Reminiscences of Bureau County : in two parts.
Matson, N.. Princeton, Ill.. Republican Book and Job Office. 1872.

Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper


Chapter IV

Pages 37-43

Rev. James Sample Preaching To Sinners

There was a man by the name of James Sample, who preached a number of times in Hall's settlement and was known by many of the early settlers. He was a young man of prepossessing appearance, being tall and slim, with a pleasing countenance, and good address: but in intellect and education he was sadly deficient. His sermons had no connection with his test, but consisted of a disconnected exhortation, which was always delivered on a high key; holloing at the top of his voice, and clapping his hands and stamping his feet in a furious manner. He would always take his stand by the side of a door, or a window, and commence his sermon on a low key; but as he advanced, he would become enthusiastic, retreating backwards, always in bad order, into one corner of the room, among the pots and kettles; and on one occasion he upset the dinner-pot, to the great annoyance of the lady of the house.

Sample was not a regular ordained minister, but was operating on his own footing, and, according to his own statement, he was especially called by the Almighty to reprove sinners of the errors of their ways, and warn them to flee from the wrath to come. Sample lived on the east side of the Illinois river, and as there was no ferry in those days, it became necessary for him to swim his horse across it, to meet his appointments. In all his sermons, he would allude to the fact of his having risked his life, by swimming the river, in order to warn sinners of the errors of their ways, and point out to them the way of salvation. Meetings were held at the house of John Hall, and were attended by almost every person in the settlement. Everybody was captivated with the preaching of Young Sample; his earnest manner of presenting the subject, would frequently cause the women to shout, and the men to respond by loud acclamations of joy.

The Parson Turns Horse Jockey

Mr. Hall had a beautiful horse, which he had brought with him from the east, and on account of his good qualities, many had tried in vain to buy him. Sample had noticed this horse on his first visit to Hall's, and as the sequel shows, he thought more of cheating him out of the horse than he did about the conversion of sinners. Sample tried various plans to get possession of this horse, but all to no purpose. Notwithstanding Hall was a great admirer of brother Sample, believing him to be a model of righteousness and piety, and was willing to serve him in almost every way, with the exception of parting with his favorite horse. Sample, to accomplish his ends, thought it best to use a little strategy, and thereby approach Hall in a unguarded moment. In his travels he bought, for a mere trifle, an old, broken-down, worthless horse, but which was at the time fat and sleek, being put in order for the purpose of cheating some person. This horse he brought over to Hall's at his next appointment to preach, saying that he had bought him of brother Aaron Paine, at an exhorbitant price, and would warrant him sound in every particular. Although Hall was a shrewd man, and a good judge of horse, the great confidence which he had in Sample's integrity threw him off his guard and he exchanged his favorite horse for the worthless one. But on the next day he discovered the cheat, as the horse proved to be both balky, blind and spavined, besides being afflicted with almost every malady that horse flesh is heir to. Hall was in a terrible rage when he discovered the cheat, denouncing the minister as an impostor, and a rascal - saying that this transaction showed to him the depravity of human honesty of mankind. In quoting scripture on this point, he referred to a passage applicable to this case. Solomon in his wisdom has said "There is one honest woman among a thousand, but an honest man cannot be found in all the multitude of Israel". Sample preached no more in the Hall settlement, and his trumpet voice, in warning sinners to repent, and flee the wrath to come, was never again heard on the west side of the river.

Job May, The Hunter, And His Beautiful Daughter

On the river bluffs, above the mouth of Bureau creek, lived a man by the name of Job May, who was well known by some of the early settlers. May was an easy, good-natured fellow, disliking work, but had a great fondness for hunting. Each morning, (Rip Van Winkle like), he would take his rifle and accompanied by his dog, cross the river in a canoe, and spend the day in hunting through the bottom or along Bureau creek. Mrs. May, his wife, was an intelligent, high-spirited woman, and used every means in her power to make her home comfortable, notwithstanding the shiftlessness of her husband. Their eldest daughter, Lucy, was at this time about sixteen years of age, a girl of remarkable beauty and intelligence. She was tall and graceful in her movements, with fair skin, and finely moulded features, while her long black hair hung in ringlets over he shoulders, giving to her a queenly appearance. Lucy was regarded the belle of the settlement, and she had many suitors, all of whom she treated with indifference. The Rev. Mr. Sample, in his ministerial excursions, made the acquaintance of Lucy May, and as a matter of course, fell in love with her. Mounted as he was on a fine horse, the one he cheated Hall out of, and his tall manly form set off in a new suit of clothes, he was not long in captivating the heart of the young maiden. Sample's visits to May's house were of frequent occurrence, and these visits were much appreciated by the mother and daughter, but May himself did not approve of them. Being an unbeliever in the Christian religion, and taking but little stock in preachers, he tried to prevent his daughter receiving the addresses of Sample. But Mrs. May, being the head of the family, doing all the thinking for herself and husband, would have things her own way. Matters continued in this wise for some months. May, dressed in his suit of buckskin and his coon cap, with the tail hanging down behind (looking for all the world like Davy Crockett), would each day take his gun and dog for a hunt in the woods; sometimes bringing home a deer or wild turkey as the result of his labor. Mrs. May and daughter would apply themselves to household duties, in providing food and raiment for the family, and was always certain to have everything in fine order to receive the Rev. M. Sample at the time of his weekly visits.

May's cabin was built on the side of the river bluff, the site of which was partly made by an excavation into the bank, so that the roof on the upper side was elevated but little above the ground. The fire-place was about six feet wide, composed of earthern-jams. The chimney equally large, built of mud and sticks, did not extend above the ground, never having been topped out, so that the cabin looked more like a bank stable than a dwelling. On one of Sample's visits to May's house, he introduced the subject of religion, and proposed to have prayers in the family; but May was in bad humor, having that day met with poor success in hunting, and said to Sample, until he returned Hall's horse, his prayers would not be acceptable. After the family had retired for the night, all sleeping in one room, as there was but one apartment in the house, Sample and Lucy sat chatting before the open fire, which had now burned down to a few coals, when an incident occurred which startled the lovers, awoke the family, and frightened the household almost out of their senses.

The Misfortune of Old Blind Bob

Some time before, a neighbor had given May's boys an old blind horse, which was worn out and worthless. The little boys were much pleased with their present, and during the summer months they would ride old blind Bob after the cows. But winter was now coming on, and the grass getting bad, old Bob had become poor and weak, and while searching around the house for something to satisfy his hunger, pitched headlong down the chimney into the fire. The old horse, on landing in the fire-place, commenced snorting and floundering about at a terrible rate, throwing the hot ashes and coals all over the room. The women screamed with all their might, the children cried, and all of May's doubts about there being a devil were now removed, fore here he was, sure enough. Old Bob soon extricated himself from the coals and hot ashes, and with his hair badly singed on one shoulder, was led limping out of the door. A short time after the adventure of old blind Bob, Sample and Lucy were married, and their honeymoon had scarcely passed away, when they met with a tragical end, an account of which will be given in a subsequent chapter.

Chapter V

Page 44-48

Thomas Hartzell, The Indian Trader

In the fall of 1828, Thomas Hartzell, an Indian trader from Pennsylvania, came to this country, and built a trading house on the river bank, a short distance below that of the Fur Company. In this house was held the first County Commissioner's session, as well as the Circuit Court of Putnam county. Mr. Hartzell was a very successful trader; being popular with the Indians, he extended his trade into other localities. He built a trading house at Devil's Grove, and one at Trading House Grove, which were conducted by agents, and by his energy he took a large share of trade away from the Fur Company. There being no ferry at that time goods were taken across the river in a canoe, while the horses were made to swim across. When on the west side of the river, the goods were loaded on the horses backs to be carried to their destination, and the furs and skins returned in like manner. Mr. Hartzell, by his trade, accumulated a large fortune, and on retiring from business, he moved to Waukegan, where he died a few years ago, at an advanced age.

Conspiracy To Murder The Settlers

In the year 1831, Amos Leonard built a cabin, and also a mill, on the creek, a few miles below Indiantown, and about the same time Michael Kitterman made a claim, where he now lives, built a cabin, and occupied it with his family. Robert Clark, with a large family of children, occupied a cabin on Bureau bottom, three miles above the Indian village. The same year Dave Jones, who afterwards became notorious, both among the whites and Indians, built a cabin on the present site of Tiskilwa, and close to the Indian village. With the three former settlers, the Indians lived in perfect harmony, but between them and the latter a bad feeling existed. Jones liked whisky, and hated Indians, and he was not backward in making his likes and dislikes known. He had brought with him into the country a breechy yoke of cattle, which were in the habit of breaking into the Indian's cornfields. Although their pole fences were sufficient to keep out their ponies, it was no barrier to Jones' breechy cattle. Girty was one of the sufferers from the depredations of Jones' cattle, and therefore went to work to be avenged.

Jones and Girty met one day at Hartzell's trading house, and the former being under the influence of whisky, was determined to fight. Jones struck Girty with his fist, and in return, Girty knocked Jones down with the breech of his gun, making a severe wound on his head, and leaving him for dead. Girty's enmity was not only against Jones, but against all the settlers, whom he regarded as trespassers on Indians' rights, and, in accordance with his savage nature, believed it his duty to rid the country of them. He was joined in his murderous designs by twenty warriors, who were a depraved as himself. With them he entered into a conspiracy to murder all the whites within their reach, and thus rid the neighborhood of intruders. Their plan was to go to each house in the dead hour of the night, kill all the inmates, allowing none to escape to give the alarm, and then set the house on fire. To carry out their plans successfully, Girty visited each house of his intended victims, under the pretext of selling some skins; but his real object was to examine the doors of the cabins and means of defense. Most of the settlers were unprepared to make any defense, having only a clapboard door to their cabins, and in some instances a bed-quilt supplied its place. But at the cabin of Elijah Epperson he found things very different. By the side of the house he saw heavy split puncheons for the purpose of barricading the door at night, and on the inside of the cabin, hanging on pegs drove into the wall, were three or four rifles, and about the premises were as many young men capable of using them. Seeing these preparations for resistance caused Girty to leave the Epperson family out of his list of intended victims, and as he was a great coward himself, nothing could induce him to hazard his own life. The murderers were very sly in maturing their plans, not letting any other Indians know anything about them. Their intentions were to kill the families, and make people believe that the murders had been committed by a hand of Sacs and Foxes, from Rock Island, who had been threatening a raid on the settlers. The time had come, and everything was ready for the attack. The warriors, armed with their rifles, tomahawks, and scalping knives, were only waiting for the settlers to retire for the night, when they would commence their work of horror. But an incident occurred which defeated their plans, and thereby saved the lives of their intended victims.

The Murderers Detected, and the Lives of the Settlers Saves

On the night in question, Thomas Hartzell, on returning from the Winnebago swamps with four horses loaded with skins, stopped at the village to transact some business, after which he continued on his journey homewards. In company with Hartzell, was a young half-breed, by the name of Holday, who had been for some time in his emplay. This young half-breed had a sweetheart in the village, and called to see her as he passed through, and in conversation told her that they did not intend to go home that night, owing to the difficulty of swimming their horses across the river after dark, as it was then about sundown, but should stay all night at the cabin of Amos Leonard, which was on their way. It so happened that the father of Holday's sweetheart was one of Girty's conspirators; and a short time after Hartzell and the young half-breed had left, she overheard him in conversation with others of the gang, talking about killing the settlers. Knowing that Hartzell and her lover must fall victims to their savage barbarity, the young squaw ran with all haste to the principal chief, Autuckee, and told him what she had heard. Autuckee had no sympathy with the settlers, regarding them as intruders, and would like to have their throats cut, but knowing that the rash acts of Girty and his followers would only bring vengeance on himself and friends, thought it best to prevent it. He collected a number of his faithful warriors, and with them went to Girty's lodge, where they found him prepared for war, his face painted, and his tomahawk and scalping knife secured in his belt. Girty, finding himself betrayed, did not deny his murderous intentions, but justified himself on the ground that the welfare of the Indians required the expulsion of the settlers. The chief, Autuckee, gave orders for Girty and two of his companions in crime to be bound hand and foot, and kept in confinement for two moons. Thus the expedition was broken up, and thereby the lives of the settlers saved.

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