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Reminiscences - Martha Russell

My father, William Pringle, moved to this county in 1830, when I was a very young girl; but I remember the occurences of that day very distinctly. The "big snow" of that year comes to my mind just as vividly as if it was but yesterday. It was a terrible winter, indeed. For three long months we could hardly stir out of our house.

My father settled west of Macomb, near the old cemetery; for a barn he used his wagon, and sheltered his horses under the broad canopy of heaven, allowing them to graze around upon the prairies, they going out in the morning and home at night. Among the horses he had was one we called "Old Bill," who was as white as the driven snow. One day, while the horses were out, the prairie was discovered on fire, and soon all returned in great fear but old Bill. The fire swept by, and old Bill came in, but now his color was entirely changed, he being as black as coal, the fire having singed off every bit of his hair. By careful treatment he was saved, but ever after this, then the smell of fire was in the air, he would scamper home in a hurry.

Peter Hale was one of our near neighbors, he living on the site of the old grave yard. Sometime in 1830 one of his little girls fell into the fire and was burned to death, and was buried near by, she being the first person there buried. Truman Bowen was the second. When Mr. Bowen died there could not be found lumber enough in Macomb to make his coffin, and James Clarke had to give his wagon-bed for that purpose.

About this same time a man named Thomas Morgan married a widow lady with a little girl about three years old. The little one had the chills and probably gave some annoyance to the man. One day he took her with him to the woods to gather blackberries, and, as he said, carried along some coals to make a fire in case a chill should come on the girl. When he returned home the little one was noticed by its mother all stained with blackberries. Examining her body, she found the inhuman wretch, her husband, had, with coals of fire, burned her body in a terrible manner, afterwards staining it with berries to hide the mark. Peter Hale took the little one to his house where she lingered about three days, when she died and was the third person to be buried in the old grave yard. The wretch was arrested, and, there being no jail at Macomb, he was taken to Rushville for safe keeping, from which he escaped and was never afterwards heard from. Thus the gallows was cheated out of a deserved victim.

The story of the "Lost Child," which was published in Clarke's Monthly, in January, 1876, I well remember, as well as the dreadful murder of John Wilson, which occurred in 1834.

I was born in New Castle, Henry county, Kentucky, September 19, 1824, and was married to Merritt A. Russell.

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 589-590.

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