The Stewart's, Van Hooser’s and Howard's of Madison County, Illinois
Excerpts taken from the History of Madison County, Illinois, 1882
All of Levi Stewart's records were destroyed in the Kanab, Utah Fort fire of 1870. I have been able to recreate some of the events of his life and those of his extended families because of this wonderful history book. As one of his kin, may I offer my sincere thanks to all of those whose efforts made this book possible.
Levi Stewart, son of William Stewart and Elizabeth Van Hooser, was born 28 April 1812 in West Edwardsville, Madison Co., Illinois. Levi married Melinda Howard, daughter of John Howard and Jane Van Hooser. Melinda was also a granddaughter of Abraham Howard and Lydia Stewart. Levi’s father (William) and Melinda’s grandmother (Lydia) were brother and sister. Levi’s mother (Elizabeth Van Hooser) and Melinda’s mother (Jane Van Hooser) were sisters. This is a story of their roots.
In the southeastern part of Madison County, Illinois the first traces of settlement appear in 1809. Mrs. Lydia Stewart Howard, a widow with several grown sons (Abraham and Joseph) and daughters had emigrated from Tennessee and made their home on a beautiful ridge covered with timber on the edge of the Looking Glass prairie. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 80
In its natural state the Looking Glass Prairie was a most beautiful tract of country. A former writer said: "It looked more like a great park than a wild country. This was not like many other prairies, a monotonous level, where the eye can find no resting-place. Out of this plain covered with luxuriant grass and flowers of all colors rose a great number of beautiful and shapely hills, all easy to ascend, and many covered with a growth of fine trees. Small watercourses frequently embellished with fine willows crossed the prairie in all directions. A number of small groves ornamented the scenery made up of trees of great variety such as linden, oak, hickory, buckeye and locust. The timber-crowned hills of Silver Creek and the rich forests of Sugar Creek surrounded the landscape in all directions. Along the skirt of timber you might see at different points not far apart a small field pushed out into the prairie. The cabins were mostly hidden by the trees and only the smoke arising from them disclosed the abode of man." History of Madison Co., Illinois, pages 463-464.
The Looking Glass Prairie for a distance of many miles was spread out before their view. The Howard's land was about one mile northwest of the present town of Highland, Illinois. In 1810, Abraham Van Hooser , who had married Nancy Howard, a daughter of Lydia Stewart Howard, began making an improvement nearly a mile farther north. In that part of the county these settlements were in advance of all others. Ten miles to the south, a short distance north of the present town of Lebanon, a few white men had erected their cabins. Likewise to the east, on Shoal Creek, some settlements had been made. To the east were the improvements on Ridge Prairie, near the present towns of Troy and Edwardsville. On the north not a single white man had erected his pioneer habitation. There were only eleven families in all of this part of the county to seek the protection of Chilton’s Fort during the troubles with the Indians in the war of 1812-14. Histories of Madison Co., Illinois, page 80.
At Chilton's Fort, St. Jacobs Township, the families lived in peace and quiet until the war with England broke out in 1812, and the Indians began to show their hostility. Augustus Chilton and his neighbors who lived in this and adjoining townships, built a fort and stockade for defense. The fort stood in the northwest corner of section 17 near where Augustus Chilton settled. Major Isaac Ferguson and Capt. Abraham Howard commanded the fort. The Indians never attacked this fort. We received a description of this fort from Jesse J. Renfro, a worthy old citizen of Madison County and a Ranger during the war of 1812. During the winter of 1814, he with a dozen other rangers was placed on guard here under the command of Samuel Whiteside. At this time the pioneers lived at their homes in the settlement and would only come into the fort upon hearing of some Indians depredations. After a short time they would become pacified and return to their cabins. The desert wastes, the forest gloom and the near proximity of savage Indians seem to have possessed no terrors for these hardy pioneers. What must have been the nature of their lonely musings during the long and weary months of isolation? It is difficult to imagine. Suffice it to say with a fortitude unsurpassed, and a tenacity of purpose which knew no defeat, they patiently bided their time never dreaming in the early years of this voluntary exile that this was destined to be a populous and prosperous farming community. An old settler relates that during the early Indian troubles a lone Indian committed some overt act near the fort. Riding a little bay animal that was well remembered by the old settlers in later years, Capt. Abraham Howard went after the Indian. After a ninety-mile chase in a northeast direction, alone in a strange land and among savages, he by his bravery killed the Indian and brought his bleeding scalp to the fort. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 464.
When the Saline Township was first settled it was about equally divided between timber and prairie lands. Silver and Sugar Creeks drained it. Silver Creek flows in a southerly direction through the western part. Sugar Creek drains the eastern and more central portion. It was here in 1809 on the edge of the Silver Creek timber, on the eastside of section thirty-one, the first cabin was erected in the southeast part of Madison County. Widow Lydia Stewart Howard and several grown children inhabited the first cabin that stood on the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of the section. The Hon. Solomon Keopfli in an article says, "In 1831 this cabin had been removed to another place. Joseph Howard, one of the sons of Mrs. Howard, pointed out to me the place where in 1809 they had built the first house on the south side of the tract above named. A fine spring on the north side of the ridge furnished them with water. Mr. Howard showed me a large oak stump which had been hollowed out and wherein they had made their first meal by beating corn with a club. A small field was enclosed south of this cabin".
Joseph Howard was about twelve years old when he arrived with his mother in 1809. A mere boy he served his country as a Ranger in the war from 1812 to 1815 protecting then the settlements of the Mississippi Valley. "The neighbors said that he killed several bears and panthers in this neighborhood. The tree was pointed out to me where he shot the last panther, in 1818. He married Jane Jean McAlilly, the daughter of Samuel McAlilly, in 1820, and built a cabin on a beautiful hill now called Sonnenberg. Directly after our arrival I had the good fortune to form the acquaintance of Joseph Howard. A truer and better man I never knew. Of his learning and preaching, I cannot judge, but this I know, his life was that of a true Christian. His wants were not great, and it left him plenty of time to aid new comers in their early struggles, to help them with rare disinterestedness by giving advice and assistance. When he heard of a neighbor’s sickness, leaving him unable to attend to his crops, you were sure to see Joseph Howard the next day in the sick man’s field plowing his corn or attending to his harvest, and in the night waiting upon him. This he did regardless of any difference of religion. It was enough for him to know of one of his fellow-men being in distress to hasten to the place to give relief and ease should it lay within his power." Rough and rude though the surroundings may have been the pioneers were none the less honest, sincere, hospitable and kind in their relations. It is true as a rule and of universal application that there is a greater degree of real humanity among the pioneers of any country than there is among the inhabitants of a rich and populous country. If there is an absence of refinement that absence is more than compensated by the presence of generous hearts and truthful lives. Neighbors generally did not even wait for an invitation or request to help one another in case of need. They came forward with as little hesitation as though they were all members of the same family and bound together by the ties of blood. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 544.
It was related by an old settler and a relative of the Howards of an event that happened on 16 Nov. 1811. A great earthquake of that year caused much terror among the pioneers. The Howard’s felt the shock so erceptibly that they thought the Indians were on the cabin roof with murderous intentions. With the bravery characteristic of the Howards, Abraham and Joseph took up their rifles and opened the cabin door cautiously. After peering around and seeing no Indians though the shaking still continued, they came to the conclusion that the Indians were surely on the house top, where they had no business being. That they must be dislodged immediately for the safety of the family flashed through the midst of the Howard’s. So they walked backward cautiously out of the cabin with uplifted rifles ready to shoot the first copper-colored peace-disturber that became visible. One of them went to the right and the other to the left until they came in sight of each other in the rear of the cabin. To their surprise no Indians were to be seen. They looked about them, and all was still as death. They re-entered the cabin believing some lonely hunter that had been passing by had made them the victims of a practical joke. History of Madison Co. Illinois, page 544.
An earthquake occurred on the night of the sixteenth of November 1811, which caused great excitement and some dread among the people. The center of violence was near New Madrid, Missouri, but the whole valley of the Mississippi seems to have been affected by the agitation. In the American Bottom, many chimneys were thrown down. The shaking caused the church bell in Cahokia to sound. Gov. Reynolds relates that his parents and the children were all sleeping in a log cabin, at the food of the bluff, when the shock came. His father leaped from the bed, crying aloud, "The Indians are on the house." The battle of Tippecanoe had recently been fought and it was supposed the Indians would attack the settlements. "We laughed at the mistake of my father," says Gov. Reynolds, "but soon found out it was worse than Indians. Not one in the family knew at that time it was an earthquake. The next morning another shock made us acquainted with it so we decided it was an earthquake. The cattle came running home, bellowing with fear. All the animals were terribly alarmed on the occasion. Our house cracked and quivered so we were fearful it would fall to the ground. The shocks continued for years in Illinois." The earthquakes in the latter part of the year 1811, and the beginning of 1812, alarmed some people to the greatest possible extent. Very many persons who had never thought before of being religious joined the church. They began to pray, thinking the end of all things was at hand. Some of these remained true to their newly adopted principles, but many after the danger seemed to be over, relaxed to their old worldliness. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 102.
The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain from June 1812 to the spring of 1815. From the end of the American Revolution in 1783, the United States had been irritated by the failure of the British to withdraw from American territory along the Great Lakes; their backing of the Indians on America's frontiers; and their unwillingness to sign commercial agreements favorable to the United States. The United States at first attempted to change the policies of the European powers by economic means. In 1807, after the British ship "Leopard" fired on the American frigate "Chesapeake", President Thomas Jefferson urged and Congress passed an Embargo Act. This embargo banned all American ships from foreign trade. The embargo failed to change British and French policies but devastated New England shipping. Later and weaker economic measures were also unsuccessful. Failing in peaceful efforts and facing an economic depression, some Americans began to argue for a declaration of war to redeem the national honor. On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war that Congress--with substantial opposition--had passed at his request. Source: http://www.gatewayno.com/History/War1812.html
As in the war with the colonies, the British government soon made allies of the Indians, and thus the settlers of the frontier were called upon to protect their homes and families from the merciless savages. Several regiments of Rangers were soon organized and ready for service against this cruel and formidable foe. On August 1, 1812 an enlistment of volunteers gathered at Goshen, Illinois. They included the following Privates: William Howard, Joseph Howard, Abraham Howard, Abraham Van Hooser, and John Howard. Families were gathered into forts for protection. Spies were instructed to pass daily between these forts, so as to keep up a constant line of communication throughout their length. Abraham and William Howard acted as spies. Histoy of Madison Co., Illinois, page 218.
During the Black Hawk War a company was organized in Edwardsville, Illinois. John Van Hooser was a member of the Mounted Volunteers of the First Regiment of the Brigade. He was mustered out of the service at the mouth of Fox River, Illinois, May 28, 1832. This was 284 miles from the original place of enlistment. Abraham Howard and Valentine Van Hooser were privates in the 60-day enlistment service in the Brigade of Mountain Volunteers, which was mustered out 28 May 1832. Abraham Howard also sent to Fort Walker, Illinois for the protection of the frontier between Ottawa and Chicago. He was mustered out 26 July 1832. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 222.
Mrs. Lydia Stewart Howard was quite an old lady when she immigrated here, and only lived a few years. Her death was the first in the settlement. Lydia's sons, Joseph and Abraham Howard, each received eighty acres of land from the government for services rendered in the war of 1812. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 545. After the war of 1812-14 was ended, the settlements in Madison County rapidly increased. A treaty of peace with the Indian tribes of the Northwest was concluded in October 1815. Emigrants from older States, who had been deterred from coming to Illinois by reason of the Indian hostilities, now poured into the country. Lydia’s son, Abraham Howard and others made permanent settlements in the Marine prairie in 1813 and 1814. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 493
In the Saline.Township, as early as 1825, the Cumberland Presbyterians improved a camp ground on section 31. On this ground in a cabin belonging to Captain Abraham Howard, was the first school taught by John Barber, Jr. He continued in the work for several terms finding great favor with pioneers. Captain Abraham Howard, in 1830, went to Fayette County, Illinois and settled a place east of Vandalia, now known as Howard’s Point. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 271. William Stewart and Rebecca Llewellyn and his son Levi Stewart and wife Melinda Howard were also living there. I believe Capt. Abraham Howard was Melinda’s uncle. And he was also Levi’s nephew. Levi’s first three children were born in Vandalia, Fayette, Illinois from 1833-1838.
Lydia Stewart Howard’s son, Joseph Howard, was a preacher of the Presbyterian faith. He married Jennie McAlilly, and they reared a large family of children. He subsequently went to Iowa, where he died. All of his descendants live in that state. Jennie McAlilly's father, Samuel McAlilly, was born in South Carolina, near Chester and was of Scotch descent. He married in his native state and immigrated to Tennessee where he lived until 1818. He then immigrated to Illinois with his family of four boys and three girls. At the time two of his sons, John and Samuel, Jr., were married. The others were William, James, Jennie, Elizabeth and Mary. One afternoon shortly after he arrived in the settlement in 1818, Samuel McAlilly went up to Coulter's place. He returned just after nightfall having discovered some dark object in a tree around which his dogs were barking. He dismounted and concluded to investigate. Having his rifle with him, as the pioneers at all times had, he walked round the tree. It was quite dark and he could not satisfy himself what the object was. He thought it might be an animal that ought to be exterminated. So he drew up his rifle and fired. His aim was good, and at the crack of his gun the object came down, crashing through the limbs falling heavily on the ground. After satisfying himself the animal was dead he endeavored to put in on his horse. After several attempts he became convinced he could not accomplish the feat alone. So he rode down to the Howard’s cabin and related his adventure. Joseph and Abraham Howard accompanied him back to the spot, and informed him he had killed one of the largest panthers ever slain in that settlement. It measured nine feet from tip to tip. The ball had passed directly through the heart. The Howard’s assisted him in getting the panther on the horse. As they had several years’ experience in the new country with the larger game, they gave Samuel some wholesome advice in regards to shooting panthers in the night when alone. This panther was killed near where the widow Ambuhl's residence now stands. Deer at this time might be seen daily trooping over the prairie in droves. From ten to twenty and sometimes as many as fifty were seen grazing together. Game of all kinds was very plentiful. Deer were worth about a dollar, and deer hides brought fifty cents. Captain Abraham Howard killed forty-seven and Samuel McAlilly killed forty-five in one fall, in the prairie and in the timber between Sugar and Silver creeks. They found a ready market for them in St. Louis. Bears while not plentiful were often seen and killed. Wolves were so numerous that when the dogs ventured too far out from the cabins at night the dogs would be driven back by them to the very doors of the cabins. History of Madison County, Illinois, page 545.
On December 12th, 1815, a wolf scalp law was enacted. One of the stipulations of this law made it necessary for applicants for premiums to solemnly swear that they had never willingly spared the life of a "bitch wolf," with a design to increase the breed. History of Madison County, Illinois, page 128. In 1816 there were a large number of wolves in the county, so much so that wolf hunting was encouraged. The following wolf-scalp certificates of 1816 have remained on file in the courthouse: William Howard 9; Joseph Howard, 2; Abraham Howard, 1. The wolf scalp bill of 1817 was presented to the court and it appeared that $137.75 had been paid for the killing of 220 wolves in or near the "settlements." History of Madison County, Illinois, page 125.
John Howard, a son of the widow Howard, settled the Sohler place, near the Augusta Church, in St. Jacobs Township. The Augusta Church stands in the Southeast part of Section seven. History of Madison County, Illinois, page 465. John was a ranger during the Indian troubles. The first General Assembly of the State held two sessions at Kaskaskia; the first from October 5th to October 13th, 1818, and the second from January 4th to March 31st, 1819. History of Madison County, Illinois, page 131. John Howard represented the county in the House of Representatives that met 12 January 1818. The name of Big Prairie township was abolished, and "Greenfield" substituted-afterwards Alton. History of Madison County, Illinois, page 125.
The first board of county commissioners, 1819-1820, of Madison Co., appointed John Howard as a Trustee for the school lands, T 3, R6. Then an election was ordered to choose the regimental officers for the second battalion of the Seventh regiment of Illinois militia. Abraham Howard was an unsuccessful candidate for Major. History of Madison County, Illinois, page 131.
Many of the territorial laws had been taken or copied from the codes of older States and among others a law in reference to providing for paupers. The county, however, had no resident paupers. Overseers of the poor were appointed because the law directed that it should be done. The records show that John Howard and William Shelton were appointed overseers of the poor for Silver Creek. History of Madison Co.,Ilinois, page 128.
John Howard was the first Justice of the Peace in township three range 6, until his death. One such Justice of the Peace issued a fine of five dollars for profane swearing and breaches of the Sabbath. History of Madison Co.,Ilinois, page 86 and 131.
In August 1824, John Howard was elected county commissioner from the sixth board, Madison Co. In 1825, John was elected county commissioner from the seventh district, Madison Co. John married Jane VanHooser, daughter of Abraham VanHooser, Sr. John died in 1827 leaving his wife, Jane, with ten children. One daughter was Melinda Howard who married Levi Stewart. Nine of them accompanied Jane to Lee Co., Iowa where she died in 1847. Abraham (1811), the eldest, lived on his father’s old homestead until his death, and now lies buried in the Augusta graveyard. John had a liberal education for his time, was honest and upright in his dealings, and was a much-respected citizen. History of Madison Co., Illinois, pages 141, 143 and 465.
In 1810, Abraham Van Hooser, Jr. of German descent, married Nancy Howard, the daughter of widow Lydia Stewart Howard. They settled not quite a mile north of the Howard place near some springs not far from the center of section 29. Then in 1815, Abraham Van Hooser, Jr. selected a new place some miles south of Troy and there laid the foundation of the Van Hooser settlement. . History of Madison Co., Illinois, pages 545
By the close of 1818 the land had been broken up into townships. In township 3-7, Abraham Van Hooser, a Pennsylvania German, was the largest land-holder, owning at that time 1040 acres. In township 4-5, we find the Howard’s, Pearce’s, and McAlilly’s. In township 3-6 we find the Howard’s, Anderson’s and Cook’s. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 127
On section sixteen , Jarvis Township, the early settlers were Abraham Van Hooser, Daniel Reese, and Coulson Townsend. The Van Hooser’s land remained in the possession of his descendants till within a year or two. J. P. Anderson had settled south of Troy, at a comparatively early date, and was a prominent and active businessman. A list of early settlers of the township: Abraham Van Hooser, Sr., Abraham Van Hooser Jr., Daniel Reece, William Howard, Jesse Renfro, Valentine Van Hooser, and Samuel Wood. History of Madison Co., Illinois, pages 440
The land of Troy Township is average in fertility and value of the lands of Madison County. About one-third of the township is embraced in Ridge prairie. There is no better land in the county. The bottom of Silver Creek that flows south through the eastern part of the township is unusually wide and subject to overflow. This lessens its value for agricultural purposes. South of Troy is what is known as the "black jack" district. It contains a good deal of fine land, is excellent for the cultivation of wheat, and the farms here sell at high figures. Mainly a German population, most of who are good farmers, inhabits this part of the township. History of Madison Co., Illinois, pages 441
The following are marriage licenses issued in Madison Co., Illinois. The names of the parties are spelled as they appear in the records: May 3,1812, Joshua Renfro to Pheraby Revis by Rev. James Renfro; Sept. 1, 1817, Jesse Renfro to Letty West; Feb. 17, 1818, William Howard to Elizabeth Reece; Jan. 13, 1829, Isaac Renfro to Rachel Carson; and Mar. 15, 1829, Joseph Howard to Jenney McAliley. History of Madison Co., Illinois, pages 89-90
It is claimed that the early pioneers were more mortal and free from crime than the people of a latter day were. Thefts were of rare occurrence and forgery, perjury, and similar crimes were seldom perpetrated. But while the higher crimes were rarely committed the lesser violations of the law were not infrequent. When the population began to multiply and courts were established men began to break the law and were often punished by whipping at the post and confinement in the stocks.
The Sabbath was often employed in hunting, fishing, getting up stock, hunting bees, shooting at marks, and horse and foot-racing. However it was a custom to cease from ordinary labor except from necessity on that day. When a farmer cut his harvest on Sunday public opinion condemned it more severely than at present. There was no dancing and but little drinking on the Sabbath. In many localities there were no religious meetings. The aged people generally remained at home, and read the Bible and other books.
The early pioneers were exceedingly friendly and sociable. A newcomer was given a hearty welcome. The houses were in general small and poor but the hospitality of the occupants knew no bounds. Orchards and melon patches were looked on as common property and the man who would charge for apples or melons would be denounced for his meanness the whole country over. No charge was ever made for assisting a neighbor at house-raisings, log rolling, or harvesting. The women were brave and self-reliant and it was no unusual thing for them to practice with the rifle. They were often left alone and it was well that they should know the best means of defiance. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 92
The common dress of the early pioneers was very similar. In winter the covering of the feet was mostly moccasin made of deerskin and shoepacks of tanned leather. In the summer the greater portion of the young people both male and female and many of the old went barefoot. The women wore moccasins and shoes made of deer-skin. The substantial and universal outside wear was the blue linsey hunting shirt. Many pioneers wore the white blanket coat (the French capot) in winter. This was considered very fine attire. The vest was commonly made of striped linsey. The colors were made of alum, copperas, and madder, boiled with the bark of trees in such manner and proportions as the old ladies prescribed. The shirts were generally homemade of flax and cotton material. The trousers of the masses were generally linsey, sometimes a coarse blue cloth, and often buckskin. Homemade wool hats were worn and sometimes caps made of fox, raccoon, and wildcat skins. The dashing young men thought a fox skin cap with the tail turned over the top a fine headdress. In warm weather hats were worn made at home of straw. Neat and fine linsey manufactured at home and colored and woven to suit the fancy composed the outside garments of the females. It was not unusual for a young woman to appear dressed completely in the products of her own hands. A bonnet of calico or some gaily-checked goods was worn on the head in the open air. Jewelry was unusual. A gold ring was an ornament not often seen. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 93
Sufficient corn was raised for home consumption. Also raised were a little wheat, cotton, flax and tobacco, a patch of indigo and a bed of madder, with garden vegetables for the family use. The balance of the time was spent in recreation and in hunting deer, turkeys, and bees. The pioneers were capital hands for attending musters, Fourth of July celebrations, political speaking, the courts, horse races, and other like gatherings. On the other hand women in those days worked much more than at present. Beside the housework they had to do the cording, spinning, weaving, and the making of all the wearing apparel for the family. Each house was a manufacturing establishment, each woman a skillful operative. The women were overburdened with work so much that a traveler passing through the country remarked that it was "a heaven for men and horses, but a hell for women and oxen." The women, nevertheless, were cheerful and happy, and sometimes when hard pressed called the male members of the family to their aid. Many a boy under the instruction of his mother or sister learned to spin and weave, to sew and knit, and also to dye. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 93.
At the approach of the wheat harvest some leading man would send word for the neighbors to assemble at the house of a certain neighbor on such a day to cut and shock his wheat. As soon as they had finished his harvest they would go to the next, and so on around according to the ripeness of the grain. The crops of the widows and sick persons were not neglected but were attended to along with the rest, and if any partiality were shown it would be toward them. The young people frolicked and danced of evenings all through harvest. Young men and boys tried their strength and skill at jumping, wrestling, running foot races, lifting, and other gymnastic exercises. Shooting at marks was practiced among those skilled in the use of the rifle. There was plenty to eat as well as to drink. The good woman of the house had busied her for a day or more in preparation for the coming guests. Abundance was provided for the healthy appetites which were then the rule. After the day’s work had been accomplished, out doors and in, by men and women, the floor was cleared and the merry dance began. Handsome, stalwart young men whose manly forms were the result of outdoor life were clad in fringed buckskin breeches and gaudily colored hunting shirts. They led forth to the dance bright-eyed, buxom damsels, dressed in neatly fitting linsey-woolsey garments, their cheeks glowing with health, and their eyes speak enjoyment and perhaps a tendered emotion. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 94.
But the greatest of all social gatherings was the wedding. Everybody in reach was invited. The guests of the bride assembled at her home and the groom at his. At an appointed hour the bride’s party mounted their horses and started to meet the groom. In many neighborhoods a bottle of liquor was prepared, sweetened and spiced to the taste, and the bottle decorated with many colored ribbons. When the two parties met a general halt was ordered and preparations made to run a race for the bottle. The groom’s party ran for him, the bride’s for her. The judge took a bottle to the far end of the course while the crowd remained at the starting point. When the race was over the winner returned holding up the trophy and shaking it in triumph. After the wedding and the dinner was over the groomsman gave a general invitation to all the guests of the bride to attend the young people home the next day and to take dinner to them. Then the race of the day previous would be repeated and in many social and convivial neighborhoods dancing would be indulged in for hours. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 94.
The early settlers had but little money. All that was needed was to pay a small tax, sometimes a doctor’s bill, and for blacksmith work. This was obtained from the sale of cattle and hogs. Store goods and groceries were generally paid for with butter, eggs, beeswax and peltries. Corn frequently sold as low as five cents a bushel, wheat at thirty, forty, and fifty cents, cows and calves at five dollars, beef and pork at a cent and a-half a pound, and other products of the farm proportionately low. Produce was gotten to market in a wooden cart drawn by a yoke of oxen. Salt was one of the dearests of the commodities that the pioneer settler absolutely needed. In 1818 salt sold at Edwardsville for three dollars a bushel, and in 1821 at one dollar. Whisky was cheap and frequently could be bought at twenty-five cents a gallon by the barrel. Coffee and sugar were expensive and considered luxuries not to be indulged in every day. Their use was reserved for old people and visitors. Wild honey was often used in place of sugar. Because of the scarcity of mills and the difficulty of travelling to them, hominy, green corn, beans and potatoes often supplied the table to the exclusion of bread. Every farmer calculated as much on having his barrel of honey when winter came as on having a supply of corn or other provisions. Hence bee hunting was common. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 95.
A settler on the prairie in early days was in constant dread of prairie fires in the fall of the year. A fire started in the high, dry grass would sweep over the prairie faster than a horse could run. Each settler usually burned off a strip of ground surrounding his farm thus preventing the flames from destroying his crop and buildings. The neighbors would frequently be engaged in fighting the fire till midnight in the effort to save the destruction of property of some of their numbers. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 95.
The want of convent mills was one of the most serious disadvantages with which the pioneer settlers had to contend. Of all the earliest contrivances for manufacturing meal, the most rude and primitive was what was known as the "Armstrong mill." It was used in the fall of the year and any family could make it. This consisted of a plate of tin pierced with numerous holes so as to make one side very rough. This was bent into the shape of a half-circle and nailed to a clapboard about three feet long by six inches in width. By rubbing an ear of corn just out of the milk, on the rough tin, meal was made though in a very slow and laborious manner. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 96-97.
There was considerable cotton raised in the county in early days, and its cultivation was kept up by some as late as the year 1835. Oats were not raised much and only small crops of either Irish or sweet potatoes. Nearly every farmer had his patch of flax that was used for some articles of clothing because of its superior strength to cotton. The hay used was cut from the wild prairie. Melons raised in large quantities were planted in cornfields by the public roads. The travelling public was expected to help themselves. The house garden of early times, beside vegetables for table use, grew the medicines of the family. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 98
The methods of agriculture were slow and laborious. Harvesting wheat with a sickle was a severe labor. A good hand would reap half an acre a day. Grain was threshed with a flail, or tramped out on the ground with horses and oxen. It was then cleaned by letting it fall through a breeze created by the motion of a sheet in the hands of two persons – a slow and hard process.
Insects did not injure the farmer’s crops. The prairie grass was set on fire each year and all the country burned over. So little hiding place was left for insect life, and the crops grew so rapidly on the new and fertile soil that if any pests existed to injure the crops the damage they did was so small as not to be noticed. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 98.
In the summer of 1817 corn at Edwardsville, Illinois sold at thirty-three and one-third cents a bushel, in the spring of 1818 at fifty cents, and in the summer at seventy-five cents. Potatoes were from fifty cents to a dollar, oats fifty cents, and wheat on dollar. Cows that in 1819 sold at twenty-five dollars, in 1820 brought only fifteen. The price of a yoke of oxen fell from one hundred and twenty to eighty dollars. Matters grew worse in 1821. There were times in territorial days, when corn sold as low as six and a quarter cents a bushel, and wheat thirty cents. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 99.
Many of the animals and birds common in early days have disappeared. Grey wolves were plentiful in the first settlement of the country. There were also black and prairie wolves. Wild cats were also numerous. The wolves were a great trouble to the farmers for the reason that they killed many of the young pigs and sheep and sometimes colts and calves. A panther was occasionally met with and often attacked men and the larger animals. The horns of the wild elk would still be seen showing that they had once inhabited this country. A badger was occasionally killed but not after 1830. Buffalo horns were scattered over the prairie for years after the first settlement. Bears were not common. One was killed in the county after 1830. The Lynx was sometimes seen. Deer of course were plentiful in early days. There were four varieties of squirrels: the fox, grey, flying and ground squirrels. The gray and bald eagle were common in pioneer times. Paroquets were once plenty. They used to stay in the timber along the creeks. When they came out the settlers regarded their appearance as a sure harbinger of a storm. There were several varieties of the wood-pecker the red head, the yellow-hammer, and the sap sucker. Partridges were scarce. The southern mocking bird was seen in the country for a year or two and then disappeared. The pheasant has come since the first settlement of the country. There were several varieties of owls among which were the screech owl, the large prairie owl, and the large horned owl. Water hens have come since the country was first settled. Wild ducks and geese were plentiful, and cranes, herons and swans were found about the lakes. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 99-100.
The green-headed flies which infested the prairies in the summer were a great annoyance. From the middle of June to the first of September it was almost impossible to cross the prairies in the day time. Wherever a fly lighted upon a horse a drop of blood started. In a journey of twelve miles the horses were frequently killed. Travelers were accustomed to lie by in the timber during the day and to cross the prairies at night. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 100
On the sixth of August 1819, at Edwardsville, Illinois a treaty was negotiated between the United States and the chiefs of the Kickapoo Indian tribe. The Kickapoo’s ceded all their land on the northwest side of the Wabash River. This included their principle village and a tract of land covering the central part of the state of Illinois, estimated to contain upward of ten million acres. The United States agreed in return to pay the Kickapoos two thousand dollars in silver annually for fifteen successive years. They were also to guarantee them peaceable possession of their country on the Osage and to restrain all white persons from hunting or settling therein. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 100.
The ordinance of 1787 prohibited the introduction of slavery into the northwestern territory of which Illinois as then a part. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 100.
In the winter of 1805 occurred what was known, for years afterward, as "the cold Friday." The weather suddenly became intensely cold and caused the day to be long remembered by the early settlers. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 101.
The pioneer method of navigating the Mississippi was by keelboats, flat boats, mackinaw boats or bateaux, and Indian canoes. The keelboats were used for conveying merchandise up the rivers to the various trading points and return laden with peltries, honey, and beeswax. The business of running flat boats to New Orleans was dangerous and precarious. The distance was great and accidents and casualties were numerous. Perhaps fully one-third of all the boats that started from Illinois on the trip were wrecked or lost in some way before reaching their destinations. History of Madison Co., Illinois, page 103.