Page images
PDF
EPUB

legal phraseology and method of procedure much the same as at the present time. The record reads as follows:

“David Martin

V.

Thomas Medford,

Appeal. Said plaintiff was three times solemnly called in open court and came not, nor any one for him. It is therefore ordered by the court that the suit be dismissed for want of prosecution, and judgment below reversed without prejudice to rights of parties.”

This Thomas Medford was the Englishman who lived along Rock River, north of the mouth of Mud Creek, where is now the summer home of Dr. A. W. Hoyt, and whò was said to have been a captain and one of the guard of Napoleon when imprisoned on the island of St. Helena.?

Governor Ford retired from public life at the expiration of his term of office in 1846, and died at Peoria Nov. 3, 1850, in greatly reduced circumstances. These intervening years he spent in writing his History of Illinois. On his death-bed he left with Gen. James Shields the manuscript of this work to be published by him for the benefit of his destitute orphan children. In this history he makes the following reference to Rock River Seminary:

“The Methodists established a flourishing seminary at Mount Morris, in the county of Ogle. * Opportunities for education in the higher branches were good for all who were able and willing to profit by them.”

The log cabin on the claim of Judge Ford in Rockvale Township, three miles east and a little to the south of Mount Morris, must have been built by him in 1836, as the grant to John Fridley, who purchased the claim from Judge Ford in 1837, was made out five years later than that year, being from the United States to John Fridley, June 24, 1841. Mr. Fridley paid Judge Ford $1,000.00 for 1,000 acres; and, later, when he proved up the claim he paid to the government the additional, and usual, $1.25 per acre. Mr. Fridley, who was from Washington County, Maryland, after making the purchase from Judge Ford went back to his home, returning Aug. 15, 1838, with his family to occupy the cabin. This cabin meanwhile had been vacant, and the first-comers of the Maryland colony, as it came to be called, found a habitation in it while their own cabins were being hastily erected. Among those who found a temporary abiding place within its shelter were Henry and John Wagner and Captain Swingley, with their families. The parents of Mr. Michael Seyster, with their household, ten in all, lived in this Ford cabin for about a month, soon after their arrival in Ogle County. The table used by them in it, was hinged to the wall, with two legs also hinged to it, which could be folded back, and the whole table dropped against the wall out of the way. At this time the loft was reached at night by climbing up pegs set in the wall. Mr. Fridley's family used a movable ladder and a trap door, the ladder being set out of doors in daytime to

2 NOTE-It is said, too, that a willow stick brought by him from this island, was planted on the place between the house and barn, and grew into a tree which stood there for many years. Other cases of a similar vitality of the willow are of authentic record. Thomas Medford and his wife lie buried on this farm. Their son, after their death, removed from this region.

make more room inside. The cabin was 18 feet by 19 feet in size. Mr. Fridley found the cabin to be roughly built, and set about “trimming it up," sawing off the logs jutting out unevenly at the corners and "chinking up” more thoroughly the cracks between the logs. The chimney had been made out of split sticks laid up one above the other in "mudclay," and then thickly plastered, or daubed over with the wet clay. Of course, the fire-place was in the “living-room,” just as it is in the expensive houses of today, and the housewifely matron burned her fingers and apron with the "Dutch oven," much as the up-to-date college girl does with her chafing-dish nowadays. Originally the cabin stood a little farther up the hill to the north of its present location, west of the garden, with the door to the east. In it Mr. Fridley's sons, Benjamin, Andrew, David, Jacob and John-passed their boyhood till the larger house was constructed. It was then used as a workshop till it was removed to where it now stands at the foot of the hill with a spring of water running through the cellar-story, added for its use as a butcher-shop. In it the hogs were killed, then allowed to freeze. Afterwards they were taken to market, as far even as Chicago and Peru. Now this cabin door has an old-fashioned sliding wooden bolt with peg outside; but of course, in the early days,” it had the hospitable latchstring.

It was while being shown through this Ford cabin by Mr. Glasgow in June last, that the thought occurred to me of bringing the matter of preserving permanently this historic landmark, before the attention of this Old Settlers' Reunion. Why not today authorize the officers of this meeting to confer with the present owner and arrange for its preservation ? Many interesting relics of pioneer days could be accumulated and this Ford cabin could be made the repository for them. What a fine store-house indeed, of pioneer times could be made out of this Ford cabin, filled with the utensils and implements of those arduous times

.. “Opportunity,” reminds John J. Ingalls, “knocks but once.”

This paper on “Governor Ford in Ogle County” was prepared by the writer for the Old Settlers' Reunion, held at Mount Morris, Aug. 29, 1907, and read there upon that occasion by her. Since that time, in gathering material for the History of Ogle County, further interesting and valuable matter in connection with this subject has been obtained, which is herewith added, by the writer:

In "Peck's New Gazetteer of Illinois," published by Grigg & Elliott, Philadelphia, 1837, is this brief note: “Cir. Ct. at Dixon, Oct. 1837, Hon. Daniel Stone, Judge presiding, Thomas Ford, Prosecuting Attor

ney.”

From Reynold's “History of Illinois, My Own Times,” published 18541855, republished by the Chicago Historical Society, 1879, is taken the following estimate made by one Governor of Illinois of the qualities which were found to distinguish another who occupied likewise the same high, responsible position:

“Governor Ford possessed many of the high and noble traits of character that constitute an eminent man. He was gifted with a strong and investigating intellect, and also a firm, open candidness of character that was admired by all. His mind was original and self-sustaining.

*

ور

He possessed a nice sense of honor, bordering on the chivalric notions of olden times. His notions of probity and integrity were refined and welldefined. With these notions, speculation, talented financiering, was foreign to him; he never cared for wealth more than a support, and scarcely that much. The mind and character of Governor Ford qualified him for a judge better than for any other station. He was frank, open and firm on the bench, and at the same time learned and competent in the exposition of the law. He was a good and sound lawyer, but not the advocate some others were at the bar.”

From the "History of Ogle County, Illinois,” 1859, by Henry R. Boss, is taken the following written by him for the “Polo Advertiser,” Polo, Illinois, of which paper he was the editor from 1858 to 1861:

“The first newspaper in Ogle Co., the 'Rock River Register,' was issued by Jonathan Knodle, in Mt. Morris, Jan. 1, 1842." *

“On the 10th of July, the 'Register abandoned its neutral position and hoisted the Whig flag, headed with the name of Joseph Duncan for Governor, in opposition to Thomas Ford, the Democratic candidate, and denounced Judge Ford as “a Northern man with southern principles, inasmuch as he was opposed to removing the northern boundary of Illinois.' A note taken from another writer shows the esteem in which the historical work, to which its author devoted his remaining years and strength, in transcribing the stirring scenes and occurrences with which he had been connected, was held by a well-known Englishman: “When John Walters, M. P., proprietor of the London Times,' visited Chicago, he asked Mr. John B. Drake, of the Grand Pacific Hotel, to procure him a copy of Ford's History, pronouncing it a remarkable work, and stating that he thought of having it reprinted in London."

The following paragraphs form the close of the “History of Illinois," by Governor Ford, and it is truly pathetic to know that the end of a life devoted so ably and unflinchingly to the service and welfare of the State, should be saddened by thoughts of the lack of appreciation by the people of his time. Fame often crowns the victor too late for personal triumph:

“The people abroad have once more begun to seek this goodly land for their future homes. From 1843 to 1846, our population rapidly increased; and is now increasing faster than it ever did before. Our own people have become contented and happy; and the former discredit resting upon them abroad for supposed wilful delinquency in paying the State debt, no longer exists.

"It is a just pride and a high satisfaction for the author to feel and know that he has been somewhat instrumental in producing these gratifying results. In this history he has detailed all the measures of the Legislature which produced them; and if these measures did not all' originate with him, he can rightfully and justly claim that he supported them with all his power and influence, and has faithfully endeavored to carry them out with the best ability he could command. For so doing, he has had to encounter bitter opposition to his administration; and enmities have sprung up personally against himself which he hopes will not last forever. For although he wants no office, yet he is possessed of such sensibility, that it is painful to him to be the subject of unmerited obloquy; and for this reason, and this alone, he hopes that when those of his fellow-citizens who disapproved of his administration in these particulars, have time to look into the merits of these measures,

and see how they have lifted the State from the lowest abyss of despair and gloom to a commanding and honorable position among her sisters of the Union, they will not remember their wrath forever.”

This volume so highly regarded at the present time, and so difficult to obtain, was the sole legacy of Governor Ford to his orphan childrenthe death of his wife having occurred shortly previous to his own. One of the daily newspapers of Chicago, in the autumn of 1907, contained an account of the illness, and consequent need, of the only surviving child of Governor Ford, a widowed daughter, who had married a captain of the Mexican War while her father was still in office. The “Methodist minister of Middletown" (Illinois), referred to in the newspaper account as a kind friend of this daughter, Rev. T. Lee Knotts, being written to by the author of this paper, replied as follows:

“Mrs. Anna Davies is comfortably located in the Deaconess Hospital, at Lincoln, Illinois. Mrs. Henry Gambrel, deceased, of this place was a daughter of Mrs. Davies and took care of her mother through many years. At the death of Mrs. Gambrel, Mrs. Davies took charge of the household, caring for the children so far as she was able. Mr. Gambrel is an industrious, hard-working man, and supported the family. Mrs. Davies. was well-cared for in his home until she was taken down with pneumonia and, it being difficult to secure a nurse for her, she was taken to the Deaconess Hospital, where she is now permanently located.”

After living some little time in the Deaconess home, Mrs. Davies journeyed on to her long and final home March 17, 1910.

Immediately following the reading of the paper on “Governor Ford in Ogle County," and the suggestion by the writer in regard to the preservation of the “Ford Cabin," the President of the Ogle County Old Settlers' Reunion, Mr. Amos F. Moore, of Polo, appointed as a committee for that purpose, Messrs. Horace G. Kauffman, of Oregon, and A. W. Brayton and J. E. Miller, of Mount Morris. This committee, aided by Mr. Moore, took up the matter of the removal of the cabin to the campus of Mount Morris College. It was, however, found to be too much decayed to be removed without tearing it down and rebuilding it, and a hesitation in regard to its dignity of appearance amid modern surroundings led to the dropping of the plan. It still stands in the same place on the Glasgow farm. Before it is too far gone, some little part of it will be preserved among the pioneer relics of Ogle County.

MASHEENA.

By Milo Custer.

(Read before the McLean County Historical Society March 4, 1911.) The Kickapoo chief, Masheena, was one of the best known to the first white settlers, of all the Indians of Central Illinois. He was born probably about the year 1760, but whether in Wisconsin, Illinois, or Indiana, we cannot say.

As the father-in-law of Kanakuk (or Kee-an-na-kuk) the Kickapoo Prophet, his position in the history of his people becomes second only in importance to that celebrated chief.

The earliest account of Masheena which I find anywhere, is given in the first history of McLean County, Ill. Duis “Good Old Times,” in the biographical sketch of Absalom Stubblefield, wherein Mr. Stubblefield says, “The Kickapoos were then [December, 1824] plentier than game. Old Machina, the chief, was very friendly. During the War of 1812, he fought against the United States, as he was promised a great many ponies by the British if he would whip the whites [i. e. the Americans]. In the War of 1812, he led on his warriors to the fight, but saw them fearfully cut to pieces at Tippecanoe, and [as] he received no compensation for his trouble or his losses, he declared that he would never again fight against the whites.” That this declaration was adhered to is evident from his subsequent conduct. There are a number of other references to Masheena in the “Good Old Times” of which I will take notice farther on. Tradition fixes the site of his bark-house residence in Blooming Grove, McLean County, at the time of the first white settlement there (in 1822) at a point about half-way between the present locatoins of the Blooming Grove Christian Church and the residence of Mr. George Deems, and close by a small branch of the Little Kickapoo Creek. How long Masheena and his family lived at this place, we of course do not know.

It appears from all the accounts we have of him that he was on very friendly terms with most of his white neighbors, and that he often went among them and visited them in their homes.

It is a remarkable circumstance that we have among us today, one man, Mr. William J. Rhodes,” who has a personal recollection of Masheena.

i Nov. 7, 1811. 2 Vice-President of the McLean County Historical Society; Son of John H. S. Rhodes.

« PreviousContinue »