by Mrs. E. H. Shallenberger
Published by B. W. Seaton, Prairie Chief Office, Book and Job Printer, 1876
This online edition by Nancy Piper and Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group
Chapter I: A Retrospective Glance (including the
various Voyages of discovery by means of which a knowledge of this land was
conveyed to the Old World, and Emigration induced to drift hitherward --
Geological Changes -- Carboniferous Period - Formation of our Coal Measures
- Character of our Resident Indians, Black Hawk's Incursion, &
Chapter II: Our First Settlers
Pages 28-42 (Isaac B. Essex - Various Groups of Settlers at Osceola, Wyoming, Lafayette, West Jersey, and Valley Township. -- The Circumstances that Environed them -- Anecdotes -- First Marriage, Birth and Death in what is now Stark County -- Where and how the first Houses were built - Character of our Early Settlers -- The Impression they have left upon our County.) Updated: Chapter II Now Complete
Chapter III: The Formation of Stark County (It's first Election, Organization, & c. -- Political Struggles and Maneuvers of the Early Settlers. -- Institution of Courts. -- Natural Advantages -- Geography, Climate, and General Healthfulness of the New County. -- It's Groves and Roads)
Chapter IV: Public Enterprises (Religious, Education, Benevolent, Military and Business)
Chapter V: The Fauna and Flora (by T. M. Shallenberger)
Chapter VI: Our Towns (Toulon, Wyoming, Lafayette, Bradford, Castleton, Duncan. --Their Past History and Present Prosperity)
Part II: Personal Sketches
General Samuel Thomas and Family
Rev. R. C. Dunn and Family
Col. William H. Henderson
Rev. Samuel G. Wright
The Hall Family
Turnbull and Oliver Families
The Scotch Settlement at Elmira
The Sturms Family
Mr. Henry Seeley
Mr. Thomas Winn
Mr. James Buswell
The Butler Family
Gen. Thomas J. Henderson
The McClennahan Family
The Essex Family
Abstract of Vote
Soldiers' Record & c.
Our First Settlers - Isaac B. Essex - Various Groups of Settlers at Osceola, Wyoming, Lafayette, West Jersey, and Valley Township. -- The Circumstances that Environed them -- Anecdotes -- First Marriage, Birth and Death in what is now Stark County -- Where and how the first Houses were built - Character of our Early Settlers -- The Impression they have left upon our County.
Isaac B. Essex
In the latter part of April, 1829, a solitary, heavily laden wagon might have been seen slowly wending its way from the hospitable home of Mr. French, at Prince's grove, about half a mile north-west of the present town of Princeville, toward Spoon river, probably crossing that stream at a point since known as Boardman's ford, or, as others think, near the seat of Cox's mill, and moving on toward section fifteen in what has since been known as Essex township.
The weather was warm and balmy considering the season. The prairie burnt over by the Indians in the fall was already green with sprouting grass. Accompanying this vehicle were, as it might seem a guard of good men, and true; "neighbors" they called themselves, although they must have lived many miles apart, some of them thrity or fourty from the scene of their present friendly labors, having come from LaSalle prairie, from Chillicothe and Peoria. They were neither hunters or warriors, they feared no enemy, and sought not the "spoils of war."
It was a peaceable expedition, and its leader was the occupant of the wagon, Isaac B. Essex, then in the strength of his manhood, and with him came his young wife and infant children to found a home in the wilderness.
The "Neighbors" were Daniel Prince, Stephen French, Simon Reed, Frank Thomas, and two Baptist ministers, Elders Silliman and Allen. The former of these two was the father of our much respected townsman, Minott Silliman, Esq., the first treasurer of Stark county. It is possible there may have been one or two more in the company, but if so, Mr. Essex fails to recall their names after the lapse of so many years. And these men had come so far to raise a cabin! Mr. Essex had been out and made his claim in 1828, and in the fall of that year cut the logs and split the clap-boards for his house, probably all of which were on the north-east quarter of section fifteen. They now proceeded to haul them together and get them in shape on the proposed building site They all camped in the woods the first night, but toward sundown of the second day, the cabin was raised, the roof on, and as Mr. Essex graphically says "we cut a log out and moved in."
This was emphatically The Pioneer Cabin, the first home of civilized man within the present limits of Stark county. Hence we have given it special mention, not that it differed materially either in the style or circumstances of its construction from its successors, but rather that it might serve as a sample of scores that soon nestled in the sheltered nooks for miles around. It was of course rough, and bare of all ornament, we might almost say of all convenience, but still it was a home, the fountain-head of those elevating influences, that are of priceless value to humanity.
Then Mr. Essex was a natural pioneer, "to the manor born," and his wife, if we may judge by subsequent developments, was not wanting in spirit, in that sort of spirit, properly called pluck, a quality that always commanded a premium in frontier settlements. They were contented and knew how to make themselves comfortable in their new abode. The rich prairie sod was soon broken, and they raised a good crop of corn, potatoes, and beans the first year, without a fence. Game of all kinds was abundant. Deer and turkeys supplied them with meat. From the river they got fine fish, often pike weighing twenty or thirty pounds, and fully four foot long. Occasionally they made a visit to Mr. French's family, their nearest white neighbor, a distance of seven miles. The Indians were much nearer, and were not bad neighbors when sober. A remark, we opine, that might apply to many people not red skinned.
The second cabin within our present county limits, was built by John B. Dodge, in the autumn of 1829, on section fourteen, Essex township. Of this we know no particulars. Dodge left this part of the country many years since, dying probably in the new state of Texas. The third was built and occupied by Benjamin Smith, in March, 1839, on the same section with his son-in-law, Dodge. These three cabins, all in Essex township, constituted the only habitations of white men within our present county limits prior to 1831. (For this and many other facts in this chapter we are indebted to General Hendersons "Address to the old settlers,' given in 1865)
This year William D. Grant made an improvement where Judge Holgate now resides, and John E. Owings had moved into the settlement, and occupied the cabin built by John B. Dodge. There were in 1831 the following named settlers in what is now Stark county, viz.: Isaac B. Essex, Thomas Essex, Jun., Thomas Essex, Sen., Benjamin Smith, Greenleaf Smith, Sewel Smith, William P. Smith, John B. Dodge, David Cooper, William D. Grant, John C. Owings, Harris W. Miner, David Gregory, and Sylvanus More.
At an election held in August 1831, there were in six townships of Stark county, then included in "Old Putnam," thirty-three votes polled, and as the election was a very important one, probably every voter was out. in reference to the poll of that election, shows that since 1831 the following additional inhabitants had settled in the territory referred to, viz.: Jason Hopkins, Jesse W. Heath, John P. Hays, Pardon B. Dodge, James Holgate, A. Baker, John Megill, James MeClennahan, Robert McClennahan, Elijah McClennahan; Sen., Elijah McClennahan, jun., Elias Love, John Love, Hugh Montgomery, T. Leeks, Thomas Winn, Charles Pierce, Hugh White, Peter Miner, Lewis Sturms, James Morrow and Minott Silliman.
At an election held in August, 1836, there were in the six townships before referred to, fifty-four votes polled, and from the names recorded upon the poll book, the following persons seem to have settled within their limits, say from January first, 1834, to January first, 1836, viz.: General Samuel Thomas Captain Henry Butler, S G. Worley, Henry Seeley, Henry Sturms, Mathias Sturms, W. E. Buckingham, William Mahany, Jarville Chaffee, Joseph Newton, Adam Day, Israel Seeley, Simeon Ellis Peter S. Shaver, Dexter Wall, Ira Ward, Cyril Ward, Samuel Love, Henry Sweet, Asher W. Smith, Lewis Perry, Adam Perry, Luther Townsend, Samuel Butler, Eliphalet Elsworth, Daniel Dobbins, Christopher Sammis, Lemuel Dorrance, Richard Dorrance, Henry Breese, Hugh Frail.
In 1865, seven of the last list were known to be dead, while only ten then resided in our county. The last decade has doubtless thinned their ranks afresh, and now in 1875 but a very small number of our old settlers still linger with us. The indifferent reader must pardon this perhaps, wearisome array of names; they can easily be ignored by those who take no interest in them, but these are our pioneers, and we should cherish their memory as such. Of many of them we have but little to record, save their names, so difficult is it, even now, to arrive at the true story of their quiet lives; doubtless could we do so, they might teach us many valuable lessons, for is not biography, history teaching by example?
At any rate we who enjoy in so large a degree the fruits of their labors and sacrifices, could not deny their names a place in the history of Stark county. Of course as years roll on and settlers multiply, we do not design to record all transient people, mere adventurers, here today and gone tomorrow. But of those who came early and brought their families, and have dwelt among us, helping to mould our county and make it what it is, we would not willingly omit one from these pages.
In December, 1835, a number of resolute men had pushed their way from Peoria, to what has since been called Osceola Grove. Among them were Mr. James Buswell, Isaac Spencer, Thomas Watts, Giles C. Dana, Peter Pratt, and Dr. Pratt. They came out under the auspices of Maj. Robert Moore, who had obtained a map of the lands in township fourteen north, range six east, designating the patent and unentered lands; and he now encouraged emigration hither, with a view to building up a town, which he had surveyed and called Osceola.
Major Moore was an intelligent, active, business man, ever ready to take advantage of circumstances, and fond of adventure. He subsequently went to Oregon with one of the first parties that ever crossed the mountains, whither his family followed him some years after, with the exception of his youngest son, Robert Moore, Esq., who is at this date a resident of Toulon. But at the time of which this narrative treats, Major Moore owned a ferry that crossed the river at Peoria, and to this he gave his personal supervision, and as emigrants crossed, which they did frequently, he would take the opportunity to recommend the Osceola country to them. In this way probably originated the company he led there in 1835.
Quoting Cliffords history in regard to this enterprise. The parties above named were all from Vermont - which Saxe says is a good state to come from but a poor one to go to - except Moore, who was from one of the southern states, and Day who was from Massachusetts. When these persons reached the Grove there was no one living there except Henry Seeley, who then had a cabin near where he lives now, and Lewis Sturms. A portion of the party stopped the first night at Sturms, and were hospitably entertained.
It was a dark, dreary, rainy night; they all slept on the floor in the small cabin, and from the days fatigue, having come on foot from Princes Grove, they soon fell asleep to be disturbed soon after by a loud hallooing outside, occasioned by the arrival of the Sturms family proper, the number of whom our informant was unable to state, further than they filled the little cabin chuck full; they were made up of men, women and children, wet, worn, fatigued, and hungry. Our informant says one of the woman came on horse back with twins in her arms, and in a sorry plight from having been pitched off her horse in sloughs and gullies concealed by the darkness of the night. Some of the party were taken over to Seeleys while the remainder filled the floor. The next day the balance of the Peoria party came in from Boyds Grove, having lost their reckoning and strayed out of their direction. The whole party then moved west for the purpose of surveying and making their claims.
For one week they camped out in the severest weather of the month of December, that week being the coldest of any during the whole season. The provisions which they had brought with them from Peoria were exhausted and nothing was now left them to sustain life, except corn they bad brought to feed their horses during the excursion. For the last day or two they subsisted entirely upon nubbins of corn burned by the fire, which culinary operation was performed in the morning, each one taking a few burnt nubbins of corn in their pockets for dinner. At night they varied this luxury by burning the corn, pounding it up, and making coffee of it.
Clifford further states that the parties named moved upon their claims in May, 1834. This is certainly a slight mistake as regards some of them. They probably built cabins as soon as that, or sooner, but some of the families referred to, did not arrive in the settlement till later in the summer, or in the fall. There is no doubt, however, that during some portion of that year many new names must be added to our list of pioneers.
June 1834 Settlers
In June came William Hall and wife, Robert Hall and their sister Mary, now Mrs. Hasard of Neponset and occupied for a short time the cabin owned by Mr. Buswell, who was still with his family in Peoria. With the Halls came the Vandyke brothers, Archie and Charles, the former bringing his wife with him and Mr. Brady Fowler who had been their companion up the river, soon followed them to the Grove. Myrtle G. Brace, Esq., (father of our present county treasurer,) E. S. Brodhead and a large family by the name of Davis, the latter from the then frontier land of Tennessee, all located in this neighborhood about the same time.
The Sturms Family
The Sturms family had some of them reached Seeleys Point in 1834 and detachments continued to arrive from time to time, making claims near the south part of Osceola Grove, till they had a settlement of their own. They were regular frontiers men, everyone mighty hunters: of tall stature, combining strength and activity in an unusual degree. Wearing an Indian garb of fringed buckskins, their feet encased in moccasins, with bowie knife at the belt and rifle on the shoulder; no wonder many a newcomer started from them in affright, supposing they had encountered genuine scalpers. But these men were by no means as savage as they seemed, but had hearts to which friend or stranger never appealed in vain. Very many old settlers yet remember they got their first slice of meat from a Sturms pork barrel, their first meal of corn or potatoes from their fields. And as early as 1836 they had horses, cows and hogs to sell and in this way aided others not so well provided.
Settlers to the West and Southwest
While these events were transpiring in one part of our territory, to the west and south-west were added names since become familiar. The Dunbars, Hodgesons, Lakes, Chatfields, Simmermans, Trickles, Moffitts, Sheets and Dunns. Also Jacob Smith, Nehemiah Wycott, W.W. Webster, the Barnetts, the Eckleys, and the Emerys. Col. Henderson also settled about one mile south of Toulon in 1836, bringing his large family of sons, who together with himself filled so large a place in our political and social history in subsequent years. By this time the McClennahans and William Mahaney had improvements about two miles south of Toulon. Wesley Miner had a cabin where the old Indian village had been, near the present site of Toulon, upon the premises now owned by Mrs. Follett. Harris Miner had a cabin at a grove three or four miles northwest of Toulon and Fraker had settled at the point of timber near the present site of Lafayette. Judge Holgate had settled where he now lives upon the improvement started by William D. Grant, Lemuel Dorrance further up Spoon river, above Holgates. General S. Thomas was at Wyoming. A man came with him by the name of William Godley. George Parker and Thomas Bradford came in about 1835-6, and settled on Jack creek in Toulon township.
Improvement Prior to 1836
There were some other improvements prior to 1836. Harris W. Miner (usually called Wesley Miner) who stopped for a time at Princes Grove, as did many of our first settlers, made his first improvement without our present county at a point of timber a little northeast of Wyoming, in 1832 or 1833; it is said that he broke the first acre of land and built the first cabin in Toulon township, this being on the Culbertson homestead, just north of the town; also that his marriage with Miss Nancy Gross was the first marriage solemnized between white people in this region; the ceremony was performed by Hiram M. Curry, Esq., then living near Peoria. The second marriage was that of Nero W. Mounts to the widow Martindale in 1832 and this time there was a resident Justice of the Peace to officiate, Benjamin Smith, Esq., who with John C. Owings was elected in August 1831. We regret we can give our readers no particulars of these interesting events; doubtless there was much that would strike us as unique in the costumes and style of the affairs generally but as it had not then become customary to make these details matters of newspaper notoriety, they are lost in the mists of years.
McClure Wedding in 1834
However in February 1834 there was a wedding at the house of Mr. James Holgate of which we can still learn something. This was between a gentleman by the name of McClure and a sister of Mrs. Holgate, Miss Marsh. The guests were, Mr. and Mrs. Sylvanus Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf Smith, Mr. and Mrs. John Dodge, Mr. and Mrs. Saml Seeley and Jesse Heath. Whether Squire Smith or some wandering preacher preformed the ceremony, Mr. Holgate did not inform us, but said he had in 1834, but (built?) a cabin sixteen feet square, and well filled with the usual comforts of pioneer life. They took the door from its hinges to add to the table and as the weather was mild for the season, the men stood outside while the feast was spread. Then bee gums were brought in and puncheons laid on them for seats and they had an excellent dinner, no scarcity of anything but room. The repast over, the men had again to retire to the sky parlor until the table could be cleared and the door restored to its place when they all managed to get inside and had a gay time. But the toilets must be left to the imagination of the reader.
First Birth and First Death
The first child born in the county was a son of Isaac B. Essex, in 1829. The first death was that of a little child of David Gregorys who lived for a time with Sylvanus Moore, near where Mr. Joseph Cox now resides.
Obtaining a Marriage License Before 1840
Let us glance for a few minutes at the circumstances that environed these settlers even forty years ago. These marriage licenses must be obtained at Hennepin, the county seat of old Putnam; and to get them a man might have to face floods or flames, for as the town is on the opposite side of the river from us with a low bottom intervening, subject to overflow and by a sudden change in the weather to freezer more or less, sometimes rendering it impassable either for team or boats, men were often reduced to straits as ludicrous as trying, probably thinking less however of their own peril than of the anxiety and suspense of the group around some dear fireside who were racking their brains to account for the unexpected delay.
Thus one man tell us he had to urge his horse to its utmost speed to escape the sweeping prairie fire, another had to pay the ferryman double and treat him besides, before he got his courage up to the point of daring the ice current that was rolling between him and the object of his hearts desire. Finally lover and preacher were landed and once more on their way to the place where the ceremony was to be performed. But a new obstacle presented itself. The east fork of Spoon river was over its banks and great ragged blocks of ice threatened madly anyone who braved their fury, but, the would be married man plunged in and he and his horse were soon clambering up the opposite bank thoroughly wet and benumbed with cold. But now the preacher declined to take his chances and the prospect did not brighten at all.
But after a hurried consultation at the house of the bride elect, it was decided to call in a neighbor who had lately been made a Justice of the Peace by the suffrages of his countrymen and have him proceed to tie the nuptial know. The officer was in a painful state of mind; the possibility of such services being required of him had perhaps never been considered. But he was not the man to fail his friends in an emergency, so putting a copy of the statutes for such cases made and provided under his arm, he set out resolutely to do his duty. But the novel situation was too much for his nerves; he would have preferred facing Indians. Standing before the young couple he seemed smitten with palsy, or shaken by a sudden ague. His teeth chattered, his knees knocked together and great beads of sweat stood on his brow, making altogether such a picture of suffering that pity absorbed every other emotion in the observers. It was with difficulty he uttered the words prescribed by law, few as they are; but he did utter them and to good purpose for they have bound two willing hearts these forty years and have not been annulled by divorce, which is more than can be said for many fashionable ceremonies since those days. But marriage was by no means the only business that involved the performance of long journeys and hair breadth escapes.
Purchasing Land and Selling Goods
To pre-empt their land they must go to Galena, Quincy or at a later period to Dixon. With no roads, no bridges, no places of shelter, nothing to direct their course save the sun or wind, (which latter would sometimes sadly deceive them by an unnoticed change,) and sometimes an Indian trail, these were reliable guides wherever they existed and were followed with perfect confidence by the true backwoodsman. Then think of the nearest market being Galena or Chicago and no railroads! Wheat was hauled all these weary miles to be sold at fifty cents a bushel or less. The farmers usually forming little companies for the trip as the road was infested at times with a sort of banditti that made it unsafe for a man to travel along; then they bivouacked in company, trying no doubt to have some fun to compensate for the fatigues and exposure of such jaunts. Many are the tales told us of these times; every old settler has his stock of them.
Robert Hall and Companys Journey to Galena
We shall venture to record one only as told by Robert Hall of Osceola. He, in company with his brother William, W. W. Winslow and Robert Coultass, the latter a stout Englishman living in Bureau county, undertook to drive a large drove of hogs to Galena in the depth of winter. Winslow and the Halls started with theirs from Osceola Grove, Coultass was to join them with his near where Sheffield now stands, which he did and they got along slowly of course, but without any serious difficulty until they struck the great prairie beyond the Edward river, which was then a stretch of sixteen miles without a halting place. By this time provisions were growing scarce and they dispatched William Hall ahead with a wagon to obtain some and have them in readiness at their next camping spot beyond the prairie. But hardly had he left them till the wind changed and soon blew a gale directly in their teeth. A driving snow filled the air and almost blinded them and the hogs most positively refused to face the storm. And these were no pen bred hogs but huge animals that had fattened in the woods. They knew the use of legs and could travel almost equal to horses. So the drovers had hard work to prevent a general stampede back to the settlement they had left. To advance a step was utterly impossible.
As they were on the open prairie, without fire, food or shelter, a council of war was called and it was decided that there were but two horns to the dilemma, they must either perish there or follow the hogs home again. But just at this juncture the Peoria and Galena sate, drawn by four stout horses, came dashing along cutting a path through the snow and for some reason known only to themselves, the hogs took after the stage, fairly pursuing it for miles, squealing furiously and running at a rate that almost kept them abreast of the hourses to the great relief of the drovers who thereby soon reached a shelter for the night and voted alls well that ends well. In the course of time they arrived at Galena with their drove and made arrangements for doing their own slaughtering as was then common. Some man furnished them yard, board and fire and all the conveniences for the work and in return took the rough fat. So on the whole it turned out a fortunate venture for those days.
The Hardships of 1838
Of course at first no groceries, or dry goods or household comforts of any kind could be obtained nearer than these distant markets; not even flour nearer than the Illinois river for many years and in the autumn of 1838, the river being too low for navigation to Peoria, all stores had to be hauled up from St. Louis, which of course made them very expensive, far too much so for the meager purses of our pioneers and great were the privations endured by the aged and invalids among them. At this time in the Osceola settlement, they had to grind wheat or buckwheat in a coffee mill for bread or grate corn on a huge grater put down in a tub as we now put our washboards. One coffee mill and one corn grater had to do service for a whole neighborhood making daily rounds from house to house. Many still living can testify how tender fingers often bled over that cruel grater. But men must eat and women must work then as now and although every substitute for bread was tried, it seems as if nothing else could fill its place and meal must be had at any price. Great was the rejoicing when an Irishman by the name of Cook set up a large and mill at Mr. Winslows place and ground for the settlers at so much per quart. Of course, near the same state of things obtained in all the neighboring settlements.
The First Mill
Attempts had been made to build mills on Spoon river, but they proved a poor dependence. Harmon Leek built one not far from the bridge on the Toulon and Wyoming road as early as 1833 or 1834. It had one run of stone and there was a saw mill attached to it. They cut the logs and sawed them to order. The dam was made of brush, hay and gravel and the whole thing was poorly constructed. In the winter of 1835 or 1836, Minott Silliman rented the entire concern for the coming year for thirty dollars. But high waters of the opening spring swept dam and mill away to the dead loss of Silliman of the thirty dollars paid in advance and an equal amount of prospective profits.
Sickness and Death
If sickness came in those days no physician could be obtained nearer than Peoria and if death, then a minister must come from that point, if the bereaved would listen to the words of religious consolation or see the solemn rites they had been accustomed to performed above their dead. Well we recall a funeral in the woods, perhaps in July or August of 1837. A little girl had died, a coffin was made by Mr. Calvin Winslow from a packing box, as boards could not be obtained of course and the tiny thing was conveyed to her grave by loving hands. The children dropped flowers upon the coffin lid, a few voices sung the hymn beginning
The morning flowers display their sweets,
And gay their silken leaved unfold.
And we left her to sleep on the hillside no tolling bell, no hearse with nodding plumes, none to say Earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
"No Healer, Gilead's balm to shed
With priestly power, was there;
No hallowed lip the dead
To lift the voice of prayer."
We trust our readers will pardon this little digression; we must sometimes illustrate the spirit and practices of those days, by incidents drawn from memory when nothing better is afforded us.
The First Homesteads and Cabins
A good deal has been said in regard to the first improvements being all made in the timber, as if it implied any lack of judgment on the part of the men who made them. It certainly was-not strange that people who had always lived in the shelter of groves, should select such sites for their new homes. To many of them prairies were untried experiments, and it was a prevailing" opinion that timber would soon become very scarce, a fear without foundation, as events have proved. So the settler laid his first claim on a timber quarter, knowing when the state of his exchequer permitted, there would be plenty of prairie land to buy if not to enter.
Then these cabins were many of them poor half finished affairs, and protection from the driving storms was very desirable; the timber also sheltered stock till such times as sheds and out buildings could be erected. That the time soon came when intelligent enterprising farmers saw their interest lay in improving prairie farms, and ceased clearing fields, when there were boundless acres presenting no obstacle to the most perfect cultivation, argues nothing against the policy of sheltering for a time in the woods. Forty years, yes even thirty years ago, scarce anything could have been seen through this, portion of the state, in the way of a human habitation, save these log cabins.
The First Frame Buildings
Probably the first frame building in the county was a small store room, occupied by Whitney Smith at Wyoming, and not long after, there was a small room or two, built at Lafayette, and used as shops or stores. About this time a frame barn was raised by Dexter Wall on his old homestead near the mill. The writer remembers seeing it before it was enclosed, and still recollects with what interest it was visited by many. As soon as it was sufficiently finished to furnish protection from the weather, it was used for church purposes, and considered a very desirable place by the church goers of those days.
But though so recently these log houses were all that we had, so entirely have they disappeared before the march of improvement, that but few, if any are inhabited today. Many of the children growing up now, have never seen one, and can hardly imagine how their fathers and mothers lived happily and contentedly amidst such rude surroundings; but that they did so live during the best years of their life, many can still attest. Of course, the character of those early homes differed with the character of the occupants, just as our more expensive homes do today. There were then, as now, the thrifty and the unthrifty, the tidy and the untidy, the cultivated and the uncultivated, and these differences contrived to impress themselves, even upon a log cabin.
The very first ones, were much alike in general construction, being usually one lower room with a loft; a puncheon floor, a door of rough clap-boards, with a wooden latch, and the traditional string always supposed to be out. There was the large fire place built of stones or sticks plastered with mud, a mud hearth, a huge skillet, in which the family baking was done by means of placing hot embers under and over; and perhaps a tea-kettle or coffee pot; and in the corners farthest from the fire, bedsteads, made by boring holes in the logs and inserting poles which were fastened to short posts at the foot. These frames were then covered with clap-boards or "shakes," and you were ready to "make up your bed" if you were fortunate enough to have such a luxury; if not, then you could throw some clean straw upon it, or if in the autumn, gather fresh leaves, throw on them a quilt or buffalo robe and it would do for a new corner. A. rough table made from the remains of packing boxes, or something of that kind, a few benches or stools and a shelf for the table ware, and you have the interior and furniture of a pioneer cabin. Some of them had a log sawed out to admit the light, and the aperture was closed by a curtain at night. Few of the very first had any glass for windows; some were constructed without the aid of nails, though hardly without the sound of a hammer. "Weight-poles" were used in such cases, to hold the roofs on, and wooden pegs where we should use nails. But the better class of settlers soon found means to improve upon this state of affairs.
The Southerners Cabin
The southerner built himself a double cabin with an open space between, such as he had been accustomed to in the warmer land from whence he came. This open space being roofed in, made a pleasant dining room in summer, and in winter the seed corn hung from the rafters, and it served as it store house for things generally. Each room of this establishment had its open fire, the one used as a kitchen, perhaps sported a "crane" from which dangled the cooking utensils; the other was the best room, but both contained beds, as the demands upon the hospitality of these pioneers, were almost unceasing; and as another expressed it, though there was already a guest for every puncheon in the floor, the stranger was sure of a welcome, and room would be made for him by the log fire.
Larger Cabins Built
Soon story-and-a-half cabins began to tower aloft, and then a lean-to and porch made a very comfortable residence, if a rough one. People coming from neighboring states contrived to bring sash and glass for windows, and perhaps a bedstead and a couple of chairs were stowed in the great wagon somewhere, and adorned the front room, after they got to housekeeping. Then the taste of the thrifty housewife would be called into requisition to cover up whatever was unsightly, and make the most of every vestige of comfort that circumstances permitted. Perhaps a shelf supported by pegs driven in the wall, held the little stock of glass and crockery ware that had survived the vicissitudes of the emigration; from this she would hang a curtain, and behind it set or hang, all the rougher cooking utensils. The vinegar barrel stood in one corner, for your pioneer housekeeper must make her own vinegar as well as her own soap and candles; this she also curtained, and the top made a passable stand. Then if she was fortunate enough to possess a small table to stand under her window, it was surprising to see how soon a few hooks and a vase or glass of flowers made their way to it. The bedstead was adorned with a "tester" and curtains; sometimes made of the snowy sheets brought so carefully from former homes, hut more frequently of dark rich prints or chintz, either of which gave an air of comfort to the bed and secured privacy to the occupant. Give a woman of tact, hammer and nails, needles and thread, and plenty of calico, and there is no end to the transformation she will accomplish , said an old settler as he stepped into his garnished cabin, as proudly as if it had been a tapestried chamber in some ancestral mansion of Europe.
The Settler's Character
The dwellers in these houses were a heterogeneous group; they had come from the north and from the south, from the east and (I had almost said the west) to clasp hands on these prairies. From the Atlantic coast, from New England homes ; from the green mountains of Vermont ; from the beautiful Valley of Wyoming; from "Old Luzerne;" from the sunny vales of the south, from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee ; from the border-land of Ohio and Indiana. Others had crossed the sea. John Bull, with his sturdy English nature, and all his national prejudices rife within him ; albeit tempered now by a growing love of free Institutions and a dawning sense of the greatness of his adopted country. The Scotchman too, wrapped in his shepherd's plaid, self-reliant, self-contained, and self-denying, meeting all hardships cheerfully, striding steadily forward toward future wealth and distinction. And last but not least, the Irishman, with his ready wit, and rollicking love of fun, throwing as it were, the bright lights on a picture otherwise too somber to be perfect. Here then, if anywhere on earth was a chance for diversity of character, and diverse, they certainly were, but still, usually the utmost good will prevailed. There were no doubt, some worthless and many rough specimens among them, yet taken as a body it may be averred understandingly and unhesitatingly, that Stark county may well be proud of her pioneers. Probably at the date of their settlement, not one of them all could have been called a rich man. They were mostly young, and had come west in hope of winning a competence, and they carried the elements of success within. They conformed to circumstances, and must often have presented a rough exterior, but they were not ignorant boors, or lazy louts or unprincipled adventurers such as we read of in the settlement of the newer states. Had they been, our county would never have risen to its present proud position, for with communities as individuals,
"Just as a twig is bent, the tree's inclined."
Their courage, and industry, enterprise and culture may be inferred from the work they accomplished, and the families they bequeathed to their country. For among the newer names that now attach themselves to our records and reflect credit upon the land they inhabit, the sons of the pioneers still deserve honorable mention. They have represented their countrymen in legislative halls, led them on hard fought battle fields, and many of them freely gave their lives for the honor of the old flag; and henceforth we can but wreath their graves with fresh garlands, as an assurance that we are not ungrateful. And what shall he said of the daughters of the pioneers? What more could be said than that they were worthy to be the wives and sisters of these men! Their mission has been fulfilled for the most part within the quiet precincts of home, hut doubt it not, they have had their share in molding the present generation ; in giving tone to society and color to events.
"Who rocks the cradle, moves the world."
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