Past and Present of Bureau County, Illinois
by George B. Past chicago:
Pioneer Publishing, 1906.

Chapter III :
Early Settlement of the County
Page 22 to 23

On arriving at the fort he hitched his horse outside the stockade and presented himself at the gate, requesting to see the officer in command. The orderly conducted him to headquarters, where he delivered his messages. He was kindly received and highly commended for his bravery. After scanning him closely - he was in his shirtsleeves, bare-footed and wore a hat minus half the brim - the officer ordered him to be taken to the commissary department for a new suit. The order was obeyed and the young hero appeared in a new outfit, perfect from hat to boots. After this transformation he was allowed to visit his mother and the younger children, who had been taken as before mentioned to the fort as a place of safety, and the next day returned home.

After living at the Grove twelve years, Mr. Boyd in 1842 moved to Princeton, where he lived until his death in 1881, in his eighty-ninth year, and so closed the long and eventful life of this early pioneer. A man who had lived to see more progress in his own life time, than all the generations that had preceded him. He was eleven years old when Fulton demonstrated to the world that steam navigation was possible; he was thirty-six years old before any practical railroading was introduced; he was nearly fifty when the first public test of telegraphy was made; he lived to see the hand sickle, which had been in use for ages, give place to the mammoth reaper; the post-boy to the postal-car; but we forbear to enumerate - they are gone and gone forever, and the rumble of the stage-coach and the crack of driver's whip are hushed in the silence of forgetfulness.

The pistols referred to as belonging to the son of Alexander Hamilton were given to Mr. Boyd for safe keeping; on the fated night when the house was burned these pistols were destroyed and the silver upon them was melted, also some silver coins. After the fire had spent its fury and the ashes became cool, the silver from the pistols and coins was gathered and E. S. Phillips, of Springfield, Illinois made it into spoons and Mrs. Dr. Paddock of this city now has them for table use.

In 1829 John and Justin Ament came to the county and settled at Red Oak Grove, which is located in the northeast corner of Walnut township, where they lived until after the Blackhawk war. These two brothers came from Kentucky and were important factors in the scenes of those early times. After a few years' stay at Red Oak John sold his claim and moved upon what is now known as the Butt's farm, just north of Princeton, where he lived until his death.

Abram Stratton was one of the pioneers of 1829. His experience was one well calculated to try men's souls. As early as 1865 he was counted as the oldest settler in Bureau county. He was born and reared in Ulster county, New York and at the age of twenty-four started on foot to brave the hardships and trials incident to a trip to the far west, as Illinois at that time was considered to be the limits of the then present and probable future civilization. But not daunted by obstacles, not dismayed by hardships, at frightened at danger, this brave soul pressed on toward the setting sun; sleeping or awake, he was most of the time surrounded by a primeval solitude. If there is anything that will thrill one's nerves and depress one's spirits it is to feel that he is absolutely alone, so that a cry for help will be answered only by the echo of his own voice. Most of the way from Detroit he followed an Indian trail. The mail at that time was carried by post-boys, and they passed over the route from Chicago to Detroit only a few times during the year. But despite all these hart-sore experiences, he steadily kept his pace westward and at last the beautiful prairies of Illinois gladdened his vision, and after walking over much of her undeveloped lands he finally drove the stakes of his future home on West Bureau, in this county.

After spending the winter in Peoria he started back to New York, being guided only by a pocket compass. He remained but a short time at his old home, where he purchased some farming tools for himself and some of his neighbors, and shipped them by boat as far as the St. Joseph river in Michigan, at which place he arrived soon after on foot. It was late in the fall, the weather was cold and stormy, the lake boats had ceased running for the season, yet nothing daunted, he hired two Frenchmen to take him and his boxes of freight around the head of the lake in a dugout canoe, to Chicago, distant one hundred and twenty miles. The trip was a most trying one the roughness of the lake compelling them at times to unload their goods and wait for the waves to subside, but at last after none days of toil and exposure they arrived at Fort Dearborn. After a short rest Mr. Stratton hired a man to take his boxes to Plainfield, about thirty miles southwest of Chicago, where he bought a pair of oxen and built a sled, loaded on his goods and again started on his journey. The weather was extremely cold, the snow deep, no visible road, his only guide being points of timber that lay across his route. In this entangling maze he still pressed on until he arrived at a trading house on the Illinois river. Here he was directed to cross at a point just above Hennepin island, and then to follow up stream on the ice until he came to some blazed trees where he would find a road which had been cut out by the settlers a few weeks before. But to his great disappointment he found the ice too thin in places, to hold up the oxen and sled, so he was obliged to leave the river and cut a road through the timber.

This was a slow way of making progress and during this time he lost his bearings and wandered about trying to find his way to the residence of Elijah Epperson, a little northwest of where Princeton now stands. The snow in places was so deep that it had to be shoveled away before the oxen could get through it. At last night settled down over them and both man and team were in an exhausted condition, so much so that further progress could not be made and about where the John H. Bryant house now stands he pitched his camp. After shoveling away the snow for the cattle and sled he felled a dry tree and taking his flint and tinder he started a fire, and there in that zero weather, under the open sky, while the oxen were browsing on twigs of fallen trees Abram Stratton slept the sleep of the bold pioneer. On the following morning he found his way to Mr. Epperson's cabin and the day following he reached his claim on West Bureau, having spent two weeks on the journey from Plainfield. Matson, in his "Reminiscences of Bureau County," says that "Mr. Stratton kept this yoke of oxen and sled, with them he frequently went to church or visiting, and with them he fled from the county at the commencement of the Black Hawk war.

In the fall of 1831 Mr. Stratton married Miss Sarah Boggs, their wedding being the second one celebrated within the limits of Bureau county." Mr. Stratton continued to live on his farm until his death, which occurred in 1877. And so passed from earth another heroic soul, who had spent a long and strenuous life in blazing the way that has led up to our advanced civilization.

Sylvester Brigham was born in New Hampshire in 1807. He was the oldest of a large family of children, who were taught, as all of the youth of that sturdy generation were, that life, and especially success in life, meant industry, economy, and self reliance. With these ideas firmly fixed in his mind, coupled with the wonderful stories of the productiveness of the great West, Mr. Brigham became restless under the restrictions in that sterile country and said to his father that he could not be content to settle down until he had seen the much talked of prairies of Illinois. Accordingly, in 1829, at twenty-two years of age, he, with a young man by the name of Sherley, took their departure for this undeveloped and to them unknown country. They came to Detroit by boat and from there, with their rifles for companions and knapsacks for their supplies, they resumed their journey on foot, traveling through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and part of Iowa, and according to Mr. Brigham's own account, for six weeks they saw no white man except themselves, mingling only with the Indians and sleeping on the ground wherever night overtook them. On this trip they passed through what is now Bureau county, which was then an almost unbroken water, although Mr. Henry Thomas was living in West Bureau, and at his house they made a short stay and finally located claims near here.

After remaining a few weeks to do some work upon their claims, they returned to New Hampshire, where Sherley remained. Mr. Brigham's father had remarked to the family, before his son's return, that when Sylvester "got back home he would be satisfied to stay there"; but, "No", he said to his father "I can not remain here. It will take something better than you have in New Hampshire to hold me." So the following spring, 1830, he again started for the West, this time bringing James Forristale with him. They came down the Ohio river and up the Mississippi and Illinois to Peoria on the first steamboat that ever came that far up the Illinois. Instead of taking the claims they had located the fall before, Mr. Brigham made a new claim on what is now known as the Hensel farm in Dover, on section 23. He also entered the present Joseph Brigham farm for his father, who was expecting to come west in the near future. Mr. Brigham remained on this claim during the years of 1830 and 1831, improved his land and raised a small crop. During the winter of 1830 he lived alone in his cabin among the Indians, who were his daily visitors.

In 1832 he again returned to New Hampshire to assist his father's family in moving to Illinois, arriving at Hennepin in October, where they remained two years on account of the Indian troubles. Mr. Sylvester Brigham was here all through the Black Hawk war, stood beside Mr. Phillips, his cousin, when shot by the Indians, and narrowly escaped the same fate himself. His life was a strenuous one while braving these early dangers. He lived upon the land he entered until 1853, when he sold and removed to Kansas, where he died in 1872. James Forristall, Mr. Brigham's companion on his second trip, entered land near the main part of Bureau, where he lived until his death. Thus ended the career of two men whose youth and vigor was spent in the development of this new civilization, which robbed nature of her bewitching charms and gave us in its stead the hum of industry and the luxuries of the present time.

James Coddington was another early settler of Bureau county, coming here in 1831. He was a native of Maryland, born in 1798. The Indian troubles being in an unsettled condition and the future outlook being somewhat cloudy, he deemed it prudent to wait developments; accordingly he went back to his native state and did not return until 1833, when he settled in Dover township on section 27, where he lived until his death, in 1876. Mr. Coddington reared a large and highly respected family which is a richer legacy than coffers of gold or acres of land.

John Leeper, father of H. B. Leeper, now living in this county, was born in Pennsylvania in 1786. His father moved to Georgia when he was a lad, where he grew to manhood, married, and moved to Tennessee in 1808. Not being in sympathy with the institution of slavery, he disposed of his property in Tennessee and moved to Illinois territory in 1816. He arrived in Madison county, which then comprised more than one-third of Illinois territory, on April 5, having been forty-five days on the journey, a distance that can now be covered in less than one-half of a single day.


Back to Bureau County Illinois History and Genealogy