HENRY COUNTY RAILROADS
Henry County is well provided with railroads, all parts of it being accessible to seme point on a well equipped road. Not only is this the case, but the roads lead direct to the best markets of the country, thus giving the farmer every advantage to market their produce. This is radically different from the condition of the early pioneers of this section, as is illustrated by the following incidents
The first market for the early settlers was St. Louis, and about half the year this was as completely shut off as the ports of Europe to them. Then they would go to Galena , Peoria and soon they began to haul by teams their truck to Chicago . The " lead mines " were an uncertain market, and sometimes a drove of hogs, not a large one either, would completely glut the market for weeks. Then the pioneer drovers would have to slaughter their stock and salt it down, provided they could get the salt, which often was not to be found.
The writer even well remembers when Jacob Strawn, of Jacksonville , would often take possession of the St. Louis cattle market, and ride out on the roads leading to that place, buy all the incoming cattle, and by holding them compel the butchers to pay him his price. The Secretary of the Old Settler's Society, T. F. Davenport, tells us of some of his experience in going, with his brother Charley, to market at Chicago . The family came West when the boys were yet young, and being fresh from New York city they soon learned that they were in the rawest possible state of pioneer greenness.
Their city dress and no tions were rapidly and roughly rubbed off, and they took to squirrel-skin caps and were soon acclimatized to the rough life about them. In the summer of 1839 it was told about the country that James Glenn had been to Chicago with a load of wheat and had brought back a full load—loaded each way—and had made the round trip in ten days. Tom and Charley Davenport heard of this remarkable feat, and begged their father to let them take the teams and go to Chicago . Consent was given. A half- bushel basket was filled with cooked provisions and on a bright September morning they started, loaded with 45 bushels of wheat and 11/2 bushels of oats, the latter for feed. The first day they reached Portland , the next day Dixon ,and on the evening of the fourth day they were at the Point :—nine miles from Chicago
. The fifth day they were in the city, sold their wheat for 55 cents a bushel, bought four barrels of salt and a few other things and started on the return, camping out the first night at the Point. The evening of the seventh day they reached Dixon and arrived at home the evening of the eighth day, thus beating Glenn's time by nearly two days. Their total cash expenses Glenn's time by nearly two days. Their total cash expenses for the entire trip was 25 cents paid for ferriage across the Chicago River. Torn remembers they sold their wheat to Frank Sherman—one of the family that built the Sherman House—and that he (Sherman) carried the sacks from the wagon into his little warehouse. The proceeds of this trip was all the money the family received or needed for the entire year, including their taxes on a 240 acre farm.
Maj. James M. Allan tells of his experience as a merchant at one time in Geneseo. He had invested all his capital and credit in goods, which he had sold to the farmers on credit. His stock was about sold out, and it seemed utterly impossible to collect any money. The people simply had none. He made up his mind to buy hogs and drive them to the Illinois River for sale or shipment there. He rode over the county, and soon his debtors had willingly turned him out over 400 hogs on their store bills. This was the greatest accommodation to the farmers, and opened up a possible way to the merchant to pay his bills and buy a new stock of goods.
He had collected his hogs and started on the long drive. There was three or four inches of snow on the ground. The first afternoon he drove aoout nine miles, and with the night came the most terrible snowstorm. In the morning it was blistering cold, and nearly two feet of snow on the level. What was he to do? It was impossible to turn back or go ahead. The hogs could not travel in the deep snow, and he had no feed to keep his hogs alive. But this was one of the sudden emergencies of the pioneers that had trained them to quick and effective actions.
Mr. Allan concluded to make a snow-plow, and cut a way for the hogs to move. He made his plow, and was told that only oxen would do to pull it. The cattle were hitched to it ,and started off slowly. In a little while they literally came to a stop, bogged in the deep snow. This would not do, and the hogs were every moment getting only the hungrier. The Major could see the trouble with oxen was their legs were too short.
He hitched horses to his plow, and the success was complete, and the plow thus made a canal through the snow, leaving about five inches of snow on the ground. The hogs were divided into as many small squads as he could get men to take charge of, and started thus toward the river. He understood the animals well enough to know that if all started together they would bunch and crowd each other out of the plowed way into the deep snow, where they could only helplessly flounder. Thus scattered for nearly a mile, the procession moved toward the river, which point was happily reached, and Mr. Allan disposed of his property, and thus succeeded in collecting his debts from the fanners and replenish ing his stock of goods.
Portrait and Biographical Album of Henry County
Submitted by the Webmaster
©Wini Caudell and Contributors
All Rights Reserved