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I have just returned from Edwardsville, St. Louis, Belleville, etc. I saw Smith, West, Kinney, Thomas, Edwards and other great men, and am satisfied that old things are to be done away among us, and all things to become new. Our parties, as they have heretofore existed are already dissolved, and new distinctions are rapidly taking place. Smith, Kinney, and West, are about to set up a Newspaper at Edwardsville-ostensibly for Jackson, but in fact to operate in State politics. Smith and Kinney want to be Senator and Governor. They go against Edwards, Thomas, but most especially and bitterly against McLean. Party No. 2 consists of John Reynolds and Tom Reynolds the Beairs, etc., Jno Reynolds wants to be Senator-is inveterate against Smith, Edwards, Thomas and dont much like McLean. Party No. 9 consists of Jesse B. Thomas Solus—the privates and officers yet to be enlisted. The Honorable Jesse is very bitter against Smith and Co., but more against McLean. He swears that McLean is a dishonest man and a dishonest politician-that he cant, and by G--- he shant be elected!
I do not see how the above named men can ever again amalgamate, at any rate they will not join with Party No. 4 which consists of Jno McLean and his friends-Nor with Party No. 5 which is composed of Edwards & Co.
Edwards declares publicly on all occasions that he will not be a candidate for the Senate, and I am inclined to think he will not be. Thomas also declares he will not be, but it is easily seen that his object is to bring out a great many candidates, and he thinks the report of his retiring will have that effect.
When I saw him at St. Louis he expressed a great deal of contrition at having opposed your election for Governor, and requested me to say to you that if any appointment from the General Government should offer which would suit you, you might rely on his most active exertions etc. He urged this matter very much, and begged me to endeavor to convince you how much he was your friend, and all that. He said a great many more things to me equally sincere and true, some of which I will repeat when I see you.
Depend upon it, my dear Sir, these combinations which are going on in our State will ruin every man who is engaged in them. The people are beginning to complain loudly. Kinney is sinking faster than I ever saw any man, his violence disgusts even his friends. Thomas and Edwards are gone. Smith is univerally feared, his ambition and his intriguing spirit alarm friends and foes. Lockwood and Wilson are greatly depreciated. All of these men must go down. McLean stands best, but his prospects are very doubtful, his habitual neglect of the interests of those who have supported him most warmly, is attributed to want of gratitude, or to a selfish policy, and a great many predict that his friends will forsake him in the hour of peril. Should they do so he would have no right to complain for he has never supported any of us. I shall however support him. I have not yet learned what will be the course of our friends at Kaskaskia. They are considered with the Smith gang, but I cannot believe it. How do you feel on the Presidential question? I hope you do not think of joining the Jackson combination. If you ever expect to be a candidate again before the people of this State, avoid that rock. Jackson's day is ove: i ñ Tiinois—the canal appropriation has settled that question. Can you not also whisper to me whether you will again offer for Governor? If you do, keep clear of the combinations. The people are with you. The Kinney squad is against you.
We are trying to make up a little party to the mineral well at Mt. Vernon or Mrs. Gaston's. Ewing and wife, and myself and wife will I think go down after the Federal court, and spend ten days.
Edwards is there now, and talks of taking his own family and Cooks. The latter has returned home very low.
If we go to Jefferson you must meet us. I can tell you a great deal of news.
THE FORDHAMS AND LA SERRES OF THE ENGLISH
SETTLEMENT IN EDWARDS COUNTY.
Walter Colyer, Albion, Ill. If asked my excuse for adding another chapter to the history of the English settlement in Edwards County, it would be sufficient to reply, the world-wide importance of the subject and its increasing interest. In a measure to show this, listen to the following paragraph from the correspondence of that eminent writer and thinker, M. D. Conway, addressed to the Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune and dated at London, March 29, 1883 :
"The account of their horseback journeyings into what was then the Far West, of the primitive dismalness of Cincinnati, of the floods and unbridged rivers (in one of which Birkbeck ultimately lost his life), of the retreating Indians, of the backwoodsmen retreating after them, of Albion town pre-arranged by two men sitting on a log, drawn on paper, germinating in a log inn and blacksmith shop, followed by the store, the meeting house, the court house, the gaol and the newspaper—all of these repeat the story of Jamestown, of Plymouth, of Concord and other colonies, each of which repeated the story of the first Aryan colonists in Europe and casts more real light on them than the antiquarians who are trying so hard to decipher their prehistoric vestiges."
To George Flower and Morris Birkbeck, leading actors in this historic drama of the southern prairies of the early Illinois, possibly too much prominence has been generally accorded. If the truth were known a score or more of others deserve to share with them the honors; and conspicuous among the number would appear the name of Elias Pym Fordham. It is of the Fordhams and the related family of La Serre I propose to deal, principally, in this paper. In his History of the English Settlement thus wrote. George Flower:
“Clustering around the Black hills of that district, in the villages of Sandon, Kelshall and Therfield, the families of Fordham have long resided. In the wars of the Protectorate they were as numerous as they
With a company of some 70 or 80 men, all blood relatives and of one name, they joined Cromwell's army. Ordered to ford a river, there stationed to check the advance of the Royal troops, they were all killed but one man, and he left on the field badly wounded. From this one man the 73 uncles and cousins—all Fordhams, that made me a farewell visit at my house at Marden, before I sailed, for America, all sprang."
The Flowers and Fordhams had much in common-ancestry, environment, education, politics and religion. For centuries they had resided in and around Hertfordshire on their ancestral holdings. The two families were linked by the marriage of Richard Flower and the daughter of Edward Fordham; and by this marriage Richard Flower, whose ashes now repose in a neglected tomb beneath a walnut tree in a horse lot on the old Park House premises half a mile south of Albion, became related as brother-in-law to Elias Fordham. These two men alike liberty-loving and widely at variance with the king and the existing order of the English government, were also both dissenters from the Established Church. Both espoused the creed of Unitarianism. While Birkbeck was squandering his competence attempting to boil soap for all the kingdom, Richard Flower and Elias Fordham were amassing fortunes as successful brewers of good ale.
Accompanying the Birkbeck party from England in the spring of 1817, and constituting a part of the nucleus of the pioneer settlement, was Elias Pym Fordham, 29 years old, eldest son of Elias Fordham and first cousin to George Flower. He was a young man of high attainment as a civil engineer and possessed of splendid character. His training had been under the tutorage of George Stephenson, the most famous inventor and civil engineer of his generation. Subsequently, in the spring of 1818, among another party of emigrants came also Miss Maria Fordham, one of Elias Pym's five sisters. Maria accompanied her cousin George Flower and his new wife and the two little Flower boys. At Shawneetown the party was met by Elias Pym who, leaving Birkbeck estranged at his English prairie home, piloted the little party of new comers to the rude log cabin built by young Fordham himself for the reception of the Flower family and Miss Fordham. A little later Charles, the only brother of Elias. Pym, also located at the English Settlement. In 1834 another Charles Fordham journeyed hither and remained for a time. This Charles was the son of Edward King Fordham who contributed books toward the founding of the first public library in the new village of Albion.
It is not too much to say that Elias Pym Fordham was the mainstay of the English Settlement, and upon him devolved the arduous duties of general utility man. It was he who took charge of the Birkbeck party's heavy luggage out of Norfolk to Baltimore and thence overland to Pittsburg, and after that by boat to Cincinnati, a total distance of more than a thousand miles. Although in bad health, at times he steered his own boat and at others landed and shouldered his gun in search of game for provision. Birkbeck's piano constituted a part of the baggage. Think of hauling that piano over the mountains a distance of 240 miles! The total weight of this baggage amounted to 9,000 nounds. When his Ohio River flatboat arrived at Cincinnati Fordham again joined the Birkbeck party who had preceded him in order to escape the burden of the baggage. It was he who hired, bought or built boats and after the arrival in Illinois procured provisions, tools, implements and wearing apparel, constructed saw-pits and built the first log cabins. He spied out the most desirable lands for entry and the choicest locations for dwellings. He explored the country for building material, and in the absence of a surveyor's chain, nothing daunted, he cut a grape-vine and proceeded to survey the county round about; and be it said to his credit, his lines and established grape-vine corners have continued established until this day. In his surveying expeditions he chased bears, wolves and panthers, swam rivers, lodged with the hunters in their wilderness cabins, shared their scanty provender and joined with them in their mid-night festivities. When it was necessary to treat with the Indians or to negotiate with the frontiermen Fordham did it. He knew the Indians and they regarded him as their fast friend. The steady aim of his rifle was relied upon to defend the handfull of English against the possible intrusion of the drunken frontier ruffians who not infrequently threatened the prairie settlers. Of his prowess as a sportsman he said of himself: "I can bring down deer, birds and squirrels at every shot with my rifle.” When there was an aching void for news in the colony Fordham traveled 40 miles to the post-office to get the mail and each trip twice forded the Big Wabash River. Soon he became patriotic and manifested this by assisting to raise the first American flag in the public square at Princeton, Indiana. He went about garbed much like an Indian, wearing a blanket and carrying a tomahawk in his belt. Perhaps the most notable achievement was the erection of a prairie wind-mill for grinding grain, the first to be erected north of the Ohio in the Illinois. He also successfully built a planing mill. In the latter part of October, 1818, he began his survey of the town of New Albion in which, latterly, for sometime before his return to England Elias Pym Fordham conducted a general merchandise store. He made entry of lands in several localities but it does not appear that he engaged to any extent in farming.
Fordham's Personal Narrative, written in the most inconvenient places in the years 1817 and 1818, and published by the Arthur H. Clark Company of Cleveland, 89 years after it was written, is a straightforward narration of his travels and experiences, full of incident and rich in description of the new Illinois country and its undeveloped resources. Without pretense of literary attainment Fordham told in clear, concise and unbiased language a story as readable and far more truthful and conservative of the beginning of the English settlement between the two Wabashes than that of any other chronicler of his period with the possible exception of John Woods. As a sample of Fordham's direct and matter of fact style I quote this paragraph from his Narrative:
“Every log cabin is swarming with half-naked children. Boys of 18 build huts, marry and raise hogs and children at about the same expense.” And again:
"I change my shirt, when it is convenient, twice a week, and sometimes take off my clothes when I go to bed. My hands, though rougher by far, are not quite so dark as an Indian's; and moreover I am grown
It was his opinion that sketches in general of the Illinois country had been too sunny. While deploring the existence of slavery Fordham was much less radical in his opposition to it than was either Flower or Birkbeck. On page 210 of his Narrative we find him saying:
"I would not have upon my conscience the moral guilt of extending slavery over countries now free from it for the whole of the Northwestern Territory. But, if it should take place I do not see why I should not make use of it. If I do not have servants, I cannot farm; and there are no free laborers here, except a few so worthless, and yet so haughty, that an English gentleman can do nothing with them."
After his return to England E. P. Fordham devoted his time during a number of years to technical engineering and won for himself a lasting reputation. He was employed by the Duke of Wellington, then governor of Dover Castle and lord warden of the Cinque Ports, to build the great government docks for war-ships at Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Romney and Hythe. It was while at Dover, then 54 years of age, on the 2d day of December, 1842, that Elias Pym Fordham addressed a letter of considerable interest to his brother Charles, then in the employ of the Manhattan Gas Company at 178 Mercer Street, New York. This letter, I believe, has never appeared in print. It follows: MY DEAR BROTHER:
When I look at the date of your letter (which is now before me) I feel sorry that I have not answered it. I may say that when I received it I was very ill in body and very much depressed in spirits. I have not until very lately been in good health or spirits since the death of my father. Indeed, I was so ill for some months that many people thought I was going by slow though certain steps toward the grave. I began to think so myself and had made up my mind to go to a Southern climate. As I found I could take a cabin passage to Terseria for seven pounds, ten shillings and six pence I thought of wintering in that island and of proceeding to New York in the spring. But as I recovered my health ] thought I could better spare the money for the improvement of my little property near Dover than on a voyage which was no longer necessary for my health.
It gives much comfort to reflect that I made some atonement for the pain which I had often given our excellent father; that I wrote a very kind letter to him a little time before he died. He was not taken ill at the time I wrote, although he received it on his death bed. Sophy read my letter to him and he said that it was very kind; so I believe he died forgiving me and all his children their faults toward him. If a feeling remained in his mind which was not love and affection toward any of his children, it was not toward you or any other except Catherine, who showed to the last her want of feeling. But enough of this; we have all our faults and it is our best business to set about correcting them.
You wrote in praise of your wife, and I am glad that you do so. She must be your best friend, and probably may be your only one, except your child. You will not forget that it is your best and most important interest so to command your temper, spirit and conduct and to curb his with mildness and firmness, so as to train him up in the way he should go and to inspire him with love and respect for you. That he will love and respect his mother there is little doubt, if she but be half so good as you describe her.
As to naming your boy after me, which proposal I take to be a compliment, I suppose what I have to say will come too late to be of any