pub Chas. C. Chapman & Co..

History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws online

. (page 27 of 79)
Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 27 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

be of as great benefit to the county as any other branch of com-



THE early settlers of this county, although mainly from the
Southern or slave States, entertained a deep-seated prejudice
against the negro, for which it is hard for us to account at the pres-
ent day. This prejudice, we may remark, was not held altogether
and only in this county, for by referring to the Revised Statutes of
this State, approved March 3, 1845, we find the following in chapter
54, under the head of " Negroes and Mulattoes : "

Section 8. Any person who shall hereafter bring into this State
any black or mulatto person, in order to free him or her from slavery,
or shall directly or indirectly bring into this State, or aid or assist
any person in bringing any such black and mulatto person to settle
and reside therein, shall be fined one hundred dollars on conviction
and indictment, before any justice of the peace in the county where
such offense shall be committed.

Section 9. If any slave or servant shall be found at a distance of
ten miles from the tenement of his or her master, or person with
whom he or she lives, without a pass or some letter of token whereby
it may appear that he or she is proceeding by. authority from his or
her master, employer or overseer, it shall and may be lawful for any
person to apprehend and carry him or her before a justice of the
peace, to be by his order punished with stripes, not exceeding thirty-
five, at his discretion.

Section 10. If any slave or servant shall presume to come and be
upon the plantation or at the dwelling of any person whatsoever,
without leave from his or her owner, not being sent upon lawful
business, it shall be lawful for the owner of such plantation or dwell-
ing house to give or order such slave or servant ten lashes on his or
her bare back.

Section 12. If any person or persons shall permit or suffer any


slave or slaves, servant or servants of color, to the number of three
or more, to assemble in his, her or their outhouse, yard or shed, for
the purpose of dancing or revelling, either by night or by day, the
person or persons so offending shall forfeit and pay the sum of
twenty dollars with cost to any person or persons who will sue for
and recover the same by action of debt or indictment, in any court
of record proper to try the same.

Section 13. It shall be the duty of all coroners, sheriffs, judges
and justices of the peace, who shall see or know of, or be informed
of any such assemblage of slaves or servants, immediately to com-
mit such slaves or servants to the jail of the county, and on view or
proof thereof to order each and every such slave or servant to be
whipped not exceeding thirty-nine stripes on his or her bare back.


Very likely all of our readers have heard of the famous Under-
ground Railroad, but ver^- few know anything of its system of work.
Happily the corporation does not now exist, the necessity for the
enterprise not being apparent at the present time, as the class of
freight or passengers transported over the line are not now pro-

The question of slavery has always been a mixed one, from the
time the first slave was imported into our country until, by the
emancipation proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, all men were made
free and equal in the eyes of the law. A strong anti-slavery party
has long existed in the country. The framers of our constitution
upon the organization of the Government had to deal with the ques-
tion of slavery ; the successive administrations from Washington to
Lincoln had to grapple with it ; various compromises were adopted
which it was thought would quiet its spirit ; but like Banquo's ghost,
it would not down at the bidding of any man or party. The death
of Lovejoy at Alton, in 1837, a martyr to the anti-slavery cause,
gave an impetus to the agitation of the question which never ceased
until the final act was consumated which broke in pieces the shackles
that bound the slave.

Growing out of the agitation of this question, and the formation
of a party in sympathy with the slaves, was the organization of the
so-called Underground Railroad, for the purpose of aiding fugitives
to escape to a land of freedom. The secrecy of its workings justi-
fied its name. Notwithstanding the system was an organized one.





those engaged in it had no signs or passwords by which they might
be known, save now and then a preconcerted rap at the door when a
cargo of freight was to be delivered. Each relied npon the honor
of the other, and, as the work was an extra-hazardous one, few
cowards ever engaged in it. Pro-slavery men complained bitterly
of the violation of the law by their abolition neighbors, and perse-
cuted them as much as they dared : and this was not a little. But
the friends of the slaves were not to be deterred by persecution.
" The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church, " and persecution
onlv made them more determined than ever to carrv out their just
convictions of right and duty. No class of people ever made better
neighbors than the Abolitionists, or better conductors on a railroad.
It is well, perhaps, in this connection, to note how the passengers
over this road were received in Canada, the northern termination.
From mere goods and chatties in our liberty-boasting nation they
were transformed into men and women ; from being hunted with
fire-arms and blood-hounds, like wild beasts, they Avere recognized
and respected as good and loyal subjects by the Queen as soon as
their feet touched British soil. At the same time there stood, with
open arms. Rev. Hiram Wilson, the true, noble-hearted missionary,
ready to receive these refugees from " freedom's (?) soil, " and ad-
minister to their wants. In February, 1841, there came a day of
jubilee to the doubting ones, when Queen Victoria's proclamation
was read to them : " That every fugitive from United States slavery
should be recognized and protected as a British subject the moment
his or her foot touched the soil of her domain."

A very singular circumstance in connection with this road was the
fact that, although people well knew who were engaged in it, and
where the depot was located, freight could seldom be found, search as
carefullv as thev miojht. A consignment would be forwarded over
the line, notice of which would reach the ears of slave hunters, and
when ready to ])lace their hands on the fugitives, like the Irishman's
flea, they wouldn't be there. The business of this road for a num-
ber of years was quite extensive, but to-day all its employes are dis-
charged, and, strange to relate, none are sorry, but all rejoice in the
fact. As illustrating the peculiarities of this line we append several
incidents that occurred in this countv :


The main depot of the U. G. Road in Elm Grove township was


at Josiali Matthews', on section 24. Mr. Matthews was an earnest
anti-slavery man, and helped to gain freedom for many slaves. He
prepared himself with a covered wagon especially to carry black
freight from his station on to the next. On one occasion there were
three negroes to be conveyed from his station to the next, but they
were so closely watched that some time elapsed before they could
contrive to take them in safety. At last a happy plan was conceived,
and one which proved successful. Their faces were well whitened
with flour, and with a son of Mr. Matthews' went into the timber
coon-hunting. In this way they managed to throw their suspicious
neighbors off their guard, and the black freight was safely conducted

One dav there arrived a box of freio-ht at ]Mr. Matthews', and
was hurriedly consigned to the cellar. On the freight contained in
this box there was a reward of $1,500 offered, and the pursuers were
but half an hour behind. The wagon in which the box containing
the negro was brought was immediately taken apart and hid under
the barn. The horses, which had been driven very hard, were
rubbed off, and thus all indications of a late arrival were covered
up. The pursuers came up in hot haste, and, suspecting that Mr.
Matthews' house contained the fugitive, gave the place a very thor-
ough search, but failed to look into the innocent-looking box in the
cellar. Thus, by such stratagem, the slave-hunters were foiled and
the fugitive saved. The house was so closely watched, however,
that Conductor Matthews had to keep the negro a Meek before he
could carry him further. This station was watched so closely at
times that Mr. Matthews came near being caught, in which case, in
all probability, his life would have been very short.


Mr. Uriah H. Crosby, of Morton township, was an agent and
conductor of the U. G. E,. R., and had a station at his house. On
one occasion there was landed at his station by the conductor just
south of him, a very weighty couple, — a Methodist minister and
wife. They had a Bible and hymn book that they might conduct
religious exercises where they found an opportunity along the way.
On conducting them northward Mr. Crosby was obliged to furnish
each of them an entire seat, as either of them were of such size as
to well fill a seat in his wagon. The next station beyond was at
Mr, Kern's, nine miles. He arrived there in safety, and his heavy
cargo was transported on to free soil — Canada.


The next passenger along the route that stopped at Crosby station
arrived on election day. A company had passed on northward when
a young man hastily came up. He had invented a cotton gin, and
was in haste to overtake the others of the party as they had the
model of his invention. He was separated from them by fright.
J. M. Roberts found this young man in the morning hid away in
his hay-stack, fed him, and sent his son, Junius, with him in haste
to Mr. Crosby's. On his arrival Conductor Crosby put him in his
wagon, covered him with a buffalo robe, and drove through Wash-
ington and delivered him to Mr. Kern, who took him in an open
buggy to the (Quaker settlement. He overtook his companions.


One of the saddest accidents that ever occurred on the U. G.
Road in Tazewell county was the capture of a train by slave hunt-
ers. Two men, a woman and three children, were traveling together.
The woman and children could journey together only from Tremont
toward Crosby station, as they had only one buggy. The negro
men concluded to walk, but stopped on the way to rest. Waiting
as long as they dared for the men to come up, Messrs. Roberts
started on with the women and children, but had not gone far before
they were stopped by some slave hunters and their load taken from
them. The mother and her three children, who were seeking their
liberty, were taken to St. Louis and sold, as the slave hunters could
realize more by selling them than by returning them to the owner
and receiving the reward.

When the two men came up it was thought best to take them on
bv a different route, the people determining they should not be cap-
tured. J. M. Roberts arranged to take them ou horseback to Peoria
lake. Several men accompanied them, riding out as far into the
water as they could, and by a preconcerted signal parties brought a
skiff to them, into which the men were taken and conveyed across
the river and sent on the Farmington route in safety. All other
routes were too closely watched.


In those exciting days of the U. G. R. R. old Father Dickey and
Owen Lovejoy, strong anti-slavery men, made an appointment to
speak at Washington. On the notice of the meeting being an-
nounced the pro-slavery men took forcible and armed possession of



the church to be occupied by these speakers, and determined, at all
hazards, to prevent the meeting from being held there.

A prominent man of conservative views on the slavery question
advised the anti-slavery men not to attempt to hold the meeting as
they were determined to do, as the mob, he said, were frenzied with
liquor, and he feared the consequences. So they concluded to go to
Pleasant Grove church, Groveland, where they addressed one of the
most enthusiastic anti-slavery meetings ever held in this part of the
State. Owen Lovejoy was the orator of the day. The mob were
determined to follow and break up that meeting also, but were de-
terred by being told that as the anti-slavery men were on their own
ground they would fight, and doubtless blood would be shed.


PIONEER life".

WE shall, in this chapter, give a clear and exact description
of pioneer life in this county, commencing with the time
the sturdy settlers first arrived with their scanty stores. They had
migrated from older States, where the prospects for even a compe-
tency were very poor, many of them coming from Kentucky, for, it
is supposed, they found that a good State to emigrate from. Their
entire stock of furniture, implements and family necessities were
easily stored in one wagon, and sometimes a cart was their only

As the first thing after they arrived and found a suitable location,
they would set about the building of a log cabin, a description of
which may be interesting to the younger readers, and especially
their descendants, who may never see a structure of the kind.
Trees of uniform size were selected and cut into pieces of the de-
sired length, each end being saddled and notched so as to bring the
logs as, near together as possible. The cracks were " chinked and
daubed" to prevent the wind from whistling through. This had to
be renewed every fall before cold weather set in. The usual height
was one story of about seven or eight feet. The gables were made
of logs gradually shortened up to the top. The roof was made by
laying small logs or stout poles reaching from gable to gable, suit-
able distances apart, on which were laid the clapboards after the man-
nner of shingling, showing two feet or more to the weather. The
clapboards were fastened by laying across them heavy poles called
" weight poles," reaching from one gable to the other, being kept
apart and in their place by laying pieces of timber between them
called " runs." A wide chimney place was cut out of one end of
the cabin, the chimney standing entirely outside, and built of rived
sticks, laid up cob-house fashion, and filled with clay, or built of


stone, often using two or three cords of stone in building one chimney.
For a window a piece about two feet long was cut out of one of the
wall logs, and the hole closed, sometimes with glass, but oftener
with greased paper pasted over it. A doorway was also cut through
one of the walls, and the door was made of spliced clapboards and
hung with. wooden hinges. This was opened by pulling a leather
latch-string which raised a wooden latch inside the door. For se-
curity at night this latch-string was pulled in, but for friends and
neighbors, and even strangers, the " latch-string was always hang-
ing out," as a welcome.

In the interior, upon one side, is the huge fire-place, large enough
to contain a back-log as big as the strongest man could carry, and
holding enough wood to supply an ordinary stove a week ; on either
side are huge poles and kettles, and over all a mantle on which was
placed the tallow dip. In one corner stood the larger bed for the
old folks, under this the trundle-bed for the children ; in another
corner stood the old-fashioned large spinning wheel, with a smaller
one by its side ; in another the pine table, around which the family
gathered to partake of their plain food ; over the door hung the
ever trustful rifle and powder-horn ; while around the room were
scattered a few splint-bottomed chairs and three-legged stools ; a
rude cupboard holding the table ware, which consisted of a few
cups and saucers and blue-edged plates, standing singly on their
edges against the back, to make the display of table furniture more

These simple cabins were inhabited by a kind and true-hearted
people. They were strangers to mock modesty, and the traveler,
seeking lodgings for the night or desirous of spending a few days in
the community, if willing to accept the rude offering, was always
welcome, although how they were disposed of at night the reader
may not easily imagine ; for, as described, a single room was made to
serve the purpose of kitchen, dining-room, sitting-room, bed-room,
and parlor, and many families consisted of six or eight members.


For a great many years but few thought it advisable to attempt
farming in the prairie. To many of them the cultivation of the
prairies was an untried experiment and it was the prevailing opinion
that the timber would soon become very scarce, a fear soon proven
to be without foundation. Another obstacle that was in the way for





a great many years was that no plows suitable for breaking the
prairie land could be had. The sod was very much tougher then
than it was in after years when the stock had pastured the prairies
and killed out the grass to some extent. It would be astonishing
to the younger residents to see the immense crops of prairie grass
that grew upon the fields which are to day in such a high state of
cultivation. It grew in places six to twelve feet high. It was
these immense crops of grass that furnished the fuel for the terrible
fires that swept over the prairies during the fall. Then, again, there
was so much of the prairie land that was considered too wet to be
ever suitable for cultivation. Many of the older settlers now liv-
ing well remember when farms that are now in the highest state of
cultivation were a vast swamp. There was another drawback in the
settlement of the prairies, and that was the great labor and cost of
fencing. But the principal reasons for locating in the timber was
that many of their cabins were poor, half-finished affairs, and pro-
tection from the driving storms was absolutely required. The
timber also sheltered stock until such times as sheds and out
buildings could be erected. That the time should soon come when
intelligent, enterprising farmers would see that their interest lay in
improving prairie farms, and cease clearing fields, when there were
boundless acres presenting no obstacle to the most perfect cultiva-
tion, argues nothing in the policy of sheltering for a time in the
woods. In regard to the pioneers settling along the timber, we
often hear remarks made as though the selection of such locations
implied a lack of judgment. Those who are disposed to treat it in
that manner are asked to consider carefully the above facts, when
they will conclude such selection argued in their favor.

Clearing of timber land was attended with much hard labor.
The underbrush was grubbed up, piled into heaps and burned. The
large trees were in many cases left standing, and deadened by gird-
ling. This was done by cutting through the bark into the wood,
generally through the " sap," all around the trunk.


Not the least of the hardships of the pioneers was the procuring
of bread. The first settlers must be supplied at least one year from
other sources than their own lands. But the first crops, however
abundant, gave only partial relief, there being no mills to grind the
grain. Hence the necessity of grinding by hand power, and many


families were poorly provided with means for doing this. Another
way was to grate the corn. A grater was made from a piece of tin,
sometimes taken from an old worn-out tin bucket or other vessel.
It was thickly perforated, bent into a semi-circular form, and nailed,
rough side upwards, on a board. The corn was taken in the ear and
grated before it got dry and hard. Corn, however, was eaten in.
various ways.

Soon after the country became more generally settled, enterprising
men were ready to embark in the milling business. Sites along the
streams were selected for water-power. A person looking for a mill-
site would follow up and down the stream for a desired location, and
when found he would go before the County Commissioners and se-
cure a writ of ad quod damnum. This would enable the miller to
have the adjoining land officially examined, and the amount of dam-
age by making a dam was named. Mills being such a great public
necessity, they were permitted to be located upon any person's land
if the miller thought the site desirable.

A horse-mill was built on the southeast quarter of section 1, Sand
Prairie township, in 1830-1, by Elisha Perkins. People for many
miles away came to this mill, but its capacity was small. During
the Black Hawk war John Essex and others came from the extreme
northern part of Knox county to this mill to have their grain
ground. During these perilous times a fort was began at this mill.
It was intended to enclose it with a heavy palisade so that the set-
tlers would not be cut oiF from food, and also to jn-otect the people.
But the fort was never fully completed. The puncheons of which
it was made remained in position for several years afterward.

Mrs. Parmelia Brown, widow of Rev. William Brown, the i^ioneer
preacher, tells us that during the winter of the deep snow they, as
well as many others, had to pound their corn in a mortar.


The wild animals infesting this county at the time of its settle-
ment, were the deer, wolf, bear, wild-cat, fox, otter, raccoon, wood-
chuck or ground-hog, skunk, mink, weasel, muskrat, opossum, rab-
bit, and squirrel ; and the principal feathered game were the quail,
prairie-chicken, and wild turkey. Several of these animals furnished
meat for the early settlers ; but their principal meat did not consist
long of game. Pork and poultry were soon raised in abundance.
The wolf was the most troublesome animal, it being the common


enemy of the sheep. It was quite difficult to protect the sheep from
their ravages. Sometimes pigs and calves were also victims of the
wolf. Their howling in the night would often keep families awake,
and set all the dogs in the neighborhood to barking. Their yells
often were terrific. Says one old settler : " Suppose six boys, having
six dogs tied, whipped them all at the same time, and you would
hear such music as two wolves would make." To effect the destruc-
tion of these animals the county authorities offered a bounty for their
scalps and besides big hunts were inaugurated for their destruction,
and " wolf hunts " are prominent among the memories of the early
settlers. Such events were generally turned into a holiday, and
everybody that could ride a nag or stand the tramp on foot joined in
the deadly pursuit. A large circuit was generally made by the
hunters, who then closed in on every side, driving the hungry wolves
into the center of the corral, where they were despatched. The
return home with the carcasses was the signal for a general turn-out,
and these " pleasure parties " are still referred to by old citizens as
among the pleasantest memories of early life in Tazewell county.
Many a hungry wolf has been run down on the prairies where now is
located a town or fine farm residence. This rare old pastime, like
much of the early hunting and fishing the pioneers indulged in here,
departed at the appearance of the locomotive.

Mr. J. Mooberry, his friend, Mr, Hudson, from Ohio, and a
number of young men of Groveland, started on a wolf hunt one
day many years ago. The young fellows were careful to take the
best and fleetest horses, leaving, as they laughingly said, " the plugs
for the old men." A wolf was soon found and chase given. After
running a long distance it went through a herd of horses. This
checked all the dogs save two, Avhich followed it. It ran directly
toward the two "old men," and plunged into the thick, tall grass of
a slough ; but soon the dogs came up and jumped upon the fatigued
animal. Before the dogs killed it, however, the men jumped from
their horses, muzzled the wolf and secured it alive. Mr. Mooberry
took it upon his horse in front of himself. Soon the laugh was on
the " boys," as the old men had captured the game.

Kezer Hancock, an early settler and quite a noted hunter, was
out hunting in Groveland township in the year 1839, when he sent
his very large bull-dog after a panther. He followed it until it

Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 27 of 79)