OF MOWER COUNTY
Part 1 of 13
Several interesting names in this article include:
Abraham Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman and Stephen A. Douglas.
Hon. B. F. Langworthy of Brownsdale,
Brownsdale, Feb. 1, 1902
Editor of Transcript:
After many unexpected delays, I will now try and fulfil my promise to write up the reminiscences of my life so far as I can recall them. Many of the circumstances which I will mention happened during the first 25 years of my life, but I trust they may not be without interest. When I begin the account of my residence in Minnesota and especially in Mower county, I expect to take more time and give more elaborate details. Possibly I may not always follow chronologically as to date or time.
I have had the pleasure of an acquaintance with very many of the old settlers of Mower and Fillmore counties. In addition to my being a very early settler myself, I was the publisher for years of the Spring Valley Mercury which I published in Austin during 1880 and 1881 as the Mower County Mercury. Many of the old friends, who have learned that I intend to write up these reminiscences of my early life and more particularly of my residence in Minnesota, have given me the assurance that they were most anxious that I should proceed with my undertaking. I wish to inform them all that I have made satisfactory arrangements to have them published in the Transcript, in which paper they will appear in section from week to week. They will probably run on for many months, and I greatly desire to make them equally interesting to all the old settlers of the county who have not known me personally. So much by way of introduction.
I must plead ignorance as to the time of my first appearance in this world and I am obliged to take the word of my parents as to this. They tell me that I was born at one o'clock on Sunday morning, January 20, 1822, which would indicate that I am now no "spring chicken." When I was about three years old, I met with my first adventure. In the month of April, 1825, my father had completed the building of the mill on a stream called the Black Ford of Mahicken, in Richland county, Ohio. The country was heavily timbered. The weather was getting warm for so early in the spring, so my father thought best to commence preparing the garden. The trees were still standing near the house and particularly where he wished to make his garden. So after dinner on that warm April day, he said to the hired man, "John, I think we will clear off a place for a garden this afternoon."
They were both excellent wood choppers and they commenced chopping down an elm tree about 18 inches in diameter. When the tree commenced to fall, my father looked to see where the top of the tree would strike and to his great surprise he saw that I and my five year old brother had quietly followed them out and we had seated ourselves upon the ground just where the top of the tree would strike. My father called out, "Run away boys," and we up and started to run to him. He dropped his axe and ran the whole length of the tree while falling. He caught me by the shoulder with one hand and threw me out of danger and made a grab for my brother. Unfortunately his hand slipped and before he could get a second hold the tree was down. My brother stood just above the forks of the tree, neither branch more than a foot on either side of him, but he was unhurt. My father did not far so well. I limb struck him in such a way that raking down his back three ribs were broken and his leg was broken by being caught under one of the large branches the broken end of his thigh bone being driven through the flesh into the soft earth. Notwithstanding the terrible hurt, he did not lose his presence of mind. My mother, hearing the commotion, rushed out to discover the cause. She was a small woman of not over 100 pounds, but she caught hold of the eight inch limb that held my father down and was going to lift it off. He ordered the hired man to cut the limb where he showed him, thus obtaining release. It took him several months to recover so he could move about on crutches and owing to lack of skill of the physician, the broken leg was permanently about two inches shorter than the other.
My father was a very energetic man. Thinking that he could not carry on the mill business longer, he sold out and joined with a man named Scott in buying a drove of cattle. There were no railroads either in Ohio or in Pennsylvania and so on horseback, they drove their cattle over the allegheny mountains and sold them in Philadelphia at a good profit. In the absence of my father, my mother moved the family to Mansfield, the county seat where we lived during 1827 and 1828. There I commenced attending the district school. My first teacher was a lady who was up to the times, for out of fear of spoiling the child she did not spare the rod. The last year in Mansfield, I had as school mates two bright boys who became famous in later life. They were brothers, John and William Tecumseh Sherman. The former was a most exemplary boy but W. T. and I used to fight like two cats and in the war of the rebellion when we used to hear of the generalship of W. T. Sherman, I could not but recollect that he and I were both whipped by the same school ma'am and that for fighting.
In the year 1834, two years after the close of the Black War, we began to hear a great deal about the prairies of Illinois, and my father concluded to leave Ohio and go west. Our family consisted of father and mother, four brothers and two sisters. We started in June with two teams as there were no railroads at that time west of New York. All travel west of Pennsylvania was by horse teams. Our destination was Peoria, Illinois, and we were one month on the road. After resting in Peoria for a time, we started up north to Putnam county, a large prairie area lying on both sides of the Illinois River. The county was divided and all that part of Putnam county on the west side of the river was set off and formed into a new county called Bureau county, named for the principal stream that passed through the new county. The village of Princeton was the county seat. We made our home in that village. Most early settlers of the new county came from the eastern states and from New York state. After getting their homes built, the next thing thought of was a building of two stories, the lower room to be used for school purposes and the upper room designated a court house, and for the meetings of the Congregational church. The school was called the Academy and was prosperous from the start.
We attended the school about four years, and during all that time court was holding regular session in the upper room of the building. The attornies in those days were pretty much like the Methodist ministers, they traveled over the circuit from one county to another. Among the attorneys who used to do business in the court upstairs was one who afterwards became famous in American history and that man was Abraham Lincoln, and when some of us boys in the school room below heard of Lincoln having a case to argue, a number of us would get excused and go up and hear Lincoln talk. About that time the people were divided on the various political questions of the day. Some were Whig, Democrat and Abolition. The Abolition was always strong in Bureau county, but the state was about equally divided between Whig and Democrat.
A United states senator was to be selected the next winter and the contest was between Lincoln and Douglas, and a legislature was to be chosen that fall that would decide the matter. The Whigs nominated Mr. Lincoln and the Democrats nominated Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln promised to Douglas to take the stump to discuss the matter throughout the state, but Douglas demurred. However he finally consented to make appointments in seven prominent towns as they could agree upon and have a public discussion. During the summer, according to agreement, they held these debates and at every place had large crowds to hear them. The legislature that was elected that fall was controlled by a Democrat majority and Stephen A. Douglas was chosen senator. But Lincoln, in his debates with Douglas, was more than a match for the wily politician. The debates were published and read throughout the whole United States and Lincoln was brought before the people in such a prominent way that he soon received the nomination for president and was elected. In March, 1861, he was inaugurated at Washington, president of the United States.
[Mower County Transcript, Wed., Feb. 12, 1902,
The Black War
European soldiers and settlers on Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) harassed the native aborigines and seized valuable hunting lands belonging to them. When whites attacked and killed some aborigines on a hunting party in 1804, a protracted "bush war" broke out that greatly reduced the aborigine population during the next generation. Bushrangers, rural outlaws, robbed and killed both the whites and the aborigines during the period, causing additional terror and bloodshed.
In 1830, the island's governor, Sir George Arthur (1784-1854), managed to capture and hang many of the bushrangers but failed to corral the aborigines with his "Black Line," a cordon of thousands of settlers sent into the bush to drive the aborigines out (only a boy and a woman were flushed out). The fighting, however, ended, and by 1835 the remaining aborigines had been persuaded to resettle on Flinders Island nearby.
Submitted to Mower Genealogy by Mark Ashley, 3/2011
Webization by K. Kittleson