so thickly together that the light was entirely obscured. Another one, Mrs. Lewis Clapp, was frying doughnuts in her kitchen when a number of Indians with their chief walked in and ranged themselves around the wall. The woman did not scream, she greeted them with a calm exterior, finished frying her cakes -- I imagine it did not take long -- and then proceeded to pass them. But the chief relieved her of this hospitality by deliberately emptying the entire pan full into his blanket.
These first settlers realized another's need as their own, and protected or respected the rights of each other at the peril of life sometimes. Of course there were exceptions to the rule, where individuals allowed the desire for possession to rule them, else, the need of an association for the adjustment of claims, called "The Grove Association," would have been unnecessary. Mr. Ira Brewer kindly furnished me with the original documents of this association. We handled the worn and yellowed papers with exceeding care, for they embodied the very nucleus round which our laws enwrap themselves.
Dated, Inlet, Ogle Co., Ill., July 10, 1837. We read the following preamble.
"The encouragement which Congress gave to the pioneers of this country stimulated the present inhabitants to sacrifice property and case and commence a long and fatiguing journey in order to better themselves and their offspring; not only the fatigue of a long and expensive journey, but the privations to which they were exposed in consequence of the scarcity of the comforts of life and the exposure to the inclemency of the weather in an open log cabin. Everything considered, we think it no more than right, just and honorable that each man should hold a reasonable claim, and at the land sales obtain his lands at Congress' price.
Therefore, We, the subscribers, feel willing to come under any rules and regulations that are warranted by honor and principle in regard to our honest claims.
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"Therefore, We establish a few rules and regulations whereby we may be governed on principles of equity."
This preamble is followed by seven Articles whereby the society should be governed, and a long list of names, some of them almost illegible.
A few years later an "Association for the Furtherance of the Cause of Justice," was organized. We note a "cast iron constitution," including instructions to a "Committee of Vigilance." which makes it evident these were perilous times in the history of the county. In the spring of 1836, the first sermon was preached by Peter Cartwright, "the backwoods preacher," at Mr. Dewey's house. A Methodist preacher in those days when he felt that God had called him to preach, instead of hunting up a college, or Biblical Institute, hunted up a hardy pony and some traveling apparatus, and with his library always at hand, namely: the Bible, Hymn Book and Discipline, he started, and with a text that never wore out nor grew stale he cried "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." In this way he went through storms of wind, hail, snow and rain; plunged through swamps, swam swollen streams, lay out all night, wet, weary and hungry, held his horse by the bridle all night or tied him to a limb, slept with his saddle blanket for a bed, his saddle for a pillow, and his old big coat or blanket, if he had any, for a covering. Often he slept in dirty cabins, on earthen floors before the fire; drank butter-milk for coffee, or sage tea for Imperial, partook with hearty zest of deer or bear meat, or wild turkey, for breakfast, dinner and supper, if he could get it. This was old fashioned Methodist preacher fare and fortune, so says Peter Cartwright himself.
During the summer of '36 there was occasional preaching in Inlet, and the first Methodist class was organized with John Fosdick leader. In the spring of 1837 Mr. David Tripp and family, also his brother-in-law, Orange Webster, settled in Inlet. Mr. Tripp was the first Baptist in the town, and soon the first Baptist minister with the name of ____Hetler followed. Then one ____ Turtillock and these two came occasionally and preached in Mr. Tripp's house, until Mr. Tripp built a new barn. This was dedicated with a protracted meeting in which a large number were converted. The Baptist church was organized with Mr. Webster as deacon and Mr. Tripp clerk. They held meetings regularly at Mr. Tripp's place until a school house was built near the Dewey mill. The "circuit rider" for this district would come from the east and go west, taking about two weeks to complete his circuit. He was a young married man by the name of Smith. His stopping place in Inlet was at Mr. Dewey's. Here he was taken ill, and lived but a few days -- there was
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no physician in Lee county then. On the night of his death two families arrived from New York and took up their abode in the Tripp house. Mr. Birdsall, who came in the fall of '37, occupied a room in the Tripp house and his sons-in-law, Rev. Luke Hitchcock and Oscar F. Ayres, found shelter under the same hospitable roof; so the Rev. Luke Hitchcock preached the first funeral sermon in the town of Lee Center over the remains of this young circuit rider. He was buried near Mr. Darius Sawyer's present home where a stone still marks his grave.
One can imagine how gladly a regularly licensed physician would be welcomed in a community where sickness and death had made inroads, and when Dr. R. F. Adams arrived in 1837 to stay the people breathed more freely. Then came a physician by the name of Hubbard -- but only for a year, and Dr. Welch, now of Galesburg, followed Dr. Charles Gardner came at an early date and was held in high esteem throughout the county. The story is told that on the night of the arrival of Dr. Gardner and the Rev. D'Wolf at the Tripp house, there was quite a stir in the family, for professional gentlemen were much needed on these prairies. The guess was passed from one to another as to which was the "Rev." and which the "Dr." The unanimous decision was in favor of Dr. Gardner as the Reverend. When the truth was known a general laugh ensued in which the newly arrived joined as heartily as any. The first building occupied for a store stood on the ground where David Tripp's Grout-house stood, then the building was sold to Mr. George Haskell, who moved it nearer to Inlet creek, where it stood several years, when it was moved to the town of Lee Center and occupied for some years by Joseph Gary. The pioneer teacher was Miss Ann Chamberlin who in the summer of '36 occupied a room in Mr. Adolphus Bliss' house for that purpose. After this a log school house was built near Mr. Bliss house in which Mr. Olis Timothy taught. This gentleman is now living at Franklin Grove and from the pen of his wife we learn that Mr T. taught nearly three months in the winter of '37-38. That he boarded round, receiving $15 per month, having 20 or 25 pupils in attendance.
In gathering items in regard to the early school teachers, we find that the first were invariably women.
All honor to her who led the van in educational interests; with what cost of trial and patience and soul weariness, none can estimate.
Among the name of old settlers we find the name of Mr. Roswell Streeter, and from the pen of his son, A. G. Streeter, we have the following: "My father made a claim on the land on which Lee Center is situated in the year 1833. In the following year we moved from Allegheny
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county, New York, to near the claim and built a log house in the edge of Inlet Grove, where we found some protection from the winter storms. I was then 13 years old and the eldest of seven boys. Father improved the claim of 160 acres, and in after years when the government survey had been made, and the land offered for sale at the land office in Dixon, he entered the same. Later on father sold that part on which Lee Center now stands, and gate a portion more, (the amount I do not remember) for the erection and maintenance of an academy. One or two years before these transactions I had left Lee Center for Galesburg, where I had been told there was a Normal labor school or college where a young man could wont his way through without money. I found that the labor department was not in working order, in fact it never was. On arriving in Galesburg I had thirteen dollars, and this with willing hands backed by strength, energy and a determined will to succeed, was all I had. It was enough, for I was ready to do whatever I could find to do. So I set up the business of making shingles with a froe and drawing knife. The bolts, shingle length, were sawn off the tree; with froe and maul, split to the proper thickness, then with shaving knife cut 'down to the proper taper. Many and many a day I fixed my school books up before me to get my lessons while at work.
I well remember the first school house and the time it was built in the old Inlet Grove. It was in the edge of the timber, and pretty well hidden from view by a hazel thicket on Mr. Bliss' land. Geo. E. Haskell teacher. T'was made of logs, cracks chinked and filled with mud, floor of split logs, fire place on one side, chimney outside made of rough stone, and split logs for seats. We lived a mile away, through the grove part way. We had to cross a small creek on the way with no bridge. Whenever the creek was over the banks, I would pull off shoes and wade through, then on to school, holding my book before me to make up for lost time. For Mr. Haskell had promised the one who "left off head" the most times during the term, fifty cents. I attended school two winter quarters before leaving for Galesburg. In 1849 I drove an ox team in company with others to California, remained there in the mines eighteen months. After that took two droves of cattle to California to market. In 1855 I returned and bought land near where I now live and settled down to farming and stock raising."
Mr. Streeter has been successful in business, at the same time has kept posted in the affairs of the general government and of the state, he has served in four sessions of the state legislature, both house and senate. Has been candidate for congress, governor and president on a minority ticket.
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"A typical old sett'er,'' who proves to be Mr. Charles Ingals, came to Lee Center in 1836. He was a Yankee, born among the New England hills, upon a farm settled and tilled by four generations of ancestors. After the death of their parents, half a dozen brothers and sisters of the family went west, although the traditional advice to do so had not then been published. The subject of our sketch lived more than fifty years, on the territory which he selected for a home, called at that time Palestine Grove, Ogle county, but now Lee Center, Lee county. Mr. Ingals who modestly speaks of himself in the third person, says: "The young man located, and without experience, council or cash, borrowed an ax, and the long fought battle of the prairies began. A cabin home was erected in two weeks, without the sound of a hammer or sight of a nail, that did good service for ten years. That cabin was made especially pleasant for two years through the efficiency and kindness of a well-beloved sister. A marriage alliance was then negotiated and solemnized without any undue nonsense and the bride and groom began a novel wedding journey of which an account is given by Mrs. Ingals a few pages farther on.
In those early times transportation and team work was done mostly by oxen.
As winter approached (the first winter north) these cattle became home-sick and strayed, often going south, to their former homes among the stock fields and corn cribs of Egypt -- they having been brought from Southern Illinois. One morning our "typical old settler" found the last hoof of stock he owned was gone! No cow was left to furnish milk, no ox to haul fuel. The owner pursued on foot and was gone six weeks before reaching home again with those indispensable animals. The ground was thickly covered with snow, prairies bleak, and the weather intensely cold. Today it seems strange that a man would foot it 500 miles under such circumstances for a few head of cattle. The reason was simple and plain -- he had to have 'em. His family, knowing nothing of his whereabouts welcomed him as one from the dead.
Mr. Ingals in speaking of his chase after his cattle, reminds us of a story told by one of the old settlers concerning another.
"I was eating breakfast when I heard a man calling from the street. It proved to be Squire Robinson, from Melugin's Grove and he was inquiring if we had seen any cattle. He had missed them when he first went out in the morning, and started without his hat in pursuit, and he continued to pursue until he reached Dixon, still without a hat. I hope someone appreciated his energetic pursuit of knowledge -- no cattle, and presented him with a good, substantial hat.
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Next in order comes a letter from Mrs. C. F. Ingalls giving an account of their wedding tour, of which she says, "It was so pleasant that even then I could have turned about and repeated it with pleasure." We give her story in her own words, and she begins:
"September 6, 1838, I was married and left my native town in Vermont for a new home in Illinois.
"We had a one-horse wagon -- buggies not having come much into use there -- in which were two trunks and some smaller baggage: the trunks were not Saratogas, but contained our wearing apparel. A journey of 1,000 miles lay before us. With constantly new and changing scenery, delightful and invigorating air, the trip was pleasant and enjoyable. Spent one week with friends in Indiana and arrived at our future home October 12. Then commenced the new experience of housekeeping and farm life in a log cabin 13x15 feet inside, with "loft" in which three corners were occupied by beds and one by a ladder (for stairs). Below was a bed, cookstove, cupboard, small sink (or washstand), table, bureau, with chairs and benches needful for a family of six. A sister-in-law, who had been the previous housekeeper, was visiting us with her affianced, who were intending to marry and go east in the spring. In February we were visited by an aunt and her son-in-law from Ottawa. The proposition was made that the wedding should take place at that time. A messenger was dispatched to the county seat for a license and clergyman. High water prevented his reaching the county clerk, so the license could not be procured. Our visitors then proposed that we all return with them and the ceremony be performed at their house. Hasty preparations were made. Flouring mills at Dayton being not far from Ottawa, three or four sacks of wheat were put up to take to have ground or exchanged for flour, and a company of six started. The snow was gone, frost not out of the ground enough to make the roads very soft, and the weather dull. About six miles brought us to the first creek, which was much swollen, and the question arose how it could be crossed. Our friend had a span of large horses which were unhitched, the sacks of grain placed upon their backs and swam across, then rehitched and the party ferried over, somehow, without getting wet. One or two other streams were crossed, after which the aunt proposed changing seats with one of the other party. The lot fell upon myself, and I rode with our visitor. It was probably the middle of the afternoon when he said to the others: "I will leave the road and strike across the prairie, which will be shorter, and get home to tell my wife that she prepare for the company." The others kept the road. The fog soon became so dense that we could see nothing
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at any distance. The wind was an uncertain guide. We rode on and on until night and no indication of any habitation. At length, finding we were only going round and round in a circle we stopped, not knowing which way to go. There was a good moon and though foggy it was not dark. An umbrella protected us from the mist and it was not cold. When morning came we could see where the sun rose, and starting again, found ourselves but a short distance from the road and reached our destination about ten o'clock. The wedding came off the evening of the same day, and the adventure caused much merriment. We returned to our home in a few days. The newly wedded couple (Dr. R. L. Adams and Deborah Ingals) left us in March for Vermont, but returned after a time to Lee County. Our cabin being near the main road north and south we often entertained travelers and had some pleasant experiences in that way. Another incident occurred the next winter. I think in February. One cold stormy afternoon a man came in for help to get a load out of a little creek about two miles distant, where it was stuck fast in trying to cross. My husband asked him to wait until the storm was over and be would help him, to which he readily assented. A friend from Princeton was visiting me at the time and as a natural thing I had tried to have a good supper that evening of chicken and such vegetables as we had. All was on the table and we were about sitting down when a step jarred the puncheon floor, one leg slipped into a large crack, and down went one corner, dishes, supper and all in a heap. Whether anything but dishes was saved I do not remember, but know another meal was cooked. The event had passed out of mind and was recalled years after by a neighbor, who heard the man that stopped for help relate it where she was visiting in another town.
In those early days neighbors had no prescribed bounds, and roads were not fenced, driving eight or ten miles to make a social visit was no uncommon thing. If a minister stopped in the vicinity word was at once sent around, the people would gather at some place and have service. Many enjoyable and profitable meetings were held in different cabins. Time passed, the population increased, also labor and care, which in a measure restricted the old, free intercourse. Schools and churches were established. Young people grew up, married and scattered, some to build homes in other new places, some to the city to enter various avocations of life. Generations have come and gone. The ranks of old settlers are depleted until very few are left to be interested in the great enterprise now absorbing so much attention.
A brother, Dr. Ephraim Ingals, also well known and highly esteemed
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in Lee county, sends us from his beautiful Chicago home, with pictures of himself and wife, the following interesting story of pioneer days.
In the autumn of 1832, my eldest brothers, Henry and Addison, next older than myself, came to Illinois and settled on the Illinois river, near where Chandlersville now stands. Mr. Lincoln surveyed my brother's farm for him. In the spring of 1836 my brother, Charles F. Ingals, took up a claim at the east end of Palestine Grove on the laud where he lived more than fifty years. Addison and Deborah, (our sister) came north with Francis to assist in improving the claim. She stopped near Ottawa, with her uncle, the father of R. E. Goodell, now of Denver, who was to some extent associated with the early history of Lee County, while the brothers went out to build a cabin for their home.
During the two weeks they were building the cabin of logs they lived in a tent made of the cover of their farm wagon, for which their only team was a pair of oxen. When the cabin was inclosed Francis went to Ottawa with this team for Deborah, leaving Addison, then but sixteen years old, at the camp. The only persons he saw during his two days solitude were about seventy Indians who called uninvited while he was at breakfast. They asked for food, of which he had little to give. An Indian trail from Green river east to Chicago passed close by the camp. This could be plainly seen a number of years later when the prairie was burned off, as it stretched away over the ridges towards Melugins Grove. The trail crossed the creek about a mile directly west of the Ingals farm, at what was called the thicket. This was a little fertile bottom on which grew numerous wild plum trees t.hat bore excellent fruit; also crab apples, butternuts, hazelnut, grapes and May-apples. As there were only wild fruits in the country then, these were all highly prized. This had been the site of an Indian camp during the winter of 1835 and '36 and their lodge poles were standing a number of years later. Mr. Ingals built his cabin in a hazel thicket, on the spot where he afterward built his house.
Returning from Ottawa with Deborah he reached the camp in the evening, after a fatiguing day's ride of thirty miles, in a lumber wagon without springs, drawn by a pair of oxen. The cabin was not chinked, and its light of welcome as they approached it shone not from windows, but from between the logs. It had no floor and the stubs from recently cut hazel brush were far from pleasant. As Deborah looked into the cabin, she said -- and in no spirit of irony -- "Francis, what a nice home you have provided for me.'' There was no better housekeeper than she. Her linen and table, however simple they might be, were spotless. The
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beauty and excellence of the first breakfast she prepared, served, though it was on a dry goods box gave memories that the lapse of near three score years has not effaced. Her only neighbors were in the Doan settlement two miles west, Inlet Grove five north, Melugin's Grove seven east and settlers on the Bureau creek ten south. No one then built, except in immediate contact with the timber. The nearest store where a lady could shop was at Dixon, twelve miles away. This however did not much matter, for the simplicity of pioneer life required but little and had it been otherwise there was no money with which to make purchases.
When fourteen years old, in the autumn of 1837, I joined this family, having remained until that time in New England, in the winter of 1837-8 the three brothers and sisters used to attend religious services at the log house of a Mr. Bridgman, which stood just. across the creek west of the thicket, on the present road from Binghampton to Sublette. We went with the oxen and farm wagon with boards across the box for seats, following the Indian trail through the woods. A Mr. Vincent, a relative of an eastern divine of some eminence having the same name, was our preacher. The next place of worship in the vicinity was a small log school house on the east side of the before mentioned creek, which was not of sufficient size to have received a name, a mile north of Mr. Bridgman, and near the "Widow Varners." I think it was called by her name. In this house Luke Hitchcock sometimes preached soon after he came to Illinois. Rev. Joseph Gardner used to hold service there. At one of his meetings he had for an auditor Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Curiosity to hear Smith, induced Mr. Gardner to invite him to close the services with prayer, which he did. After the audience was dismissed, Smith said to Mr. Gardner in an apologetic way, "I was never gifted in prayer."
Smith's wife was a sister of Mrs. Wasson, who lived near where Amboy now is. He came there to visit, and on one occasion was arrested, I presume on some trumped up charge. His brother William, one of the witnesses to the finding of the plates of the Book of Mormon, lived in Palestine Grove, not far from Rocky Ford, and had some followers there. They projected a temple and progressed so far as to lay a corner stone. Smith lived in a very poor way, and seemed much adverse to labor. He went one day and cut some poles from the tops of fallen trees. Going home he fell from the load and broke his arm. I was sent for, but as I was ten miles away it was some time before I reached him and the placing of it in proper dressings gave him considerable pain. During this he suspended his groans long enough to say: "I was never blessed when I
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engaged in manual labor. I think I have another work to perform." That he should think a special providence was punishing him for bringing home a load of wood to keep his family from freezing, caused me to smile, notwithstanding my sympathy for him in his suffering.
Our cabin was built of unhewn logs. It had but one room on the ground and one above which was but two logs high on the sides and but seven feet at the ridgepole. This was reached from the lower room by a ladder. The only implements used in the construction of the cabin were an ax, a froe, auger and a shave. No iron was used in the building and no sawed lumber except for the first floor and one small door through which a man could not walk upright with his hat on. The upper floor was made of rive boards and the roof of the same, held in place by weight-poles. Our furniture consisted of an improvised table, the legs of which crossed like those of a saw-horse, boards being nailed over the top. We had but two chairs. One of these had a splint bottom, and the other, from which this was gone, had been replaced by a board. We made other seats by putting legs in puncheons about four inches thick and four feet long. These we cushioned by nailing coon skins around them. They had no backs and I need not say they were very uncomfortable.
The chairs had the place of honor, and were reserved for ladies and favored guests. The joists on which the upper floor of the house was laid were made of small trees about six inches through at the butt, and as these were green when put in they allowed the floor to sag very much in the middle of the room. The upper floor, as I have said, was made of rive boards laid two deep on the joists, but not nailed. Sometimes they would become displaced so that a leg of the bedstead would drop through, which was enough to awaken even a tired boy. The roof was proof against rain, but snow would blow through it plentifully, giving an ample added covering to the bed in the morning. The house sheltered on an average six persons and we were obliged to lodge travelers, as we were some miles away from any public house.
I remember with much pleasure on one occasion that Owen Lovejoy was snowbound with us two nights and a day, for we lacked all mental stimulus. Our only paper was the Saturday Courier, a weekly, printed in Philadelphia, and only received by regular course of mail when it was about a month old. We had but two books, one the Lady of the Lake, of which I committed a good deal to memory; the other the Bible, which I did not like to read because I did not know how to read it. I have always regretted that I did not improve the opportunity I then had of becoming more familiar than I am with its merits.
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Our farm implements were as rude and imperfect as our cabin and its furnishing. Our harrows were made entirely of wood, the plows did not scour, the hoes were heavy and dull, both cradle and scythe had a homemade, straight snath with a single nib. We thrashed our grain by arranging the bundles in a circle on the ground, the heads all leaning the same way, and then driving both oxen and horses against them on the circle, one person constantly tossing up the straw with a fork, while another drove the animals. We sometimes separated the wheat from the chaff by passing it through the wind. A common expression of excellence then was the "head of the heap." There were no mechanics near. I have tapped my boots from the skirts of a worn out saddle, using last and pegs that we had made. Wheat threshed in this manner was apt to be damp and dirty. I once took a load of it to Meek's mill to be ground. This was a log building two stories high. It was near the road from Princeton to Dixon that passed by the toll-gate at the head of the Winnebago swamp from which Green river takes its rise. Arrived at the mill after a tedious drive of ten miles or more along the south side of Palestine Grove, a considerable part of the way without a road, I found my wheat was too wet to be ground." I spread it in the sun and stirred it constantly during one bright, hot summer day and then it was ground. The liitle flour obtained from it was very poor, black and heavy. The wheat was ground in the basement and then carried on a man's shoulders to the bolt on the floor above. I asked Mr. Meek how his mill was doing. He answered with a degree of pride, "You can judge; it just keeps one man packing." Being obliged to remain over night, Mr. Meek entertained me with the most hospitable kindness. Our breakfast consisted of mush and milk, and though he had a number of persons in his family the table ware was limited to two tin cups and spoons. Mr. Meek and I were accorded the place of honor and were served alone at the first table. I once went with a sled to Green's mill, which was situated on Fox river near its mouth, in company with Charles Sabin and Sherman L. Hatch, who still lives in Lee County. I left home on Monday morning. While at the mill a violent rain melted all the snow and left water in the depression or the roadway across the high prairie which came to be a matter of great importance to us. It was warm on Friday morning when we set out for home with our sleds on bare ground, but it soon began to snow. It suddenly became cold and we were enveloped in the most severe blizzard I ever encountered. There was no house on the twenty miles of prairie between Green's mill and Troy Grove, where we designed to spend the night. As the water froze in the road on the high prairie
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the wind kept it clear of snow and we could follow it; but in the sloughs it would soon be obliterated by the drifting snow and we would lose it. When we had crossed such a slough we would leave one of our number with the teams while the other two hunted up and down the slough until the road was found again. Had we lost our way I am sure we all would have perished, for the following night was extremely cold. About three miles from Troy Grove the road crossed the head if the Tomahawk creek. This being filled with snow appeared like an ordinary slough and we drove into it. Soon the wet snow banked up in front of the box on the sled and the horses were unable to draw the load. We unhitched our teams and mounting one of the horses ran them to the shelter of the grove. We spent the night at Mr. Dewey's, and the following morning having provided ourselves with axes returned and chopped our sleds out of the ice in which they had become firmly frozen. We reached home on Saturday at midnight, having spent on the expedition six laborious, disagreeable and dangerous days, with results of only a few hundred pounds of poor flour. Not long since I inspected the Pillsbury A. mill at Minneapolis. This has a daily capacity of seven thousand barrels of beautiful flour, nearly the entire labor of producing it being performed by automatic machinery, and I realized the extent to which we had been able to Substitute other forces for muscular power."
We listened to the conversation of Mr. C. L. Sawyer, who remembers away back in 1835 how he lived in his father's log cabin with nothing but a ground floor, and blankets in lieu of doors and windows. "I took a little trip from Galena to Inlet, on foot of course," said he. "It was in the winter and when I left Dixon I knew I should have to travel rapidly to keep from freezing. So I set out on a run and I kept it up pretty steadily for ten miles. I sat down to rest -- I can show you the very knoll on the farm owned by Mr. Chamberlain -- but in a very few minutes I felt sleepy. Rousing myself, for I realized my danger, I started on; but I couldn't run any more, it was difficult to even walk to the first house, and that belonged to Stearn and Reynolds on the farm owned by Mr. Ullrich, Sr. There I remained a few hours, suffering intensely from my exertions. I walked on to Inlet that night and mother was glad to see me. Mother was always glad to see us boys, and I never shall forget how sad she looked when I left home to make my own living. 'Twas the "last time I ever saw her, but I have this to remember, she was always the same kind, patient and amiable mother. She died when she was only forty-five years old, leaving a family of twelve children, and she was the first woman buried in the cemetery. The world knows nothing about the
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heroism of such women." Thus the son whose hair had whitened under the frosts of three-quarters of a century paid loving tribute to the mother whose form was hidden by the prairie sods more than fifty years ago.
"Shall I tell you how I was cured of an attack of pleurisy without either physician or pills? I had taken a sudden cold which settled in my side. I knew by the hard pain that something must be done, and of course that something was to bleed me. I had a neighbor that had performed this operation successfully for others, so I walked down to see him; he lived three-quarters of a mile away, but that's nothing when you want help hard. Luckily he was at home and I told him what I wanted, 'All right,' said he, 'Grasp the broomstick and hold it out at arm's length.' Then he bound my arm tightly above the elbow and gave me a bowl to hold under my arm. The incision was made and there I stood holding broom stick and bowl until a faintness nigh unto death crept over me and I called for water. Enough! pain gone, cure performed, and I go home a weaker but a weller man." Mr. Sawyer married Miss Nancy Shumway of Pennsylvania in 1842 and they commenced housekeeping on the last land sold by the government in this township, the deed being signed by James K. Polk, president. On this farm they have lived fifty years long enough to celebrate their golden wedding, which they did in a most hospitable and enjoyable manner. But the desire to be with their children has induced them to sell the farm and remove to Iowa. Two brothers who came at an early day are still on their farms in Lee Center township. Mr. Joseph Sawyer, the father, was the first postmaster in Inlet, under President Jackson. It took 25 cents to get a letter from Pennsylvania then, but the government would trust you until the letter arrived at its destination. We heard from a lady whose friends were many and living in the eastern states that they were not always able to pay the 25 cents due when the letter arrived, and the postmaster would trust them until the postage bill would amount to several dollars, then it would take the price of a calf to pay the bill.
A tavern built of logs and kept by Benjamin Whittaker stood where Mr. Cephas Clapp lived. Mr. Whittaker was a Virginian and built the house now occupied by Mr. Ullrich. Here the old stage coach halted in its tedious journeys between Chicago and Galena.
An old settler's daughter tells us that when her mother first came here, in 1839, Whittaker's "sign" at his tavern was three bottles hung aloft between two poles before his door.
Of the perils of the trip from one part of the country to another in those early days, we can have no more graphic picture than the following
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sketch from the pen of Mrs. S. W. Phelps, long known and loved among the people of Lee Center and vicinity as the wife of the pastor of the Congregational church in that place:
"My earliest reminiscences of Lee county, Illinois, clustering closely about Dixon, date back to 1832. Then a child of eight years, I was the junior member of a traveling party of five, en route from New York City to Galena, Ill., Rev. Aratus Kent, who was returning to the "northwest," his missionary field, with his bride (my aunt), Miss Pierce, a teacher, and Mr. E. E. Hall, a young student in course of preparation for the ministry. The route was via Hudson River to Albany, thence across New York state by Erie Canal to Buffalo, onward by stage to Wheeling, Va., down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi by steamboat, and without detentions required a full month's time.
We had left New York in September, but having been long delayed by cholera among us in Cincinnati, again in St. Louis by other illness, we were unable to leave that city till after the close of navigation on the upper Mississippi, beginning the overland trip of more than 400 miles by stage. Arriving at Springfield, Ill., it was found to the dismay of the older travelers that the mail stage would travel no farther northward before spring After days of search for a good team for sale my uncle bought a stout pair of horses, an emigrant wagon, buffalo robes, and provided with a compass, a large sack of crackers and some dried beef, the best provision for emergencies of hunger which the town afforded, we set forth, soon to leave the "settlements" behind and to pass through a wilderness country made still more desolate by the "Black Hawk war."
Stopping places became more infrequent, till for the later days of the dreary way they were forty miles apart, the blackened ruins of cabins now and then marking the deserted "claims." Roads (more properly called "trails" by the inhabitants) long unused and either overgrown by prairie grass or burned over by autumnal fires, were difficult to follow.
Late in the afternoon of Dec. 13th our wagon halted before a little cabin known as "Daddy Joe's." "Daddy Joe" had espied us from afar, and awaited our approach leaning upon the rail fence, smoking a cob pipe, his rotund figure topped off by a well ventilated straw hat. His son, yet a lad, occupied a post of observation upon a "top rail," his head also sheltered from the wintry winds by a similar structure.
"Winnebago Inlet," known to "early settlers" as a "slough of despond," lay between us and "Dixon's Ferry." our haven of rest for the coming night, and my uncle asked directions to a safe crossing from
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"Daddy Joe." His advice given between long puffs of his pipe was that we should go no farther that "evening." He kindly offered shelter, food and his son as guide in the morning, as he was sure we could not "make the ford" before dark. His assertion that the "old ford" was impassable and that the "trail" to the new was "too blind to folks after night" was assuring, but anxious to push on, my uncle urged the tired horses to a lively pace. The result proved "Daddy Joe" the wiser man. The winter dusk came on all too early, the "old trail" too easily mistaken for the new, and in the uncertain twilight the horses plunged down the steep, slippery bank into the black abyss of the "old ford." The poor beasts floundered breast deep in the icy mush, till just beyond midstream they could go no further. The wagon settled to its bed and the three feminine occupants climbed upon the trunks in the rear end, there to perch for several hours. By desperate struggles an occasional jerk brought us a few inches forward, after each one the wagon again settling into the miry bed. Thus after several hours of exhausting effort the two men were able to leap to the shore from the backs of the horses, bye and bye to land the stronger horse and with his help to pull out his fellow, now hardly able to stand alone. Then, one by one, we were helped along the tongue of the wagon to "terra firma." My aunt, exhausted by fatigue and fright, was lifted to the back of the better horse with a buffalo robe as saddle, her husband leading the horse. Mr. Hull followed coaxing along the other, Miss Pierce and myself bringing up the rear. We started by the light of the now risen moon along the trail in "Indian file" for a walk of three miles to "Dixons Ferry"
I recall distinctly the feelings with which I trudged on in the deep silence of midnight under the glistening stars over the boundless prairie."
The weary march ended at last, twinkling lights greeted our eager eyes and as we quickened our pace the moonbeams revealed a most picturesque, though somewhat startling scene. White tents gleamed and in every direction shouldering campfires showed dusky, blanketed forms crouching or lying prone around them while a few white men in army uniform bearing lanterns moved about with alert step and keen eye. We halted at once,, the ladies greatly alarmed, but the watchers had noted approaching hoof beats and hurried to reassure us, explaining that several thousand Indians were there encamped, for the final settlement of annuities and other matters included in their recent treaty with the government.
A moment later we were made welcome to the warmth and comfort
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of her neat cabin by Mrs. Dixon, who hastened to make ready a hot, relishing supper, a royal feast to our famishing appetites.
Our kind hostess gave up her own soft bed by the cheerful hearth fire to the ladies, tucking me snugly away at the foot to a dreamless sleep, finding a resting place somewhere among her many guests for my uncle and Mr. Hall.
In the gray of the earliest dawn Mr. Dixon and his stalwart sons started out with oxen, chains, and poles to rescue the abandoned "prairie schooner" from the "Inlet Slough," returning with it in triumphal procession a few hours later. Meanwhile, some one had taken me out into the "great tent" among the warrior chiefs, adorned with paint and feathers and earrings, and gorgeous in all the new toggery obtained from the agents. As we passed around the circle, a painted chief caught me up in his arms, seated me on his knee, admired and patted mj red cheeks, calling out "brave squaw, brave squaw," because I did not turn pale and run away in fear.
All preparations for a fresh start were soon completed, and we made haste to leave Lee County soil -- at least so much of it as we were not compelled to carry away upon our belongings. But "getting away" proved no easy matter. The horses had not been consulted. Once at the river's brink our troubles began anew. The ferry was a "rope ferry, "the boat a "flat boat" "poled" across the swift flowing river. The quivering horses, terrified at sight of the water, refused to enter the boat. After long and vain urging they finally made a wild plunge forward which sent the boat spinning from the shore as they sprang upon the boat, dragging the fore wheels of the wagon with them, the hind wheels dropping into the river, almost tossing us into the icy stream. Instantly Mr. Hall was in the shallow water with his "shoulder to the wheel," and somehow, between the efforts of men and horses the whole wagon was got on board. After a halt upon the shore for advice and thanks to our friends; and a changing of the soaked garments for dry ones by the chilled men, their dripping raiment fluttering from various points of the wagon cover, our long ride to the "lead mines" was again resumed.
Upon the foregoing experience my only claim of being an "early settler" of Lee County must be based -- the transient settlement being confined to the few hours spent between the banks of the "Winnebago Inlet."
Twenty years later this pioneer journey came vividly to my thoughts while we waited in Dixon for the wagon from Lee Center, which conveyed us to the welcoming people who soon became "our people," whose welfare
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became the warp into which so many years of our own lives were interwoven, whose sorrows we carried in our hearts, and in whose gladness we were glad -- our affections taking root so deeply among them that the pain of transplanting still lingers with an abiding ache in two hearts now grown more familiar with the minor key in life's experiences, than with the major music of its joys."
There is a story that in those early days four families came here from the east with the few worldly effects which could be stowed in their wagons; 'but there was no home, nothing like home, except the blue sky and the genial sunshine. The mountains were only pictured in memory, and the little fields, outlined by straggling, irregular stumps, over which vines ran rampant all the summer, seemed far away. The prairies were so wide and the winds swept over them unchecked by either rocks or hills. It was all so strange, so new, that the wonder remains to this day why they did not all turn around and go back to their native homes. But the story goes that two families, never having taken their wagon covers off, retraced their steps. The other two remained and went to work with a will; cut and hewed logs and reared their cabins with the energy which characterized the true pioneer. A member of one of these families, Mr. Ralph Ford, relates how he hired out to work on a farm, the first year receiving $7 per month. The next year he was paid $9 and the next $11, showing steady progression.
Mr. Ford tells of a trip he made to Chicago, which in those days consisted of thirty-three frame shanties, standing in the water. He with two other men drove in some hogs, the round trip occupying sixteen days. As corn was plenty and cost only 6 cents per bushel, they fed generously, drove slowly, and at the end of their trip marketed their hogs for 1 1/2 cents per pound. In the spring of '40 Mr. Ford drove a pair of oxen to Chicago. The wagon was loaded with wheat. Many showers and a hot sun caused the wheat to sprout on the way. The grain depot consisted of a floating wharf, or corduroy bridge anchored to the shore, where boats loaded and unloaded their cargo. It cost the man who owned the wheat 20 cents per bushel to get it to Chicago, and he then had to sell it as damaged wheat to a starch factory down the river.
Mr. F. took his turn at driving the old stage coach. A cumbrous vehicle it was, weighing 3300 pounds, and when weighted down with prairie mud and passengers, probably amounted to several pounds more. Four large horses were driven before the coach, from Chicago to Galena, and the passengers paid five cents per mile and had to carry a rail half the time, at that, to pry the stage out of the sloughs it had to pass.
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Starting from the tavern in Lee Center at noon, the driver must occupy his position until 12 o'clock at night: then the next man took it for twelve hours.
Many romantic episodes occurred in the lives of these old settlers, and if we felt at liberty to repeat the stories which we have heard from their lips, it would lend both humor and pathos to these pages. We were desirous of finding who were the parties in the first matrimonial alliance. Mr. Volney Bliss furnished us with the desired information.
In the year 1836, a Mr. Albert Static and Miss Elmira Carpenter were married by Daniel M. Dewey, justice of the peace. "Speaking of weddings," said one of the old settlers, "reminds me of one I attended in those early days. The squire performed the ceremony standing in the open door of the house belonging to the groom. A good many of us had gathered around the door with old tin pans, horns and guns and as soon as the squire stopped talking, we began to deal out music (?) to the newly married couple. Oh, the horrid din! 'Twas the first charivari I ever attended and almost the last. I believe there were two or three more in the neighborhood after that."
The hard labor and isolated lives of our pioneers did not detract from their patriotic zeal.
A lady informant, who attended the Fourth of July celebration in 1842 writes: "I can only remember that it rained during the exercises, which were held in the little school house at Inlet. The rain ceased about the close, but the grass was so wet it was almost decided to eat the dinner we had prepared indoors, instead of marching to the booths where the tables had been improvised. The ladies disliked. the plan of adjourning to the school house, so we took a vote as to where the dinner should be eaten. We unanimously voted to go to the tables. This decision so pleased the gentlemen that they gave us three rousing cheers, and gallantly offered to go out and turn over the grass and shake the water out, so we need not wet our slippers or draggle our skirts. The orator of the day was Dr. R. F. Adams, now of Denver. Mr. Joseph Farwell furnished music with his violin, and Mr. Joseph Sawyer beat the big bass drum."
In 1840 Luke Hitchcock married a couple, who, though they did not come here to live till years after, have always been interested in Lee Center, and Lee Center in them, Mr. and Mrs. Cephas Clapp. Mr. Clapp had come west a year or more before, and when his sister and husband (Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Clapp) went east in 1840 they brought back with them his promised wife, Mildred Snow. They had the pioneer's experience
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in getting here, being "sloughed" and fording Bureau creek when their trunks had to be put on the seats of the wagon, and they themselves to sit like tailors on the other seals to keep dry; but the bride was just as brave and cheerful as she always has been and as ready to bear anything for her loved ones. They were married at Lewis Clapp's and the next Sunday Mrs. Clapp remembers going to meeting in the old, log school house at Inlet in the forenoon, and at Mr. Tripp's barn in the afternoon. Here she met many of the old settlers and formed ties of interest still strong and abiding. She remembers "Uncle Dan Frost" led the singing, and how well he sang; and that Mrs. Dr. Gardner said with tears she "hoped they wouldn't be as homesick as she had been."
Rev. James Brewer, now living at Wheaton, Illinois, expresses his commendation of the work in hand in the following words: "It is surely a very grateful thing that as the history of earth's glacial period has been rescued from oblivion by investigations of the boulders left from its movements, so there are those enough interested in the Genesis of Lee Center's history to take the pains to investigate the old boulders which still lie with striated surfaces along its course, and write out their story of an earlier age."
Mr. Brewer rode on horseback from Montgomery, Ala., to Inlet in the fall of 1843. "I found my way by inquiring for large towns. At Spring field, Ill., I inquired for Peoria, thence I came to Princeton, thence to Greenfield (now Lamoille), thence to Dixon's Ferry. At Green river (Inlet creek) I received the first knowledge of Inlet, the chief town of the Lee Center which was to be." Mr. B. speaks of several private schools in and about Inlet. "In one such Mrs. Sallie P. Starks taught a class of ten pupils, five boys and five girls, from about one year old to near twenty-one years old, and the excellence of her work is manifest in the noble after lives of such as Betsy S. Shaw, Emeline Williamson and Esther M. Chadwick. This woman taught 12 hours a day and all the year round. Several years after his first-coming to Inlet Mr. Brewer occupied the position of principal of the Lee Center academy, and the first bell, "an exceeding sweet and far sounding one," was purchased while he was teaching there.
And now a word about this structure bearing the name of academy. In or near 1846 the question was agitated in regard to the erection of a brick building which would serve as a school building; also as a place for conducting religious services. When Mr. Moses Crombie and wife cast in their lot with the people of Lee Center Mr. Crombie was a carpenter by trade, and took the contract for building the brick part of the old academy.
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When completed it was an imposing structure for those times and indicated the character of those who aided in its erection as true interpreters of the wisdom of knowledge.
It was a grand step forward when in 1853 the stone part of the present edifice was added to accommodate the throng of students knocking at its doors for admission.
In '53 Mr. S. Wright, of Battle Creek, Mich., assumed the reins of government. For the next three years the school was the principal educational center of this and adjoining counties. Many pupils came from other states and almost every home In town sheltered one or more boarders. Mr. Wright would proudly remark, "Yes, this is one of the best, if not the very best school in the northwest." We clip from an old catalogue published during Mr. Wright's reign. "Lee Center Union Academy is pleasantly situated upon one of the most delightful and healthy prairies of the west Lee Center is a small village, free from the contaminating influences that are always associated with depots and larger places: it is also free from saloons and resorts of dissipation that have a tendency to draw the youth from the path of rectitude The school is now permanently established, and one which will afford equal advantages with any academy or seminary in the west. A valuable library is connected with the institution, to which the student can have access by the payment of 25 cents per quarter." The names of seven trustees and five special directors are given, together with a list of six as "Visiting Committee." The board of instructors are assigned to departments in ancient languages, ornamental branches and modern languages, instrumental music, mathematics, and two lectures on physiology and philosophy.
Those were indeed the palmy days of dear old Lee Center pleasant white cottages embowered in trees, shady streets and grassy lawns made it a "faire greene countrie towne." It was the pride and pleasure of the dwellers therein to watch the surprise of relatives from the eastern states when introduced to the social circle there; they found homes of refinement and culture equal to those they knew in New England, daughters as lovely and accomplished and sons as noble and manly as any they had left behind, and they never failed to give it their highest meed of praise by saying, "It was so much like a New England village." Who of the younger "old settlers" will ever forget the time when they gathered about that old academy Lyceums, lectures, donations, traveling entertainments in the academy "chapel."' Or the time before the three pretty churches were built, when there was Congregational service and Sunday school Sunday morning, Episcopal service and Sunday school in the afternoon,
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and Methodist in the evening, with almost the same congregation and children in all three; the greatest difference being that Deacon Crombie and Deacon Barnes gathered the offerings of the congregation in the morning, Dr. Gardner and Mr. Garrett La Forge in the afternoon and two good Methodist brethren in the evening, and that there was a different parson in the desk at each.
Nor did Lee Center and her young people fall behind the rest of the county in the next page of history; for in that old academy chapel were held some of the most stirring "war meetings," and there were enlisted as large and brave a proportion as any town sent. Here, too, the girls gave many an entertainment for the benefit of the old "Sanitary Commission" -- which would not have shamed those of a city even, and sent generous returns to the "boys in blue."
During this time schools were being established in adjoining towns, which of course detracted steadily from the attendance, until at present it ranks as a graded district school. Many of the pupils who have been sheltered beneath its roof are now breasting the current of life in places of honor and distinction. Many, in homes scattered throughout our Union, are fulfilling the promise of their early days --
The youth endeavored, and the man acquired."
The feet of the younger generations tread in and out the old rooms now, the curriculum of study has been simplified, another bell swings in the weather-beaten belfry, the corps of instructors has been narrowed down to two, still the influences of the olden time dwells in the hearts and lives of those who were wont to gather in the old academy, exhorting to truest man and womanhood.
The Congregational church was organized at the home of Mr. Moses Crombie and called the "Congregational Church of Palestine Grove.'' Then we understand worship was conducted until 1849 in what was called the Wasson school house, after which it was moved to Lee Center. Of the organization of the Methodist church we have spoken before and we know that for many years Luke Hitchcock, among the best and best beloved of that communion, was here; that Philo Judson -- afterward a foreign missionary -- preached here, and that good old "Father Penfield" often filled the sacred desk, as well as the early circuit riders mentioned in other papers. The Episcopal church was not a pioneer organization here and gradually retrograded after its founders and chief supporters, Dr. Gardner and Garrett La Forge left the town, until it is opened for service only upon rare occasions.
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We were happy to find snugly pasted in an old scrap-book a letter descriptive of the audience that were wont to worship in the "brick part" of the old academy previous to the building of the churches. The style of the letter suggests that the writer must have been Mrs. James Crombie, who was long a resident of Lee Center, and our literary "star." She evidently arrived by stage in the early hours of a November morning, for she says, "How the winds whistled and penetrated when the stage unloaded its passengers, and the moon looked coldly down upon the Academy, as it stood there alone on the prairie, unenclosed or beautified by tree or shrub. It was well filled that Sabbath morning as we entered, for the Palestine people were over and added largely to the congregation. Mr. and Mrs. Farwell and Brainard, Mr. and Mrs. John C. Church, Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus Davis and some others were present from there. It was before the days of fashion and dress, although Miss Mary Barnes had spent a few weeks in the millinery rooms at LaSalle, and she had added a bright ribbon here and there in trimming some of the bonnets. Mrs. Bodine was spending the winter at Mr. Charles Hitchcock's, from Staten Island, and she had a little of the city airs. Dr. R. F. Adams and wife, Dr. and Mrs. Ingals and Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Clapp were chatting together before service. Deacon Barnes and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Moses Crombie, Mr. Lyman Wheat, Joseph 'ne and George, Mr. and Mrs. Swartout, Ahram and Nelson, Mr. and Mrs. Bradford Church, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Frisbee, Mr. Martin Wright and Helen, Rev. James Brewer, principal of the academy, Miss Harriet Rewey, the primary teacher, Mr. David Smith and his two bright-eyed daughters, Mrs. Bourne and Mrs. Sancer, Mrs. Lee Clapp and Alice, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Bodine and Albert Z. Bodine, Mr. Ira Brewer came with his wagon filled. Uncle Elisha Pratt, Elisha and Sarah were down from Bradford, John Warwick, Sarah (Mrs. John Crombie) and Sabra. Esquire Haskell came in later. There was a weary look on the faces of those who came in the earlier days, telling of trial and care. The path had been hard to travel in opening up the farms and building new homes. The pastor, Rev. S. W. Phelps, was at the desk, and he had a quiet, unobtrusive expression as if shrinking from the duties before him. This is his first pastorate. Mr. Brewer pitches the tunes. Mr. John Wetherbee, the Misses Barnes, Mrs. Henry Frisbee and Mrs. Martin Wright composed the choir." Those of us who read these names realize that the greater number composing this audience have "passed over."
We next give a brief page from the pen of Mr. Phelps, the congregational pastor spoken of above, whose pastorate in Lee Center was longer than that of any other minister of whatever name.
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"I have not been wont to consider myself an old settler of Lee county. I was not so old at my dropping down at Lee Center in 1852, that I escaped the suggestion of being a 'green yankee.'
"As for the 'settle idea,' I was so far from that relation to the prairie that I was never 'settled' at all; but was a sojourner, liable to be hoisted any year.
"Old settlers were there already in their snug, hospitable homes, which timidly hugged the edge of the grove, or venturously dotted the treeless expanse of prairie.
"My memory of Lee Center goes back to a time six years antecedent to '52, even less suggestive of settlement, as the creaking, lumbering mail coach, attempting to wrestle with an athletic stump, discourteously hurling its load of assorted passengers into a squirming heap of humanity, at Inlet. It was a rather unsettling parenthesis in my return from a courtship trip of 1,000 miles, from New York to Galena. Hardly less vivid is the memory of a second excursion, in a 'Frink and Walker' stage from Galena to Dixon supplemented by a hard ride through soft mud, with a deacon (now counted among the faithful departed) to the village and to his tidy home.
"Recollection includes one old settler that warned us (the girl I did not leave behind and myself) by a significant rattle to vacate a wild strawberry patch, and another that darted venom at the intrusive wagon wheel which jolted me and disturbed him at early dawn near Birdsall bridge. Along with these recollections go that of a cramped schoolroom, adorned with meandering stovepipe, and furnished with pedagogic desk for the 'green yankee's' wearying attempts at sermonizing; that of Sunday school, saved from midwinter wreck by three brave Baptist boys (Swartwouts); of Sunday afternoon rides or walks to out stations, through measureless mud or snow, or in the face of a blizzard escaped from the land of the Dakotas.
"But I need not accumulate these reminiscences, but remind you that a farewell sermon finished a sixteen and a half year ministry with expressions of an interest that has never been repealed in the people of my only pastorate."
A sketch from Dr. Ephriam Ingals gave us a very complete description of their cabin home, and of the times when he pioneered in our county Both Dr. Ingals and his brother are now living in Chicago, enjoying the richly-deserved fruit of their labors.
In the fall of 1841 a family arrived from the Knickerbocker state, consisting of Mr. Bradford Church, his wife and three daughters. We have
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a lively remembrance of this couple, so long interested in all that pertained to Lee Center and her people. The lively wit and humor of the one and the quiet geniality of the other endeared them to the people with whom they dwelt nearly fifty years. Mrs. William Ramsey, a daughter, writes: "The next day after our arrival, being Sunday, we all went to church in Palestine. A generous pioneer had kindly thrown open his residence for an assembly room. It was of dimensions most fashionable in those days -- no trouble to have crowded congregations then. The speaker was a Rev. Baptist; I cannot remember his text or subject, just one word of it all remains, i. e.: "Simplify." I think Lee Center had not received its name at this time. Inlet at the bridge was the town, with two saw mills, a store and a few mechanics. Looking back I can see but little of Lee Center except a house with its roof sprouting out of the ground and the school house near the grove. I wish the school house had been left standing until now in its unpretentiousness, rough benches and all. It would be worth a pilgrimage to look at it. But its ministers were neither rough or common. Those I heard there in the winter of '41 were Luke Hitchcock, Philo Judson and John Hogan, local preacher and registrar of land office in Dixon.
"Now I come to your 'We want all we can get about the women and their work.' My dear, do you realize that this refers to the woman of fifty years ago? What can you expect? She had not yet thought of deliverance from the bondage of looking well to the ways of her household. Frances Willard was yet in her infancy and Samantha Allen had not been dreamed of. Some poet has written 'Noble deeds are held in honor, but the wide world sadly needs hearts of patience to unravel this, the worth of common deeds.' Pure religion and neighborly kindness were as dear to woman's heart then as they are now, and I think the dear words, 'she hath done what she could,' will as often be applied to women of that age as this. Just consider for a moment the pioneer woman in the midst of her family, her toil and her care, with six pairs of feet and hands to be protected from the rigors of this, climate -- one slender pair of hands with her knitting needles to accomplish it; not as a business, oh, no! but just by filling up every spare minute 'between jobs. Then they had their neighborly social visits, when the women indulged in pleasant chat and mild gossip, keeping time with their knitting needles, while their 'gude men' without engaged in discussions of political economy, reform, etc. -- and, poor dears, they seemed just as happy as the women of these days. I wonder why some ingenious writer has not taken for his theme 'The rise and fall of knitting work and its effect on
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the republic." A bright little girl friend of mine says she 'can always tell the ladies who know how to knit, because they wear their hair parted in the middle.'"
It is a source of regret that the purpose of our book was not more fully understood, so that we might have had incidents and particulars from the experience of many of them to make our story more complete and more interesting. We have beside those named or referred to in other parts of this sketch the names of "Uncle Russel" Lynn and "Uncle Dan" Frost and to their excellent wives not one word of honor has been given. Dear "Aunt Abbie!" and "Aunt Eulalia!" we pause to linger over their name, yet realize that their quiet unobtrusive lives furnished little for the pen of a historian. But in not a few homes in Lee County, and in distant lands as well, are there those who rise up and call them blessed, whose lives have been consecrated to higher and nobler purposes by their influence and prayers, and eternity only can measure the widening circle of that influence and those prayers. Would 'there were more such mothers! more such women! and with these dear faces comes a throng of others the noble pioneer women of Lee Center who bore bravely and uncomplainingly the "burden and heat of the day" Mrs. Luke Hitchcock, Mrs. Birdsall (her mother), Mrs. Warnick, Mrs. John H. Gardner, and her successor, "Aunt Lydia," and many more whose names, omitted here, are written on high in letters of living light.
We cannot refrain from quoting a closing paragraph from an author who appreciates the heroes of the past: "The pioneer! Who shall fitly tell the story of his life and work! The soldier leads an assault. It lasts but a few minutes. He knows that whether he lives or dies immortality will be his reward. But when the soldier of peace assaults the wilderness no bugle sounds the charge. The frost, the wild beast, malaria, fatigue are the foes that lurk to ambush him, and if against the unequal odds he falls, no volleys are fired above him. The pitiless world merely sponges his name from its slate. Thus he blazes the trail; thus he fells the trees? thus he plants his stakes; thus he faces the hardships and whatever fate awaits him, and his self-contained soul keeps his finger on his lips and no lamentations are heard. Not one in a thousand realizes the texture of the manhood that has been exhausting itself within him. Few comprehend his nature or have any conception of his work.''
ANNA E. WOODBRIDGE.
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He opened a stage house, for he lived on the direct route from Chicago to Dixon, and Chicago was for a time his postoffice.
Just one year after Mr. Bliss came, John Dexter arrived and settled six miles farther west Then they had a neighbor. Mrs. Dexter once walked all the way to Mr. Bliss' after fire. One would think it must have gone out before she could reach home with it. The next year the Ingals family came to the grove. It was really getting quite thickly settled.
One can hardly hear of an old settler now who did not come through "Inlet." Bliss' Stage House has many associations. All the memories that cluster around the old stage coach arrivals with their human burdens and the mails, and the "underground railroad" are gathered around this place. Mr. John Cross had his advertisement fastened up beside that of Frink and Walker. Here was opened the first school in Lee County, with Miss Ann Chamberlain as teacher.
Mr. Bliss is gifted with unusual powers of observation and memory, and he can give authentic information upon almost every event of interest which transpired within his range of knowledge. It is a pleasure to learn from him, und amusing to note how exactly his memory serves him in little particulars which most people forget. He remembers Peter
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Cartright and the size of his saddle-bags, and just how some preachers talked; and many lively incidents which would make a volume worth possessing. He could give an abstract from memory of every homestead that he knew. At a glance he takes in comparative distances and localities and every little object in view. He has a faculty of describing anything and presenting it to another's mind so clearly in few words that it is easier to remember it than to forget it. What a teacher he would have made -- or artist, or guide over the pathless wilderness or ocean. In 1842, at the age of fourteen years, he went to Chicago to work in the office of the Chicago Democrat, published by "Long John Wentworth." The office was at 107 Lake street, over Sherman & Pitkin's dry goods store. Lake, Water and Randolph streets were then about the only ones which had buildings on them. That was the time when farmers carried grain, pork etc. to Chicago through the sloughs, and when it took a week to go and return.
After Mr. Bliss returned home -- his father having died -- he attended school two winters at Dixon, making his home in the family of Judge Heaton, who was his guardian.
When the war came he enlisted in Co. D, 15th Ills. Regt., and became first lieutenant in Sherman's army was transferred from 17th corps to the Western Division, and finished service on the plains, remaining to the close of the war, his headquarters being at Fort Kearney and Fort Leavenworth.
Mr. Bliss was married in 1853 to Miss Pauline Treadwell of Susquehanna Co., Pa., Rev. Joseph Gardner performing the marriage service. Mr. Bliss says they "celebrated President Pierce's inauguration in that way." Mrs. Bliss, like her husband, has an excellent memory. She was personally acquainted with some of those people whose career in this state will ever be remembered by many with interest. Her kindness of heart has endeared her to many, who in sickness or trouble immediately send for her; and her unselfishness is as proverbial as that of her husband. On the death of a beloved niece they adopted the little motherless one, but it was not long spared to them.
Mr. Bliss has been justice of the peace for fourteen years and assessor of Lee Center township for twenty years.
MRS. D. C. CHASE.
(remainder of transcription under contruction)