|John Houston Alexander
unknown paper, May 19, 1915
An Old Pioneer
John Alexander of Mt. Sterling claims to be Old Pioneer of Schuyler and Brown Counties.
The following from the Mt. Sterling Mail relates to one who claims
to be the sole survivor of the pioneers of Schuyler and Brown counties.
John Houston Alexander, past 91 years of age, who lives at the home
of his son, John, about a mile south of this city is the sole survivor of
the days of 1831. The only possible exception is Hugh Herald of near
Versailles who is pat 89 years of age and who came to Versailles from Virginia
probably about the same time.
Mr. Alexander is yet fairly vigorous for a man so near the century
mark and it is not uncommon for him to walk the mile from this city to the
In 1830 Mr. Alexander, who was, of course, but a small boy at the
time with his parents arrived in the vicinity of Beardstwon having come thru
the wilderness in an ox cart from Kentucky. Beardstown was some considerable
town for these days though it consisted of merely a group of log buildings.
The U. S. Government had made a trail from there to Quincy by blazing the
trees on each side. In the ox cart on this trail and after a spring
the Alexander's started out on long journey steering around and over stumps
landed across from Ripley about 1/2 mile beyond the present Ripley Bridge.
Here the father saw fit to stake out a 160 acre tract and to erect a crude
pole house until a better log cabin could be made a little later in the season.
For this land he paid the government $1.25 per acre. The family subsisted
principally on corn bread made from corn meal, which they crushed with a
mortar in a bowl. A small patch of ground was cleared and cultivated
with hard labor. When they wished to cross the river to Ripley they
had to ford the stream, which could be done in low water. Or if the
river was too high they would hail Esq. O'Neil the only resident of Ripley
at that time. He would bring over his canoe and they would put the
saddle in and make the steed swim the river behind the canoe.
There was only a log cabin in Ripley then and three or four more between
there and Mt. Sterling. In 1831, this great metropolis consisted of
one crude cabin occupied by Alexander Curry and family. That year this
man built a more ornate hewed log cabin where the Christian church now stands.
From the very first Mt. Sterling demonstrated its aggressiveness as a commercial
center. For Mr. Curry had arranged in one corner of his house a supply
of coffee, sugar, tobacco, whiskey and a few other fundamentals and Indians
and settlers could purchase or barter for the articles. Mr. Curry happened
to get his new house a little askew but this did not matter much except that
he laid off Main Street and the rest of our up town to match his house and
we can consequently thank our first mayor for getting our town plat a little
out of tune with the north pole and the equator. Shortly afterward
a few other log cabins sprung up along the main street and in time Mt. Sterling
came to be the best, busiest and largest little city in Illinois.
Mr. Alexander states that he had occasion to journey to Rushville
at about this time. Both Brown and Schuyler Counties were then one
and Rushville was the county seat. After passing about three cabins
between the Alexander home and the county seat he came to a group of imposing
log structures known as Rushville.
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