Old Time Article
Reproduced from a publication in 1877
By Dr. Hiram Rutherford
[contributed to Illinois Genealogy Trails by src#2]
WHISKEY. This well known word is one of the very few which the Irish have added to the English language. It is unnecessary to comment upon the potency or prevalence in civilized or savage life throughout the world. It is certainly the kind of artificial drinks. Our purpose in this paper is to tell of its ways and works in the early days of this village.
We have heretofore stated that the first business house was first occupied as a doggery. This house as we have seen was next used for the sale of dry goods, and of course, the law and whiskey had to go into other quarters. Sometimes in one place and sometimes in another. In this connection we would remark that the veteran whiskey drinker of today will vainly sigh for the good old times when no government tax troubled the people, no even a license from any local authority, interposed in the enjoyment of either whiskey or tobacco. Two cents per quart left a great margin for the vendor and the happy consumer had the satisfaction of knowing as he swallowed the beverage that it was the pure corn juice or honest "bold-face" that assaged his burning thirst. Oil of vitirol? Or strychuine whiskey was then unknown.
It was we believe in 1840 (we hope the reader will excuse our mistaken dates) that Joshua Davis, a heavy set, sore-eyed man came to Independence. He had with him his son-in-law Jim Ladd and his sons Merriman, Nat, Uriah and Welch.. This strong force of men should have done something in the way of building up the town. But to tell the truth about it they were a desperately lazy set and as a matter of course were shockingly dirty. As a "specimen brick" in this latter particular we will state that Mrs Ladd had two children of five and seven years- a girl and boy, if we remember rightly. Their dress consisted of but one garment made like a shirt or slip, which reached to their bare knees. This convenient covering did duty day and night and certainly never saw the inside of a wash tub for one summer season. By long and judicious usage the fronts and backs of these dresses had become very dark thickened and glazed with dirt and grease whilst the sides were of a primitive yellow and compratively (sic) mobile; resembling as a whole the shell of a turtle in a striking degree.
Most of men live by their wits but the Davis's struck a medium and lived partly by labor. By a moderate use of the strong muscular power which nature had given them, they commenced building a doggery on the corner where the bank now stands. The logs for this building were cut on congress land and were first squared and then whip-sawed into plank of three inches in thickness. These were set on edge and joined at the corners, house log fashion. This house which now does duty as a dwelling a mile west of town was opened for business near the close of the year. Mr Daniel Swell furnished the capital which consisted of a barrel of whiskey and a few rolls of domestic tobacco. The two dry goods houses had by this time fizzled out and Messrs. Davis & Swell like Lot of old, had all the plain of Ambraw before them.
The habit of country people coming to town on Saturday was as common then as it is now and in this **********? We had noticed that they immediately disappeared from the ****** and as a rule would be seen no more that day. Passing by the doggery on one of these days we heard issuing from it a loud continuous noise and having a curiosity to see ****** life in all its **** we stepped inside to take a look at the congregation. Nobody was drinking but them. All were talking or speaking at the top of their voices and guestulating? wildly and nobody appeared to be listening. Dodging around behind the *** we took a seat by Lindley Ashmore and ****** ***** who were just ****** (water damaged unreadable) *********************************** wolf skins******************* blue eyed***************************** hat. The large man had button holed his auditor?; that is, he had grasped him firmly by both collers which rendered retreat impossible. The small man was not a good listener his attention was careless and every half minute he broke into a line or tow of some doggerel ditty that appeared to float about in his mind. From this state of oblivion he was recalled by a tap of his companion's great fist on his breast and "now Jim, I'll tell you what sort of man I am!" Jim was aroused by the rudeness perhaps and inquired sharply "Ain't your name Ole Yaller?" "Yes, Mr. Hunt," and the large man raised his fist and waved his great read nose. Yes, people call me Ole Yaller, you know that that isn't my real name but the people call me so. A nick-name is just as good as any, it don't make any difference in a name. I'll tell ya what Jim, I brought some yaller boys with me to this country but I ain't got any now. I paid four hundred dollars in gold for the place I live on, and that's the way I got the name Ole Yaller. Your' (sic) a Whig and I'm a Democrat, but that don't make any difference either between us. I believe in doin' what is right and honest, and I try to do tha way myself, though some of my neighbors who belong to the church don't tell the truth always, but then that's their business. I'm from ole Virginay, and I believe what's right is right; that's me, that's jist the sort of man I am--- that's Ole Yaller!"
Of the men who wasted their substance and their lives around Davis & Swalls dead fall, many of them were good estimable people in very many respects. Their thirst for liquor was by far their greatest fault. "Old Yaller" was a very kind, good man at home; so was John B. Dougherty, who carried to his grave the great wen on the side of his face. Lyman Keys went to the Mexican war and left his bones at Chepultepec. Lindly Ashmore was a quiet peaceable person and excelled in honor and honesty as we thought all other men. We happened one day to pass some men sitting under the shade of a tree near Hall's smith shop, who were engaged in the then heated subject of politics. Ashmore, carrying as usual a pretty heavy load, sat with his eyes half shut and said nothing till a pause occured in the conversation, when he remarked by way of interjection probably that the Whig party now was just the same as the Tories were in the revolution. At this Reuben Dannals, a man of seventy five, sprang to his feet greatly excited. "Mr. Ashmore, you have insulted me, you have called me a tory. You know I was a Whig and you have called me a Tory. I am an old man and cannot help myself; I will not speak another word to you!" "Hold on Uncle Dannals, hold on," said Lindley, getting wide awake, "I ax yer pardon, that was all wrong, what I said was all wrong. I take it all back inter me, and I ax yer pardon." Wm. L. Ashmore never quit his drinking habits. Exposure brought on pleursy; as the ty** hold symptoms increased his mind wandered, and his hands picked the clothes and hunted for jugs and other drinking ware and so passed away a man upon whose like this generation will probably never cast its eyes.
Times were hard and people had no money. It took money to buy whiskey and Davis & Swall resolved to start a distillery and make their own liquor. They put up a rough log building covered with clap boards and weighed down with p**** and getting some mash tubs, by the aid of the horse sills around, they made a start on their new departure. When the first run was ready, men collected around the building; some with jugs and some without jugs waiting for a free drink of the first run in accordance with old time custom. The older Davis with candle in hand had visited the dark corner where the barrel stood to **** the precious beverage. Two or three times he had visited it and reported good news-
The run was ****ing "beautifully" as he said, and the barrel was pretty well filled. Dan Swalls who was the most awkward blundering man we ever knew became excited, snatched up the candle and started for the barrel. In his eagerness he held the candle too close and the spirits ignited and the barrel exploded with a great noise filling the house with steam and smoke. Soon after ******* wo had a ************* Squire Pemberton***********inquired of him "what's the matter down there Jo?" "***** enough, the thing's ***** to hell and with a ******************************************************
[This article continued on 2/9/1905]
Many years ago when the slavery question was at its height, Senator Hammond of South Carolina, in a political discourse before the U.S. Senate, held the opinion that civilized society like a culvert or a bridge necessarily rested on a mud sill substructure, and in this subject or classification be included all laboring people. Without presuming to criticise the senator's dogma, which was well abused at the time, we deem it best in this paper, after adopting his nomenclature, to restrict our classification of those only, whose lives and habits in an eminent degree, were of the earth earthy, anti-types of Sodom and specimen Turks. All communities are supposed to be blessed more or less by people of this character and new countries or settlements herein usually have a Benjamin's portion of them. Our section of country had its foul mouthed, filthy people and possibly may have some yet, but we are dealing with those who have passed away, deeming it a true maxim that all de-merit as well as merit, has a right to be recorded.
Of Strawder Lamb, who so long lived with us, it might be said that the less written about him the better. That his power of nastiness in habit and conversation would be very difficult to describe, and then the morcean should, according to the practice of Gibbon, be wrapped in the folds of a learned or foreign language. Not being otherwise an interesting individual, we wash our hands and proceed to the next.
Barney Russel was a native of Ohio. An immensely large, raw-boned man. He was very stoop shouldered, and on account of his extremely rough appearance, received from Lindly Ashmore the name of "Mountain Sprout." A name which he rather liked and which stuck to him whilst he remained in the country. Russel was a ready, quick-witted man, never at a loss for and answer, particularly when dirt and filth would suffice for a reply. He was a very good man to meet at the horse mill; could help to kill time whilst waiting "turns" with anybody, and told his stories, such as they were, in good style. Like the late President Lincoln, his memory was stored with illustrations. Mr. Russel resided for a couple of years east of town, and there set up a cheese factory. In this line of business he was quite successful, his rent cost him nothing, and our village ladies appreciated his cheese, amazingly. It had, as they termed it, a "smarty state." Samuel Rains, another of these mud sills was more remarkable for his exceedingly repulsive appearance than for any other good or evil belonging to him. His mind was dark as Egypt, his vocabulary consisted of but few words, and some of these he pronounced in a way peculiar to himself. Owning a good farm, he never had five dollar's worth of goods in his house, and though ill to his family, provided enough to eat as least. He died in 1853, aged 68 years as his tombstone in the upper graveyard states. He invented the proverb "Let a man be a man, or a long-tailed rat."
Our last and best subject, as we think, was the late Lord E. Archer. Mr. Archer when we first knew him, was about fifty-five years of age. A large muscular man and weighed probably tow hundred and fifty pounds. He claimed Vermont for his native state, but ran away from home when he was quite young. In excuse for his disgraceful act, he stated that his father was harsh and cruel to him. It might ***** be said of him that his whole life was an ****ation of the sentiment of *** "beware of that man who has been ill treated when he is a child." In Ohio he set to work and by industry gathered together considerable means?, with which he emigrated to this country in an early day. He built the first house on Donica point and made an "improvement" which ****************************** farm on which Mr. G.W. Hackett now lives. In the course of time he added to the property on the Springfield road where Mr. Gobert now resides and at this latter place remained for a number of years. His power of consuming and carrying whisky was simply wonderful. We have seen him drink tumberful after tumberful without causing prostration. He remarked to us once in reference to himself, as a very curious fact, that whenever he drank sufficient to warm him all through and all over, he then had enough. For this purpose, it required he said, just about a quart, but if he happened to take the least bit over that measure, it was sure to fly to his head.
Selfishness with him was a leading characteristic. He never traded when he was drunk and always bought his whiskey by the quart or gallon. In his trading practice, public opinion had no terrors for him if it stood in the way of gain. His motto was to make money, honestly if he could, but to make it any how. Hence those who traded or trafficked with him had to keep their "eye skinned." That he had any conscious, many people doubted. We happen to know better; he had. One day he sent us an urgent call, but before reaching his house we met another messenger under whip. Lord E. was very bad, we could hear his lion like voice in anguish, a hundred yards from the house. We found him suffering with strangulated hernia. We had the good fortune to relieve him in a minute or two, and of course the intense pain ceased instantly. Mr. Archer rose up on the side of the bed, and as we happened to stand in front of him, he placed his hands upon our cheeks and gently drew us nearer to him. As fast as his exhausted breath would allow him, he poured out a torrent of gratification and affection. "Oh doctor, you have saved my life; I always did love you; I always will love you, and I never will try to cheat you again." We made no answer and probably misunderstanding our bewilderment, he immediately added with great energy, "Do you think I ever will try to cheat you again?" "No, no, certainly not, Mr. Archer," we hurriedly replied, but as he gave us no farther explanation we are in the dark to this day, as to what transaction or incident he alluded.
We will ask the patience of our readers whilst we produce another "proof" in point. Mr. Archer's craving disposition caused him to work his boys to the verge of endurance. They were stunted, and grew up small-bodied men, in striking contrast to his own towering form. Giving was not his forte. We never heard of him giving a cent to any civil or religious purpose. He gave nothing to his children and pocketed every dime that they earned. To provide themselves with pocket money for shows etc., the boys stole his corn and sold it to movers, a clandestine operation likely to induce light fingered habits. One of these boys was married and lived on a tenant on his father's farm. Finding a pair velveteen pants hanging at the afore door of Burson & Elliott one day, he appropriate them, but failing to conceal them had to give up the ******. The condition of the "arrangement" was that he had to leave the country, and being without money, he applied to his father. At that time Mr. Archer was sick, he had been suffering for several weeks with a catarrh? In his head, and believing his end near at hand, had engaged Squire Pemberton to write his will. Having an unsettled account against the fugitive, we called on the old man a few days after the boy's flight to see what was our prospects. We found Mr. Archer pillowed up in his rocking chair and he commenced at once to tell us of his trouble. He states that when Burson & Elliot were in the house making a good deal of confusion, he had enquired of them what was the matter, they told him what it was, but he could not believe it and called the boy up to ******* in the chair and asked him ******** the pants?" "Well father, I guess I took them." "Now," said Mr. Archer, "it had never come into my mind that I had ever raised a child to steal and I felt then that I wanted to die. But the boy said he had to go and had no money and he wanted me to give him ten dollars. I told him to wait until morning, but he said he had to go that night, and Burson and Elliot put in and said he must go. So I gave him the ten dollars. Did I do right? I've wanted to see you ever since, to ask you if I did right. If it wasn't right and I think it was not; I could not help it, I could not see him go out into the night and into the snow, without a cent of money." At this point the old man broke down, and placing his face in his hands he wept for some time. We sat by and saw the tears come through his fingers and heard him pray in the intervals of his sobbing that he might die. Words of sympathy, like water, are a cheap commodity but these are scenes and circumstances where they are useless. We know of nothing so sad and distressing as to hear an old man cry. At last he partially cleared up wiping away his tears. "Oh doctor, I know I did wrong to give him that ten dollars, but I could not help it. (Here he broke again.) But then I took it for his cow, his oat stack, three shoats and five acres of corn." Our tale is done. Not withstanding his intemperate habits, his iron frame endured till far in his eighty-fourth year. . He departed in September 1866 and lies buried in the upper graveyard, the oldest man probably who ever died in this part of the country.
[This article continued in 2/23/1905]
As a sequel to the mercantile subject, which mainly occupied our last paper, we beg to add a few paragraphs as to the merchants of Oakland--- the builders of the business and other houses erected during the period embraced in No. 8. Robert Bell was one of the first carpenters who came to this part of Illinois. He build and owned the hours where H. D. Williams resides and lived there a number of years. He build the house in which Dr. Pesk lives and many other structures of less note. As a joiner he was superior to any workman we have ever known and much of his work which remains will, we think, bear out our estimate. In those days the finishing lumber a carpenter had to work with was undressed poplar. No planing miller or sash factories then. Everything needed in the construction of a house including flooring, moulding, etc., had to be worked out by hand. House frames were generally of hewed material with the corner post rabbited. The price of lumber at the time we refer to was usually about $10 per M, but had to be hauled from the Wabash country. A carpenter's wages were a dollar to a dollar and a quarter per day, and common labor about half that price, yet it cost more to put up a house then than it does now. At an early day our venerable friend Andrew Gwinn, with the help of "Billy Nokes," supplied our market by whipsaw, at the rate of four dollars per hundred. Two men could saw two hundred feet per day. Mr. Gwinn and Nokes by this laboring process manufactured a good many thousand feet. Mr Bell removed to Newman and is said to be residing at his time somewhere in Southern Illinois. John Barber came to this country in 1846. He happened to own some very good woodland west of town, and being a tolerably good workman, did more building for our citizens than any other person. He went to Iowa about twenty years ago.
It would not be fair to omit our catalogue of mechanics, Mr. Alpheus Jaques, the wagon maker, "Jake away off," as Nicols Curtis called him. He came here in '41, we believe, and was a connection, by marriage, with Barney Russel. If he is living today, we think it probable that he is the same boyish man that he was when we knew him here. His delight was a pair of little rat like ponies which he drove in style; going out of town or when he thought anyone was looking at him like the wind and coming back as Dave McConkey described it, like "cats-a-fighting." If you wanted to raise a storm, just drop a hint disrespectful of the ponies, and if you wanted a favor, praise them and Jaques' heart would forthwith soften like wax. He made wagons and buggies out of old rails and most anything he could pick up. His skill with the draw-knife was remarkable and the rapidity with which he turned off work was equally so. With the conglomerate mass which is required to make a world, Jaques was a many sided crystal, a crystal whose colors and hues depended upon the quantity and the quality of the light which fell upon it.
Thirty or forty years ago the mill business was a great favorite with the public, greater it seems to us then it is now. The possession of a horse mill ...[end of info]
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