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Captain Samuel Ashmore.

At the Centennial celebration of Independence held at Charleston, last year, his Honor, Judge Adams, in accordance with previous arrangements, produced an historical sketch of the early settlements in Coles county; and necessarily therewith more or less reference to some of its earliest pioneers. It is needless to say that the people of Coles felt then and always will feel grateful


to the judge, for his careful and interesting effort in antiquarian research. But with regret they realized the fact, that a few columns of a newspaper contained the whole address. If we recollect aright Oakland and vicinity was barely mentioned by Judge Adams, and that portion of the then Coles county — Douglas county — was left entirely out. We presume that when the judge wrote up that epitomised history, he must have kept by him a pneumatic condenser, or probably a hay press to keep his work in bounds. Laying aside for the present the judge's condenser, we have thought to ourselves that even if Oakland never was a famous city, and never had any "poor wise men" in it, yet there might be something about it, and its neighborhood which, buried under the weight of nearly half a century, the readers of the HERALD today might wish to know, and knowing might possibly preserve for another fifty years. To meet this imaginary want we propose in this and the following papers by the help of the few remaining old settlers, men and women, and our more recent recollections, to furnish a few items, local, personal and otherwise, mixed and compounded with a few observations (by the way of improvements) which, we will scatter about as we proceed along this highway of our pioneer history.

Captain Samuel Ashmore is admitted to have been the first settler in this neighborhood. Accompanied by his grown sons — Claybourne, who was then married, and George W. and Madison who were single men — he pitched his tent on what was long after known as the Laughlin farm, now owned by Mr. Andrew Gwinn and the heirs of Snoden Sargent. This was in the year 1829. In raising his house he had the assistance of John Richman and his sons, who had about the same time settled on the head waters of the Embarras, twelve miles to the north west. At that time Paris and Grandview were the nearest settlements to him, though it is said that a solitary family then lived on Greasy creek, but if so their name and history are to us unknown. Other families may have come into the wilderness this year, one we think was by the name of Lamb, and perhaps another by the


name of Thornsbreu, but they were birds of passage, wanderers or tramps and made no abiding place. It is not our purpose to magnify the labors or hardships of a first settler. It is true that the wild wilderness was before Mr. Ashmore, and the Indians were and continued to remain there for several years, but those trials had been underwent by others before him and by a multitude since his day. As a frontier man, his training, habits and education eminently fitted him for the work. Large of frame, strong in body and with a determined will; like Ajax he only asked for day light and fair play. Our excuse for an extended notice of him and his family lies in the fact that the romance of a country ever has and ever will attach to its first inhabitants. Of his family history we know nothing, almost absolutely nothing. From his surviving children and the descendents of his twelve sons and daughters, we could not even learn the name of his father or the place of his birth. Following the practice of scientific men — when all else fails — to read the past by the present, as the geologist reads the drift and the rocks, and the philologist, old and forgotten languages, we offer the following as a reconstruction of his family history; Ashmore, it will readily be seen, is a compound name; first, from the Angle Saxon Asc(ash) stiff, sturdy, a tree; second, More is a Celtic or Irish word, and means great, large, powerful, etc. His forefathers, we judge, lived in the north of Ireland, and probably were comprised in the great Scotch-Irish emigration, which previous to the revolutionary war, settled so extensively in Pennsylvania, Virginia and other southern states. It is probable that Captain Ashmore was born in South Carolina or Georgia, but we first know of him living on Duck river in Tennessee. Here he had the honor of serving as a commissioned officer under General Jackson, was out in the Creek Indian campaigns, and fought at the battle of New Orleans. It is needless to repeat that his opinion of his great commander bordered on reverence, and was fondly cherished by him to the day of his death. Resolving to leave Tennessee, whose chattel slavery he thoroughly detested, with his brothers William, James and Amos and all their families, he came to the Wabash country; here he soon fell into the chronic frontier style of life, common today as it was then. First to make


an improvement and next get too hot for a sale, and that is made, go to chopping again upon another claim. If it be true that a rolling stone gathers no moss, it is apparent that the tramp farmer is a failure. By the help of his sons he opened a farm near Darwin, cleared off one hundred acres of bottom timber, built a two story house, several stables and out houses and after that he sold the whole caboodle to his son-in-law for $600, in order to get to the Ambraw country. It is scarcely necessary to say that Mr. Ashmore never became a rich man.

Having succeeded in selling his first location to Mr. Laughlin, Mr. Ashmore moved down to Hoge's branch, where most of his sons and sons-in-law had by this time settled. He commenced work on what is now known as the Barbour farm. Here after filling the office of justice of the peace, he died in 1838, aged as his tomb stone states sixty years.

One of the great difficulties of a biography is to sketch the character of a man whom the author has never seen. It is a still greater difficulty in the presence of his surviving children, and his descendents — "numerous as the sands of the sea" — to do that work faithfully, especially when all you can say of him is not praise. Like the rough frontiersman that he was his hand was ready, if struck, he returned the blow with interest and effect like a good son of the church militant; a strong friend and hospitable; a bitter enemy and vindictive. Probably he talked too much, a weakness common to the times when it was thought necessary for every man to give an opinion, whether he had a reason for it or not. Then again chimney corner jurisprudence was a fruitful subject for discussion; we don't know that in our own times the habit is any better than it was then. Mr. Ashmore had hot blood and in behalf of what he supposed was his "rights," spared neither himsef nor others.

"What was his disposition?" we inquired of his venerable and respected daughter-in-law.

"Well, sir, he was a very fractious man — when he got angry."

To show that he had a fountain of humor in him, it is related that driving cattle once in Tennessee, in a terribly muddy road, he met a broad cloth snob (broad cloth was scarce then) who in disregard of drover courtesies forced his horse into the midst of


the herd, producing considerable confusion. In a moment Ashmore comprehended his man and riding up to meet him greeted him as an old friend, "Why, how are you!" held out his hand and grasping that of the snob's with an iron grip, he put spurs to his horse and dragged the fellow off his saddle into the mud.