Putnam County, Illinois History and Genealogy



James R. Taliaferro

Taken From the Lacon Home Journal - Reprinted in the Henry Republican
September 4, 1879

James R. Taliaferro, a prominent settler of Putnam county, lives one-half mile north of Putnam station, on the Peoria branch of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad. He was born in Clearmont county, Ohio, in 1810; his father being a soldier of the revolution, serving on the western frontier, and one of the intrepid band who, under Col. Clark, marched hundreds of miles through an unknown country swarming with hostile Indians, and captured Kaskaskia, and other posts held by the British, which have to freedom and free institutions the great northwest forever.

His mother was Rebecca Riddle, belonging to a family of noted Indian fighters. In one of those merciless raids so common in those days, the "station" was captured, and the inmates who were not killed on the spot were hurried off to Canada. The sufferings on the route were terrible, the well were loaded with plunder and those too feeble to stand the hardships, were butchered. Two of the brothers were adopted into the tribe and remained until men grown when they escaped and finally settled near Quincy, in this state, and became well known preachers of the Baptist persuasion.

About the year 1800 his father moved to Tremont county, Ohio, a heavily timbered region and opened a farm. The work of felling and burning the great trees was immense, and every member of his family was required to contribute such aid as he could give. When 15 years old disasters came upon the family and he was sent out to seek his own living, and hired himself to a farmer for $6 a month, then considered very fair wages. His opportunities for an education were limited to a few weeks schooling each winter, scraped together book learning enough to transact ordinary business quite satisfactorily.

When 19 years old he left home on the Ohio and went down the Mississippi to the vicinity of Memphis and engaged at chopping wood, getting 75 cents a cord, and easily cutting and piling three cords a day. In the spring he joined a party engaged in getting out timber for the New Orleans market, which they put into large rafts and floats down the river.

The swiftness of the current opposite the town made the landing of such unwieldly bodies difficult and dangerous. Several attempts were made, but the resistless river swept them past the city. The raft was so large and its momentum so great that no ordinary lines or posts to which they could attach availed to check its speed, and after floating down 70 miles without making a landing they despaired of doing so and abandoned it, and took passage on the Caroline, a government boat carrying supplied to troops engaged in the Black Hawk war.

At the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi, the boat landed and his first view of Cairo was had. The future city had but a single house (used for a tavern), and several warehouses, though there was a numerous population living in tents awaiting transportation. While here his funds gave out and he secured a situation at the tavern as a man of all work. There was much card playing going on, and one day he overlooked a game between a couple of professional gamblers and a greenhorn in which the latter was being badly fleeced. Opportunity offering soon after he privately cautioned him and was asked to take his place and play out the game. The other parties assenting, he sat down and won all their money.

Resuming his journey he came to Peoria, reaching there in 1832. West of Rome, at the foot of the bluff, an elder brother had settled some time previously, and with him he stayed until July, when he went back to Ohio, returning again in September.

In the spring of 1833 he married Charlotte Cleaveland and bought a place on Snachwine creek, near Moffitt's mill, and went to farming. Staid there until 1835, when he sold to Henry Pepper and moved to Putnam county, on the place he now occupies. The old cabin he built then still stands on lands belonging to John Williams. His nearest neighbor was Geo. Reeves, afterwards the noted outlaw, and the cabin he lived in may still be seen not far from Putnam station.

Reeves had three brothers, who preceded him to this country, their names being John, Terrell and Bill. They owned claims in the vicinity and sold one of them to to Lundsford Broaddus of Lacon, and he transferred it to Jesse C. Smith. Another claim was sold to Robert Davis - said to be the first real estate the latter ever owned, and on which he made his first "raise."

The Reeves brothers had no connection with their outlaw relative in his thieving operations, and returned to Indiana from whence they came before the latter began his career of rascality. They were believed to be honest men, but old Shabbona, at that time living on the bottoms above Snachwine station, had a number of ponies stolen, which were found concealed west of Henry where one of the brothers lived on the place afterwards owned by George Reeves. Shabbona took a sufficient number of his braves to overcome any possible opposition and drove them home.

Mr. Taliaferro is the oldest settler in Putnam county west of the river. On the west his nearest neighbor was John Boyd of Boyd's Grove, on the south Esq. Mallory, and on the north Jesse Perkins. The bane of the early settlers was ague and mosquitoes, and both were equally bad. Quinine was then as now the antidote of the first, and against the latter there was really no defense. They worried the life out of man and brute, and the only relief was found standing in smoke so dense as to be nearly suffocating.

Like all new countries there were privations encountered and hardships endured, but they were met in a manly spirit and overcome, and most of the early settlers look back on these times as the halcyon days of their existence.

Mr. and Mrs. Taliaferro had eight children born to them, five of whom have passed to the life beyond. Of their remaining children, two live in the vicinity and one in McLean county. Their old age is blessed with health and competence and they can look forward to the great change that comes to all with a reasonable assurance of having performed their duty here and with hopeful trust in the future.

David Trone
Christian (Philby) Trone

After the death of his first wife Mr. Haws was married again, his second union being with Miss Mary Jane Trone, whom he wedded March 2, 1865. She was born in York County, Pennsylvania, January 7, 1845, a daughter of David and Christian (Philby) Trone, likewise natives of York County, the former born January 9, 1816, while the latter was born in 1820. (See biography David Trone). In the spring of 1847 her parents made their way westward, the family home being established in Caledonia, Putnam County, where the father passed away in June, 1863, while the mother survived until January 1879. Both were devoted members of the Methodist church and the father served as postmaster of Caledonia for several years. Their family numbered four children: Mrs. Margaret Smith, deceased; Mary J., now Mrs. Haws; Mrs. Elizabeth Kidd, deceased; and Jerry.
[Source: Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties, By John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne, Printed by the Pioneer Publishing Company, Chicago, 1907, William Haws biography, Pages 194-198]

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