In the fall of this year he settled in Bond county, remaining there until 1823, when he moved to what is now Morgan county, near where Jacksonville now stands. Jacksonville was laid out in 1825. The central part of the state at that time was rapidly filling up with settlers, so much so that Mr. Leeper thought best to gain move farther north, so in the fall of 1831 he moved his family to Putnam county and settled about three miles northeast of the present town of Hennepin, and made claim to 2,500 acres of land. During the Black Hawk war he built a stockade around his house to protect his family from the Indians, while three of his sons enlisted to help carry on the war. In 1833 Mr. Leeper sold his land and moved into Bureau county and bought an unfinished saw mill which was located on Bureau creek about one and one-half miles northwest of Bureau Junction. In 1835 a large amount of land was entered in close proximity to this mill, and after finishing the saw mill he added machinery for a grist mill, also for carding wool and turning wood. Mr. H. B. Leeper informs us that this mill had all the then modern improvements and that it carded the wool, sawed the lumber, and ground the grain for many miles around. The mill burned in 1838, and was never replaced on such a large and perfect scale as before, although there was a small mill there for many years after. Mr. Leeper died in 1835 and was buried in Oakland cemetery, his body being the second interred there. Mr. Leeper was a man full of energy, push and enthusiasm, always ready to take hold of any good work that was calculated to better the condition of his community or the world at large. He was optimistic in his thoughts, a friend of the church and school, and stood for everything that goes to make up good and pure citizenship. He was elected to the legislature in 1827 from Morgan county; was also county judge; but his home was his castle and there he loved to work and plan, not only for his own immediate family, but for the good of all with whom he came in contact. Mr. H. B. Leeper, one of his sons, now lives in Princeton at the ripe old age of 85. He was elected sheriff of Putnam county in 1860.
Cyrus Langworthy was one of the well remembered men of the early days of this county. He was a man of great physical strength, and having courage to match it, he was well fitted for the many places of trust which he was called upon to fill. He came to this county in 1834, was elected sheriff in 1838, and again in 1840, being the first man elected to that office in Bureau county, In 1842 he was sent to the legislature from this district. Mr. Langworthy served in the war of 1812, entering the army at nineteen years of age. Some time after he had retired to private life, there was a change in the politics of the county and the previous party's record was investigated. A committee was appointed and the records examined. Among the number who had to pass "under the rod" was Cyrus Langworthy.
After going carefully over his accounts and settlements with the county, the committee reported that Bureau county owed Cyrus Langworthy thirty-seven cents, which of course brought great satisfaction to him and his friends, for it proved that he had not only managed public affairs with ability but with scrupulous integrity. Mrs. J. C. Taylor, a daughter of his, resides in Princeton at the present time.
In 1829 Warren Sherley made a claim at Heaton's Point. This was the first claim in that vicinity. Eli and Elijah Smith were among the early settlers. They came here in 1831 on their wedding trip. The two brothers married sisters and started from Massachusetts for their future home in Illinois. Dr. Chamberlain accompanied them. Instead of coming into Princeton in a Pullman car, they selected an ox team express and when near their journey's end the express sidetracked and was stuck fast in the mud. It was night and they were looking for Forristall's cabin. After working at the mired down wagon for a time they gave up the effort and started on their journey again. Dr. Chamberlain having the only horse in the party, took Mrs. Eli Smith on horseback behind him, while Mr. Elijah Smith and wife rode on the backs of the oxen. At last it became so dark that they were obliged to camp for the night, cutting brush for a bed. Their camp was near the present site of Malden. After sleeping upon their beds of boughs with the broad canopy of heaven for their shelter, they awoke and found themselves surrounded by the seemingly endless waste of grass and flowers as far as the eye could reach, yes, far beyond the ken of human vision lay the trackless prairies of Bureau county. No sign of civilization met their anxious gaze, but, nothing daunted, they again mounted their steeds and pressed on and finally reached Forristall's in the early twilight.
Mr. Eli Smith, father of Henry Smith, settled about two and one-half miles north of Princeton, where Henry Smith was born and now lives, and lived there until his death, in 1871, a period of forty years. During the Black Hawk war he was obliged to leave his claim for two years. Mr. Eli Smith and his brother Elijah built a double log cabin, in which they lived for some years. Reader, pause and reflect. Can you realize the fortitude, the courage, the indomitable will that it takes to pass through such scenes as this? There are two classes of individuals for which the writer has supreme admiration. One is the pioneer who came here and endured the hardships and privations of frontier life that they might make a home for themselves and their children, and in so doing subdue the country for coming generations to enjoy. The other is for those who in the hour of their country's peril bade adieu to home, kindred, and friends and went forth to do and to die, if need be, that their country might live. So when Decoration or Old Setter's Day comes around and we are asked to contribute a small amount for the defraying of expenses, may we, who today are enjoying the benefits of what their toil, struggles, and privations vouchsafed to us, with a heart of thankfulness give of our time and our means the amount necessary to perpetuate the sacred memory of those heroes of war and of peace.
Robert Hinman came to the county in 1838 and settled in Wyanet township on section 36.
In the early 30's the Mercers arrived in what is now Bureau county. This family traces its line of ancestry back to Scotland. They early settled in Virginia, where, during the Revolutionary war, they did valiant service in the cause of the colonies. Some of the family were very near to Washington in the trying period of colonial days. They were also members of the Continental Congress. After the close of the war, some branches of the family settled in Ohio and were extensively engaged in business; but in 1832 William Mercer, father of Drs. Joe and William Mercer, of Princeton, Illinois, started for the west. Going down the Ohio and up the Mississippi rivers, he reached St. Louis, where he was stricken with cholera, and was without medical aid except the services of his son William, then a lad of but eighteen years.
The natural ability of the boy and his devotion to his father restored him to health and strength, and he moved on and came to Bureau county, where he lived the remainder of his life. His descendants are quite numerous and have filled many places of trust.
Mrs. Jennie M. Bude, to whom we are indebted for this sketch, Mrs.Rachel M. Hamlin, of Princeton, Illinois and Prof. Joseph A. Mercer, of Peoria, Illinois, are the remaining descendants of Dr. William Mercer, the lad whose thoughtful care saved his father's life.
Past and Present of Bureau County, Illinois by George B. Past, Chicago: Pioneer
A colony was formed in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1836 for the purpose of settling in Illinois. There were seventy-two stockholders in the colony, who owned form one to sixteen shears, and each share was to draw eighty acres of land, making the whole amount 17,000 acres. A committee of seven was appointed to select and enter the land. The following were the committee selected: Com. Morris, Colonel C. Oakley, Asa Barney, L. Scott, Edward Bailey, S. G. Wilson, and Caleb Cushing. This committee, after thoroughly investigating the unimproved sections of the state, finally selected township 16, range 8, which is now Indiantown, in Bureau county, for the location of the colony. Most of the land in this township was then vacant. After entering the land the committee laid off a town and named it Providence. Two of the men remained until fall and built a large frame building out of the colony funds, and into this colony house the families moved when they arrived in the spring in 1837.
In March 1837, the Providence colony, numbering about forty persons, took a sailing vessel at Providence, Rhode Island, and started for Illinois. The passage to New York was cold and stormy, so much so that the safety of the boat and passengers was for some time in doubt, but they arrived in New York without serious incident. After spending one day in New York they crossed over to the New Jersey side and then proceeded on their way by canal navigation at the rate of about tow and a half miles an hour. The canal, owing to rains and melting snow, was in a poor state of repair and transportation was much impeded, but they at last reached Pittsburg and took a boat to Cincinnati, and from there to St. Louis, and from St. Louis to Hennepin on a flat-boat, reaching the last named place on May 7, 1837. The next day they hired ox teams to take them to Providence, the place that they in the future were to call home; but it looked like anything but home to those tired women and children on the night of the eighth of May, 1837, just as the sun was sinking down into the western ether, when they arrived in sight of the unfinished colony house that had been prepared for them.
The spring was backward and the prairie had all been burned over and it was black and gloomy. The women acknowledged that they were homesick, but the men, having less regard for truth, denied it, but they were. Their former home was nestled by the murmuring waters of New England, and as they cast a glance in that direction it seemed a long, long, distance away. The house which they all went into was in an unfinished condition; it was before the days of stoves and one fireplace was all they had. They cooked, they ate, they slept in this one building until some houses could be erected. Much could be said of the individuals belonging to that colony. They were a company of energetic and enterprising men who did their full share in the development of Bureau county.
Caleb Cushing and Alfred Anthony both lived to be over eighty years of age. Asa Barney was one of the leaders of the colony. He rode on horseback, being guided by a pocket compass, to Galesburg, in 1836, and entered the land for the colony. Of all that number of men, women, and children that moved into the Providence settlement in 1836, just sixty-nine years ago, but one lives to tell the story, and that is C. E. Barney, son of Asa Barney.
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