Hutsonville in Early Days

Transcribed by Barbara Dix

A.J. Haskett of Robinson Writes for the Constitution

A.J. Haskett of Robinson writes as follows of early conditions in and near Hutsonville, which we republish from the CONSTITUTION: I was raised about one and one-fourth miles above Hutsonville, on the state road. In early times there were mile stones every mile on the road. I think the road was laid out by the state. It ran from Vincennes to Danville, and possible a greater distance north.

Hutsonville was my first town to see and also the first school I attended was there. I lived on the road north of Hutsonville in a house on the west side of the road near Quaker Lane. My first teacher was Miss Richardson. I also went to the following teachers; Miss Payne, Miss Vance, John Wilhite and Wm. P. Musgrave. I went one term to the Mount Joy School west of Hutsonville, near to Wm. Lindleys house, who has been dead many years. The first school house in Hutsonville was built by donations and labor. My father helped to construct this school building. This was before the time of free schools in Ilinois. Twenty cents per scholar per week was the amount paid for instruction. Although I went to free school one or two terms.

Hutsonville was a good trading point. Merchandise of all kinds was shipped there by steam boat; and then distributed by wagons to the country for many miles around. Hutsonville at one time made quite a start in manufacturing interests. A pottery was located near the old cemetery, where all kinds of crockery was made, including a large number of jugs. There was also a carding machine west of town, which was the property of Nichols Fesler. It did an extensive business. Nearly all farmers then raised sheep. In the spring the wool was clipped, and taken to the carding machine, and made into rolls. And at home it was made into cloth for the use of the family. At one time there was a furniture manufactory in Hutsonville; and it did a good business in manufacturing staple furniture. There was also a large cooperage shop which did a good business supplying Hutsonville, and the towns nearby, as well as shipping cooperage to Vincennes and Terre Haute. It was under the management of Jacob Grow. Northwest of Hutsonville there was a hay press, and also hay sheds, where hay was pressed. It was then hauled to the river and shipped south by flat boats to southern cities. The press, I think , was the property of Lindleys. A large amount of business was done on the Wabash at that time. In the spring of the year flat boats were hardly ever out of sight.. I have seen three or four steam boats at Hutsonville at one time, loading and unloading. I have also seen there, steam boats loaded for New Orleans. The milling business was neglected there for a long time. We went to an ox mill west of Hutsonville some four miles; and also to one near Porterville, but there was no town there at that time. The mill was run by Jos. Starr. Later on a stream mill was built on Hutson Creek. I do not know whether or not it was combined with water. It did not run long until the boiler exploded and made a complete wreck of the building. In the explosion, according to the best of my recollection, two men were killed. Hutsonville was a good market for all kinds of farm products. It was also the second largest pork packing center west of Cincinnati.

A large amount of corn was shipped from Hutsonville by flat boats as well as by steam boats. The country around Hutsonville was very rich, producing all kinds of crops. Flax was a crop the farmers could hardly do without. It was made into sewing, woven into cloth for linen pants, straw ticks, towels and possiby other articles.

In the fall of the year a very large growth of vegetation went to decay, there not being enough stock running at large to consume it. The air was full of malaria from decaying vegetables. Consequently a large amount of whiskey was used, as it was considered an antidote for malaria. Then nearly everyone used whiskey. Our home was seldom without whiskey. Mother would make it into bitters. For instance she would use boneset, cherry bark, burdock roots and other articles that were bad to the taste.

Many of my school mates have passed away or passed from my memory. I will mention two. During school we had the first class stand up to spell, just before being dismissed for noon, and evening. I was nearly always third in the class. Mary Cox and Fanny Harness were always first or second. I tried to get head marks, but nearly always failed. I sometimes thought they would miss a word so that I might spell it, but there were very few head marks I received. Miss Mary Cox died when a very young girl in her teens.

Many years ago, in an early day, there was a tough element, although there were many good and enterprising citizens as well as many good religious people. On an election day many years ago a man was killed. He was intoxicated. It was proven at the trial that the killing was in self defense. In the north part of town a man hung himself to his bed post. His wife was in the same room and claimed that she was asleep and knew nothing of it. But by some, her statement was disputed.

Whiskey was sold in Hutsonville without any restrictions and at a very low price--25 cents to 30 cents per gallon.

I remember a gentleman came to Hutsonville from the south. He was of Irish descent. I think his business was to buy corn. Made his home at hotel but in a short time he set the day he would die; and also the hour. He made all arrangements for his funeral, had his grave dug, man hired to haul his body to the grave and all expenses paid. He died about the time he said that he would and his arrangments were properly carried out. He was buried above the town near the sand hill. Another incident so impressed me, I will relate it. Dr. Kelley lived about one mile north of town on what was known as the Swain farm or I think now, the Golden land or farm with a two story log house. I lived with him quite a while working in garden, helping his wife with her work in the house. At different times there would be negroes appear on the farm. They would be in destitute for clothing. Feet wrapped in rags. Dr. Kelley would doctor them. Their feet were worn out and they could hardly walk. They would travel by night and conceal themselves during the day and after good treatment and supplied with clothing they would disappear. Dr. Kelley would disappear at the same time; would be gone for two weeks or more. At the time I gave it no thought. After some years I learned it was an underground railroad station. Those negroes were slaves and on their way to Canada, a free country. It has been many years ago, I was a mere boy, but I have always had sympathy for the colored people. Hutsonville is a dear old town to me. It was laid out in 1832.

The writer is nearly seventy-five years old.


This page last updated on February 05, 2015.