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 28 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 28 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

gave a terrible yawl, when the dog hastily retreated to his master,
and would not leave him again while in the woods. The wily pan-


ther kept apace with them, and only about fifteen feet away all
through the timber. It was doubtless the jiresence of the dog
that kept the panther at bay and enabled Mr. Hancock to escape.

Mr. Hancock has killed as many as 23 deer within three weeks'
time. At one time while out hunting without a dog, he shot a large
buck deer, causing him to fall. On attempting to rise Mr. Han-
cock siezed him by the hind leg, and with his hunting knife
struggled Avith him for about three quarters of an hour, gashing his
body, until finally, he succeeded in thrusting his knife to the heart.
Often has Mrs. Hancock chased the wolves from her door-yard to
save her chickens. Once a wolf caught a big sheep by his tail, and
pulled him back as he attempted to jump the fence, but Mrs. Han-
cock frightened the wolf away and saved her sheep.

Louis White, of Spring Lake, in relating to us a number of inci-
dents of early times in Tazewell, tells of a scare he received by
being lost on the prairie, and being surrounded by the pesky
wolves. While the wolves were not generally dangerous to persons,
yet they would occasionally attack them, and especially after night.
Mr. White had been at the carding-mill in Dillonville to have some
wool carded for home use. He returned by way of Tremont and
Pekin, and it was well after dark when he passed through Pekiu.
He had a very trusty pair of horses, and after getting a good start
on the road, as he often did he tied the lines around his body and
lay down in the wagon for a nap. He was awakened, after going
he knew not how far, by the yelping and howling of the wolves
which were following him. It was pitch dark, and the horses were
greatly excited. He could not induce them to go as he wished.
They wanted to go one way and he another. He got out of the
wagon and found he was off the road, and in reality lost on the
prairie with packs of ravenous wolves howling on every side. Un-
fortunately he had no fire-arms to defend himself against their attack.
He became alarmed at the unpleasant, yes, dangerous, situation he
was in. Who would not ? Finally he thought he would let his
horses go where they would and trust to them and Providence for
his safety. After going a little ways they again stopped, and he
could not possibly urge them further. Here was a dilemma worse
than the first, — in the midst of the prairie, pitch dark, with wolves
all around to eat him, and his trusty animals unwilling to move.
At last he ventured to get out of his wagon to examine and dis-
cover, if he could, what prevented his horses from going, and to his


utmost surprise found that they had stopped at his own door-yard
gate !


During the early settlement of this part of the State, one of the
prevailing customs of the pioneers was "bee-hunting." Often a
small company would travel many miles into a wild, unsettled
country, in search of the sweet-flavored honey of the wild bee.
Large trees, containing many gallons, and often a barrel, were fre-
quently found by bee-hunters. The little, busy bees would be
carefully watched as they flew heavily laden with the richest extract
of the flowers that were purely native and unknown to the present
generation. They always took a "bee line" for their homes. This
was a correct guide to the sturdy hunter, who had studied with care
the ways of the bee and by their knowledge took advantage of the
little insect. Once on the trail, good bee-hunters were almost certain
to capture the rich prize. After the bee tree was discovered it was
no trouble to get possession of the honey. The tree was felled, and
the hunters would rush for their booty ere it was lost by running
out upon the ground.


We copy a very interesting and graphic article from the " History
of Washington," by John W. Dougherty, upon the social habits
and customs of the people of this community. He says :

" We know but little of the social habits of the people in those
days," referring to the time the first settlers came to the county.
" Their appreciation of education is shown in their efforts to estab-
lish schools, temporary at first, but finally perhianent. Their reli-
gious zeal is shown by their successful efforts in establishing
churches, and their Christian liberality by the number and variety of
them. Nor are we informed in regard to the amusements indulged
in by the young folks ; but, being young folks, we have no doubt
they found many ways of robbing Old Time of loneliness. It
would be unfair to suppose them, especially the ladies, destitute of
fashonable aspirations, but the means for gaudy display were very
much circumscribed in those days. The male attire consisted chiefly
of buckskin, or homespun cloth, — we might add home-woven, the
loom beiu": far more common in or near their rude huts than the
piano or organ. They were not, however, destitute of musical


taste, and many of their vocal performances would compare favor-
ably with our present choirs. We may safely say they sang with
the spirit. Most of the ladies, also, wore homespun, which they
manufactured from wool, flax, cotton, and the bark or lint of the
nettle, colored with such ingredients as nature provided, without the
aid of art. A few even adopted buckskin. How many yards of
the latter article were required for a fashionable dress in those
times, or in what particular style they were cut and trimmed we
are not informed, and must leave the ladies to draw their own con-
clusions. These dresses certainly were durable, and shielded the
wearer in out-door exercises incident to the planting, attending and
gathering of crops, in which pursuit the ladies in all new countries

" Another of the prevailing fashions was that of carrying fire-
arms, made necessary by the presence in the neighborhood of roving
bands of Indians, most of whom were ostensibly friendly, but like
Indians in all times, treacherous and unreliable. These tribes were
principally Pottawatomies. There were also in the northern part of
the State several tribes of hostile Indians, ready at any time to
make a murderous, thieving raid upon the white settlers ; and an
Indian war at any time was an accepted probability ; and these old
settlers to-day have vivid recollections of the Black Hawk and other
Indian wars. And, while target practice was much indulged in as
an amusement, it was also necessary for a proper self-defense ; the
settlers finding it necessary at times to carry their guns with them
when they went to hoe their corn. In some instances their guns
were stacked in the field and the laborers worked for a certain dis-
tance around them, and then moved the guns to a certain position
and again proceeded with their work.

" These were only a few of the hardships incident to pioneer life,
which was largely made up of privations, inconveniences and dan-
gers. They had few labor-saving machines and no reliable markets.
Even communication by letter with their distant friends and relatives
was rendered difficult for want of proper mail facilities, and some-
times for the want of money to pay the postage on the letters sent to
them, — the postage then being twenty-five cents for a single let-
ter, many of which remained in the office for weeks on account of
the inability of the persons addressed to pay the postage."



The earlv settlers were not entirely without preaching. Says an
old pioneer on this subject : " The ministers of the Gospel of the
Savior of the world hunted us up and preached to what few there
were ; therefore we did not degenerate and turn heathen, as any
community will where the sound of the gospel is never heard. I
shall not give their names, though sacred in memory, for they were
not after the fleece, but after the flock, because they had but little
to say about science and philosophy, but spoke of purer things."


Though struggling under the pressure of poverty and privation,
the early settlers planted among them the school-house at the ear-
liest practicable period. So important an object as the education of
their children they did not defer until they could build more comely
and convenient houses. They were for a time content with such as
corresponded with their rude dwellings, but soon better buildings and
accommodations were provided. As may readily be supposed, the
accommodations of the earliest schools were not good. Sometimes
school was taught in small log houses erected for the purpose. Stoves
and such heating apparatus as are now in use were unknown. A
mud-and-stick chimney in one end of the building, with earthen
hearth and fire-place wide and deep enough to take in a four-foot
back-log, and smaller wood to match, served for warming purposes
in winter and a kind of conservatory in summer. For windows,
part of a log was cut out in either side, and may be a few lights of
eight-by-ten glass set in, or just as likely as not the aperture would
be covered over with greased paper. Writing benches were made of
wide planks, or likely puncheons, resting on pins or arms, clriven
into two-inch auger-holes, bored into the logs beneath the windows.
Seats were made out of puncheons, and flooring of the same material.
Everything was rude and plain; but many of America's greatest
men have gone out from just such school-houses to grapple with the
world and make names for themselves, and have come to be an honor
to their country. Among these we can name Abraham Lincoln, our
martyred President, one of the noblest men ever known to the world's
history. Stephen A. Douglas, one of the greatest statesmen of the
age, began liis career in Illinois teaching in one of these primitive

But all these things are changed now. We no longer see the log


school-house. Their places are filled with handsome frame or brick
structures, which for elegance and beauty of design, rival those of
older settled countries ; and in place of the " masters, " who were
" looked up to " as superior beings, and were consulted on all matters
of law, physic and religion, there are teachers of liberal culture, in-
telligent and progressive, many of whom have a broad and compre-
hensive idea of education, and regard their labor as something more
than teaching merely in order to make a living — more than a knowl-
edge of a great number of facts in the universe of mind and matter.
It means culture, the educating, developing and disciplining of all
the faculties of the human mind. It is the comprehension of the
entire being of man ; and the school or teacher who takes charge and
care of the young should provide the means and methods for carry-
ing forward the process in all departments of their complex natures, '
physical, mental and spiritual.


The earliest settlers of the county went to St. Louis with what
little produce they had to sell and the merchants bought all their
goods in that city. Soon, however, Peoria and Pekin became mar-
kets, and produce was wagoned to those cities and from there sent
south on the river. There was at that time no sale for corn, or com-
paratively none, and wheat would bring only a small price ; so that
really there was no impetus given to the raising of grain of any sort,
except for home consumption, until the advent of the railroad. At
that time improvement began. The great resources of the county
which had scarcely supplied more than home demand, were then
turned to supply the wants of thousands. That occasion, the advent
of railroads, was the commencement of agricultural development.
It was the commencement of the manufacturing institutions the
county can now boast of; it was the building of her thriving cities
and towns, — indeed it was the beginning of progress.

The people of this county experienced considerable trouble getting
to Peoria before the construction of the bridge across the Illinois.
It consumed so much time to cross on the slow-going ferry, especially
when there was a " big day " at that place, or when the river was
high. To the settlers who lived on this side of the river the Peoria
merchants offered inducements by paying their toll across and back
if they would trade to the amount of one dollar. The pork-buyers
would also pay the ferriage of those who would bring them pork,


and besides give them dinner and feed their team. This induced
many to go there in preference to Pekin.

In those early days large crops of all kinds of grain could be
raised, but the prices were exceedingly low. Dressed hogs would
bring $1.10 per hundred pounds, while wheat would bring 25 cents
per bushel. At present, when hogs are considered very low, they
are worth alive ^3.50 per hundred, and wheat 95 cents per bushel.

C. R. Crandall tells us he sent a load of grain to Chicago to ex-
change for shingles to cover his first house with. Indeed, many of
the early settlers hauled their produce to that city.

" When the first settlers came to the wilderness, " says an old set-
tler, "they all supposed that their hard struggle would be princi-
pally over after the first year ; but alas ! we looked for ' easier times
next year' for about ten years, and learned to bear hardships, priva-
tion and hard living as good soldiers do. As the facilities for mak-
ing money were riot great, we lived pretty well satisfied in an atmos-
phere of good, social, friendly feeling, and thought ourselves as good
as those we left behind when we emigrated West."


One of the greatest obstacles, and one which wielded a very
potent influence in retarding the early settlement of this county,
was the "chills and fever," or the "ague," or the "Illinois shakes,"
as it was variously styled. This disease was a terror to new comers.
In the fall of the year everybody was afflicted with it. It was no
respecter of persons ; everybody shook with it, and it was in every
person's system. They all looked pale and yellow as though they
were frostbitten. It was not contagious, but was a kind of miasma
that floated around in the atmosphere and was absorbed into the
system. It continued to be absorbed from day to day, and week to
week, until the whole body corporate became charged with it as
with electricity, and then the shock came ; and the shock ^v as a
regular shake, with a fixed beginning and an ending, coming on each
day, or each alternate day, with a regularity that was surprising.
After the shake came the fever, and this " last estate was worse than
the first." It was a burning hot fever and lasted for hours. When
you had the chill you couldn't get warm, and when you had the
fever you couldn't get cool. It was exceedingly awkward in this
respect, indeed it was. It would not stop, either, for any sort of
contingency. Not even a wedding in the family would stop it. It


was imperative and tyranincal. When the appointed time came
around everthing else had to be stopped to attend to its demands.
It didn't even have any Sundays or holidays. After the fever went
down you still didn't feel much better. You felt as though you
had gone through some sort of collision and came out not killed
but badly demoralized. You felt weak, as though you had run too
far after something, and then didn't catch it. You felt languid,
stupid and sore, and was down in the mouth and heel and partially
raveled out, so to speak. Your back was out of fix and your
appetite was in a worse condition than your back. Your head ached
and your eyes had more white in them than usual, and altogether
you felt poor, disconsolate and sad. You didn't think much of your-
self, and didn't believe othfer people did either, and you didn't care.
You didn't think much of suicide, but at the same time you almost
made up your mind that under certain circumstances it was justifi-
able. You imagined that even the dogs looked at you with a kind
of self-complacency. You thought the sun had a kind of sickly
shine about it. About this time you came to the conclusion that
you would not accept the whole State of Illinois as a gift, and
if you had the strength and means, picked up Hannah and the baby
and your traps, and went back "yander" to Injianny, Ohio, or old

"And to-day the swallows flitting

Round my cabin see me sitting

Moodily within the sunshine,
Just inside my silent door —

"Waiting for the "ager," seeming

Like a man forever dreaming;

And the sunlight on me streaming
Throws no shadow on the floor —

For I am too thin and sallow

To make shadows on the floor —
Nary shadow any more! "

The above is no picture of the imagination. It is simply recount-
ing what occurred in hundreds of instances. Whole families would
some time be sick at one time, and not one member scarcely able to
wait upon another. One widow lady at Pekin informs us she lost
nine children from this dreaded disease !


To witness the various processes of cooking in those days would
alike surprise and amuse those who have grown n^ since cooking


stoves and ranges came into use. Kettles were hung over the large
fire, suspended on trammels which were held by strong poles. The
long-handled frying-pan was used for cooking meat. It was held on
the fire by hand ; or, to save time, the handle was laid across the back
of a chair. This pan was also used for baking short-cake. A better
article was a cast-iron spider, which was set upon coals on the hearth.
But the best thing for baking bread was the flat-bottomed bake-
kettle of greater depth, with closely fitting cast-iron cover, and
commonly known as " Dutch oven." With coals over and under it
bread and biscuit would quickly and nicely bake. Turkeys and
spare-ribs were sometimes roasted before the fire, suspended by a
string, a dish being placed underneath to catch the drippings.


The agricultural implements used by the first farmer here would
in this age of im})r()vement be great curiosities. The plow used
was called the bar-share plow. The iron point consisted of a bar of
iron about two feet long, and a broad shear of iron welded to it. At
the extreme point was a coulter that passed through a beam six or
seven feet long, to which were attached handles of corresponding
length. The mold-board was a wooden one split out of winding
timber, or hewed into a winding shape in order to turn the soil over.
Sown seed was brushed in by a sapling with a bushy top being
dragged over the ground. In harvesting the change is most strik-
ing. Instead of the reapers and mowers of to-day, the sickle and
cradle were used. The grain was threshed with a flail, or trodden
out by horses or oxen.

women's work.

The men were not called upon to endure alone all the hardships
and labor of frontier life. The women also had their physical labor
to perfi)rm, and much of it was quite arduous. Spinning was one
of the common household duties. This exercise is one which few of
the present generation of girls have ever enjoyed. The wheel used
for spinning flax was called the "little wheel," to distinguish it
from the "big wheel" used for s])inning yarn. These stringed in-
struments furnished the principal music of the family, and were
operated by our mothers and grandmothers with great skill, attained
without pecuniary expense, and with far less practice than is neces-
sary for the girls of our period to acquire a skillful use of their
costly and elegant instruments.


The loom was not less necessary than the wheel. Not every
house, however, in which spinning was done had a loom ; but there
were always some in each settlement who, besides doing their own
weaving, did some for others. Settlers, having succeeded in spite
of the wolves in raising sheep, commenced the manufacture of
woolen cloth ; wool was carded and made into rolls by hand-cords,
and the rolls were spun on the "big wheel." We occasionally find
now, in the houses of the old settlers, one of these big wheels, some-
times used for spinning and twisting stocking yarn. They are
turned with the hand, and with such velocity that it will run itself
while the nimble worker, by her backward step, draws out and
twists her thread nearly the whole length of the cabin. A common
article woven on the loom was linsey, also called linsey-woolsey, the
chain being linen and the filling woolen. This cloth was used for
dresses for the girls and mothers. Nearly all the clothes worn by
the men were also home-made. Rarely was a farmer or his son seen
in a coat made of any other. If, occasionally, a young man
appeared in a suit of " boughten " clothes, he was suspected of hav-
ing gotten it for a particular occasion, which occurs in the life of
nearly every man.

Not until the settlers had supplied themselves with the more use-
ful articles of clothing and with edibles of various kinds, did wheat
bread become a common article of food. It is true they had it
earlier, but this was only served on extra occasions, as when visitors
came, or on Sundays ; and with this luxury they would have a little
" store coffee." " The little brown jug" found a place in almost every
home, and was often brought into use. No caller was permitted to
leave the house without an invitation to partake of its contents.


The history of pioneer life generally presents the dark side of the
picture ; but the toils and privations of the early settlers were not a
series of unmitigated sufferings. No ; for while the fathers and
mothers toiled hard, they were not averse to a little relaxation, and
had their seasons of fun and enjoyment. They contrived to do
something to break the monotony of their daily life and furnish
them a good, hearty laugh. Among the more general forms of
amusements were the " quilting-bee," "corn-husking," and the
"apple-paring," and in timbered sections, " log-rolling" and "house-
raising." Our young readers will doubtless be interested in a


description of these forms of amusement, when kibor was made to
afibrd fun and enjoyment to all participating. The "quilting-bee,"
as its name implies, was when the industrious qualities of the busy,
little insect that "improves each shining hour" were exemplified in
the manufacture of quilts for the household. In the afternoon
ladies for miles around gathered at an appointed place, and while
their tongues would not cease to play, their hands were as busily
engaged in making the quilt ; and desire was always manifested to
get it out as quickly as possible, for then the fun would begin. In
the evening the gentlemen came, and the hours would then pass
swiftly by in playing games or dancing. " Corn-huskings " were
when both sexes united in the work. They usually assembled in a
large barn, which was arranged for the occasion ; and when each
gentleman had selected a lady partner the husking began. When a
lady found a red ear she was entitled to a kiss from every gentleman
present ; when a gentleman found one he was allowed to kiss every
lady present. After the corn was all husked a good supper was
served ; then the " old folks " would leave, and the remainder of the
evening was spent in the dance and in having a general good time.
The recreation aiforded to the young people on the annual recurrence
of these festive occasions was as highly enjoyed, and quite as inno-
cent, as the amusements of the present boasted age of refinement
and culture.



THE brightest pages of the history of this county are those
which record the acts of love and devotion to the Union of her
people — the sacrifices made during the dark and trying days of the
Rebellion. Well may the people of Tazewell county be proud of
the record thev made both at home and in the field during the war
traitors inaguratcd against the Union. It reflects honor upon their
heads, and as future generations look back through history they will
bless their names for so strenuously ujjholding the best government
ever instituted by man.

When, in 1861, the war was forced upon the country, the people
were quietly pursuing the even tenor of their ways, doing whatever
their hands found to do — working the mines, making farms or culti-
vating those already made, erecting homes, founding cities and towns,

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 28 of 79)