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Enoch A. Gastman
McLean County, Illinois

(Transcribed by: Amy Robbins-Tjaden)


Enoch A. Gastman was born June 5, 1801, in West Friesland, Holland. His father's name was Eilt A. Gastman. He never came to America, nor did any of his relatives, except his son, Enoch, whose sketch we are writing. In 1808 young Enoch went on board of a French man-of-war, when Napoleon Bonaparte was at the head of affairs in France. It was young Enoch's business to brush coats and black boots. The discipline was very strict, as Enoch found by sad experience.

In 1812-13, Napoleon made his celebrated march to Moscow and his disastrous retreat. After his defeat and capture, the soldiers and sailors under him were discharged, and Enoch was told to go. He went back to Holland, where he remained until spring, and then went coasting on board of a Dutch schooner. After coasting about a great deal and visiting many ports, he came on land for a while, and was bound out to learn the trade of carpenter and joiner. After working for two years he took French leave of his master. He worked at other places and stayed for one winter with his father. When he became seventeen years of age, he fell in with an East India captain and shipped as carpenter's mate for Batavia, on the island of Java. There he saw many Chinamen with their brimmed hats. But the crew were seldom allowed to go ashore, as the place was very sickly.

An intoxicating drink, called arrack, is made there out of the juice of the cocoanut tree. This juice is allowed to ferment, and when it works it makes the intoxicating drink. All persons, who go to Java, must exercise the greatest caution in their diet or they sicken and die. While Mr Gastman was there, an American ship came to port, and as the sailors had been without grog for a long time, they were given their back rations in arrack, and they drank themselves to death and were buried on the island of Unrest.

Mr Gastman made three trips to Java. In 1824 he and three others chartered a vessel to carry a cargo of powder and gin to the Mexicans, who were then fighting for independence against Spain. They started through the British channel, but a southwest wind blew them to the North Sea. They attempted to go around the British Isles to the Atlantic Ocean, but were dismasted and waterlogged, and would have gone to the bottom, had not the cargo of gin kept the vessel afloat. Seven of the crew were drowned, and seven were picked up by an American vessel. Of these, two died from the effects of their hardships,and the remaining five were carried to New York. There he shipped on board of a vessel for Norfolk, thence to Grenada, South America, thence to Turk's Island, and thence to Portland, Maine. He made a great many voyages to all parts of the world, and had a great many adventures, but thought he would settle down at work in New York as a rigger.

But soon he was off on a voyage to London, then came back to New York. Here he married, July 11, 1830, Margaret Hiegans.

After many voyages and adventures, he had a wife, and seventy-five cents in his pocket. He again became a rigger for a while, but soon was a public porter, and remained such for six years. For six years also, he was a night watchman, and a part of this time a porter. He had many lively adventures in New York, while making arrests, as thieves and smugglers were plenty.

In the winter of 1837-8, he started for Illinois, and arrived at Hudson, McLean County, in March. Everything was then selling at high prices. He boarded for a while with Horatio N. Pettit, then traded his land for the place of R. G. Marion, and moved on the latter farm in June.

In 1840 the price of produce of all kinds came down, and it seemed as if everything was given away. Mr Gastman contracted to sell a load of potatoes to Mr Barnett, of the Eagle Hotel, but when the former went to deliver them he could get only four cents per bushel. Rather than sell them at such a figure he carried them down to Sugar Creek, took out the tail-board of his wagon and emptied them into the stream.

In the spring of 1857, Mrs Gastman died, and in April, Mr Gastman moved to Hudson and sent his children to Eureka College. In 1858 he married Ann Hitch. She died in 1862.

He then moved to his son's farm. In 1863, Mr Gastma married Lavinia Randalls, who is yet living.

Mr Gastman has had five children, of whom two are living.

They are:

Enoch A. Gastman, Jr., who was born June 15, 1834, in New York City, No. 54 Mulberry Street. He went to Eureka College for three months, then to the Normal school, where he graduated. He has been for twelve years superintendent of schools at Decatur, Illinois.

George Washington Gastman was born July 12, 1837, in New York City. He went one year and three months to Eureka College, when his health failed him, and he returned to his farm. He is married, and lives on his farm near Hudson.

Francis Marion Gastman was born in August, 1842, in Hudson township. He was two years at Eureka College, and two years at the Normal. He enlisted int he army in 1861, in the Normal regiment, (Thirty-third Illinois,) commanded by Colonel Hovey. He died at Black River, March 22, 1862.

These are all of Mr Gastman's children, who grew up to manhood. He named the last two after Revolutionary patriots and is sorry that Enoch was not also named after some Revolutionary soldier. If he had another child he would name it Andrew Jackson, (regardless of sex,) on account of the services rendered by Jackson during the Revolution. (?) (sic)

Mr Gastman is a Democrat, dyed in the wool, a real, genuine, uncompromising Democrat, and would vote for no man of any other party. He is five feet and ten inches in height, and is enormously muscular. He treats a rough man roughly, but when he talks to gentlemen he is a gentleman himself. He is a humorous man, and takes life pleasantly. He delights in telling of his adventures, and will sit and talk by the hour, when he has an appreciative listener. He is proud of his boys, and has a right to be, for they are an honor to him.

[The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois (Bloomington Ill, 1874)]



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