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Early Times in Jasper

J.A. Black Tells of Incidents of the Long Ago

The Newton Press - Friday, January 28, 1927
©Transcribed by Kim Torp


J.A. Black, better known as "Al," is 84 years of age, but to see him and watch him get about, you would not think he was over 70. He is still quite active, tending to the household chores and coming to town at least once a day. Mr. Black is a Civil War veteran, having enlisted in 1861. After Lee's surrender he lived in Coles county, moving back to Newton in 1876. During much of his long and active life he was a farmer and carpenter, being a familiar figure on all buildings in this vicinity a quarter of a century ago. He is a basketball fan and never misses a game here if he can help it.

He moved to Jasper county with parents, along with four or five other families from Pike county, Indiana, in 1848. They settled in the Asbury neighborhood on what was known as "congress land," that is land not entered by anybody at that time. After they had built their log cabin and cleared part of the farm of timber and brush, they were forced to move by people purchasing the land of the government. William Black, his father, entered a piece of land, but traded it for a yoke of oxen. The family next settled in the Shamrock vicinity and again erected a log cabin. At this time, nearly eighty years ago, very few people resided in the southwest part of Jasper county, or any other part of it, for that matter. Families within a mile or two of each other were considered near neighbors.

Newton at that time was a little hamlet and although the trading center for the surrounding country, had no grist mill. Mr. Black, Sr., drove to Mount Carmel once a year in an ox cart loaded with corn, making the journey in four days, two days each way, and brining back the corn meal. After two years of this a grist mill was started at Sainte Marie, greatly shortening the distance and taking only two days instead of four. The family had no wheat flour at this time.

One time during the winter, Mr. Black, Sr. had gone to Sainte Marie for meal, when an ice storm like that of Sunday and Monday covered the whole country with a glaze of ice. It was a week before he was able to get home, since the oxen could not travel on the slippery surface. Meantime the family lived on hominy.

People at that time raised no wheat, although in the seventies and eighties Jasper county was a large producer of this small grain. Corn bread and hominy, both made from Indian corn were the staple foods, helped out by wild game, which was plentiful. Mr. Black remembers Squire Philistus Needham whom he believes raised the first wheat in the county about 1853. Early settlers for some reason did not believe this grain would grow here and pioneers who tried were ridiculed.

The first time Mr. Black came to Newton was in 1852 when his parents came to town to trade. The village consisted of two or three stores and a few houses, mostly built of logs. The court house occupied a part of the present courthouse yard. The houses were grouped around the square and one or two were found south and a few to the west. Brush was all there was between the square and the Embarras river. Dr. John G. Franke had a drug store where the Mrs. Elizabeth Garnier home on West Jourdan street now stands. Across the road where George S. Batman now lives was a store kept by John Mattingly.

A Mr. McKane, an Irishman, had a frame house where the S.F. Laugel home now stands. Mr. Black believes this house is yet standing, being now used as a barn is located a block or two farther west. This location was then in the woods which encroached on the edges of Newton on all sides. To the south on Washington street and the whole of what is now west Newton was a cornfield. East of the square woods extended up to within a block and it was not until after the coming of the railroad in 1876 that houses were built in that direction. The farthest house in that direction was on the site of the Skelton property, and was occupied by a man by the name of Barbec who tried to establish an iron foundry here.

There were two churches in Newton at that time, Grace M.E. and St. Thomas Catholic. The old building then occupied by the Catholic church is still standing back of the present brick structure, being used as a library. The Methodist church was on the site of the present edifice. In 1857 a somewhat larger one was built and this was later replaced with the present church. Mr. Black carried shingles at 10 cents per day for Samuel Barker and John Richards, who had the contract for roofing it. He was then a boy 14 years of age.

The first schools were held in old and unused log cabins. Teachers were paid or boarded by the parents of the pupils. The first public school of any size was built in 1856 and is now the Jayne hotel.

When Mr. Black enlisted for service in the Civil War in 1861, his company was sent to Missouri and Arkansas. He was in the battle of Frederickstown, Mo., and just missed participating in the battle of Shiloh because the Mississippi river was up. The boats which were to take the troops from Cape Girardeau, Mo., were delayed by high waters, and when they arrived the battle had been fought. The steamers were packed so full there was not room to lie down. His company took part in the Buell campaign after the siege of Corinth, Miss. They marched 700 miles to rejoin Buell's corps in Kentucky. Soon after the battle of Stone river he was taken to the hospital, were he spent fourteen months, rejoining his command in Arkansas.

Mr. Black remembers distinctly the Lincoln-Douglas campaign of 1860. The favorite campaign stunt of those days was pole raising. The Lincoln Republicans had put up a high pole surmounted by a flag at the southwest corner of the square. The Democrats, not to be outdone, proceeded to raise a higher pole, made of several hickory spars spliced together, but it broke in two. After shortening it, they raised the pole, but when they went to pull up the flag, the pulley at the top broke. Finally they paid a stranger $5 to climb the mast and put up the flag in a triumphant manner. A Republican stunt of the time was to have a wagon drawn by thirty-two yoke of oxen on which were men splitting rails.

A Pioneer Citizen
Uncle Henry Dulgar, of Crooked Creek.
He relates experiences for the Press, April 21, 1903
[contributed by
Source #28]

Henry Dulgar
Photo contributed by Aaron M. Funfsinn, ggg-grandson of Henry

Uncle Henry Dulgar reached his 78th. milestone in life on the 15th. inst.,and as he is a pioneer with a wide circle of friends, the Press takes pleasure in reproducing these memories from his pen:

Was born April 15, 1825, in Pickaway county, Ohio, on the Scioto river, near Circleville; saw the first boat run down the Lake Erie canal in 1833, and recollect quite distinctly the shooting stars of the same fall; moved with my parents to Fairfield county, Ohio, east of Lancaster in 1839; was married to Margaret Swick in 1845, and in 1847, removed to Crooked Creek township, Jasper county, Illinois, where I have resided ever since, excepting a year in Greenup.

Seven children were born to myself and wife, her death occurring February, 1856. In September following, I married Sarah Ann Ervin, and to this union eight children were born. Of the two unions six sons and six daughters grew to manhood and womanhood and all but one girl were married in Jasper county, and she in Christian county.

I challenge any one in Jasper county as to the number of descendants, my age considered. I have 8 children, 15 grand-children, 73 great-grand-children and 33 great-great-grand-children living.

When I moved to Crooked Creek the country was wild, with plenty of deer and wolves, and once in -awhile a panther, while squirrels, prairie chicken and other small game were numerous.

I followed breaking prairie sod with an ox team and a plow for 10 years, and turned over about 1500 acres of virgin meadow; then I went to carpentering, and as a contractor and builder, erected a grist mill, seven school houses, one of them a brick, a county poor house, and barns and dwellings with out number.

Politicaly I have always been a Demorcrat, but never an extremist, and have been willing for every other man to vote as he pleased.

I have held almost every office that was within the gift of the people of Crooked Ccreek, and several that were purely local, and have received commissions from the time of Gov. French to Gov. Yates, the present exceutive.

I served 36 years as a justice of the peace; four as constable; six as school treasure; three as assessor; two as collector; one as supervisor; also as road overseer, school director and village treasure, the latter in Rose Hill, and in my fourth term as town clerk.

I appreciate the favors of friends, Democrats and Republicans alike, and wish to thank one and all for kindnesses extended, and shall always try to lead a consistent, honorable life, so that when my time comes, I will have no fears of the hereafter.

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