The drinking of whisky, on certain occasions. was a common custom. People did not "soak," as some do now, but a jug of whisky was no uncommon thing in the house, and, when a neighbor called, it was brought out with a sprig of tansy from the garden. Men drank during harvest and haying, and at barn and houseraisings, at musters, elections and social gatherings, but times have changed for the better in this respect, and it is now only in the barroom or the "blind pig," or in the beer garden without the corporate lines of a town, that social drinking occurs.

The following incident shows the power of a bad habit: William Drury and Dudley Wil­ litts were intelligent, strong-minded men and exemplary citizens. Both were addicted to the tobacco habit and both tried to break away from it. Mr. Drury had resisted the desire for "a chew" for several months, but his nerves became unstrung. At last one day he found himself standing astride the stile leading to the barn with a bucket of water in

each hand. How long he had stood there he did not know, but coming to himself, he said: Well, if doing without tobacco makes a man such a confounded fool as that, I will take to it again"— and he did to the day of his death. Mr. Willitts was equally unsuccessful. Colonel Myers chewed from the age of fourteen to sixty, when, becoming disgusted with the habit, he quit square off, and never resumed.


In the early days social gatherings were entered into with great zest. It was not unusual to go ten and even twenty miles to a ball. These gatherings, as a rule, were decorous, orderly and even genteel; the dress was often pretentious, immigrants having brought with them from their old homes the best they had, and these they wore at all gatherings. At balls the gentlemen sat on one side of the hall and the ladies on the other. The figures danced were "French fours," the "Virginia reel," "twin sisters," "cast off," "cheat the lady," "money musk" and "opera reel." Later came the cotillion, quadrille and round dances. Written or printed invitations were sent out for these gatherings, and no one cared to at­ tend without one. In smaller neighborhood parties the formal invitation was not observed, and everybody who felt inclined went. Church weddings were unknown. Elopers called on the minister or 'Squire, as haste or circum­ stance suggested. But even then, long before the West became "woolly," Cupid played pranks with human hearts, as he has since Adam first met Eve in the garden.


The church and its influences were carefully cultivated. The Methodists were the pioneers, though soon followed by other denominations. Camp meetings were held on Pope creek east of Keithsburg, on Eliza creek and at Sugar Grove. The Rev. Phelps, of Galena, used to come down and preach at the camp meetings. A story used to be told of a good old brother, a former resident of the county, who preached at all the camp meetings. The young men at Sugar Grove had found a bee tree that had enough honey in it to supply the camp, and everyone, including Brother R—. helped him­ self. Some of the bees got up the legs of his pants, but at first did not trouble him. That evening it was his turn to preach; he bad not got far when he began to slap the sides and front of his legs, and as he got warmed up he slapped harder and oftener. The bees were stinging his legs, arid without further reference to his text, he cried out: "Brethren, the word of the Lord is in my mouth, but the devil is in my breeches," and left the pulpit in haste.


There were story tellers in early days, and among the noted ones was Seth Redmond. A party of gentlemen had been telling stories in Dr. Marshall's office one winter day in 1853, and the meeting wound up with a description by Dr. Campbell of the great earthquake at New Madrid, Missouri, in 1812. When the Doctor finished the narrative Mr. Redmond, who was present, said: "Gentlemen, I can relate something regarding that earthquake from personal experience. I was in the keel boat business some years after that occurrence, and, in passing up and down the river past New Madrid, I found the elements still in motion." The meeting after Mr. Redmond's explanation, adjourned in silence.


The next missionaries to arrive here were the Universalists, and their doctrines tended to smother out the fires of the past and to make it easier for humanity. Two old neighbors, one a Presbyterian and the other a Universalist, often warmly discussed theological questions. The one was an apologist for slav­ ery and the other an abolitionist. After the passage of the fugitive slave law of 1850 a party of slavehunters overtook a flying fugitive in Southern Illinois and carried him back to his master. The two old friends met and discussed the event. The Universalist vehemently denounced the transaction, declaring that "all such people as these man-hunters ought to be sent to hell." "But," said the Presbyterian, with a squint in his eye, "I thought you denied the existence of such a place as hell." The Universalist thought a moment, and then blurted out, "Well, if there isn't, it's a d— bad arrangement."


History of Mercer & Henderson Counties


©Wini Caudell and Contributors

All rights Reserved

Illinois Ancestors