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Washington County, Illinois

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Looking Back from Washington County, Illinois
Washington County Historical Society
Vol. 2, No. 1, 1978, pgs. 38-39
A Pioneer of Washington County, ILL.
The following is a story as written by
Dr. John Thomas Foster, Physician, Ashley, Illinois.
Dr. Foster wrote this sometime after 1917.
Submitted by Mrs. Evelyn Seaman, Decatur, Illinois.
Dr. John T. Foster
John T. Foster
      "My grandparents emigrated to the Illinois territory from Georgia in 1814. This part of Illinois was then a wilderness. My father's people settled near Lebanon, St. Clair County, Illinois, living there only a few years; then my father, Thomas Foster, came to Washington County, and in 1828 married Rebecca White, whose parents moved here from Georgia about the same time. They settled on a farm between Ashley and Nashville on the old state road, on the farm now owned by Mr. Kroeger, and lived there until the time of their decease. They had a family of nine children, who lived to be grown and were residents of this county, myself being the remaining member of the family.
      The American population of Washington County I knew quite well. Among them, on the old state road, in this county, were the Wheeles families and Castlebury's on the road east of Ashley (no town here then), the William McNail place was a farm where Dr. Lucas lived. The home of Mrs. Gurney was a part of the old James Smith place. The land owned by Walter Moore was Isham Wheeles property. Others along the road were "Uncle Tommy" Cameron, grandfather of Mrs. Kirk Cameron, and great grandfather of Stanley White of this place, Stinson White, a Mr. Clark, Robert White, grandfather of Mrs. Thomas Coulter, Aaron Newman, Thomas Foster, Major John White, Robert Livesay, Andrew White, Samuel Jack, whose grandchildren are now living on the farm; Elijah Goodner, Dempsey Canady, considered the wealthiest man in the county, and Livesay Carter, whose son, Dr. Carter, was one of the well known physicians of our county. His was the last place on the road before we reached Nashville, which was a small village.
      In Nashville are many worthy citizens, whose parents were among the first settlers of this county, and their children still remain, occupying in some instances the same property their fathers did before them. I used to think, when a boy, I would hear Ptol Hosmer and Judge Watts argue a case, I would like to be a lawyer, but on coming home and thinking it over I would decide otherwise.
      What they now call "Old Town Richview" was a thriving little village where you could trade at a store owned by B. Phillips, afterwards a County Judge, and have your harness made by "Uncle" Jimmy Barnes, and if you were sick, be treated by Dr. Lucas or Dr. Burns who could quote volumes of poetry to you if you could listen. Other prominent physicians in our country were Dr. Hodskith, Dr. Henry, Dr. Phillips, and Dr. Weans. When I began reading medicine with Dr. Pace of our city in 1866, I considered him one of the best of the county and of southern Illinois.
      Some of the early settlers south of Ashley were James Coulter, Joel Woodrome, John Stephens, "Uncle Sammy" Anderson of Mud Prairie, and Daniel R. Spencer, who lived in pioneer days and had a family of 16 children. Two of the daughters, Mrs. Benton Jack and Mrs. Irwin Jack, now live in the vicinity of Beaucoup. There were very substantial farmers throughout the south and southwestern part of the county. I have heard early settlers from other places say there was no county elsewhere in the state where more upright law-abiding people lived.
      The old stage coach was an interesting vehicle as it went on its journey from St. Louis to Shawneetown. The Indians, both full and half-breed, passed our home in groups, sometimes camping in the woods. Wolves, foxes, and deer were plentiful in the woods just south of our place, and wild game in abundance.
      Our money crop was Castor Beans, which were hauled to St. Louis, several settlers going together. I remember sleeping overnight in the wagon on Market Street, where several wagons would form a circle and we would stay overnight in them. The settlers would bring home enough white flour (one barrel) to last the family for a year, as well as coffee and sugar. My father would bring enough leather to make our shoes. Our regular flour, a coarse but wholesome variety, was made at the mill, two miles south of Ashley, same being owned by Spence Eubank. Everyone had to turn the burr to grind their own wheat. The first cook stove, I ever saw, was owned by Judge Foster White (Dr. Dan White's father) and the first two-horse wagon I ever saw in our neighborhood was owned by my father, who made the woodwork.
      The Methodist Church, as well as other denominations, was well represented, "Liberty" being an organization then as now. Camp meeting was held often at various points, Mt. Zion, Beaucoup, Liberty, Locust Creek and others. The old settlers and families attended and took provisions enough for themselves and any strangers who might be there. Here was a splendid chance for getting acquainted, and for listening to some splendid sermons from men well able to preach the Gospel/ Among pioneer preachers were Rev. John Thatcher, called "Daddy" Thatcher, well known for piety and eccentricity. Rev. J. Leeper, Rev. G. W. Huey, who was quite noted, James I. Richardson and others. Simeon Walker was a well known local preacher, who was frequently at our home. His son, Rev. Levi Walker died in Richview , at an advanced age. His son, Dr. E. A. Walker now lives here.
      The early days, though days of hardships in some ways, were days when we had plenty to eat. Cares were light and friendships lasting, and we enjoyed ourselves as well as does the present generation."
      (Dr. Foster is buried in the Ashley Cemetery and the headstone reads as follows :
John Thomas Foster, Physician & Surgeon, born Jan. 21, 1841, died May 17, 1927
Mary Verlinda born Nov. 7, 1839, died Feb. 4, 1922.)

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