The Old Settler's Association, Marshall County, Illinois

First Meeting, Oct. 6, 1869

The 1872 Reunion
The 1871 Reunion The 1875 Reunions The 1876 Reunion

Taken From the Henry Republican
October 7, 1869

Old Settlers Meeting

At a meeting of old settlers at Lacon Saturday, Oct. 6th, 1869, for the purpose of founding an old settler’s association, Robert Barnes was called to preside, and Thomas Judd appointed secretary. Letters were read from Dr. and Mrs. Boal, sympathizing with the meeting, and regretting inability to attend.

On motion, the chair appointed a committee of five persons to draft a constitution and by-laws and report at an adjourned meeting, to be held on the first Saturday of January 1870, at 2 o’clock p.m. the following persons were designated: G. L. Fort, Wm. Maxwell, N. G. Henthorn, Silas Ramsey, Hartley Malone.

Moved by Col. Fort, that the early settlers now present, associate themselves together under the name of “Old Settler’s Association of Marshall County,” and that all persons who were citizens of the state on the 10th day of April 1839, and are now residents of the county, be entitled to membership.

On motion of J. G. Evans, the committee on by-laws are authorized to appoint a suitable person in each township to gather and preserve, for the benefit of the association, a record or history of each old settler who may die or remove from the county during the year.

Moved that the old settlers present be requested to register their names, place of nativity, and date of their arrival in the county, and the same shall constitute them members of this association.

Moved, also, that the committee on organization be authorized to secure the names of all, proper persons, who may hereafter desire to become members.

Moved by Judge Ramsey, that a copy of these proceedings be furnished the Lacon Journal, and the editor requested to send copies to the other papers in the county.

Move, That the meeting adjourn to first Saturday in January, 1870. Robert Barnes, President Thomas Judd, Secretary

List of old settlers present, with the year of their arrival in the county and place of nativity.

Taken From the Henry Republican
June 15, 1871

The Old Settlers Picnic and Reunion at Lacon

The annual picnic of the old settlers of Marshall county took place in the court house at Lacon yesterday. There was a very large attendance, and with a fine day, and painstaking on the part of the people of Lacon, the occasion was very interesting and enjoyable to the members and friends present. The court house yard was selected as the place of rendezvous, seats provided sufficient for all, and the green grass and ample shade indicated the propriety and wisdom of the selection. Dinner was served first on the grass, where groups spread out the viands and enjoyed a healthy and elegant repast, coffee and tea being provided in generous abundance by our good hearted and thoughtful Lacon ladies.

About 1 1/2 o’clock the president, Wm. Maxwell, called the meeting to order welcoming the old settlers to their annual gathering. Prayer was offered by Robert Barnes of Belle Plain, followed by the Lacon brass band, which played sweetly at intervals during the afternoon, contributing a very pleasant variety in the exercises. In the absence of Col. Fort, the orator selected, Judge Silas Ramsey was announced, and made a very interesting 15 minutes address detailing the early history of the settlement of this county, which was listened to with marked attention, and which so pleased the company that a vote of thanks, offered by Allen N. Ford, Esq., was tendered him. We can present but an abstract of his remarks, though worthy of a full report in all of the county papers.

Judge Silas Ramsey

Judge Ramsey alluded to the absence of the orator, Col. Fort, and that he had been selected to fill his post, but was as much disappointed as he knew his hearers were. He had but a short time to prepare, and would do the best he could. Alluded to the early time, when the Indians were here, and compared the early day with the present. That generation had passed, and the Indian and his hunting ground had gone westward. We were amazed at the stride within the past 40 years, of farms improved, houses guilt, telegraphs, railroads, and the progress in intelligence and civilization. In those days men settled this country in advance of civilization; but now railroads carry the emigrants westward for home. he spoke of the Indian troubles to the early settlers here, and the formation of a regiment in 1832 by the males to protect themselves; a fort built on Round Prairie, though no actual war ensued.

At this time, the county was composed of Marshall, Putnam, Bureau and Stark counties, but for an accident as it were, would have been the largest county in the state. A colony in the east, located lands where Varna now stands but only W. B. Green came to live on it, the colony enterprise failing. At this time there was horse stealing, passing of counterfeit money, settlers shot, and other crimes committed, but so sparse the settlers, that the banditti could not be captured. Geo. Reaves, was referred to, and the story recited how he secreted stolen horses and other property as well as thieves, and how 500 settlers formed a vigilance committee and drove hem off, as also a suspicioned constable of Lacon, as the only way to have justice done and riddance of this vile den. At last account Reeves was in similar business somewhere in Missouri.

A tribute was paid to the old settlers, honesty and industry; that he had held the foundation for the present state of religion and progress in morals and intelligence, and the prosperous state of our country. He alluded to two weeks going to Chicago, how they camped out, and the now railroad speed, and the improvements being made, the water of lake Michigan even passing now our very (?)oors.

But we are growing old, and soon the place that knows us will know us no more forever.  We may not meet again here, but we hope we shall above. May we continue our annual gatherings, review the old scenes and talk them over, and the good times we have had.

At this stage of the proceeding a letter from Mr. A. M. Pool of Henry, was read by the president stating his inability to the present, and offering an appropriate sentiment to the hallowed occasion.

Mr. William Maxwell, the president, came here in 1835, and mentioned several of his nearest neighbors in those days. Was gratified as seeing so many old settlers present, as also himself. Alluded to the gray hairs about him, and intimated the necessity for preparation for a reunion in the spiritual world, of both old and young.

Captain Robert Barnes

The president introduced Capt. Robert Barnes of Belle Plain, who came here 40 years ago, with his wife and Col. Strawn and wife. Lacon was a bare spot, abounding and hazel and burr oaks, and a few Indian wigwams. First Sunday after arrival, a walk was made to visit the river. A squad of Indians were visible in a drunken frolic. The women were timid and afraid, and cautioned retreat. A couple of squaws near by warned them in Indian dialect, when the party obeyed. He told of a journey in a team to Ohio, and his wonderment at seeing the first telegraph pole and railroad, cars and locomotive at Indianapolis. The cars were pushed into the depot by hand, and were about the size of a Pennsylvania wagon; it was there he heard also the steam whistle for the first time; he also described a burial, where a box fastened with wooden pegs was the casket.

William Atwood

William Atwood of Steuben came to Lacon in 1835; one house at Henry and but two log cabins at Lacon; no ferries, and had to go below Chillicothe to cross; for a doctor he crossed in a “dug out” of a tree; went to mill with ox team and forged river; broke a bow and had to mend it with a broad axe and jack knife; got into the brush and had to cut out of the entanglement with his knife. He spoke of the hogs here, and how tow good dogs were not enough for one of his. Come here when 18, and when Chicago was no larger than Sparland, and a wet place, so that one team could not go in the track of another because of cutting in so deep. Believed the settlers honest and more religions in those days, more social, devotional and earnest. He Hennepin he attended church when women sat upon the floor, and laid their sun bonnets upon it, so plain were they, and compared it to the time afterwards when three sects built a church there and quarreled about the use of it. Old settlers put way pride, as they had nothing to be proud of; had good sense but no gaudy show as the ladies have now.

Ed S. Jones

Squire Ed. S. Jones and wife of Steuben, arrived at Fort Clark (Peoria) in 1831, and might be called a border man; had lived in this county 25 years; had experienced the ups and downs of life, endured hardships and privations, and remembered to have ground flour for his bread in a hand mill. He reviewed the day scenes with pleasure. But now what a change in country; buildings, cress, manners, literature and learning; morals, etc. he remembered the time when a meeting voted almost unanimously in favor of the sentiment “that a nigger had no rights that a white man was bound to respect”, except a Vermonter, who voted “no,” and who was counted as a fool-hardy nobody. Now all were in favor of color rights. He repeated that a great change had been made in morals, and as he thought for the better. Our country was now free, and our flag waves  “oer the land of the free And the home of the brave” He hoped we might live long to enjoy many of these season’s.

Mrs. Ann Bullman

Mrs. Ann Bullman gave some of her early experiences in this county with the Indians, and how she was courted by a young chief. She was listed to with marked attention; and elicited much applause by her amusing and entertaining recital. Then followed Allen N. Ford of Lacon, with his early experiences and trials as a newspaper publisher in the early times, N. Shepherd of Putnam county, a Mr. Walker, Lemuel Russell, and others, all of whom were listened to attentively and with much interest.

The exercises were not tedious, and everybody enjoyed the occasion hugely. We were invited to “picnic” with Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Wightman; with Mrs. Col. Fort, Mrs. Fairbanks, Capt. H. Andrews, Mr. & Mrs. Judge Ramsey, Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins and others at the banquet, all of whom alike were duly feasted with an array of edibles that would do any hungry soul good. The citizens of Lacon spared nothing to make it a most delightful occasion, and the large gathering went home with grateful hearts at the welcome accorded them. We think the place used for this occasion most admirably located, and naturally bedecked and we are in favor of a repetition on the same spot in 1872. The west side of the river was largely represented, and a good many old settlers from Whitefield were present. may as many and more attend next season.

Taken From the Henry Republican
June 13, 1872

The Old Settlers Re-Union

The old settlers association of Marshall county held its annual picnic in the court house yard at Lacon on Tuesday. Great preparations were made by the citizens for the occasion, and it was a grand success. A platform had been provided for speaking, and the beautiful green supplied with timbers for seats. There was a large attendance, mainly from the east side of the river, though we saw a goodly number of faces from Henry and Whitefield towns, while there ought to have been many more.

Before dinner a choir of eight voices accompanied by an organ sand “Spring Time,” “One Hundred Years Ago,” “One Hundred Years to Come”, and “Old Lang Syne” with enchanting effect, maintaining Lacon’s well earned reputation for good singing. Mr. Samuel McLaughlin presided, Ira Norris opened with prayer, and Mr. Henry A. Ford of Michigan (but one of Marshall county’s first settlers) made the first and only address before the dinner. It was a pleasure to see Mr. Ford again at his boyhood home, and as he ascended to rostrum at the call of the president he was warmly greeted by an earnest audience anxious to see him and hear his voice recount his early life in the pioneer times of Marshall county. His speech was more of a talk than a lecture, the written address he had prepared being omitted, but which will be published as requested by the association. The windy day was a disadvantage to hearer and speaker, but aside from this inconvenience the time was well selected.

We are able to give but an outline of the remarks made, regretting that more of our own readers were not present to enjoy “the fullness thereof” as we did. The speakers were Mr. Henry A. Ford, Dr. Robert Boal, Geo. H. Shaw, Col. G. L. Fort, Livingston Roberts, Robert Barnes, Richard Hunt, Silas Ramsey, George O. Barnes, Esq., Mrs. Ann Bullman and Theodore Perry. Following the speeches the ladies who were settlers of Illinois at and before 1840 were invited to seats of honor on the stand, 45 of whom responded to the invitation. Their names will be published, though we did not obtain them.

Henry A. Ford

Senator Bangs introduced Mr. Henry A. Ford, who said that he was comparatively a stranger there, but was proud to obey the call to the stand where were farmers and senators about him. He spoke of Lacon as his boyhood home, and was much gratified at coming at this time. He compared the early days with now, and recalled much of early pioneer scenes, and presented them in a very pleasing light. In his boyhood days a playmate and himself had dreams of some day writing up the history of the early days of Marshall and Putnam counties, and he alone had the realization thereof. He spoke of the Blackhawk war, of Capt. Haws mustering a company at Lacon and Hennepin, and recited the names of the officers. He likes these reunions, the recital of the early experiences, which were valuable as local annals and material of history. Spoke of volumes written of family genealogy and history, and its importance, and how these reunions called out the moral, social, and intellectual lessons for the following generations, lessons we all need to heed.

His father came here in 1837, and started his paper in December of that years, and was the oldest publisher, he thought, now living in the state. Hardly a house was here then; prairies full of various kinds of flowers that now have disappeared; alluded to our plain living, simple amusements, complexion of society, political campaigns and worship; the lyceums were well attended, and believed even many present had learned the art of public speaking by this means; he judged them much more useful than the brilliant lecturers substituted today. He alluded to the sickly seasons of a new country, when everybody were walking ghosts, more weak than strong ones, and not enough strong to wait on the weak. Spoke of his Lacon comrades - the Boals, Garriguses and Readers, and others, some in different states, some brave enough to die for their country, and only two left in Lacon - Dr. Reader and Jacob Garrigus. He recounted the 40 years of development of this state, of railroads, mines and stone quarries, manufacturers, the flourishing towns and beautiful farms, and 160,000 population of northern Illinois.

He spoke of Putnam county when composed of 1600 square miles, embracing many counties. He went to Chicago when it had but 250 population; traversed this country when not a house was in Princeton, Lacon, Henry or Hennepin, and remembered the first steamboat that came up the Illinois river. Then but a cabin or two was on Oxbow prairie, one on Bureau creek, and a house or two over on Spoon river. This region then was governed by precincts - Sandy precinct, the Hennepin, the Bureau, and the Spoon river precincts. He recalled the election of Sandy precinct of August 1, 1831; and read from a small work of his own on Marshall and Putnam counties, the names of the old settlers of that time - Lemuel Gaylord, Wm. Hart, Lyman Horrum, Robert Burns, Wm. Hendricks, John Knox, James Finley, George and Isaac Hiltebrandt, Hiram Allen, Daniel Gunn, Zion Sugars, Jesse Roberts, John S. Hunt, Wm. Eder, Henry Hart, Wm. Gray, Wm. Lathrop, Jess Birge, Ezekiel and Marcus Stacy, L. Kneal, Hiram Haws, Wm. Knox, J. C. Wright, Thomas Gunn, John Burns, Samuel Glenn, Elias Thompson, Robert Barnes, James Adams, J. C. Griffeth, A. Hannum, Wm. Cowen, John Strawn, George H. Shaw and Abner Boyle. Some of these were present, others moved away, many dead.

He described the Indian war of 1832, how Phillips was murdered, the organizing of the settlers for defense, the mustering at Columbia (now Lacon) and Hennepin under Col. Shaw, Capt. Barns and John Wier. Recurring to Lacon, Henry J. Cassel built the first house, Elisha Swan the second, the latter’s still standing though clapboarded. A Snider house he remembered with floor of puncheon (slabs.) Another was Thaddeus Barney, who built a cabin; family got sick, and all left for St. Louis in a canoe, one of whom was before him who took that trip. In 1833 came George Snider, Jesse Smith, and Joseph Johnson, and in 1836, the Fishers, Howes, Malones, Dr. Boal and A. W. Barney. At this juncture he drew his written lecture from his pocket, and said he had spent all his time in a talk, and concluded to omit it.

Here followed a song “Auld Lang Syne” by the glee club, and then picnic dinner, the coffee and tea being provided by the citizens of Lacon. After dinner Dr. Boal was the first speaker. He was proud to be here and could hardly find words to express it. Felt that Mr. Ford’s words were all true. Wanted to talk of old scenes, and had met to recount the old battles over again. He gave the experience of doctors of that time, that while circuit preachers had their rough experiences, the doctors rode day and night, in all kinds of weather, in perils and privations, protracted absences, etc. But he always found warm hearts, good meals and comfortable beds where he went. Of the many physicians of those days scarce one remained. They were days of hard work and poor pay - yes, hard work and poor pay. Had taken his pay in wheat often, at 25 cents per bushel, carted it to Chicago to exchange for medicines to use in his practice. Recounted the days when wildcat money abounded, and the postoffice would take only silver money, how people couldn’t raise 18 2/3 cents for letters sent them. His remarks were very entertaining, concluding by reading a long letter from his wife to the old settlers meeting, reciting much history of the early day, which was very interesting.

Father George H. Shaw followed, but the wind and his feeble voice prevented us from hearing a word.

Robert Barnes

Robert Barnes said John Knox, who laid out Magnolia, was auctioneer, he clerk, and Col. Strawn engineering the first sale of lots in Lacon. That Joe Johnson built the first mill in 1836, and that the whole region was vacant at that time. Lacon had grown since then, but began to decline when railroads were built and they were forced to pay railroad tax. He told of a claim Col. Strawn was agent for, three acres broke, which he claimed embraced all that joined it, and which he bought for $5.

Col. G. L. Fort

Col. G. L. Fort was called for, and apologized for speaking, as it belonged to the old ones to occupy the time in relating their privations and toils of the early day. The day belonged to the old settlers and not to him, for man, women and child, to tell what each had gone through. But he came here at an early date, when there were few settlers, no schools, no churches. His first teacher was Elizabeth Hancock whose instructions had done much in molding his future life. Related a story of living with an uncle, who hired him to work by the week for a children, the uncle to show him the chicken and Fort was to catch it; thought he had struck a sharp trade; worked one week, and the old gentleman showed him a wild prairie chicken - he then repudiated, backed out; had not made many such bargains since. He alluded to the progress made in the past 40 years, that the old settlers have seen an advance in that time that the next generation will not see. He thought we all should spend our lives usefully, meet yearly in these reunions, remembering the friendship and sympathy neighbor to neighbor, of those days. May we all live to enjoy many more such meetings, to drop a tear and keep green the memory of those gone to their last resting place.

Livingston Roberts

Livingston Roberts came here in the fall of 1828, and settled where he now lives. His father moved near Ottawa in 1825, raised a crop, went to Montgomery county for two years, and then settled on the homestead the speaker now lives on. Capt. Haws and John Knox lived near by at the time, who raised the cabin, in cold weather and which they moved into Nov. 9, without doors and windows, but the first night was so cold that a hole was dug and all slept in it. Their stock was two horses, a cow and some hogs; the family prospered, had good health and neighbors, and for 15 miles around had run up the corners of “log Cabin raisings” as that was a business he was famous for; a few still stood in Putnam county that he had assisted in raising; had nothing when he came here and still “held his own” well; described making corn meal; his father went to Washington to a mill, wouldn’t grind the corn, came home, cut down a tree, hollowed out the stump, made a pestal and fastened to it, and so pounded corn into meal; one time took 25 bushels of oats to Chicago when only three families lived there, who would not buy it; finally traded it to an Englishman elsewhere, and brought home a few groceries.

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt knew the Roberts family 40 years ago; described his connection with an Indian massacre at Indian creek near Ottawa - 14 killed; how the old settlers all turned out, and followed up the trail, and found the dead, tomahawked and scalped; and buried all together in one grave; had loved the Indians before, now perceived their real nature when the war broke out, and their treatment of the white dead. Always had plenty to eat, and liked the early days of warm friendship and plenty of game. Settled first at Caledonia, then on Sandy, and for 28 years in Whitefield west of Henry. Had always had an open house for old settlers, and had it still, and had felt often that his house was a hospital of the early day.

Silas Ramsey

Silas Ramsey recounted his census taking of ‘50, and knowledge of every man, woman and child of that day. Was first sheriff of Marshall county, getting 96 votes, beating John Burns, Johnson and Barnes, as being the handsomest man of the four. (Laughter.) Told a story of a night at a Magnolia tavern when he told a Yankee the ague and mosquitoes didn’t trouble him at Lacon, as he slept in a room with two beds, and told the landlord when he had any Yankee guests to put him in the other bed, and the mosquitoes all went for him. (Laughter). No houses at Spoon river, Monmouth, Knoxville in those days, could ride anywhere; had went to Springfield on horseback and on foot, had carried rails to pry out the stage; told that jeans for men and flannels for women was remarkably nice in those days; had no money and wanted but little; mentioned a silk dress of seven yards worn by three women successively, no they had to be of 27 yards - sewing machines had brought it about. The past year Broaddus and Bonham had died, and we are all passing away.  School house built in 1837, Presbyterian first church organized at Lacon.

Mrs. Ann Bullman

Mrs. Ann Bullman gave a very happy description of her early connection with pioneer life, how they traveled four weeks in wagons from Ohio, through fields and streams, how met and received by Colonel Strawn, her early home life, Indian trials and how they married, winding up with a good old Methodistic exhortation to live for heaven, which she was doing.

Geo. O. Barnes

Geo. O. Barnes made a fifteen minute’s happy speech, full of pith and good humor, but we have not space to give it. Theodore Perry followed, making the last one.

June 20, 1872

At the old settlers meeting two weeks ago, the ladies present who emigrated to Illinois previous to 1840, were invited to the stand, and permitted their names to be taken. The Journal published the list, and we copy them, as follows: Mrs. Margaret Wikoff, E. L. Turner, Margaret Held, James Monhan, Sarah Wiley, Ann Bullman, Mary Thompson, Mary A. Culver, Elizabeth Orr, A. Pichereau, A. Broaddus, Geo. Snyder, Mary Ann Thompson, Hiram Thompson, Mary Hastings, A. S. Fishburn, Mrs. B. Bangs, John Monhan, E. J. Halsey, S. Arnold, Owen Soward, Hartley Malone, Anna Richardson, J. P. Shepard, J. M. Shields, C. McMurtrie, Sarah Thompson, Susan O. McManigle, William Fisher, Rachel Bane, N. G. Henthorn, Ellen Casey, John Wier, L. Roberts, Wm. T. Orr, Mrs. Tanquary, Sarah Wikoff, William Strawn, Mary Garrigus, Margaret Jones, W. W. Hancock, An. N. Ford, Nancy Denver, H. J. Sherburn, S. B. McLaughlin, James Caldwell, Richard Hunt, Wm. Rowe, Lucinda Tanquary, Miss Mary Ann Wickoff, Clara Iliff.

The 1875 Old Settlers Meetings

Taken From the Henry Republican
June 17, 1875 and  September 2, 1875

June 17, 1875

The Old Settlers
Their Annual Pleasure Meeting. - A large Attendance - Oration by Hon. Mark Bangs, and brief Speeches by Dr. Boal of Peoria, Wm. Maxwell, Wm. Atwood, Samuel Henthorn, and others - Dinner, Singing and general good time. - Personals, etc.

The pioneer residents of this and adjoining counties celebrated their fifth or sixth annual gathering and picnic at Lacon on Wednesday of last week. The continuous rain of the forenoon delayed the organization and disappointed large numbers living at a distance.  The court house being is use, the Presbyterian church was opened to the meeting, which convened at one 0’clock. The meantime the old settlers convened in the basement, and opened their baskets of goodies, partaking of dinner and having a social good time. The president, A. M. Pool, Esq., of this city called the meeting to order “on time.” The House was densely packed, and nearly as many assembled on the outside who could not gain admission. Mr. Frank Stire and his vocal assistants, attended with the church organ, a fine instrument, under the skillful manipulations of Miss Nellie Bangs, furnished the music of the occasion, first a “song of welcome” and “our cottage home,” both of which were sung beautifully, and much is due these singers for the many, many occasion they have rendered delightful with their beautiful songs. Prayers was offered by Mr. William Maxwell, an old settler. Hon. Mark Bangs was then introduced, whose able and appropriate address we give below:

(Note - Judge Bang’s speech is extremely long so I am only giving excerpts. Anyone interested in the entire speech, please email me and I will send it to them. - Nancy Piper)

Judge Bang’s Address

Mr. President, Friends and Old Settlers;
The revolving year has brought us again to the old settlers anniversary. Another twelve month is added to your history. Let us welcome all to this pleasant re-union. Heaven has been propitious. Within the year but few familiar faces have been changed by death. The fruits of the vines has been abundant; our fields and folds and stalls have been filled with meat. No war, nor civil commotion has given us alarm. ..........

That “early day” when the pioneer, with the course of empire, took his way westward, was among the happiest of your lives. You were young then, your wife was young, and the west was the land of promise to you and your children. With a song and hope you planted your stakes, reared your rude cabins, set up your altars, broke the wild sod, and laid the foundations, social, civil and domestic, of a state, which you may justly be proud of. ......... Having been accustomed to a wooded country, to intervales and bottomlands, you were shy of the wide open prairie ...... Then, there was a companionship in the wood, a fellow feeling for the person-like presence and form of a forest tree. A sense of shelter and protection came with skirting forest. So, at first you sought the edge of the timber, the little indentures of the prairie, the sheltered and quiet nooks where timber and prairie adjacent, could be blended into a homestead.

Thus, the Roberts, the Burns, the Statelers, the Myers, the Wrights, the Edwards, the Shaws, The Benningtons, the Martins, the Hollenbacks, the Pattons, the Hattans, the Bells, the Grays, the Barnes, the Palmers, the Ledgewoods, the Devers, the Keedys, the Fosters, the Strawns, the Owens, the Chambers, the Monehaus, the Ramseys, the Feazels, the Harrises, the Boys, the Hancocks, the Antrims, the Russelss, the Sawyers, the Broadduses, the Cranes, the Henthorns, the Reeders, the Wilcoxes, the Rickeys, the Bullmans, the Halls, the Wiers, the Verneys, the Babbbs, the Williamsons, the Jones, the McLaughlins, the Hammets, the ATwoods, the Websters, the Fosdicks, the Bates, the Sherburnes, the Thompsons, the Orrs, the Hoskins, the Nighswongers, the Jacksons, the Hoovers, the Buskirks, the Forbs, the Forts, the Pools, the Snideres, and many others set up housekeeping of the edge of the prairie, close to the timber, while the Bells, the Works, the Spanglers, the Littles, the Molones, the James, the Owens, the Sowards, the Hunters, the Gibbs, the Bonhams, the Spars, the Hammets, the Tanquarys, and others sought the quiet valleys along the water courses, only a few seeking the timber exclusively. ...........

A spirit of accommodation, and real social equality and reciprocity, was the nature result of your surroundings. ... You went and came, with the certainty of a pleasant, albeit, and sometimes homely greeting. Your latch string was always out, and your tables always had room for your neighbor. .......... Your worked and planed all the long summers, took care of the stock, and got out fencing and firewood, went visiting, attended singings and religious meetings all the dreary winters. As you became more familiar with the prairies, you trusted and sought them more. Still the timber had the stronger charms. The old fellow feeling lingered, the shelter and security could not be dispensed with. The timber points were convenient landmarks. You could easily strike from point to point, in your travels from one settlement to another. The mill privileges on the watercourses, were in the timber.

It is not easy for us, now, in the whirl and clatter of railway trains, daily mails, fast horses, telegraphs and high pressure generally, to even imagine the quiet and seclusion of those early times. Then a settlement, or a point, as they were frequently called, was a little world by itself. In a country like ours were Shaw’s point, Strawn’s prairie, Crow creek, and a few kindred points and neighborhoods. ... In the absence of saw mills, you split the thick logs into puncheon, smoothed off the splinters as best you could with the axe, and laid your floors, and fixed the posts to your windows and doors. Living here and plowing your subdued fields, you of necessity, used the old barshire plow with a wooden moldboard, which made a track, not unlike the track of a saw log snaked endwise. The old fashioned cradle was thought the very end of all perfection for cutting grain. Schools were few and uncertain, churches small and far asunder and markets, after the first few years, were a mockery. Chicago, a little, swampy, desolate town, 150 miles away, was the only one, nearer than St. Louis, that afforded anything like general facilities for trade and exchange. A plucky farmer, who needed a little salt or lumber, would load his wagon the night before, get ready his provinder for himself and team, and start betimes in the morning, and, after a fortnight’s straining and plunging over primitive roads and through bottomless sloughs, and camping out, would reach home, having exchanged his load of wheat for a barrel of salt and a bunch or two of shingles. Buggies and carriages were not to be thought of. Girls and boys alike, were expert riders on horseback, and thought nothing of galloping 10 or 15 miles, of a Sunday morning to church or campmeeting, rather enjoying it than otherwise. Should the whole family desire to go, the big wagon was brought into requisition. ......... The old barshire plow gave place to the polished steel one; the cradle to the reaper drawn by horses; the old harness, which had been for years held together with whang leather, was supplanted by a new, shining, black or silver-mounted one, and the old big hub, broad tire, wide track half-moon-shaped wagon, which brought you to the country, left in disgust, as the new, trim, staunch, modern, Schuttler successor, tempted the accumulated dollars from your purses. By this time too, horseback riding had become irksome; then came the buggy, and the more pretentious carriage, while a multitude of thrifty indications appeared on every side. Instead of log cabins, you had ceiled houses. The old church, and the primitive school house, were set aside for new and modern structures, dress, gait, and devotion, all betokened a culture and an enlargement corresponding to your progress and development in other respects. ..........

And in conclusion, let me here and now, tender the earnest congratulations of the great, the living and expanding present. Enjoy the rest, the competence, the security, which have so gloriously followed your pilgrimage here. And may life’s descending years, grow greener and more fragrant to your latest hour, that so, the ample verdure and sweetness, thus accumulated, shall, in the last happy moment, abundantly reciprocate and blend with the everlasting verdure and the ineffable sweetness of those sacred hills, which stand dressed in living green beyond the flood.

The secretary here explained that all residents here on or before the year 1848 were entitled to membership in the association, and the chair appointed, the secretary, Mr. Henthorn and G. F. Wightman, a committee to pass through the large audience and take the names of all such who were eligible and felt disposed to become members. It was also suggested by the chair, that as there were many disappointed in being unable to be present, that the meeting be adjourned to some time in August, and the 4th Wednesday of August being designated, it was ordered that this meeting be adjourned to that time. It was also suggested to change the time of the picnic to August, but that was finally left with the annual business meeting to determine.

Dr Boal's Speech

Dr. Boal was then called on, who was glad to meet with the old settlers; a thousand memories were inspired by this meeting. He set foot in Lacon 41 years ago last November, in the prime of life and vigor of youth. But two houses were there, one belonging to Henry K. Cassel, and another building. In the latter there was a hole cut for a door and one for a window, but the family, being afflicted with ague, became disgusted and left the embryo city. On Crow Creek he visited one Swan, and Col. Babb, the only settlers there. He described a prairie fire, the first he had seen, the flames reaching sky high, making a grand spectacle. Jesse Smith was an old settler, a shrewd far seeing man, who predicted that railroads would some day cross the whole country, and canals and rivers become obsolete for transportation, which prediction is measurably fulfilled. Going back east, he returned later with Mr. Fenn and Wm. Fisher, some six or eight houses having been built during the time. He carried the chain in surveying many of the lots of Lacon.

He called up reminiscences of Col Babb, a humorous character. Babb once accosted a neighbor, who was bringing to market a load of hogs. “Hogs, eh?” “Yes.”  “Bringing your fellow creeturs to market, are you.” A joke rich in those days. Babb was also a great Harrison man, and badly afflicted with rheumatism. On his election he illuminated his house, and being in pain, amid groans, would cry out, “Polly, light another candle. Isn’t a democrat feels as bad as I do; Polly, light another candle.” [Great laughter.]

Comparing the early years as now, he brought to mind the saying of John Phenix, how little George Washington knew, having never used a postage stamp, witnessed the telegraph or rode on a railroad. What changes had taken place - in the words of Gov. Reynolds, “everything changed except the sun and the Mississippi.” He should ever bear in heart the friendship and kindness of the people of Marshall county who had made him what he was, or ever hoped to be.

At this juncture, in consequence of the crowd outside it was proposed to repair to the grove, which was agreed to. While a large congregation filed out, the choir struck up “When I can read my title clear,” to the old tune of “Mt. Pisgah,” in which all joined with hearty earnestness and pleasure. On the steps a lady photographer took two negatives of the old settlers. Assembled again in the court house shade, the speaking was resumed.

William Maxwell

William Maxwell was a pioneer, and was gratified to meet so many old associates. Was a frontiersman; born in Kentucky, Sept. 11, 1801, in a dense canebrake, a new country, abounding in wild game, bears particularly. Moved to Ohio, near Cincinnati, in 1806; into a fort on the Wabash, just following the Indian war in 1815; and in 1835 moved to this county. Col. Bell living on Crow Creek, Mr. Roberts in Roberts township, and a settler at Low Point, and a few on Half Moon and Round prairies. Was taken in by Nathan Owen, and hewed him out a rough log cabin with an ax, obtaining two boards for a door. He lived on State road, and neighbors thought him venturesome to get three-sixth of a mile from timber, but he felt like the fellow, who preferred the Lord’s grubbing to his own, and who had pulled out the stumps clean. All had experienced hardship which the present generation will never know. Had seen deer in front of his door as thick as sheep of a neighbor’s. Then good neighborly feeling existed throughout the country. Looking back and remembering the many who had gone to the land of spirits, he felt as if he might be here the last time. Hartly Malone had gone over the beautiful river. Garrigus, now up in her bed, was soon to go. Old mother Hall who had lain long near death’s door, was improving, and now able to ride out. Hoped all the old settlers would so live as to leave a record of which those left behind need ne’er be ashamed.

William Atwood

William Atwood was glad to see the old settlers, and looked forward eagerly, for this gathering. Had lived 40 years in Marshall county, the best part of his life. Had cleared up land, lived in a hut, and endured privation like Mr. Maxwell. Moved into Steuben township when it was known as township 12 n range 8 east 4th p. m., Putnam county, but afterward changed to Steuben township, Marshall county. Had enjoyed peace and harmony, (or hominy), and was glad none wanted to get rid of him. But while going to leave the county, he held a burial place, where some day he expected to be laid. Should cherish warm friendship of the people, and hoped to meet all on “the shores of eternal deliverance.”

Livingston Roberts

Livingston Roberts stated that his father moved from Montgomery county to where he now lived in 1828. Fell in with one Knox, who built a cabin for them, and moved all their effects and family in a squeaky wagon, having music all the way up, one wheel giving out on the way; moved into cabin November 9, without window or chimney. Traded in Chicago, borrowing an oxteam, and selling a load of oats at 50 c per bushel, taking as part pay a greyhound dog. Made the trip in 13 days, and camped out nights. Father commenced with $9. Had endured great privations, worked hard, but had improved 1000 acres; had no trouble with neighbors and could say, had but one law suit in his life. Sam. Henthorn, said if a man had life in him this meeting would bring it out. As Squire Robert Barnes used to say in class meeting “It is just us, do just as you please.” Came here in  1837, when there were deer, wolves, Indians and all wild game, and but sparsely settled. Had tied out a horse to grass where the jail now stands, the grass being over the top of his head as he sat on the horse. [Several voices -”can you show the papers for that?”] He declared it to be a fact.

Related a bad land speculation, being $1500 worse off than nothing. Everything he possessed was taken. Commenced anew, and got an ox team.  One day going to mill at Crow Creek, with his ox team and “Dutch buggy,” Hiram Blossom overtook him with a team of horses, going to the same place. The rule at the mill was, “first come first served.” Blossom wanted to get to the mill first, and at every favorable opportunity he would attempt to pass. "I would crack my whip and my oxen would start off, and he couldn’t get by. Several attempts were ineffectual. Coming to a place where there were two roads, both leading the same way, one was dry and the other a wet road. I took the dry and Blossom the wet one. It wasn’t long before Blossom called to me that he was stuck fast in the mud, and that I must help him out. I did so, and he followed behind after that very kindly. When I got to the mill, he wanted to buy my oxen, and said I could beat anybody driving cattle he ever saw."

One day saw two deer coming up a cow path, and took his gun made for them. Had lost his patching, and so rammed a bullet down on top of the powder. While doing this nine more joined the tow, and to make doubly sure, he put a second bullet down. Drawing up he fired, and broke a leg of five of the 11 deer by that shot. [Sensation and cries, “That’ll do.” “Have to swear to that.” “Rather a dear story,” etc..] That was true, and he and his boys secured three of them, but night coming on, and being very cold, they did not get the other two. Lived on wild meat much of the time. Times have changed. Twenty six years ago bought half section on Round prairie, and went to raising stock. It was then all wild. Hadn’t been there a year when it was all taken up.

"Since I have come here, my children were born,  grown up and got married, and I am now great grandfather to two; sick but little in my life, and had peace with my neighbors". He hoped we all would lead peaceful lives and died a happy death.

Enoch Strawn and Joshua Myers made short speeches, when the congregation joined in singing the “Sweet By and By,” and the meeting adjourned to the 4th Wednesday of August 1875. The rainy morning was a damper to the westsiders, who would have put in an appearance in large numbers. Hiram Blossom and daughter and Father Harrison and wife put in an appearance before the rain, and Mrs. Heath and Miss Ella, Mrs. J. P. Boice and Miss Fannie, Mrs. J. W. Sinclair, Mrs. A. Snethen and Mrs. James Clark, in spite of the pouring rain and the discouraging look of the weather, kept up good heart, and with the editor and his family made a very pretty showing for the old settlers from Henry. The excellent meeting was reward enough for “having put their hand to the plow, not to look back.”  Thanks are due the Lacon people for the trouble, and the generous spirit manifested to make these gatherings pleasant. They do it without asking remuneration, but appreciation, and that we are hopeful they receive. What would it be without their personal attentions, the coffee, the singing, the platform and seats, etc. Enough. All go next August.

September 2, 1875

The Old Settlers Meeting

After the wet and the cold, Wednesday, the 25th ult., opened up bright and warm, proved to be warmer than any of the preceding days of the month. The old settlers residing within a radius of 25 miles, almost to a man and woman, started for and attended the old settlers’ meeting at the county seat. At 10 o’clock a.m., all the roads leading into Lacon were crowded, and at 11 1/2 a crowd of near 5000 assembled in the court house yard, where a stand, seats and an old fashioned “log cabin” had been provided by G. F. Wightman, Esq. and his corps of assistants. The meeting was called to order by the president, A. M. Pool, Esq., of Henry. After an appropriate song by Lacon’s vocalists, the Rev. H. G. Pendleton tendered the thanks of the multitude to Almighty God for temporal blessings received during the long years past and asked that they might worthily receive like ones in the days to come. Song by vocalists, “The Old Cottage Home.”

Speech by F.S. Potter

After which F. S. Potter, Esq., stepped forward and said that after having accepted the invitation of the president he had cast around to know what he should say or talk about.  That it suggested the fact, that his birth was amidst the classic elms of New Haven, he took on trust, believed because he was told it was so. That his birth to a knowledge of his surroundings and a power to retain impressions was in a log cabin of one room, covered with riven boards, held in place by poles, a fire place where prairie mud and grass did duty as bricks; he knew because it was his first recollection; that well he remembered his mother, used a least to the common comforts of a New England home; when she thought of “the old cottage home, and the moonbeams behind the hill,” twas then she watered with her tears the old tree that stood be the door.

To like discomforts and privations Livingston Roberts came, October 9, 1828, almost 47 years ago, and made his settlement where he now lives, the first white settler in what is now Marshall county. I will not try to describe them. Twenty-five, perhaps a hundred who in early man and womanhood faced them, bore them, and by perseverance are here to-day to tell of them, can do it for you, far better than I.

The speaker then referred to the fact that the old settlers came without steam on water or land. That at that day its power to subdue the wilderness had not been developed. He then called upon his hearers to look upon the line of old settlers who lined the platform, their like they would never see again. They were the last, the next would never be. They had pushed into the wilderness, built, planted, produced wealth which civilization had sought out, bought and exchanged for. Thus they had founded an empire more vast than Romulus, that the great west now owned one-half of the railroads of the United States, and freighted one-half of the remaining half. No race of settlers will ever again go to any land as our old settlers came here.

Now railroads, everything that pertains to the ordinary comforts of civilized life are planted in the wilderness, and then advertised for sale at half price and an excursion ticket thrown in. No place under the sun affords an opportunity for the display of self-reliance and the development of the hardy, enduring virtues of industry, sobriety, frugality and benevolence that this afforded to “our old settlers.” They with true manhood regarded all honest toil honorable, if diligently pursued, and they do yet; no matter whether it has the grime of the shop, the dust of the field or the pallor of the office or store; the one is not above another and cannot be save as it may be or is pursued with more earnestness of purpose and desire to leave the world the better for having lived in it. He urged those of middle age and younger to note the virtues of the old settlers, that they might imitate them, and continue the good work so nobly begun and carried forward to the present.

Rev. H. G. Pendleton

The Rev. H. G. Pendleton gave his experience as an early Presbyterian minister at Granville, Lacon, Providence and the founding of the Henry seminary. It seems that even Presbyterians “rode circuits,” then and encountered “perils by land and by water”.

The president then announced the next annual or business meeting at Lacon, on the first Wednesday in October next. And next that you could tell an old settler by the way “he’d pint for hog and hominy.” Meeting took recess until 1 1/2 for refreshments.

The dinner, a basket picnic, with coffee at wholesale, was ample for all. Not one was hungry that was not taken in and fed as the old settlers did in the olden time. An old-fashioned hoe cake was mixed and baked in the cabin. The “old settler” retired to rest and all at once the painted savaged awoke him from his slumbers by trying to get down his chimney, gave the war whoop. He sprang from his rude couch, seized his trusty rifle that hung upon the hooks above the door, and went forth in the darkness (that prevailed at noonday) to protect his loved ones within it. They continued a running fight, dodging from tree to tree, Indian getting in an arrow and white man a rifle shot every now and then just as the “old settler” used to do - only a little killing left out. Mr. and Mrs. Bullman rode to church in the old fashioned way. Mrs. B. bareback.

Just when they said they would the meeting came to order, fully refreshed. Whereupon Messrs., Joel Haws, William Haws, Oscar Thompson and Smiley Shepherd of Putnam county; Messrs. Robert Barnes, George H. Shaw, Chauncey Barnes, Mrs. Ann Ridgeway, Rev. Morse, Co.. Fort and Hon. Mark Bangs entertained the audience with tales of the days that are gone, words of fraternal greeting or speeches brim full of faith, hope and charity, and running over with the greatest of the three, charity.

To our mind the feature of the day was the thousands of kindly hands stretched out in fraternal greeting to every one. The old fashioned visits did us more good than all else or any of the many public meetings we’ve attended before. We have too many railroads now days, they have too many new fashions upon us. We live in streaks up and down the railroads now, because that is our market and postoffice. Ordinarily we find friends enough within our narrow strip for every day use. Let us burst this narrowness at least once in each year with an old settlers meeting, and the renewing of old time friendships.

The 1876 Old Settlers Picnic and Reunion

Taken From the Henry Republican
August 24, 1876

The Old Settlers Meet Together, Shake Hands, and Talk Over "What Had Been." - Dr. Robert Boal the Orator, - A. M. Pool, John Williams, Jeriah Bonham, E. L. Monser, Joshua Myers, and others tell early experiences - A Rousing Good Time

Wednesday last, in the court house yard at Lacon, did the old settlers of this region, once again enjoy a re-union among themselves, their progeny, great and multitudinous "as the sand of the sea for numbers," and everybody else who had the impulse to go and enjoy it. A stage had been erected, and lavishly embellished with the colors of the country, and everything made ready for the "feast of reason and flow of soul." At an early hour the carriages began to enter the city from every direction, and at noon the assemblage to the number of 2000 gathered about the state, till every seat was occupied and standing room very nearly was at a discount. Dinner was the first thing in order, and this, from the baskets, was disposed of in groups about the grounds and in the court house, to the satisfaction of keen appetites and longing vacuums. At half past one, the Whitefield cornet band, commenced a lively air at the state, which was the signal for the commencement of the exercises. Uncle Charley Gapen, P.M., which is postmaster of Lacon, presided.

Dr. Robert Boal

Rev. L. Russell offered the invocation, when Dr. Robert Boal, who was the orator of the occasion, was introduced to the assemblage. WE had met, he said, to renew the old acquaintance, to pause on the journey of life and look back upon the past. He thought it well to look behind us, and review what had past, that we might more readily enjoy the prospective; to review its triumphs and defeats, its sorrows and joys, its hardships and its blessings, that we might cull wise lessons for the future. It had become a custom to meet here, and with each succeeding year renew the old acquaintance and talk over the past.

The speaker then referred to his coming to this region. On the south was Col Bell; on the north the Russells and Antrims. At Henry, Major Thompson and his son-in-law, Sampson Rowe had the only two houses, while Livingston Roberts lived about where he does now. He alluded to facts how nations and towns sometimes hang upon a slight accident. That three commissioners, sent from Peoria to locate a county seat, were commissioned to look at Henry, but coming to the river, could not get over, and passing on up to Hennepin, finally located it there. Had Henry been selected he thought the counties would not have been divided up (as) they are now, and it might have been the county seat of a large area of county.

After this the Sniders, Culver and Blossom had settled west of Henry, but beyond all was a wide unabated waste. Further south Bonham had settled, Mr. Graves where Sparland now is, the man whose tragic death occurred in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Thompsons settled west of Sparland, and the Drakes at Drake's grove, but none between them and Spoon river, which river was reached by a furrow made to mark a way thereto. He forgot to mention another settler at Henry, as good a man as there was in any country, Charles Nock. He said Henry was a trio of towns, having Dorchester below and Webster above, the latter named after the congressman Daniel Webster. The senator once saw this island, and was told that it was named after him, which contained one house and a saw mill, when he exclaimed, "What a pity to spoil so nice a farm!"

The speaker came to Marshall county in 1836, and emigration flowed in rapidly, and lay out towns on paper. Long Point was one of these paper towns, and he saw his friend Maxwell present, at work on its first log house. At Lacon there was the Swan and Castle cabins and the commencement of a third. The builder of the latter and his family getting the ague, suffered much for three months, and becoming discouraged, deserted the claim, and finally left in a canoe for Peoria and St. Louis.

The speaker spoke at some length of the hospitality of the people of those days, of the internal improvements that were inaugurated, and the "hush money" that was voted to each county to secure the enterprise, indicating, that by a technicality, Marshall was cheated out of its share in the $2,000,000 Abner Moon pocketing it. He alluded to the hard times of those days, the great debt involved, and the final recovery of its credit by selling its scrap iron, the imposition of the two mill tax, etc. Her referred in glowing terms to our free school system, by which we are enabled to discharge the high duty of citizenship; of the war for the union, and how we had come out of its death throes better than ever; how 4,000,000 slaves had become freemen; and of the sainted Lincoln, who had never abused his power. He alluded to the dead of the old settlers of the past year, reading the names of Caleb Mathis, Mrs. Alanson Morgan, Mrs. David Snider, Mrs. Harrison Gregory, Mrs. Mary Garrigus, George W. Myers, Dritzita Myers, and Lewis Layman.

Samuel Lewis

Samuel Lewis of La Salle county, who was next called out, stated he settled in 1833 on the farm now owned by Robert Barnes in Belle Plain. His education was secured in a log cabin, where the three R's were taught, "reading, riting and rithmetic." His father moved from Kentucky in three great wagons; they were prejudiced against the Yankees and it amused them to see them coming in with their light wagons. He referred to the hospitality of the old settlers, their kind words, and said his best and happiest days had been spent in the log cabin.

He referred to the boys of those days how they distinguished themselves - Abraham Lincoln who split rails, Douglas who taught school in Meredosia, B. C. Cook, a white headed boy, who studied law, whose first case was at Hennepin, with Judge Peters as an opponent, whose criticism of the lad's performance was, "he liked his judgment, but doubted his law." Judge Davis who practiced law at Hennepin, now is one of our first supreme judges. Judge Dickey, son of father Dickey, now occupies a seat on the supreme bench of the state. The legislature referred to by Dr. Boal was noted because of its young men in it, such as Lincoln, Logan, Douglas and many others he mentioned, and their zeal and enthusiasm brought out great results for the state and the glorious prospertiy of the past 50 years.

Referring to the "hush money," he was on the jury that tried the suit brought by Marshall county to recover. Putnam county did not get it, and the case turned upon a technicality whether Abner Moon who was county treasurer, and also held the office of county agent, whether he received it as treasurer or as agent; if as treasurer, his securities Thomas Hartzell and James Simson, were holden; if as agent, there was no securities, as he gave no bonds. Moon pocketed the amount and the county lost it.

He referred to the growth of the state in the past half century; of the Indian war, and wound up by inviting all to attend the LaSalle county old settlers picnic which met Tuesday of this week.

John Williams

John Williams of Snachwine was next called for. He was no speaker but could yarn some. He related an incident of 1837, connected with the politics of those days. A gentleman of color passed through Hennepin; handbills were posted up for a runaway slave; he was found, brought back, and locked up in the log jail. The "infernal abolitionists" held a conference and Mr. gentleman of color comes out, and gets away. He was again caught by Wm. H. Stewart, brought back, and sold to pay prison charges.

He referred to the notorious Reeves, who entertained horse thieves, and by Birch who robbed Jeremiah Strawn, and was present at the murder of Davenport; how he robbed Usherman, whose horses had runaway, and broken his legs, stealing what he had while he lay in bed; and also how Birch robbed a camp meeting. A company was formed with Taliaferro as captain who arrested these thieves, and were placed in the hands of officers with writs. On the way to Lacon by river, the goods were thrown overboard, the irons taken off, and the fellows allowed to make their escape. Mr. Williams stated that he drafted the paper, whereby those who signed it pledged themselves that they would destroy Reeve's house - "It was business." He remembered an old motto, "when duty calls, it is ours to obey," and to drive this gang off and rid the community of it was their duty. He was a Jackson democrat, which was as goos and anybody else's democrat, and amid great laughter he sat down.

Mr. Lewis again took the stand and related an incident of Father Willis who wanted a hand to split rails and went down to the Dillan settlement to find one. He found one destitute of clothing, who agreed to accompany him home. The weather was cold, and Willis was on horseback. After riding some ways Willis offered to walk and let the man ride, and the exchange was soon made. Mr. Willis had a gun along, and the man offered to carry it. An overcoat too he also put on to save Mr. Willis the burden of lugging it. Thus equipped, the stranger bade good bye, and horse, gun and overcoat was stolen. This illustrated the confidence and good nature of the old pioneers of those days. The old man walked home, told his story, and with his neighbors they followed the fellow to Indiana, where he was captures. He was brought back and locked up in a log jail, but this the fellow set on fire, and thus escaped.

Eli Strawn

An interesting letter was read from Eli Strawn, who was unable to be present, which is as follows.

Buckley, Ill., August 11
To the committee and members of the annual reunion of the old settlers, Lacon, Illinois

"Your invitation of the 7th inst., to attend the old settler's meeting, August 16th, is at hand. I regret very much that it will not be convenient for me to attend your meeting.

On the 10th of September, 1830, Col. John Strawn, my father, Jeremiah Strawn, my mother, William Griffith, William Gregory, my brother David and I, went on horseback from the residence of the colonel to the Illinois river, on the south side of the creek, near where the town of Lacon now stands, tied our horses and crossed the river in a canoe, and went out to the Indian village which was situated near where the southeast part of the town of Sparland is located. Several of our party had never before seen an Indian. In the village there were about 150 men, squaws and pappooses. Many of these people were at work shelling and drying their corn, some of the men lying fearfully naked on the top of their wigwams, sunning, nude boys running around loose, and females slightly more clothed.

On our return the chief of the village accompanied us to the river. When near there, a large mountain rattlesnake brought us to a sudden halt. The old Pottawattamie warrior and some of the party dispatched the snake. After shaking hands with the then friendly chief we re-crossed the river. At this time there was no white inhibitants (inhabitants) living on either side of Sand prairie. John S. Armstrong had 10 acres of sod corn on the south side of the south prairie.

After crossing the river to the east side we went to the springs now running out from under the town of Lacon. On the bank near the springs were Indian graves, some I think under ground, and others with a pen made over them of small logs. After visiting the springs, the graves, we returned to the colonel's for dinner and watermelons.

Eli Strawn

A. M. Pool

Mr. A. M. Pool was called out. Near 40 years ago a small "Buckeye" was transplanted from the "Tick hills" of Ohio to the alluvial bottoms of old Putnam, and the product is before you, a very small Sucker. In looking over this assemblage today I cannot but contrast it with the first crowd of people I ever saw in this section. It was an old fashioned camp meeting at the lower end of the Ox Bow, on the farm, and near the residence of John Loyd whose house, with the large hearted hospitality common to those early days, was thrown open to the public.

The people came from 30 miles around, mostly on horseback, the aristocracy coming in two horse wagons, with an extra coat of paint and a few stripes, when they were particularly anxious to outshine their neighbors. But take a glance at the equipages, none so poor but he has a buggy, and few that don't support a $300 carriage.

Truly the world moves, and yet the cry goes up from one end of the land to the other "hard times". The principal difference between then and now, may be summed up in the self-denial of the fathers, and the self-indulgence of the children. Let us all ponder this problem. They sold their hogs (prairie rooters at that) at $1.50; we get $6 for ours. They got 10c. for corn, we get 40 cents. They paid 37 1/2c. for their calicoes, we buy them for 7c., and yet we are not happy. Verily, contentment, after all, is the true riches.

But if we have not improved on the fathers in this respect; we have yet made progress in other directions. The growth of this country the past 40 years in all true prosperity and national greatness is unsurpassed in any land, and it becomes us, the children of that noble band of men who laid the foundation for this greatness, to search out the causes that have produced such glorious results.

In my opinion I have already alluded incidentally to one of the causes, that has been followed by such beneficent effects, namely the camp meeting. Our fathers honored the bible, remembered the Sabbath, and supported the preacher, and they provided for the education of their children.

Well nigh 40 years ago, on a bright autumnal morning, I set out with my father to locate and build a school house; when we reached the redesvous (rendezvous), we were soon joined by Aaron Bascom, Wm. Kincaid, John Lloyd, Hiram Allen, Isaac Glenn, and others, and the trees were felled, the logs were hauled, and a house was soon ready for occupancy. In after years we dubbed it "Brush College." It was my Alma Mater.

But I have already trespassed too long on your patience, and in conclusion, my friends, I would remind you of the toils, the hardships, the pecuniary sacrifices, the stern self-denial of our fathers, that we might enter into this goodly heritage, and appeal to your sense of justice, if we ought not - at any cost - to hand down, not merely unimpaired, but greatly enlarged, this glorious birthright to our children - the Sabbath, the sanctuary, the bible, and the public school - that they too may be a people whose God is the Lord. So, and only so, shall liberty be enjoyed, and transmitted through all the ages yet to come, and the republic be perpetuated.

Jeriah Bonham

Jeriah Bonham was the next speaker. No one had ever heard him speak. His father came to Illinois in 1834. In a cavalcade of three wagons, when he was 16 years old; passed through Bloomington, where were only three log cabins, and three clapboard cabins; Pekin was small; there they found corn at 10c. per bushel; and here they tarried one year, harvesting corn for the halves. In settling below Henry they built a log cabin, but afterwards finding it was on the military tract, they had to pull it down and move it. Her recited many of the events of the early settlement of this region, interspersed with personal reminiscences in his early career. His remarks were interesting throughout.

E. L. Monser

E. L. Monser of Wenona hardly claimed to be an old settler, through (though) he had lived in the county over 20 years. He alluded to the country's growth, its politics, peace and civilization, making, in a few choice, well considered sentences a neat, appropriate and decidedly interesting speech. He was listened to attentively, and spoke so as to be heard, a failing, we are sorry to say, with many of the others who occupied the stand.

Joshua Myers

Joshua Myers made some fatherly suggestions which came in as a benediction to the occasion, when the large assemblage dispersed to their homes, pleased with the day's exercises, and gratified with seeing old friends and spending the day at the annual picnic.

Ye Olden Tyme
The 1878 Old Settlers Reunion

Taken From the Henry Republican
August 22, 1878

Speeches by Messrs. Boal, Haws, Dent, Russell, Burns, Gallaher, Fort and Mrs. Bullman

The Marshall County Old Settlers reunion, which has been in existence for some eight or nine years, grows in favor and popularity as its annual gatherings are repeated year by year. When the association was first organized, the membership and privileges were limited to those who settled in this county on or prior to the year 1840, and the picnics were rather slimly attended. Later, as it became to be seen that the old settlers organization was only of a social character and that all the world and his brother might come together and enjoy its behests in common, the walls of partition were removed, and these anniversaries have become of so interesting and enjoyable a character; that all classes of citizens look forward to its occurrence with anticipations of pleasure, and when the day arrives, are seen on the ground almost en masse. The citizens of Lacon spare nothing in interest or preparation for the picnic, and court its continuance by every demonstration of kindly welcome and endeavor. And no spot in the county is more interesting than the green sod of the court house lawn.

Last Wednesday was the meeting for this year. It happened to be the right kind of a day for it. A light rain in the night had laid the dust, and the road and atmosphere was all that could be wished. The good Lord could not have provided more auspicious weather. Early in the day long processions began to file into the city, from the thoroughfares, and at the hour for the commencement of the exercises, 11 o'clock, the town was alive with a sea of living humanity. The usual preparations had been made by the leading citizens. A long stage had been erected on the lawn, for the officers, speakers, musicians, and the old settlers, the latter being provided with arm chairs, which post of distinguished honor was accepted by 50 or 75 of the fathers and mothers of "ye olden tyme." Seats below were prepared for about 800 persons, which were all occupied and every available spot of standing room about the grand stand. The only drawback was the inability of some of the speakers to make themselves heard by the assembly before them, which produced some restlessness, and a disposition in certain quarters for parties to entertain themselves by whispering, or rather talking while the exercises were in progress. This annoyed the speakers, as well as those in the immediate vicinity who were anxious to hear. The Lacon cornet band were on hand, and enlivened the day with appropriate music, doing great credit to their drill and efficiency as musicians, and adding materially to the interest and pleasure of the day. Miss Clara Wallace, an expert and accomplished pianist, presided at the organ, on which she did artistic execution in connection with the singing to which her efforts were an accompaniament. The choir was large and the good old hyms were sang sweetly by a score of well balanced voices.

The exercises of the day were opened with prayer, by Rev. Cimmins, a retired clerygyman of Lacon. Following this the president of the day, William Gallaher, Esq., prefaced the exercises with some well chosen words, thanking the old settlers for the honor of being selected as presiding officer of the occasion. At the close he introduced Dr. Robert Boal as the orator of the occasion, - a substitute of Hon. Mark Bangs of Chicago, who was unable, by the pressure of professional cares, to be present. Dr. Boal, accepted the position as orator with becoming grace and was a fitting selection. As an old settler of Lacon and Marshall county he was one of the first, and is conversant with the early history of this section of the country, and all the old worthies, who struck a claim, built the cabins, turned the soil and "converted the wilderness into a fruitful field." We can give but a brief synopsis of his excellent and appropriate address, and which, on account of the adverse wind, could be heard but a short distance from the stage:

Dr. Boal's Address

Dr. Boal commenced his remarks by saying that two years ago, he was enexpectedly called upon to supply the place of one of the distinguished citizens of the county, Hon. T. M. Shaw, who was unavoidably prevented from addressing them, and today, found himself in the same predicament, coming before them as the substitute for another of their old and honored citizens, Judge Bangs, whose official duties kept him away. He regarded it as a great personal compliment that he had been selected upon these tow occasions to fill the place of these eminent "old settlers." He regretted their disappointment, and was sorry he could so inadiquately supply their places. At an "old settlers" meeting, the mind instinctively goes back to the past, and the places and actors of bygone days, in various portions of the county, are brought to our remembrance. In bringing before you today the names of old settlers, only those will be mentioned who from the public or official position they occupied, or whose marked traits of character, or some peculiar incident connected with their lives, rendered them more generally known than others.

On the east side of the river we had Wm. Maxwell, one of the first commissioners of the county, who is still living, a respected and honored citizen. Col. Bell, who represented the county in the legislature, Robert Barnes, one of the commissioners of Putnam county when it included the territory of what is now Bureau, Stark and Marshall counties, and for many years subsequently an upright and popular magistrate. George H. Shaw and Charles S. Edwards, both of whom occupied public positions in the county, with honor to themselves and acceptably to the people. Gen. Jonathan Babb, one of the proprietors of the city of Lacon, a shrewd, intelligent man, of whom many characteristic anecdotes are told. Jesse C. Smith who built the first well in Lacon, one of the most remarkable men which the county at that time contained. Executive in his habits, of great and varied information, who 40 years ago predicted that the immense commerce and trade of the country would be done mainly by railroads, and that they would to a great degree supercede rivers and canals. Although he did not live to see it, time has more than demonstrated the truth of his prediction.

Sanford Broaddus, Col. John Strawn and John Wier, were all men of well marked and somewhat eccentric traits of character. The latter, it was said, was obliged to leave Virginia in consequence of his anti-slavery opinions, and his advocacy of human rights; all honor to his memory. The list would be incomplete without a reference to one, who although not a citizen of your county, has been with you every year for almost half a century - a man who has done more for the farmers and laboring men of Marshall county, than any other, honest in his dealings, just and exact in his business, whose word was never forfeited, whose ear was never closed to the cry of distress, and whose hand was ever ready to assist the poor and unfortunate. The financial storm has swept over him, and destoyed the accumulations of years of honest toil, and left him in his old age a stranded wreck, yet today, the speaker would rather have the good name of Jabez Fisher, than to be possessor of the millions of Vanderbilt, or the income of a bonanza king.

On the west side of the river we had Major Thompson, the first settler of the city of Henry; Chester S. Woodward, Warford Bonham, one of the first commissioners of Marshall county, a most worthy and upright man, who lived for many years as a patriarch among his numerous descendants. Hooper Warren, the first circuit clerk of old Putnam county, a pure man, and one of those noble and heroic band of men whose pen and influence saved our state from the curse of slavery, and started her upon her career of greatness and prosperity. He lived an honest life, and died in honorable poverty.

The history of George Reeves, the reported accomplice of a gang of horse thieves and counterfeiters, and his expulsion from the county was simply alluded to. The sad fate of Graves, the owner of the land on which Sparland now stands, was touched upon. He was lost in the winter of 1846, with the Donner party, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, on his way to California. One of his peculiarities was, that he never wore a hat, or any sort of covering on his head. The scorching rays of the summer sun, and the piercing blasts of winter, always beat upon his bare and unfortunate head. There were many other names of whom honorable mention should be made, if time permitted.

The various paper towns were spoken of - the period of inflation in 1833, 4, 5 and 6, was alluded to. The financial crash of 1837 and the subsequent hard times was spoken of and compared with the present. In the speaker's opinion we have much less cause to complain than they had in 1837. Economy, industry and courage brought them through. Upon this they relied rather than upon visionary and impracticable modes of government relief. The mode of dress, houses, social life, simple habits, hospitality, and other characteristics of the old settlers were alluded to. The education and intelligence of the people at that time was spoken of, and in the speaker's opinion compared favorably with that of the present day. Other points of local interest were touched upon and the address was concluded by reminding the old settlers that every passing year severed a link of the chain that bound the past to the present, and wishing for them, health and happiness, for the remainder of their days.

At the conclusion of his address, which occupied some 40 minutes in delivery, the assemblage was dismissed for dinner. This was an interesting feature of the day's programme. Groups were scattered in all parts of the grounds, and families and friends uniting, formed large parties, who dinners tasted better by the variety, sociability and good cheer that attended their partaking together. In connection with the dinner tea and coffee was served by the generosity of the Lacon people bo all who desired them. Many of the bills of fare were ordered a la "pioneer" and many a "spread" was rich in variety as well as relishable in taste for the inner man.

The Afternoon Exercises

At 1:30 the Lacon band called the people together by playing a lively air. By request, Judge Parrott of Wenona, vice president, took the stand and presided. He called upon Joel Haws of Magnolia, Putnam county, for the first speech. (Joel Haws speech deals mostly with the war of 1775 and 1812 and not early county history, so I'm going to leave it out. If anyone is interested in his speech, write me and let me know.)

Rev. Lemuel Russell

After the singing of "Cornation", that good old hymn, Rev. Lemuel Russell of this county was called upon. He thought from the appearances of his audience that love and friendship abounded more than usual. He moved to Illinois in 1831, settling in what was known at that time as the Wabash country. In 1833, he moved back to Mississippi. The next year he revisited Lacon in a steamboat from Peoria. There was no town, and the only landmark was an Indian trail. There was not a family in the place. In first settler was Elisha Swan. Col. Strawn who came after, laid out the town of Columbia (now Lacon). The streets were designated by a furrow, and the speaker bought a few lots. The next winter he got married, built a cabin 15x20 and located, and 15 persons were counted in place and vicinity.

We had lively times in those days. There were no bridges to the sloughs, no water at your door. It was a common thing to get stalled, and recounted one incident, where he got fast and had to remain all night before he got out. He lived the locality, found the soil good, which would pay a man for his labor. One season he worked on a mill at $1 per day and walked three miles to his home, taking his pay out of the store. His oats were threshed out by treading of his oxen. He was blessed with favorable seasons, and was fortunate in raising of family and crops. He had eight children, and after grown four were taken away. He looked beyond the present and expected to meet the brothers and sisters in that better land.

He referred to the hard times with the curtailment of our incomes while our extravagances remained. We required so much to supply our needs, but should be careful to not go beyond our needs. Make it a rule to owe no man anything. He thought we might not all meet again, and exhorted each to put their trust in a future state. The deaths of old settlers were not so numerous as in previous years. In 1876 there were 22 reported to the association, some less last year, and still less this year, more deaths of old settlers last year on the east side of the river, and the most this year on the west side.

John O. Dent

John O. Dent of Wenona came to listen. The first time he was Lacon it was covered with grass, and but two families in the town. Elisha Swan had a cabin, living in one end, and had a small store in the other. The material for the first biscuit was of meal. He described his first trip to mill, he and his brother, small boys, being sent on horseback with a bushel of corn each. Had to wait until 9 p.m., started for home taking trial for Shaw's Point; got lost; the horses were given their own way and they reached a cabin at midnight, which was the Sawyers; they would not let us go home that night; rose very early to start knowing the family had nothing to eat. Mrs. Sawyer looked at them, and said they ere pretty small boys to be sent to mill; she would not let them go until after breakfast, saying "she could not look into the face of my mother," if they went off without something to eat.

Got acquainted with Judge Parrott in 1832. He recited another grist mill exploit, and wound up an interesting 10 minute speech with an incident in the political life of Darius Fyffe, and a local preacher named Payne, relative to the obtaining of the news of nomination of James K. Polk as the democratic nominee for the presidency in which was brought out the contrast of reading the nomination and platform of the Tilden convention in the same afternoon, and the three and four months of receiving it in the early day by word of mouth from the occasional traveler. Mr. Dent depicted the incident in a humorous way and it brought down the house.

"Mount Pisgah" was the next old song by the choir, which was so familiar that many old settlers of the congregation joined in the singing.

Judge Burns

Judge Burns was the next speaker. The footprints of time had made rapid changes on the countenances and homes of the old settlers. Many familiar faces were missing, - gone to the far western plains and pleasant vales to make their homes, others had passed the confines not to return. We lived in the highest age of the world had ever seen and for which we should be ever thankful. He came here when the place was occupied by Indians and wild beasts. Today plantations yield fine crops, and fruit, and fine houses and the appliances to reap the fruits of the earth are seen everywhere. By the railroad you are born to any land at the rate of from 20 to 60 miles an hour; by the telegraph you had converse with the old world; the telephone records words as fast as they drop from the speaker's lips, and intelligence is diffused all over the land. Lessons were taken from the mountains, from the depth of the ocean, from the lightning, the rocks, flowers of the field, and the trembling leaf, the earthquake, and all nature, and everything that meets his sight and sense, from them learning the mighty lessons of life. There was an age when the military chieftain was the height of human ambition, and the people were slaves to an iron despotism; this he contrasted with the friendship fo today and the excellencies growing out of it. We are going higher and higher, in those states where friendship would hold deeper and more lasting sway.

William Gallaher

William Gallaher was not accustomed to public speaking, but would throw in a little of the spice of life. Men should work for their substantial happiness. Suppose we did live in a cabin and wear moccasins, the complaint of hardship reminded him of a lawsuit, in which a lawyer of the prosecution while speaking, was seriously interrupted by the defendant's blubbering, who upon inquiry what was the matter, stated he did not know he had been so great a sufferer until it was described by the attorney, and he felt if that was the case that he must cry about it. And so it was with the old settlers; they did not know of their suffering until told of it. Here he recited some Hoosier poetry, which described the early times quite forcibly. We were unable to induce Mr. Gallaher to furnish it for publication.

The speaker thought the old settlers were the happiest people on earth. They had no taxes to pay and were looking forward to a better day. More enjoyment in hauling a load to Chicago thatn to the depot 10 miles off. There were several peculiarities among the old settlers. They all had little hatchets and never allowed them to rust. They kept them in use, but there are very few little hatchets around now. He compared the country of the early day to now. The men of those tiems didn't come from bandboxes. Every great man was from a Hoosier cabin, be he stateman or general. Dr. Franklin, had be been a son of a millionaire, never would have played with the lightning. The necessity got him the nerve. The metal was also in Lincoln; whether he had ever seen a school house or not it would have developed. No millionaire has the power to develop the country. The sons from the cabin will reach a higher mark than the dandy bandbox man. Necessity caused us to haul wheat to Chicago and dig the canal. Poverty is heaven's choicest blessing to man. It is not the money power that develops the country, but the brain and muscle.

A newspaper, the Washington Gazette, printed in 1830, as a relic of the olden time, was shown from the stand, which was draped in deep mourning, containing a detailed account of the burial of the immortal Washington. The paper had been well preserved.

Mrs. Ann Bullman

Mrs. Ann Bullman was the next speaker. She made the old fashioned courtesy, and gave a history of the early day, and some of her experiences with the Indians when she was quite young. Her parents moved to this county with four daughters and a son, and located upon a track of land that Marquette and his tribe used every season for tenting ground when they came north; and she narrated in detail their coming, tenting on their land, making the season of their stay a time for hunting, drinking, fighting, etc., describing vividly the many murders she had witnessed among the tribe doing their drunken jamboree, and the mortal fear they were in day after day as long as they remained in the vicinity. Her mother sowed, cultivated, cut, wove and spun flax. The girls never escaped with so little work as now. As she closed she exhorted the red ribbon boys to be careful who they voted for.

Col. Fort

Col. Fort closed the exercises of the day with a few well chose remarks, congratulating the old settlers upon the return of their annual reunion. He eulogized the log cabin with its scanty furniture and poverty as the abode of contentment and comfort; the latch string always hung out and in it he had the meals that tasted better than they had since. He referred to the development of the country, and how it was brought about; advising the young men to go west, where a home was provided for all who would seek one. He also alluded tenderly to those passing on, whose names are stricken from the muster roll, and have gone to the better land; we are tending at railroad speed in the same direction, and we should perform our part as they did when they were with us. Keep up the meetings; come and strike glad hands and count the wrinkles that time has gathered. God spare and bless the old settlers.

Death List

The following list of old settlers, who had died during the year, were prepared, but owing to the lateness of the hour at the close of the exercises, the reading was omitted:

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