Mrs. Martha Piatt died at Cambridge early in the present century. She possessed observation and a good memory.

Her memories of the early days differ but slightly from the :eminiscerises of others.. But she had some unusual experiences.

A pack of wolves attacked their home at Henderson Grove one night. They had several cows and calves. The wolves tore a great piece of flesh out of a calf. The cows broke out, and charged the wolves. Her mother got out a dinner horn and blew it. The wolves were bewildered and frightened. Yet they rolled to the cabin door, fighting the dogs. One dog was crippled. A neighbor yelled to ask what was up ; but dared not venture among the wolves. The wolves finally left. When her father arrived at home, he sewed up the calf, and it lived.

Terrible was the experience of Mrs. Denbou, a neighbor. The Denbous had a few sheep. These failing to come to the corral one evening, Mrs. Denbou went after them, carrying her babe. She found the sheep in the forest, and tried to drive them home. They refused to go the direction she thought right, but scampered off in the opposite direction. Night was coming on, and Mrs. Denbou walked swiftly toward home. Soon the dreadful feeling of being lost came upon her. She ran frantically, crooning to her babe to quiet it. She had heard that a child's cries attract wolves. Exhausted, she lay down to rest. The prolonged howl of a wolf startled her. She arose and climbed a wild cherry tree, taking her baby by its clothes in her teeth. The baby's dress tore, the child dropped to the ground and rolled to the foot of a hill. She recovered the babe and again climbed the cherry tree. She had no more than climbed out of reach till the tree was surrounded by sniffing, ravening wolves. The brutes sniffed at the ground where the baby had rolled, and where the woman's bare and bloody feet had trod. The pack instinctively knew that there was nothing here to fear. They set up a devilish uproar, springing up the trunk of the tree, and snapping their jaws like steel traps. She was so worn out that she was afraid she might go to sleep and drop her baby. She tied her long hair to the limbs of the tree, so that if she nodded she would waken.

When her husband got home, and found her missing, he thought the Indians had stolen her. The sheep were in the corral. So he knew she was not away seeking them. He summoned ,"Uncle Jim," an uncle of his wife's, and they set off to hunt for her. About midnight , Uncle Jim yelled to locate the husband, when he was answered by the voice of the woman near by. The two men with their dogs looked too many for the coward wolves, and they went off yelping. The woman was assisted down, and taken to the nearest house where there was a bright fire and warm clothes. She had torn her clothes to ribbons in the bushes.


Mrs. Piatt's two sisters went to her garden, preceded by a pet cat. The cat came back. It's back was bowed, and it spat venom. Looking up the path, there crouched a catamount. The two big dogs were called: They made for the beast. It climbed a tree. Mr. Piatt being away from home, a neighbor was called. He came with a gun and three more dogs. He shot the catamount twice before it fell. Then it came near whipping all five of the dogs before it was killed.


Mrs. Piatt had vivid memories of the Black Hawk War. She relates many instances when her people received aid and kindness from Shabbona. She relates how all the settlers near Rock Island were warned by old Shabbona that Black Hawk's warriors were coming "in three hour's time." Everybody got into the blockhouse, and all were saved except a family named Hall. Hall was bull­headed, insisting that it was only old Shabbona's talk. He made his family re­ turn to their home. Just as Hall's family alighted from the wagon, the Indians were upon them. Seven out of ten were slain. One young man saved himself by getting under the bank of Rock River . He said afterward that he could see the reflections of the Indians in the water as they looked for him overhead. Two young girls were made captives. Old Shabbona went to Black Hawk and tried to buy the girls. While they talked, a lot of Shabbona's men stole the girls, and restored them to their friends. The girls said they had to endure seeing the scalp dance around the scalps of their parents and brothers and sis­ ters. They were tied every night. and an old squaw slept between them. She treated the girls very kindly.


Mrs. Platt's father hauled his produce to Peoria , and his pork to Annawan, when the new railway reached there. One man raised an immense flock of turkeys. In the fall he drove them alive to Galena . When night came, the turkeys would fly up to roost in the trees. The man would feed them well in the morning, and start on. Mrs. Platt says that she heard the man made enough on the venture to buy a well-equipped farm.

Mrs. Piatt concludes: "I was married when I was twenty-one, to John L. Piatt, and moved from Knox county to Henry county. The first year of our wedded life, we spent only five dollars, which was for coffee, mostly, and the next year ten dollars. The first two years we were almost alone in Red Oak Grove, there being only two more families, Father Piatt and Mr. Brodericks."

The doubling of the expenses in the second year would suggest. to the reflective mind, an addition to the population which ate pie at Piatt's.


History of Henry County

Submitted by the Webmaster


©Wini Caudell and Contributors

All Rights Reserved

Illinois Ancestors