Will County

Early Settler and Other Historical Tales

George W. Reed's Story

[Transcribed and contributed to Illinois Genealogy Trails by Lawrence B. Peet]
(Source: The Joliet News, Vol. XXVIII, No. 48, Page 5, Joliet, Illinois, Thursday, September 7, 1905)

G. W. Reed's Paper

A paper written by G. W. Reed was read by Rev. B. F. Graff. It gives some interesting history of early settlers in Will county and is herewith published in full:

George Reed, formerly a resident of Joliet, and with his parents, one of its early settlers, was one of those who most greatly entertained the members of the Old Settlers' association on Saturday, although unable to be present in person at the meeting.
Mr. Reed had written a short paper descriptive of his journey to "Juliet" with his parents and other interesting incidents of the times and this was read by Rev. B. F. Graff, of the Ridgewood Baptist church.
The paper was as follows:
"Emigrating to Illinois, I left Indiana in February 1829. The second day of our trip we encountered a heavy snow storm that lasted for two days and nights. Then the tug of war came. By hitching the oxen all in a string and driving a mile back and forth for several times we could hitch to the wagons and pull to the end of the road, and then back another mile. But with the coming of a warm rain the sloughs and streams would have become impassable but for the skill and perseverance of the old pioneer who was leading the eight families. They cut down dead trees and built rafts, ferried their wagons over and swam their horses at seven places, and the oxen at one place, that being the Kankakee river.
"It took eleven days to make the crossing. That was just five weeks in making the 140 mile trip to Reed's and Jackson's Grove. Elwood now lies between them. My father, Charles Reed, Joseph Shoemaker, Eli Shoemaker, and John Coons stopped in Reed's Grove; George Linebarger, Henry, his brother, and McKeowen Underwood settled in Jackson's Grove.
"Coming through Rock Village Grove, we were obliged to cut logs out of the way, as this was the first road made through there. I well remember an old Indian taking my father's lead horse by the bridle and motioning him to go up around the grove. My Pa jumped off his saddle horse and gave him a cut that made him run. I well remember that all the men got their guns and pistols in shooting order, but they were friendly Indians, and did not make any trouble as they seemed to like my father all the better for being a soldier.

"On arriving safely, we built log cabins, fencing a large pasture and then breaking the prairie with eight yoke of oxen on a plow. They stocked their own plows, having wooden moldboards.
"The pioneers did their own work., made their own shoes, looms, brooms, buckets and their own clothes. They made their own ox yoke, bent the bows for the oxen's necks, built looms for the women to weave their own clothes, in fact all the clothing for men and women.
"Then came the trouble with the Indians, and the falling back to Indiana. On returning, we settled in what was afterwards called Juliet. In the fall of '32 we went to Logansport for a millwright and machinery for a water power mill to grind our corn and wheat. The stone that now lies in your city being the one that was brought at that time. (This is the millstone at the library corner.)
"The first school was taught in my father's cabin and in the next summer we had a school in the old fort on the bluff a half mile from our cabin up the river. There were but five families here, the Reed, Hobbs, Barker, Blackburn and Crowell. It was there that I that I saw the first silk dress of my life and I must confess that I fell in love with the wearer at first sight. It was her father who brought the first dry goods into the burg. I remember how good I felt when she told me that she knew that when I got big, that is a man, and had on broadcloth that I would be fine. But she got in the market too soon for me and Bill Blackburn took the shine off me. But after being married three times and taking it rough and tumble for seventy years, or more, I have got entirely over the disappointment.
"There were two kinds of settlers in Juliet at this time, the Yankees and the Hoosiers, and they did not talk alike. That caused some trouble. Sometimes we distinguished their names by Hoosier Smith, Hoosier Reed, Hoosier Hobbs, and Yankee Reed, Yankee Barker. We Hoosiers talked in this fashion: pail for bucket; Indians, ingens; cucumbers, cowcumbers.
"Well, there are many things I can think of. One was losing our hold on this land through one James McKee, and if he or one of his boys were here, I would give them a good thrashing, even now for such an underhanded trick as he played on my good father.
"Then came the Canal Bill in 1836; the big drunk at the little Juliet Hotel (that was my first drunk - everybody in forty miles knew Reed's boys and was very liberal with their treating.)
"Then the trouble with different contractors' men on the canal. Then came the big hunt. It was said that the Juliet boys smuggled all the game, but I never believed it, for the honest Hoosiers would have told on the Yankee scamps.
"I have a boy who has a good education and wanted to help me write these reminiscences, but I have written it myself, just from memory. I hope to be able to meet you at the next meeting and tell you of my trip in Dixie, my visit to the Centennial, and to the Pacific coast and among the Indian tribes, and of how my father built the block house at Reed's Grove. Often then we had men from Chicago, Ottawa, and Momence to help raise the heavy logs, and how my father attended the legislature at Vandalia as a lobby member, as there was no one voted on and there was not enough men to call an election.
"When I come to your city I miss the old settlers who were here 70 years ago, the names I have mentioned and with them here in this city: Joel Mattison, Demmond, Woodruff, Sevents, Aldrich, Dodge, the first constable, Bowen, the first doctor, Jenks and Osgood, the first lawyers, West, the first preacher, and Daggett, the first saloonkeeper. In the Yankee settlement were Gougar, Kurcheval, Van Horne, Rowley, and south were Zarley, Robb, Hadsell, Hemphill, Kirkpatrick, -- -- --. Well, I must leave the old settlers until I come again. G. W. REED"


Civil War Soldier
Excerpt from George Woodruff's book "Fifteen Years Ago"

[Transcribed and contributed to Illinois Genealogy Trails by Lawrence B. Peet]

"I have covered how Rufus Bolton fell into enemy hands at the Battle of Chickamauga, while being detailed to the Division Hospital at Crawfish Springs, Georgia.
What remains is this poignant letter to his folks back home in Plainfield, Illinois. I will include the conclusion of John England's cover letter.
"He" (Rufus) "then asked me to procure, if possible, some paper and a pencil, (such things were wonderfully scarce there) so that I might write his last wishes to you. This I did as stated in my first letter. Two days after writing that letter poor Rufus was in Heaven; and as I gazed upon his honest dead face, I felt my situation very bitter, but of this anon. He was taken to the burial ground that day, I think on the 3d of November. This burial ground was without the hospital some distance, to which none were admitted save men detailed for the purpose of bringing out the dead. The dead were usually taken on stretchers to the south west end of the hospital, and then placed on a cart and drawn to their last home. In a limping condition I followed Rufus as far as the dead cart, but there halted, not being allowed to go any farther. * * * * * 'Tis sad, very sad to see death in any shape or mood -- whether on the battle field, or on the bed at home, surrounded by friends and relatives; but there is nothing so sad, so crushing, so intensely painful as to see death caused by martyrdom, -- martyrdom caused by the foulest, deepest, damning, systematic cruelty that was ever witnessed, such as was practiced -- to the eternal disgrace of civilization and christianity -- in the rebel prisons. * * * * That was the most saddening sight, the most bitter, galling, withering hour of my life. But though the day was a very bitter gloomy one -- though misery seemed in everything, and in every place around me, yet on the face of the dead soldier before me, there was a calm, happy contented expression which seemed to say more eloquently than words ever could, that the spirit that animated it was at last free and happy. I only trust that when I die, I may die with his faith and fortitude; and that the contented, happy expression of his dead face may be seen on mine. Had he lived he would have made an excellent man. He had a fine taste, was well informed, had nothing low or groveling in his nature; but on the contrary was generous, open-hearted, forgiving and just. He was one of those straightforward, clean-spirited, honest, manly fellows, whom to know is to love and admire. * * * * That no other calamity may befall you, but that peace and prosperity may attend you all, is the sincere prayer of, dear sir,
Yours very truly and sincerely,
JOHN ENGLAND, Co. E, 2d N. Y. Cav."

The letter of Rufus Bolton:

"Dear Parents, Sisters and Brothers: -- I am sorry to say these few lines will contain but sad intelligence for you. I am afraid that before they reach you, I will be no more. It is needless for me to say that since my imprisonment my sufferings have been intense, but my constitution has borne up the while till I came here. Shortly after my arrival at Andersonville, I was attacked with scurvy, and after suffering this about two months, I was attacked with diarrhoea which has become chronic. The hospital fare has been and still is very poor, so much so that it is almost impossible to recover, for there is an entire absence of everything requisite to nourish and sustain life. I have had a hope that there might have been a general exchange of prisoners, at least a special exchange for the sick and wounded, but everything now seems to the contrary. The glorious hope of seeing you all face to face has born me up to this adverse hour, but, Alas! my hopes are blasted. It is a sad thing for me to think about dying here, but thank God, death has no terror for me. I have no doubt that through the merit of our Savior, if I have to die, I will be in happiness. Dear sister and brother, I wish you to be as kind to our parents as you possibly can be, and obey them cheerfully and do all in your power to help them. My dear parents, it is my wish that what little money of mine you have saved, be used to adorn the old homestead. And now dear parents, adieu, I expect to pass to my Savior, and I trust we will all meet hereafter in happiness and glory.
From your affectionate son,
Rufus H. Bolton"

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