Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group

Clark County Illinois
Genealogy and History


line
Chapter 2
Early Settlement

line

The History of Crawford and Clark County
W. H. Perrin, O. L. Baskin & Co., 1883

Transcribed by Kevin Ortman and Barbara Z.
Page 219 to 235


CHAPTER II,
EARLY SETTLEMENTS-THE PIONEERS AND WHERE THEY CAME FROM—THEIR HARD LIFE, RUDE DWELLINGS AND COARSE CLOTHING—INCIDENT OF A BISCUIT—
SALT-NEGRO SLAVERY—AN EXCITING CAMPAIGN—COL. ARCHERGAME-" MARKS" AND " BRANDS "—TAXATION—THE INDIANS-SHOOTING MATCHES—
EARLY SOCIETY —CHRISTIANITY AND PIONEER PREACHERS— INTEMPERANCE—THE CLIMATE, ETC., ETC.


" Great nature spoke; observant men obey'd;
Cities were built, societies were made:
Here rose a little State; another near
Grew by like means, and join'd through love or fear."
— Pope.

IT has been said, that civilization is a forced condition of existence, to which man is stimulated by a desire to gratify artificial wants. And again, it has been written by a gifted, but gloomy misanthrope, that "As soon as you thrust the plowshare under the earth, it teems with worms and useless weeds. It increases population to an unnatural extent —creates the necessity of penal enactments —builds the jails—erects the gallows—spreads over the human face a mask of deception and selfishness—and substitutes villainy, love of wealth and power, in the place of the single minded honesty, the hospitality and the honor of the natural state." These arguments are erroneous, and are substantiated neither by history or observation. Civilization tends to the advancement and elevation of man; Lifts him from savagery and barbarism, to refinement and intelligence. It inspires him with higher and holier thoughts—loftier ambitions, and its ultimate objects are his moral and physical happiness. But as every positive of good has its negative of evil, so enlightened society has its sombre side—its wickedness and immoralities.

The pioneer is civilization's forlorn hope. Without him, limited would be its dominions. He it is who forsakes all the comforts and surroundings of civilized life—all that makes existence enjoyable; abandons his early home, bids adieu to parents, sisters and brothers, and turns his face toward the vast illimitable West. With iron nerve.s and lion hearts, these unsung heroes plunge into the gloomy wilderness, exposed to perils and disease in a thousand different forms, and after years of incredible toils and privations they subdue the forest, and thus prepare the way for those who follow.

"Who were the first settlers of Clark County? " is a question most difficult to satisfactorily answer. There is considerable diversity of opinion among our oldest living citizens as to the first pioneers. There is a story extant that the first white inhabitant of Clark, as its territory is now defined, was a man who shot and killed his brother at Vincennes, in 1810; he escaped in a canoe and paddled up the Wabash, landing near the present Chenoweth ferry, and lived a wild, semi-savage life, a fugitive from justice. It is said he was seen by one or more of the settlers who came years later, and that the Indians asserted the fact of his existence, and that he was the first Woolite inhabitant of the county. There is nothing corroborative of this story, find we may regard it as one of the many traditions of the past.

As early as 1812, Fort Lamotte, on the site of Palestine, was built, and the nearest settlement, except Vincennes, was Fort Harrison, near Terre Haute. A family named Hutson, however, located about five miles north of Palestine, where they were massacred by the Indians, and their buildings destroyed. As the savages were troublesome and hostile during the war of 1813, it is hardly probable that there were any settlements in Clark prior to its close, though it has been strenuously asserted that settlements were made in the county as early as 1814. From the roost reliable information obtainable, the first permanent settlers were the Handys; Thomas, and his sons John and Stephen. They came from Post St. Vincent, near Vincennes, to Union Prairie, in the spring of 1815; broke ground planted and raised a crop of corn, erected cabins, and in the fall ensuing, removed their families hither. Thomas, the father, settled on the farm now occupied by James Harrison; John, where West Union stands, and Stephen, on the farm occupied by Mrs. Sophronia Brooks. The late Thomas Handy, son of John, once prominent and well known among our people, is said to have been the first white child born in Clark County. This is disputed by some of the oldest living settlers, who assert positively, that Scott Hogue and Isabel Handy, born within a few hours of each other, saw the light of day prior to Thomas.

In the year following, there were signs of Indian hostilities and the Handys erected a fort or stockade on the hill, one half mile south of West Union, called it " Fort Handy," and removed their families there for security. The well dug within the work, and which furnished the water supply for the dwellers, could be seen a few years ago. This fort, the only structure of the kind ever built in the county, was situated on the present farm of James Harrison. It was not a very formidable or extensive work of defense, and was built out of abundant caution by the settlers. It contained two or three cabins for the accommodation of the families, and was surrounded by a bullet-proof palisade, pierced with loop-holes at convenient distances. The same year (1816) other families came, among whom were the Hogues, the Millers, Bells, Megeath, Prevo, Blaze, Crow, Leonard, the Richardsons and Fitchs, who all settled on Union Prairie, the two last named founding the town of York in 1817. The first house erected there, a log dwelling, was built by Chester Fitch. James Gill, yet living and residing in Cumberland County, aided in its erection. Henry Harrison settled in the timber, immediately west of Union, in 1818. The Bartletts located near him about the same time.

Walnut Prairie, just north of Union, and separated from it by Mill Creek and a narrow strip of timber, was settled in 1817 by the Archers, Neely, McClure, Welch, Chenoweth, Dunlap, Blake, Shaw, Poorman, Stafford, Lockard, Essery and a few others. Mr. Essery afterward entered land on Big Creek, two miles northeast of where Marshall now stands, and opened what is known as the " Cork farm," where he died at an advanced age. Reuben Crow for a few years cultivated cotton on Union Prairie, with some success, and erected, perhaps, the first cotton-gin north of the Ohio River. The experiment of raising cotton was tried with fair results, some years later, on Walnut Prairies. The soil of these two prairies seems admirably adapted to the culture of cotton, but the climate is too irregular to render its production remunerative.

About the year 1823 a settlement was commenced at the head of Parker Prairie. Among these early inhabitants were the families of Parker, Connely, Bean, Newport (a noted Baptist preacher), Biggs, Lee, Duncan Dawson, Briscoe, Bennett, Redman, Evinger and others. On Big Creek there were some new settlers: the Mains, Forsythe, McClure, and David Reynolds, an aged and respected pioneer yet living. But it is unnecessary to follow the subject farther, as an extended notice of the early settlements and settlers will be given in the respective chapters devoted to each township.

The cabins of the early settlers were rude, but secure. They were generally built of large logs and constructed with an eye to safety and defense; for the Indians were numerous, and at times threatened hostilities. Mrs. Justin Harlan relates that the cabin constructed by her father, David Hogue, and situated on the present farm of M. C. Dolson, near York, was a Gibralter of primitive architecture. The logs composing the walls were massive and heavy, and pierced with loop-holes commanding every approach. The roof was so constructed as to be almost fireproof, while the door was a ponderous affair of slabs, and secured by fastenings that would have resisted the efforts of a giant. James Gill, then a boy of fourteen, says that in company with seven men he assisted in the construction of a cabin near the present town of York, in 1816, and during its building one of the men killed a deer and hung it in a tree near by. During the night, the loud barking of the dogs, and the snorting and plunging of the horses, aroused the settlers and the dread whisper went around—" Indians!" They arose in silence—each man grasped his trusty rifle and manned his allotted loop-hole. Skirmishers were thrown out with the utmost caution and strict guard was kept until broad day No signs of Indians were discovered, and they concluded that it was some wild beast, attracted by the scent of blood from the slain deer, that had caused the alarm.

The privations endured by the early settlers were such as none but stout hearts would dare to encounter. Nothing but the hopeful inspiration of manifest destiny urged them to persevere in bringing under the dominion of civilized man what was before them, a howling wilderness. These sturdy sons of toil, pioneers in the early civilization of Clark County, mostly hailed from the States of New York, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and a few from South Carolina. They were exceptions, to a great degree, of the accepted rule, "that immigrants on settling in a new country, usually travel on the same parallel as that of the home they left."

The fashions were few and simple, compared with the gaudy and costly paraphernalia of the present time. Comfort and freedom were always consulted. The principal articles for clothing were of home manufacture, such as linsey'-woolsey, jeans, tow-linen, etc. The world was not laid under tribute as now, to furnish the thousand mysteries of a lady's toilet—mysteries that like the ways of Providence, are past finding out, at least by the sterner sex. Powders and lotions, and dangerous cosmetics by which the modern belle borrows the transient beauty of the present, and repays with premature homeliness, were unknown to her frontier ancestors, whose cheeks were rosy with the ruddy glow of health—painted by wholesome exercise and labor. Shoes and slippers of kid and morocco,' with high and villainous heels, were not then worn. The beauty and symmetry of the female form was not distorted and misshapen by tight lacing. The brave women of those days knew nothing of ruffles, curls, switches or bustles; had not even dreamed of those fearful and wonderful structures of the present, called " bonnets." Instead of the organ or piano, before -which sits the modern miss, torturing selections from the majestic operas(!) they had to handle the distaff and shuttle, accompanying the droning wheel or rattling loom with the simple and plaintive melodies of the olden time, contented with their linsey clothing—their roughly made shoes, and a sun-bonnet of coarse linen. Proud and happy was she, and the envy of her less fortunate sisters, who was the possessor of a calico dress, brought from Cincinnati or far off Orleans. An estimable old lady, now living, informed the writer, that the first shoes, other than of home manufacture, that she ever possessed, were of the heaviest calf-skin; and so careful and jealous was she of them, that many a time she carried her shoes and stockings in her hand to within a hundred yards of the place of meeting, to keep from soiling or wearing them out. And this she repeated on her way homeward, even if escorted by some rustic gallant. The costume of the men was as simple and primitive. The " warmus " was almost universally worn. This was a kind of loose frock, reaching to the waist, open before, with large sleeves and cape, the latter sometimes fringed by raveling and attaching a piece of cloth different in hue to the garment. The " Camus " resembled an army overcoat of the present day, with the tail cut off. Breeches and leggings furnished the covering of the thighs and legs. Home-made shoes or moccasins supplied him with foot-gear, and the skin of the raccoon made him hat or cap, though not a few of the men dressed in full suits of buckskin.

The pursuits of the early settlers were chiefly agricultural. Fort Harrison and Vincennes were their nearest trading points. However, a Pennsylvanian, named John Wise, brought a small assortment of goods to York, in 1818, the first ever in the county. He was the pioneer merchant of Clark, and is yet living in Vincennes. The two first named were the principal points, where they bartered for the few necessaries which could not be produced or manufactured at home. There were no cooking stoves and ranges, and the thousand culinary apparatuses of to-day were unknown among the early settlers. Broad was generally baked in what was called " Dutch ovens;" though frequently on aboard before the fire, and often in the ashes. Among the poorer classes, the "corn dodger" was the only bread. It is related that a wearied traveler stopped at one of these humble cabins to rest and refresh himself and jaded horse. In his saddle-bags he had a few of those old-time, yellow, adamantine indigestible— saleratus biscuit, and by accident dropped one upon the hearth. He was absent a few moments, and upon returning, the eldest boy had covered the wheaten bowlder with live coals, saying to the surrounding towheads, " I'll make him stick his head out and crawl," mistaking the biscuit for some new species of terrapin. Tea, coffee and sugar were rarely used, except on the visit of the preacher, or some other equally momentous occasion. The fare was plain, substantial and healthy'. The richly- flavored, highly seasoned, dyspepsia-promoting food of to-day, is the invention of a later civilization. There were no friction matches, their place being supplied by the flint and steel. In nearly every family, the chunk, like the sacred fires of the Aztecs, was never allowed to expire. In the genial spring-time, the prudent housewife, in making her soap, always stirred it " widdershins " that is, from east to west, with the course of the sun. To stir the reverse of this, was to destroy all the cleansing qualities of the soap.

The people were quick and ingenious to supply by invention, and with their own hands, the lack of mechanics and artificers. Each settler, as a general rule, built his own house—made his own plows, harrows and harness. The cultivation of the soil was conducted after the most approved fashion of primitive times. The plows, with wooden mold-board, turned the sod; the harrow, with wooden teeth, prepared it for planting. The harness was often made of ropes, sometimes with the bark of trees. The collars were of straw. Corn was the principal crop; very little wheat was produced, and was seldom sown on Walnut or Union prairies, or along the river and creek bottoms, for more than a quarter of a century after the formation of the county. For the soil of these sections was thought to be wholly inadapted to its growth. It is only of late years that wheat has become the staple crop on the prairies and bottom lands. The pioneer also made his furniture, and other indispensable articles. And considering his few tools, and the entire absence of all machinery, many of these were models of skill and workmanship. Their carts and wagons, however, were ponderous affairs, made wholly without iron, the wheels often consisting of cuts from six to eight inches in thickness, sawed from the end of a large log:. A hole was made in the center for the insertion of the spindle. Into the axle the huge tongue was inserted. The bed was fastened to the axle, and extended about an equal distance before and aft; the front end was secured to the tongue. Soft soap was substituted for tar, to facilitate the movement of the vehicle. Dr. Williams, of Casey, relates that when a boy, he once accompanied his father to a horse-mill, in one of these old-time carts. It was in the winter, and they were delayed about their grinding, and did not get started home until the evening of the second day. Darkness overtook them, and to render matters worse, their lubricating supply gave out. The lumbering and creaking of their juggernaut could be heard a mile or more, and soon aroused all the wolves in four townships. At first they were timid, and kept well behind; but as they proceeded, became bolder, and the gloomy woods resounding with their dolorous howls were only equaled by the horrible noise of the wagon. The snarling and growling pack kept closing in, until their fiery eyeballs could be seen, and their panting be heard. His father would drop one occasionally with his rifle, which would temporarily check the pursuit, but it was only after a desperately contested struggle that they escaped being devoured.

That indispensable article, salt, was at first wagoned from Cincinnati to Vincennes, or floated down the Ohio and keel-boated up the Wabash. The more prosperous of a neighborhood, who could purchase two or three bushels at a time, soon found it a profitable investment, for they doled it out to their less fortunate neighbors, at largely increased price, and were as careful in the weight and measurement as if each grain were gold. In after years, the Vermillion County salines rendered salt more abundant and less difficult to obtain.

From 1819 to 1823 immigration to Clark County, and in fact to the Wabash Valley, almost ceased, on account of their unhealthiness. The principal diseases were bilious and intermittent fevers. These fevers took their most malignant character in the bottom lands bordering large streams, especially the Wabash. There, in the rich black loam, formed from the alluvial deposits of the spring floods, and of great depth, vegetation luxuriated in almost tropical profusion. Immense quantities were produced, the decay of which generated vast volumes of miasma. The high bluffs which usually border these teeming lands, covered with dense woods, prevented the circulation of the purer air from the uplands, and left all the causes of disease to take their most concentrated forms among the unfortunate settlers of these dismal solitudes. Here, at fated periods, these disorders, or " Wabash chills," as they were termed, found their most numerous victims. Some seasons they became epidemic—a pestilence, almost—prostrating the entire community. The inhabitants of the adjacent prairies were by no means exempt from these plagueful visitations which seemed indigenous to the soil. From the sluggish sloughs that penetrated these districts arose the disease-burdened malaria, which tainted the air and left its imprint in the sallow complexions and emaciated forms of the people. By reason of these ailments the crops frequently suffered sadly for want of proper cultivation and care, often entailing suffering and destitution the ensuing winter. Physicians were few, and the victims of those distressing plagues seldom received any medical attention or remedies. Every family was its own doctor, and roots and herbs supplied, though illy, the place of quinine and the more powerful cures and preventatives of the present. As the country was opened up and reduced to cultivation, and the people became acclimated, these fevers became less prevalent, and lost in some degree their virulence.

According to the first county census taken by Silas Hoskins, of Aurora, in 1820, there were nine hundred and thirty whites and one slave, thus indicating: that the blighting curse of human slavery once desecrated Clark County. In this connection a brief mention of a few of the provisions of the " Black Laws," as they were called, enacted by our first Legislature, and which disgraced our statute books for twenty-five years, may not prove uninteresting. There were comparatively few Negroes in our county during the existence of these laws, the highest number being thirty-eight. Under this code, immigrants to the State were allowed to bring their Negroes with them; and such of the slaves as were of lawful age to consent, could go before the clerk of the county and voluntarily sign an indenture to serve their masters for a term of years, and could be held to the performance of their contracts; if they refused, their master could remove them from the State within sixty days. The children of such slaves were taken before an officer and registered, and were bound to serve their masters until thirty-two 3-ears of age. Such slaves were called indentured and registered servants, and were annually taxed by the county authorities, the same as horses and cattle. No -negro or mulatto could reside in the State, until he had produced a certificate of freedom, and given bond with security for good behavior, and not to become a county charge. The children of such free Negroes were registered. Every person of color, not having a certificate of freedom, was deemed a runaway slave; was taken up, jailed by a justice, advertised and sold for one year by the sheriff; if not claimed in that time, was considered free, though his master might reclaim him any time thereafter. Any slave or servant found ten miles from home, without a pass from his master, was punished with thirty-five lashes. The owner of any dwelling could cause to be given to any servant entering the same, or adjoining grounds, ten stripes upon his bare back. Any person permitting slaves or servants to assemble for dancing, night or day, was fined twenty dollars; and it was made the duty of every peace officer to commit such an assemblage to jail, and order each one whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes on the bare back. In all cases where free persons were punishable with fine, servants were corrected by whipping, at the rate of twenty lashes for every eight dollars' fine. The object of these laws was to prevent free negro immigration, and to discourage runaway slaves from coming to Illinois to become free. But for what purpose such rigorous punishments were meted to slaves and servants, for such trifling of fevers, when their paucity of numbers precluded all danger of seditions and insurrections, can only be conjectured.

The most exciting and memorable campaign that ever marked the history of the Slate, occurred in the years 1823-4. It grew out of a proposition of the pro-slavery party, which had a majority in both branches of the Legislature, to call a convention, subject to a vote of the people, to frame a constitution recognizing slavery in Illinois, in utter defiance to the ordinance of 1787, by which slavery was prohibited in the Northwest territory. The campaign began in the spring of 1823, and lasted until August 2, 1824. It was the longest contest ever in the State or count}-; a contest angry and bitter, and characterized by torrents of personal detraction and abuse. The excitement extended even to the ministry. The Baptists and Methodists were the prevailing denominations, and were, almost to a man, opposed to a convention and slavery. And the old preachers, in outbursts of rude and fiery eloquence, and in language so fierce and caustic as to ill become the armor bearers of the lowly Nazarine, fired the hearts of their flocks against the "divine institution," and painted slavery in all its hideousness. Governor Coles was the leader of the anti-slavery movement, and his trenchant reasoning portrayed all the iniquity and deformity of slavery. The anti-slavery party was victorious by a majority of over two thousand, and forever put at rest the question of slavery in Illinois. The vote of Clark was thirty-one votes in favor of a convention and slavery, and one hundred and sixteen against.

Colonel William B. Archer was the antislavery candidate for the Legislature; his opponent, William Lowrie. Colonel Archer was triumphantly elected by a vote of one hundred and thirty-eight to five. Although raised in a slave State, Colonel Archer at an early age imbibed an unconquerable aversion to human slavery; and during his long and busy life, whether in legislative halls or the private walks of life, he ever advocated the  cause of freedom and free States. And we deem it not inappropriate to give here an extended notice of this remarkable man.

He was the oldest of eight children of Zachariah Archer, three of whom yet survive:.Judge Stephen Archer, Hannah Crane and Elizabeth Hogue. His father's family removed from Warren County, Ohio, to Kentucky, and from thence to this county, landing here in a keel boat near what is known as the Block School House, during the memorable Wabash freshet in the year 1817. He was tall of stature, spare made and slightly stooped. He had the endurance of an Indian —was insensible to fatigue—a man of iron. His character was rugged, strong and resolute, and marked with peculiar individuality. He had a sound judgment, a firm confidence and abiding faith in his own convictions of right, and a moral courage to defend them that is rarely met with. In fact, were

"The elements so mixed in him
That Nature might stand up
And say to all the world,
This is a man."


The people recognized his sterling qualities, and he at once took a commanding position in the affairs of the infant settlement. He then commenced a long, busy and useful career. He was the first county and circuit clerk.

He was appointed one of the commissioners of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and laid out the town of Lockport, on the Illinois River. He was engaged on some public improvement near Chicago, and that city honored him by naming an avenue in his honor, which still bears the name of " Archer Avenue." He promptly responded to the call for troops in the Black Hawk War, was made captain, and served with distinction. He was again circuit clerk, in 1848. In politics he was a Whig, and a partisan, yet respectful for the opinion of others. He made the memorable congressional race against Judge J. C. Allen, which resulted in a tie. He was defeated in the next election.

It is said of him that he was the first man to bring the name of the lamented Lincoln, of whom he was a devoted friend, into public notice. He was a delegate to a convention, at Philadelphia, we believe, and during the deliberations. Colonel Archer proposed the name of Lincoln for Vice President, when a pert member sarcastically asked: "Who is Lincoln? Can he fight?" The Colonel answered: " Yes, by Guinea, he can, and so can I."

In private life he was genial and kind, and around his private character cluster many noble virtues. He was married to Eliza Harlan, and the result of that union was a daughter, who became the wife of the late Woodford Delaney, of Kentucky. His religious convictions we never knew, but suffice it to say, he was an honest man. He was an honored member of the Masonic fraternity for sixty years. But the absorbing and controlling idea of his life was for the improvement and development of the county, both town and country. For this he labored—for this he toiled, and for this he gave the best years of his manhood.

He became interested in the construction of the old Wabash Valley Railroad, (the present Wabash) and entered into the work with all the zeal and energy of his indomitable nature. He gave his time and his money, and just as it seemed that success would crown his efforts, the project was abandoned. He was never destined to see its completion. He did more for Clark County than any man in his day or since. But no recognition, pecuniary or otherwise, was ever given him for his long and valuable services. Possessed at one time of ample means, yet so absorbed was he in his schemes of public improvement, that he was careless as to his private affairs, became involved and lost nearly everything.

Time bent his form, silvered his locks and enfeebled his steps, but it could not conquer his spirit. But at last the end came. Bowed down by the weight of eighty years, and infirmities incurred by a long life of incessant toil for the general good, on the 9th day of August, 1870, he calmly passed to his final reward, leaving as his only legacy, an untarnished name, and the enduring monuments of his labor and enterprise in the county.

For a considerable period after the formation of the county, and for years before, there was but little or no good money in circulation. The people were involved in debt, the lands purchased from the United States were unpaid for and likely to be forfeited. Such bank-notes as were in circulation had driven out the specie; and as these notes became worthless, one after another, the people were left almost destitute of any circulating medium whatever. The county commerce was insignificant; we exported little or nothing, except the scanty surplus of produce occasionally shipped to New Orleans. Hence there was nothing to attract an influx of coin into the country. The great tide of expected immigration from abroad failed to come, and real estate of every description was unsalable. This state of affairs prevailed all over the State; and to remedy the evil, the Legislature of 1831 created a State bank. All branches of industry and business flourished for a time, but the bank was founded on false theories of solvency and utterly failed of its contemplated objects—-in fact almost bankrupted the people. A considerable period following the decline of the State Bank was called the " harvest of the Shylocks." The legal rate of interest was six per cent; but there were no interest limits to special contracts, nor no penalties for usury. Consequently, those having money took advantage of the necessities of the people and extorted exorbitant interest rates, often as high as one hundred and fifty per cent being charged.

Game was abundant in the early settlement of the county. Deer, turkeys, hares, squirrels, foxes, otters, muskrats, raccoons, opossums, etc., existed in large numbers. A few bears were killed, but they were never numerous. Panthers, catamounts, wolves and wildcats abounded, to the great annoyance of the settlers. Smaller vermin, such as weasels, minks, skurdcs and polecats were very plentiful; and these, with the owls and hawks, rendered the raising of domestic fowls very difficult. Porcupines were also quite numerous. In an early day droves of wild horses roamed over portions of the; country west of us (then in Clark County), but there is no account of any ever having been within our present limits. The streams were alive with fish, especially the Wabash. The catfish, muskalonge, bass, perch, sturgeon, spoonbills, shad, eels, etc., were very plenty. In the early spring the river, creeks, ponds and bayous were covered with geese, ducks, brant and other water-fowl, and on the prairies were large numbers of prairie-chickens, grouse and partridges.

In early times, when the amount of cultivated land was very small and live stock had unbounded range, owners were more particular than in later times about their marks and brands. Horses were always branded; other stock was marked. These were their only means of identification, as cattle and hogs were often turned out in the early spring and were likely to be seen no more till cold weather. Sheep were generally kept through the day in inclosures, and at night in stout high corrals, to prevent their destruction by the wolves. Some of the early marks were curiosities in their way. Charles Neely's mark was recorded May 26, 1819, the first in the county, and was "A smooth crop off of the left ear and a slit in the same." The mark of Hugh Miller was "An under-bit or half penny out of the under side of each ear." That of Joseph Shaw, "A smooth crop off the right ear and an underslope from heel to point of the left ear, bringing the ear to a point, similar to foxing." Cushing Snow's was, " A smooth crop off the left ear and a poplar leaf in the right; that is, a crop off the point, and upper and under bit in the same, which forms a poplar leaf." The penalty, on conviction, for altering or defacing any mark or brand with intent to steal, or prevent identification by the owner, was a public whipping, not exceeding one hundred lashes on the bare back, imprisonment not exceeding two years, and fine in a sum not less than one half the value of the animal on which the mark was altered or defaced. The severity of the punishment indicates the jealous importance our ancestors attached to their marks and brands, and their lofty regard for the rights of property.

The condition of society, and the moral deportment of the early settlers were very good for a new country, where the laws were lax, and feebly enforced, where schools were few and inferior, and where religious instruction and church organization were rare, and not publicly carried on as in later years. Candor, honesty, and a readiness to help a friend or neighbor in distress, were the chief characteristics of the early pioneers. They were industrious as a class, generous in their hospitality, warm and constant in their friendships, and brave in the defense of their honor. As is the case in all newly-settled countries, there was among them a rough and boisterous element, a low grade and type of civilization. An element ignorant, vicious and uncouth; its members loud in their denunciations of any innovations tending to better their condition, or that looked toward the erection of Christian institutions.

The lives of the early pioneers must indeed have been monotonous. The settlements were scattering, and the population sparse. There was no general system of schools, or of religious teachings, and as a consequence, for years the Sabbath was simply observed as a day of rest by the young and old. When any future event, that promised to relieve the tedium of their existence became bruited throughout a settlement, its coming was impatiently awaited. A house or barn raising, or log rolling, a quilting frolic, or husking bee — each and all of these were looked forward to with liveliest anticipation. But nothing stirred society to its remotest depths like the announcement of a wedding. A marriage was a momentous event, and was looked forward to with eager expectation by young and old Mrs. Judge Stockwell relates that she was present at the marriage of Stephen Archer to Nancy Shaw, and that the wedding and "infare" carnival lasted three days and nights in one continuous round of merry-making, and was only terminated by exhaustion and loss of sleep on the part of the guests.

There was a rapid influx of population after the year 1825. The census of 1830, at which time the county had been greatly reduced in territorial extent, being somewhat over twice its present size, showed a population of 3,921 white, and 19 colored. The increase in number of white people being over four hundred per cent, over the census of 1820. The major part of this immigration was from the Southern and Middle States. Nearly all the necessaries and the few luxuries of frontier life, which had hitherto been wagoned over the mountains to Pittsburg, thence floated down the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash, and pulled and poled up that stream on keel boats, were now transported by steam-boats, quite a number of which plied the waters of the latter stream. About all the surplus products of the county, such as corn, bacon, and the like, together with lumber, staves and hoop-poles, were generally shipped to New Orleans, an undertaking that involved a long, perilous and tedious voyage, often requiring two and three months for going and returning. The journey home was generally performed on foot, through three or four Indian tribes inhabiting the western parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. There are citizens now living in the county, who have each made five different pedestrian trips from New Orleans to Darwin; carrying with them, over all the long and weary miles, the proceeds of their cargoes, which wore invariably in silver coin. This system of commerce was carried on regularly, and quite extensively for many years, and was the principal channel of shipment for surplus, but the railroad system of the present day has changed all this.

The taxes during the first decade or two were neither heavy nor burdensome. The total amount of taxes for each of the ten years, ranged from two to five hundred dollars. Yet these insignificant sums were to defray all the contingent expenses of the county, which was then larger than many of the principalities in Europe. Lands were taxed by the State, and were divided into three classes : first, second and third, and were valued at four, three and two dollars per acre, and were taxed respectively, two, one and a half, and one cents per acre. In 1821 the first tax was levied, and the property included was horses and cattle, clocks and watches, town lots and pleasure carriages. The last item was evidently a mild bit of pleasantry on the part of the early authorities, as such things existed only in the imagination, in Clark County. In 1823, slaves, registered and indentured Negroes and mulattoes, and distilleries, were made taxable by the county commissioners. A stout, lusty negro servant or slave was assessed at about the same as five good horses. In1827, hogs, sheep, and ferries over the Wabash, were made taxable.

The county commissioners had broader and more extensive powers than our present lawmakers. They not only had authority to license certain occupations, but also to fix and establish a scale of prices for conducting the same. They issued license to the keeper of a tavern or house of entertainment, specified the amount he should pay for the same, and then arbitrarily fixed the rates he should charge his guests; and if the wayfarer was bibulously inclined, and desired a stimulant, the law stepped in, and not only scheduled the kind and quantity of his potation, but fixed the maximum price for it. To illustrate, a specimen is herewith given: At the March term, 1820, of the commissioners' court, appears the following: "Court grant license to Silas Hoskins to keep a tavern in Aurora, at the rate of two dollars per year, to be paid into the county treasury, and fix his rates as follows: for one night's lodging, per man, 12 1/2 cents; one meal's victuals, per man, 25 cents; one feed for horse, per gallon of corn, 12 1/2 cents; one horse to hay and oats, per night, 37 1/2 cents. For one pint of rum, wine or brandy, 75 cents; for one half pint of same, 37 1/2 cents; for one pint of whisky, 25 cents; for one half pint of same, 12 1/2 cents; for one gill of same, 6 1/4 cents; ale, beer or cider, per quart, 25 cents.

About this time the Galena lead mines were at the height of successful operation, and our people would run up the Mississippi in the spring, labor in the mines during warm weather, and then return to their homes in the fall, thus establishing, as was supposed, a similarity between their migratory habits and those of the piscatorial tribe called suckers. For this reason the name "Suckers" was applied to the Illinoisans, at the Galena lead mines by the Missourians, and which has stuck to them ever since, and no doubt always will. Missouri sent hordes of uncouth ruffians to these mines, from which our people inferred that the State had taken a puke, and had vomited forth all her worst population. As analogies always abound, the Illinoisans, by way of retaliation, called the Missourians "Pukes," a name they will be known by for all time.

The Indians were quite numerous in the county at the time of its early settlement. There were camps on Mill Creek; one about a mile and a half southeast of what is now Marshall, on what is now known as the Watson quarry; one a short distance north of the present town of Livingston, and one south of the same, near the Alwood hill. But the largest camp was on Dial's Creek, in the Richwoods; a large majority of these Indians were Kickapoos, and the remainder chiefly Pottawatomies. They were generally quiet, peaceable and friendly, spent their time in hunting and trapping, and bartered the proceeds of the chase with the whites, for corn, powder and lead, salt, etc. They about all disappeared during the Black Hawk War. Though during the war, and while a large portion of our male population was absent in the army, there was a large number on Mill Creek that threatened hostilities, to the great apprehension of the remaining settlers. They held pow-wows, danced their war dances, and at night their fierce and savage yells could be heard a great distance, to the terror of defenseless women and children.

There then lived in the northeastern portion of the county, a man beyond middle age, named John House, who was a second Lewis Whetzel. When a boy the savages had massacred nearly all his father's family, and he had sworn eternal vengeance, and improved every opportunity to gratify it. He was well known to the Indians as " Big Tooth John," on account of his eye teeth projecting over his under lip, like tushes. It is related that on one occasion, while hunting, an Indian stepped from an ambush, and explained how easily he could have killed him. House pretended to be quite grateful, but watching his opportunity, shot the Indian dead. He enlisted in the Black Hawk War, and was in the memorable engagement on the banks of the Mississippi, of August 2, 1833, in which the Indians were routed and which terminated the war. During the battle, a Sac mother took her infant child, and fastening it tea large piece of cottonwood bark, consigned it to the treacherous waves rather than to captivity. The current carried the child near the bank, when House coolly loaded his rifle, and taking deliberate aim, shot the babe dead. Being reproached for his hardened cruelty, he grimly replied, "Kill the nits, and you'll have no lice."

Among the diversions of he early times, were shooting matches for beef, turkeys, whisky and sometimes for wagers of money. When a beef was shot for, it was divided into five quarters, the hide and tallow being the fifth, and considered the best of all. Among the most noted marksmen of the day, were Judge Stephen Archer and Stump Rhoads. Indeed, so expert were they, that both were generally excluded from the matches, and the fifth quarter given them, as a sort of a royalty, the possession of which was usually decided by a contest between themselves. The Judge had been several times victorious over his rival, who finally procured a new rifle, and badly defeated his opponent on a most momentous occasion. Smarting under his discomfiture, the Judge had a heavy, target rifle made, with especial reference to accurate shooting. This artillery he dubbed " Sweet Milk and Peaches," and patiently bided his time to vanquish his adversary. An opportune occasion soon arrived. It was in the summer; the usual donation had been made to these champions, and Rhoads' best shot had just grazed the center. The Judge's breeches were of the usual tow linen, and worn without drawers. As he was lying down, taking long and deliberate aim, his rival, by some means, slipped some bees up the leg of his pantaloons. These hostiles, after a short voyage of discovery, began to ply their harpoons. But so completely absorbed was the Judge in this struggle for victory, that he stiffened his limb, elevated it straight in the air, and crying: — " Stump .Rhoads, you can't throw Sweet Milk off that center with no dod-blasted bee," pulled the trigger, clove the center, and was declared the winner.

Though society was rude and rough, that curse of humanity, intemperance, was no more prevalent, in proportion to population, than now, perhaps not as much. Scarcely was the nucleus of a settlement formed, ere the steam of the still tainted the air. The settlers endured privations and hunger, and their children cried for bread for want of mills; they groped in ignorance for want of schools and churches, but the still was ever in their midst, where the farmer exchanged his bag of corn for the beverage of the border. In every family the jug of bitters was an inseparable adjunct, and was regularly partaken of by every member of the household, especially during the chill season. The visit of a neighbor was signalized by producing the bottle or demijohn. At all rustic gatherings, liquor was considered an indispensable article, and was freely used. Everybody drank whisky, ministers and all. True, there were some sections, in which the people resisted all advancement and progress. In these, liquor was used to great excess, and then, as now, was an active promoter of broils, disturbances and fights. In these affrays, to their credit be it said, fists and feet were alone used, and were called "rough and tumble." The knife, the pistol and the bludgeon, were then unknown, and are the products of a much later and more advanced civilization. These sections were known as the " hard neighborhoods," and were always shunned by respectable immigrants seeking homes. There is a story that an itinerant teetotaler once strayed into one of these haunts of immorality, and threw a fire-brand into the camp by delivering a terrific discourse against the use of intoxicants. The speaker was interrupted by the representative man, who introduced himself, and described the society of his locality, as follows: " I'm from Salt Creek, and the folks than are all bad and wooley; and the higher up you go, the wuss they air, and I'm from the headwaters. I'm a wolf, and it's my time to howl. Now, Mr. Preacher, what would we do with our corn crop, if there wuz no still-houses?" " Raise more hogs and less hell around here," was the ready, but vigorous reply. The speaker was interrupted no more.

The old time ministers were characters in their way. A distinct race so to speak, and were possessed of an individuality, peculiarly their own. As a class, they were uneducated, rough and resolute, and encountered and overcame obstacles that would appall the effeminate parsons of later days. They were suited exactly to the civilization in which they lived, and seem to have been chosen vessels, to fulfill a certain mission. These humble pioneers of frontier Christianity, proclaimed the " tidings of great joy " to the early settlers, at a time when the country was so poor that no other kind of ministers could have been maintained. They spread the gospel of Christ when educated ministers with salaries could not have been supported. They preached the doctrine of free salvation, without money and without price, toiling hard in the interim of their labors, to provide themselves with a scanty subsistence. They traversed the wilderness through sunshine and storm; slept in the open air, swam swollen streams, suffered cold, hunger and fatigue, with a noble heroism, and all for the sake of their Savior, and to save precious souls from perdition. Many of these divines sprang from, and were of the people, and without ministerial training, except in religious exercises, and the study of the Scriptures. In those times it was not thought necessary that a minister should be a scholar. It was sufficient for him to preach from a knowledge of the Bible alone; to make appeals warm from the heart; to paint the joys of heaven and the miseries of hell to the imagination of the sinner; to terrify him with the one, and exhort him, by a life of righteousness to attain the other. Many of these added to their scriptural knowledge, a diligent perusal of Young's Night Thoughts, Milton's Paradise Lost, Jenkins on Atonement, and other kindred works which gave more compass to their thoughts, and brighter imagery to their fancy. And in profuse and flowery language, and with glowing enthusiasm and streaming eyes, they told the story of the Cross.

Sometimes their sermons turned upon matters of controversy—unlearned arguments on the subjects of free grace, baptism, free will, election, faith, justification, and the final perseverance of the saints. But that in which they excelled was the earnestness of their words and manner, the vividness of the pictures they drew of the ineffable bliss of the redeemed, and the awful and eternal torments of the unrepentant.

" They preached the joys of heaven and pains of hell,
And warned the sinner with becoming zeal.
But on eternal mercy loved to dwell."


Above all, they inculcated the great principles of justice and sound morality, and were largely instrumental in promoting the growth of intellectual ideas, in bettering the condition, and in elevating the morals of the people ; and to them are we indebted for the first establishment of Christian institutions throughout the county. These old-time evangelists passed away with the civilization of the days in which they lived and labored. They fought the good tight, well and faithfully performed the mission, and bore the burdens their divine Master assigned them, and may their sacred ashes repose in peace, in the quietude of their lonely graves, until awakened by the final trump.

The white population of our county has steadily and rapidly increased, as will be seen by the following exhibit by decennial periods: In 1820 the white population was 930; in 1830, 3,921; in 1840, 7,420; in 1850, 9,494; in 1860, 14,948; in 1870, 18,698; in 1880, 21,843. The increase in colored population has been small, both by emigration and otherwise, increasing from one slave in 1820 to fifty-one free colored in 1880. After 1830 the moral and intellectual condition of our people gradually improved, each passing year recording a marked change for the better. But what it lacked in refinement it made up in sincerity and hospitality. The establishment of commerce, the forming of channels of intercourse between distant sections by building extensive highways, the regular exportation of all our surplus products, were among the first means of changing the exterior aspect of our population and giving a new current to public feeling and individual pursuit. The free diffusion of knowledge through schools and the ministry of the gospel also largely contributed to the happy change, and to all these influences are we indebted for the civilization of the present. But still, when we ponder on those olden days, rude and rough as they were, we almost wish for their return. Those good, old days, when the girls rode behind their sweethearts to church or party, and when the horses always kicked up, and the maidens held tightly on; when wife and husband visited on the same nag, the former in front of her liege, with sleeping babe snugly cuddled in her lap. Those good old days, when the hypocrisy, shams, and selfishness of modern society were unknown. When the respectability of men and women was not measured by their bank accounts and bonds, nor by displays of finery, but by the simple standard of worth and merit; by their usefulness in the community, by their readiness to aid the suffering, to relieve the distressed. When there were no social castes or distinctions, and when honesty and uprightness were the livery of aristocracy. When the turpitude of vice and the majesty of moral virtue were regarded with stronger sentiments of aversion and respect than they to-day inspire.

It is a well-established fact that the settlement and cultivation of a country have a noticeable effect upon the general temperature of the climate. But the change has been so gradual that it is a matter of difficulty for our few surviving pioneers to distinctly recollect and describe. At the first settlement of the country the summers were much cooler than now. Warm evenings and nights were not common, and the mornings, frequently, uncomfortably cold. The coolness of the nights was owing, in a great degree, to the deep, dense shade of the forest trees and the luxuriant crops of wild grass, weeds, and other vegetation, which so shaded the earth's surface as to prevent it from becoming heated by the rays of the sun. Frost and snow set in much earlier than now. Snowfalls frequently occurred during the latter half of October, and winter often set in with severity during November, and sometimes in the early part of it. The springs were formerly later and colder than they now are, but the change in this respect is not favorable to vegetation, as the latest springs are generally followed by the most fruitful seasons. It is a law of the vegetable world that the longer the germination principle is delayed the more rapid when put in motion. Hence those far northern countries like Sweden, Norway, and Russia, which have but a short summer and no spring, are among the most productive in the world. While, in this latitude especially, vegetation, prematurely started by reason of open winters and delusive springs, is often checked by " cold snaps" and untimely frosts, and frequently fails to attain its ultimate perfection. From this imperfect account of the weather system of early times, it appears that the seasons have undergone considerable change. As a rule, our springs are earlier, summers warmer, the falls milder and longer, and the winters shorter and accompanied with less cold and snow than formerly. These changes can be partly, if not wholly, attributed to the destruction of the forests. Every acre of cultivated land must increase the heat of our summers, by exposing an augmented extent of ground surface denuded of its timber, to be acted upon and heated by the rays of the sun. But, by reason of there being no mountainous barriers either north or south of us, the conflict for equilibrium between the dense and rarified atmospheres of these two extremes will most likely continue our changeable and fickle climate forever.




BACK -- HOME

Find Your Ancestors wherever their trails led!

Copyright © Genealogy Trails