Priceless memories are the links between our past and the present...the glue that binds generations together.
They also give us valuable insight as to what life was like many years ago. If you or other members of your
family have fond memories that you would like to share, we'd love to hear from you!  Thank you!

Memories of Soperville

Memories of Ella Ferris Arnold
Worthwhile Club's Old-Time Quilt
History of the Wolf Covered Bridge
Memories of Margaret E. Alexander
Recollection of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate



Memories of Soperville

"I remember one winter there was a good snow on the ground and a bunch of us kids, I guess 8 or 9, fastened a coal chute to two sleds and we all rode down the hill and across the creek but then had to pull the sleds back up the hill and that was no fun.  So, after the second or third trip, George [Thomas Muir's brother] came up with the idea to let a horse pull it up.  Our Dad [Hunter Hart Muir] harnessed the horse and fastened the tugs to the sled and we all piled on and rode up the hill, also a GOOD IDEA as everyone was happy.   We turned the sled around, piled in and down the hill and across the creek we went and there we were and the horse was on top of the hill!  Didn't work out so well after all..." (Remembrance of Thomas J. Muir (1901-1991), submitted by Beryl Burt, his niece)

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Old-Time Quilt


Stella Larson wrote:

I have a wonderful quilt that was made by a ladies' club and it bears the names of the members: 

My grandfather, James A Shaffer, won this quilt in a raffle of the Worthwhile Club, a club dedicated to "doing good works."

Thank you, Stella, for sharing this great piece of memorabilia with us!

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Autobiography of Margaret Jones Dickson Alexander, descendant of David & Sophia Jones of Crawford Co., Penn.
Contributed by Sharon Lytle (via Pat Thomas), great-great-great-granddaughter of David and Sophia Jones.

From "More notes written by Margaret E. Jones Dickson Alexander."

     My grandchildren have asked me, time and again, to write all the little incidents of my childhood days, and later days, too. To begin, I was born in Hayfield Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, on March 15th, 1844. My parents were Rudolph Jones and Susan Shafer Jones. My father came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My mother was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. My grandfather, David Jones, was born in Wales, and came to the United States when he was just a young man. He and one brother, Isaac Jones, and one sister, Rebecca. They came to Lancaster County and there my grandfather taught school; and finally married my grandmother, whose name was Prudence Sophia Mueller (pronounced "Miller"). She had previously come to America, or rather, was born in America. Her parents ran away and walked to the seaboard. I don't know the name. They were Swiss peasants, and my grandfather (my great-grandfather, that is) was drafted into the Army. They could not marry there because the men had to serve four years in the Army, so they ran away and sold themselves to a sea captain who brought them to America. My grandmother was the only child born to them.
     After the marriage of my grandparents, David and Sophia Jones, and part of their children were born, they moved to Crawford County. Their children were Peter; Elizabeth (Aunt Betsey) Shopparh (*this name is not clear to this copier. It could be "Sheppard", "Shoffard", or various other spellings.) Rudolph, my father; Hannah (Thayer); Maria (Blakely); and David Jones.
     My mother had three sisters. Elizabeth (another "Aunt Betsey") Hedrick. They lived in Brown County. They came to Illinois before the Jones family. Sarah Ann ("Sally") Wycoff, who always lived in Peoria. And Mary ("Aunt Polly") Hess. Their home was near Danville, Illinois.
     I started to school before I was four years old. My first day in school was at the Pifertown school--the 'little old red schoolhouse'!! I sat on a bench that my feet did not near touch the floor. William Burkhalter sat with me. He was not as old as I was. My brother Bill carried me on his back. It was a cold day. I remember it well. Bill Burkhalter had on an apron! And him a BOY, with trousers on! I do not know whether that was my only day or not, but we moved in March. Then I was four years old and I went to the Little Ted Schoolhouse at Bemertown. (*Spelling of this town not too clear in the original manuscript.) We only lived half a mile from the schoolhouse. Everything about and appertaining to the schoolhouse was crude. My teacher's name was Elizabeth McCurdy. She gave cards for good behavior which I think are in the old family Bible to this day. I do not remember learning my letters, but doubtless I did. But I remember of spelling and reading in Towne's First Reader. One piece I remember, and that was:

"My bird is dead, said Nancy Ray.
My bird is dead. I cannot play.
So put his cage far, far away!
I cannot see his cage today!
He sang so sweetly every day!
He sings no more! I cannot play!"

     When summer came we (my sister Mary, just older than I) used to have a good time watching the canal boats when they came to the lock. We lived near the canal and the lock, and sometimes we would see the Packet boat come in. They carried passengers and blew a horn when near the lock. We used to go down to the canal and we would see women doing their washing and hang their clothes upon lines to dry. How I envied them! I wanted to travel on a canal boat, drawn by horses on the towpath--and boys riding the horses. When I read about the bird singing in its cage I had never seen a bird in a cage and I wondered what kind of bird she could have in a cage. We lived near Bennestown (*questionable spelling again.) and there was a flour mill there and my sister and I used to go down there to play with the David girls. They were about our ages and went to the same school. How we used to climb around in that old mill! I don't remember of Mr. David ever scolding us, and I know we needed it, time and again. They had a big barn, too, that we used to climb all over. We had a bid dog named "Marse", and he was always with us, but a mad dog bit him so he had to be killed. How we all cried--but I don't cry for dogs now. I have shed too many tears on better things that dogs. Though I like dogs--and cats.
     Our schoolhouse had just benches for the little folk to sit on and they never had a good fire when it was real cold. My grandfather lived near Bennestown, too, but on the other side of the river. My grandfather would come across in a canoe, or boat, after us. We would hollow and if he heard he came after us. He was a cooper and his shop was in the basement. How we did enjoy seeing him make barrels!
My mother's father was Nicholas Shaffer--and my grandmother was Eve Pifer. All the Pifers around Pifertown, in Pennsylvania, are related to me some way, and some of the Shaffers are related that lives here. Mother and Old "Wash" Shaffer, as he was called, were cousins.
     While I was very young my mother spun all the clothes we had. In winter it was woolen dresses and in summer it was linen or part linen. She spun the flax to make the sheets, pillowcases, tableclothes, towels, and the straw ticks for the beds. We slept on cord bedsteads. Never even heard of springs and mattresses until recent years. In speaking of my grandfather Jones, I must say he lived near the State Dam on the Vernango River, then called French Creek. The lock was just above the dam to let the water into the canal and how many happy hours we spent wading in the river below the dam! And the big fish the men used to catch! We could wade across in summertime. Now the dam is gone and corn is growing where they used to seine and catch such big fish! I was there five years ago, and my! What a change! My cousins said they could not fish unless they could get some minnows for bait and there were no minnows. My grandfather's farm was part on the low land near the river. The rest was on a very big hill. They could not farm the hillside, but could go around about a mile and there was quite a good-sized farm on TOP of the hill. They could drive up and down with oxen, but they are out of fashion, so they go around a mile to get to the field. The old orchard is standing and bearing fruit that my grandfather set out before I was born! And that has always been called "the new orchard"--set out over eighty years ago!
     When we left Pennsylvania, my grandmother had never had a cook stove. She cooked on the fireplace. My mother had a cook stove about two years before we left there. Baked bread in an oven--a bake oven. My uncle Dave's wife (Aunt Mary) nearly always baked her bread in the bake oven. She did not like the bread baked in the cook stove oven. The bake oven was still there when I was there five years ago in August, which is about now.
     I went to school the last winter we were there all winter. My second teacher's name was Cornelia A. Moore, and the teacher for winter was Holton Dunn. He was a Second Day Advent preacher when I went back there when I was fifteen. The teacher I went to that last winter was a Margaret E. Jones--a relative of grandfather. I was promoted to Towne's Second Reader, and it had, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky." And "Mary had a little lamb, it's fleece was white as snow." Why, I remember nearly all the poetry that was in my readers--and some of the prose!
     When we came to Illinois it was some time before we went to school regularly. We went for awhile to a log schoolhouse and everything was so crude and home-made. But my sister Sophia kept me at my books and when I started at last I began in the old McGuffey's Second Reader. I was in my ninth year, and I will say I learned fast. I had no books, only my school books and had never looked in an arithmetic. But I heard the older ones recite in Geography and I could tell what a Geography was. The answer was, "It is a description of the Earth's surface, of what it is composed, of land, and of water." I could repeat page after page! Grammar, just the same. I never studied grammar till I was twelve years old. I was promoted to the third reader--McGuffey's Third--and then to the fourth. How proud I was when I could stand up with the big boys and girls and read in the Fourth Reader! I remember some of the pieces. One was, "Will you walk into my parlor? said the spider to the fly. It is the prettiest little parlor you ever did spy."
     And the "Burial of Sir John Moore"! "Not a sound was heard, not a funeral note, as his corpse to the ramparts we hurried. Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot, o'er the grave where our hero was buried." I know all of it! And many others! Then when I began to read in the McGuffey's Fifth Reader, I was sure a big girl. One that I remember in it is "Rienzi's Address to the Romans"---"I came not here to talk. You know too well the story of our thralldom. We are slaves! Base, ignoble, slaves! Slaves to a horde of petty tyrants. And only great, in that one strange spell, a name--and the melancholy days are come, that saddest of the year." Now you know why I love poetry. I was just crazy for it! And all I had was my reader! When I was eleven I read the "Schotish Chieves" and have never read it since. About that time I read "Uncle Tom's Cabin", and from that time I read everything I could lay my hands on. I went to school to Eliza Baird Barbero and my mind began to open. She was a fine teacher. And I went to school to her sister, Mary Baird Find. They knew how to instruct. I went to good teachers. They taught all they knew. Some did not have any more actual knowledge than I had, but they helped me. I was a good speller. You may not know it, but I could stand up with the very best spellers. And I was asked to go to spelling school, because I could spell!
     We had little country dances and I went to many of them, because I could dance. You will hardly believe that I could dance with the best of them! My life was NOT devoid of pleasure! But it was not as the young folks do now! We went to Church when we could, but we did not have any way to go. But to a dance a wagon-load could all go together! One did not need to have a young man--just go with the crowd and have a good time! My sister Mary was nearly three years older that I, and I could go with her. Oh! How "backwoodsy" we were! I am glad my grandchildren can have the things they have, and have such nice entertainments. And need not be ashamed to be seen! We used to walk down to Bridgeport on Sunday. A lot of us. Nothing doing down there. Then walk back home again--or walk someplace where they had a big swing. Mr. Harmon Way lived then were Jim Jones now lives, and they had a big swing and lots of boys. And their neighbors had girls--and some boys, too! So that was one place to go!!
     At that schoolhouse is where I acquired what little knowledge I have. When we came here, we left most of our relative in Pennsylvania, but it was not long till relatives began to come--and people we knew there. And they all came to my father's for entertainment. We had so little room, but we fixed them up some way. I don't know how! We seemed to have plenty to eat! I was too young to think much about it then, Eight and ten came at a time--and stay as long as a month or two! After I was eleven, we lived in a large house and could keep any number and we did all right. I hardly knew where I was going to sleep when night came. But we slept three in a bed--sometimes four. Two of father's nephews came at one time and brought their families. Uncle Peter and his family came, too, and it made about twelve or fourteen 'extra' at one time! One time the Freemole family came--a big family--was there for three or four weeks. Eight of them! And they all stayed with us! SOME came to our house that we never even knew before. But they knew some of the relatives that had come and was there. I know now we were eaten out of house and home! If you could see the piles of 'eats' mother used to bake on Saturday! We had lots of fruit. And we dried everything! Peaches, apples, and plums! We made all kinds of butters and pickles by the barrel! Doughnuts was one thing we always had in winter--and mince pies. And yards and yards of stuffed sausage! I don't know whether mother got tired of it. I never heard her say a word! And poor old Aunt Susan! She was so patient! And helped with all the work! And both she AND her family growing larger all the time! Pumpkins we dried by cutting them in rings and peeling them and hang them on poles above the kitchen stove. They looked pretty when first hung up. Apples we peeled at night and some were strung on twine strings and hung up in the kitchen. Some were dried on boards fixed on purpose for drying.
     Our candles were made by putting candle-wick on sticks and mother would have a lot of tallow in a big kettle with water in the bottom. And dip a lot! Then hang them up and while they were getting hard she would dip another batch in. (There is a picture in one of the periodicals and shows just how it was done.) Mother would work at it all day. Have the kettle in the cellar. And it had to be done where it was cold. One hundred at a time--with a dozen or fifteen at a time on the stick. Will find the picture and put it with this record. (*Not found here.)
     The farmers would get together in the winter and shell their corn. They did not have the cornshellers like they have now. They just used had shellers. They could shell for half a dozen men. Fill their wagon boxes full and a lot of sacks full on top. They would then all start to Peoria. They would get within a mile or two or Peoria--Heaton's Hotel--and stay there for the night. The next day they'd take in their corn and get the things they had to buy, get back to the place they stayed all night, and start home the next morning and reach home about dark or after dark. They did not feed cattle and hogs then as they do now. Some did, but there was no market nearer than Peoria, and cattle were not more than three or four cents a pound. I hardly know how they lived--yet men bought farms! And PAID for them!
     We knew nothing about caning fruit. Had to dry all the fruit or make it into butters or preserves. One of our neighbors made a cider mill and presses, so he made cider for themselves. But everybody had vegetables of all kinds. The finest melon and squash, and potatoes and everything one can think of. The biggest onions I ever saw! The ground was new and rich. We always had plenty of corn--and therefore plenty of milk and butter. And we always raised lots of chickens. Never knew the want of eggs, but there was no sale for them.
We had to ride in the big wagon wherever we went. A nice buggy cost as much as a car does now, or nearly as much. But we did "go"--even if we did ride in the big wagon! What would you think now to see a funeral procession---ALL big WAGONS? No hearse! Yet the hearse is just of recent years.
     When I was quite young, father used to set traps to catch quail in the winter. I used to go with him when he visited his traps. One time there was fifteen quail in the trap! It made a nice dinner! Prairie chickens were numerous. Come right up to the house or stables in the winter--and once in awhile we had venison. All kinds of game was plentiful. One time the quails laid eggs in the hens' nests. The hens had nests in a patch of hazel brush. We always had an abundance of nuts of all kinds! I could eat all kinds then--and did not know I had a stomach! While we were living in Peoria, I remember my sisters going after some chesnuts and they took me along. And something ailed my feet. They were swollen so, and I sat on a sheepskin and they carried me that way. I suppose I was four years old. You see, I was 'the baby' in our family. But, bye and bye, another baby came--my eldest brother, Abe's--their son was born. Then MY nose was out of joint, as the saying is! My nephew, Henry Jones, of London Mills, is less than seven years younger than I am.
     I had the kind of childhood other children had at that time. Better, perhaps, than some--and worse than others. We had hardships to endure, but we always had plenty to eat and did not suffer with the cold. Only I used to get cold going to school when the snow was deep. We never heard of such things as overshoes! Of course, we got cold at night when the snow drifted in onto our beds. I can remember how cold we got, dressing in the morning. Nearly every family had more or less ague, and I had it every summer until I was fourteen. Shake and chill in the forenoon and burn with fever in the afternnon! Doctors did not know what to do for it. At last, some home-remedy cured me. After years, my children all had it, too. But it was finally wiped out.
     We had to go and hunt the cows. They ran on the range, as it was called. My sister, Mary, and I, we had to go about two miles. But we always found them slowly wending their way homeward. We hurried them up--and was sure they were all there.
     My brother George worked away from home. He used to come home and bring a lot of young people with him. He would come sometimes and bring a four--horse team and a wagon just filled with youngsters. I was pretty young and was not old enough to take part in the frolic and fun they had. If it was not on Sunday, they would dance. My brother played the violin.
     I think I have given you a fairly good account of my girlhood and early childhood. I think I have given you all I can think of at this time. I gance you an account of my trip from Peoria. You can put it in to suit yourself.


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Copy of letter from Mary Hastie Boutelle
submitted by Nancy Hastie


     I attended the Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Galesburg, Illinois in 1858 lived on a farm near Wataga. My father, James Hastie, who was a staunch Republican, my mother, two brothers and myself rode to Galesburg the day of the debate in a lumber wagon, which was almost the only mode of conveyance at that time.
     I think there was no delegation from Wataga but wagons were coming from every direction and by the time we reached Main Street, there was quite a long procession. In front of us was a wagon filled with coal "diggers", as they were then called. They carried a large banner on which way inscribed, "Coal Diggers of Wataga for Lincoln". As we passed a hotel on the south side of Main Street, Lincoln was on the upper balcony surrounded by friends. He responded by a bow and smile to our greetings, which consisted of cheers, waving of flags and handkerchiefs.
     When the coal miners passed the hotel, the man who carried the banner stood upon the seat and held the banner as high as possible while his companions cheered. I thought Lincoln seemed more pleased with them, than any others who passed. We came down in the morning and ate our lunch at the side of the East Brick on the college campus. I remember a feeling of sympathy for Douglas because he had to speak directly under the inscription "Knox College for Lincoln", until I saw an elegant banner which bore the inscription "Lombard College for Douglas", which I thought equalized matters somewhat. Another banner which I recall had the words, "Douglas, the Dead Dog --- Lincoln, the Living Lion."
     We had to stand during the debate and we were as near the speakers as we dared to be in such a great crowd. Douglas opened the debate, but he was hoarse from speaking in the open air and could not make himself understood for any great distance. I supposed it would be the same with Lincoln but his voice rang out clear as a bell, and I could understand every word.
     I remember his opening sentence, perhaps I cannot repeat it verbatim, but this is the substance of it. "The speech of my opponent has been delivered before and has been put in print". This caused great laughter but Lincoln raised his right hand and said, "Hold my friends, I did not intend that for a hit, I was about to say that such a reply as I was able to make has also been put in print." He pronounced "put" with the short sound as in putty, which perhaps is one reason I remember it so well. I remained standing until Lincoln had finished speaking. By that time, I was so tired, it seemed impossible to stand any longer, so I did not hear Douglas' closing speech.

     October 7, 1858 was a great day in Galesburg.

Mary Hastie Boutelle
Omaha, Nebraska


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Updated October 5, 2006