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Chapter VI - Personal Incidents and Anecdotes

The first settlers of this county were principally from Kentucky and Tennessee, and brought with them the peculiarities, as well as the prejudices of the people of those States. All were kind-hearted and given to hospitality; no poor wayfarer was turned hungry from their doors; even the despised book agent, or lightning-rod peddler would have met with a cordial welcome, though luckily they were never bored with these specimens of the genus homo. But there was one peculiar trait about these early settlers of the county they had a strong prejudice against the Yankees, and hated them with a "righteous hatred". All persons born in the Eastern and New England States were Yankees in their estimation. Capt. Charles R. Hume, of Blandinsville, a York state man by birth, relates the following personal experience in illustration of this early prejudice:

"I came to this State and county in 1837; purchased east half of section 19, 5 north, 4 west, and then went, to pass time, to visit my parents, then living in LaGrange county, Indiana.

"In the meantime I learned that on my land, so purchased, there were two families living, then called 'squatters.' As soon as I ascertained this fact I returned and called on these persons and informed them that I, a stranger, had bought the land on which they were settled, but with no knowledge that there was any settler on said land. I at once informed them that I had bought said half section for $1000, cash, and it they would refund to me the money I had paid, all would be right; that I did not buy with the knowledge that the land was occupied. Occupants at once informed me that they had no thousand dollars to pay for the land, nor did they ever expect to have so much money. I then informed them that if they wished to give me possession of the land, that they might pick two men, and I, a stranger, would pick one, the three to fix the amount I should pay for the improvements that had been made. To this they at once agreed. The men went out and fixed the amount I was to pay. I paid in cash on the day agreed, and so we separated. They went; I remained.

"A few days after said leaving, being an old 'bach,' arid while preparing my morning meal, a man on a mule rode up and shouted:

"'Who keeps house?'

“Being entirely unacquainted with this manner of salutation, I went to the door and inquired of the stranger what he wanted. He says,

"'Come down here and I will tell you what I want.'

"I walked down to see my newly-made friend. He inquired,

"'Is your name Hume?'

"'Yes, sir; I never had occasion to deny my name.'

"'Do you know that you are in a dangerous place?'

"'Will you be so good as to tell me as to my danger? Are there any wild beasts or venomous serpents that I should dread? I can hardly suppose my neighbors are worse than wild beasts or venomous serpents.'

"I then said to my visitor,

"'Come down off your mule and we will talk this over.'

"He replied,

"'I shall not get down. I have told you all I was sent to tell.'

"I then informed him that no friend of mine could come and go without partaking of my good cheer.

"'Dismount’ I said.

"'I will not,' he replied.

"I then drew several shooters, and told my friend to come and see my arrangements, for if he did not so come I would shoot him dead if my fire-arms proved true. He went in with me, and instead of cooking for one I cooked for two, and we ate as brothers.

"From that day to this I have suffered no reproach by being called a Yankee, and my best friends are those from the south."

But there were some of the "favored ones" who did not have it in their hearts to condemn this unfortunate class, and were ever ready to extend a helping hand to them as well as others, feeling it both a privilege and a duty to do a kind act for all such. It is related of Rev. William McKamy, familiarly known as "Uncle Billy McKamy," that at an early day a "Yankee" settled in his neighborhood, 'and, upon one occasion, being in need of some kind of an agricultural implement, borrowed it of rim. On returning it, he thanked Uncle Billy for the favor, and enquired of him how much he should pay for its use. "Pay!" says Uncle Billy, "look here, my friend, you don't know me, do you? Now, sir. I want you to understand that whenever I have anything that you wish, all you have to do is to come after it; and, when through with it, if it suits your convenience to return it do so; if not, I will come after it when I need it. I want you to understand farther, sir, that whenever you have anything I want, I shall come and get it, and if it suits my convenience to return it, I shall do so; if not, you can come and get it." The point was very plain to Mr. Yankee.

As illustration of a neighborly turn the old settlers were always ready to show, we will state that some years ago in the eastern part of the county, an unoccupied quarter of land was entered at the same time, by Messrs Judd & Gowdy, a prominent firm of lawyers in Lewistown, Ill., and a Mr. Grimm, of this county. The former gentlemen desired it for speculative purposes, while the latter gentleman desired it for a place of residence. The party first occupying the land, would, of course be entitled to it. Both parties hurried their preparations, but Judd & Gowdy were a little too fast for Mr. Grimm. The neighbors, (those living anywhere within ten miles) all sympathized with Mr. Grimm, and desired that he should occupy the land rather than any one Judd & Gowdy would send there. After Judd & Gowdy had erected their building and placed a man in possession, those sympathizing with Grimm met to consider the matter. Various suggestions were made as to how they should get rid of this obnoxious neighbor; finally, one suggested that if fifty or one hundred yoke of oxen should gather around that house some night, and that house should follow them off in the direction of the creek no one would be to blame; there was no law against cattle running at large. Nothing more was said, Grimm was advised to build a house as close to the line as possible and await developments. This was done. A short time after, Judd & Gowdy's man went to Lewistown. That night a large number of oxen strayed in the direction of the house, and the next morning" it was no where to be seen! Grimm's house was found over the line on the quarter in question!

On the return of the man employed by Judd & Gowdy, he discovered the situation in a moment, and returned post-haste to Lewistown, and the would-be-owners came over, and with the aid of a search warrant found the house down on the creek! The aid of the grand jury was invoked at their next sitting, but no one could be found who knew how it came there. Grimm got the laud. We would not recommend the practice of such neighborly turns being practiced at this time. Trouble might ensue our officers being quite vigilant.

About 1832 a young couple living in the neighborhood of Industry concluded to marry, which proceeding was opposed by the parents of both parties. But whoever knew such opposition to avail anything? "Love laughs at locksmiths," and no impediment placed in the way of a loving couple is too great to be removed. This young couple had determined to marry, and marry they would; so one morning, bright and early, they left their homes on foot for this purpose. Their destination was Nauvoo, then the county seat of Hancock. When a little way beyond Macomb, they were overtaken by brothers of both parties, who urged them to return and be married at home, telling them their parents had consented that the ceremony might proceed. Having their "dander up," in consequence of the opposition previously made, they refused to return. The brothers went back to report, and the fair couple proceeded on their way to Nauvoo. They arrived at the creek west of Macomb about dark, and could find no way to cross r the water being high, and no bridges built. They would not turn back to seek shelter for the night, but lying down beside of a large log, slept sweetly, dreaming, doubtless, of the joy in store for them in the future. When the morning came they searched up and down the stream until they discovered a log thrown across, on which they passed over in safety. Arriving in Nauvoo, the young man called upon the County Clerk for the papers. Being a little nervous, as one is apt to be under such circumstances, he could not make his wishes known. The Clerk, witnessing his embarrassment, kindly inquired as to his desires. Coloring up, he blurted out, “Have you got any nails?" "Nails," said the Clerk, "why, no; this is not a store, it is the office of the County Clerk." "We-l-l, then, wh-what do you ask for a pair of license?" The sum was named, the amount paid, the papers made out, and the Clerk, being also a Justice of the Peace, kindly offered to "tie the knot." The blushing bride was brought in, the ceremony performed, and the twain went on their way rejoicing.

It sometimes happens that when the arrangement are duly made, with the consent of both parties, and, seemingly, the truth of the old proverb that "true love never runs smooth" is proven false, that circumstances will arise by which all arrangements will be frustrated. One evening in September, 1844, a large party assembled for the purpose of witnessing the marriage ceremony of Mr. Zachariah A. Gatton and Miss Elizabeth Alison, at the residence of the latter, a few miles southwest of Macomb. Great preparations had been made for the event, and invitations sent out to friends throughout the country. Just before the hour arrived for the performance of the ceremony it was made known to the bridegroom that the bride was an Abolitionist. Seeking her out, he inquired if this was so. She responded by saying it was, when he urged her to renounce her principles, stating he could never wed an Abolitionist. "Very well,” said she, "I will not renounce my principles for the best man living." After further parley, it was agreed, and the announcement made that no wedding would occur. The guests were invited to partake of the supper, after which the would-be bridegroom returned to his home minus a "better half."

Some rich scenes have occurred in our Justices' Courts, among which we relate the following:

A gentleman having failed in business was thought to have disposed of his property in such a way as to defraud his creditors, some of it being placed in the hands of a Mr. P., who was arrested on a charge of concealing the goods. In the trial before the justice the case was ably argued pro and con, when the justice delivered his opinion as follows: "It is the opinion of the court that Mr. P. is not guilty; but, look here, Mr. P., let me admonish you never to do the like again."

The same justice, who, by the way, was an Irishman, of course, was trying another case, in which a man was charged with stealing a log-chain. The taking of the chain was clearly proven, and not denied by the defense, who set up the plea that there was no felonious intent, it being customary in this country when one desired to use some article owned by a neighbor, to take it without asking. When the justice arose to give his opinion, he said:

"It is the opinion of the court that Mr. A. is guilty." "What,"" said the counsel for the defense, jumping to his feet, "do you mean to say that my client is guilty of felonious intentions in taking the chain?" "O, no, no;" replied the justice, "it is the opinion of the court that Mr. A. is not guilty." And so it was recorded on the docket.

Another justice, who, at that time, was in the habit of partaking a little too much of the " ardent," but who for nearly forty years has been a staunch teetotaler, was engaged in trying a case in a room used by himself as a saloon, when a half- drunken man who was sitting on an old-fashioned spinning wheel, fell over and broke it, which called forth an oath. The justice exclaimed: "By ___, I fine you five dollars for swearing in court." "Why, your honor swore, too," said the man. "Did I? Well, I fine myself five dollars, also."

Some forty years ago there lived in this county a man who imagined himself bewitched by a woman living in this neighborhood. He was told that he could dispossess himself of the evil influence by making a drawing of the woman, placing it upon a tree and shooting it with a silver bullet. This he did. The woman died the same night, and the man was told he would be haunted no more, as the woman was dead. "I know it," he replied, "I killed her." The same confession he made too many others, and at length it was proposed by some to arrest him for the crime. He acknowledged his guilt, and no murderer should go unpunished. He was promptly arrested, tried, and convicted on his own testimony and acknowledged guilt. The justice examining the case, immediately sentenced him to be hung, but in consideration of the fact that he was an unconverted man, remanded him to the jail at Macomb for spiritual consolation,, and to make due preparation for eternity.

It is needless to say the man was not hung.

In the early settlement of this county, when newspapers, circus shows and minstrel troupes were a thing unknown, the people had to devise other means of amusement wherewith to while away the weary hours. We find them occasionally indulging in a little "wee bit of row," "just for the fun of the thing," after which they would shake hands and take a drink 'round. But in practical jokes they took especial delight. Hon. James Mr. Campbell was frequently the subject of them. Being the peoples' servant, they considered they had a better right to make him the butt of their jokes than an ordinary man, but none were exempt.

On a certain occasion, Mr. Campbell had advertised, in the manner common at that time, for some men to split rails for him. J. P. Updegraff, well known to all our readers, and Joseph Hempstead, a brother-in-law of Mr. Campbell, concluded they would have a little fun at his expense. Hempstead was a slim-built man, but UpdegrafF held his own then as now. Hempstead disguised himself by obtaining the largest pair of pants, vest and coat he could find, and encased himself in them, filling up with pillows, making himself very heavy, fleshy-looking. Mr. Updegrafl' put on the roughest suit he could find, topping off with a slouchy hat that came down over his ears. Each taking an old maul, wedge and axe upon his shoulders, and giving the cue to a lot of their friends, who preceded them, they went over to the old court house, where Mr. Campbell held forth as circuit clerk, county clerk, &c. Passing into the office, they enquired for Mr. Campbell. Mr. Campbell who was engaged in writing at the time, replied, "I am the man."

"We understand you desire some rails split," says Mr. UpdegrafF, who acted as spokesman. "I do." "What will you give?"

"Sixty-two and a half cents per hundred."

"Is it good, sound timber?"


"How do you pay?"


"Every Saturday night?"


"You won't ask us to take trade?"


"Well, then," said Mr. U., who, during the interview, had been standing with maul and axe across his shoulder, throwing them down on the floor, "if you want your rails split, bring on your timber."

"By Jiminie, you get out of here," said Mr. Campbell, as the crowd began to roar, and he perceived the joke played upon him.

A correspondent of Clarke's Monthly furnished the following "good one" on Mr. Campbell, for the March (1876) number of that paper:

When the Quincy House, Quincy, Illinois, was first built, it was considered a "big thing on ice," and the pride of the citizens of the "Gem city." Our honorable Senator, in company with Judge Henry L. Bryant, of Lewistown, visited the city about the time of the formal opening of the house, and, of course, registered there. They were assigned rooms in the third story of the building, and were there but a few hours when they were honored with calls from General John Tilson and other dignitaries of the city.

At this time total abstinence did not prevail, and our friend, with his visitors, had wine, brandy, old bourbon, etc., brought up to the room, and a good time was enjoyed by all. After having imbibed a few times, General Tilson invited our Senator to go through the house with him. Showing him through from cellar to garret, the last place visited was the kitchen, in it was placed a new steam cooking apparatus. Eyeing the thing suspiciously for a moment or two, Mr. Senator remarked to General Tilson,

"By, I should consider this a dangerous thing. Suppose the whole thing should bust up, what would become of us?"

"O, there is no danger," replied the General, "they have an experienced cook employed; one who thoroughly understands the principles governing steam."

Returning to their room, and having been absent about two hours, of course it was time to take another drink. As they were in the act of raising the glass to their lips, a man came through the hall beating a gong. Never having heard the musical tones of this wonderful instrument, and still thinking of the danger arising from the steam cooking apparatus, our honorable friend dashed his glass down and yelled out,

"By ___, I told you so; the whole d__d thing is busted up!"

"Better Kill My Half Now." One year David _____, of Macomb, had a large number of hogs, but no corn to fatten them, and as corn was very high and very scarce, he felt as did the man who drew the elephant he did not know what to do with them. No one then was disposed to buy on account of the difficulty in obtaining grain to fatten them. Phillip _____, living north of town some four or five miles, had a large quantity of grain and but few hogs, so David made a proposition to him to take the hogs and fatten them on shares, each party to have half the number when killed. Phillip agreed to the proposition, but when he called for the hogs he desired to make a proviso to the original contract that if he found the hogs were eating too much of his corn he should have the privilege of killing and delivering David's half of the number at any time. "By ____," said David, "if that's your game you had better kill my half now, and save yourself the trouble of driving them out to your farm!" Suffice to say, the hogs were not taken with the proviso.

Judgment for the Plaintiff. A case for the recovery of a certain sum of money, said to be due from A to B, was brought before 'Squire ____, and, on trial, no evidence was produced that A was indebted to B at all, yet the learned 'Squire gave judgment for the plaintiff. The attorney for the defense objected to the verdict, for the reason set forth above, that no evidence had been shown that anything was due. “By ___," said the 'Squire, “do you think a man such a fool as to bring suit when there was nothing owing him?”

"Put a Little Sugar in It." The boys one night got upon a little "lark,” and conceived the idea of making everybody else in the town as drunk as themselves, and with that laudable (?) intention they started out. Many, of course, willingly partook of the proffered liquors, but one man refused on the ground that he had sworn off. But what cared they for that? Drink he must. Time and again he refused, until their patience was lost, and closing in on him they threw him down, and as they were in the act of pouring the stuff down his throat, he cried out, "Boys, if you will make me drink, put a little sugar in it."

Source: History of McDonough County, Illinois, It's Cities, Towns, and Villages with Early Reminiscences, Personal Incidents and Anecdotes, and a Complete Business Directory of the County, by S. J. Clarke, published in 1878, pages 49-57. Extracted 30 Jul 2016 by Norma Hass

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