Old Settlers Association, September 1873

Contributed by Carman Megehe

Second Meeting: The second meeting of the Old Settlers' Association was held in September, 1873. The following letter from Judge William Thomas, of Jacksonville, was read: Jacksonville, Aug. 30, 1873.
"Mr. Marcellus Ross, Secretary: Dear Sir, I have received two invitations to attend the Old Settlers' Meeting in Pike county on Wednesday next. I regret that I cannot accept either, for I would be glad to meet the survivors of those with whom I became acquainted forty-five years ago. I attended the Circuit Court in Atlas in June, 1827, which was my first visit to Pike. The Court was held by Judge Lockwood, who now resides at Batavia, in Kane county. The attorneys in attendance were John W. Whitney, N. Hanson, and John Jay Ross, of Pike county, Gen. James Turney and Alfred W. Caverly, of Greene county, now of Ottawa, and J. W. Pugh, of Sangamon county, Mr. Jenkins, of Calhoun county, John Turney and myself, of Morgan county. Capt. Leonard Ross, one of nature's noblemen, was Sheriff. Col. Wm. Ross was Clerk; James M. Seeley was an officer of the Court. Of all these, Judge Lockwood, Mr. Caverly, and myself are the only survivors. The Court was in session three days, and then went to Calhoun county. It was held in a log cabin in the prairie, near which was a log cabin occupied by the grand jury. The traverse jury had the privilege of the prairies.

"In September afterward, returning from the Winnebago war I left the boat at Quincy, where I purchased a horse, saddle and bridle for $40. From Quincy I came to Atlas, a good day's travel; remained in Atlas one day and two nights, and then set out for home. Passing Col. Seeley's, I found no other house until I reached Blue river, where Van Deusen had a small grist-mill, and I crossed the Illinois river on Van Deusen's ferry. That night I reached Exeter. The weather was pleasant, the roads were dry and smooth. "Pike county was then a wilderness. I came as directed, the nearest and best route home. I could never have been made to believe that I should live to see a population of 30,000 within its boundaries.

"Capt Ross entertained the jury and the lawyers in their double log cabin free of charge, expressing his regret that we could not stay longer. I was at Atlas at the Presidential election in 1824 and voted for John Quincy Adams for President. "Judge Lockwood, Mr. McConnell and myself, in attending Court at Atlas (the year I do not recollect), passed the present site of Griggsville and saw the man, Mr. Scholl, raising the first log cabin on that hill. I suppose the land had been laid out in town lots.

"In the early settlement of the Military Tract traveling cost but little. The old settlers were always glad of the opportunity of entertaining travelers, and especially the judge and lawyers, from whom they could obtain interesting accounts in relation to what was going on in the world around them. Besides, we often had to encamp in the woods and prairies because no house was within reach at dark, and this was called "lodging at Munn's tavern," because of the large number of quarter sections of land owned by him. I have often fared sumptuously in the log cabins on bread made of grated meal, venison, honey, butter and milk and stewed pumpkins, and slept comfortably and soundly on the puncheon floor.

"Feb. 14, 1823, Wm. Ross was elected Judge of the Court of Probate. In 1823 Geo. Cadwell, then of Greene county but afterward included in Morgan, was elected to the Senate for Greene and Pike, and Archibald Job, who was still living, for the House. Cadwell's term expired in two years, and in 1824 Thos. Carlin, afterward elected governor in 1836, was elected to the Senate. Cadwell was an educated physician, a man of talent and stern integrity: he died in 1824 or 1825.

"At the meeting of the legislature in 1824 Nicholas Hanson and John Shaw both produced certificates of election to the House. The question which was entitled to the seat was referred to the Speaker, who decided in favor of Hanson. During the session the question was again brought before the House, and decided by a unanimous vote in favor of Hanson. Near the close of the session the question was reconsidered and Shaw admitted, in consideration of which Shaw voted for the resolution for a call of a convention. "For several years after I came to the State, deer, wild turkey and wild beasts were plenty, especially on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. But for this fact many of our early settlers would have suffered for provisions, or have been compelled to retreat for supplies.

"In passing from Rushville to Quincy, the Judge, Mr. Caverly and myself slept on the prairie during the night, and the next morning, which was Sunday, we found a house a few miles distant in the barrens; and we could not make the family believe it was not Saturday. The nearest neighbor lived five miles distant. They lived on wild game, grated corn meal and roasted ears, and lived well. We thought at breakfast we could not wish for better fare. "In passing from Atlas to Gilead in Calhoun county we always made the house of an old gentleman named Munn our stopping-place. He and his wife were always glad to see us and made sumptuous preparations for our comfort.

"If I were at the stand and questioned I could probably answer many questions in regard to matters of interest to the present inhabitants; but as I do not know the points on which they would question me, and as I have already extended this letter, considering the hot weather, to what may be considered a reasonable length, I close, hoping that you may have a good day and a good time. Respectfully your friend, William Thomas

This meeting was addressed by many old settlers, who related very interesting experiences. The exercises were interspersed with music and a grand picnic dinner, etc. Letters were read from Edwin Draper and Levi Pettibone, of Louisiana, Mo., besides the one from Judge Thomas, above given. Wm. A. Grimshaw was elected President, James McWilliams, of Griggsville, Vice President, and Geo. W. Jones Assistant Secretary. The following resolution was adopted: "Resolved, That the old settlers of Pike and Calhoun counties be requested to notify the President and Secretary of the Old Settlers' organization, the names of all members of this Association who shall depart this life during the present year, and that the Secretary be instructed to enter the same upon record."

Among those who addressed the assembly were Hon. Wm. A. Grimshaw, John T. Hodgen, of St. Louis, Calvin Twichell, of Calhoun county, J. T. Long, now of Barry, for many years a resident of Adams county, Wm. Turnbull, of Flint, A. P. Sharpe, of Griggsville, Alvin Wheeler, the oldest living settler of Pike county (came here in 1818), now 75 years of age. Col. D. B. Bush closed the line of history by giving a sketch of Pittsfield. Dr. Worthington claimed Frederick Franklin, of Montezuma, as the oldest living settler of Pike county now living. He was the son of Ebenezer Franklin, the first settler in the county.

In this connection we give the very interesting letter of Mr. Draper: Louisiana, Mo., Sept. 1, 1873, Hon. Wm. A. Grimshaw and others: Gentlemen,-- Through the politeness of some friend of your county-seat I am indebted for an invitation to attend the meeting of old settlers of your county at Pittsfield, on the 3d inst.; for this invitation I presume I am indebted for the fact of being nearly connected by marriage with Levi Pettibone, Esq., an old settler and perhaps the oldest man in Pike county, Mo., and perhaps with few exceptions the oldest man in Missouri, he being now nearing the completion of his 93d year. But from whatever cause, I esteem it a compliment altogether undeserved to myself, but which nevertheless I should take the greatest pleasure, if circumstances permitted, of meeting with the old settlers of your county, among whom I am proud to recognize, not only the many distinguished public men, but many old and long esteemed personal friends, some of whom have long been settlers of Pike county, Ill., and not a few of them old settlers of Pike and Lincoln counties, Mo., who, not content with aiding to break up the wilds of Missouri and bring them into the paths and fields of civilization, have largely colonized Pike county Ill., where they have been long enough to earn the appellation of "old settlers," where they are realizing the rich fruits of their industry in land flowing with milk and honey, and as I lament to know, many of them are resting beneath the sods that are no respecters of persons in the final winding up of human affairs. The memory of many of these persons, both living and dead, carry me far back into the history of the past, in the early history of Missouri, of whose soil I have been an occupant since the year 1815, before either your State or Missouri had a State Government. Though then quite young (but eight years old) I was old enough to remember everything I saw, and everybody I knew, much more so than persons and facts of later years; but to attempt to recount or name any considerable number of them would be to inflict a bore upon you that I dare not presume upon; but as I presume that a part of the exercises of the occasion would be to recur to the early history of the West, including your State and ours, I cannot resist the temptation to jot down a few facts and names, even at the risk of being laid upon the table as a bore.

The date 1815 shows that the early settlers, among whom was my father, were crowding into Missouri even before the forts were all vacated, whither the old settlers had fled for the purpose of protection from hostile savages, who but recently had almost undisputed possession of a large part of our State. To get into Missouri, then largely considered as the promised land, we had to cross the Mississippi river, the Father of Waters. I don't know how much of a father he was at that time, but I have been acquainted with him since that time, and I don't know much difference in his size between then and now, except occasionally, as in 1851, he got into a terrible rage and had uncontrolled possession from Louisiana to Atlas, and rolled on, whether vexed or unvexed, in solemn majesty to the Gulf of Mexico. But to continue. He had to be "crossed" to get into Missouri. In 1815, as history shows, no steam-boats were known on our rivers, and the only modes, or rather mode, of crossing the river at St. Louis was by means of a small keel-boat or barge without any deck or covering, propelled by poles; and our wagons were crossed by placing two planks or slabs across the keel, running the wagons by hand upon these slabs across the boats and "scotching" the wheels with billets of wood, filling in the inner parts of the boat with horses, children, etc. Yet we conquered the old gentleman and rode across in triumph, but not, however, until after waiting two days on the eastern bank for the wind to lie, which had so ruffled the surface and temper of the "father" that he could not, safely at least, be mounted by an insignificant keel-boat until the cause of his irritation had ceased.

Safely on the Missouri shore, the first night was passed in the city of St. Louis, then containing about 1,200 inhabitants and very few brick houses: I did not count them, however. No railroads then were even thought of in the West, so far as I remember, but now, well, you can tell the tale yourselves. St. Louis has now 450,000 inhabitants, and would likely have a million but for Chicago and the railroads, which have revolutionized the course of nature and the natural rights of St. Louis, which depended on the navigation of the great rivers to work for her; and while her great land-owner slept a quarter of a century Chicago and the railroads were surging ahead of her. Excuse this digression, which I could not help while reflecting on the immense change all over the West since I first crossed the great river.

I have alluded to the fact of your county being largely colonized from Pike and Lincoln counties, Mo. It would be impossible for me to enumerate all of them, even if I knew them all; but among the names I remember well those of the Gibsons, the Sittons, Buchanan, Yokems, Galloway, Uncle Jake Williamson, the Cannons, Collard, Wellses, Kerrs, Noyes, Metz, Johnsons, McConnells, Andersons, etc., etc., all of whom went from Pike or Lincoln. All of them were good citizens, while some of them held high and honorable positions in public office. Your former valued Sheriff, Ephraim Cannon, was for a while a school-mate of mine, larger and older than I, but still a school-mate. The only special recollection I have of our school-boys' life was that the teacher once asked him, when nearly time to close school, "How high is the sun?' He replied he had no means of measuring the height, but "from appearance it was about a rod high." John J. Collard, Esq., a former Clerk of one of your Courts, was the son of an old settler of Lincoln county, dating before the war of 1812, if my memory is not at fault. I have attended your courts when held at the old county-seat, Atlas, and since its location at your beautiful town Pittsfield. The old settlers at Atlas, as well as of Pittsfield, were the Rosses, most of whom I knew personally, and had a slight acquaintance with the "Bashaw" of Hamburg, Mr. Shaw. Old Father Burnett and his boys John and Frank belonged to both Pikes, in Illinois and Missouri. The sons wore out their lives in trying to sustain a ferry between the two Pikes.

But I must forbear, fearing that I have already bored you, a thing I feared at the start. I could write a half quire of recollections of Pike in Missouri, and some of Pike in Illinois, if there were any market for them. But I must close with my best wishes for your people, both old and young. (Edwin Draper)