Transcribed by: Jeanie Lowe.
As we look back over a period of sixty years to the beginning of the century which is now rapidly reeling off the last quarter of its existence, we are stuck with wonder at the great change wrought in this flourishing region. In 1819, the first Anglo-Saxon pitched his tent in the little grove of timber in this portion of the county, standing in the prairie like an oasis in the great desert; while far beyond, to the east and the west, and the north and the south, naught met his eye but the vast and gloomy wilderness, infested with wild beasts and savages. As other white people flocked to the grove with undaunted courage, they met the ancient possessors of the soil, whether savage beasts or savage men, and, despite their strongly contested right to it, succeeded in gaining a foothold that has developed into the state of civilization we find around us to-day. These people knew nothing of railroads; they had never heard of a locomotive, and had any one prophesied the railroad system of the present day, he would have been treated as a lunatic. Steam threshers, sulky plows, mowers and reapers were alike unknown to these pioneers, and are inventions that had never entered into their wildest dreams. The old sod, or Cary plow, drawn by two or three yoke of oxen, was their mode of subjecting the soil to cultivation. Their nearest trading-point was Springfield, and the supply of goods kept there was limited, and often, for the lack of funds, beyond their means to obtain. Springfield was likewise their post office, and a letter from the old home cost 25 cents, and sometimes laid in the office for months before the requisite "quarter" could be obtained to compensate Uncle Sam for its transportation, as the old gentleman had a peculiarity of unusually requiring his little fees in advance. Milling was a great source of inconvenience, to say the least, and, at times, it was almost impossible to obtain meal except by pounding the corn in a mortar, sifting it, making bread of the finest and hominy of the coarser part of it. When they went to the horse or ox mills, it was with an uncertainty as to when they would get their "grinding." The prairie fires, and the prairie-wolves, the "deep snow," the sudden "cold snap," and hundreds of other troubles and trials met them, of which the present generation know nothing, except as they gather around some old grandmother or grandfather and listen to their stories of the pioneer days. But little more than half a century has passed, and lo; the change that has come over all. Upon the face of nature the rolling years have written their record, and the wilderness is transformed into a very garden of Eden. The railroad train has supplanted the ox-wagon; in fact, the country is a perfect network of railroads, as an evidence of which an old settler, who has witnessed all these changes, informed us that he could stand in his dooryard and hear the locomotives whistle on five different railroads. The horse and ox mill have given place to magnificent steam-mills, while inventions and improvements in farm machinery have kept pace with everything else. What the next fifty years may produce we dare not conjecture; but, judging of the future from the past, it is not extravagant to predict that, fifty years hence, we will be flying through the air as we now fly over the prairies at the heels of the iron horse.
The first mill in this section of the country was built by Absalom Mounts, and was a rather small affair, but was of great convenience to the few residents then in the country. Its capacity was limited, but buhrs being not larger in diameter than a half-bushel measure. This supplied the people until the erection of the mill at Old Salem, described in another page. The precinct of Tallula, as bounded at present, has not a mill within its limits, and its citizens patronized the mills of Petersburg and Pleasant Plain. The village of Tallula, situated, as it is, in the midst of a fertile region, seems to us to resent an excellent opening for a first-class mill, and that some enterprising individual will, erelong, discover the fact, we have no doubt.
The first practicing physicians in this section of the country were Dr. Allen, of Petersburg, and Dr. Renier, who settled in this precinct about 1828-29. The latter was a bachelor when he came here, and, for a period of some four years, boarded with George Spears. He then became a Benedict, and went to housekeeping. In those early days, people could not afford to get sick, and hence doctors were not such important personages as they are now. A man who owned a mill or a blacksmith shop was a "bigger man" than any doctor, as it was supposed that the good wives could do all the "doctoring" with catnip tea and "yarbs."
Robert Armstrong was the first Justice of the Peace, and, as we are informed, possessed but little legal knowledge. His familiarity with legal technicalities was limited in the extreme, and his courts the theater of many humorous scenes, as the following will show: A case came before him one day, upon which a couple of lawyers were employed. After the case was decided, the defeated lawyer gave notice that he appealed the case from his decision, when the other lawyer nudged him, and whispered in his ear, "Don't allow an appeal." The justice drew himself up with all the dignity embodied in the ponderous form of David Davis, and replied. "There is no appeal: I allow no appeal from this court, sir."
The first blacksmith in Clary's Grove is not now remembered, although the blacksmith is usually a necessary character in a frontier settlement. The first stores in the present limits of the precinct were opened at the ancient and now extinct village of Rushaway, as will be noticed further on. The first post office established was also at this village. The first birth, death and marriage are now lost in the lapse of time, but are supposed to have occurred among the early settlers who came here, and many of whom left the settlement previous to 1824, at which date we reach a period within the memory of those still living.