History of La Salle County Illinois
Volume I
Chicago, Interstate Publishing Co. 1886

Online Edition Transcribed by Nancy Piper

Chapter IV:  Early and Civil History
Page 208 - 210:  Settlements


Indian Scare

The year they settled here (1827) a notable incident occurred.  The family had retired for the night, when a loud noise was heard outside, accompanied by a loud rapping at the door.  The men jumped for their rifles and tomahawks, always near at hand, but were soon reassured by a voice addressing them in good English, saying, "My name is Cass, I want to speak to you."  Opening the door, Lewis Cass, accompanied by Geo. Forsythe and some Frenchmen and Indians, stepped into the cabin. Mr. Cass informed them that the Winnebago and Sac Indians were, it was feared, on the point of making trouble, as some depredations had already been committed on the Mississippi.  He advised them to go to the fort at Ottawa.  The advice was followed, but it proved to be a scare, and they returned to their home after a few days. In the cabin erected by Mr. Galloway a son was born to him, George Galloway, the first white male child born in the county.  

Early Education

The sparse population of the precinct and the difficulties attending the obtaining of a living, as well as subduing the wilderness, engrossed the attention of the pioneers of the county, and schools were not thought about.  The growing children must be taught.  The little education possessed by their parents was dearly prized, and they (the latter) were willing to make many sacrifices to bring about such a desirable end. Accordingly, in 1828, arrangements were perfected with a Mr. Horace Sprague to organize a select school.  Mr. Henry Allen gave the use of a log cabin, erected by him in 1825, on the south side of the Illinois River, at the point overlooking the mouth of the Fox River.  Mr. Sprague was succeeded by a Mr. Kirkpatrick, and he in turn by a Mr. Allen, all occupying the same house.  Some years after Mr. Alonzo Sawyer opened a select school, but moved to Chicago in a year or two.  Mr. T. Hampton followed him, continuing in that occupation until he, in connection with Mr. H. E. Gedney, established the Ottawa Republican. In 1855 graded schools were organized, and have successfully continued to the present time.

The Great Snow

During 1830 and 1831 the great snow fell.  It began on the night of Dec. 29, 1830, and reached a depth of two and one-half  feet. Just one week from that time (Jan. 5) another storm occurred, the fall of which was as deep as the former.  Both of these settled to a general depth of five feet on the prairie.  By successive thawings and freezings, a crust of several inches in thickness was formed, over which the prairie wolves would run the famished deer.  At first the French and Indians were compelled  to use snow shoes, the construction of which was learned from an old squaw, who had been raised in Canada.  In the spring the snow went off quite rapidly, producing one of the greatest floods ever known on the river.

Settlers from Northampton, Massachusetts

In the spring of 1830 a number of young men of Northampton, Mass., desiring to try the realities of pioneer life, sent out a commission to select a site for a colony. The commission unanimously fixed upon La Salle, because, in their opinion, of its future commercial importance.  Simon Crosiar (spelled Crosiar and Crosier according to different members of the family) was already settled in that vicinity.  During this and the following year Aaron Gunn and and a number of others settled in the same locality, but fearing the miasma from the overflown bottoms, it having rained most of the season, left for Princeton.  Mr. Gunn moved to Lamoille and lived there four years, then returned to La Salle, where he has since resided.  Mr. Ayers determined to remain and continue hammering out prairie plows for the settlers, his trade being that of a blacksmith.  When he learned of the Black Hawk war and massacre at Indian Creek he took up his anvil block and buried a quantity of silver under it, after which he left for Ohio.  Upon his return, at the close of hostilities, he found nothing disturbed.

Settlers of 1830 , 1831 and 1832

About this time (1830 and 1831) came to the county the following gentlemen, who have been more or less prominent since their settlement:  Harvey, Cyrus and J. R. Shaffer, J. A., W. L. and G. M. Donivan, Ambrose and Mathias Trumbo, Wm. Munson, D. F. Hitt, Reason Debolt, Hon. G. W. Armstrong, H. L. Brush, John Coleman, Wm. H. H. Holdridge, Wm. Pitzer, and in 1832 Samuel Parr, W. H. Robertson, John Mitchell and others.

At the beginning of th year 1832 the settlements were nearly as follows:  At Seneca, Abel Sprague; at Marseilles, north of the river, Wm. and Wm. W. Richey; south of the river, James Galloway; between the Illinois and Fox rivers, Christopher Long and Edward Keys, and farther northeast, David Shaffer and Wm. Parr; at Dayton, the Greens and W. L. Donivan; at Indian Creek, the Halls, Davises, Pettigrews and Hendersons; at Ottawa, the Walkers, Pembrokes, Browns and others; at Utica, Simon Crosiar; at Homer, three families near the present village of that name: at La Salle, Aaron Gunn and Burton Ayers. Along the south bank of the Illinois lived George Ish and Henry Delong; at Cedar Point, Nathaniel Richey; on the bluff, near the old fort, John Myers, and on Bailey's Point, Lewis Bailey, Wm. Seeley, Joel Alvord, Asa Holdridge, Wm. Haines and a few others.  The early settlers of each township are mentioned in the respective township histories.

Settlers of 1836

Probably the largest immigration to the State, of most of the present old settlers was in 1836.  Frink and Walker's line of stages, that ran along the river, as well as a line put on by the Marseilles Company, each ramifying southwest, were the means of travel.  The tide was so great that at a public house, kept by A. D. Butterfield, in Marseilles, it was not an uncommon thing to receive from $20 to $25 for meals and lodging of travelers, who, in the crowded condition of the house, had slept in the barn, on the stoop, and about the premises.  Perhaps the breaking ground of the canal, which occurred July 4 of this year, contributed largely to this result, as it was an earnest of the beginning of the work inaugurated by President Madison in his annual message of 1814.

The principal market in 1836 was Chicago.  Settlers would start away from home with the expectation of being gone a week or more.  If it was an ordinary load only one yoke of oxen would be required, if large two or even three were employed.  The provision-box was an invariable accompaniment, and the old coffee pot held a favorable position.  The coffee was prepared at home, tied up in a little sack, and retained in the utensil until the strength was exhausted.  By force of circumstances, the young men of those early days became adepts in the simpler culinary arts.  When arriving at a camping place at night, the oxen would be turned loose to graze, with a bell upon their necks, or picketed out with a stake and rope. Many a chase of ten or twelve miles, or even more, to find the oxen, will come to the mind of the early settler as he reads these lines.  Then, having cooked and eaten their supper, they would roll themselves in their blankets and sleep, if the mosquitos would permit.  When they first left home they perhaps would be alone for the first day's travel, but after that there would be quite a train, each wagon slowly plodding along through the grass, sometimes knew-high, sometimes above the top of the wagon, and followed by a cloud of mosquitos as large as a swarm of bees.  These trains often numbers a hundred wagons before they reached Chicago.  From the "Widow Berry's" (twelve miles out) into the city it was always swampy, often the water was knee-deep.  Whenever a slough was to be crossed it was an item of considerable interest who should get out safely.  Should anyone be so unfortunate as to get his wagon fast in the mud, or get "sloughed," as it was called, the others would unhitch from their wagons and draw him out.

TO BE CONTINUED ...............

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