Oxbow Prairie and Caledonia

Taken From the Henry Republican
December 4, 1873

Sketch of Putnam County
Letter No. II

While it may seem very much like “carrying coal to New Castle”, to talk about neighborhoods so near by, and of old settlers whom nearly everybody knows, we are assured that many read with pleasure, and for those we write.

In common with those of every other county in the state, the pioneers “took to the brush”, and settled along the streams and belts of timber, venturing in time to the edge of the prairie, but like timorous sailors, keeping near the shore. With timber in sight, and forests to draw on, for fencing, the immediate prairies were often put under fence, as it saved grubbing, so necessary in the timber and barrens, but that prairie, 10 or 12 miles from timber would ever become farms, or be used for any other purpose than that of grazing, never entered the head of the early settlers, hence the “necks” of prairie, putting down between streams were first utilized by the farmers, and “Oxbow”, lying between “Clear Creek” and “Sandy” timber, early felt the plow, and long lines of “stake and rider” (with several renewals since the first), attest the ability of numerous “rail splitters,” who never became presidents.

Gathering up four corners further from timber than some others, and consequently less valuable, a few bold ones laid off a town, which was duly put down on the maps and named Caledonia. We are not advised that there ever was any extraordinary rush for corner lots, and the holding of adjoining lands at speculative prices, but we do know that piles of goods and groceries, lot of villainous whisky, and a well patronized postoffice once held sway here, where now is only a single blacksmith ship, a postoffice hardly ahead of “Nasby” at the “corners,” and only one little store, where a few goods and necessaries are kept, by a benevolently inclined individual, because he knows the people will need’em (Needham.) The old brick school house has been razed, and a more modern structure erected half a mile south. Two churches, Methodist and Baptist, long ago homes of Pious and devoted, still furnish nucleus of religious rally.

Though railroads have transferred business to mere pretentious towns, Caledonia still lives (though more as a farm than town), and prospers in one direction at least, a prosperity which the monopoly rings can’t transfer to other places, and don’t destroy - the children continue to put in appearance, and over 50 of these are daily gathered in school under the charge, at present, of Miss Thomason, who is one of the “good and good looking” teachers we spoke of last week. A graduate of Normal, abreast of the times in all that pertains to the profession, and coupling earnestness with intelligent enthusiasm in her work, she inspires in the scholars a portion of this ardor, and earnestness which invariably makes learning easy, and teaching a pleasure instead of a task, but little removed from actual drudgery.

Of all the old settlers who first gave name and reputation to Caledonia, but three remain - Smith, Horrum an Hildebrandt. Others there are, who have been long here, but not long enough to be in this class. Nor can any younger ones appreciate, all seen, felt, feared or enjoyed by these pioneers, who is these early days crossed and recrossed the state when there were but few points with human surroundings to touch at; these being Shawneetown, Peoria, Dixon, Galena, Fort Dearborn (Chicago), a few others; and besides these, all else a wilderness. It pays a high compliment to this locality, as to its agricultural claims, that these men, with their wide range of travel, and their ability to select the best, pitched their tents for life at this place, when they had nearly the whole state to select from, and for the purposes in view they did not miss it very much.

To the Illinois modern wanderer, who has passed through thousands of miles of well set, and well trimmed hedge, the old style stake and rider worn fence, so common here, looks untidy, and “behind the times;’ and some of the roads adjoining, and through the timber, look as if they had been laid out by commissioners who had first set up a benefit for their favorite saloonkeeper. But these rail fences were put here before the days of boards, and the timber so handy, makes it cheap to repair, while the roads obtained their direction in many instances before there were fence corners to direct their course, or value to land to compel straight lines.

But an offset to rail fence is found in the new and substantial houses and barns built by the present incumbents. Nestling in the edge of the timber are these houses, barns and outhouses. Henry Kayes, Cole Haley, Cal. Shields and Young Glenn, besides others, all in the turn of the “bow” have good houses. Shields built last year; Kayes repaired and enlarged this (his), and Mr. Glenn, in but a few weeks, and quite late at that, has just finished a substantial residence, in which he will soon go into winter quarters.  

Should you be riding along that way, and the fool horse wants to go by, let him go, but be sure and stop yourself especially if it is near “grub time”. These fellows all live by eating, and they can stand almost any draft on the table. (we tried it for over four weeks.) Mr. Glenn’s house, though not large, is sufficiently so for the present demands, is well built, handily arranged, and well finished. The house was built by contract by Mr. McCoy of Magnolia, who did justice to himself and Glenn, by getting Piley & Parker of Henry to do the plastering; hard finish throughout. The Glenn brothers are extensive feeders and shippers of stock, and you ought to see how the farmers around “go” for these middle men; that is, they go and sell to them, get good prices, and ready pay, thus avoiding the risk and oftimes unfavorable results of shipping themselves.

Rip Rap

June 2, 1881 - Local items
Taken From the Henry Republican

The effects of the late Elizabeth Allen on the family place, two miles southwest of Caledonia, Putnam County, will be sold at public sale on Saturday of this week. The stock embraces 5 head of horses, 3 cows, 7 other cattle and 26 hogs. Also farming tools and household furniture. The terms give 10 months time.

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