Old Putnam In Ye Olden Time

Taken From the Marshall County Republican
February 6, 1868

(This was taken from a very poor microfilm copy of the Marshll County Republican.  I have have tried to record it as accurately as possible. Where there are (?) means I was not sure of the spelling of the word.

The old pioneer settlers of Putnam county who settled in the region of country known as "The Old Putnam County" prior to the year 1839 (which included the counties of Putnam, Marshall, Bureau and LaSalle), had a gathering at Hennepin on Thursday of last week, which brought together a goodly number of the veteran "Illinoisans" of the region. Weather was very severe, which tended to prevent the attendance of many at a distance, who otherwise would have been there. As it was, the court house was well filled with young and old, who had met to talk over and review the early day experiences of the fathers and overjoy them in making acquaintances, shaking hands with old friends from a distance, and to have a good time in generally.

The meeting formally organized by selecting Smiley Shepherd, Esq. of Hennepin, as chairman, and I. W. Steward of Floird, and J. W. Leach of Hennepin, secretaries. the meeting then took action to enroll all the old settlers present ..?.. into the year when they moved into this region, making out 2 listes, those 21 years of age in 1832, and also those under age of the same. The following are the names of those enrolled.

Over Age in 1832








Under Age in 1832






The meeting then referred to matters "of ye olden time" and those in Capt. Willis company during the Black Hawk war were requested to rise when 11(?) men here instantly rose to their feet. Of Capt. Haws’ company doing service at the same time (4?) were present, also Capt. Barnes company had 2 at the meeting - Weir and Bullman of Marshall county and only 1 in Capt. Thompson’s company. Capt. Thompson was afterwards promoted to the rank of major and was succeeded by Capt. Stewart.

The first court organized in the old county of Putnam in 1821 with Hooper Warren as clerk. Two of the grand jury were present; One of them described their session as being under a tree on a log and consisted of 6 members. A fellow attempted to prowl around to hear what was going on, but was chased away by the constable. The jury had only one case before them for indictment , and, tha was for bigamy - a man named Heasos(?) Hall having two wives. The jury were all bachelors, and in those days girls were scarce. Under these circumstances of theirbeing too(?) many bachelors in the country and so few girls, and consequently so difficult to find wives, this case of a man appropriating two females for wives was peculiarly aggravating and called for stern retribution. They of couse, found an(?) indictment against the impudent rascal. The persons composing this jury, were J. S. Ramsey, Wm. Haws, John Strawn, Jeremiah Strawn, Abram Stratton and Nelson Shepherd. Of course their duty was to try the wretch with two wives, and he was cut through "as the lash directs." At this court a Mr. Ford was attorney, Hooper Warren clerk, and Ira Ladd sheriff.

Speeches were then called for, and Gurdon S. Hubbart, who settled in that county in 1818, at the mouth of Bureau river bout 1 1/2 miles north of Hennepin, but who is now a resident of Chicago was first called to the stand. We can only give a synopsis of this speech which was a lengthy one, showing what the pioneers went through and endured during the early settlement of the country.

Gurdon S. Hubbart

Mr. Hubbart, commenced with the usual apology that he was no public speaker though the people were led before he got through to think that part of his remarks were superfluous.  He located at Bureau river in 1818 when he was but 16 years old, coming to this point in the interest of the Ashor fur company to trade with the Indians under the charge of Antione Deschamp, who located some 13 fur stations between this point and St. Louis.

Here dry goods, flour and tobacco were brought from Montreal and exchanged for furs with the Indians; didn’t see a white man for some time; when the Indian war came on fought the Indians; didn’t see the buffalo that roamed the prairies in those days, but Mr. Deschamp had told him that they had roamed these regions in great herds and that when crossing a river had been compelled to stop and wait an hour to let them pass; he had seen elk and deer and wolves and other wild animals and used to hunt them; was quite a favorite with the Indian chief Shaboner, and was adopted by him and named “The Little American”.

At his death his successor Wabana adopted him and he got along with the tribes pleasantly and peacefully. He traveled over the whole territory known as the northwestern territory; swam rivers, had not seen white men for days and days. Men from the east would come into the state, stay awhile and after fearful trials with the ague and fever and other diseases and enduring ill manner and hardships and privations would go back from whence they immigrated, discouraged and disgusted with pioneer life and at one time he came across a man and his family named Green travelling on the prairie in a famishing condition. These horses(?) were faded out almost to falling down and the whole family of 15 persons weary and discouraged; invited them to his house but they thought they would not be able to reach it 8 miles off. He took 2 children on his horse with him and took them home, harnessed his horses into his wagons and with 2 teams brought them in safely. Some were sick, tired, worn out; after staying a couple of weeks and had recovered, they started to make a new home in La Salle county. The valuable mills of Mr. Green at Daton are known to all.

The country is greatly indebted to the early settlers for the state of morals, industry and warm-heartedness found as new settlers flocked in. They had (......?.........) of bundles and heat of the battle. Had brought peace and made the laws for the country. They brought no money with them, built cabins, encountered all manner of privations, hardships and discouragements, and had nothing to look to but their industry, indomitable energy. They went hundred miles to mill, over muddy roads and through sloughs and had the same inconvenience of market and tarried anywhere the night overtook them. There were times that tried men’s souls. As a class they were known for their veracity and each had implicit competence in the other. They were good men - honest, giving to hospitality, truthful and kind. In strong contrast to the commercial men of today, these men also brought the religious element with them and to pioneer Methodist preachers in the country, indebted to its piety and religious progress. He knew well Peter Cartwright and some even went 10 miles to meeting. We have much to be proud of and our generation will bless us.

Aaron Gunn

Aaron Gunn of La Salle being called for said: “In 1829, I saw letters in the Christian Watchman from the Rev. John Bergan of Springfield, Illinois in which he gave a very glowing account of the west. He spoke of Sagamon County as being 100 miles square and most beautifully diversified with groves and prairies and a soil not to be surpassed in richness. I determined at once to go and see for myself and if I found all true, to make Illinois my home.”

In 1830, I left Massachusetts afoot and alone. I walked to Albany where I took the Erie Canal to Buffalo and from thence to Detroit by boat. From Detroit I started west afoot, traveling 45 miles per day. White Pigeon, 185 miles west of Detroit was the first prairie I saw, but I did not like it. It was not the clear, smooth prairie I expected, but had Willows scattered over it. Twenty miles further west I found prairie good enough I thought for anyone; had such farming, one man had 50 acres of corn.

Thinking it unnecessary to look for a better country, I returned to Massachusetts and notified interest in the old homestead and in the spring of 1831 started west. I got in company with a colony which located in Princeton, Illinois. When we came to the St. Joseph river in Michigan, seven young men and myself bought canoes and went down the river to a point near South Bend where we made a portage to the Kankanee at that pass, a little crooked creek, but a few feet wide and a low marshy prairie, which we floated down to the Illinois, and from thence to Ottawa. Those young men were all alive 33 years after and now only 2 are dead.

I made a claim where Lamoille now stands and lived there until the Black Hawk war. I stayed on my farm two days after the Indian Creek massacre and then left only at the urgent entreaty of Shaboner who had faithfully warned the whites and almost drove them from the frontier to save their lives.”

On the 16th of June, I went with John L. Ament in company with a few others to his house, a few miles north of where Princeton now stands to get some goods he had left there. Some of the men boasted of what they would do if they were attacked by Indians, but none of us suspected that there was any danger. When we arrived we found everything as it had been left and the men all scattered off to look at their farms, except Dimock and myself, who amused ourselves by picking strawberries which were very plentiful on the prairie. The men all returned that evening without seeing any sign of Indians and we stayed in the house that night without any guards or pickets.

The next morning at daylight, Phillips got up and started out alone to go over to his house when we heard a report of a gun but supposed that Phillips had fired it off until we heard a yell and looking out saw Indians who on seeing us fled. Some of the men took a chink out from between the logs on the other side of the house and saw the Indians, but their bravery had deserted them and they forgot to fire on them. We afterwards learned from signs that we found, that we had been watched all the time.

In the winter of 1831-2, there was a very heavy fall of rain and sleet, and the prairies were a perfect sheet of ice, so that it became impossible to travel with bare footed horses and the only blacksmith, except at Peoria, was Mr. Ayers of La Salle. The Indians on Bureau suffered very much that winter.

William Haws

William Haws said: “I settled in Sagamon County, Illinois in 1821. There was about 1 dozen log houses in Springfield at that time. In 1822, I was at Peoria, where there were 3 or 4 whites living. I was also out on Mackinaw and where Bloomington now stands but saw no whites. In 1823, a Mr. Walker established a mission among the Indians at Ottawa. In 1826, I explored Putnam County and settled near where Magnolia now stands. I took a man by the name of Lapsley to look at La Salle and he was the first man that sold good there. In March 1827, Steven and James Willis stayed with me when looking at the county. The same year, I went to the lead mines and returned in 1828 and found that a number of families had come in since I left. In 1831, the commissioners met at my house to locate the county seat of Putnam county.”

Alexander Holbrook

Alexander Holbrook of Tiskilwa said: “I settled in Champaign, then Vermilion county in 1827. I spent my last quarter of a dollar when I crossed the Wabash. In Big Grove I made a claim and built a house and improved a farm on which I raised a crop and when another man entered it away from me, I then improved a place near Peru, which I sold to get money to enter another. I made meal by pounding corn with an iron wedge and a mortar made by cutting and burning a hole in the end of a log. Afterwards I used a small hand mill. We did not go to church in those days, for we had none, but we went to meeting and had good meetings which we all enjoyed because there was union and we loved one another. I never charged a person anything for stopping with men except to call again. I was well acquainted with Old Abe. We have visited each other and I have split as many rails as he ever did.”

George H. Shaw

George H. Shaw, Lacon said: “I came to Springfield in 1824 or 25. It was a very small place at that time. In December 1827, I visited Washington and explored Putnam County generally. Saw Mr. Gallaher and family at Crow Creek and afterwards visited them on their farm. I visited Steven and James Willis - was where Hennepin now stands and at Mr. Knox’s near where Magnolia now stands. In 1828, I made a claim near Thomas Simpson’s and returned to Kentucky. In 1830, I returned and found my claim jumped but made another and settled at Shaw’s Point. In the winter of 1830 and 1831, I taught a school in a log house in the timber near Magnolia. The fireplace extended the whole length of one end of the house and the windows were made by cutting out a part of two logs and putting in oil paper or cloth. I taught writing on desks made by placing puncheon pills placed on the wall. I pounded meal to make my corn breads, swept the school house and made my own fires. My wages was $3 per scholar and I taught all day.”

Michael Kitterman

Michael Kitterman of Tiskilwa said: “I came to Illinois in 1831. From the rapids on the Illinois river, I came to Hennepin and George Miller took me across the river. I worked that summer for John Hall, but in the time, made a claim and built a house near where Princeton stands and went back to Indiana after my family. When I came back, I found that another man had taken possession of my house, but as I learned that it was on the 16th section, and I had no money, I let him keep it and made another claim.

Nelson Shepherd

Nelson Shepherd of Hennepin said that he would relate at incident to folks an idea of how the mail was carried and distributed. “In the summer of 1829, I met the mail boy on the prairie. He hailed me and said he had some letters for me, took them out of his cap and handed them to me. I took them and told him that I would leave the postage, 25 cents each letter at such a house and he could get it the next day on his return. All was satisfactory.”

Williamson Durley

Williamson Durley of Hennepin said: “My father moved to Sagamon county in 1819. I came to Putnam in 1831 and in company with James Durley rented a cabin of George Willis on the Illinois river about one mile above Hennepin and started a small store.  William M. Stewart and J. G. Durley built the first house in Hennepin. James Durley and myself, the second. I helped tear down Thomas Hartzell’s old trading house and I built a block house in Hennepin during the Black Hawk war. Thomas Hartzell, J. S. Simpson, H. K. Zenor, and myself selected the first graveyard at Hennepin and helped to bury Phillips, who was killed by the Indians. Hennepin was laid out in 1831 by John M. Gay, Thomas Gallaher, and George Ish, county commissioners. The county had first procured a preemption on the land. The first sale of town lots was in October and the proceeds built the court house and jail, besides paying the county expenses for one year. Colby Stevenson was the surveyor. The first steam boat at Hennepin in 1831 was Jack Traveller.”

Smiley Shepherd

Smiley Shepherd said: “I settled where I now live in 1828 and during that year traversed all the country between the Wabash and Mississippi Rivers and I saw but very few whites.  I was at Chicago and was offered a good whaler claim on 160 acres where the city now stands for $250 dollars. The only whites living in Chicago at that time was John Kinzie and family, Mr. Clayburn and family on the north branch, Alexander Wolcott, Indian agent; John Baptist Beanbien, Indian trader; Billie Caldwell, head chief of the Pottowatomies and Ottawas, an educated half-breed Indian; George W. Dole Robinson, a Canadian and chief of a band of Pottowatomies. In 1828, I told some of my friends in Ohio that I thought that we would have steam boats running on the Illinois river, but they laughed at me. In 1830 I saw the first steam boat on the river and think we had six that summer. Religious meetings had been held regularly since I have been in the country. I made the first coffin made for a white person in Putnam county. It was for the son of Aaron Whitaker’s.”

W. H. Zenor

W. H. Zenor of Hennepin said: “I came to La Salle in 1831 in a Mackinaw boat. I started to the country immediately to hunt work which I found very scarce. I hired to a Mr. Sprague at $8 per month and the following winter worked for Mr. Roth on Bureau at 25 cents per day. The next summer I served in the Black Hawk war where I saw no Indians but plenty of mosquitoes. I was sick the greater part of 1832 and not able to work but the people were very kind to me and refused payment for board. One of my favorite boarding places was William Patterson’s and I settled my little bill there by marrying his daughter.”

Joshua Bullman

Joshua Bullman of Lacon said: “I think that we are all telling the dark side of the story and that we have really less to complain of than we are willing to admit. The early settlers of this country probably suffered less than those of almost any other. I came to Illinois in 1831 and looked at the country and returned to Indiana. In 1832, I moved to Sand Prairie near Lacon. I have always found plenty to eat every place. I have been known and have always had plenty at home.”

George Hilterbrand

George Hilterbrand of Oxbow said: “I left Tennessee in 1827 for Dillon settlement, Illinois. In 1828, while living at Walnut Grove, I traveled considerable and explored the country to north of me. I was at Crow Creek, Sandy, Vermillion, Balliemont and Hennepin and vicinity. In 1829, I made a claim and moved to Oxbow Prairie, going with another family into a house that had a roof on but one side.”

In session, the meeting sustained a motion that photographs of all the old settlers be sent to A. T. Purvience in Hennepin, one paper, so as to be pasted on cardboard in groups for framing and suspending on the wall. The organization was named the first settler’s society of northern Illinois and was to consist of all the old settlers who were here previous to 1833 and their descendants. As Smiley Shepherd was appointed to draft constitution and bylaws thereof. W. Durley, J. S. Simpson, and R. H. Zenor were designated a committee to appoint time and place for the next meeting. Dinner was also served at the Hennepin house and the National Hotel where the tables were bountifully loaded with the delicacies of the season (.....?.....) of the (...?....)


Old Settlers Meeting

Taken From The Henry News Republican
December 10, 1868

The Chicago Republican gives a report of the old settlers meeting at Hennepin, Nov. 24th, which we copy. In connection with it, we are enabled to print the poem read on the occasion by Arthur Bryant, Esq., of Princeton, composed and written so long ago as the settlement of Putnam County. The report indicates that the old settlers had a meeting that they dearly appreciated and did not fail to enjoy.

The president after invoking the blessing of God upon their deliberations, made some very appropriate remarks as to the nature and purpose of the meeting. He read a draft of some resolutions he had been instructed to prepare at the last gathering, the purport of which was to cherish and sustain an interest between old settlers, to obtain the date of the entry of each one into the country, the time of the establishment of schools, organization of religious societies, when preaching was first half, establishment of Sunday school, and graded schools, when steam was first introduced into the country, together with many other items of practical importance which would be of interest now and to future generations.

Quite a large number of the gray-headed pioneers of the country were present, the names of whom we are unable for the want of space, to give.

Capt. Dunlavy bought the first lot in the town of Hennepin, and the following summer assisted in building a block house, which afforded a refuge for the settlers of that region from the attacks of the Indians under Black Hawk, who was then the terror of the settlers along the whole frontier.

During the afternoon session very interesting and entertaining speeches were made by Messrs.. Hamlin of Peoria, Pool of Evansville and Munson of La Salle county. The later gentleman, in the course of his remarks giving a very vivid description of the massacre on Indian Creek, 10 miles from Ottawa. In this massacre, 10(?) persons were killed, and one of the young ladies by the name of Hall taken prisoner at that time who afterwards became his wife. His ....?... of the ...?...ance ...?... was that tragedy was deeply listened to by those present, many being residents of this section of that time.

Here Arthur Bryant of Princeton was called upon and read the following poem:

We still plant new trees with untiring hand;
On sods that shelter the red man’s grave,
Shall the tall maize spring, and the green wheat wave.
The peach shall blossom, the cherry blow,
And the apple with ruddy fruit shall glow.
The flowers we have cherished since childhood’s time,
Shall bloom in the sun of an unknown clime.
The forest that rang with the Indian’s yell,
Shall eke the sound of the Sabbath bell;
Where the gaunt wolf howled, and the wildest strayed,
And the grim bear stalked in the woodland shade.
The schoolboy’s shout, and the drowsy hum
Of traffic and toil er the war shall come.
Away! Away! the smiling land
Invites the emigrant’s busy hand.
The lakelets shine in the vernal moon;
The flowers bloom of the spring time born,
And the fresh winds blow and the waters (?)lay.
Away to the distant west, away!

Following the above, he made a few remarks, in which he stated that a fellow named Leonard, shot himself through the hat, representing that it was the Indians, thereby causing a panic among the settlers. The ball, in passing through the “the hat” found no brains, consequently he escaped unhurt.

Mr. Crosier, who was brought up among the Indians, having lived with them from 1819 until 1836, was the next speaker. His remarks were of peculiar interest, touching incidents and events that possessed thrilling importance to all connected with the early days of this state.

In the evening several letters and telegrams were received from old residents in different parts of the state, who were unable to be present, expressing their deep interest in the deliberations of the organization.

The “oldest inhabitant”, Mr. Weir of Marshall county, was present in the evening.

Jerry Strawn of Ottawa, brother, of the late Jacob Strawn, the well known cattler dealer of Illinois, spoke interestingly of his early days. In the course of his remarks which elicited much applause, he spoke of meeting a man in the early days who had three wives, one a black one, one white and the third an Indian woman. This he thought very extravagant, as at that time when women were scarce, many a poor fellow had to go without any. During the time of the Black Hawk war he served as quartermaster of the troops.

Mr. Lathrop of La Salle, followed, and in his remarks referred to a time when he passed the night at an old lady’s house, and at that early day obtained a bed in preference to others present on account of his age. As this was in 1837 he must be pretty well advanced in years now.

Mr. Donivan, a citizen of La Salle county, stated that he had been out of the state, and spoke of the time when he hauled oats to Chicago with an ox tram, selling the oats, for 22(?) cents a bushel, and hitching his team on the common where the Sherman House now stands.

H. K. Zenor of Hennepin, referred to the prejudices that then existed between the eastern and western people, even at the early day - eastern people coming here under the belief that the western people were but little better than the Indian’s state. He was happy to say that those prejudices vanished after becoming better acquainted.

George Dent of Hennepin was then called for and gave some items of his experience referring to the difficulties of obtaining educational facilities and other accessories to comfort and refinement.

Mr. Gunn of La Salle county, spoke of his early travels by land and water, when there was danger on every side, from Indians and wild beasts. He spoke of the remarkable preservation of the lives of so many of those who passed through the Black Hawk was with him, and other scenes of great interest.

Prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Snedaker, pastor of the M. E. church, when the meeting adjourned, to assemble again on the second Wednesday of September 1869.

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