EARLY HISTORY OF SCOTT COUNTY, ILLINOIS
BY JOHN G. HENDERSON, ESQ.
Up to the 30th of July, 1819, although the state of Illinois had been admitted into the Union, the Kickapoo Indians were the rightful owners of all that scope of country lying south of the Kankakee river, and north of a line drawn from the mouth of the Illinois to the Wabash. This tract comprised within its limits the finest lands in the state, including, also the great prairies of central Illinois, the favorite hunting grounds of the Kickapoos and which they claimed as their property, "by descent from their ancestors, and by conquest from the Illinois, with an uninterrupted possession of more than half a century.
The treaty by which they ceded the above tract of land to the United States, including of course, the territory now known as Scott county, was made on the 30th day of July, 1819, at Edwardsville, Illinois. August Choteau and Benjamin Stevenson conducted the negotiations on the part of the United States, and Pe-mo-a-tam, Pe-na-see, Kee-tat-ta, She-koan, Maun-to-ho, and eighteen dusky chiefs and warriors, with their plumes, beads, paint and wampum, acting "for themselves and their said tribe," reluctantly made their scrawls and marks to the instrument that gave up forever to the hates pale-faces, whose scalps they would rather have been lifting if they had dared, their homes, their hunting grounds, and the graves of their ancestors - ancestors from whom they boasted their inheritance - twelve million six hundred thousand acres of land in Illinois alone, for the small sum of less than one-sixth of a cent per acre, and the promise of a permanent home beyond the Mississippi! A large portion of this ceded tract was known at that time as the "Sangamon Country," taking its name from the river of that name which formed its northern boundary. It extended south as far as Apple Creek. The fertility and beauty of the country, with its Island Grove, Diamond Grove, Sugar Grove, and its rolling prairies with their beautiful mounds, were often talked of in the southern part of this state, in Kentucky and Indiana, by fathers as they sat around the log cabin fire, as their future home when the red man's title was extinguished; but woe unto the white man who would have dared to cut a set of logs for a cabin, or stick a plow into its beautiful prairie until the twenty-three Kickapoo chiefs and warriors made their curious "marks" to the above named treaty.
Many a ranger, or scout, on the look-out for hostile Indians, in the war of 1812, as he sat on his horse upon the mounds of the prairies, cast his eye over the beautiful expanse of country before him, and thought of wife or sweetheart, far away in settlements, and that, "when the war was over," here by this spring, or there by that point of timber, he would build his cabin and gather about him the luxuries of the wilderness. Indeed, there are now old settlers, or their descendants, in Scott county who now reside on the identical spot selected by the pioneer ranger, while on duty in the war of 1812, or while following hostile Indians, who, having committed depredations in the settlements, were flying for their lives before the infuriated citizens.
I am sorry that want of room prevents me from entering into details relative to the prominent persons of both races who were here brought into contact from the year 1812 to 1820, and from giving many interesting details of battles, skirmishes, and alarms, which took place between our pioneer fathers and the red men in their struggles for the possession of the country where we now reside - the one reluctant to yield up the home of his fathers to the pale-faced intruder; the other, eager for the possession of what he considered the finest farming lands of the world, and occupied by a race doomed to fade away before, what he termed, the "march of civilization". It was the war of 1812, however, that brought the two races in conflict.
Until the year 1811, the Indians had been less troublesome, but, during this year, they killed several persons in St. Clair and Randolph counties. In the year 1812 there were British emissaries sent to all the tribes of Northern Illinois and Indiana, to enlist them against the United States, and to incite them to commit depredations on the almost defenseless frontier settlements. Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, were busy in urging a union of all the Indians against the whites, for the purpose of making one grand effort to drive back the hated pale-faced race that was fast taking possession of the land of their fathers. Wampum belts were being carried by the agents of the Prophet, among the Indian nations on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and their tributaries. Indian orators, by their camp fires on Rock river on the Sain-que-mon, and on the Wabash, were recounting the wrongs of their race, and urging painted warriors to fight for their hunting grounds and the graves of their dead. They were plentifully supplied with guns, powder, and ball, by the British. Peoria was then the headquarters of the Indians and the agents of Great Britain. Sometimes there were as many as eight hundred Indians congregated there at one time. This condition of affairs demanded some measures for defense on the part of the whites, and, as the general government was unable to do anything except by act of Congress, to authorize them to defend themselves, the volunteer rangers were depended upon. During a great part of the year 1812, Capt. James B. Moore's and Capt. Jacob Short's companies of mounted riflemen protected the frontier. Relieving each other every fifteen days, they kept up a constant "ranging" from the mouth of the Sangamon to the head-waters of the Kaskaskia, a distance of from seventy to one hundred miles. Their line of march was always at least one, and sometimes three days' journey from the outside settlement. They sometimes divided; the captain, in command of one-half, would start at the mouth of the Sangamon, while the lieutenant, at the same time, would start with the other half at the head-waters of the Kaskaskia. They would thus pass each other near where Springfield now stands. "The motive in this was to keep a more effectual lookout for Indians, distract their attention, and produce the greatest possible effect." By the companies relieving each other, the Rangers secured a little rest, and also got to see their families; but, as they necessarily lost considerable time in going home and returning to their place of rendezvous, it was nearly the same as continued service. Every man had to furnish his own outfit, and many of them had to incur debts for that purpose, some of them to an amount of three hundred dollars, which was an enormous sum in those days. While Short's and Moore's companies were thus engaged, Capt. Samuel Whiteside's company was "ranging" from a point of one hundred and twenty miles north of St. Louis to the mouth of the Sangamon. This line, thus guarded by rangers, was provisionally agreed upon as the boundary line between the whites and Indians, "until some change of circumstances should take place." The object sought by these patrolling companies of riflemen was to protect the settlements from small bands of Indians, who would, otherwise, with the cunning of wild beasts, steal into the vicinity of even the "forts," watch their opportunity, until, with a war-whoop, they could spring upon their human prey, murder and scalp, perhaps, women and children, as in the example below related, and, with their bloody trophies, retreat to their villages. If the trail of an Indian was struck by these rangers upon their line of march, the alarm was at once communicated to the settlements, and, by retreating to the forts, or otherwise preparing for attack, the danger was averted. Many of these rangers passed through Scott county in 1812, but in 1814 a party of fifty rangers chased a band of Indians through the northern part of this county, and, as it will be seen in the sequel that it was connected with the settlement of the county, I shall give the particulars as an introduction to the history of the "first settlers".
Early in the month of July, 1814, parts of three families were murdered on Wood river, near where the city of Alton now stands, in what was then Madison county. There were seven persons killed in all. They had been up to the fort, and were returning, on Sunday evening. The parties killed were: Reagan's wife and two of his children, two of Abel Moore's boys, and two of Wm. Moore's boys. All were killed except one little girl, who escaped and gave the alarm, and soon the Wood River settlement was in arms. Rifles were hurriedly cleaned and bullets moulded, and soon Capt. Wm. Whiteside had fifty of his rangers on the trail of the retreating Indians, leaving old George Moore and the women and children in the fort. The Indians were on foot, and proceeded northward through what is now called, jersey, Greene, and Morgan counties. There were several men along, "who could trail on Indian as fast as a horse could gallop". Among this number were Peter Wagoner and Samuel Beeman. The Indians took, of course, every advantage that their mod of traveling gave them over their pursuers. Now their trail led through thickets impenetrable to horsemen, and, again, through swamps that would mire the horses of the Rangers if they attempted to follow. On such occasions it was necessary for the horsemen to dismount, a part of their number take care of the horses, and the balance follow on foot until they came again to open country, or solid ground, where they could again mount their horses. In this manner they followed the retreating foe without any particular adventure until they arrived at what was afterwards called Brown's Point, near Manchester, where Peter Wagoner shot an Indian. The Indian was hid behind the root of a tree. Wagoner shot him without checking his horse from a gallop. A little further on Samuel Beeman shot another Indian. He had climbed up a grave-vine and was hid among the branches of the tree. In justice to the Indians, it must be said, that, as far as I can ascertain, the Rangers had no proof that these Indians had anything to do with the murder of the women and children. For aught that appears, they may have been inoffensive hunters, whom the horsemen accidentally encountered. On the following morning the Rangers discovered in the Island Grove, the spot where the Indians had camped over night. The fires were still burning, and everything indicated that the horsemen were close on to the Indians. The trail struck out to the westward. It is now a race for life. The Indians endeavoring to reach the Illinois river, and, by crossing it, make good their escape, and the horsemen urging on their jaded animals, to, if possible, overtake the little band. Until they arrived at the Island Grove they had not varied much from the "old Indian Trail," which for centuries had been traveled between Cahokia and Peoria, but, being hard pushed, instead of keeping their direction northward, and crossing the Sangamon, they turned to the left as above stated, no doubt for the purpose of taking advantage of the high mounds that lay between the Island Grove and the river, and, also, for the purpose of skulking through the brushy woods of the Mauvaisterre creek, which, after they had struck its head waters, afforded them an unbroken line of shelter to the Illinois river. The high mounds in the prairies were used by them as posts of observation. By running through the prairie grass they would gain time enough to rest upon these eminences, and as soon as the horsemen were descried in the distance, they retreated again. They thus rested upon the mound in the prairie northwest of Alexander, in Morgan county. It afforded them a fair view of the surrounding country, and prevented the horsemen from approaching near them without being discovered. But as well might a wary fox have attempted to hide his track from a blood house as an Indian to conceal his footprints from Beeman or Wagner. Soon the Indians were compelled to retreat again. They threw away everything that encumbered their flight, and, passing through the point of timber which lays about the head of the south fork of the Mauvaisterre, they continued their flight to the westward, keeping near enough to thickets, by crossing from point to point, so that, if hard pressed, they could retreat into the brush where nothing but footmen could follow. Near Jacksonville the Rangers were so close on the Indians that the latter ran into a swamp for safety. All the strip of prairie land between Jacksonville and the Mauvaisterre, on the north, was then a low marsh. Into this the horsemen attempted to follow, but several horses were mired in the mud, and it was found necessary to dismount and follow them on foot. A number of horses were mired down, and eighteen of the party turned back at this place. The remainder divided into two parties - one remained to take care of the horses and the balance proceeded on foot. The Indians in the meantime, taking advantage of the delay, emerged from the swamp at the north point of the grove west of Jacksonville, and hurried in the direction of Killiam's Mound. Here they halted for a few minutes to breathe and observe the movements of their followers. Their trail soon revealed their position, and the Rangers were again in sight. From this point to the Illinois the race was close. The Rangers were repeatedly in sight of the Indians, but owing to the fatigued condition of their horses, and the cunning of the Indians, they managed to get near the river without one of their party being hurt, that is of the number who had camped at Island Grove. Near the Illinois river, south of Naples, one of their number, a corpulent fellow, gave out. He was armed with a gun, and, of course, determined to sell life as dearly as possible. A rifle ball, however, broke one of his legs, and caused him to fall in the grass. It was now no easy task to dispatch him, for, when a Ranger was heard approaching, he would level his gun and prepare to fire. But at length, one attracted his attention upon one side, while another rose up on the opposite side and shot him. After this delay they hurried on toward the river. Upon coming to a ravine, the river being in sight just ahead of them, they left the trail and hurried on, when they discovered the Indians crossing about half a mile below. Rushing down to the bank, where the Indians had just entered the water, they discharged their guns at them as they climbed the opposite bank.
Considering it impracticable, or dangerous, to follow them further, they turned their horses' heads toward home. Of course, they would not follow the trail back, but proceeded by the nearest route. This would lead them in a southeasterly direction through Scott county. Doubtless, several of their number were familiar with the general features of the country, and had more than once before passed through it upon similar errands. The prominent topographical features, such as mounds, groves, rivers, creeks, etc., were known by name. Among the groves have been mentioned Island Grove, Sugar Grove, Diamond Grove, etc. Apple Creek was Riviere de la Pomme. Macoupin river was then known by its Indian name, of Ma-ka-pin, or Wild Potato river - the name that it bore more than a century before (1721), when Father Charlevoix passed down the Illinois river. The Mauvaisterre, or Bad-Place creek, was spelled and pronounced as now - probably a French translation of the Indian name. Indian Creek was called by its French name of La Belle Ansine. The Sangamon is marked upon a contemporaneous map as Sain-que-mon - a corruption of the Indian name, Saugiemong; from Saugie - place of out-flowing water, and Mong - a loon, and probably would be literally Englished of Mouse River, and is laid down as "16 leagues" from the mouth of the Illinois; the map referred to was furnished to Gov. Edwards in 1812, by John Hay, a Frenchman. Meredosia (not the town, but the lake) was then Marais D'Osier, or Willow Swamp - a name given to it by the French voyagears, perhaps a century before. Out present Meredosia is but a corruption of the original French name.
Among the members of Whiteside's company who took a part in the chase of the murderers of the Reagan and Moore families, were Wm. Moore, Abel Moore, Peter Wagoner, Samuel Beeman, John Sample, and Wm. Sample, the last of whom now resides at West Point, Iowa. Old Uncle Johnny Sample, as he was familiarly called by the people of Morgan county, died only two or three years ago upon his farm near Jacksonville. I knew him intimately, and time and again he has related to me the details which I have narrated above. Wm. Sample, brother of the above, in a recent letter, informs me that "they were regular volunteers." Charles Sample, late sheriff of Morgan county, and an estimable gentleman, is a worthy son of Old Uncle Johnny Sample. Other sons of the same old pioneer reside in Morgan county, one of whom I boarded with many years ago, while teaching school in Jacksonville. But at length the "war was over". The Indians, forsaken by the British, were at the mercy of the United States, and saw, to their sorrow, the error they had committed in taking up arms against our people. Friendship and good feeling were established. Treaties were made with them, in which they ceded their lands to our government, among which treaties we have mentioned the one above, which, although no surveyor's chain had ever been carried over them, threw open the prairies and hills of the Sangamon country to the "settler," and opened the path to the very men who had defended it, many of whom at once entered into possession as "squatters," on, in many cases, the identical spot marked out in years gone by, while "ranging," and began improvements, hoping by the time the lands came into market to be able to "enter" an eighty, or forty at least, and thus secure a home for wife and little ones.
We have thus obtained a glimpse, not of the first white men who roamed over our prairies (for the French had been here among the red men for more than a century - nearly one hundred and fifty years, indeed!) But of the struggles of our ancestors in their first efforts to establish here.
In the years 1818 and 1819, in anticipation of the extinguishment of the title of the Indians, a number of men from the vicinity of Cahokia, Wood River, and Edwardsville, came on an exploring expedition up through this country, some of whom probably penetrated as far as the Sangamon river. Among them was Alexander Beall, who recently died near Exeter. He informed Dr. Roberts, that, in 1819, when he traveled through this section, there was not a house or any other mark of civilization north of Apple Creek. Plenty of Indians were camped on the Mauvaisterre and Sandy creeks, and now and then a creole French trader, one of whom had a shanty on the bank of the Illinois river, at what afterwards received the name of Phillips' Ferry.
In the year 1819 a party of six men, and families of three of them, started from Casey county, Kentucky, for Illinois. The names of the men were Thos. Stevens, Jas. Scott, Alfred Miller, Thomas Allen, John Scott, and Adam Miller. The first three were young unmarried men, the last three had their wives and children with them. They came in an old fashioned Tennessee wagon, that resembled a flatboat on wheels. The younger readers of this sketch can form but a faint idea of the curious and awkward appearance of one of these old fashioned wagons, covered over with white sheeting, the front and rear bows set at an angle of forty-five degrees to correspond with the ends of the body, and then the enormous quantity of freight that could be stowed away in the hold, would astonish even a modern omnibus driver! Women, children, beds, buckets, tubs, old fashioned chairs, including all the household furniture usually used by our log-cabin ancestors; a chicken coop, with "two or three hens and a jolly rooster for a start", tied on behind, while, under the wagon, trotted a full-blood, long-eared hound, fastened by a short rope to the hind axle. Without much effort on your part, you can, in imagination, see this party on the road, one of the men in the saddle on the near horse, driving; the other two, perhaps on horseback, slowly plodding along in the rear of the wagon, while the boys "walked ahead," with rifles on their shoulders "at half-mast," on the lookout for squirrels, turkey, deer, or "Injun.". Arriving at Wood river, in the vicinity of Alton, they secured log-cabins in the forks of the river, for their families, and remained until the 5th of January, and then, in their wagon, without their families, the six men started in search of the mound west of where the city of Jacksonville now stands. They were directed to this place by the Moores, who described to them, in glowing colors, the beauties and attractions of the country. The reader has not forgotten that, in a few years before, the Moores were among the party who chased the Indians over this mound; and, even then, afflicted as they were by the loss of their children by the tomahawk of the Indians whom they were following, the beauty of this mound, and the lovely prairies on either side of it, made a permanent impression upon their minds.
Arriving at old Dickey Rattan's, who was living in a log-cabin three miles south of the present site of White Hall, the last house upon the border of the settlement, they stopped over night, and, in their morning, leaving their wagon and taking with them the three horses, the six men pursued their journey. Their whole outfit consisted of three horses, three rifles, three axes, two or three blankets, and some little provisions. They kept north until they got a few miles beyond where Manchester now stands, where they veered off to the left. Old Peter Wagoner described to them the place where he shot the Indian, and told them to look for his bones. Upon arriving at the place, Jas. Scott said, "Sure enough there were the bones!" Near Manchester they also saw where two men the fall before (1819) had cut a considerable amount of prairie hay. The fire had burned the cocks, but heaps of ashes indicated where they had stood. These two men were the first who ever attempted any kind of agricultural work within the present bounds of Scott county, but their names are unknown - they never returned!
But to proceed with our emigrants. Three of the party on horseback, with axes, and three on foot with rifles, they crossed in a northwesterly direction through the barrens, and emerged upon the prairie upon the north side of Sandy timber, and then, in the distance, to the right, they saw the grove and mound they were in search of. They crossed the prairie, and pitched their camp just west of where the town of Lynnville now stands, and where Wm. Gordon now resides. This was on the 8th day of January, A.D. 1820. James Scott, one of their number, thus related to me the manner in which they came to camp here instead of pushing on to the grove. "The way we came to stop was this: We saw ‘coon tracks pretty plenty, and started to track them, as there was snow on the ground. While tracking them we came across a flock of turkeys. The two other young men and myself proposed to follow the turkey, while the three older ones hunted the ‘coons. We followed up the turkeys and got seven of them, and when we got back to camp we found the old men had killed nine ‘coons. We dressed the turkeys, and ‘coons, too (for sometimes ‘coon meat didn't go so bad), and hung them up to a limb. We then camped for the night. Our camp was made of two blankets, and in a day or two it snowed so hard, that the weight of the snow gapped the blankets apart and let the snow in upon us. On the morning it began snowing so hard, Allen, Alfred Miller, and myself, started on foot to go to the grove and mound, but, when we got out on the prairie, it snowed so hard that we couldn't see a rod before us. I said, "We must go back - we'll be lost if we go on." Miller insisted upon going on, but I prevailed on him to turn back. He wanted to strike directly for the camp, but I said, "Let us follow the ravine back again." We did so, and in a short time came to the turkeys we had hung up. Miller was completely bewildered, and declared that the "turkeys belonged to somebody else!" I showed him the strap they were tied with. "Why," said I, "Miller, don't you know that strap?" Miller declared that the strap never looked natural to him afterward. One day Miller and Allen went out to look at the country, notwithstanding the snow was knee-deep. While they were gone, I parboiled a lot of turkey and ‘coon, - half and half. Miller had some squeamish notions about eating ‘coon - in fact, he couldn't eat it at all; so we boys thought we would try him on. Upon their return to camp, tired and hungry, we announced dinner. They all bragged on the turkey, especially Miller, who chose the fattest pieces, which were ‘coon! After we all got done eating, Tommy Allen said: "Now, Miller, don't never say again that you can't eat ‘coon, for you've got about four pounds of ‘coon in you now."
The blanket-tent proving insufficient for protection, Allen proposed to build a regular camp. With an axe, the only implement brought along with us, except our rifles, he made a hand-maul and a wooden froe, and with these he rived good boards; some of them for siding, were seven feet in length. During the months of February, he built himself a log cabin, - the first human habitation, other than the Indian wigwam and French huts, that was ever built within the present limits of Scott, Morgan, or Cass counties - (it was all Madison county then). The present territory of Scott county was first a part of St. Clair county, and then Madison, both of which counties were formed before the organization of the state. From 1821 (Jan. 20) to 1823 (Jan. 31) it formed a part of Greene county. From the last-named date to 1839 (Feb. 16) it belonged to Morgan county.
After the completion of his log cabin Allen went after his family, taking James Scott with him. While Allen was busy finishing up his cabin, about the last of February, Stephen M. Umpstead arrived, and went to work building his cabin on the northern slope of Allison's Mound. Allen's party heard the sound of an ax in that direction, and knowing that this indicated the arrival of another settler, they followed up the sound until they came to where he was at work. Until this, neither party was aware of the presence of the other. Umpstead brought with him his wife, the first white woman of Anglo-Saxon blood who ever set foot in this part of the Sangamon Country. All honor to this noble pioneer woman, who followed her husband to the wilderness, sharing with him the toils, dangers, and hardships, as well as the joys and romance incident to such an adventure, and adorning his home, humble as it was, with its clapboard roof and mud-daubed walls, with smiles, gladness, and sunshine that kings in their places might envy.
Mrs. Umpstead was not entire deprived of female society, for, after supper, she could take her knitting and call on her nearest neighbor, Mrs. Dickey Ratton, - who lived on Apple Creek, twenty-five miles due south of her residence.
In the month of April Allen and Scott returned, bringing with them the old Tennessee wagon, the household goods, a "kit" of carpenter tools (consisting of an ax, a froe, two augers, and two jackplanes), cows, pigs, poultry, and last, but not least, - Sarah Allen, the first white woman who settled within the limits of what is now Scott county. Allen also brought with him the first plows; the irons were made down on Wood river, by Wm. Moore, a blacksmith, and Allen stocked them himself. The irons were not very cumbersome, for in those days a strip of iron from the point to the heel of the wooden mould-board was all of that material used in the manufacture of the plow.
Although when Allen first put up his cabin his nearest neighbor was old Dickey Rattan, down on Apple creek, yet it was not long until other settlers began to drop in. A few words more, however, relative to these parties, as we claim that they were the first settlers in this part of the Sangamon Country: Alfred Miller was Adam Miller's son. John and James Scott were brothers. Thomas Allen was about forty-five years of age. He and his wife - Sarah - were married in Casey county, Kentucky, and brought with them five children. Adam Miller, and Nelly Miller, his wife, were married in North Carolina. Miller was about fifty years of age. He began his improvements on the land now owned by Mrs. Joseph Campbell. His house was built a little to the left of where her barn now stands. He did not bring his family from Wood river until the fall of 1820, but when he did it was quite an addition to the little settlement, for they brought with them seven children. John Scott located on the place now known as the Ned. Tankersly farm. Allen's log cabin was the first house built in what is now Scott county; Scott's was the second, and Miller's the third. Of course, all they did was to locate claims, as the land was not surveyed until 1822, and the sales did not take place until 1823. The young men did not locate claims then. Miller and Scott both married and settled here. Miller settled on what is now Mr. Bean's farm. Both the Millers moved away years ago, and are dead. Thomas Allen remained here until after the formation of Scott county, moved to Missouri, and died there. John Scott, after whom the county was named, died in Pike county, in November, A.D. 1855. James Scott remaine4d until 1864, and then moved to Macoupin county, where he still resides, the only one of the party now living, and the one from whom I obtained many of the foregoing details.
I have thus dwelt minutely upon the history of this party of emigrants, because they were the first settlers in that part of the Sangamon country now comprised within the limits of Morgan, Cass, and Scott counties. I am aware that Jedediah Webster claimed that he, and Isaac F. Wroe, settled at the Diamond Grove in the spring of 1819, but, upon a careful investigation of the matter, I am satisfied that he did not arrive until the month of March in the year 1820. The treaty with the Kickapoos was not made until July 30, 1819, and it would have been hazardous, and indeed unlawful, for white to settle on their lands prior to that date. Again, a number of settlers arrived in the spring of 1820, and they all agree that Webster did not arrive until March, in the spring of 1820. James Scott states positively that Wroe and Webster came after his party.
At the very outset, it seemed there were two classes of settlers. One was composed of men from Kentucky and Tennessee - mostly children of pioneer settlers there, who had inherited from their parents a love of adventure, and the romance of pioneer life; men of but limited education, as far as books are concerned, but skilled in everything pertaining to the wilderness; and in those days a reputation for tracking an "Injun", or as a "dead shot" with the rifle, was more honorable than all the LL.'s and DD.'s that the most punctilious college man ever hung to his patronymic. Many of them started from their homes with the intention of going direct to the Sangamon country; others, at an earlier day, had emigrated to the southern part of this state, and from there came to this vicinity.
The other class was composed of eastern men - "Yankees," as they were called by the Southerners - who were, generally, men who had some education, but less skilled in wood-craft, and all that pertained to pioneer life. They came from the east, by way of Vincennes, to Edwardsville - the only route then open - and there, hearing of the beauty and fertility of this country, they came here to locate.
Early in March, three of four men - Adams, Brockway, and Holly - made an improvement on the William King place. James Swingington, during the same month, settled at the place which yet bears his name - Swingington's Point. Stephen Pierce, whose widow resides near Exeter, located on the farm now owned by Thomas Hardwick; A Day settled on the eastern part of the Sherown farm; Daniel and Joseph Densmore located on the south end of Alexander Beall's farm, near Exeter; James Mills settled a little south of where the fine brick school house now stands, in Exeter. These were all eastern men, and began their improvements in 1820. The southern emigrants, in addition to the party first described, came in the same year, about as follows: Mr. Alexander Wells, in April, located on the farm now occupied by his son; Jesse Roberts settled on the place now known as the old Samuel Allen place, now occupied by Alexander Wells; Nathan Winters located on the farm now known as the Gray farm, on the road from Winchester to Lynnville; James Bruce settled a little east of the Markillie farm, on the same road; Richard Sappington settled on the farm now owned by Silas Hornbeck, where he raised a crop of corn that year, without any fencing around it; old John Clark settled the place Widow Hawk and her son now reside on; Collins, in Camp's Grove; Samuel Bogard, on the Cadwell farm; Webster and Wroe, at Diamond Grove; Wyatt, and several others, upon the Mauvaisterre.
It will be seen, by the foregoing statements, that probably forty or fifty men emigrated to, and located within the present boundaries of Morgan and Scott counties during 1820. This was encouraging to those who had determined to make their homes here; but from 1820 to 1825, only a family now and then arrived, but what a welcome was extended to them! The clap-board cabin door, hung on its wooden hinges, was swung wide open, a new back-log rolled into the capacious fire-place, the family and strangers gathered about the cheerful fire, that lighted up the whole cabin, even to the clap-board roof, for there were no ceiling in those days. Little tow-headed boys sat on the back-log that had been rolled in for "mornin'," or crouched in the corner, while the strangers gave the latest news from "Old Virginny" or "Old Kaintuck;" or little, timid girls crept closer to "ma", while the owner of the cabin entertained his guests with the story of his pioneer life - the war-whoop of the Indian, as it ran out upon the night; the scalping of the dead; the exciting chase, and "what that rifle did - that rifle there, over the door;" or told of the cunning of the red men, and compared it to that of the fox, or their savageness and ferocity to that of the wolves which they could then hear howling out upon the prairie. Now the good woman of the house showed, with evident pride and satisfaction, the ingenious manner in which she had substituted home-made articles for the conveniences that were left behind them, while the stranger complimented her, by saying, "What would a log cabin in a wilderness be without a woman?" At length, with appetites satiated with johnny-cake, venison, and new milk, they, all in the same rom, retired to rest - the new-comers to dream of home, of friends; the pioneer to fight over again his Indian battles. And then, upon the morrow th neighbors gathered in, pointed out to the stranger a beautiful prairie near the timber, advised him there to "lay his claim," and then, with willing hands, they built his cabin, divided their bacon with him, assisted him to procure the luxuries of pioneer life - and all without one cent of pay! Pay! Why, even the postage letters didn't require money; but when one of these primitive fathers wanted to hear from friends in old Tennessee, or a jolly young man wanted to get a billet doux from a pretty blue-eyed girl in old Kaintuck, he mounted his horse, and rode down to the post office - down to Alton - taking with him twenty-five cents worth of bees-wax, to pay the postage! Money was but little used in those days. Buying and selling was almost wholly unknown, but swapping was the order of the day. People then were more independent of each other than now. Every man was his own house builder, his own shoemaker, and harness-maker. Store clothes were wholly unknown. A man's wife did his tailoring, wove the material for his clothing, as well as her own, and all transfers of these articles from one to another was accomplished by trading. They swapped horses, swapped work, swapped meal for bacon, bacon for jeans, jeans for linsey, and any man who owed another was permitted by the custom of the country, to discharge the debt by delivering the amount of it in the above articles, or any of them, at their current value. Especially was this true of bees-wax, ‘coon skins, and mink skins, which were considered as "legal tender".
The first settlers in the Sangamon country had t go to Edwardsville to mill. This was only during the first three years. In the year 1823, Dayton's horse mill was erected on the Mauvaisterre, northwest of Jacksonville. The foundation of the Exeter mill was laid, by old man Mills, in 1821. He sold out to Daniel Densmore, and he to March. The mill was not got into successful operation until 1823. In the spring of 1825, a man by the name of Joel Meachem, an old bachelor, and a Mr. Fuller, built a water mill on Little Sandy creek, about three miles south of the present site if Winchester. This was the first mill that ground wheat. The wheat was ground on the corn burrs, and bolted by hand. A little revolving bolting cloth, with handle like a grind-stone, was turned with one hand, and fed with the other. The stones were made of granite boulders, known in those days as "lost rocks". A little tub-wheel the upright shaft, a large cog-wheel on the top of it, a smaller one, to give speed to the burrs, and the hand bolting apparatus, constituted all the machinery in the Meachem mill. When the supply of water was sufficient to run the two water mills, they, and the Dayton horse ill were sufficient to supply all of the settlers in this part of the Sangamon country, but in the fall of the year, when the horse mill alone had to be depended upon, the plan of "taking it by turns" was fully appreciated. Sometimes a man waited a whole week before his turn came.
The first child born in the Sangamon country was a girl. Her name I have forgotten. She was born upon the north fork of the Mauvaisterre, a few miles east of Jacksonville. Old Gen. Murray McConnell, from whom I obtained many of the details of this sketch gave me her name, and the date of her birth, but, neglecting to enter it in my note book at the time, both name and date have escaped my memory.
The first election that was held within the boundaries of Morgan county, took place at Swingington's Point, in the year 1823. The election was held at the house of Jimmy Swingington, at the point of timber about two miles northeast of Lynnville, and one of the contestants for the office of sheriff, Alexander Wells, is still living in Scott County. Political excitement ran high in the vicinity of the old log cabin, and, along in the afternoon, resulted in a good old backwoods fist-and-skull fight.
The first court was held at Stephen M. Umpstead's cabin, on Allison's Mound. John Reynolds, afterwards governor of Illinois, was judge. This was in the year 1824. The county of Morgan was created the year before, but no court, other than that of justices of the peace, had been held. Among the attorneys who appeared before the jury, under an oak tree, near the cabin of Umpstead, were Murray McConnell and William Gordon. McConnell arrived in the year 1823. James Scott told me that he heard him in his first case. It was tried before Seymour Kellog, a justice of the peace, who resided on the Mauvaisterre. William Gordon was the attorney who conducted the other side of the case.
Although the country had been without courts until 1824, and no enforcements of law by authorized officials, yet life and property were protected then as sacredly as at the present time. Difficulties relative to civil matters were almost wholly unknown, and when they did arise, a speedy and satisfactory settlement was effected by reference to neighbors - no lawyers' fees, no costs, no hard feelings - all were friends again. As to all minor offences, public opinion was sufficient to prevent them. Liberality, generosity, honor, integrity, were the leading traits in the character of the pioneer settlers. Now and then a man devoid of principles and honor arrived, but, upon showing his colors, he was sure to be invited to emigrate to some more congenial clime. Now and then some hardy villain violated the law, as the pioneer recollected the reading of the statue in Virginia or Kentucky, but was soon visited by an armed band, known as the "Regulators," - organized, not for violation of the law, but for its enforcement - an organization which resulted form the inability of courts, sheriffs, and the ordinary machinery of the law, to detect offenders. One or two examples of the way in which the Regulators did business are given, by way of illustration: The land sales did not take place until 1823, and even then two-thirds of the settlers who had begun improvements wee unable to raise money enough to enter the land they resided upon. Sometimes a stranger ‘entered out the settler," as they called it in those days. This was one of the meanest things, in the estimation of a pioneer, that a white man could be guilt of, and always demanded the attention of the Regulators. In this manner, a man by the name of Alexander Wheeler entered out Tolbert Hite. Wheeler was called upon by the Regulators, and after a speedy examination, they decided to give him one hundred lashes, which they did. Wheeler afterward met old Thos. Cowhick in the road, and believing him to be one of the party, who, under disguise, had inflicted the punishment upon him, sprang from his pony, threw the halter over the old man's neck, drew his knife across his throat, and swore he would kill him. Being resolute, and full of fire, Cowhick told him as often as he repeated the threat "to kill and be d______d." Wheeler got on his horse and rode off. He afterward told Jonathan Young that he "meant to kill the old man, but there was so much fire in his eye, that he couldn't". Wheeler was notified to quit the country, which, for safety, he did.
Another case that came within the jurisdiction of the Regulators was that of Williams. In the spring of 1822 Dr. Newell came and located near the mouth of the Mauvaisterre, in a log cabin. It was reported that he had money. At this time Williams lived at Camps' Grove, which place he had purchased of Collins. Williams left his farm and moved into a camp close by Newell's. His conduct prior to this had been such as to arouse the suspicions of his neighbors. Newell had occasion to go to St. Louis. While he was gone his house was broken into by a party disguised as Indians, a chest taken from it, broken open, and the money extracted. Williams moved over the river to a cabin on McKee's Creek. The circumstances by this time were so strong against him that the Regulators determined to take the matter in hand. A meeting was called, and it was determined that the case demanded action on their part. The old man who presided over the meeting concluded his remarks by saying: "My friends, it is time these rascals were punished, and it is our duty to punish them." It was soon resolved that the men (Volunteers) be selected to "see that the was enforced." A compact was drawn up and signed by the volunteers, and they adjourned to meet the following evening, at sunset, at the "Bluff," near the present residence of Washington Sears. Prompt at the place of rendezvous, just after nightfall the little party set out from the bluff. "They had then more than eight miles to travel, over a country entirely destitute of roads, and cut up by numberless sloughs and ponds. They had, moreover, a considerable river to cross, and after that, several miles of their way lay through a dense and pathless forest". Toward midnight they arrived at and surrounded the cabin. Hearing their approach, Williams appeared at the door armed with his gun, and threatened to shoot the first man that came inside of the low rail fence that surrounded the cabin. Some movement caused him to raise his gun as if to fire. Quick as thought a flash of flame lit up the darkness of the night, the echo of a rifle rang through the surrounding forest, and Williams fell dead in his cabin door. Hastily digging a grave upon the banks of McKee's Creek, they buried him. Often, while paddling a canoe up this stream, the place where he lies buried has been pointed out to me. John McConnel, with whom I read law, always told me that the grave of Williams was the "first grave" in that part of the Illinois valley. He so states it in his "Western Characters, also dating the death of Williams in the fall of 1821, obtaining from his father the facts connected with the "regulating" of Williams, whom he called by the fictitious name of "Cutler," he wove them into the story of "The First Grave." The facts relative to Williams are, in the main, correct, but he dates his arrival in 1819, and his death in 1821. There were no settlers here in 1819. Williams arrived in the fall of 1820, and Dr. Newell in the spring fo 1822, in which year the death of Williams occurred. While reading law in the office of McConnel, It was almost daily in contact with his father, and often heard him narrate the foregoing facts, with the dates as I have given them. Dr. Clark Roberts, also, an old settler, who arrived here in 1825, and to whom I am under obligations for many valuable facts of this sketch, gives the dates as I have stated them above.
After the year 1825 the "Regulators" gradually lost their power. At first only composed of the best citizens whose only object was the suppression of crime, and the enforcement of law and order, the organization eventually acquired more of the mob element, and was sometimes perverted to the accomplishment of private ends, or the gratification of the feelings of its members. As new settlers arrived, fresh from the older states, where such organizations were unknown, and where all wrongs were redressed through the only safe, and proper channel, the courts, public opinion upon the subject gradually changed. As the population increased the power of the courts to apprehend and punish offenders also increased, until the necessities that called the Regulators into existence no longer existed, and when this time arrived, "the good citizen, who alone could confine such a system to its proper limits, retired from its ranks; it was consequently left with all its dangerous authority, in the hands of the reckless and violent McConnel." Still, however some good men, enamored with its speedy method of brining offenders to punishment, remained in connection with the organization. Its death struggle in Scott county (Morgan then), took place in the year 1830, and, with the permission of Major Jas. B. Young, a worthy old settler, who refused to be "regulated," and who now resides in Winchester, the story, which is a little laughable in some of its details, will be related, although, perhaps, it will conflict a little with the uniform good feeling, which in the early part of the essay, was attributed to our pioneer fathers.
The Major brought a piece of land, about four acres of which had been improved by Neddy Elledge, who was unable to raise the money to enter it. The custom of the country required the party who entered the land to pay the "squatter" for the improvements; but, in this case, the land had been transferred two or three times before it came into the Major's hands, and, for this reason, he claimed that he was under no obligation to pay for what he had already paid for once, and that the "squatter" should go to the first purchaser with his claim. At this stage of the proceedings the Regulators took the matter in hand. The usual meeting was held, and the captain was authorized to notify the Major, that, unless he complied with their notions of justice in the matter, "he would be waited upon." The old captain, meeting the major in the woods southwest of Winchester, thought it a good opportunity to discharge his duty, by giving the notice. The Major, whittling a little black hickory, about the size of a walking stick, without manifesting any concern, quietly listened to the captain's story, and then remarked, "So you are going to force me to pay that, are you?" "Yes," replied the captain. "And if I don't you intend to "wheeler" me?" "Well, God! Here goes! Exclaimed the major, as he lunged at the old captain, at the same time reaching for him with his hickory. The Major was a powerful man and as tough as the hickory itself. The captain, who was considerably older than his assailant, was dumb-founded by the suddenness and severity of the assault, and, although he was a brave a man as ever set foot in the Sangamon country, as is shown by an anecdote above narrated, yet under the circumstances, he was forced to retreat. Just as he sprang around a sapling the Major got in a "winder" where his pants were tightest, which terminated the battle - each returning to his home; the captain to lay his grievances before the "Regulators," and the Major to prepare for attack. Cleaning up his guns, barricading his cabin door, and listening for the approaching footsteps occupied the Major's time most of the night. Just about daylight he heard them coming. Taking his guns he planted himself at the door, dropped upon one knee, unstopped the port-hole (a hole in the logs which he used for reaching inside to pin the door), and awaited the attack. Looking through the port-hole he saw something white in the form of a man in the brush. He hailed him, but received no answer. "Who are you?" the Major again said, at the same time cocking his rifle. "A friend," was the response, as he stepped up to the door. "If you are a friend come into the house." It proved to be the constable, who was armed with a warrant for the arrest of the Major, who found that he had come very near shooting the constable's old white horse. The idea of the "Regulators" appealing to the law for protection was a little funny. The constable, after feeding his blind horse and eating his breakfast with the Major and his wife, paroled his prisoner on condition that he would appear before the justice, at an hour named, for trial. Anticipating a number of the "Regulators" at the trial, the Major mustered his forces, which he did with but little trouble, for by this time the organization had become unpopular, the Major appeared before the court. After a patient hearing of the case, the justice decided that the Major owed the people three dollars and costs - amounting in all to five dollars and a "bit." While paying the fine, he said, that it was hard that a man had to be fined for defending himself on his own land. The justice informed him that the courts were open to him, and that he had no right to regulate the "Regulators." Upon application of the Major, the justice issued a warrant for the captain fo the Regulators. The constable exchanged his blind horse for a better one belonging to the Major, and, after a vigorous ride, the captain found himself in the hands of the law. The court inflicted upon him the same penalty as upon the Major. Not having the "ready" wherewith to pay it, his honor informed him that he would have to go to jail. A friend lent him the money, the fine was paid, and the "Regulators," an organization which had existed about eight years, with its mission no fully performed, passed into history.
The first grave in this part of the Sangamon county was that of Mrs. Spencer and her child. Spencer and Cornelius Brown made an improvement where the old tannery used to be, in the south part of the present site of Winchester, in the spring fo 1821. During the same year Mrs. Spencer died in childbirth, and she and her baby were buried in the "old burying ground", south of Winchester. She was the first white person buried in Morgan county. The second grave was that of a man by the name of Lapham, who was called "Deacon". He was buried in the Gillham burying ground.
The first school was taught in a little log cabin that stood just southeast of where Exeter now is. The school-mam was Miss Jennette Wheeler, who afterward married Phineas Bronson. They had no churches in those days, but meetings were held at the houses of the settlers. The preacher enjoyed but few privileges over the laymen. He had no pulpit, but was allowed to stand behind an old fashioned split-bottomed chair, while his congregation sat on poles or rails. The preachers, in those days, were mostly backwoodsmen; who had no manuscript sermons, with "Firstlies," "Secondlies," and "Thirdlies," but spoke as they used the rife, off-hand. It is related by Gov. Reynolds, that, in old times in the southern part of this state - and I suppose the same thing happened here - the girls would go barefooted until they got near the meeting, and then, sitting down by the roadside, they put on their shoes and stockings, which they had carried with them in their hands to keep them from being soiled.
Wild animals, even of the larger kinds, wee still abundant. The buffalo and the elk had been exterminated, but deer, wolves, panthers, wild-cats, foxes, and turkeys, were abundant. Rattlesnakes, which the Indians never killed, were plenty. In the winter season they congregated in dens, which, when discovered, were watched during the first early warm days of spring, and thus large numbers of them were destroyed. In the spring of 1821, Alexander Beall, who was out hunting, stopped at a spring, near Winchester, to drink. Just as he was about leaving he was started by a rattling of a snake. As he reached for a stick to strike it, a number of them set up their shirring notes of defiance about him He succeeded in killing a dozen or more. The following spring the place was watched, and, in one day, one hundred an ninety six rattlesnakes were killed. The place yet bears the name of "Rattlesnake Spring."
Dancing was a favorite amusement of our pioneer ancestors, especially of the younger portion, and the advent of a fiddler in the settlement was hailed with joy. The announcement of a dance at a log cabin, in olden times, was followed by the congregating, at the appointed place, of a large number of young men and women, who all came on horseback; the young women dressed in home-made linsey, while the young men were decked out in buckskin coats, with fancy fringes around the margin of the skirt, with pants to correspond, or, in good old blue Kentucky jeans. And then the dance; the jolly, corn-fed lassies, who needed no paint to rosy their cheeks, or patent palpitators to round their forms, kept time with their feet to the sound of the fiddle, "going up square and coming down solid," on the old hack-berry puncheons, in a manner that would put to blush our modern damsels, who, with great effort, manage to "walk through the forms," with the assistance of partners. And then the fiddler - his coon-skin cap, with the tail hanging down the back of his neck, his bow well rosined, seated on a stool in the corner - he could fill a log cabin full of the "Arkansaw Traveler." Among these jolly fiddlers of those olden times was old Major Young, who could scatter "Natchez Under the Hill," or "Sugar in the Gourd," all over an old log cabin, so that every man in the house could get his share, keeping time with his foot with a stroke as regular as the saw-gate of a water-mill.
Pretty soon after the land came into market, parties owning what they considered eligible sites for future cities, with the assistance of the surveyor, staked off a piece of ground, divided it into blocks, and these into town lots; marked out the streets and alleys by "blazing" the saplings in the woods, or driving pegs in the open ground; gave to the streets high-sounding names, such as Main street, Adams street, Jefferson street, Franklin street, etc.; and, finally, after a discussion as to an appropriate name for the future city, it was duly christened, the "plat" recorded "as the law required," and the sale of lots begun. Fine frame dwellings, in those days, were not framed in Chicago, loaded upon the cars, and shipped to the owner "ready made", but the inevitable log cabin adorned the corner lots of these pioneer towns. Sometimes the logs for some aristocratic ‘bergher' were hewed, the ends squared off, and a stone chimney erected in place of one of sticks and mud; but the ordinary village dwelling was the log cabin, with its single room, the cracks between the logs "chinked and daubed," and a chimney at one end of it that looked like a log corn-pen topped out with a slat smoke-stack.
Is the oldest town in the county. It was laid out in June, 1825, In August, Following,
Began its existence, and during the same year, Wiley B. Green, who owned the sand-ridge just north of Naples, thinking that an elevated position and a big name would insure its prosperity and smother its young rival out of existence, laid out a town and named it "Columbus;" but the enterprise didn't prove an entire success, and the rival still lives. During a recent lawsuit, however, a generous citizen of Naples stated, under oath, that "the town of Columbus is still inhabited."
During the year 1825
Was also "platted and recorded."
is the next oldest town in Scott County. In the year 1830, J. P. and M. A. Wilkinson staked off thirty-six town lots in the brush on Big Sandy. But the origin of the city in embryo is best told by Judge T. H. Flynn: "David Casebeer, an old settler of this part of old Morgan county, and residing on the now Jacob Miller farm, and adjoining our town had built a tannery and started in the business of tanning leather, just south of our town. A. T. Hite, a citizen of old Morgan, had been started in business by J. P. Wilkinson, of Jacksonville, and located out at Daniel Roberts' grist mill, on Big Sandy creek, east of town one mile. Hite's business being that of selling dry goods and whisky, which he dealt out over a plank placed across one corner of the room. Glass tumblers being out of the question in those days, he used a common tin pepper-box which he sold the fill of for six and one-fourth cents. He having become tired of his location, built a house on the tract of land on which Winchester was afterward located, said house being built on the road leading from Jacksonville to Meacham's ferry, on the Illinois river. He and Casebeer having conceived the idea of a town in this part of old Morgan, consulted each other touching the matter, and settled upon the present site for the town as being the best locality for their interest in trade, and fixed upon Hite the duty of making further arrangements in the location of the town. He consulted his benefactor, J. P. Wilkinson, who immediately purchased the land of Casebeer, sent down Johnson Shelton, surveyor of Morgan county, and, on the 25th of March, 1830, under the directions of Hite and Casebeer, assisted by Gholson Wisdom, an old settler in this "neck of the woods," the work was begun. The work of surveying and staking out the town having been done with dispatch, the naming of the town was the next thing to be done, and the proposition was submitted by the parties, that the man who would treat to a gallon of whisky should have the naming of the town. Hite immediately accepted the proposition, sent for the whisky, and, after all hands had taken a "bumper," Hite named the town "Winchester," afer Winchester, Clark County, Ky." - Winchester Independent, Dec. 10, 1870.
After all, they didn't exactly square the town with the points of the compass, but this Wisdom accounted by always declaring afterward, that "they chained the town with a grape-vine." The first child born in the new town was Mary Hite, daughter of A. T. Hite. The first death was that of William Lee. He died in the summer of 1830, of fever, leaving a wife and several small children. He was a good man, and his loss was severely felt. The first political speech of any importance, made in Winchester, was by old Gov. Reynolds, standing on a puncheon at the door of a cabin in front of the present residence of Dr. D. D. Brengle. He was running against Judge Breese for governor, and delivered his speech to an enthusiastic audience of six persons, viz.: Major Young's wife, Tolbert Hite and wife, Hugh Michaels and wife, and Dudley Shull. Many other interesting items relative to the early history of Winchester lie before me, but space is limited, and we must hurry on.
These town were all laid out before the "winter of the deep snow." This memorable event, so often referred to by old settlers, occurred in the winter of 1830 and 1831. Just after Christmas, 1830, the snow began falling, and continued until all over the central part of Illinois the snow upon an average, was three feet deep. "Then came a little rain, with weather so cold that it froze as it fell, forming a crust of ice over this three feet of snow nearly, but not quiet, strong enough to bear a man; and finally, over this crust of ice there was a few inches of light snow. The clouds passed away, and the wind came down from the northwest with extraordinary ferocity. For weeks, - certainly, for not less than two weeks, - the mercury in the thermometer was not, on any morning, higher than twelve degrees below zero. The wind was a steady, fierce gale from the northwest, day and night. The air was filled with flying snow, which blinded the eyes and almost stopped the breath of any one who attempted to face it. An average depth of three feet of snow, accompanied, as it fell, with wind blowing at the rate above described, would, of course, be piled in great drifts, many of which were higher than fence-tops. The corn was in the field ungathered, the wood was in the timber, under the snow, yet the corn must be got, or the stock, and people, too, would suffer for food; and the wood must be obtained, or the people would freeze to death. Roads had to be broken, yet the wind blew so hard, and with that depth of snow, that they would almost immediately fill up, and they had to be broken over again. The result was, that long after the warm rains had melted the snow, strips of ice remained in the roads. Every living thing suffered more or less from this terrible winter. The hunters and wolves made sad havoc among the deer, while a great many smaller animals died by starvation. Especially was this true of the quails, which were almost exterminated. A majority of the settlers were from Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina, and having never experienced anything of the kind, were greatly disheartened by this severe winter; but the indomitable Yankees among them, who had seen snows in New England (but nothing like this) took the lead in breaking paths and roads, and cheered up the drooping spirits of the southerners, by talking of spring and its sunshine, and telling them that perhaps such a winter would never come again. President Sturtevant, in the address above quoted from, directing his remarks to the old gray-haired men and women about him, whose minds, with his, were wandering back to the scenes of that terrible winter, gave utterance to the following beautiful sentiments: -
"Before the deep snow!" That is a far-off, unknown region into which, in the minds of most of my hearers, no rays of memory penetrate. To the few of us to whom the words do suggest a vivid picture of reality, that picture is full, both of joy and sorrow. It was to us the time of ardent affections, high hopes, vigorous activities and intense enjoyments. How many of those activities have ceased! How many of those hopes have ended in disappointment! How many of those affections have been blighted! We look around for the friends who, with faces radiant with youth, beauty, and love, looked out with us upon those scenes, and shared our activities, our hopes, and our joys. To many of us not one of them remains among the living. We parted with them at the open grave, long, long ago! The words "before the deep snow" have power to soften our hearts, to bring back to us again, in memory, those bright and beautiful faces; we almost hear gain those tender soothing, loving voices. We love those by whom we are now surrounded; with a full heart we thank them for their sympathy, their fidelity, their affection. The world is now worse than it was before the deep snow; we feel, indeed, that it is better. We do not desire to go back on the dialplate of time and live over again the scenes we were then living. But we love to go back in memory to those olden times, and especially to recall the loved ones who, so long since, we left behind on the journey of life."
Our object being to rescue from oblivion the facts connected with the early history of the county, and having arrived at and given a history of that memorable event, the "winter of the deep snow," our task is finished. The events which have transpired since that date might form a continuation of this history.
But little has thus far been said upon the aboriginal population, and from what has been said, one might infer, that, upon the approach of the white man, the Indians, with alacrity, and without one pang of remorse or feeling of regret, abandoned forever their homes, and never wandered back or lingered among the beautiful hills where their villages had been. When the settlers arrived here, in 1820, there were plenty of Indians here yet. There was a village of Pattawattamies down on Nettle creek, and two camps on Sandy creek - one at what is now called Longnecker's Bend, near Winchester, and the other at bunch's Ford, about a quarter of a mile south of the old Holdeman mill. There was also another on Plum creek, in the west end of North Prairie, and plenty of them camped on the Mauvaisterre. As these Indians were friendly no Indian murders took place in Morgan county. The settlers, however, accused them, sometimes of killing stock. This was at a later period. The Indians would wonder back from the west side of Illinois river to hunt, or to visit again their old homes. The whites, who had warned them to stay away, used to catch one now and then and whip him most unmercifully; and, in one case at least, an Indian was killed. Old Jonathan Young used to relate, that he and a man were once hunting in the bottom, the man said to him, "Do you want to see an Indian?" Upon receiving an appropriate reply he took him into the brush and showed him a dead one. The man said the Indian was carrying a hog, and that the hog killed him! Young always refused to tell the man's name. Many of the old settlers, not withstanding that the Indians were friendly, refused to lay down their arms. Among this number was an old man by the name of J. H. Whiteside, who lived at Plum creek. He used often to say, "that the government had made peace with the Indians, but he'd be d____d if ever he would." While the Indians were camped at Longnecker's Bend, on Sandy creek, Old Uncle Alex. Wells and Jonathan Young went out to cut a bee tree. Jessie and Robert young, who were then little boys, wanted to go along. This they were permitted to do on condition they would wrestle with the Indian boys, which they promised to do; but, on their arrival at the Pattawattamie camp, after a careful survey of the little red-skins, the future president of the bottom, and county judge, backed square out, and refused to come "to the scratch," and no amount of coaxing would induce them to lay hold. The Judge now says, that he backed out because "side holds" were his "best holds", and, as the little ‘Injuns' were on "undress parade," he couldn't see anything to get hold of, but Uncle Jesse says, that as the Judge left the camp, he put one hand on his head to see if his scalp-lock was safe. The practice of "true burial," common to Illinois Indians, was practiced in Scott county, in at least two instances. Many years before the settlement of the county, Uncle Fred. Recobs, who afterwards lived and died at Naples, was a captain of a boat that run on the Illinois river. He informed me that he saw the body of an Indian wrapped in buffalo robes and bark, and suspended high among the branches of an oak tree, a black-jack that stood on the bank of the sand ridge, in the present town of Columbus. Another instance was observed in 1829. Daniel Martin and Anthony New discovered a bark trough suspended in a tree about thirty feet from the ground, on Nettle creek, near the bluffs. One of them climbed the tree, opened the bark trough, and there, to his astonishment, found a body and an opossum.
Soon after the arrival of the white, the Indian camps were broken up, and removed beyond the river, but, up to the year 1830, sometimes they returned, camped again upon the same streams, and hunted upon the still unbroken prairies, but about this period the last of the aboriginal race bid a final farewell to their homes. Love of home in the human heart is a predominant passion, and who shall ever know with what pangs of regret they yielded up the beautiful prairies, forest, hills, and valleys to an alien race. We can see the little bands stopping upon the "bluffs" that line the western bank of that beautiful river that will bear their name down to coming ages - before them the river upon whose bosom they paddled their light canoes, the lovely valley, covered with luxuriant vegetation, with here and there a grove of cottonwoods or willows, or a lakelet, which in the distance looks like a sheet of silver, combining in the formation fo a picture that no painter's brush ever equaled. Beyond are the hills where once the curling smoke told of their peaceful villages. Among those distant hills they played in childhood, hunted birds with tiny bows and arrows, or fished in the streams. There, in after years, they made love to beautiful maidens, whose black eyes and merry laugh brought gladness to an Indian's home, as woman's beauty and loveliness do to the homes of white men. There, in the prime of manhood, their hunters set out for the great prairies to hunt the deer and the buffalo, or painted warriors for distant battle-fields, and again returned, loaded with the fruits of the chase or the spoils of war. Upon the bald, grassy knobs, that fade away in the distance, to the right and the left, are the graves of their dead - the bones of their fathers. Upon these beautiful eminences they buried their dead, that their spirits might look down upon the plain below, or watch the passing canoes upon the river.
No wonder that the Indians wandered back, to visit again the scenes of earlier years, even though "warned by the whites to keep away."
Our object being to rescue from oblivion the facts connected with the early history of the Sangamon country, and having arrived at and given a history of that memorable event, "the winter of the deep snow," our task is finished. The events which have transpired since that date might form a continuation of this narrative, but they are fresh in the memory of the living all about us. When time shall have thrown about them its softening and mellow light, perhaps some other, curious in matters of the past, may gather from the fading memory of the aged and infirm, from old and musty records, newspapers, addresses, and other sources, the important facts, weave them into an historic sketch, hang about them garlands of beauty, tributes to the memory of the dead, honorable notices of the yet living, and then, hoping that others may derive as much pleasure from its pages as he enjoyed while gathering the facts, bid adieu to the reader.