Read their story ... in their own words!
Below you will find pioneer stories that appeared in the Telegraph newspaper on various dates.
These articles provide a wealth of information regarding the early history of Madison County. I hope you enjoy them.
Early Days in Madison County, No. 5, by Rev. Thomas Lippincott
Written at the request of W. C. Flagg, for the Illinois Historical Society
The Alton Telegraph, September 18, 1864
The inhabitant of the settlement between the two branches of Wood river, if we may judge from a specimen, increased apace, I was called in 1819, I believe, to marry a couple (for I received a commission as Justice of the Peace within a few months of my arrival at Milton) which was duly performed under the shade of one of the monarchs of the primeval forest. Some years afterwards I called to see this married pair at their residence on the Woodburn road, and found them a well to do family, the parents in the vigor of life, with sixteen children. I do not know that all the families were equally prosperous, but the population and the farms multiplied in that region.
I had occasion in that year to make a journey into "the Sangamon country" (it was not yet in existence at that time). Starting from Milton and ascending the bluffs a short distance from it, the road skirted the Wood river timber on the south side, passing through what was known as Rattan's prairie, and continuing entirely in the prairie, after passing the head and timber of that stream a mile to two, perhaps more united with a road that ran from Edwardsville, and so passed North. The farm and house of Jesse STARKEY was the last we passed, as I remember, in that region.
Of the inhabitants of that prairie settlement, I can only remember to name William Montgomery, Richard Rattan, Thomas Rattan, Rev. William Jones and Jesse Starkey aforesaid. There were others, one especially, whose house I often passed in after years on the way to Edwardsville, as well if not better known to me, but whose names I cannot recall. These were all men citizens. I believe their descendants are of substance, and have been prominent people of note in this county or elsewhere at the present day.
In the journey I spoke of, we made many points. There were, after leaving Wood river and launching out into the open sea (prairie) as land marks, first Dry Point, the head of the southern branch of the Macoupin; then Honey Point, of the Middle Fork; then Slab Point, a little off the road to the left; and next Lake Fork, at the head of the northern branch. From this last the road struck across to Brush creek, and then to Sugar creek, waters of the Sangamon river. We staid all night at Honey Point at Mr. Robinson's (father-in-law to George Debaun) and the only house between Jesse Starkey's in Rattan's prairie and a house on the waters of Sugar creek, now in Sangamon, but then in Madison county. Soon after, (that same season perhaps) Dry Point was occupied, I think by a Mr. Hammer, and Lake Fork was improved by Mr. Henderson. As Mr. Henderson kept a very comfortable and pleasant house of entertainment, at a point where the roads from Edwardsville and Hillsborough (where that was built) to the Sangamon Country, and afterwards Springfield, it became a place of great resort and of course quite noted; but it seems to have been known as Macoupin Point in those after years. The roads being subsequently changed, Mr. Henderson removed his establishment some years afterwards to the prairie where the roads from Madison county to Springfield were crossed by the road from Hillsborough to Jacksonville. After his death, this house was kept by his widow, and then by his son-in-law Mr. Virden; who, when the railroad (Alton & Springfield) was located removed a few miles (in sight of the old place, and gave name to the flourishing village now well known as a point on the St. Louis, Alton & Chicago railroad. But, I am getting ahead of my story.
When I came to Milton there was a public house kept by Joel Bacon, in a cabin near the bridge. In the summer of 1819 he erected a frame house a little higher up, to which he removed his family and tavern - it was not a drinking house - and entertained travelers as comfortably as the circumstances of the country allowed. His wife was a notable and very excellent woman, and his daughters and hers, all afterwards married, some in Greene and one in Pike counties, aided in keeping a cleanly and respectable house. I boarded with them in the cabin some weeks or months, until ready to occupy the little room in the rear of my store.
I think it must have been in the summer (or spring) of 1819, that Mr. Robert Collet, a merchant of St. Louis, bought out the interest of Mr. Seely in Milton, and henceforth Wallace and Collett became the proprietors of the village, the mill and the business of Milton, Mr. Collett, however, kept the store - a rather extensive one for the time.... My store was separated from the rest of the house simply by lathing. My residence was then in a little cabin near Mr. Bacon's. That big house, after Mr. Bacon's death, being still in its unfinished state, was taken down and taken up to Upper Alton, where it was the residence of George Smith. Perhaps I ought not to omit so trifling a circumstance as the gathering of about a dozen or twenty children - all there were - into our house on Sabbath mornings for religious instruction. My wife, who had had much experience and success in teaching, could not be easy without the effort, and it was made; - and thus, got the name of the first Sabbath School in Illinois.
Talks With the Early Settlers, Daniel A. Lanterman - His Reminiscences of the Early History of Madison County by O. L. Barler, Esq.
From the Alton Telegraph, 1873
The Honorable W. O. Flagg, of Moro, has written up and sent me the following for which he has thanks. The following reminiscences of Daniel A. Lanterman are from notes taken from his own dictation about 1861.:
"I came into the State in 1818 from Kentucky. My father, brothers and sisters came also, and after remaining in St. Clair about a year, removed to Sangamon. I was born December 24, 1786 in Pennsylvania, of a "Pennsylvania Dutch" family. When I was a year and a half old, my father moved to Fayette county, Kentucky, and when I was ten years old, to Fleming county, where I was married in 1812 to Sally Lumun (died June 1849) whose family came from Maryland. Our family consisted of:
I married as a second wife in December 1850, Elizabeth Irwin, formerly of Baltimore, Maryland, by whom I had Elizabeth Aleita, born November 29, 1852. When I came into the State, I lived and taught school for two years (1818-20) near where the Bethlehem Baptist church stands (sec. 18 of township 8). In 1820 I bought the southeast quarter of section 19, and moved on it January 4, 1821. I have lived there ever since. At that time there lived in the same neighborhood, John Springer, Ephraim Wood, Lowe Jackson, William Montgomery, John Drum and Solomon Preuitt. Jacob Linder, of whom I bought my place, had been there six or seven years. He moved to Greene county. A corn crib, which he said had been built six years, is still standing. Wood, the father of Ephraim Wood, was living where Margaret Jones now lives (southwest quarter, section 20). William Jones lived a little north of where James Jones now lives, on the south half of section 18. He was a Baptist preacher and a member of the Legislature. Another William Jones, called Tolemy Jones, lived near where Turner and Frazier now live in section 20. William Green lived where Sherman now does (northeast quarter, section 20). He moved up into Greene county soon after I came, and a Kentuckian by the name of Norman came upon his place, but did not remain long. John Rottan lived on what is now the Montgomery place (section 13, township 5, range 3). Thomas and Richard Rattan were his sons. Rattan's prairie was named after them. Several Preuitts lived along the bluff above Kendall's. William, James and Abraham Preuitt.
Of wild animals, gray wolves were plenty, and I have seen black and prairie wolves. Wildcats were abundant. I saw one panther back of Springer's, but never saw a bear here. Deer, turkeys, cranes and prairie chickens were plenty. I never saw a wild elk, but used to see their horns. I never saw a badger, but my brother killed one on the road between here and Springfield. Skunks and coons were plenty. I once killed a muskrat on my place. Of squirrels, I have seen the fox, grey, ground and flying squirrels. The bald eagle used to be here, but I have seen none for ten years. We had the large horned owls and the screech owls, or whinnying owls as we used to call them. Paroquets used to be plenty along Indian Creek, but have disappeared for at least ten years. They used to stay on the creek, except occasionally, and when they came up we looked out for a storm. Of the woodpecker tribe, we had woodcock, the redheaded, the yellow-hammer and the sap-sucker, but the first were scarce. I have seen in all but three or four partridges. Wild ducks and geese were plenty, and blue cranes or herons and swans were found about the lakes. I have seen pelicans flying over. Small catfish were very plenty in Indian Creek, and some sunfish.
The greatest storm I remember was a hail storm in June 1821, that destroyed gardens and corn crops, and killed chickens. It came from the northwest, was three or four miles wide, and heaviest where Kendall and Vaughn now live. The hail were from the size of a musket ball to that of a hen's egg, and broke all the glass windows next the storm in Edwardsville.
I have seen Indians traveling through and camping near Edwardsville - the Kickapoos, among others. Their young men were full of fun. I have seen them when the Cahokia was full, wallowing in the mud of the road and then jumping into the creek. I have seen them playing cards.
I think I have been told that John Rattan was the first settler in this township. The first road in the township was one leading from Edwardsville to Carrollton through my land, Montgomery's and Moore's, and on through Brown or Scarritt's prairie. It crossed Indian creek near where Frazier lives (Sec. 20) and a bridge was built there soon after I came. There was a "trace" from the block house at Mr. Jones' to Camp Russell. There was a block house known as Jones' block house on what is now James Jones' farm, on southwest of Sec. 18, and one on the Clark place, with perhaps a quarter or half an acre picketed in, of which I have seen remains. I have seen the remains also of Camp Russell where there were pieces of burst cannon that the neighbors carried off and used for fire dogs.
The first mill I went to was a "hand" mill (wheels working to one another by friction of raw hide instead of cogs) of a Mr. Finley, for grinding corn, near the present site of Bethalto. George Moore had one on his place (Northwest of Sec. 10, 5-9) brought out from Kentucky. Newman's sawmill was built in 1818-19, and put in operation in 1819. Isaac and Upton Smith built one below Springer's.
When we came, Edwardsville had two stores when we came through there on the 19th of December 1818. We wanted to buy some whisky, but could not find any bottles. A good many used to go through inquiring for Alton. I asked a neighbor what kind of place Alton was, and he said "About fifteen sink-holes to the acre." When I was in Lower Alton in 1822, there were no women in the place, and only three men. Of the two stores in Edwardsville, one was kept by John T. Lusk, and one by a man named Sulton. There were two stores in Milton when I used to go there. One of the store houses fell down last summer. I used also to go there to mill. It was very sickly. I remember going there once for some cotton yarn. Lippincott, who lived this side of the bridge and kept the store on the other side, said he would not walk across the bridge for all there was in the store. The streets were full of Jamestown weed.
The early inhabitants raised a little corn and sometimes wheat, and hunted. Sol. Preuitt and Ephraim Wood raised wheat the year I came. Harvest wages were a bushel of wheat or six bits a day. But some would have a frolic and a dance at night, and perhaps get harvesting done cheaper.
The women wore moccasins. I made a great many shoes for them out of deer skin. I brought some leather with me, from which I made wedding shoes for the neighborhood. A good many men wore shoes. Pants were generally made of buckskin. A blanket coat was considered fine attire. Many were hunting shirts. Caps were made of fox and wildcat skins. A cap made of a fox skin with the tail turned over the top was reckoned very fine. The women wore homemade flax, cotton and linsey stuffs. Nearly every farmer had a patch of flax, which was used because it was stronger than cotton. My wife carded and spun cotton at a shilling a yard to pay for a sheep worth $3.25.
Solomon Preuitt once got out 42 bushels of wheat to the acre from a small field, but the common yield was 10 or 15 bushels. The best crop of corn I ever had was on the prairie, with one plowing I had 85 bushels to the acre. Oats were not much raised. In 1822, I had 10 acres that were said to have 50 bushels to the acre. There were few potatoes, either Irish or sweet. Cotton and flax were universally raised. So were watermelons, which were planted among cotton. Corn was worth 50 cents, and wheat $1 per bushel.
There were no apples here when I came. Linder, of whom I bought, planted a hundred trees in 1819. They had been planted two years when I came, without being fenced. They were all seedlings but one, which was a Lady's Blush or Lady's apple, and that is still living. There were plenty of peaches, but the quality was not very good. Linder had some large white clings when I bought, for which I got one dollar a bushel.
The first coal digging I know of was about 1833 or 1834, at the Rocky Branch. About 1828 or 1830, the Harrisons started their potteries in Upper Alton. They had also a tan yard (others say the Pinckards first owned these). The first lime I knew of James Tunnell made at Rocky Branch. The first lime kiln was in Hop Hollow. John Drum was a blacksmith and Moses Parker a journeyman with him. Blacksmiths used charcoal. Isaac Prickett was a shoemaker in Edwardsville.
The first church in the neighborhood was a Baptist church, between William Montgomery's and the bluff. The first school was kept by William Jones. A man named Wyatt taught the winter before I did. I had thirty-three children to their primers when I began. The highest number I had was forty to fifty. I was paid $12 a year for each scholar. I taught six months in the warm months, and one year nine. The books used were Webster's spelling book, New England primer, and Pike's arithmetic. To reach the rule of three was getting well-educated. I had scholars from three miles distant. The school house was situated between Bethlehem church and Clark's fence. It was 20 or 24 feet long. Half a log was cut out for a window on one side and a square one for me to sit by. We put greased paper over the long window and built a fence to keep cattle from licking it out. There was not much glass in the country.
Among the early preachers were William Jones and J. M. Peck, and an old Mr. Ray from Ridge Prairie came and preached sometimes. All these were Baptists. Of lawyers, the first I remember was Theophillus W. Smith. There was a Doctor Kamp in Edwardsville. Daniel D. Smith caricatured him as being blown high by the trump of fame.
Among the criminals, I remember Green, who was hung for killing a man at Abel Moore's distillery. Both had to go to the same well for water. Green came past the well with a bucket of corn, and the other man pushed him. Green went on to the distillery, got his gun and came out. The other said "Shoot and be d--d." Green shot him, fled to the woods, and stayed part of the night, and then gave himself up, and was tried, condemned and hung. J. M. Peck published his confession. Two men of the name of Lampkin were put in jail for kidnapping. I saw one stand in the stocks. The stocks were near where the public square was, in front of the jail. The first jail was a log building, where the old Clerk's office is. The old log Court House was near the same place.
Flat boats went down the river laden with corn, etc. William Head engaged in that business. I saw a flat boat even loading just below the mouth of Wood river. Wood river was known among the French as Riviere du Bois."
Ancient Landmarks - Meeting of Old Settlers of Madison County, Illinois
Who Were There, What They Said and What They Propose to Do
From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, October 22, 1874
[Reported for the Telegraph by the Secretary, Prof. O. L. Barler, by order of the Society, with the request that the other papers in Madison County publish the proceedings in full from this paper.] Today, October 16, the old settlers of Madison county held a meeting at the Court House in Edwardsville. The weather was unfavorable. The bad roads and threatening rain prevented many from attending, who purposed to be there. Still, some sixty gentlemen and one lady (all honor to her name) braved the storm and came to the meeting. At 12 o'clock an organization was effected with Samuel Seybold of Troy, for President, and O. L. Barler of Upper Alton for Secretary. The meeting then adjourned for dinner, and again came together at 2 o'clock.
President Seybold, who called the meeting to order, has passed his eightieth birthday, and is the oldest man living, born in the State of Illinois. He has lived in Madison county 73 years. When he came to this county, there was not a white man living north of Edwardsville (there was no Edwardsville even) on to the great lakes. With one exception, his nearest neighbor was five miles away. He fought in the war of 1812, and lived, I think he said, among the Indians in block houses. Old settlers know better than I, what block houses are.
Among those present, I name John L. Ferguson, Esq., born in Madison county nearly 70 years ago. Also S. B. Gillham, born in this county in 1812. Thomas Judy, is also a young man of 71 years, a native of this county. Besides these, I happen to know Messrs. Spaulding, Mills, Praitt, Eaves, Ellison, Chapman, Kerr, and Coventry. The Hon. Joseph and David Gillespie, the Hon. D. B. Gillham, Shed and James Gillham, Randle, Kinder, Dr. Dewey and many others equally worthy of honorable mentioning.
Judge Joseph Gillespie stated that the object of the meeting was to organize an Old Settlers' Association for the purpose of gathering up and putting together the facts and personal reminiscences pertaining to the early history of the county, for the benefit of those who come after us. It was emphatically an Old Settlers' Meeting, but it was readily granted that young settlers could, by their presence and otherwise, contribute largely to the success of these meetings, and it was agreed that the only condition of membership should be the payment of 50 cents per annum, so that all, young and old, ladies and gentlemen, are invited to give their approbation and presence to these meetings.
The President, Samuel Seybold, called the meeting to order. On motion of Hon. Daniel Gillham, O. L. Barler was elected phonographic reporter for the society - full reports of the talks and doings of the meeting being desired. The weather was unfavorable, and the rain and bad roads kept many away who desired to attend the meeting. Yet in the face of the storm more than sixty persons pressed their way to the gathering and made it a success.
Among those present, I happen to know John L. Ferguson, Thomas Judy, Samuel Seybold and others, all born in Madison (except Mr. Seybold, who is eighty years old having lived in this county seventy three years), and having already outlived the allotted time of threescore years and ten. There were present also, Joseph and David Gillespie; John Bonner; John Ellison; G. C. Lusk; Joseph Chapman; George Howard; Lyman Barber; Shed. Gillham; James Gillham; Hon. David Gillham; Andrew Mills; D. A. Spaulding; T. P. Moore; M. T. Barnett; L. W. Moore; Amos Atkins; Isaac Pruitt; Samuel P. Gillham; Hugh Kerr; Thomas Barnett; Judge Stocker; Thomas Dunnagan; I. B. Randle; William Eves; Chris. Smith; Larkin Keown; Cyrus Leverett; Cyrus Cook; Hon. W. H. Krome; Capt. J. T. Cooper; P. Floyd; Nathaniel Kinder; John Tart; Dr. J. H. Weir; Dan. Gruner; A. S. Smart; John Coventry; Charles Mackett; K. N. Snodgrass; and others whose names were unknown to the secretary.
D. A. Spaulding of Alton was first called upon the stand to tell what he knew about the early history of Madison County. He said he would first tell the story of how he got here. "It was on the 4th day of May, 1818, that I left my home in New York for the purpose of coming to Edwardsville [I had studied surveying, and my object in coming West was to survey the public lands]. I took a pack on my back, after the manner of our soldiers, carrying nothing but clothes, compass and a Jacob-like staff, and traveled 370 miles on foot to Olean, in New York. Here I met with four other young men who were going West, but not so far West as I contemplated. We clubbed together and bought a flatboat, which cost us five dollars - just one dollar apiece. You can judge about what kind of a boat it was. In this little boat we floated and paddled our way down the river to Pittsburg, reaching that place in twenty-one days, a distance of a little more than 350 miles. Soon, one of my companions left, and then another, and I found that I was about to be left alone. It was then I came across a family that were going in my direction. They had a better boat than mine, and I made arrangements to travel and board with this family. We came on to Massac, and I was soon engaged to survey the town, which became the county seat of Johnson county, Illinois. When I finished this, I came to Edwardsville. I had a letter to Dr. Caldwell. I knew Hale Mason, who lived in Edwardsville, and this fact was the reason I happened to come here, and here it was I was taken with the ague [malarial fever], and in no light form. I made a regular business of shaking. I had fourteen fits in fifteen days. I went back to Massac, and finally down to Kaskaskia, where I attended the first governmental convention in the State. I was present at the meeting of the first Legislature of the State, which met at Kaskaskia. But, I afterwards made Edwardsville my home, and went out surveying in Greene and other counties. I was constable awhile, and did a little of all sorts of work. I have surveyed about 7,000 miles for the United States."
Mr. Kerr - "What was Madison county like at that time? What were the number and condition of the settlers then?"
Mr. Spaulding - "The settlers were very scattered. There was not, in 1818, a good building in Edwardsville, and north of this, with few exceptions, there was nothing to the lakes. I was, while constable, sent to Diamond Grove, near where Jacksonville now stands, to persuade one man who lived there to pay his debts. It could hardly be said there was a settlement there."
Mr. Moore - "What was the fee paid to constables at that day? How much per mile?"
Mr. Spaulding - "I believe it was 5 cents per mile. I wish to mention but two incidents that will indicate to you the character of the people and the spirit of those early times. All the old settlers remember well Beniah Robinson, who for many years lived within three miles of this place. He afterwards moved to California, and died about three years ago. Some years before his death I received a letter from Mr. Robinson in which there occurred a sentence like this: 'When I came,' said he, 'for the first time, to think of sines, tangents and secants [I think, said the speaker, that is the word], I found myself in want of something to make figures [Mr. R. was a surveyor], so I took my ax and went to the woods and split out a block of walnut wood, and smoothed off the same and used it as a blackboard.' The other incident is this: You see constantly in the papers advice given to travelers going West, stating that via St. Louis is the shortest route. The incident I have to relate will illustrate how this was regarded in that early day. About the time Wiggins established his ferry at St. Louis, say in 1822, there was a large emigration crossing here, and going to the Salt River country and elsewhere in the West. There was a ferry at Alton, with quite a contest between the ferries which should have the business, which was growing to some importance. The travel was from the districts about Carlyle, Ill., through Alton to St. Charles, or from Carlyle through St. Louis to St. Charles. In order to divert the trade from the Alton ferry to the St. Louis ferry, Wiggins had the routes surveyed, and published the results of this survey all over the country, and secured the business. I had reason to question the results of this survey, and made (myself) a measurement of the distance on correct data from Carlyle to St. Charles, by the way of St. Louis, and I found that the Wiggins survey had made the distance some miles shorter than a straight line between Carlyle and St. Charles."
Voice - "Did you measure both routes so as to compare the distances and learn which was the shortest route?"
Spaulding - "No, sir, that was not the question. There was really but little difference in the distance of the two routes. I called attention to the fact that this roudabout way by St. Louis was published as shorter than a straight line between the two points. But really, I did not come here to make a long talk. Have said already more than I intended."
John L. Ferguson was next called upon to tell what he knew of the early settlement of Illinois. Mr. F. said: "My history reaches a little further back than that of my friend, Mr. Spaulding. I was born four miles from this place, on the 20th of November, 1807, in a blockhouse. Any of these old settlers here know well what a blockhouse is. They served the use of forts in the Indian wars and troubles that occasionally arose. My father was an officer in the army, and he was an Indian fighter of some renown. He knew almost everybody in the country. Mr. Seybold here knew him. His duties called him from place to place over the country. His custom was to take his wife and children with him. He considered them safer with him. I lived in blockhouses and forts until 1814. There was a fort about three miles west of this town called Jones' Fort, in which I spent a part of my life. In 1813, my father built the first house ever erected on Marine Prairie; but, after building it, he did not dare to live in it for fear of the Indians. At this period, we had little protection. All the protection we had came from the Kaskaskia Indians, with a very few soldiers. After my father built, five other persons put up houses, but neither did they dare to live in them, and the entire settlement did not comprise more than a dozen families. I can name them, if desired." A voice - "Please name them." Mr. Ferguson - "There were John Warwick, John Woods, George Newcome, Isaac Ferguson, John Ferguson, William Ferguson, Joseph Ferguson, Absalom Ferguson, Aquilla Dolahide, Abram Howard and Joshua Dean. All these made permanent settlements in 1813 and 1814. In 1815 there were added Chester Pain, Thomas Breeze, Richard Winsor, John Cambell, John Giger. In 1816 there came John Scott, John Lord, James Simmons, Henry Peck, Andrew Matthews Sr., and Andrew Matthews Jr., James Matthews, Lefford French, James French and Abram Carlock. All these settled in Marine. In 1817, I do not recollect that any new settlements were made. In 1818, there were so many new comers that I failed to keep trace of them. I remember there were seventy-two families who came in one crowd, and ever since that time, the strangers have been so numerous that I have kept no account of them."
Hon. Joseph Gillespie - "Will you tell us how the country and village took the name of Marine?"
Mr. Ferguson - "It was from the character, or rather previous calling, of the people. There were some half dozen old sea captains who settled in this district, and the name came from them."
Judge Gillespie - "Did you know anything about a widow Carlock?"
Mr. Ferguson - "I knew Abram Carlock and other members of the family. If there was a widow among them, I did not know it."
Judge Gillespie - "I make this inquiry because I was told that there was such a person, and that she could use her rifle equal to any man in shooting game or killing an Indian, as the case required."
Mr. Ferguson - "It was common in those days for the women to practice gunning. My mother could shoot a deer or Indian just as well as my father could, and thought no more of it. Such exploits among them were frequent."
Judge Gillespie - "I want that fact stated."
Mr. Ferguson - "I remember the first school I ever attended, and the first ever taught in Marine was either in the summer or winter (I forgot which) of 1814. It was taught in my father's smoke house. There were ten or twelve scholars. Arthur Travis was the teacher. The first sermon preached in Marine was about this time by Peter Cartwright, 'the fighting preacher.' And by the way, I may say, in those days it was not considered anything out of the way for the preacher when insulted to whole his antagonist." He told a laughable story about Mr. Judy and an anecdote about the Hon. Jos. Gillespie, that had lost nothing because of their antiquity. He closed with a eulogy on the Marine country that won assent and applause. To day it contained as fine improvements and as good society, social and educational privileges as any other district in the State.
Voice - "Tell us about the price of corn and other products."
Mr. Ferguson - "Corn was worth six and quarter cents per bushel; wheat thirty, forty and fifty cents. Cows were worth six to ten dollars; horses twenty-five to fifty dollars."
The question was asked in regard to the productiveness of corn and wheat then and now, to which Mr. F. answered, corn crops then averaged heavier than now, but wheat crops are heavier now than then, owing, he supposed, to the better culture and better varieties. Other questions and answers on subjects of minor importance were given, not here recorded.
Shadrach Gillham, Esq., was next called upon, as an old settler born and raised in Madison county, to state some of his recollections and incidents pertaining to the early history of the county. He said that in the spring of 1819, Col. Johnson, of Kentucky, came to this county with three steamboats loaded with United States soldiers and army supplies, such as pork, flour, salt, &c. He landed at his father's place, just below the mouth of the Missouri river. Col. Johnson had a contract with the general government to transport soldiers and supplies to two points, one to St. Peters (now St. Paul), on the Mississippi river, and the other to Council Bluffs, on the Missouri river. They had little difficulty in ascending the Mississippi and reaching St. Peters, delivering soldiers and supplies. But when they attempted to ascend the Missouri river, they found trouble. The river was low, pilots were not acquainted with it, and after three weeks of fruitless toil they found themselves at St. Charles, only twenty miles from the mouth. They gave up the expedition and dropped back to my father's, where these wonderful steamboats lay in state, exciting the marvel of all beholders. The people came in from the country, and all the region round about, to behold and wonder at these steamboats. Here, large warehouses were built, and in them were stored the provisions and here the soldiers quartered. After a time, a number of keel boats of light draft were purchased, and in these the provisions were stored - each boat carrying about 200 soldiers (the soldiers, however, walked most of the way), and in this way they reached in due time Council Bluffs and delivered soldiers and provisions, and returned before the winter set in. Colonel Johnson's steamboats were the first boats of the kind that ascended the river above St. Louis. And now, as I look around me, and inquire for the multitudes that flocked there in that early day, of men, women and children, I know of but two or three besides myself now living in this county, and a very few living anywhere else. I remember old General Ranoy, now of St. Louis, as one of the steamboat agents. Mr. Gillham then proceeded to give us some idea of the large extent of territory embraced in Madison county at this early day. He referred to Gov. Reynolds' history of Illinois, which gives the boundaries of Madison county in the Governor's own way, thus: Madison county is bounded on the south by St. Clair county, on the west by the Mississippi River, on the east by the Wabash, and on the north by the North Pole [laughter]. "My father being the first Sheriff of the county of Madison, had authority over a very large extent of country. I well recollect in 1820, a man in the county who had given bonds for his appearance at court, fled the country. He went up among the Indian tribes around Green Bay or Lake Michigan. It became my father's duty to send after him, and bring him to court. So, accompanied by the security (Samuel Gillham, an early settler), he went to Cahokia, or Illinoistown (now East St. Louis), and employed and deputized a Frenchman, Peter Pecia, to go after the man. They put him on a French pony and sent him through by the way of Peoria and Chicago, away up Lake Michigan, to Green Bay, and there, among the Indian tribes, found him, arrested him, and brought him back, and delivered him to the proper officers, and released his security. I recollect the man very well, both before he fled and after his return. Others here remember him. It was old Joseph Meacham, one of the founders or proprietors of Upper Alton. I recollect going to school to him after his return. He was an Eastern man, and well educated. The old man being somewhat broken down, my father and the neighbors employed him through the winter season to 'keep school.' This circumstance is mentioned to show the large extent of territory of Madison county at that early day."
Mr. G. then read an interesting letter in commemoration of the olden time from Michael Brown, whose father moved to this county in 1817. He now lives at Brighton, in Macoupin county:
The following gentlemen became members of this society by the payment of 50 cents: Judge Joseph Gillespie, Andrew Mills, Shad. Gillham Sr., J. L. Ferguson, S. P. Gillham, L. W. Moore, T. G. Dunnagan, Lyman Barker, Samuel Seybold, J. W. Coventry, Col. Kinder. Hon. David Gillespie paid $1, which makes his wife a member. Judge Gillespie moved that a committee be appointed with the Secretary as chairman, to prepare questions for the members of this Society to answer. The object of these questions is not to curtail any man's freedom to tell anything he may think worthy of our attention, but to give directness and definiteness to our labors. Motion carried, and Messrs. Jas. Gillespie and Shad. Gillham Sr., were appointed to co-operate with the Secretary in getting up this list of questions. Many others would have joined the Socially, if proper notice and efforts had been made to that end. It is hoped that this list will be swelled to one hundred names, between this and our next meeting. If the citizens of this county, and especially the old settlers, will give us their countenance and support, we shall collect a volume of information worthy of the county and the men who first settled it.
The time of adjournment having come, there was not opportunity to hear from others, many of whom were full of talk, and would have interested us. This meeting throughout was informal, and only preliminary and a forerunner of a real live meeting, to be held on the third Saturday of next month, at 10 o'clock, in the Court House at Edwardsville. Old settlers, remember that, and give us your countenance on that occasion. It was unanimously agreed that new settlers, young and old, male and female - everybody - not only could come to these meetings, but that they were invited to come and help on the good cause. Those who cannot give information can receive information, and sharpen by their presence the countenance of their brothers. The only condition of membership to this society is the payment annually of the sum of fifty cents, and only $6.50 was handed in to the Secretary, who was also made Treasurer. At 4 o'clock the meeting adjourned, under the influence of the best of feeling, and with the determination to make the next meeting a large one, and a grand success.
Talks With the Old Settlers by the Hon. Joseph Gillespie
From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, November 12, 1874
My age is 65 years. I live in Edwardsville. I came to this State in 1819, and have resided in it ever since. I am a lawyer by profession, but was raised at farm work. At that time, Shadrach Bond was Governor and lived at Kaskaskia. He was succeeded by Edward Coles, who resided in Edwardsville. He was a thorough-going abolitionist, and brought the slaves he had in Virginia here and emancipated them, and gave them farms to live upon in this neighborhood. Madison county contained, in 1820, I should think (at a guess), some 5,000 inhabitants. They were generally from the Southern States, and had great respect for, and were tolerant in regard to, the religious feelings of others. I never heard of a quarrel upon the subject of religion among them, although they had very decided and dissimilar views on that question. The Methodists and Baptists were the leading denominations. The camp meetings of the former were powerful instrumentalities, and were numerously attended. There were but few drunkards in the country, although most of the people drank occasionally. It was generally admitted that the drinking of spirituous liquors in any form, was an evil that it would be well to get rid of at some convenient season. We had not then, as now, a large class who worship at the shrine of Bacchus and glory in the same. The old settlers did not generally work continuously. They recreated a good deal. They were capital hands to attend gatherings, such as musters, the fourth of July celebrations, political speaking, the courts, horse racing, and the like. The houses were generally indifferent, and the stock were without shelter in the winter, as a rule. The hospitality of the old settlers knew no bounds. You could scarcely get away from a house if you called, during a journey, towards evening, on account of the importunities to stay over night, which, if you did, you were always treated to the best the house afforded, and never allowed to pay a cent for it. Orchards and melon patches were looked upon as common property, and the man who would charge for apples, melons, and the like, would be denounced throughout the land. The men never charged for assisting their neighbors, in house raisings, log rollings, or harvesting. At the approach of wheat harvest, some leading man would send word for the neighbors to assemble at a particular time at the house of A. to cut and shock his wheat. As soon as they were through there, they would go to B.'s house, and so on around, according to the ripeness of the grain. The crops of widows and sick persons were attended to, along with the rest, and if any partiality was shown it would be to them.
I lived some years under the bluff, and old Samuel Judy was our patriarch, and his directions were as implicitly obeyed as were the commands of Napoleon Bonaparte. The youngsters frolicked and danced of evenings all through harvest, and I think there was more enjoyment then than now, but I may be mistaken, in that, as old folks don't know how young people feel except from recollection. The old settlers had a great reverence for the law - the worst characters professed to be law-abiding citizens. No man then (as too many do now) claimed the right, if they did not like a law, to set it at defiance. They would use their efforts to have it repealed, or modified, but none were so stupid or wicked as to claim a right to ignore the laws. They all seemed to know, that if the practice of setting the laws at defiance once became prevalent, it would overthrow all good government, and destroy society. The most ignorant and debased, in old times, were too well informed, and patriotic to harbor such ideas for a moment, and it is much to be regretted such ideas should find a lodgement anywhere.
Although the old settlers did not appose education, they were not sufficiently zealous in encouraging it. Indifferentism on that subject was their fault. Their fine intellects, and superior advantages for self-instruction, enabled them to figure in the world, and led them to regard scholastic training as not very essential. They were great sticklers for high moral standing, and would fight to the death anyone who impugned their honor, or respectability.
Horses, cattle and hogs were the principal commodities, from the sale of which money was raised to pay the taxes, doctor's bills, blacksmith work, etc. Store goods and groceries were generally paid for with butter, eggs, beeswax and peltries. The people had great difficulty to make ends meet. There was little or not export of grain, some few horses and cattle were shipped South or driven North, but the export trade was insignificant, and the home demand trifling.
St. Louis, in 1820, contained about 2,000 inhabitants, each of whom would winter on handful of hazel nuts. Money was intensely scarce. Every dollar that could be raked or scraped together was placed in the land office, and expended on the seaboard. We tried to get some of it back in the shape of appropriations for the improvement of our rivers and lake harbors, but the doctrine was established that no appropriation would be constitutionally made for an improvement, above a port of entry, which were all on the sea coast. This constant outgoing and no incoming of money made times intolerably hard; corn was frequently as low as 5 cents per bushel, wheat 37 1/2 cents per bushel (just 30 years ago when a boy, I in company with others, wagoned a load of wheat all the way from Washington, Tazewell county, to Chicago, a distance of 150 miles and sold it for 36 cents per bushel, and reached home after an absence of two weeks, with a barrel of salt and one dollar in pocket - Secretary), cows and calves $5, beef and pork 1 1/2 cents per pound, and other things in proportion. This continued drain lasted till Mr. Clay's Land Bill went into operation. It was intended to meet the difficulty arising from the veto of the Maysville Road Bill, which it did by giving to the States in which the land lay, 12 per cent of the proceeds of the sale and their proportion of the residue according to the population. My recollection is that the seasons were more favorable for the growth of crops then than now. We did not suffer from the long drouths in the fall as we do now, and we had fewer frosts. In 1824, however, the weevil destroyed the wheat after it was harvested. And in 1831-32, I believe it was, that early frosts so injured the corn as to entirely destroy its germinating properties, and render it almost worthless for any purpose. All the seed corn, immediately after those years, had to be procured from the South. Nearly all the hay was cut from the wild prairies, and answered a very good purpose. Cotton, tobacco, and castor beans were frequently cultivated. In these early days we were dreadfully annoyed with the green headed flies, which made it impossible (in their season) to travel in the day time through the prairies. They have often killed horses in going a distance of ten miles. Travelers were accustomed to lay by in the timber in the day time, and cross the prairies at night. Paroquets [parakeets] were common. Also ghophers [gophers] abounded everywhere. Now, these with the wolves, deer, panthers, and other wild animals, have disappeared. The mound on which Bunker Hill, Macoupin county, is now situated, was formerly known as Wolves Hill, and its top was honey combed with their dens, or burrows. The Kickapoo Indians came until 1827 or 1828 to Edwardsville to get their annuities from Gov. Ninian Edwards, who at this time resided there. Their camps and other traces which they left behind them, and the peculiar marks they made in stripping the bark from trees were visible ten years afterward.
Talks With the Old Settlers by Thomas Stanton Pinckard
From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, November 26, 1874
Mr. Thomas S. Pinckard is at this time a resident of Springfield, Ill., and kindly sends us the following: Being a native Sucker and also a native of Madison county, I have been naturally much interested in the articles from you detailing early events of the settlement of Illinois, and especially in those relating to the county of Madison. Doubtless there are some living who came to Illinois previous to the time of which I may write. There may occur errors in dates and names, as much of what I shall say is taken from the lips of my aged mother, now in her eightieth year, and for many years an invalid.
William G. Pinckard, wife and one child, William Heath, wife and one child, and Daniel Crume, a brother-in-law of the two first mentioned, emigrated from Springfield, Ohio, and arrived at what is now known as Bozzatown, on Shields' branch, on 15th of October 1818. Four long and wearisome weeks they had spent in the westward trip, in ox wagons, through an almost uninhabited wilderness. Before arriving at their destination, they occasionally met emigrants on their way eastward, who declared if they (our party) went to Alton they would all die, as it was a very unhealthy country, and the "graveyard of the West."
Passing through Milton, on Wood river, then a thriving village of a half dozen small houses, one store, kept by Rev. Thos. Lippincott, and a small house with the sign "Entertainment for Man and Beast," they arrived at Shields' branch in the night. They stopped at the house of one Crisswell, who kept a small boarding house, about half way between Milton and what is now Bozzatown. They there met with a gentle man named Col. John Scott, afterwards familiar to old settlers in the vicinity of Carrollton, Greene county. A Mr. Spencer, afterwards known as "Squire" Spencer in Alton, was a boarder at the same place.
Daniel Crume, father of Daniel Crume, now a resident of Alton, preceded the party with the intention of securing a house to begin housekeeping, and succeeded in his object so far as to obtain the promise of one, but when the families arrived the occupant would not give it up. They, at that time, met Joseph Brown, a brother of Shadrach Brown, of Wood river. Failing to secure a house, they took possession of a "half-faced" camp, so called, which stood near, to which the whole party lived for nearly two months. The room had a clapboard roof with a hole in it through which the smoke of the fire escaped, and the floor was about one half covered with puncheons [a heavy slab of timber, roughly dressed, for use as a floorboard], while the balance served as a kitchen, fireplace, etc. The entire dimensions of the room were about 16x16 feet. Here they spent some of the coldest and most disagreeable weather of the winter.
Soon after their arrival, my father met Major Chas. W. Hunter, proprietor of what has since been known as Hunterstown. He made an offer of town lots to them if they would build and establish a pottery on his land. This proposition they partially agreed to, and built a cabin of round logs on Shields' branch, about one hundred yards above where the covered bridge now stands. The one room was 16 by 16 feet, with hewed puncheon floor, clapboard roof, and chinked and "dabbed." Into this comfortable cabin they removed one week before Christmas, 1818. The weather had been very cold for days previous, but on Christmas day the men found a fine "bee tree" on the branch, and they had a feast of honey.
In this cabin the party of eight persons comfortably lived, and would not have exchanged their humble house for a palace without the love and content that they felt and enjoyed. During the winter my father and Uncle Daniel Crume made a contract to build a house for Col. Easton. proprietor of the site of what is called Lower Alton. This house was built of hewed oak logs, two large rooms with an open space between them over which a roof was thrown. This house was long the stopping place or motel of the village of Alton. For many years, Thomas G. Hawley, well known to old settlers, occupied the house and until the year 1868 the house stood on the original site - near the corner of Piasa and Second streets. When torn down in 1868, the logs were found as sound as when placed in position. Mr. H. G. McPike, with commendable spirit, secured the logs and built a cabin upon his premises in which to deposit his cabinet of curiosities, etc. This was the first house built upon the site of the city of Alton, although small cabins had been erected at several points, one of which a few years since stood, on Market street between Second and Third streets.
My father soon after contracted to build a frame house for Maj. Hunter in Hunterstown, and did so, with the aid of Crume and Heath. This house, I think, is still standing and was the first frame house built in what is known as Alton city or Hunterstown. The house was located on Second Street, and was finished in 1819.
About 400 yards above the bridge over Shields' branch they built a large log cabin intending to start a pottery, but it was never finished. For many years, in fact as late as 1831 and 31, this cabin was used in an unfinished condition for a meeting house for the Methodists, in warm weather. Uncle Heath built a cabin for himself on Shields' branch just below where the covered bridge stands, in which he lived until the death of his wife in August, 1829. Rev. N. P. Heath, since well known to Methodists of Illinois and Indiana, was the only surviving child of William and Milly Heath. He commenced preaching in the year 1830, and has continuously been in the traveling connection since that time.
In 1819 Joel Finch came to Alton and began building houses. He boarded at father's house while building a house at Milton for Mr. Bacon. He also built a house for Major Hunter in 1819, into which the Major moved in the same year. The wife of Major Hunter died in 1819 or 20.
In the fall of 1819, grandfather, Nathaniel Pinckard, came out from Ohio with his family and found the families of William G. Pinckard, Crume and Heath all sick, and one of them dead. He at once determined to remove them from the low lands of Hunterstown, and rented a log house of two rooms, the chimney in the center, where he removed his family, father's family. Crume's family and William Heath and his little boy, making fifteen persons. Here they spent the winter of 1819 and 1820. Dr. Brown and Rennett Maxey, proprietors of the town of Salu, gave them lots on which to erect buildings for a pottery and tannery. They built a pottery the same winter and were all ready to manufacture ware in the spring of 1820. The demand for ware, such as they made, was very good and they drove a thriving business, persons coming from far and near to procure dishes, cups, crocks, and in fact all kinds of vessels necessary to the early settlers. They soon built themselves comfortable and roomy residences and placed themselves in easy pe_______ circumstances.
From the time they removed to Upper Alton, or Salu, father's and grandfather's houses were homes for the early pioneer preachers of the west, and preaching was often held at their houses and at the house of Jonathan Brown. In 1821, the Methodist Conference, embracing the States of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky, met at the Padfield settlement below Belleville, and a camp meeting was held at the same time. Father's family and nearly all the relatives camped on the grounds and remained during the meeting. The Conference was divided at that time into four different Conferences, one for each of the States named. Illinois was previous to that time, one circuit, being sparsely settled. From the time of the creation of the Illinois Conference, Methodism seemed to gain a strong impulse and spread rapidly in the sparse settlements of the State. Revs. Thomas Randle and John Dew, Rev. Jesse Walker, the Presiding Elder, visited Alton at stated times.
In 1817, the first Methodist class was formed in Upper Alton by Rev. Samuel Thompson. This class consisted of six members up to the time of the arrival of our family. The names of the persons were Ebenezer Hodges, at whose house the class met; Mary Hodges, his wife; John Seely, a brother of Mrs. Hodges; Jonathan Brown, and Delilah, his wife; and Oliver Brown. My mother was the seventh member of the class, joining in 1818, soon after her arrival there.
In 1819, grandfather Pinckard and family were added to the class. This is a brief statement on the beginning of Methodism in Upper Alton. In the fall of 1829, a revival of religion began at the house of grandfather Pinckard, while a prayer meeting was in progress. Rev. Simon Peter, now living in Brighton, labored faithfully and successfully, assisted by Revs. Thompson, Phelps, Dew, Randle and others, and the revival continued nearly twelve months. There were a large number of conversions and the strength of the society was greatly increased. Simon Peter, we believe, is the only one of those faithful old preachers who yet lives. The people of all denominations took part in the revival. There was no other organized church. When the question of baptizing the converts came up, some wished to be immersed, and Ephraim Marsh sent off and brought to the place Rev. John Stacy, a Baptist clergyman, and a society of that faith was formed. William Kissler and wife, Geo. Smith and wife, Ephraim Marsh and wife and son, James, Mr. Wright and wife, were among the first members of that society. The Methodists joined heartily in the revival in the Baptist church, and all labored earnestly and faithfully in a spirit of Christian love. Mr. Stacy was a very liberal man, as will be seen by the following incident: On one occasion, while baptizing a number of converts, and a large crowd of all denominations was standing by the water, he stood up and said that, in view of the importance and saving virtue of baptism by immersion, he would instantly baptize any and all who would allow him so to do, and allow them to choose any church for their abiding places. All were apparently satisfied as none answered his call. Mr. Stacy did a noble Christian work and should have the credit of organizing the Baptist society in Upper Alton.
The writer was born in Salu in the year 1833, and may claim to be an "early" settler, if not an old settler. When I was about one year old my father removed to Lower Alton, and in 1837 to Middle Alton, where he resided until 1846, when we again removed to Lower Alton. I have a vivid recollection of several of the old settlers who were living when I was a boy. Abel Moore, in his Dearborn wagon, with his wooden leg; Tommy Nichols, with his favorite byword "dad burn it." Old Macauley or MacAuley; old George Bell - all old "rangers" in the Indian troubles. Often the men named visited father's house when I was a boy, and by a bright, glowing fireplace, seated on father's knee, I listened to the hair-breath escapes and thrilling incidents of border life, related as only those who have been actors therein can tell them. The murder of the Regan family in the forks of Wood river in 1814, I think, was often spoken of by these old "rangers," some of them having participated in the pursuit and killing of the savage murderers. In the year 1811 a man was killed by the Indians near the big spring in Hunterstown while working in his field.
Where Alton now stands there was an unbroken wilderness of timber covering the hills and valleys, and the early settler had no difficulty in procuring game of all kinds to supply the wants of his family. The actual necessities of his family were procured at the stores at Milton, one of them kept by the Rev. Thomas Lippincott, father of our present State Auditor. In 1826 the tide of emigration seemed to increase rapidly and the town of Alton soon reached much prominence. Edwardsville became the political center in and around which revolved the principal events of those early days. The principal politicians of those days made their headquarters at Edwardsville. It is in the recollection of most old settlers that Alton, at one time and for some years, bid fair to eclipse St. Louis as a great city. I remember indistinctly the Lovejoy murder and subsequent events. It was a common occurrence for us children to pick up Indian arrowheads in the timber and fields in Middle Alton up to 1840. The noise made by the early steamboats - the high pressure - could be heard for many miles on the river, and very plainly of a clear morning, to Scarritt's Prairie. The "Boreas No. 1" and "Boreas No. 2" were two steamboats I recollect - one of them high pressure - the "chow" "chow" of which could be plainly heard to Upper Alton whenever she passed up or down the river by Alton.
I would be pleased to be with you at your coming meeting, but it is out of my power. Please put the names of Elizabeth Warner Pinckard and Thomas Stanton Pinckard upon your roll of members.
Recollections by Thomas Stanton Pinckard, Born in Alton in 1833
Alton Evening Telegraph, March 17, 1903
Springfield, Ill., March 10, 1903. Editor Telegraph:
In compliance with your request that I write for the Telegraph an article containing such facts as to the early history of the city of Alton as may be in my knowledge, I submit the following. Of course, it will be understood by your readers that much herein written is hearsay evidence given me by older persons who were actors and actual witnesses of facts and events narrated:
In the year 1818, the present site of what is known as Alton was a most unattractive and unsuitable site for a city of the size to which it has grown. The high cliffs on the west side of the Piasa creek sloped steeply down to the bank of the stream, while the high hills on the east side also frowned steep and rugged to the water's edge. The creek bed or bottom was spread out nearly as far west as the east side of what is now Belle street, and the eastern bank was near the center of Piasa street. The creek was then a more pretentious stream than now, and at the mouth or entrance into the river was a low, flat, marshy quagmire extending east from a rocky point west of Piasa street to a similar point of solid rock at the foot of what is now Market street. As I have stated, it was not a very attractive site upon which to lay out and build up a city.
Before the admission of the State of Illinois into the Union in 1818, the efforts of Mr. Easton and others, the promoters of the town site, made but little progress in inducing settlers to stop permanently there. There was a village at the Wood river crossing named Milton, in which Rev. Thomas Lippincott, a noted Presbyterian minister in early times, kept a store, and quite a number of log and frame houses had been erected before Alton excited much attention as a future town site. Home seekers arriving at Milton in their wagons usually procured necessary supplies there and pushed on westward, not going up the river to Alton, but keeping the main traveled road up the hill west of Milton and through the town of Salu, as Upper Alton was then called, and on westward and north through Scarritt's Prairie (now Godfrey). Thus Salu, or Upper Alton, grew quite fast, many stopping there permanently. For a time Salu had a boom and increased faster in population than did lower Alton, but only for a short time.
In September 1818, my father, William Greene Pinckard and family, arrived in Milton in a wagon, after a long overland trip from London, Ohio, and while purchasing supplies from Rev. Lippincott was informed of the location of the town of Alton. Delaying but a short time in Milton, they proceeded west up the river to what has since been known as Shield's branch or creek (now Bozzatown). Here the home seeker and family, together with his brother-in-law, Daniel Crume, decided to remain during the winter. A temporary cabin was built north of the road on the east side of the creek, and in this eight or ten persons spent the winter. The next year my grandfather and his family joined the colony, and all secured homes in Salu, as the town of Upper Alton was then named, and there resided several years. Grandfather was a justice of the peace of the village. The chair which he used as a combined desk and chair, and which my father used after him for many years in his office as justice of the peace in lower Alton, I have as a cherished relic of those early days. The entire range of hills from Milton west to Piasa creek was densely covered with timber, and settlers found ready at hand choice material of which to make log houses and clapboards with which to roof them.
Major Charles W. Hunter came later to lower Alton and laid out lots in the east part and called it Hunterstown. Father and Crume built several log houses for Major Hunter on his lots, and also others in Alton for Mr. Easton. They also erected for the last named gentleman the first frame house on the site of lower Alton. Until 1866 a double log house stood a few yards from the corner of Second and Piasa streets, called the Hawley house. This was built by Pinckard & Crum for Thomas G. Hawley, and was known as a hotel and the ferry house in those days. In 1866 the Hawley house was torn down to make room for improvements. I understand Hon. Henry G. McPike secured logs from the old structure and built at his home, "Mt. Lookout," a small room in which he keeps a number of curios and relics of early days in Alton. Before the filling in of the levee and improvements at the mouth of the creek, a kind of ferry was maintained and landed near where the public weighing scales were later located. The west part of the business portion of the city - in fact the only part where much business was transacted for many years - from the west bank of the creek to the foot of the bluffs, was filled in from the keep cuts in the native hills to make street grades suitable for vehicles.
(Continued on March 18, 1903) The filling up of the levee at the mouth of the creek was done by a man named McDonald. A culvert was first built of stone walls which were roofed over by hewn timbers, thus making a waterway for the stream, and then thousands of yards of stone and earth from the keep cuts in the vicinity were dumped in the mud until the proper level was obtained. The culvert began at the north side of Second street and extended to the river at a point of solid rock at the foot of Market street. When the city hall was built a stone arched roof was substituted for the logs and otherwise strengthened because of the foundations of the hall being over it or very near it.
When the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company began arrangements for building that road (now the Chicago and Alton) in 1850-1, the creek bed was open from Second street north to the gas works, and several large forest trees stood on Piasa street north of Fourth street. After contracts were let for cutting through the wall of rock which then stood in the proposed track on Piasa street north, a stone culvert was built connecting with the one from Second street to the river, and the entire creek basin was soon brought to the present level; and the first passenger depot was for many years in the present stone freight house.
I believe the first manufactories of any kind in the Altons was the pottery of William Harrison and my father in Upper Alton, or Salu as it was then known, and a tannery also owned by them on an adjoining lot. Dr. Thomas Stanton, father of Capt. Tom Stanton of Alton post office, built the first brick house in Upper Middletown. The brick were made by Thomas Wallace, who came there from Louisiana and opened the first brickyard in the Altons.
When the agitation regarding removing the State Capital of Illinois from Vandalia began, Alton was a strong candidate for the location, and Hon. Cyrus Edwards and his brother, Dr. B. F. Edwards, each built a handsome brick residence near our home in Middletown, which father had bought of William Manning in 1836. The Wallace brickyard furnished the brick for the Edwards' homes. The village grew quite fast, and O. M. Adams, Judge Bailey, Dr. Marsh, Moses G. and John Atwood, Samuel Wade and many others built houses and resided in Middle Alton.
It was many years before the densely timbered land between Middle and Lower Alton was cleared off, and when Francis Marion Johnson and the writer attended school No. 2 in 1847, giant oaks were standing among the younger trees in every direction. From the earliest days of which we have record, a path or trail led over the hills from Lower to Upper Alton through the timber and on beyond to Wood river. This short cut was used almost altogether by pedestrians in the early days. Where this path crossed the ravine or hollow south of school No. 2, at the corner of William Hayden's lots, an excellent spring of cold water was located in the rocks from which the school obtained the refreshing drink. On the very pinnacle of the hill which towered high just north of where Mr. Watson's beautiful residence stands on Alby street, a small grove of red haw trees stood, which in proper season was always full of fruit. The trail led near this little cluster of trees, and girls and boys on their way to Sunday school in Lower Alton were often late in arriving at their destination.
Perhaps the most noted hotel of the early history of Alton was the Eagle Tavern, later named Piasa House. It stood on the northeast corner of Piasa and Fourth streets. A wagon bridge over the creek on Fourth street led to a trestle walk connected with higher ground west. Going south on the east side of Piasa street, a long walk or trestle work with hand rail, to the corner of Third street, was used by pedestrians. Thence to Second street another trestle walk enabled the walker to enter Second street, thence west still on trestles for sixty feet or more to solid walks. In those days it was a model hotel. In later years came the Alton House, a large brick hotel on the river front at foot of Alby street. Mr. Andrew Miller was one of the first landlords of that house, but for many years Amos L. Corson was proprietor, and many noted men of the state and nation partook of his good cheer. Still later the Franklin house on State street was conducted by Mr. B. F. Fox. Now you have the Hotel Madison on Second street, which stands where a bank of earth perhaps thirty or forty feet high was and had to be removed to attain the present level.
One can scarcely realize now, while viewing your streets, what immense quantities of earth have been removed to place them on the present grade. Originally nearly the whole length of Second street between Market and Henry streets was a steep side hill. The wagon road ran close under the hillside near the river over a somewhat softer roadbed. The citizens of Alton today can scarcely realize the great changes which were made by those who led in the great task of reducing the unattractive wilderness and building up so beautiful a city as Alton now is. Located so near a great city like St. Louis, and handicapped by the natural obstacles to be overcome, citizens of Alton deserve great praise and credit for their energy and enterprise in the past and I hope their continued efforts may meet with success in the future.
I have been repeatedly asked as to what I know of the original location of the picture of the Piasa bird. I can only say that as late as 1850, a picture of the bird-animal called the Piasa bird was plainly visible about a quarter of a mile from the "old mill" up the river, on a smooth-faced rock which was located fifty or sixty feet from the base of the cliff. The picture faced east and was painted in two colors, black and a reddish brown. The weather had destroyed the outlines previously, and local painters had repainted the outlines. C. G. Mauzy, a local painter, and A. G. Wolford, another artist of talent, each painted it over once, I have been informed. Doubtless, hundreds visited the location and viewed the bird as I did. Whether that was the original picture referred to in legendary lore, I know not. Some accounts have it above the mouth of the Illinois. It is hardly possible that story is true, as the legend places it on the Mississippi river. An artist named Blair resided in Alton about 1848 or 1849, and painted his conception of the death scene of the Piasa bird as described in the legend. It was the adjudged a very creditable work of art and was secured by Mr. William Holton, and for years was placed in public view in his drug store. The same artist also painted a picture of Alton which was a very accurate one of the city at that day. I last saw it in John Buckmaster's cigar store, a year before his death. I hope it is in good hands and will be well preserved.
The industrial interests of the Altons were largely influenced in early years by the packing of pork and beef, vast number of animals being slaughtered there. The making of barrels and casks was necessary to the packing business, and several large shops, employing many coopers, were operated both in Upper and lower Alton. The late Gen. John M. Palmer informed me a few years before his death that he worked as a cooper for a man named Miller in Upper Alton when a young man, that being his trade. Mr. Samuel Wade was one of the largest pork packers in lower Alton.
The question of who was the first child born in the Altons has been lately asked me. I frankly state I do not know, and do not remember ever to have heard the question or inquiry before.
The recent destruction of the Military Academy in Upper Alton by fire has reminded me of the man who built the original structure in which the academy was located. John Bostwick, then a man of wealth, began there the construction of a palatial residence, and had almost completed the main building when the great financial crisis of 1386-7 so affected his bank account that he was compelled to abandon the whole scheme. It was long spoken of by citizens as "Bostwick's Folly."
To keep within reasonable limits in this article, I have been as brief as possible, and I may, if the spirit moves me and it is the editor's wish, notice more of the interesting events of the past in another letter. Thomas Stanton Pinckard
Talks With the Old Settlers
George T. Allen, M. D.
His Reminiscences of the Early Settlement and History of Madison County by O. L. Barler, Esq.
From the Alton Telegraph, December 31, 1874
Click here to read the incredible story ... including the words of his father's diary!
Talks With the Old Settlers
The Meeting at Edwardsville - Who Was There and What They Said By Hon. E. M. West by O. L. Barler, Esq.
From the Alton Telegraph, March 4, 1875
The "Old Settlers" of Madison county held a rousing meeting November 21st, at the Court House at Edwardsville, Ills. In the absence of the venerable president, Mr. Samuel Seybold of Troy, Hon. E. M. West of Edwardsville was called to the chair. He accepted the compliment gracefully. He said that he came from the State of South Carolina - a very good State to be born in, and to come from, if you don't stay there too long.
"Our people left that State to get rid of slavery in the year 1817. My father freed all his slaves and came to this State when I was a mere boy, and put me to work. To be sure, I was very little in 1817, but we all went to work and have kept at it ever since - very much in the same old-fashioned way, so far as "keeping at it" goes. I have never regretted that my father came to this country at an early day. A new country is just the place for boys. It was not so pleasant for my mother. She felt the hardships, but when as a boy I could entrap half a dozen prairie chickens at one catch, or, as I remember, did take at one time thirteen quails, the trap being so full that one little fellow had not room to stand, and contented himself by perching upon the backs of the dozen! This sport was fun for boys. So we did not feel the hardships of a new country as the older folks did - we rather enjoyed it. It fell to my task upon the farm to take care of the sheep. The great pests of the flocks were the wolves. They were very troublesome, and a shepherd was necessary to protect them. I used to shield myself from the cold by creeping into a straw pile and lay there with my gun and shoot the wolves when they came for the sheep.
In 1829, when I was a man grown, I went to Springfield, Ills., which was at that time a very new place. I have many a time gathered strawberries and hunted rabbits on the spot where now stands the old State House.
In 1833 I came to Edwardsville. I was here employed at $12 per month and paying for my washing and mending, and that, gentlemen, is just about what I am now doing - making $12 per month and paying for washing and mending [laughter]. I have been acquainted with almost every family that has lived in Edwardsville for the last forty years. Not one half dozen persons are now living in this town that were here when I came. And I wish to say here, gentlemen, that I attribute my present fair health to two circumstances, or habits of life that I have adopted. The one is, I would not drink liquor, and the other is I stayed at home at night. I do not mean, to be fair and honest, that I advocated or practiced teetotalism. I believed the good Lord had given me sense enough to enable me to control myself in what I should eat and drink, and when and how much I should sleep - - and I have need, and so intent to use, my very best judgment in all these matters. I do not give this as the best way for all others to do. It is the course I have adopted for myself. I have no objections to obsolute temperance. I think a well man has no need of alcoholic liquors, and a sick man needs a very little, if any."
With this brief address the meeting was opened at 11 o'clock for business. There was a good attendance, and I recognized the following persons present: Maj. Solomon Pruitt, Col. Thomas Judy, Dr. B. F. Edwards, Dr. J. H. Weir, S. R. Gillham Sr., Judge Jos. Gillespie, Michael Brown, H. C. Sweetser, Dr. Frederick Humbers, Hon. David Gillespie, Thomas O. Springer, Joseph W. Bratton, James Hutchins, P. R. Sawyer, G. P. Gillham, James Sackett Sr., John Fruit, W. E. Lehr, Samuel P. Gillham, Hon. John M. Pearson, W. Lanterman, C. G. Vaughn, Thomas Dunnigan, John A. Miller, William Bivins, Rev. B. L. Field, Rev. E. M. West, Judge J. G. Irwin, John Boyner, Daniel Grover, John Tart, William Floyd, J. J. Kinder, S. O. Bonner, J. C. Lusk, S. V. Crossman, L. C. Keown, George Leverett, E. B. Glass, Capt. Cooper, Robert L. Friday, C. L. Benedict, and L. A. Parks. There were others whose names I did not secure.
The Secretary, O. L. Barler, made a report upon the minutes (which were too long to be read) of last meeting, and stated that he had planned a winter's campaign upon the "Old Settlers," and that not only the results of this meeting, but that of personal visits and talk with the early settlers will be given in a weekly communication to the Alton Telegraph for months to come - possibly to the time of our meeting next summer, as for the last four weeks he had done. President West said that since the appearance of these "old settlers' papers" by looks for his Alton Telegraph with increased interest, and he had heard many others express themselves in the same manner.
The following communications were handed in, but not read, for the reason that the time was needed for talks. These communications will be published in due time and order. Reminiscences from Thomas Stanton Pinckard, now of Springfield, Ill.; John Ferguson of Marine; S. P. Gillham of Upper Alton; John Wright of Edwardsville; Michael Brown of Brighton; George Allen, M. D. now Surgeon U. S. Marine Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.
The time of the meeting was chiefly occupied in familiar talks on the older times. The first speaker called out was Dr. B. F. Edwards, now 77 years old. He said: "I came to Edwardsville in 1827, when it was a very small place, and yet it was at that time the most promising town in the State. It was for several years the place of residence of the chief men of the State and the society was first class. When I came here, Dr. Todd was the only regular physician in the county. I bought Dr. Todd's home, and he removed to another place, and for two years after there was no other physician in the county." The doctor practiced not only in this county, but in all the neighboring counties, and for fifty miles round. He kept four or five horses and frequently rode one hundred miles in twenty-four hours and practiced medicine. "When my horses broke down in any long trips," he said, "I would capture a fresh horse on the way, leave mine, and push forward, and again take my horse on the return. For months together, in the sickly season, I have not averaged four hours sleep in the twenty-four. This hard practice came near killing me, and yet I never, in those days, quite made support for my family by my practice."
"There were no houses of worship in Edwardsville at this time. In 1828 the organization of a Baptist church took place in my house. Previous to this, there had been an organization of a Presbyterian church, but it had gone down, and was revived about this time. Divine service was held in the school house. The character of the people was of that plain and simple sort that you always find in a new country. They were honest and liberal as the day is long. There was some dissipation among the people, and two grog shops in the town. I remember on one occasion, one of these groggeries caught fire, and when the alarm was given, I was on hand and the first thing I rolled out was a barrel of whisky [laughter]. I profess to be a little more of a temperance man than my friend West here, but on this occasion I was instrumental in saving a barrel of whisky [laughter]. I was for saving anything that I could lay my hands on.
The educational privileges were limited, but in 1829-30 the first seminary in Edwardsville was opened, with Miss Chapin as principal and Miss Hitchcock, assistant. The Rock Spring Seminary, of which Shurtleff College is the outcome, was started at Rock Spring by the Rev. John M. Peck, in 1827, of which I was one of original trustees.
In answer to the question, 'What were considered the necessaries of life?' the answer was, 'hog and hominy.'"
He told a panther story, in which he acted a principal part, that left no very pleasant sensations. To have this wild beast scream at your heels in the midst of black darkness is not pleasant, the doctor himself being witness. President West then told a panther story that he held distinctly in memory. It was in 1833. He was enroute for Dr. Edwards' office, in behalf of the sick. He lost his way, and while wandering around in midnight darkness, he heard and recognized the familiar scream and became conscious of the terrible forward bounds towards him of this ferocious animal. Dark as it was, he saw his way clear from that moment. But one thing could save him, and that was his Acrse's (sp?) heel. To say the least, he did not like "present company," and he dashed through the wood at "horse race" speed, preferring to die in any other way than at the paws of a beast like that! Whereupon S. P. Gillham was reminded of a panther story which "took the socks" from anything yet told.
He was not himself the party defendant in this suit, else he had not been here to tell it. It was his neighbor, riding through the timber at night, when a panther screamed and leaped upon the rider's back, and raking with his cat-like paws from his head his hat, slitting in two in his garments behind and ripping open the rump of his horse, but slipping his hold altogether. This so frightened both rider and horse, that a race for life was extemperized. The terrified animal in the course leaped a stake-and-ridered fence and reached home, when or how the man never knew; for when he came to his senses he was gallantly galloping around the house. The man died two days afterward from his terrible fright.
We were all disappointed, on coming together in the afternoon, to learn that Major Solomon Pruitt had returned home, owing probably to the bad roads, and his feeble health. In the absence of Pres. West, the meeting was called to order, and Shed Gillham Sen., elected temporary chairman. Col. Thomas Judy, who was born in Madison county, December 19, 1804, made a few statements, but expressed a wish to give his reminiscences in writing. His father came to Kaskaskia in this State, in the year 1777, and moved to Madison county in 1800.
Dr. Frederick Humbert, of Upper Alton, spoke at some length, stating what he conceived to be the objects sought in these Old Settler's Meetings, and how they could be best attained. The objects sought are to ascertain and collect the facts pertaining to the early history of Madison county, together with reminiscences and anecdotes that will illustrate the habits and sort of life that belonged to our fathers, and the pioneers of this country. There is a great want in the lack of reliable history pertaining to the humbler walks in life. We have voluminous history and accounts of the doings and exploits of the noble and great, but little is said of the lower and working classes. The poor we have always with us, but who writes their history? We wish here to give, in proper shape, our recollections of the past, and by a comparison of views to compile a reliable history of the pioneers of Madison county. Let us organize this society upon a firm basis, and I would suggest, that we hold our meeting some time in June, July or August, at a time when it may be convenient, and when the weather is pleasant, so that the old men of the county can get out. At this season of the year, it is not convenient for the old settlers to come out. Let us have a mass meeting of two or three days, a place to which we can bring our wives and children. In Adams county there was such a gathering. They held a meeting of three days' continuance, and 5,000 men, women and children came together. Not the men alone are interested to these old settlers' gatherings. Our women have figured even more largely in hardships of early times. On them fell the heaviest burdens of the pioneer life. The man, when his day's work is done, sits in the corner and smokes his pipe at his ease. He has some rest and enjoyment, but the wife has neither. Her work and toil are never over! Let us organize our society upon a basis so large and liberal that it will include and attract our women and our children, and then let us come together at a session, when it will be possible together such a crowd. Judge Gillespie - "This is an unfavorable time of the year for our old people to come out."
L. A. Parks - I think, gentlemen, you have done well in organizing this Society. It ought to have been organized fifteen years ago. Let us go forward and do what we can now, and devise more liberal things as we are able and see the way. Let us now hear from these old men present, and through the press give to the public whatever is of interest, so that all may read and know the life and labors of the early settlers of this county. If this Society does justice to itself, and to the pioneers it represents, it will eventually gather these old settlers' papers into a bound volume. It would be very proper, I think, as Dr. H. suggests, that we have our meeting in the summer season. But at present, let us hear what these early settlers have to say.
After further brief remarks from Messrs. Judy, West, and others, Mr. L. A. Parks, editor of the Alton Telegraph, was called out: He said, "I came from North Carolina in 1833, to St. Louis, and west to work in the office of the St. Louis Republican for one year. I then became connected with Mr. Lovejoy in the publication of his paper, and in 1836 I came to Alton and started the Alton Telegraph, in connection with Mr. R. M. Treadway, who died after the first year. I then sold one-half interest to Judge Bailbathe, and I have been connected with the paper ever since, in one way or another. I am, perhaps, the oldest editor and printer in Illinois, and the Alton Telegraph is the oldest newspaper kept in the same hands. The Springfield Journal, Galena Gazette, and Quincy Whig are older papers, but these papers have often changed hands. I am probably the only one now in connection with the press of Illinois that was in connection with it in 1836. So that, if I am not a pioneer, my paper is. I will only relate one or two incidents that have occurred since I came to Alton:"
"A few months after I came to Alton, I had occasion to be in St. Louis one afternoon. There had been a difficulty among the colored people, and the officers were taking the disturbers of the peace to the calaboose. On the way, the officers exaggerated the degree of punishment that would fall upon the guilty. The negroes broke and ran, and tried to make their escape. Pursuit was made, when one of the negroes - by the name of McIntesh - turned upon the officer and killed him. That night the negro was taken out of jail and tied to a locust tree, near the corner of Seventh and Chestnut streets. Around him were piled dry rails and shavings, to which the mob set fire, and burned the negro, in that city of civilization." There were others who said, "I was there." "I saw the corpse - the mangled corpse." Dr. Frederick Humbert, of Upper Alton, said he saw the burning. More than forty men guarded the fire, till it could consume the man, who was bound there, and singing Methodist hymns till he died. Rude boys were there, on the morning of the next day, with their vulgarity and profanity, stamping their heels into the body (it had no arms, no legs), saying, "it is nothing but a ____ _____ n----." (I have been told, by an eyewitness, that the words he sung were these: 'Hark! from the tombs the doleful sound, Mine ears, attend the cry!') And such a doleful sound, said my informant, he never heard before. Methinks it was the only occasion fitting these doleful words that has occurred since the world has stood - Secretary.) Mr. Parks continued and said: "The next incident I wish to relate is this: In the winter of 1836 I went to St. Louis. I had been sick, and went for my health. I went down on the boat. Soon it commenced snowing. On the next morning there were six inches of snow. This was Saturday. In the afternoon the weather moderated. Sunday all day it was very warm. Monday morning it was worse, and the streets were a perfect slush. I went into dinner on Fourth street, at noon. Was not in more than an hour, and when I came out all the slush was hard frozen, and that afternoon we crossed the river. H. G. McClintock and a stranger, were in company with me in East St. Louis, the next morning, we met a man who was coming to Alton with four horses. We made arrangements to ride each a horse. But, in going three miles the horses not being shod, fell several times, and we came to the conclusion it would be safer to walk. The horses were put up and we started on foot for Alton. It was one solid sheet of ice all the way up to Milton. We reached Milton at 9 o'clock at night. Here the flood had washed away the bridge, the water was high and we could not cross, nor was there any house where we could stop for the night. There was one small house, where we applied for lodging, but they said, no, they could not keep us. They had already sixteen persons in the house. We started out to go two miles to a man by the name of Fruit or Pruitt, I don't recollect which, there we found lodging, ate our supper and lay down and slept. I never felt so rich and well satisfied before or since in my life. I had all I wanted and was content. Before reaching this place, however, I was frequently tempted to stop and lie down and sleep. My companion urged me along. And when I grew stupid and stubborn, he would swear a perfect blue streak, and threatened to whip me up if I attempted to lie down. And today I attribute the saving of my life to this man. But for him, I should have lain down and died on that journey." All the old settlers remembered that sudden change, and had many comical as well as sad stories to relate.
Reference was made by several of the speakers to the low price of meats and produce. Pork sold of 1 1/2 cents per pound, and corn for 6, 8, and 10 cents per bushel, and wheat as low as 25 cents per bushel. Mr. Sweetser, of Alton, said that in 1835-6 and 1837, he was engaged in the business of pork packing, and in those days pork sold at good prices - $4.50 to $6.00 per 100 pounds. It was in 1841-42 that prices reached the very low figures named.
William Bivens said, "I am a native of Madison county. I was born in 1820, within two miles of where Venice now is. I lived there until I was eight years old, when my mother moved to Monroe county. Afterward I returned to this county and commenced farming at Moro. I will relate a circumstance that happened to me while in Monroe county. We had not been in our new home for more than eight or ten days, when some of the neighbor's boys wished me to go with them to an old settler's house and stay all night. I went with them. This old farmer was considered rich in those days. He had two or three hundred hogs, plenty of horses, sheep and cows, and 30 acres to cultivation. True, he lived in a log house and in not very many rooms. We boys romped and played till late in the evening, and I began to get sleepy. There was no spare room, and I began to wonder where we were going to sleep. Presently the mother came in and said, 'Boys, it is time to go to bed.' There was a pile of deer skins in the corner of the room. These were hauled out on the floor and piled six inches deep. Upon and under these skins we slept till morning. But I am too fast, I wanted to tell about the supper. The old lady before bedtime brought in a pot of hominy. I think there was about a peck measure of boiled corn (whole grains). To each boy was given a spoon, and we went in. It was not a bad dish. I like it yet. It was seasoned with salt meat grease. Supper over, we all slipped in among the deer skins, which was all the bed the children of this wealthy old settler had. There was but one bed in the house, and that was for the old folks. In those days, there was enough of green grass and mast to fatten the hogs. It was not unusual to have hogs that would weigh two and three hundred pounds that had not fed on an ear of corn. Another thing about this family struck me as novel. Now, my parents always managed to provide their children with shoes in the winter, but the children in this family had no shoes. And in the morning (I forgot to say we had hominy for breakfast [laughter]), it was proposed to go after hack berries, some distance from the house. It was so agreed. But, I said to the boys, 'You are not going without shoes?' 'Yes we are,' they said. 'You will freeze before you get back.' 'No, we won't,' they replied. We started for the hackberries, these boys running through the snow barefoot, but they carried, I noticed, a board under their arm. When we reached the hackberry trees, the boys put down their boards, and stood upon them while they chopped down the trees. I asked them if their feet were not cold. 'No,' said they, 'they are getting hot and beginning to burn.' such was frontier life in those early days. About that sudden change in the weather, of which mention has been made, I have occasion to remember it well. I recollect it as if it were yesterday. I had started to ride to a neighbor's. It was warm and raining. The change came in an instant, and I soon found that my horse traveled with difficulty. I did not know what was the matter. At the end of my journey, I discovered that my horse's tail was absolutely as big as a barrel, and that his legs were like my body. I now wondered how he was able to travel at all. Immediate efforts were made to relieve the horse of his foy tail and legs. At 13 years of age I commenced farming near Moro. I grew every year 100 acres of corn, and sold it for 8 and 10 cents per bushel. Judge Gillespie - 'Wherein did the seasons differ then from now, as to the yield and certainty of the crops?' The crops were sure if the spring was not too wet. Oftentimes the long, wet spring delayed planting, so as materially to diminish the crop. We had not the trouble from insects that we now have. One season I remember I started out with the determination to make money. Castor beans had been a good price, and so I put in a large crop of castor beans. Also, I planted largely of the common white bean. I had a good crop of castor beans, but the price was low. I sold them for 37 cts per bushel. The rains ruined my crop of white beans, and I lost them all." Mr. B. then gave an account of his pecuniary struggles, and with what sacrifice he was enabled to meet his indebtedness. Considerable talk was had upon the subject of wet and dry seasons. Usually the seasons were wet (a few very dry seasons were reported). It was the opinion of some that more rain fell in those days than now. The creeks were seldom dry, and fish were usually plenty. Some, however, recognized the fact that the settlement of the country and the clearing away of the timber tended to drain the land, so that with the normal rainfall the fields could be worked earlier in the spring than could be done 40 and 50 years ago.
James Sacket said that he came from the land of steady habits. He came out with Capt. Blakeman in the year 1819, and located in the Marine settlement. He is 71 years old. For ten years after he came to this country, they were never troubled with drought, and they never thought of losing a corn crop. It was even reported that all a man had to do in those days was to put corn in his pocket and walk over a 40 acre field, and he could count on 40 bushels to the acre. I think our wheat crops now are better than they were then - better varieties and better cultivation.
The deep snow of 1830-31 was distinctly held in the memory of many of the old settlers. The depth was from 2 1/2 to 3 feet on the level. In 1831-32, the farmers had to send south for seed corn. The frosts had injured the germinating quality of all the corn in this region.
Jos. Chapman said he came to this country in 1818. His father came from North Carolina to this State in a one-horse cart. Stopped first at what is called Turkey Hill, in St. Clair county. Question - Did your cart have any iron about it? Chapman - "I think not. I know my father made a great many of these carts after he came to this country. In 1828 we removed from Turkey Hill, or the Lemen settlement, as it was sometimes called, to Staunton, then in Madison county, now in Macoupin. In 1834 I came into this county. In 1837 I went to Upper Alton, where I lived for 25 years or more. In 1818 there were but few Indians in the country, and these were peaceable and engaged chiefly in making baskets and selling them for their full of shelled corn. We suffered great inconvenience from the want of mills to grind corn. I remember one winter, the weather was such that we could not go to the mill (the distance being so great), and we beat hominy and used it for bread. We had in those days no wagons. There was, I believe, one cart in the neighborhood. Blacksmith shops were sadly wanted." Mr. C. spoke of the great snow of 1831-32, and of other matters already referred to, but his testimony was not different from that already reported.
Mr. Michael Brown, of Brighton, stated that his age was 64 years on the 4th day of last June. His father came from Ohio, Champaign county, in the fall of 1817. He first settled in St. Clair county, on Silver Creek, and in 1818 came to Upper Alton. There was then no Lower Alton. In Upper Alton there was a little store kept by a man by the name of Shad Brown. He made further statements, but said, that he would present a more careful statement in writing. He told "a turkey story," and a "panther story," and other anecdotes (we shall hear from him again) one of which I will here relate: :In 1827 Olive Brown was living where I am now living, in Brighton. The house then was a log cabin, and brick chimney. One night it rained and put out the fire. We had no matches in those days, and no old hunters with fint lock guns, so we had to post off a messenger, 7 miles away to a farmer by the name of Nathan Searrill, and we had to wait till his return for fire and our breakfast. This was in "the good old times," to which I have no desire to return. There were, he said, serpents in those days, that were troublesome, and with some discussion upon the snake weed, considered, at that time, an infalli--, no cure for the poisonous bite of these serpents.
The hour of adjournment was reached. On motion, Judge Gillespie, three Vice Presidents, were appointed, viz: B. M. West, Edwardsville; Judge Jos. Gillespie, Edwardsville; J. J. Kinder, Edwardsville. On motion of L. A. Parks, a committee of six were appointed to arrange as to the place, time and plan of the next meeting, to be held sometime next summer, between the 1st of July and 1st of September. The following was the committee appointed: Judge Jos. Gillespie; Rev. P. M. West; Wm. Hayden; S. B. Gillham; Dr. F. Humbert, and O. L. Barler.
Talks With the Early Settlers
Hon. Robert Aldrich - His Reminiscences of the Early History of Madison County by O. L. Barler, Esq., Secretary
From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, March 11, 1875
I have received a very interesting paper from H. K. Eaton, Esq., Edwardsville, containing the reminiscences of Mr. Aldrich. In sending this paper, he writes: "Mr. Aldrich was 81 years old the 4th of last month, and has been sick, and for four or five months has been very feeble. Fearing that he would drop off before you could visit him, I commenced, more than a month ago, going to his house, and kept it up day after day and at intervals of two or three days, as he was able to stand it, until I have got what I send you. It is a little long, but I could not see where I could cut it short. His many friends about Edwardsville will be glad to read what the good old man has to say. Mr. Aldrich's neighbors have a high regard for him, and will be glad to have his reminiscences in print. He labored hard to call to mind these old time scenes."
Robert Aldrich, Esq.: I was born in Worcester county, Massachusetts, January 4, 1794. Mendon was our township. September 20, 1816, my brother Anson and I left our paternal roof, and made a start afoot for the Illinois Territory. We had been bewitched by accounts we had heard and read of, respecting the great American Bottom, and though we found the soil to be all and even more than we had been told, yet we feared it would be unhealthy, otherwise, we should, undoubtedly, have located on it. On our way westward, we found, in the vicinity of Xenia, Ohio, some Massachusetts friends, who had preceded us; with them we stayed and worked until the fall of 1817. About September of that year, we resumed our journey, taking Cincinnati in our route on reaching, which we fell in with Henry and George Keley, two brothers, who, with the family of Henry Keley, were on their way to Edwardsville, Illinois. The Keley's had what was called a family boat. We decided to go with them. We floated on down the Ohio River until we reached Shawneetown, October 16, 1817. Here, the Keleys decided they would follow the river no farther, and here they disembarked. They had brought three horses and a wagon on the boat. We all decided to go first to Kaskaskia. The horses were hitched to the wagon, the women, children and household stuff placed in it, and on we moved as best we could on bad roads, and no roads, and no bridges, ferrying swollen streams in the wagon box, swimming the horses over, through swampy lands and deep mud holes. Oftentimes the men had to wade into the mud holes and lift the wagon out of deep difficulties. On one occasion we had to remain encamped on the bank of a considerable stream which was greatly swollen, four days, in hopes it would run down so that we could ford it, but finally we had to take off the wagon body, make a flat boat of it, and ferry the women, children, household goods and running gear of the wagon over in it. We made the horses swim across. However, after a tedious and laborious trip of many days, we arrived at Kaskaskia, November 1, 1817. Our party consisted of the two Keleys, Mrs. Ann Young, her two grandchildren, viz. Henry T. Bartling and his sister, Harriet Bartling, Mrs. Henry Keley, my brother Anson and myself, eight of us. I must here state that this Mrs. Young was a lady of very superior abilities, education and intelligence. She was a daughter of Col. Durkee, a distinguished officer in the Revolutionary war. He was severely wounded at the battle of Monmouth. He co-operated with Gen. Israel Putnam during that war, was constantly with him, shared in his dangers, risks and exploits. When Putnam was elevated in rank, Durkee followed right after, stepping into the position made vacant by Putnam's promotion, and so on through the war. Mrs. Young was mother of two daughters, one of whom married a man named Bartling, the other, a Mr. Anderson. Both these daughters, and her husband died east. Her grandson, Henry T. Bartling, was long a resident of Edwardsville, but spent the last few years of his life St. Louis, where he died of cholera nearly twenty years ago. His sister, Harriett, became the wife of the late Col. Nathaniel Buckmaster, who was an early settler of Madison county, from Virginia, a man of decided talents, and who became quite a distinguished public man. Mrs. Young was not related to the Keleys, but they, being neighbors of hers in Norwich, Connecticut, whom, with Mrs. Henry Keley, she highly esteemed, and having lost her husband and two daughters, she concluded to come out west with her two grandchildren, and, having means, she assisted the Keleys in removing and locating some lands.
After resting a few days at Kaskaskia, Henry Keley, my brother and I, each mounted a horse and rode up to Edwardsville, leaving George Keley, the women and children in a house temporarily rented. We crossed over and took a look at the French village of St. Louis as we came up. We reached Edwardsville about the 6th or 7th of November, A. D., 1817, and put up at a public house, just built of logs by the late Col. John T. Lusk. It stood where Col. Lusk afterwards built a large frame for a store. His new log hotel was not quite finished when we arrived. Some chinking and daubling were still to be done. The cracks between the logs were wide, and during our first night quite a blustering storm arose, and so furious was the blast that our bed clothing was swept off us. After looking round for a day or two, Mr. Keley employed a man named Coventry (the father of the John W. Coventry, Esq., now Postmaster at Edwardsville), an early settler, to go with us and show us the country about the vicinity of Edwardsville, and especially to point out to us the sectional corners of land surveys. After inspecting that portion northeast of town a few miles, Mr. Keley decided to locate on section 29, town 5, range 7, the north line of which township was the limit of the government surveys that had been made up to this time. On this section, assisted by my brother and myself, Mr. Henry Keley built a log cabin; and on the 4th of January, A. D. 1818, the family having arrived from Kaskaskia, they began their cabin life. I had been employed several weeks in assisting to build this cabin, and on that day, being 24 years of age, commenced boarding with Capt. Keley. With the exception of a small improvement made in the year 1811 by a man named Ferguson (who abandoned it at the commencement of the last British war, 1812 to 1815, and to which he never returned) on section seven, just below the crossing of Cahokia creek by the Alton and Greeneville road, this house of Capt. Keley's was the first dwelling erected in town 5, range 7. The government survey of this township was made in the year 1818, being the last of the U. S. surveys projected at that time; but steps were taken to recommence in township six north, the following year, 1819. The Kaskaskia and Peoria Trace, an old track made before the commencement of this century, passed along the center of the Ridge Prairie (called by the French Prairie Du L___ [Long??]), through this township, and a "trail," made by rangers from Wood river to Bond county, were our only roads. An old log cabin, called Beck's blockhouse, was standing on section 5, town 4, range 7, whose occupant bore the fame of "guarding the frontier of civilization," in this section during the eventful period, viz.: the war of 1812 to 1815. Bennet Jones occupied a cabin at Lamb's Point, on section 3, township 5, range 7, during the early part of 1818. Allen and Keltner, two brothers-in-law, made small improvements on section 5, the same year, but sold out directly and left. Archibald Lamb commenced his improvements in 1818 at Lamb's Point, township 5, range 7, on which he has resided ever since, a period now of nearly 57 years. The venerable Francis Roach, a Revolutionary soldier and an Indian fighter in Kentucky, moved into the Territory A. D. 1807, but not into this township until the year 1827, and on section 3 in the year 1845, made his departure to the "eternal state" at the extraordinary age of one hundred and six (106). He was a native of Fairfax county, Virginia.
William Hoxsey erected a cabin on section 18, township 5, range 6, in the year 1818. He had a numerous family, five (5) sons and eight (8) daughters. He enclosed more acres in cultivation than any other in this vicinity, and died on this last adopted home the 18th of October 1832. He was a native of Rhode Island, born November 30, 1766; migrated into Greenbrier county, Virginia, where he married, and where his first children were born; his second location was Christian county, Kentucky; third and last as above stated.
James Gray, a brother-in-law of Mr. Hoxsey, settled the same year near Hoxsey's; was the father of fifteen (15) children; tarried some ten or twelve years and moved into Montgomery county. Smith Farris and William Hinch made small improvements the same year, 1818, on section 19, township 5, range 6, where they spent the residue of their lives. One David Aikman made a small improvement in the Silver creek timber, near for ford of the Wood river and Bond county trace, remained but a few years, sold out and moved to "other parts." Same year, 1818, the late Thomas Barnel settled on section 32, township 5, range 7, where he terminated his pilgrimage, April 21, A. D. 1852, aged 78 years. Elder Thomas Ray, a Baptist clergyman, commenced his last home, the same year, on section 11, township 4, range 7. He died October 21, 1854 in the 81st year of his age.
The first schoolhouse in township 5, range 7, was built on my land near my residence, in 1826. It was but a flimsy, temporary structure, and used but a short time. There were not families enough in the neighborhood to make up a school of sufficient number to justify a competent teacher to engage at teaching. A Mr. Carver and a Mr. Joseph Thompson each taught a short time in it. Not far from the same time, a log schoolhouse was built at Lamb's Point, and what is more, it was dignified with a stone chimney. This schoolhouse was used a good deal, and served a valuable purpose. I may add just here, that our old log schoolhouses in the early day were used as preaching places. The few members of Christian churches were so scattered and poor that meeting houses could not be built, and the schoolhouses were quite roomy enough for the small congregations of that period, and answered a valuable and highly beneficial purpose in that respect.
Buffaloes or bison became extinct in this region sixty odd years ago. My brother, Ansen, met with Nelson Rector, a brother of the Surveyor General Rector, in the year 1818 in Kentucky, who told him that the last buffaloes he saw was while surveying public lands for the government in Illinois in the year 1811. He didn't think any were seen or to be found in Illinois after that year. There were no resident Indians in the county when I came to it. Indeed, I knew of no Indian towns south of the Sangamon river. At all events it did not appear that they ever had permanent habitations in Madison county. There was a temporary encampment of Kickapoo Indians, before my time, near the mouth of Indian creek, and I have been informed that mounds erected over their dead may still be seen. About the year 1824 some Delaware Indians, originally from Pennsylvania, but then from Indiana, used to camp along up and down the timber bordering Cahokia creek in this county. I saw and conversed with some of them frequently. Some of their chiefs were agreeable, intelligent men. They, in a year or so, moved westward to the Indian Reservation. A large body of Pottowatamies passed through the county, nearly 40 years ago, on their way to said reservation. They encamped one night on my place. I knew of but very few colored people in a state of servitude under the old Indenture system about Edwardsville. There may have been a half dozen or so. As late a period as that was when I came, the old settlers often had their difficulties to get breadstuffs. Hence a number of men who had a turn and passion for machinery and mills were tempted and encouraged to try their skill at building cheap, rough, horse or ox mills, to grind corn and wheat. And many a one made a failure, many were broken up at it. Many of these mills, however, did good - people would have been worse put to it a great deal but for them. The men who built and ran them deserved credit and praise. I am reminded here of a saying of the late Col. Isaac Prickett, which was that, "however great a falling out he might have with an old settler, if he undertook to build a water mill, he made it a point to always forgive him the 'grudge.'"
About 1820 Henry Kelly built on section 29, township 5, range 7, what was called a "band mill," a kind about which rawhides were extensively used for bands instead of cogs, to grind corn and wheat. He had a good bolting cloth and chest; it was used for a short time, but it didn't pay, and it went down. Prior to the year 1817, such a mill was put up on Gov. Cole's land, three or four miles east of Edwardsville. When I first knew it, old Mr. Coventry was running it. After that, William L. May got hold of and ran it, and he, and I think Albert H. Judd, removed it to Edwardsville and put it up on or near the ground now occupied by Mr. Martin Gerber's or Mrs. Grable's residences. George W. Farris built such a mil near west Silver creek, near the line between townships 5-6 and 3-7. Robert Collet built a good mill and did good work with it about the year 1826 in Rattan's prairie, two or three miles southeast of Bethalto. It served a most valuable purpose for many years, until about 1842 or 1843, which, unfortunately, it burned down. Mr. Collet was one of our most ingenious, useful and enterprising men. Old Joseph Newman came to the county as early, I think, as A. D. 18_7 [unreadable]. He built a water mill on Cahokia creek at Edwardsville; ran it several years before my time, and then sold it to a Mr. Lockhart (I presume Samuel Lockhart). He afterwards sold it to Paris Mason. All these men kept up this mill the best they could, and it was of very great advantage in the people over a wide extent of country, but so treacherous was "old Coke," and so difficult and expensive was it to preserve the mill dam that Mr. Mason concluded finally to abandon and give it up. Old Jacob Gonterman was an early settler and built a mill on his place some three or four miles southeast of Edwardsville, in township 4, range 7, that did a good deal of service for some years. George Barnsback, in township 4, range 8, and Calvin McCray, in township 3, range 7, built good cog wheel horse mills, and did excellent work with them grinding both wheat and corn.
Josias Randle built a good cogwheel horse mill at Edwardsville at an early period; John Messenger was the machinist and millwright who did the work. Allow me to say, just here, that this Messenger was a great surveyor, and he it was who ran the north boundary line of our State. After running his mill a few years, Mr. Randle, being furnished with means by Winthrop S. Gillman of Alton, applied a steam engine to his mill, and then did capital work. Unfortunately, however, for him and the people of the town and surrounding country, in a year or so it burned down. I do not know but that this was the first steam grain mill started in the county. William Manning, not far from the same period, built a steam flour mill in Alton. Whether it got to work before Mr. Randle's did or not, I do not now recollect. Abel Moore built a good cogwheel mill on his place in the forks of Wood river, 2 or 3 miles east of Upper Alton, about 1823 or 1824, that did very good work. Robert Harrison built a water mill on Cahokia creek, in northwest part of section 25, township 5, range 8, at quite an early period, I don't remember the year. Here, for a great many years, much corn and wheat were ground, and a great deal of lumber was sawed. It had finally to be abandoned many years ago. Mr. Harrison was quite a public-spirited, enterprising and valuable citizen. His great usefulness was afterwards developed in the pottery business, which he carried on for many years in Upper Alton. Logs were sawed at Newman's mill at Edwardsville long prior to 1817. Lumber was also sawed at Randle's mill. About 1829 or 1830, John Estabrook and Oliver Livermore built a water mill on Cahokia creek in northwest part of township 5, range 7, which did a great amount of sawing and some grinding of grain for many years. John Newman had built, years before I came to Illinois, a saw mill on Indian creek in township 5, range 8. He and others after him ran it to good purpose for many years. About 1840 to 1843 there were several steam grain and saw mills at work in the county. Besides those I have mentioned, there were other horse or ox mills built in the early days, particularly in the south and southeast portions of the county. There was an excellent mill built very near the southeast corner of the county in the territorial days, as I understood. The proprietor was from the south, and was wealthy, and went to the expense of shipping millwrights and machinists from the Eastern States, in order to have a good mill and contribute towards furnishing breadstuffs for the scattered settlers. I do not remember his name. The mill was east, I think, of Sugar creek. Old Mr. Coventry built a mill near to and west of Edwardsville on Delaplaine's branch at a very early day.
There was not an apple, pear, peach or cherry tree or anything of the sort, except such as were in the wild state, in township 5, range 7, when I reached it in November 1817. It was a wilderness. In 1819, Henry Keley and my brother Anson, went to Griffith's nursery at Portage Des Sioux in St. Charles county, Missouri, and got apple grafts, wrapped deerskins around the middle of their packages so they could lay them before them on their horses, and thus brought them to our settlement. That was the start of my old orchard, fifty-six years ago now. Half of those old trees are still alive and bore fruit last year, 1874. Not far from the same period, Archibald Lamb and Thomas Barnet set out apple orchards in this township. The oldest orchard I knew of was that of old Major Cook, who told me himself that he sold the last cow he had to get money to buy his applegrafts with. His orchard was on his farm which lay at the foot of the bluff on the old St. Louis and Edwardsville road, perhaps in township 3, range 8. The late David Gillespie, an early settler, and father of Matthew and Judge Joseph Gillespie, afterwards owned the place and lived there. I know not how early Maj. Cook put out this orchard, but I know the apple trees were large in 1817. I am of opinion that Samuel Judy, Ambrose Nix, some of the Whitesides, Gillhams and others, put out orchards not far from the time Maj. Cook put out his. The best and largest apple orchard set out as early as 1819 or 1820, was that of the late Gershom Flagg. He soon spread apple grafts over 25 acres of ground and continued to enlarge his orchard as long as he lived. He was an indefatigable orchardist. William Hoxsey put out an apple orchard as early as 1819 and 1820, and the late Robert McKee devoted a large space to a choice selection of apples on his farm, through which the Troy and Edwardsville road passes, some three miles from the latter place. The early settlers had but little money. They needed but little, save to pay a little tax, but few bought lands, the most lived on government land unbought, unpatented. The little silver coin that did find its way here had to be cut up into small pieces to make it go as far as possible and for convenience of change. The bank of Edwardsville went into operation, I think, in 1819, and made money quite lush for a short time, but the swindling concern soon went under. Times (commercially speaking) were hard, produce was low, and but little encouragement or stimulus was given to farming or any business until the United States Bank began to afford relief about 1825 or 1826. Things then went on some better. There soon began to be buyers of pork and beef and a little was done with grain. True, prices were low, dressed hogs were often sold for __ cents a pound, beef 2 to 2 1/2 and 3 cents a pound. Corn for 6 to 10 and 12 cents a bushel, wheat at 25 to 37 1/2 cents per bushel, but then those who had such things to spare could get a little money to pay taxes, to buy salt and powder and lead. Their lands were so fresh and fertile that the crops yielded heavy, compared to the yield at this day, particularly as it respects corn. And then the natural growth of grass was so luxuriant and so superabundant, that if we had had good roads and bridges to market, we could have undersold almost any other people in the world. Our habits of living were of the most economical character.
Paroquets and woodcock abounded in this region until about 40 years ago. Swans were formerly seen. Badgers were occasionally found prior to the year 1830. Elks had become extinct before I came into the country, but I have the horn of one, I found about the year 1823. Buffalo horns were found scattered about the prairie for 15 or 20 years, before being totally decomposed. Bears were rarely found - have not heard of but one being killed in the county since 1830. Panthers were occasionally seen, and some few were killed prior to the year 1840. Wolves were very destructive to hogs and sheep, occasionally to colts and calves; but for the last 30 years they have ceased to greet us with their howls. Wild cats were never numerous or destructive on domestic animals, some few linger with us yet. Wolves were distinguished as "black wolf," "grey wolf," "prairie wolf," and a mongrel between the grey and prairie wolves. Of insects in the early period, the "green headed fly" was the most annoying and destructive. The early settlers used to make smoke around which their cattle and horses would gather in the day time. Travelers crossed the wide prairies in the night time, when these pests were quiet, and corn raisers used to appropriate a part of the "dark hours" in tending corn. The season of 1818 was the most remarkable I ever experienced for thunder. Many a day distant rumblings were frequent, and not a cloud in sight. The first death in township 5, range 7, was that of a Mrs. Harber, at Lamb's Point, she, with her husband, being on a visit to an old acquaintance there. Wheat that I sowed in the fall of 1818 proved to be a good crop. It was the first harvested in this township. Many of the wheat fields in 1820 were affected with what was termed "sick wheat." Persons who ate bread made from it would be sickened and forced to vomit, but instinct taught the brave creation to reject it. A dog might snatch a piece of bread thrown to him, but would immediately drop it. Neither cattle or swine would eat it, and some farmers burned their stacks, deeming it utterly worthless. The spring of 1820 was remarkable for heavy rainfalls. All plashy places were filled with water. Evaporation only drained them. A sickly, disagreeable effluvin(?) filled the atmosphere during the hot months, and in the fall following there was considerable sickness. On the 20th of May 1822, heavy frost. September 21st, 1823, a severe frost cut all green corn blades; was followed by dry weather, so that the corn ripened well and was good for the following year's planting. The year 1824 was a remarkably wet year. Water could not stagnate for the reason that "pure from the heavens" fell so frequently, kept all in motion. Corn on flat lands this year was a total failure. In August of this year, Convention or No Convention was voted on. The year 1825 was noted for a remarkable growth of "thistles" on branch bottoms. The winter of 1830 and 1831 was that of the deep snow; much drifted, and was very destructive to peach trees, intensely cold. In olden times, as I learned from Samuel Seybold, Esq., a lynx would be occasionally seen, but very rarely. When I first came to Illinois, and for a good many years after, the barshare plow for breaking prairie, and for turning up corn land, was the only kind in use that I saw or heard of. This sort of plow had a wood mold board. For cultivating corn, the shovel plow was much and mostly used. The early immigrants, or such of them as were well enough off to have horses or oxen and wagons to move in, brought these plows with them. The most of the first settlers were from the States of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, and came mostly in wagons, drawn principally by oxen. Such as had no teams would come with beds, wives, children, _____, skillets and most on one pack horse, the lords of creation themselves taking it afoot. Some men that removed into Southern Illinois after the latter fashion subsequently became distinguished members of Congress, State Senators and Representatives, and abundance of them became Generals, Colonels, Major and Constables. After some years the Carey plow and another called the east iron plow were introduced. The latter was used in breaking prairie, and the former in preparing the ground for corn and wheat, and for cultivating corn. These plows were improvements and served an excellent purpose.
The late John Adams came to Edwardsville a short time after my arrival in Illinois, and set to work making castor oil. He greatly encouraged the culture of the castor bean amongst the farmers, and this was a great help to them, the new prairie soil being well adapted to the growth of the article. Mr. Adams continued the business quite extensively until his death in the early part of the year 1840. He also established a wool carding machine in Edwardsville. This proved a great convenience and advantage to the people who depended mainly on home-made stuffs for clothing. Thereby the raising of sheep was greatly encouraged. The late George W. Putnam bought this carding machine and ran it a great many years. I do not know of any other being started in this county until many years after Mr. Adams' death. Mr. Adams also established a Fulling mill in connection with Mr. Mason's saw and grist mill in Edwardsville, using the water of Mason's mill dam for running it. This would have been a very successful and useful enterprise if the mill dam could have been kept up. But few men have been, or are, more enterprising, more public spirited, high-minded, good and honorable, than was old John Adams.
There was considerable cotton raised in Madison county for many years after I came to Illinois. Some kept it up until as late as 1835. Thomas Good built and ran a very good cotton gin about two miles south of Edwardsville, and did a great deal of work with it for many years. I think there was another one or two in the county, but I can't be certain. The first I knew of chinchbugs was in 1847, when considerable damage was done to corn and wheat in my neighborhood. These pests have rapidly increased in the past 27 years.
I think there was not a bridge over Cahokia creek or either of the Silver creeks when I came. My impression is there was a bridge across Wood river at Milton when I came, but of even this I am not sure. The first bridge built across Cahokia was at the point of the ridge at the north end of Main street, Edwardsville. This was built by Paris Mason, assisted by contributions of money and labor by some others about the year 1820.
There was more of fighting according to the number of people in old settler days than in modern times. But it seems that the early settlers were not as much given to this sort of pastime as people were in some other States. In 1827, I met and was introduced to Parham Wall on election day in Edwardsville. He had but a day or two before arrived in this country. I asked him how he liked the way we conducted things in this new country. "Don't like your elections at all," he said, "I've been here now five or six hours and the day is drawing to a close, and yet I haven't seen a single fight. In Tennessee where I came from, we would have had eighteen or twenty respectable fights by this time. That was something to amuse a man. I see no fun in your elections here, if they're all like this."
There was no newspaper published in Madison county when I came to it in the latter end of 1817, and but two were published in the State, one - "The Shawneetown Gazette" - at Shawneetown, and the other called the "Illinois Intelligencer" at Kaskaskia. In 1819 Hooper Warren started the "Spectator" in Edwardsville. Books were very scarce in those days. I don't think there was any bookstore in St. Louis in 1817, and but few, if any, on sale were kept by the storekeepers. What few were brought from Philadelphia, and other places, for sale, were kept and sold by the dry goods merchants for many years after I came. I found, or heard of, only two churches in the county in 1817. One was near where "Goshen Schoolhouse," in township 4, range 8, some three miles southeast of Edwardsville now stands. It was called "Bethel." The other was a good-sized frame church, a mile or so southwest of Edwardsville, near the St. Louis road, and was called "Ebenezer." Both were built and used by the Methodists, and both, in after years, took fire by accident and were burned down. After the burning of Ebenezer church, the Methodists built a meeting house in Edwardsville, on the site their church now occupies. I am inclined to think there was a log church, erected by the Baptists, near Indian creek, in township 6, range 8, before I came, but am not sure of it. Of the eight of us who came here together in 1817, George Keley and I only remain. In 1820 and in 1832 I made visits to my native place in Massachusetts, footing it there and back. Excepting the few months thus absent, I have lived where I now reside and write fifty-seven years and a quarter. I could fill many more pages with various incidents peculiar to a frontier and early settler life if my health and strength would permit. I am in my 83d years, and recent sickness has greatly enfeebled me.
Some of my acquaintances have expressed a desire that I would reduce to writing some of my recollections respecting two very exciting circumstances that occurred shortly after my arrival in Illinois. These were the killing of a man named William Wright by Eliphalet Green on Abel Moore's place on Wood river, in 1823, and the other was the killing by stabbing of Daniel D. Smith at the hotel in Edwardsville, about the month of March 1824. The first case is a matter of history, as may be seen in the County Gazeteer, hence I need not say anything about it further than that it was a very exciting affair among the old settlers. I remember incidents about it well. The other was far more thrilling and agitated the whole population of the county. As some desire has been expressed to know something about the history of Daniel D. Smith, I will briefly state all that I learned or can call to mind about him. I was not personally acquainted with him, though I saw him a great many times from the year 1819 to the time of his death, and knew him well when I saw him. I learned from Paris Mason that Smith was a native of Grafton, Grafton county, New Hampshire; that when quite a young man he went to a place called Downington, a few miles east of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits. After a time, his store, with his stock of goods, were burned down. He shortly after that event left Pennsylvania and got down into Ohio, and being of quite an enterprising spirit, he united with some others in an attempt to rarify air in a furnace, which they built for the purpose, hoping to be able to impel machinery therewith, and make a very useful and profitable affair of it. At this project he spent some considerable time and hard labor, but it proved an entire failure. After a time he wended his way to Illinois. I think he came in 1818. I saw him first in Edwardsville in 1819. He could turn his hand to almost anything. I knew of his selling a parcel of wooden clocks, that somebody had brought there, at public sale, as the auctioneer in 1819. He had no family that I knew of. Mr. Mason informed me that he had none. He was not, according to my recollection, a permanent resident of Edwardsville. At the time of his death his home was in Pike county, of which he held the office of Recorder then. After coming to Illinois, he engaged largely in the purchase of, and dealing in, military bounty land warrants, and, as Pike county was in the military district (so called), I conjecture that he located there in order to look after his land patent interests. But he was passing back and forth from Pike to Madison a great deal, owing partly to the fact of being Recorder of Pike county (which was but recently included in Madison county) and deeds, etc., for lands in the former had been recorded in the Recorder's office of the latter county. The late Hon. Geo. Churchill had the information that Smith held and owned at one time two hundred or more of those bounty land warrants. At the time he was killed, he was down to Edwardsville on business relating to land, land records and bounty land warrant matters. My recollection of Mr. Smith's personal appearance is that he was rather tall and somewhat slender, though stoutly enough built for strength, and I judged him to be a very active man. From what I saw of him in company myself, and from what I heard others say, I can report him to have been a very mirthful sort of man, given to fun and raillery; was keen, witty and smart. I heard he had a ready facility at writing satirical poetry; he had considerable musical talent, could sing a song well; carried a cane with a flute in it and played on it. He made a good deal of sport for folks by his mimicry which he was famous at, especially when he was in his cups, for I learned that he sometime indulged a little freely in drink. On such occasions if he had a joke on a man, and especially if there was something scurrilous about it, his powers for ridicule would be brought into full play and he could be terribly severe. I did not understand that he was quarrelsome. He always seemed to me to be the very opposite. When entirely sober, he appeared a mild, pleasant, and very gentlemanly man to me. His sudden and untimely death and the manner in which it was brought about were the themes of conversation all over the county for many months; and I doubt not, were matters of profound regret to every man and woman in the county. I was a member of the Coroner's jury that held the inquest on the body of Smith immediately after his decease, and can recall the names of most of the persons that were in the barroom and about the Hotel at the moment when he received the fatal thrust that terminated his existence - they were James Wilder, Joel Neff, James D. Henry, James S. Stephenson, Pierre Menard Jr., Panerson H. Winchester, Myron Patterson, the hotel keeper, Mrs. Patterson, Emanuel J. Lee, Samuel McKinney, William Cummings, and Philip B. Pemberton and old Holliday. There were probably others, but if so, I can not now recall them to mind. I well recollect the terrible excitement of the occasion, and the great stir that arose a few months afterwards, caused by a trial before the Circuit Court, Judge Samuel McRoberts presiding, growing out of this memorable tragedy. The very resolute and masterly exertion of Alfred Cowles, Esq., in conducting the prosecution, aided by Benjamin Mills, Esq. and the insulous, persistent and powerful defense, made by the Hon. Felix Grundy of Tennessee, assisted by Henry Starr, Esq. The person charged with having committed the crime, and who underwent a trial conducted with marked ability by the Court and the attorneys concerned, was acquitted by the jury. Allow an old man to repeat the last words of Mr. Cowles' very able speech. They referred to Mr. Grundy, and were as follows: "Furthermore gentlemen, I will call your attention to the character, to the national reputation of the honorable gentleman who has so lately thundered in our ears that his name has become almost a proverb for skill in exculpating malefactors from justice." More than half a century has passed away since those occurrences. How few are left to tell the tale.
Talks With the Early Settlers
With Mr. J. B. Judd - His Reminiscences of the Early History of Madison County by O. L. Barler, Esq.
Source: Alton Telegraph, June 3, 1875
Hon. D. A. Spaulding, of Alton, has received the following reminiscences from an early settler of this county, now living at Pecatonica, in the northern part of this State, and sends the same to the Alton Telegraph for publication. The Indian story is new and characteristic of those early days:
I left Pittsford, Rutland county, Vermont, May 28th, 1818, in company with Levi Warner, for Illinois, with two horses and a wagon. Came to Cincinnati, took a flat bottom, put all aboard, and floated down the Ohio to Shawneetown, arriving July 13. Started for St. Louis, came to John Messinger's in St. Clair county, about three miles from Belleville; stayed a few days, then went to St. Louis, then back to Mr. Messinger's, then up to the Sangamon country. No house after we left Edwardsville, and nothing but an old Indian trail, and but one woman in all that region; but a fine country this was. August 10, 1818, came back, went to Pepe's Bluff on the Kaskaskia, fifteen miles above Carlyle, and wintered there. The next spring I started for Vermont on horseback. I was thirty-eight days making the trip. Twelve days sick and under the doctor's care. Twenty-six in riding what was called thirteen hundred miles. My weight generally is 165. I fed my mare but twice in twenty-four hours, at night one half bushel of oats, at noon one half of a bushel. She was fat and lively when I got through, in as good order as when I started. I went some days sixty-five miles. I came back to Illinois in the fall of 1819, spent the winter in Carlyle with my friend and partner, C. F. Hammond. In the fall of 1820 we went to Vandalia, and Hammond and Judd had a little grocery store, a good span of horses, and wagon to get our supplies with from St. Louis and other places, and do what came to hand. In March, 1821, a surveyor came from Edwardsville to Vandalia and wanted to hire a team to carry a load of provision fifty miles east and thirty miles north from Vandalia. I agreed to go. The rivers were full. It was thought I could make the trip in six days, but we had two rivers to swim and so many delays I was six days in getting out. Killed one bear and a few turkeys in going out, and then I must get back. I thought it not best to undertake to swim the little Wabash alone, so I had to go south between the little Wabash and Muddy, sixty miles to the Vincennes and St. Louis road. I struck the road all right, and then the horses straightened up the lines and pulled for dear life, and the dug cut up all manner of pranks, and we were soon at the Tavern, and horses fed a little. You may be sure they were hungry, ten days with 21 bushels of corn and what they could get of nights by grazing in the month of March. And so the twelfth day I got back to Vandalia and found Hammond on the bluff. Some thought I was lost or sick or the horses sick. If I had not got home that day, they were going to start after me. In April three Indians were brought to Vandalia, two were tried for murder and sentenced to be hung in July. The Marshal lived at Kaskaskia and wished to hire a team to carry the three Indians there. I agreed to go and carry the Indians and one guard in my wagon. We started and went to Carlyle the first day, put the Indians in the bar room, and made up a bed in the hall opposite the bar room door for the guards, two in number. He told them but one must sleep at a time and we all retired, but just at the break of day one of the Indians took up his ball and smashed one of the windows all to pieces, and leaped out and one of the others followed, and such a screaming and hollowing you never heard, and such a rattling of glass it seemed as though all the glass in the house was broken. I was up stairs near a window. I looked out and saw them running. I slipped on my pants and boots and ran for my dog, in the wagon house. I ran the way I saw them go a half mile or so and hissed on my dog, but I could see nothing nor could the dog. I then went back to the tavern and the Marshal warned out all the men in the village to help look them up. The guard said they went into the woods. I did not think so. I thought they went north, for that was the way they were headed as I looked out of the window. The Marshal and myself went north, and after we got about a mile up the river we parted. He made out into the prairie covered with hazel brush. I went over the bluff. It was agreed that if he found them, he was to halloo, and if I found them, I was to do so. I went right over the bluff, and there, at the foot of the hill, were the Indians. I hallooed with all my might, and started my horse on a quick motion, as one of the Indians started on a run, and I put after him and thought I would ride over him, but he tried to strike me with his ball, and I passed by, turned round, and drew my pistol, and then he went backwards, and by this time the Marshal came, and I told him to shoot him down, as he showed so much fight. He was a big athletic Indian. The Marshal got off his horse and leaned up against a tree, and took aim at the Indian, but could not get his gun to go off; that gave more time to reflect and we concluded to try and take him. We got each of us a good club about two feet long, and the Indian got him one, and laid down his ball near the foot of a tree. I told the Marshal we would go up one on this side and the other on that side, and knock him down. He was to give the first blow. He struck but did not hit him. I rushed up and aimed my blow at his head, the Indian threw up his right arm to save his head. His arm was broken short off and hung down. Then he made motion for me to shoot him. I made motion for him to throw away his club, by throwing away mine, and he did so, and I walked up to him, pealed a basswood limb and laid his arm in it, took my silk pocket handkerchief, and slung it to his neck, took his ball and walked with him to town. The Marshal took my horse and got the other Indian. He was sick and did not offer to get away. Got a doctor to set the Indian's arm, and then went on, and I landed them in Kaskaskia, but this Indian died the third day after and the other was hung. Now these things took place from 54 to 57 years ago, and I do not know as there is one individual that will remember Hammond and Judd, or any of these circumstances that I have related.
Old Settlers Reunion At Madison County Fair, September 30, 1875
Speech by Hon. Joseph Gillespie
From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, October 7, 1875
Ladies and gentlemen, we are convened here as old settlers of Illinois, and I am expected to address you, but I have never, in the whole course of my life, been called upon to deal with a subject of so much difficulty. In the first place, it is difficult to determine what constitutes an old settler. If it signifies one who has been called upon to encounter the hardships and vicissitudes incident to the settlement of a new country, the period at which he arrived should be advanced as he settled farther north, for the northern portion of the State was a wilderness when St. Clair, Randolph and Madison counties were enjoying to some extent, the comforts of a fixed state of society and a comparatively advanced stage of civilization. Some have arbitrarily adopted the year 1830 as the criterion. Perhaps no better point of time could be selected although it might not be critically right to exclude those from the fellowship of old settlers who arrived here after 1830, notwithstanding they may not have passed through the tribulations of frontier life. I would, for myself, prefer not to fix upon any period the coming into the State before or at which should entitle the party to be considered an old settler.
We should carefully distinguish, however, between old settlers and the genuine pioneers - the old Indian fighters - the men who encountered not only the privations of frontier life, but braved the danger of the tomahawk and scalping knife. None of us, perhaps, who are here today, can claim the honor and glory of these avant courriers of civilization. There never was a class of men who combined the same degree of perfection, the qualities of hunter, farmer, soldier, and patriot, as did our Indian fighters. Many persons can brave the dangers of the battlefield, when they know of its approach, with serenity, whose minds would give way under the influence of constantly impending danger. The Indian fighter lived on, year in and year out, with the apprehension perpetually resting upon his mind that at any moment the terrible war-whoop of the savage might be ringing in his ears, and his wife and little ones be mercilessly butchered or carried away into captivity, a thousand times worse than death; he carries his gun in one hand while he holds the plow with the other; he never leaves his house except with his trusty rifle on his shoulder. The breaking of a twig or the rustling of a leaf may admonish him of the presence of his wily foe and of instant, deadly peril.
Your genuine pioneer does not merely stand to his post, but he seeks these places of danger. He is not in his element if he is not constantly menaced with these imminent perils, and subjected to the privation of a home in the wilderness. His resolution is like steel; he never flinches and never yields except it be for the moment, that he may return again to the theatre of the strife with a force more nearly commensurate to the emergency, when his indomitable will and unyielding courage finally and invariably give him the victory, and he destroys or drives the savage before him, and thus opens up and clears the way for those who come after him to enjoy the full fruits of his labors. How few of us ever think of the perils and privations of those who preceded us in these wilds, much less to honor them as they deserve. We are all in the habit of worshipping at the shrine of an Alexander, a Caesar, and a Napoleon, without taking into account the fact that in our neighborhood may repose the ashes of the equals, if not superiors, of those distinguished characters in all that goes to make up the hero and the benefactor. For unyielding courage, for skill, for being equal to every emergency, I believe that George Rogers Clark (although he operated in a humble sphere) was the compeer of the greatest soldiers of the world. But we, the men who came in next after these rugged pioneers, claim no credit for, and make no pretensions to, superiority over those who followed us in the settlement of the country, and the difficulty of speaking on this occasion is referable to this predicament.
Ours is, unfortunately for our fame, not the heroic age. The process of the settlement of this western country after the expulsion of the aborigines, partook but little of the romantic, and was essentially of a prosaic character; but still it is not without interest to our fellow citizens and we may be pardoned for assembling together as we are doing today, and reviewing the incidents of bygone times. In thus doing, we may be furnishing some interesting information for our contemporaries as well as material for history, for the benefit of those who come after us. It is of immense importance that the historian should have accurate and unbiased sources of information if it is desirable that the truth should be communicated.
One event which happened in the early days of Illinois has almost destroyed my faith in the truth of history. Every man who lived in this State in 1832 knows that Gen. James D. Henry was the prominent figure in the Black Hawk war of that year, that he fought the only battles of any note that took place, and gained the only victories that were won, and that there was no other name known amongst our people but that of Henry as the hero of the war; and yet strange to say, in the histories of that war compiled from materials in the war office, at Washington city, the name of Gen. Jas. D. Henry is never mentioned, either as officer or private. He is as completely ignored as if he had never existed. Governors Reynolds and Ford, in their sketches of the history of Illinois, have endeavored to snatch the name of Gen. Henry from the oblivion to which those who made the reports to the war department have consigned him, but as falsehood travels farther and faster than the truth, their efforts to have justice done have been unavailing. Peons(?) will be chanted to the name of Atkinson, who commanded the regulars, but who had no opportunity of participating in the battles, and fame will carry him down to posterity as the champion of the war, while the name of Henry, its real hero, will remain unhonored and unsung. Such is history in the full blaze of the nineteenth century and under our own eyes and observation. If we old settlers cannot boast of battles fought and victories won, we may without undue self adulation claim some credit for enterprise and a spirit of adventure.
I set out by remarking that the subject of addressing you on this occasion seemed to me to be barren and fruitless, and I much regret that an address was imposed on me or expected by you. If I speak in terms of high commendation of the old settlers, people will think that we belong to the mutual admiration society, and that these assemblages are for the purpose of gratifying our inordinate vanity. There are some things which may, however, I think, be said of the old settlers without doing violence to the most fastidious taste. One of these things is that we all came to this country poor and needy. Every cent of money which we could scrape up was put in the land offices and expended upon the seaboard; and the country was as destitute of currency as was Sparta of gold in the days of Lycurgus. To give an instance of the scarcity of money in the old times, I will mention an adventure of my own, which was not exceptional by any means. In the fall of 1829, I started from Phillips' Ferry, on the Illinois river, to foot it to my father's house in the American Bottom, in Madison county; and one dollar was the whole of my cash capital. Of course, I did not expect to be able to get through on that sum. I intended when my money ran out to go to work for whatever I could get and thus replenish my exchequer until I could pay my way through. But, owing to the hard times, although I offered my dollar to every person from whom I obtained food and lodging, I was unable to find any one who could change it until I reached Carrollton, in Greene county; and thus I traveled for the distance of nearly one hundred miles without finding a person who could give change for a single dollar. This was owing to the fact that the money brought into the country went immediately into the land offices; also, that we had no facilities for trade; very few steamboats had been built and the commerce of the country by our rivers was carried on in flat boats. A few farmers who lived in the neighborhood of navigable waters would club together and build a flat boat and load it with the products of their farms, and take it to New Orleans where they would sell the cargo and give the boat away, and trudge home afoot with the proceeds of their adventure. These were the only men who could realize anything but a bare subsistence from the products of their farmers. Persons living at a distance from the rivers were dependent for the little money that passed through their hands upon beeswax and peltries; with these commodities they realized by dint of great effort and the most rigid economy, money enough to buy their salt and iron, pay their doctor's bills and taxes, and provide a little sugar and coffee and tea for the entertainment of visitors and in time of sickness. These were the "times that tried men's soles" for they generally went barefooted during the summer season. They tanned their own leather and made their own shoes for winter. Every article of a man's clothing was made at home. Cotton, flax and wool were all grown in the country, and the women picked, carded, spun and wove it into garments for themselves, their husbands, children and families. Every house was a miniature manufactory, in which there was a spinning wheel and a loom. Then you would hear the click of the loom and the hum of the spinning wheel all over the land, and I confess it was sweeter music to my uncultivated taste than the strains of the piano, which we hear on all occasions now-a-days. Everything worn was of home manufacture. Our girls dressed in homespun - such a thing as a silk dress was unknown, and I think they were as prettily and becomingly dressed then as now; at least a pretty girl in a well-fitting dress, which was the work of her own hands and head, appeared as engaging to me and as charming in my eyes as can the modern belle, who is arrayed in costly silks and laces, wrought in the manufactories of Marseilles and Brussels, and made up by some eminent Parisian milliner at a cost which would buy a good sized farm, appear to the gaze of the dainty and fortune-hunting admirer. These were the women who made modest wives and mothers, and, with half a chance, comfortable homes. Their condition in life and the circumstances by which they were surrounded endowed them with sterling good sense and good nature, and they were fit to train up sons to become the honored and accepted rulers of nations.
They knew nothing of the trashy writings of Dickens and Paul DeKoch, but they had carefully read their Bibles and were posted in the history of their own and other kindred nations. These honored mothers have almost entirely passed away, and if their daughters shall set their parts as well and leave as precious memories behind them, I shall be delighted.
I was speaking of the poverty in money of the old settlers of this country. How they came here poor and put every cent they could get into the land offices, from whence it went to be expended by the government in the consummation of costly, and, as we sometimes thought, of useless public works on the seaboard. We had no railroads to facilitate the transportation of our products to the places where they would find a market. I have known where I live, in the immediate neighborhood of St. Louis, corn to sell for five cents a bushel, wheat 37 1/4 cents; beef and pork 1 1/c per pound; good cows and calves, $5.
Thinking men, not able to foresee that railroads would be invented and introduced, and would so facilitate and cheaper transportation as to give to our farmers living remote from navigable streams the same opportunities of reaching a market that others enjoyed, concluded that this constant drain without any return would place this country in the same sad condition that Ireland was in, whose landlords all live and spent the rents of their estates abroad; and so they were exceedingly anxious to care appropriations made for the improvement of our rivers, so that we might get back a portion of the money that had been drained from us through the land offices. But for many years, Congress turned a deaf ear to our entreaties, and when it began to look with more favor on our claims and the might of our adversity appeared to be passing away, we were startled by the announcement in the message vetoing the Maysville road bill, that no appropriations could be constitutionally made for improvements above a port of entry which were then all on the sea board. This dashed our hopes and we were again driven almost to despair until Mr. Clay's land bill appeared, which treated the proceeds of the sales of the public land not as revenue (after the debt of the revolution had been paid) but as a fund for the common benefit of all the States, according to the language of the deed of cession of Virginia to the United States. The bill proposed to give to the States in which the land lay, twelve percent of the proceeds and also their share of the residue according to population with the whole United States. This bill passed and became a law in spite of the most determined opposition and from it the first relief from pecuniary pressure was derived by the new States. New England, which, like the other old States, was unmindful of the wants and interests of the young west, was won over to this measure from a consideration of the fact that if the proceeds of the sales of the public lands were not to be treated as revenue and go into the treasury, there would be a necessity for the continuance of the duties that would afford protection to her infant manufactories. This was a grand piece of statesmanship which broke the ligament that held the new States in the condition of hewers of wood and drawers of water to the old ones. Things gradually commenced to mend and the necessity for a system of internal improvements began to force itself upon our people. The utility of railroads for a country like this, of wonderful natural agricultural resources, became strikingly apparent, and in 1836 a system was adopted which was intended to embrace the whole State. Sections of the country not provided with railroads or canals were to be compensated for the worth of them in money. The State was to have a board of public works who were to direct operations. Politicians composed the board, of course, and improvements were commenced all over the State at the same time. Instead of concentrating their energies on one road and finishing it before proceeding with another, a little work was done here and a little there, without any connection or continuity, and after the expenditure of $16,000,000 there was not a mile of railroad in the State of any practical utility. There was at that time an inordinate prejudice against corporations and they were sedulously excluded from all participation in the works of internal improvement then contemplated - the glory of the achievement was to be reserved, exclusively, for the politicians of the day, who knew no more of railroad building than did a Digger Indian. The Hon. Cyrus Edwards, who was then in the Legislature from Madison county, made strenuous exertion, to combine the shrewdness and energy of capital with the efforts and credit of the State in carrying on the enterprise, but he was unsuccessful. Corporations were to have no part or lot in the matter. This was afterwards universally admitted to have been a great blunder, as private affairs are universally better managed than those of the public. If these roads had been subject to the check of companies, the roads would have been constructed one at a time, and the States would have had something for its money. As it was the system broke down leaving a debt of $16,000,000 resting upon the State which we have been straining every nerve to pay ever since. Now, thank Heaven, we are nearly through with the consequences of this folly.
The next great step in the progress of internal improvements was the chartering of the Central railroad and authorizing the completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal. These two enterprises served the purpose of inviting an intelligent, enterprising and industrious population to settle and build up the country along the backbone of the State, which, perhaps, without this inducement would scarcely have been done to this day. These two enterprises were accomplished through the instrumentality of private incorporations and without costing the State or nation one cent. It is true that 2,600,000 acres of land were donated by the nation to the State and by the State to the company for constructing the road; but the United States doubled the price of the alternate sections and thus received in less than twelve months, after the construction of the road was begun, as much money for their public land in that region as they would probably have realized in fifteen years if the road had not been projected. The State also allowed a private corporation to advance the money necessary to complete the canal and gave it a lien upon its tolls and charges until they were repaid; under this arrangement the canal was completed, the money advanced refunded out of its earnings and the work delivered over to the State. This railroad and canal not only expedited the settlement and prosperity of a section of country which would, without them, have been backward in its settlement, but they stimulated in a marvelous degree the development of the greatest interior city on this continent - a city, which for the rapidity of its growth, the energy of its people, the magnificence of its structures and the extent of its business is without a parallel in the world's history. In addition to the accommodations this road has afforded to the trade and travel of the country, it has paid, besides what was expended in its construction among our people, about $7,000,000 into our State treasury, and it will continue to pay into our coffers at least half a million a year. This has been a great relief to us; it is a sum which equals nearly half the debt entailed upon us by the old internal improvement system.
Illinois has prospered greatly and has risen from having a population of 40,000, since I came to the State in 1819, to at least 3,000,000. She has more miles of railroad than any State in the Union, and we want more still. We want railroads increased until the competition between them will reduce their charges to the lowest figures, at which they can operate without loss - lower than that it would be folly and criminality in us to desire. Since I have let the cat out, I will make a clean breast of it, and say boldly that I have ever been and expect to be an advocate of the policy of operating through companies in the construction of works of internal improvement. The companies are composed of such individuals as you and I. whenever an enterprise cannot be accomplished by the efforts and means of one man, it is, if desirable, effected by an association of individuals. If it is a scheme of doubtful expediency, one man may not be willing to risk his all in it, but a hundred men may each put in as much as he thinks he can put at hazard and accomplish the desired object. This is all that an incorporation means. It is an association of individuals (good or bad, as the case may). All that I ask for them is that they be treated just as you treat others - no better and no worse. If they act badly, punish them; if they act properly commend them. What I desire to condemn is the indiscriminate warfare which some are disposed to wage upon them. One thing is certain, that without corporations we should have had no railroads, no costly bridges, no mining or manufacturing establishments, no steamboats, and the prosperity of the country would be far behind its present state. The use of capital in its aggregated form is as much an evidence of high civilization as is the government under which we live. On the whole we are a prosperous community, although just at the present we are suffering from what I believe to be a highly injurious and unnecessary contraction of the currency.
Of one thing we must, as dispassionate observers, take note, and that is that we are inhabitants of a new country, but aspire to the enjoyment of all the accessories of the most advanced civilization. We are unwilling to be behind the oldest communities; we are having erected at our capitol the finest State House in the Union; we have built jails, poor houses and court houses, which would do credit to the most advanced society; in almost every district in the State you will find one or more elegant and costly school houses; our charitable institutions are erected on the grandest scale. In many of the counties substantial and expensive bridges have been provided. All this has been the work of the first and second generations, whereas in older communities similar improvements would have occupied several ages. We have been greatly benefitted in modern times by mechanical contrivances calculated to save labor and increase production. In my early days small grain was all harvested with the sickle, when to cut a fourth of an acre was a good day's work. Now, with a good reaper and a pair of horses, a dozen acres may be disposed of in the same time. Then the grain was threshed with a flail or tramped out by horses and winnowed by two men with a sheet; this was a slow process. Now a threshing machine, driven by a portable steam engine, will thresh and clean six or eight hundred bushels per day; mowing was then done by hand as well as the winnowing, cocking, stacking or loading. Now, you cut by horse power; you rake and stack or load by the same means, and with much greater ease and rapidity. Then the plowman trudged over every inch of ground that he turned up; now while he is breaking up or cultivating his land he can be snugly seated with an umbrella over his head if he so desires. In these respects you, gentlemen, have greatly the advantage of the old settlers; and you, ladies, are much more eligibly situated than your mothers were. They had no cooking stoves or ranges to diminish their labor, to preserve their complexion, as you have; they had no sewing machines by which ten times the work could be done in a given time that could be accomplished by hand. Now, if you wish to travel, you can go as far in one hour as you could have gone in old times in a day, and be as comfortable all the time as if by your own fireside. Before the day of railroads the only marts of commerce were on the navigable streams - St. Louis was pretty much the only one for this whole section of country; now every railroad station is a place at which you can sell and from which can be shipped in all conditions of weather your produce. We are indebted to the inventor for these grand accommodations which have added so much to the ease, comfort and wealth of our people. One man now can cultivate twice as much land as he could formerly. Language is incapable of expressing a tithe of the gratitude we ought to feel towards our mechanical benefactors, and yet we never bestow upon them a thought. But should a strolling singer or violin player land upon our shores wealth in countless thousands would be heaped upon him or her, and we would go beside ourselves in man worship, and pretend to be in ecstasies about something we would no more understand than we would a lecture in Pottowattomie.
Perhaps the greatest weakness in the American character is its penchant for apeing the follies of foreign nations. We hear of some distinguished Italian prima donna, who delights an audience in her own country and receives as her only reward their plaudits; and she comes to this land to get some more substantial recompense in the shape of thousands for an evening's entertainment, by singing in a language of which we understand not one word and in a style peculiarly un-American and to which we are utter strangers, and of which we must, in the nature of things, be incapable of appreciating.
Providence has not only been bountiful to this State in the way of agricultural resources, but has furnished us with a coal field co-extensive with nearly the whole area of the commonwealth. We are caught by this fact, taken in connection with the vast deposits of iron in Missouri, that we must combine manufacturing and mining industry with our agricultural pursuits. When we consider that in England they dig a thousand feet deep to obtain iron ore that only yields forty per cent of metal, and import the most of the food for the operatives and ship the iron 8,500 miles across the Atlantic and 1,300 miles up the Mississippi, and that we have ore of 70 per cent purity piled up in mountains with the coal in its immediate neighborhood, with a superabundance of food and a demand for the articles when made, we must conclude either that we should make our own iron or that Providence made a great mistake in the location of the food, the demand, and the raw material. No country, I maintain, can be wealthy that it is dependent alone upon any one branch of industry. That is, there will not be wealth enough to enable all the people to live, as we think every American citizen ought to live, on the profits or agricultural industry, under the most favorable circumstances. Take for instance Egypt, the soil of which is like a garden spot; there is a great show of wealth there, but it is all in the hands of the Khedive; the people are allowed scarcely food enough to keep soul and body together. One American family would consume as much of the means of subsistence as a whole village. Look at India, rich in agricultural resources, yet there is not in all her wealth enough to render her whole population comfortable, her riches make a great show because they are all in the hands of her British masters or her native rulers. Neither Egypt nor India has had the benefits arising from mining, manufacturing or commercial pursuits, and hence their actual poverty. We should do everything in our power to develop and promote all the industries of which the country is capable. The old settlers were thoroughly imbued with the correct principles upon which Republican government is based. No matter how lawless a man might be in his practice, his theory was right. He never claimed a right to break the law because he did not approve of it. If he did not approve of the Sunday or the liquor law, for instance, he would say that he would do all in his power to have them repealed or modified, but never did it enter into his head that he had a right to disregard them while they were on the statute books - he had too much intelligence not to know that it would be destructive of all government to claim and exercise the right of violating them. He knew that if he had the right to set one law at naught another man might do the same with another, and so on until we would have a state of complete anarchy. A people who claim and exercise the right of disregarding a law because they don't approve of it are as unfit for self-government as Fiji Islanders. It was the constant boast of the old settler that he was a law abiding man; he knew the inestimable value of government and laws, as he had sometimes stood in need of, and been without their protecting influence. No thoughtful man who had lived without government would ever be willing to do so again, such men knew that the worst government is better than none.
One characteristic of the American pioneer, and which distinguishes him from all others, is the manner in which he makes his location for a residence: he selects a piece of ground remote from his neighbors, without regard to danger from Indians, and on it builds his house and settles his family in it. A French or other European colony will have a common field, which will be laid off into narrow strips, a few rods wide and miles long, each colonist has his strip, and they can all be abreast of each other while cultivating their land. The village is built on some part of the common field, and the houses are erected close together, so the inmates can assist each other and be familiar. If a fiddle is sounded in one house it can be heard throughout the village. Whoever has seen a plat of the common fields and village of Cahokia, Prairie du Rocher, or Kaskaskia, can understand the European system of colonization. These people never extended their possessions, except like the bees, by giving out another colony which locates like the parent hive did. The Americans spread by individual efforts. They cover as much territory as will satisfy the desires of the community, and when a new member comes in, he selects a location for himself and does not, like the European, have a subdivision of the common field until there are enough newcomers or children of the old stock to form a new colony and have a new allotment. The American system is the most aggressive and it is impossible, in the nature of things, for the Americans and the aborigines to avoid hostilities for any considerable length of time. The American will encroach, and the Indian will repel, and war inevitably ensues, which is only another way of describing the extermination of the Indians. Notwithstanding this aggressive and domineering disposition of the Western American in his dealings with Indians, he assimilates with other races and nationalities with greater facility than any other people. England conquered Ireland more then 600 years ago, and yet she has never succeeded in anglicizing the Irish people. Austria, Prussia, and Russia partitioned Poland nearly 100 years since, and yet the feeling of Polish nationality is as strong today in what was Poland as it was in the days of Kosciusko. France conquered Algeria about 40 years ago, and not an Algerian has been won over to the side of the conquerors; these conquered nations are all kept in subjection by the bayonet. We obtained Louisiana in 1802; Florida in 1812; Texas, New Mexico, and California about 1846. The former inhabitants of the acquisitions and the American population that went in immediately fraternized and here has not been the least discord or jar between the races. Everything has gone on swimmingly, and there has never been the least complaint of hostility or undue extortion having been committed by the American part of the population.
The old settlers were remarkably tolerant on the subject of religion; although they had very decided opinions on points of faith, they considered it highly dishonorable to question a man's right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience. They were a highly sociable people, and diligently attended all the log-fellings, house-raisings, harvestings, corn-shuckings, weddings, Fourth of July celebrations, musters, horse races, pitched battles, shooting-matches, elections, and political gatherings. This they did partly for the purpose of picking up whatever news was afloat, but principally because they were fond of the excitement of the occasion. They were remarkable hospitable, and would generally importune travelers to stop with them and treat them to the best the house afforded, and would take offense if you offered to pay them (I speak now of the settlers of southern extraction). They were not generally very industrious and seemed to be satisfied with raising a patch of corn and cotton, tobacco, watermelons, some horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, and, although they manifested in some respects a high sense of gallantry, they never performed any part of what was considered a women's work, they did not, like many who have come in recently, require her to do their work, nor did they perform hers. The husband or son never raised the cow if there was a woman about the house. No pains were taken to make their work lighter, rather than dig a well, most of the old settlers would allow their women to bring water from a spring a quarter of a mile off. Sometimes a man would haul a load of water to the house on a cricket, but then he was more obliging and considerate than the common run.
I believe I have sketched the prominent events in the early history of Illinois, and delineated the leading traits in the character of her early settlers. If I have done so acceptably and with profit to you, it will afford me very great pleasure; if I have failed, all I can say is that you were unfortunate in the choice of a speaker, and must do better next time. It will not do to allow the spirit of keeping the forefathers in view to brag. I commend our New England brethren for holding up to the public gaze the noble greatness of the Pilgrim Fathers, and I have no doubt that that has had its influence and stamped its impress upon New England character, and has given to the New England family the qualities which entitles it to be considered the most intellectual and predominant family in the world.
I wish to say to our young friends that there are certain cardinal principles by which I think they ought to be governed. They should maintain the integrity of the Union above all things, and make all men equal before the laws. You are not thereby required to concede the social equality of men. They should accord to every man the most thorough religious liberty, but eschew everything that would tend to bring about a union of church and State; observe all laws constitutionally enacted, whether they approve of them or not, until they can be repealed or modified; preserve as you would the apple of your eye, non-sectarian common schools for the children of all, and at the public expense; allow no property, except that which belongs to the whole public, to be exempt for uniform taxation. In political affairs, prefer good men and good measures to the behests of party.
Reminiscences of 1838 by An "Old Un"
From the Alton Daily Telegraph, May 11 & 12, 1883
As T. D. and B. F. B. have been giving some of their recollections of Alton in 1845, perhaps it would be interesting to those of your readers who are of the older inhabitants to have their memories refreshed by the more early history of the city. When I landed upon the levee in March 1838, it was so much lower than now that I could not get up State or Piasa Streets, but came through the storehouse now used by Topping Bros. as an iron warehouse, ascending one story to Second Street. The Legislature had "grid ironed" the State with railroads, and soon after my arrival Richard McDonald had the contract and cut down Second Street from Market eastward, and filled up the levee until some of the stores had a cellar under the cellar, or two stories underground. Upon the business houses on Second Street from the old frame mill to Piasa Street could be seen the names of Godfrey, Gilman & Co.; H. Tanner, successor to A. Roff; A. G. Sloss; Jerry Townsend, who did business in a large, rough frame building on State and Second Street; G. L. Ward; Negus & Robbins; T. S. Fay & Co.; S. Ryder; A. Alexander & Co.; Methodist Book Concern, I. Warnock, agent. This was, I think, in Tontine row. H. G. Wannagenen; Hungerford & Livingston; Taylor & McAfee; T. M. Hope & Co.; Whipple & Forbes; Stevens & Trenchery; Hawley, Page & Dunlap; Clawson & Cock; Cock & Fifield; and others. Dr. Marsh's store was on the corner of Second and State Street, A. S. Barry was his clerk; Parks & Breath had their printing office on the corner of the alley in the same block. A. Clifford, father of our Mr. Clifford, the merchant, had a grocery store where G. W. Oldham is now doing business; and upon the southeast corner of State and Third was a little frame house where B. Gabrilliac did business at one time. On the opposite corner and running up State Street was a row of one-story frames where T. & T. L. Waples had their tailoring establishment; and John Buffum, I think, dry goods & c. Those buildings were burned down, as was also a frame building on Third Street, then occupied by an Italian, I think. He afterwards built the house now the lower mill near Shields' branch. On the corner, going still east, was a small one room house; across the street a stone house, next a frame carriage and blacksmith shop. Then the Judge Martin house, a brick, stood where J. W. Cary's store is now, and a stone one where A. Neerman's is. Somewhere in the rear of Neerman's store was a frame house occupied by Wash. Carroll and sisters as a residence, near which was the remains of an old saw mill, called, I believe, Spaulding mill. As we could not get to Third Street by Piasa, there was an alley to the west of the stone buildings coming out on Third at Belle, which was used as a walk.
Going up Belle on the west side was a small house occupied by the mother of Mrs. Filley. Then came J. R. Batterton's paint shop, then the buildings belonging to Mr. Hart; next a carpenter shop, and then a small frame dwelling on the corner. Upon the opposite side, between Third and Fourth, was the brick dwelling of G. L. Ward. Coming back to Second street, east of Piasa, was the Hawley house, then a house which J. and G. Quigley used at one time as a stove store; then a frame house on the corner. Where the City Hall now stands was a small frame, the only one on that side. Where the church is was a row of frames extending toward the river; near the corner, but on Front Street, was a log cabin, another on the other corner below. Where the Union Depot stands was a two-story frame of N. Buckmaster's called Eagle Tavern. On the east corner of Market and Third was the Pioneer Engine House. Opposite were those brick buildings now there, and the residence of Dr. Gibson, which was a bank; then the double brick next the Engine House. In the street between the Pioneer House and Mrs. E. D. Topping's was the Market House, a shed concern about forty feet long. On Second Street east was Capt. Ryder's house. The frame next to it where Dr. Williams' building is, was a stone house built by Capt. Bruner's father and used by municipal court; then a large frame occupied by William Gamble, a stone mason. It was moved, I think, to Seventh Street. Where Stanford's buildings are was a two-story house with a one-story wing running east. Then Langdon's, then Bruner's, then a widow's house.
Across the street from the [Madison] hotel were the two houses now standing, the Schweppe residence and Middleton's house. The building on the corner of Second and Easton streets was the first Odd Fellows' Hall; next above was a small house occupied by a mulatto woman, then a two-story frame of McFarland, and then J. D. Burns' shop and dwelling. The row of brick houses on the north side of Third, going west, was there, as was also the brick below Market, the old frame, and the stone on Alby. The jail was where Dow's auction room now is. The "Kimball ditch" extended from Second up to Fourth street, to a log bridge that spanned it. All up Piasa Street to Eighth and down to the river was low flat ground, as is seen back of Pitts & Hamill's store, where the water from Cave Spring ran, and this Kimball ditch was designed to keep it in bounds. The walls extended up to Fourth Street, but were never completed by the city.
The hotels of the city were the "Mansion House" on State Street; the "Central" on Third, near State; "Alton House," Alby and Front; "Piasa House," Fourth and Piasa Streets; and the "Red Lion," kept by Mr. Booth, near Shields' Branch. A hotel had been commenced on Belle, running on Fourth to State Street. The stone basement was up and the second tier and joists on, but there it stood for three or four years, and finally the material was sold. The "Virginia House" was on the southeast corner of Market and Second Street, where the church now is.
The Presbyterian Church was on the corner of Third and Market; Baptist on the corner of Second and Easton; the Methodist, northeast corner of Third and Alby; the Reformed Methodist had a small stone church upon the property now occupied by the residence of Mrs. Farber. My impression is that the Catholics went to Upper Alton to worship.
John M. Krum, now of St. Louis, was Mayor of the city. William Martin, Judge of the Municipal Court; John R. Woods, Warden of the Penitentiary. There are still living here L. J. Clawson of the firm of Clawson & Cock; P. B. Whipple of Whipple & Forbes; E. Trenchery of Stevens & Trenchery; and Richard Flagg of Flagg & North; and Dr. T. M. Hope of T. M. Hope & Co.
The newspapers were the Alton Telegraph, J. Bailhache, Editor; The Altonian, Parks & Breath; and the Temperance Herald, A. W. Corey, Editor. There was also William Hessin, a printer, but I don't know if he published a paper or not. He built the house now owned by Mrs. T. P. Wooldridge on State Street.
The only mill that I can recall is the old frame that stood about where the Water Works are, and close under the bluffs.
I know I shall refresh the memory of some of the "old uns" when I name among the conspicuous men of the city: "Gov. Tice," Louis Choquette and, as he called himself, "The delicate Constitution pup" or "French Louie," "Major Morgan," "Snort Smith," "Burnt Eye Bill," and "Fred Livers," the last two were colored men. We had at a later date a visitor every Saturday from Piasa creek known as "Old Hutch," "Betsy's Son." "Hominy Tom" was also a notable of a later date. I might go on and speak of many things and places of those days, but may weary you, if not your readers. Signed, Old Un.
Reminiscences by Hon. I. B. Randle
From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, January 17, 1884
At the last meeting of the Fort Russell Old Settlers' Social Union, held at the residence of Mr. John R. Newman, Wm. A. Lanterman, the oldest settler present, was called to the chair. Hon. I. B. Randle, of this city, read the following address:
My dear old settlers and all others: Nothing of an earthly character could afford me more pleasure than to meet you here today and shake hands with you, for it is said to be one of the fallings of old men that they have to talk, and I feel grateful to the members of this association that you have honored me with this privilege today. Perhaps I have been in this county longer than any one here today, and if in early life I had supposed it would ever be my privilege to occupy the place now assigned to me, I think I should have made notes of circumstances, &c., connected with the early history of the settlement of this county, which would doubtless have made what I now have to say of much more interest to you than to speak, as I shall have to, mostly from recollections, and if in thus speaking, I should make mistakes, you will please attribute it to a failure of memory rather than otherwise.
In the fall of the year 1814, my widowed mother came from Stewart county, Tennessee, to this country, bringing with her eight sons and one daughter, and settled on a farm about one and one-half miles southeast of Edwardsville, leaving one married daughter in Tennessee, who, together with her husband, the late Rev. Thornton Peoples, came to Edwardsville, I think, some time in the year 1817 or 1818, and who afterwards settled near Lebanon, in St. Clair county, where they lived and died, leaving a family of children, some of whom I think now live near the same place.
Our Randle family consisted of the mother, Elizabeth Randle, and her sons, Edmond, John H., Peyton, Josiah, Parham, Henry D., George D, (and myself, I. B.); also, daughters Temperance Peoples (above spoken of) and Lucy, who afterwards became the wife of the Rev. John Dew, who was a Methodist minister of some note, being one of the Pioneer traveling preachers of that church in this State; they also settled, lived and died near Lebanon in St. Clair county, also having a family of children, and I know not whether any of them live there now. I am the youngest child of my mother's family, and I believe that my brother, George D. and myself are the only survivors of all my mother's children. And now I must ask your pardon for having said so much of myself and the Randle family, for which I have two reasons: One is I know more about them than others, and the other is that in looking over all the histories of early times in this county, but little is said of our family, and I could not see why it was so. It could not be because we were small in number for it has always been remarkable of the Randles that they have all been blessed with large families of children and nearly all members of the Methodist church, and I remember very well when politicians said if they could only secure the support of the Gillhams and Randles they were sure to be elected. And although we might not have been quite so brilliant in intellect as some others, yet so far as I know, we have not been wanting in interest in common with others, in all public matters both in church and State, pertaining to the growth, improvement and prosperity of the county. And yet, perhaps, we have had all the respect to which we were entitled.
When we came here there were but few inhabitants in these parts. It was the year after the town of Edwardsville was laid out and designated as the county seat of Madison county. Of the principal men then here, I remember the names of Thomas Kirkpatrick, at whose house it was said the first County Court was held, and who kept the first public house in Edwardsville, also the names of John G. Lofton and Jacob Whiteside, who it is said, held said County Court on July 13th, 1813. I also remember the names of Jessie Waddle, William Gillham, Joseph Newman, Anthony Cox, John Kirkpatrick, Abraham Prickett, John T. Lusk, Isham Gillham, Samuel Judy, Thomas, John, William, James and Isaac Gillham, Samuel and William B. Whitehead, also Joel Whiteside, John McKinney, James Kirkpatrick, Henry Bonser, Josias Wright, Thos. Randle, William Otwell, R. Gillham, George and Abel Moore, Thomas Ratton, William Montgomery and Josias Randle, who I believe was appointed by Governor Edwards to be the first clerk of the County Court of this county, and who afterwards was Recorder of deeds, up to the time of his death, which I think was some time in 1823. And also many others who I cannot now call to mind, and, in after years, I became intimately acquainted with most of the above named persons. But, alas - they are gone - how true Isaac Watts said when he sang:
Our wasting lives grew shorter still, As days and months increase, And every beating pulse we tell, Leaves but the number less.
Afterwards when I grew up to riper years and manhood, I became acquainted with many more of the settlers of later times, who are now numbered among the Old Settlers, among whom I remember the names of Isaac Prickett, William E. Starr, John Gibson, James Wilson, Paris and Hail Mason, John Y. Sawyer, Emanuel J. West, Daniel Lanterman, Gaius Paddock, John Newman and Zadock Newman, who I believe was the father of our kind friend at whose house we are now. Also Gershom Flagg, John Esterbrook, Joseph and David Robinson, and also many more, among whom I must not forget to mention my much loved and highly honored old friend, Hon. Cyrus Edwards, and also my highly esteemed and honored friend Judge Joseph Gillespie and his father and his family, and here I must relate a little incident which occurred the first time I saw the Judge and his brother, Matthew (I hope the Judge won't think it out of place to tell it).:
Well, at that time I was going from our place into Edwardsville, along a small foot path, upon which I had supposed I had the exclusive right of way. And at that time, Matthew and the Judge were digging a ditch directly across my path, and I pitched into them pretty roughly for trespassing upon what I had supposed to be my rights. And Matthew, being somewhat impulsive, was about to thrash me for my impudence, when the Judge very calmly interfered and proposed to compromise the matter by making steps by which I could very conveniently cross the ditch, and thus the whole matter was peacefully settled and ever afterwards we were the best of friends. And right here I want to say of the Judge, that although he has been one of our best lawyers and an able Judge, he has always been somewhat famous on the compromise; which I think is a very commendable trait of character in any one.
Well, perhaps I have said enough about the people. It is true I might go on and speak of the Judys, Burnsbacks, Gontermans, Robinsons, McKees, Montgomerys, Jones, Hoxeys, and a host of others, who were noble, good citizens, but time would not permit me to speak of all the worthy old settlers of my acquaintance.
In those days this was thought to be a wild county, and so it was, for most of our land was uncultivated, we had plenty of wild game and some wild Indians. But the white citizens, though perhaps not so far advanced in science and literature as at present, yet I think it safe to say that in point of honest dealing and peaceful and quiet deportment towards each other, and noble, generous good feeling as neighbors and friends, they would compare favorably with the citizens at any period from that to the present time. It is true we had our troubles, for about the time we came here, those wild Indians did not love us very much, and I remember even after Governor Edwards supposed the Indian troubles were over, yet sometimes we had to go into old Fort Russell to save our heads from being scalped by scouting bands of Indians, but after a while those troubles ceased and the Indians became friendly and moved away, and only came down to see us once or twice a year, when Col. Stephenson would pay them what the Government owed them from time to time, and so we did not have much more Indian trouble until the Black Hawk war in 1831 and 1832, when the word came from Rock Island that they were killing and scalping the whites up there, and old General Whiteside and Capt. Wheeler and others said it must be stopped, and then Judge Semple, Judge Gillespie, John T. Lusk and myself and lots of other brave boys, turned out to fight Black Hawk and his red men, and we suffered a good deal, but didn't do much fighting, but we got lots of glory and very little else, and I doubt whether we ever do get anything else. True, Congress has talked some about giving us pensions, but as yet they don't do it. I reckon they are waiting until we all die and then they will pass the law, and all our glory will pass over to our members of Congress and perhaps no money to our children.
And now, after saying so much in a rambling, scattering manner, I want to say in conclusion that in those older times I think we were in many respects a much happier people than we are now. I think as neighbors and friends there was more true love and affection for each other than now; and generally men, women and children were more social and took more real comfort in each other's society than now, and we had more time for social enjoyment. The Christian Sabbath was more respected and observed, and notwithstanding some of the people were irreligious, yet there were amongst us some as truly devoted Christians and Christian ministers as ever lived, amongst whom the names of Samuel H. Thompson, John Dew, Josias Randle, John M. Peck, Jesse Hale, John Barber Sr., and John Barber Jr., Thomas Lippincott, and a host of others will long be precious in the memories of those who knew and loved them, but they are all gone to rest from their labors while their works are following them. And, perhaps, I had better stop talking for the present and bid you goodbye, and if I never meet you again on such an occasion remember, I loved you all. I. B. Randle.
Recollections of Samuel Handsaker; Arrived in Madison County in the Spring of 1843
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 15, 1900
To the Editor: In compliance with a request, I am in receipt of a copy of the Alton Weekly Telegraph. Please accept thanks for same. I assure you it was like taking a long, absent friend by the hand to get it. I am an entire stranger to the editor, but not so with the good old Telegraph, whose columns years ago were perused by our entire family, and by none with more pleasure than yours truly. In the Spring of 1843 - fifty-six years ago, my widowed mother and a number of boys and girls, all just arrived from England, located at the crossing on Indian Creek, on the road leading from Alton to Vandalia, ten miles east of Alton. Perhaps in a future letter to your columns, if this is not at once consigned to your wastebasket, I may speak more of our family. I have scanned the copy of your paper now before me to see the names of my old friends of half a century or more ago, and ____ but two, H. G. McPike, whom I met on your streets when on a visit to Illinois seventeen years ago is one, and Mrs. Anna Rowe Colby, lately deceased, is the other. If not in error, Mrs. C. was a little girl when the writer was acquainted with her father's family in the early 1850s. Mr. Rowe was a tallow chandler, and acquired a competence in making soap and candles, each of them very necessary articles in their time, but electricity has in a part measure superceded the latter, with many other things. Robert Kelsy of Bethalto, a brother-in-law of the writer, was a trusted employee of Mr. Rowe for a number of years, and no doubt that "Bob" laid the foundation of his present wealth. When we settled in Illinois, the writer, the youngest of the children, was not yet in his teens, but now he is nearing the "three score and ten" mark, and the change in that time is truly wonderful. I am not sure if Judge John Bailache was the founder of the Alton Telegraph, but recollect that he was the proprietor in the early 1850s, and when his son, William H., had acquired an education, he assisted his father in its management, but subsequently went to California, where he engaged in journalism. On this beautiful spring-like day, when the earth in these parts of our glorious State is covered with a green carpet of fresh vegetation, when the sun is shining with the splendor of summer, and the warmth of spring, the birds are singing and we have to consult the almanac to be sure it is New Year's day, nineteen hundred, that just makes a fellow feel like making complimentary remarks in regard to the usual topic of conversation. We have had plenty of rain, no snow, and but little frost. Many flowers are in bloom, and as I write loads of green grass, cut with a scythe, is passing my window. Oregon is not famous for reptiles, but a snake was observed on our streets a few days ago. On the 22nd of March 1854, the writer, with a number of other young men, all citizens of "Old Madison," with the family of Beniah Robinson, started from Edwardsville for Oregon, the journey at that time requiring all the spring, summer and part of the fall. Mr. R. was a pioneer to Illinois in 1813, and was county surveyor in Madison County for many years. With the permission of the editor, I will give some account of our journey "the plains across," in my next. With the compliments of the season to your many readers. Samuel Handsaker. [Note from Mr. Handsaker: Lawson A. Parks and Richard M. Treadway were the founders of the Telegraph. The first issue was January 14, 1836. Mr. Bailhache became editor shortly after the death of Mr. Treadway.]
Recollections of Volney P. Richmond, written about 1899; Arrived in Madison County in 1819
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 15, 1901
Volney P. Richmond, one of Madison county's oldest residents, died at his home at Paddock's Grove on Monday, in his 82d year. Of all the old residents of the county, Mr. Richmond was probably the best known. Below is a short biography of Mr. Richmond, written for the Telegraph some two years ago by Mr. Richmond. The funeral will take place tomorrow at the Presbyterian church at Liberty Prairie:
"On the earnest solicitation of friend Cousley, I have written a short history of a rather long life, the first of it passed when Illinois had few inhabitants, and I have grown older with the growth of our good State, and witnessed many changes. I have no personal desire to make myself conspicuous, and hope none will think I am forcing myself on the public from any motive of self esteem.
I was born in Woodstock, Windsor county, Vermont, on the 25th day of April 1818, and left there in September following and spent the next winter in St. Louis, coming with my mother and grandfather Paddock to Fort Russell township, Madison county, Illinois, in March 1819. My first recollections were the frequent passing of emigrants to the northern parts of Illinois, and many companies of Indians going to and from St. Louis. I have seen and remember well Blackhawk, Keokuk the Prophet, and one who used to call himself 'Silversmith' (He must have been a relation of W. J. Bryan). One time my grandfather persuaded the Indians to give us a 'harvest dance.' There were about a hundred bucks and squaws engaged. At another time a war dance where only braves were engaged. When in my sixth year I went to Springfield to school and passed four cabins, all there were in a distance of seventy miles. That was the beginning of my school education. I had about two years of school work in log cabins and school houses, scattering along from six to seventeen years of age, completed my education, a part of the time with Elijah P. Lovejoy, which I have always considered the poorest part of my education. I like, and think John Brown a much better man in every respect than E. P. Lovejoy, and more deserving of a monument to liberty.
I was born a farmer, but my people made a mistake and sent me when seventeen years old to St. Louis to make a poor merchant of me. In about four years time in selling goods and covering another's debts, I found myself about $3,000 in debt and nothing to pay it with, and went to work on the farm again in opposition to all advices of kindred, and for fifty cents per day. In the fall of 1844 I made a trip up in what was then called the 'Military track' between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, in search of what would make me a farm, and spent three weeks in travel and came home thinking Madison county was good enough for me, and bought the land on which is now my home within four miles of where my people first made their home in Illinois, and of the sixteen members of the family who came from Vermont, only two are now living.
What I may have done for the good of the community amounts to but little, but as you call for a biography of my life I suppose some mention should be made. My first public work was getting up and being made postmaster of Paddock's Grove post office in May 1838, when just past my 20th birthday. I began very leisurely getting up the necessary petition, when one morning when the thermometer was several degrees below zero, I learned that an older man was at work for another place. The snow was about a foot deep, but I started out with my petition and tramped through the snow, got the required number of names, and next morning started on foot (too cold to ride) for Edwardsville, and got the postmaster to endorse and forward my paper to Postmaster General Amos Kendall.
Isaac Prickett, then postmaster at Edwardsville, was one of my first friends there, and seemed to care for me, and when it came to giving my bond as postmaster, I thought it would be correct to call on an old boy friend who was just old enough. When all was completed, Mr. Prickett said to me, 'My young friend, when you want any one to go your security, always ask an old man, for it is not probably he will ever ask you to return the favor, and a young may.' It was good and useful advice, which I remembered and made use of.
I have held several minor offices, county and township, but never asked anyone to vote for me. Under the county system I was road supervisor two or three times, was deputy assessor in 1857, census enumerator in 1890, and town clerk for Fort Russell ten years, and filled a vacancy, and had health permitted, would probably have continued longer. Was secretary of the Illinois Wool Growers Association for several years, director and secretary of Madison County Agricultural and Mechanical Association, a school director, etc., a Master Mason. Have done considerable work for Sunday Schools, and for the temperance cause. Worked hard in 1840 for 'Tippecanoe' and gave my first vote for President to W. H. Harrison and for Whig and Republican principles straight along. Have been for many years a member of the Presbyterian church, and since 1857 a Master Mason. My best work for the county was working up the 'Old Settlers Union of Madison County.' It was hard and met with opposition from all the county papers. I saw where others failed, making the residence in the county too short a time, the result was that many young men sought to make themselves popular and took the business out of the hands of the 'old settlers.' I called for those who remembered the deep snow of 1830, and after three calls through the papers got about a dozen together, and we worked up the organization. When I meet so many old friends I cannot but feel proud of my work.
In 1847 I married Victoria E. West, daughter of Emanuel J. West. She passed away from me in 1856, leaving me with five children, two of whom soon followed her. My oldest died in her twentieth year. I was married the second time in 1858 to Harriet A. Anthony from Vermont. She died in 1880. If I were to write all I have passed through, nothing of any great importance, and all the changes in the face of the country and agricultural methods and machinery, the old time Telegraph would have to print many numbers to hold it. By the way, when the first paper was started in Alton, Ill., which afterwards became the Alton Telegraph, I went through prairie and woods, Upper Alton and Bozzatown, which were all woods then, and a few houses (one of them a part of the St. Joseph's hospital now) to pay the subscription price, and have been a reader of that paper most of the time since. About five years of my eighty years of life, I have passed outside of Fort Russell township, all of the time I have considered it my home. Hoping this will find favor with your readers and wishing all a happy and long life. I am yours respectfully, V. P. Richmond."
Recollections of T. A. Eaton of Kansas City, Kansas (formerly of Madison County): The Gillhams and the Louisiana Purchase
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 10, 1902
May 13, 1803, Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, through Messrs. Monroe and Livingston, purchased of Napoleon Bonaparte the great fertile Louisiana country, west of the Mississippi River. In the fall of the same year, 1803, Mr. Jefferson sent his private secretary, Captain Lewis and Captain Clarke, with troops to the mouth of Wood river, now just outside of Alton, but not then; then opposite the Missouri river, but not now.
That same year, 1803, ninety-nine years ago, the Methodist church sent a lone young man, Rev. Benjamin Young from the State of Ohio, to the Illinois country to preach the gospel to the Gillhams in the Gillham settlement at the head of the American Bottoms, just beyond Wood river from Alton. While Lewis and Clarke were in their camp getting matters ready for their journey of exploration to the Pacific ocean, Mr. Young was preaching a pacific gospel outside their camp and getting a people ready for a journey to the land of pure delight, where saints immortal reign. Each party was engaged in a grand work, and the work of each long ago went into history.
Since the time Mr. Young came and planted a church there, that is to say, from 1803 to 1902, ninety-nine years, that church has never been without a pastor. The same statement is true of two other churches that he planted, one in what is now Monroe county and the other in St. Clair county. The three originally were called "The Illinois Circuit." From them Methodism spread over Illinois.
In 1803, there were no steamboats, no telegraphs, no Alton in the world. Without roads or bridges or hotels or churches or school houses. With thousands of Indians racing over these western wilds, or paddling on its rivers, wolves as numerous as Indians, bottom grass ten feet high, to say nothing of mosquitos. What a country to travel in, and what a country to live in. It is true there were deer, turkeys, prairie chickens, wild geese, ducks, pigeons and cranes by the thousands, and fish in abundance, and the richest of soils. That year the Gillhams were the only Americans within the present bounds of Madison county, Illinois, and none north of them. They must have been a brave, hardy race. From one of them, who was an honor to the name, I learned a dozen years ago that there was a time in the past century when the Gillham family polled 300 votes. How many are there now? Rev. Benjamin Young not only planted three churches and put his name prominently in history that year, but had the good fortune and good taste to win and marry a Miss Gillham. The Gillham church (known as Salem) is not much more than a half dozen miles from Alton. Lewis and Clarke's old campgrounds is just out (if it is out) of the corporation of Alton, and the Louisiana Purchase is just across the river. Just think of Alton on the borders of a foreign country! When God compelled Napoleon Bonaparte to sell that land across the river to the United States, he was working for the good of Alton.
Recollections of William Hayden, Who Arrived in Alton in May 1831
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 6, 1903
Below is an article written by William Hayden of Springfield, brother of George D. Hayden of this city [Alton], and who is also well known here. The letter is one of a number written by old residents concerning the early days in Alton, which the Telegraph hopes to publish in the near future:
Springfield, Illinois, February 24, 1903.
Yours of 17th was received, and I would be glad to aid in the preservation of facts connected with the early history of Alton, especially as I am one of the very few now living whose knowledge of such facts dates back more than seventy years. Of course, the memories of times so long ago are the memories of early childhood, yet some of them are very distinct, though of course relating to trifling circumstances. I have a distinct recollection of the first night in Alton and the succeeding days. It was on the 23d day of May 1831, about 10 p.m., when the steamer "Triton" landed us after a six hours trip from St. Louis, at a point just below (east of) what is now Easton street, the river shore lined with a growth of willows, which wholly obscured the view from the road which is now Front street. At the late hour of our arrival, the only house in the vicinity was an unfinished frame, built by Mr. J. C. Bruner, into which the family bedding of my parents, and that of some other families, was dumped, affording tolerably comfortable lodging for the rest of the night. The next morning a skirmish for food led to the discovery of a "hotel" built of logs, one and a half stories in height, and perhaps twenty feet square. It was located on the north side of Second street, on the block now occupied in part by the Odd Fellows Temple. The house was kept by Andrew Miller, who some years later became sheriff of the county and keeper of the more pretentious "Alton House," corner of Alby and Front streets. This latter house entertained Martin Van Buren some time during his campaign for the Presidency. On the night of May 24, 1831, an addition to the number of lodgers in the Bruner House came in the person of Mr. Samuel Avis, later known as the active helper in the dry goods house of William Manning & Co., the largest business concern in its line in the west.
On the 26th of the month, failing to secure accommodations in the village, which contained only three frame houses and a few log cabins, we went to Upper Alton, then a more considerable village, where we remained till the spring of 1832, and then removed to a frame house just erected on the bluff near its eastern termination, and perhaps a hundred yards west of the later penitentiary wall. At that time the bluff so nearly approached the river that a plank bridge connected it with the fifth story of the flour mill, whose southern foundation was laid quite deep in the water. The first brick house which sheltered our family, and apparently good condition on the east side of Market street, third door north of the corner of Second street. It was built and owned by Beal Howard, a double tenement, quite pretentious in its early days. Our family moved into it in the fall of 1832, remaining there about a year, and until the completion of our more permanent dwelling on the northwest corner of Third and Alby streets. This house still stands as one of a row, the next west long occupied by Mr. William McCorkle, and the third by Mr. Samuel Wade, my father's partner in the lumber trade. Later, Mr. Dimmock, father of my boyhood companion, Thomas, long lived in it while engaged in an extensive shoe trade. It was here that my boyhood was spent, and it was to this place that day after day I carried our only supply of pure water from that unfailing source, "Hawley's well," which for many years was the most frequented well in the region. The place it occupied must be that on which the Citizens' National Bank now stands. It was scarcely more than a rod from the considerable stream known as "Little Piasa Creek," which divided the town, and was in 1831 crossed by pedestrians only in a "dug out" canoe connected with each shore with a rope, constituting a primitive public improvement. The stream is now out of sight, and was first diverted into what was long known as "Kimball's Ditch," and now runs beneath the Piasa street track of the C. and A. railway. On the banks of this creek, at its crossing of Fourth street, there was erected a hotel of some pretension, the Eagle Tavern - later the Piasa House, its site now occupied by the manufacturing plant of Beall Bros. The first school I attended was on the south side of Second street, between Market and Alby. This was later transferred to the northeast corner of Second and Alby, and long conducted by one Hezekiah Davis. Later, for five days, John M. Krum, afterwards Mayor of the city and still later Mayor of St. Louis, undertook its management, but became discouraged and entered upon a career which brought him honor at the bar and upon the bench.
Among the earliest church services which I remember were those long held in the building, above mentioned, on the corner of Second and Alby streets, and known as "Lyceum Hall." It was here that I heard the first public address of Winthrop S. Gilman after his conversion. It was here, that for a long time, most public assemblies gathered for lectures, concerts and political movements.
During my boyhood days the business of the town was mostly confined to the block bounded by the creek on the east, State street on the west, and included Second street and the levee. Within this territory an immense traffic was carried on and the largest stocks of merchandise west of the Allegheny mountains were gathered. Often was Second street in these limits, so crowded with vehicles as to become gorged and impassable. The post office has occupied tenements in the "Bruner building" (our first shelter) in a two-story frame about where the Union station now stands, and in a one-story frame structure where the present city hall stands, with other forgotten localities.
The first church edifice was upon the ground now occupied by St. Paul's Episcopal church, and was a manifestation of the public spirit of Capt. Benjamin Godfrey, who intended that it should be occupied jointly by the Baptist and Presbyterian churches, they being at the time the only ecclesiastical organization existing. Its bell was the gift to the Presbyterian church by the mother of Winthrop S. Gilman. It arrived in time to be placed in the steeple of the church on its completion. It is distinctly remembered that it came suspended under the boiler deck of a steamer and gave its first peal to the town from that position. It was probably the first church bell west of the Allegheny mountains of any considerable size.
It may interest some to know of the distinction due to Alton in another particular. In "Gould's History of Churches in America," there is this statement: "The first organ that sounded west of the Allegheny mountains was placed in the Second Presbyterian church in Cincinnati in 1837." In the latter part of 1836 an organ from the factory of Henry Erben was brought to Alton by the Baptist congregation and was intended for use in the then unfinished edifice, corner of Second and Easton streets. Waiting the completion of this building, it was erected in the frame church building, northeast corner of Third and Alby streets, where it was used for several months prior to the occupancy of the basement of the new building early in 1837. The instrument was a wonder in its day. It was destroyed by the fire that demolished the building many years later, but the writer still preserves, as a cherished relic, one of its pipes, an armful of them having been carried out at the first alarm of fire. The boy organist, who for several years attempted the manipulation of its keys, now pens these facts, and many years later was called from the organ bench of the old Central Presbyterian church of St. Louis to "open" the organ now in use in the beautiful Presbyterian church in Alton, to which it was removed from the old edifice facing the city hall.
But, lest I weary you by personal recollections, I will only add that the explosion of the powder magazine, the murder of Lovejoy, the person of the martyr, the advent of the first fire engine, and the imposing funeral of the Alton officers slain in the Mexican war, are incidents well remembered by others, as well as by myself, and I will not dwell upon them or add at this time other "personal recollections."
R. P. Robbins of Cairo - A Band Master in Alton 60 Years Ago
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 24, 1903
There are many older people and still more descendents of older people in your city [Alton] and vicinity who would like to know something of Alton life as it was sixty years ago. I send you a few reminiscences of actual occurrences, which I have condensed as much as possible. I realize that a personal history is not always desired by the public, but in this instance I am compelled to give a very short sketch of my own, by way of introduction to what may follow of more interest perhaps.
A little over eighty years ago it fell to my lot to be a great grandson to General Putnam - of Colonial and Revolutionary fame - whose name I bear, also a cousin to the late Winthrop S. Gilman of the old Alton firm of Godfrey & Gilman later on. From early boyhood I had evinced a strong predilection for music. At the age of twelve years, I was considered quite an adept with the flute and concluding to devote my spare time to the Orphean Art, I joined a band in my native town of Marietta, Ohio. Being possessed of a natural talent for music, as also with a determined will to study and learn, I was, within a very few years, prepared to write, compose and arrange pieces for the organization I had previously joined. When nineteen years old I entered into my first engagement as instructor of the Charleston City Band of West Virginia. Being successful and consequently further encouraged, I determined to accept Horace Greeley's advice and "go west," and I did so, only a few months afterwards, landing in the city of Alton from the steamer Potosi, about 1 o'clock on the morning of July 4, 1843. I was escorted by a willing messenger to "City Hote," then kept by Amos L. Carson. Very soon, in taking a view of my surroundings, I discovered several large posters on the walls announcing (prematurely of course) that I had arrived and would take an active and prominent part in a grand concert to be given at Upper Alton the evening before, for which I was unfortunately too late. Nevertheless, I concluded to go to Upper Alton early that morning. I found two bands and scores of private citizens preparing to celebrate the glorious Fourth in Bunker Hill. I met with a hearty welcome from the band boys after they found out who I was, and had a very good time on the trip.
The Alton City Band - but recently organized at that time - were not offering their services to the public, but soon after I was instructing them to the best of my ability. They became quite noted for their fine performances afterward "covering themselves with glory" at parades and celebrations, also serenades when the weather did not prove too unfavorable. The boys were "ever ready when duty called." My headquarters were usually in Upper Alton, where I was also teaching another band. The progress of each was about equal, but the City Band members took pride in their instruments, kept them well polished, and themselves in like condition.
I am not possessed of any list of members of the City Band, but they were all from among the best citizens of the city. Such as I can now call to mind were Messrs. A. S. Barry, Truman Beall, William H. Bailhache Jr., James D. Bruner, William A. Holton, John Morrison, J. Wesley Beall, Z. Guild, and others. Mr. Barry was a wholesale druggist, located on the northeast corner of State and Second streets. He was a young, unmarried man, but like many others, had a "best girl" living on Market street (to whom, in due time, he was married). After his rehearsal he was often quietly excused from the band room to visit her. Both parents have already passed to their final rest, but the children, two of whom are residing in Cairo, grandchildren and several great-grandchildren, are at this time in the flesh, prominent in our best society. Mr. Holton was also in the wholesale drug business, his store adjoining Mr. Barry's on the east side. He passed away several years ago, but his estimable wife is still living in Upper Alton with her mother, Mrs. E. M. Hastings - a lovely character who has just entered her 90th year of this life. J. Wesley Beall was the father of Charles Beall, who was recently removed by death, and of course related to the other Beall brothers. Billy Bailhache, the piccolo player, was the son of William H. Bailhache Sr., who, with S. R. Dolbee, conducted the Alton Telegraph in the early days of its life. James D. Bruner, with his brothers John A. and William H., were proprietors of a grocery and general feed store on the north side of Second street, just east of Schweppe's bakery. Winthrop S. Gilman's residence was in Upper Alton. His wife was still living at last accounts in New York city [She died nearly a year ago - Editor of the Telegraph].
I will make no reference this time to our memorable trip of both band and citizens on the brand new packet, "Luella," Capt. W. P. Lamothe, master, to the Peoria convention in June 1844, while the flood was at its best and even Second street was some three feet under water, nor to the numerous serenades from time to time at select points (usually including Monticello Seminary) by the band, for I have already written too much I fear, and with due respect to your readers I will subside. Please ask my friends to write to me. Very truly yours, R. P. Robbins, 329 Seventh St., Cairo, Illinois.
Alton in the Early [Eighteen] Thirties
Extracts from Sketches of Illinois Cities by the Hon. H. L. Ellsworth, and Published in Philadelphia by S. Augustus Mitchell in 1837
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 31, 1904
Below is a sketch of Alton, written in 1837 by Hon. H. L. Ellsworth and published by S. Augustus Mitchell in Philadelphia, in a book entitled "Illinois in 1837." This book is the property of Charles Holden, who kindly loaned it to the Telegraph:
"The City of Alton is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi river, two miles above the Missouri, 18 miles below the Illinois river, and about 1200 from New Orleans. This place was laid out in 1818, but it is only within the last three or four years that public attention has been turned to it as an emporium of trade. Up to the year 1832, it contained only two or three dozen houses and a steam mill. In that year the state penitentiary was located here. The population is now estimated at 2,500, and the number of houses is 300. Since the spirit of improvement began, it has met with nothing to retard it; but employment has been given to every building mechanic that could be produced. A large proportion of the buildings are of the most substantial kind - massive stone warehouses. Many of the private residences are of finely wrought stone or brick, and highly ornamental, though the larger portion of both business and dwelling houses are temporary frames of one story. The streets are generally 40 and 60 feet wide, and State street (the principal one running at right angles from the river) is 80. The rates of buildings are as high, probably, as in any part of the Union; yet rents are much higher in proportion; every house bringing from 15 to 30 percent, upon its cost, including the price of the lot.
The following enumeration will give some idea of the business of the place: There are 20 wholesale stores, one of which imports directly from Europe, besides 32 retail stores, some of which sell also at wholesale. The various branches of the mechanic arts, also carried on, though the greater portion of the articles used is brought from abroad. There are eight attorneys, seven physicians, and eight clergymen, attached to the following denominations, viz: Three Protestant Methodist, two Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Episcopal and one Episcopal Methodist. These have a church for each denomination, some of which, in their appearance, would do credit to the oldest towns in the west. There are four hotels and two others ....of stone, will be 60 .... nine boarding-houses, all of which are crowded with sojourners, either temporary or permanent. The public institutions are a bank (branch of the State Bank of Illinois), insurance office, lyceum, Masonic lodge, lodge of Independent Odd Fellows, and two schools. The lyceum attracts the greater portion of the young men of the town, who engage in the public discussion of questions and hear lectures from gentlemen of science, who are also its members. There are two temperance societies, one of the total abstinence plan, which is the most popular and is daily becoming more so. There are four newspapers, viz: The Alton Spectator, Alton Telegraph, Alton Observer, Temperance Herald.
The Legislature of Illinois have memorialized Congress repeatedly to have the great national road now constructing through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, cross the Mississippi at this place, and sanguine hopes are entertained that the wishes of Illinois in this particular will be duly regarded. Building mechanics of all kinds are constantly wanted. The following wages are paid: Bricklayers $2.50 to $3 per day; stone masons, $2 to $2.50; laborers $1.50. Where the men are boarded by the employer, a deduction of 50 cents per day is made from these rates. Board at the hotels is $3 to $4 per week, without lodging; for lodging, $1 to $1.50 additional, at the boarding houses $2.50 to $3, lodging included.
Brick at the kiln sell for 7 to 9 dollars per 1000, pine boards, 25 to 40 per 1000 (they are brought from the Ohio river); wood for fuel, $3 per cord; coal 20 cents per bushel. The latter is obtained from the hills, one mile in the rear of the town; and both wood and coal can be got for very little more than the cost of cutting, digging and hauling. The comparatively high price at which both sell will furnish another evidence of the high price of labor, and I assure eastern laborers who are working at this season of the year for 40 cents a day, that here they may soon realize a little fortune.
This city is surrounded for several miles in extent with one of the finest bodies of timber in the state, from which vast quantities of lumber may be procured. Bituminous coal exists in great abundance at only a short distance from the town. Inexhaustible beds of limestone for building purposes, and easily quarried, are within its precincts. A species of freestone, easily dressed and used for monuments and architectural purposes, and that peculiar species of lime used for water cement, are found in great abundance in the vicinity. The corporate bounds extend two miles along the river and a half a mile back. The city plat is laid out by the proprietors upon a liberal scale. There are five squares reserved for public purposes; and a large reservation is made on the river for a public landing and promenade.
The prices of lots in Alton depend upon their location. But business stands command $400 a front foot; lots more retired, for private dwellings, from $100 to $50, and $25. Stores rent from $1500 to $400; dwelling houses from $600 to $200. Some of the stores do a very large business, their transactions amounting to half a million dollars a year; others sell to the amount of $200,000 dollars. Clerks and professional men only are not wanted. Of all these there seems to be a scarcity in any part of the of the West.
Eight steamboats are owned here in whole or in part, and some of them are heavily freighted at at each departure with the exports of the town alone. These exports must increase as the back country continues to fill up. To add to its resources, two railroads will shortly be made, one leading to Springfield, 70 miles, the stock of which has been subscribed; the other leading to Mount Carmel, on the Wabash, the stock of which has been taken in part. Land, five miles back of the town, sells at from $10 to $40 per acre, according to the improvements. At a greater distance, it is much cheaper and settling rapidly. The productions are wheat, corn, beef, pork, horses and cattle. Real estate has risen in Alton more than 1000 per cent within two years.
The inhabitants are principally from New York and New England; and this may be said of all the business men, with two or three exceptions. Next to these in number are Virginians. The natural surface of much of the town site of Alton is broken by bluffs and ravines; but the enterprise of its citizens and the corporation is fast removing these inconveniences by grading down the hills, and filling up its ravines. A contract of $60,000 has recently been entered upon to construct a culvert over the Little Piasa Creek that passes through the center of the town over which will soon be built one of the most capacious and pleasant streets. Since its settlement, the citizens of Alton have enjoyed as good health as those of any river town in the West. The market is well supplied with provisions from the back country; prices, those of St. Louis. The meats and vegetables are excellent, and cultivated fruit is pretty abundant. The wild fruits are plums, crabapples, persimmons, paw paws, hickory nuts and pecans. Wild game is also abundant, viz: deer, pheasants, prairie hens, partridges, with the various kinds of water fowl. The fish are cat, perch, and buffalo.
Such is a hasty view of Alton as it now is. Its rapid growth is an evidence of what enterprise can effect in contending against Nature herself. Scarcely a town site could have been selected on the Mississippi originally more unpromising in its appearance; and yet in five years, probably, it will attract the admiration of every beholder. Already the "little hills have fallen on every side;" the valleys have been raised; and within the time mentioned, the city will present to the spectator from the river the idea of a vast amphitheatre, the streets ranging above each other in exact uniformity, while from each mountain top in the distance will glitter the abodes of wealth and independence. The foundations of its prosperity are laid on the broad basis of public morals and Christian benevolence. Its churches are its most prominent and costly edifices, and claim the tribute of praise from every beholder. 'These temples of His grace, How beautiful they stand! The honours of our native place, And bulwarks of our land.' No people cherish the sentiment conveyed in these lines more than do those of Alton; not a town in the Union, of its population, has been so liberal in its contributions to every measure of Christian benevolence. The amount subscribed the present year probably exceeds 10,000 dollars; one item in which is the subscription, by two gentlemen, of 1000 dollars each, to employ a temperance lecturer for this portion of the state. In addition to this, one of the same gentlemen has given 10,000 dollars towards the erection and endowment of a female seminary at Monticello, five miles north of the town, to the superintendence of which a most accomplished lady has been called from the celebrated institute at Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Dr. Egan Give Historical Reminiscence of Madison County Doctors
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 14, 1906
Dr. James A. Egan, secretary of the Illinois State Board of Health, delivered an address last evening before the Alton Medical Society on the subject of medical examinations and licenses and the enforcement of the laws relating thereto. He was accompanied by his assistant, Dr. George T. Palmer, who has given Dr. Egan very able assistance throughout the state in the investigation of complaints and the enforcement of the health laws, and in the study of interesting cases. Dr. Egan gave a very interesting reminiscence of the first medical practice law in Illinois, which has not been as fully set forth heretofore as Dr. Egan gave it and which is interesting especially to Madison County doctors. Dr. Egan Said in part:
Trio of Old Timers Hold a Reunion
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 7, 1908
There was an interesting gathering of Alton citizens this morning of Piasa street at the Citizens National bank corner. The gathering was not a large one, but it was none the less a notable one, as each of the men was 84 years of age, and there were three of them. They were Lawrence Stoehr, Rudolph Maeridan and Christian Wuerker. Each confessed to being 84 years of age. "Who do you think is the oldest?" the reporter was asked. Mr. Wuerker, with his white hair and beard, was picked out as the one probably the longest on earth. "He is the youngest in the party," one of the old men said, but Mr. Wuerker claimed that he had one distinction over the others - he was in Alton the longest. He came here in 1848; Mr. Stoehr came here in 1851; and Mr. Maeridan came here in 1850. All of them are in good health, notwithstanding their great ages, and all of them are good friends. They have been friends ever since they came to this country and settled in Alton, and they are also members of Piasa lodge, A. F. & A. M. As an illustration of how spry the old men are, Mr. Stoehr told a story of a recent feat of his. He went to Lockhaven on the train last week, and in the course of making some calls on people with whom he had business relations, he walked a distance of seven miles, going from house to house and taking a rest and eating his dinner at one place. After he had completed his business transactions, Mr. Stoehr set out on foot from Lockhaven to North Alton and made the seven miles from there in two hours and 15 minutes, making a 14-mile walk. There are few young men in Alton who would care to make an attempt to duplicate this eighty-four year old youngster's achievement. Mr. Stoehr did not suffer any ill effects from the trip. None of the others could tell of any achievements of that kind, but they appeared to be able to do it.
Writes of 100 Year-Old-Fireplace
Gaius Paddock Reminisces
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 26, 1917
Gaius Paddock of Moro township lives in a house that will be 100 years old when the State of Illinois and the City of Alton are, next year. Mr. Paddock, who is past eighty, is writing a book taking up a record that was begun far back, and is using a blank book, well bound, that was bought perhaps 75 years ago and was started as a family record. The most voluminous records made in it are the recollections of a long life by Mr. Paddock himself. In his own hand, Mr. Paddock is inscribing his story, and it will be an interesting volume when he has finished. Reflections, as well as historical facts, are included in the book. We are permitted to print a page from the manuscript recently written by Mr. Gaius Paddock of his family, whose grandfather located the old farm in Fort Russell township, upon which he resides, when it was a territory that extended into the far north and the County of Madison embraced the country north of where Chicago now stands and St. Clair and Madison constituted the State of Illinois. Contrasting the conditions, habits, and the customs then prevailing with the present, it surely looks like we have made great progress in many ways, but have fallen lamentably low in the vital requisites that make the character they possess. The disregard of law, order and morality are stubborn facts that face us and require our united efforts to overcome. The degrading influences that are fast undermining the commonwealth and endangering the life of our country, dramshop effects so degrading and our own undesirable citizens. The blighting influence of the foreign emigration, ideals of upright living which are both false in theory and practice is now being felt throughout the country. The article under the title, "Recollections of the Old Fireplace," now nearly 100 years old, in the homestead, is as follows:
Reminiscences of J. Dixon - Old Timer of Alton
Old Timer of Alton Still Able to Work - J. Dixon 82 Years Young - Lived on Water for 6 months as he Sailed to America
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 29, 1922
One time, J. Dixon, former street commissioner of Alton, former Mayor of North Alton, and a prominent stone contractor of the city, lived on water for six months, and possibly Volsteaders will claim that is what has enabled him to live to be 82 years young, and come through, has he has, hale and hearty. The six months living on water was done when he came to Alton from Liverpool, England in 1855, in a sailing vessel. Sailing vessels were not speed maniacs. It will be sixty-seven years September 2, Saturday next, since Mr. Dixon landed in Alton, a boy of between 14 and 15 years of age, and with the exception of a few years has lived here since. On the same ship with him were the late Charles Henderson and wife, and Samuel Stanton, the 94 years old veteran, now living in Delmar Heights with his grandson, Henry Giles. Mr. Stanton was married aboard ship on the way over. Mr. Dixon went to work shortly after arriving in Alton in a blacksmith horseshoeing establishment, and learned how to shoe horses and mules, etc., and can do that yet, young as he is. In 1862 he joined others in a trip to the Far West, and then from Alton to Omaha by way of the Missouri river. At Omaha he outfitted for the West, and he helped drive an ox team, shoe oxen, and share the other hardships of a trip across the plains in those days. It took two months steady traveling to reach Salt Lake City, and there the expedition broke up. Mr. Dixon and a few others went farther, but did not remain long, and buying another outfit, ox team and all, they drove back to Omaha, sold the outfit and came to Alton on a boat. He has been here since. In 1858 he did his first stone cutting work for his brother, the late A. Dixon, who with a man named Howarth, had the subcontract of cutting stone for the present city hall building. After returning from the west, he resumed the stone cutting and stone mason business, and became one of the leading contractors and best stone workers in this part of the country. He filled many offices of trust and responsibility, and filled them well, and still discharges whatever duty is at hand with promptness and near-perfection as possible to get. He will be 82 years of age, January 22nd next, and is feeling fine after recovering from an illness that attacked him during the summer. Up to the time of the illness, he was working every day, and will be back at work in a short time, the book worm not being one of his possessions. He may count as firm friends all who knew him personally, and these together with the many others who know him by reputation, will sincerely hope he may make a century run of it, and enjoy every minute of the time between now and then. He has a fine home in North Alton, and the daughters who live with him leave nothing undone to add to his own comfort and pleasure. He built the house of stone as a monument to himself and to perpetuate his home.
Reminiscences by Gaius Paddock
Master of Old Historic Home Celebrates Birthday
by Entertaining County Historical Society
Mr. Paddock concluded by saying that here within sight were the dearest associations of his life, and ended with the words of the post:
With this, Mr. Paddock
bid his guests welcome to this old historic home and thanked them
for coming. President W. D. Armstrong told of the Illinois
Centennial held in Alton and of the interest of Madison county in
it. Mrs. C. H. Burton of Edwardsville, the historian of the Madison
County Hospital Society, read a paper which told of the organization
of the society in Edwardsville in October 1921. Dr. Trovillion of
the State Hospital at Alton, told of old Fort Massac at Metropolis,
Ill. Dr. Trovillion lived there as a boy and told an interesting
story of what the fort was and the part it played in the settlement
of the great northwest. A massacre by the Indians caused the fort to
get it's name, Fort Massac. H. P. S. Smith, of Fort Russell, told of
the fort at that point in Madison county, and told how his father
saw the remaining timbers of the stockade when he was a boy. Mr.
Smith said the Alton Telegraph had been in his home for almost the
life of the paper, and that he lately found a copy of the Telegraph
of 1865 telling the story of Lincoln's assassination. The house Mr.
Smith lives in was built of brocks made by the Whyers brick yard at
Fosterburg, and the sand, 176 loads of it, came from Paddock's
creek. Mrs. Henry M. Needles of Granite City, President of the
Women's Federated Clubs of this congressional district, made a most
interesting talk of the early history of this and St. Clair county,
and told of a massacre in which only a little red haired girl was
saved, because the Indians would not kill a person with red hair.
The child, taken away by the Indians, lived with them for three
years when French hunters took her away from the Indians to Quebec,
and she was later returned to Virginia to her relatives, six years
after her capture by the Indians. Senator Giberson talked on
Lovejoy, Hon. N. G. Flagg talked on legislation affecting historical
matters, Rev. S. D. McKenney talked on Alton and it's splendid
democratic spirit, J. D. McAdams talked on Monks mound and why we
should keep the mounds. W. T. Norton talked on "The Old Home We Are
Visiting," telling of the Paddock home and reciting that besides Mr.
Paddock's ancestors, other noted men, among them Willard Flagg and
his wife, the parents of Hon. N. G. Flagg, are buried in the little
cemetery that is in the Paddock yard. Gilson Brown told of the
establishment of the First Methodist church in this county in Upper
Alton in 1818. The visitors then walked back into the Paddock
pasture and viewed "the deep tangled wildwood" which is still so
dear to the heart of the master of the old Paddock farm. It was
agreed at the meeting yesterday that a movement shall be attempted
to get the State Superintendent of Instruction to have county
history be a part of the school curriculum one month of the year in
the State schools, each vicinity to study its own county history.
Miss Lanterman reported that a room has been set apart for the use
of the Madison County Historical Society in the County Court House
and that the Probate Judge has been made custodian of properties put
there. Many rare old books and other valuable records are in homes
where they are liable to destruction and which the owners want the
county to own.
Copyright Bev Bauser. All rights reserved.