Well, as everyone is speculating and talking about the high water of the Illinois at Beardstown, I thought it would not be amiss for me to tell about the first high water I saw in Beardstown, back in 1858.
The river rose later in the year then, the highest being in June. On June 10, the Sunday Schools in Beardstown ran a boat round the town. Charley Rich was the Superintendent of the Sunday School and the Congregational Church. Dummers, Billings, McClure and well, I might as well say, everyone who has interested in the Sunday Schools and many others who were interested, helped out that day. The boat was the Fred Nolte and we also had a flat boat which was loaded. The high part of town was an island and I remember they had to raise the wires of the telegraph line running from Beardstown to Springfield to miss the smoke stack of the Nolte boat. Those on the boats had a merry time and it was sure a pleasant trip.
Well, I will first give you a few reminders. Some of the old citizens will perhaps remember these events. There was a ferry boat out at the crossing on the Virginia Road, south of town. There was another ferry across the river to Frederick. Mr. Jones ran the ferry one time, for years, then Uncle George Thompson and his son, Seth, ran the ferry a long time. Then Seth worked with John Rahn to run the ferry. Those were the ferrymen. Once they had a flat boat. Then a cable was stretched across the river and a man with a notched stick would walk along the edge of that boat and pull it across. Later they had a ferry with a tread power. Horses treaded the power to run the boat. Then came the steam ferry. Many a time I went to Uncle Joe's and got a hunk of ginger bread and would go across the ferry. Lewis Jones and Charlie Thompson were my chums and as their father used to own the ferry, it never cost me anything; I furnished the ginger bread, that is, when I had the money. Boys did not have the money as plentiful as now. Sometimes I would go down to the old Tom Ayers' blacksmith shop and Dick Ayers would say to his father, "Boss, give me five cents," and he always got it. Then we would go down to Uncle Joe McClure's and get some ginger bread and then go down to the old ferry boat. I imagine I can see old Joe now with his white clothes and sleeves rolled up and his wife looking so neat and trim and everything so spic and span. Big glasses with nice brass tops all shining on the shelves and the show window filled with all kinds of stick candy and lemon and brandy drops. All kinds of cakes and cookies and that good old ginger beer he used to make. It was par-excellent. Oh for a hunk of that old ginger bread now.
Well, I'm getting away from what I started to write about. You see the old memories will come back.
In 1858, on Fourth Street, where the Goodell Hotel now stands (Fourth and State), and where the lumber yard is now located, was a veritable lake. People went from one house to another in skiffs. The water was up to the old M. E. Church and down the alley to where Dr. T. G. Charles now has his office, John Everhart had a butcher shop there. I remember going to Everhart's for a dime's worth of steak one morning and dropped my dime and it went through a crack on the old boat sidewalks which they had back then, and I began bawling. Mr. Duchart, the good man that he was, told me not to cry and that he would get my money for me. He got his axe and tore up the plank and got my dime for me. I got the steak, got enough for a dime for a family of five, all we wanted for our breakfast. The steak was always carried home on what we called a skewer, a pointed stick the butcher would stick through the steak. He always had a bunch of them, then you carried it home holding onto the stick. If you got a roast, it was bigger and he would wrap it in coars, brown paper.
Where the Goodell Hotel is, there used to be a tavern called the Green Tavern. Uncle George Thompson was the owner, he wasn't the Thompson I spoke about who ran the ferry. All those old fellows were called Uncle in those days.
Down where Wm. Frey Sr. lived on West 2nd Street was all water in 1858. Mike Kearns lived on the corner, west of Frey's and had to move out. I saw them run a skiff in one door out of the other. Of course, the houses were lower than they are now and the lots had not been filled up as they are now.
Charlie Koblens lived out south of town and ran a milk wagon. He lived on what was afterward the Chas. Bockemeyer farm. He could not drive his milk wagon account of the high water.
From 15th Street, near Ravenswood, for about three blocks north, was all under water. That was called the Prairie Farm. From where Henry Hess lived on South Grand Avenue in the Combes Addition east to Lafayette Street was all under water.
My father made many trips up past Griggs Chapel, boating corn down for the farmers. The corn was boated for two cents a bushel and men made 50 cents for a half day's work on the boat. An accurate account was kept showing the amount of corn hauled and for whom hauled, and where delivered with an itemized statement of the expense of each trip. One of the bills, which I still have, has many well known names and reads as follows.
Thomas Knight, 324 bushels, $6.48, delivered at Chase.
Luke Dunn, 334 bushels, $6.68, delivered at Plann.
Mr. Treadway, 406 bushels, $8.12, delivered at Leonard's.
C. Hager, 338 bushels, $6.76, delivered at Norberry's.
William Sudbrink, 315 bushels, $6.30, delivered at Nolte.
Respect, W. G. Brown
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