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Family History cont.

April 23

Why this move was made I cannot say. At this date it seems to me to have been a sudden move and apparently to be with or nearer my mother’s people. We had some stock among which I particularly remember a flock of sheep. These and other property were disposed of. Some neighbors from our old home including some of the old domestics, whom we had sold and my sister Betsey, who was not going with us, came to see us and all were quite heart broken over our departure.

One day my mother’s brother Alfred appeared with a very large traveling wagon with a high canvas cover to take us to our new home in White county Illinois. I recall how immense his wagon appeared when it first came in sight. Our house was near the creek, for convenience to water, and most of our cultivated land was on the hill back from the creek. When I saw this wagon coming down the hill from the main road, drawn by two yoke of oxen, it seemed as big as a house. We loaded into it and our own wagon our household effects and took also our horses with us. As we passed through Madisonville, our county seat, I got another impression that has always been with me, ie, the, to me, long streets lined with little brick houses with immense brick chimneys on the outside. Never before had I seen such a strange and wonderful sight.

In two or three days we reached the Ohio river at a little place called Raleigh, some five miles above Shawneetown, near where the Wabash river empties into the Ohio. Here we crossed the river on a crude ferry and reached the other shore just at night. To the great distress of us children the dogs could not be induced to come on the ferry, nor would they swim, so they were left behind on the Kentucky shore. We felt so badly about their being left that after we had made camp for the night Will and I took a boat and paddled back after them. We had to tie them but eventually we got them safely over to our great satisfaction.

That night I saw a steamboat for the first time-two of them in fact, I cannot explain the impression they made on me. They were side wheelers and the pounding of the paddles on the water and the beautiful white appearance they presented made a picture never erased from my memory. Next morning the river was thickly dotted with the boats loaded with grain and produce bound for New Orleans and other lower river points, another wonderful sight to me.

Breaking camp next morning we traveled all day and at night reached the home of Samuel Slocumb where we remained for the winter, going into a tenant house on his premise.

Next spring our home was broken up, why I cannot say and the children were given to relatives. I cannot say where they all went but I went to live with Alfred Slocomb. This was the spring of 1833 and I fix the date because it was in the spring before the “stars fell”, as was the common expression for the great meteoric shower on the night of November 13, 1833.

We raised a crop that summer and as soon as it was laid by in the fall prepared to take it down the river for sale, via flatboat, the general manner of transporting produce at that time.

The base of our boat building operations was at Dewey’s Neck on the little Wabash, not far from Slocumb’s home. A large straight and tall poplar tree was felled so as to balance on, or over, other trees previously felled and put in place, This tree was some ninety feet where it was cut off at the top. Out of the log were whip sawed four “gunnels” for the side of the boat. These were six inches thick, of what width do not know but the small end of the log was at least thirty inches in diameter. These sides were loaded on trucks and hauled to the bank of the river and put in proper position to build the boat, which was built bottom side up. There were no nails, spikes, bolts or iron used in the construction of this boat. The materials were all fastened together with wooden pins, made by an expert pin maker, and all the parts so nicely joined together that there should be no leaking and the less the leakage the more credit to the master builder. When finished the boat was slid over a steep bank and by the use of ropes was turned over and was then ready for the roof, or cover. After the cover had been put on and the boat fully completed, she was floated down to a place called Concord, not far from home, where she was loaded. The principal part of the cargo was corn and hogs the latter being killed and the meat dry salted. In harvesting our corn, it was first jerked, as was called it there, (in this section we say “snapped”), and thrown into a pile along side the barn. After it was all gathered from the field there was a “husking bee” and the neighbors came from near and far, at least one hundred men and women. The men were divided evenly by choosing sides, the corn husked then thrown into the barn and the job finished in one day.

The entire cargo finally placed on the boat and she started on her journey in February or perhaps early in March, 1834, a man named Garrison, who had made several trips, being in charge as pilot and general officer. When the start was made many of the neighbors, myself with the rest, went down to see her off, some going as far as New Haven to see her go over the dam, which was on the little Wabash river. The water was high and she went over without trouble, making a graceful dive as she went over the crest of the dam into the lower water below. The boat and cargo were disposed of at or near Natchez and those who went with her returned in the course of two or three months. The amount of money they brought back seemed wonderful to me. I think there must have been nearly a water bucket full of silver and gold.
While living here I witnessed another event that has always been vivid in my memory. A man named Ledbetter had killed his brother some time previous and I went to see him hung in Carmi. The gallows was in the center of a hollow square of a double rank of soldiers in arms. A sensational incident occurred in the accidental discharge of a gun, the charge entering one of the posts of the gallows, but it did not interfere with the proceedings. There was a short discourse by a minister named Charles Slocomb, the condemned man made a little speech, a cap was drawn over his eyes; the trap was sprung; the sheriff cut down the corpse which was then turned over to the wife and relatives, loaded into a wagon and driven away. All very impressive to a boy of thirteen.

The farm on which we lived had been sold and we now prepared to move to Northern Illinois. Several pair of oxen were purchased and we had several horses. Our household effects were loaded on a big covered wagon and we started out crossing the little Wabash at Dewey’s ferry and passing through, Carmi. Our first halt was at Fairfield, a beautiful little town on the edge of Fairfield prairie, at the home of Billy G. Newitt. My mother was staying here at that time and this was my last sight of her for ten years. It was a heart breaking separation for both of us and never forgotten.

This start was made about the last of May or the first of June when all the world was full of life and at its best. The grass was just right to keep the teams in good condition, prairie chickens and other wild fowl abundant and everything full of interest to a young traveler. One of our stops was with Rigdon Slocomb who, at this time or soon after, was a member of the States legislature.

Our capital had been removed from Vandalia to Springfield recently and our route lay through Vandalia. As we approached the Okaw river, which was spanned by a covered bridge, the road was on top of a dyke thrown up to keep the road above water at flood time. The construction of this dyke created a lot of low places which were then water holes. I rode a horse and my duty was to keep the loose footed stock in line. When these water holes were reached the animals ran into them to drink and many of them sank into quick sand which caused us some delay and much trouble in getting them out. We passed through Vandalia, which was a scattered sort of village or town, and on a high point of land near by we first saw the some of the new Capital at Springfield, which place we reached in a few days.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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