Old Settlers Meeting of September 5, 1888

Transcribed by Sue Jones.

Old Settlers
They Meet In the Court Yard and Talk of Days Lang Syne
From Robinson Constitution of Sept. 5, 1888

The old settlers of this county, to the number of about twenty-five persons, met at the court yard Thursday afternoon. An hour before the time of meeting, only a half-dozen old people were present and the idea of holding a meeting was abandoned. "Politics," said one of them "are of greater import to the present generation than the recounting of the trials and tribulations of the fathers who came to this county in the early days, seeking homes for their families." The court house bell was run at 2 p.m. and was the means of increasing the numbers, so it was decided to hold a meeting and have some speeches.

Wiley Emmons, the president, called the meeting to order and requested the Reverend E. A. Longenecker to open the meeting with devotional service. Mr. Longenecker before addressing the throne of grace, reminded his old friends of the uncertainty of life and spoke of the many who had passed over the river since the last meeting, and were now numbered with the generations that were gone. It was well that those who were left, should be wise in the enjoyment of the remainder of life, and use it for the honor and glory of God. Certain it was that they soon must leave. They still loved this life despite the feebleness of old age. The promise of eternal life was beautiful, where nothing could enter to mar the peace and enjoyment of the heavenly world. He exhorted his hearers to live so that they might meet those gone before, as they had met in good fellowship and kindly feeling on that day. The old settlers then sang the appropriate hymn: "And are we yet alive And see each others face."

Mr. Longenecker offered a fervent prayer, when the president called on Mr. Welton Woods to tell how old he was and his experiences of the early times.

He said:

"I have been living in this county a long time. We settled about two miles west of Palestine. We, at that time, were surrounded by wild animals and game was in abundance. We used to go every week, if not on Saturday, we'd go Sunday to catch wild wolves and kill off their young. I often hear people speak of hard times now-a-days. Why they don't know anything about hard times. What would they think if they had to get up at two o'clock in the morning and go to mill and not get home until the next night? Well I've done that a good many times. I've broke flax and my wife has spun it and made the clothes. Now what would these ladies think about present hard times if they had to do that? We thought it was great times when roasting ears were in the right condition to put before the fire place. When the corn got a little harder we would make a kettle of good hominy - hog and hominy, and I tell you it was good if we could get it all eaten before it soured. I lived here before the first election was held in the State or county, which was somewhere about 1815. My father was on the jury that tried the man who murdered the Indian Kill Buck. I am eighty-eight years old. I have no idea I will ever meet with you again, but then you know they say an old man never dies."

T. M. Highsmith said he was born in 1817 and had never been out of the county three days at a time since he has lived here. In reference to hard times, he said it was ridiculous for anybody to say that we had hard times now when the many advantages to be had now was compared to old time customs and prices. He refereed to the old horse mills and their well remembered slowness of operation. He said it was as easy to raise $5 now as $1 when he was a boy. Pork was $1.50 per hundred and there was no market for wheat or cattle.

E. A. Longenecker said he came to this county in the fall of 1838. He came a poor man but he had a good trade and tools. The state of his finances when he left Pennsylvania was meager, he having but $10, nine of which was spent on the journey here. When he reached Crawford county, and found that himself and three children had but one dollar, he was out of heart. He expended his last dollar for a load of coal. The people were not slow to get acquainted and he with others went off to work in a mill, leaving their families at home. He came west with the sole object of giving his children better advantages. He preferred that his children enjoy the privileges of school rather than have them become the slaves of the men who at that time represented the manufacturing interests of the country. He gave his age as 81 years on the 12th of last April.

Judge Robb said he could not claim to be a pioneer as he did not come to Robinson until 1845, when the country was pretty well settled, the majority of the population being on the eastern part of the county. When he came, "there was no town to speak of. Where the court house was located it was wild prairie here and when he arrived they were laying the corner stone of the court house. There was a ceremony observed, there being placed in the stone a bible, some other articles and a brief statement of the county's history. There was but one farm house in town when he came, and that was on the site of the Robinson clothing house. This building was used as the court house. There was no jail. After his arrival the old log jail was moved here from Palestine. The contract for moving it was given to John Newlin. During the raising of the jail here, there was a conspiracy formed among the laborers to eat out the boarding house where they were to take dinner. The men were given or assigned to dishes for which they had an especial fondness, for instance one man who liked cabbage was assigned to the cabbage department, another to pie, another to beans and so on. The hotel people had prepared what they thought was an abundance and when the laborers took their places at the table there was an onslaught made and cries for more pie, more cabbage, etc. were frequent. They kept the cooks pretty busy until the larder of the boarding house was pretty well cleaned out, but the judge could not remember who was awarded the victory. The Judge related several instances illustrating practical jokes that were perpetrated in the early days by mischievous boys. The chinaware was popular. When anybody got married the occasion was sure to be celebrated with tin horns, horse fiddlers and the like. One he remembered was when a live hog was put through a window into the bridal chamber, where it created havoc and made much trouble for the bridegroom in getting it out. Old Mr. Lull who lived where the Presbyterian church now stands, missed a calf one morning and thought he heard it bawling in the court yard, he went there but could see nothing of it, he returned home and again he thought he heard it bawl in the court yard, a closer search revealed the calf in the cupola of the building. It took Mr. Lull and his neighbors a good half day to get the calf down. He did not think the boys of today any further advanced in mischievous accomplishments than their brothers of the early days. He spoke of the great improvement of the grand prairie which bothered the people so much that the questions of introducing slavery to develop the vast acreage was seriously considered in 1824. The music of the wives and mothers of old was made upon the loom and spinning wheel. Today the music was made upon the piano and organ. If a like change should take place in the future he could hardly imagine what a great country this would be. The Judge said he was 81.

Clark Newlin said he was happy to meet the old pioneers on the occasion of their reunion. He thought he might try claim to being one of them as he was born and raised in Robinson township and was 58 years old. He remembered several of the old settlers whom he knew and whom had died or were not present at the meeting. He said his father and mother came in this county in the year of 1816, from North Carolina. They came as children and were married afterward in this county. The farm the speaker lived on was entered on 1818 by Ezekiel Leech. Mr. Newlin to show the chivalric devotion of the brave Knights of old for their lady lovers, told how his uncle Nathaniel Newlin rode horseback from Crawford county to the State of North Carolina to marry his wife, and how he brought her here on horseback. This lady still lives in Hutsonville and is well and favorably known as Grandma Newlin. The speaker helped raise the first jail of the county which was a log wall built around another. His father and John Walters had the contract for building the jail. He helped to break the first prairie two miles southwest of town on what is now known as the Stevenson farm. They broke with three yoke of oxen and had to fight wolves on their way home after nightfall.

John Sheets said he came to this county in 1852 settled first in Illinois on the river opposite Terre Haute, where he had seen Indians gathered in large numbers and the neighbors were compelled to muster together and drive them off. He had helped raise flax, hemp and cotton and had made his fingers sore picking the last named product many times. The ladies then took great pride in spinning and weaving cotton. They would take great pains to have the goods striped and would cut out and make a dress in a day. Now it required a whole week and a sewing machine to make a dress. He said he was 71 years of age.

Wm. Brown stated that he came to Robinson in 1826, and lived where the brick yard now is. There was no town then. He had witnessed the growth of the town from that time to the present, and had fought wolves on the ground where the town stands, on many occasions. He gave his age as 62.

O. W. Gogin said he liked old fashioned things. It was pleasant for old settlers to get together and talk over old times. This showed that they took a warm interest in renewing old acquaintances. He liked to shake hands in the old fashioned way. He came to this county in 1841. There were three families of which his father was one, came and settled near Palestine. It was a great country for fever and ague, and yes they had it in severe form at Palestine, the new comers were almost afraid to visit the town for "ear they would take on the yellow hue of the "ager" victims. He remembered what a commotion was made in his neighborhood when a boy who had been in Robinson witnessing the construction of the court house, returned home with the story that they were sawing stone over there with a saw that didn't have any teeth. The boy who had been known to be truthful was set down as the biggest kind of a liar. The only papers to be had was a Cincinnati religious weekly and the Vincennes Sun. As the speaker was well up in reading, he was selected to keep the winter school. They called it "keep" instead of teach those days and the teacher was known as the master. He remembered how he compromised with them to play quits by covering the chimney and smoking the scholars out. The school houses were constructed out of poles and slabs and the school books few.

The meetings were held at private houses and when the service was finished nearly everybody stayed to dinner. The preacher would occupy about two or two and a half hours in giving his discourse and seldom stopped until he was completely exhausted. He could remember the old scenes in every detail. He could see the corn pone baking in the spider and the handsome girl turning it around; could smell the appetizing odor as she lifted the lid to see the progress of the baking; he could hear the children crying and hear the preacher as he with coat off and earnest expression of countenance warned his hearers to flee from the wrath to come. Everybody was happy. He remembered to have seen the young ladies of those days after meeting was over go out in the yard and strip off shoes and stockings walk home barefooted beside their beaux who were shoeless also, in order to save their shoes. They rarely had more than one pair of shoes a year and took care of them. Everybody was sociable. If a man came to the house to grind an axe after 10 o'clock he must stay to dinner. The speaker gave an account of the first cabin raising in the county where whisky was prohibited. It was the means of exciting a great deal of comment, but the laborers who went to the raising seemed to feel well satisfied with pot pie and coffee with sugar served to them. He hoped the old settlers meetings would be better attended in the future and that many pleasant memories be awakened by the reminder of old time experiences.

J. L. Postelwaite came forward but did not make a speech, he simply stated his age to be 67 years and that he came to the county in 1852.

J. W. Wharf, of Olney, was present and sang a comical ditty of his own composition, to the tune of "John Brown's Body." The song treated of old fashioned joys and was severe on the bustle.

J. Bishop aged 72 years, gave his maiden speech to the public at the meeting. He said he was raised under Quaker influence, his people living in North Carolina. When they decided to come to Illinois they sent one hundred miles for a wagon in which to immigrate and paid a man $100 to drive it through for them. He spoke of the early privations to which his father's family was subjected.

Aaron Young was the last speaker. He said he was 52 years old. He came in 1836. His address was very interesting, but lack of space prevents a synopsis of it at this time.

For the ensuing year Aaron Young was chosen as president of the association and O. W. Gogin secretary.

 

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