Pictures and Illustrations
Charles W. Marsh
W. W. Marsh
Old Marsh Home — Where First Harvester Was Constructed
Top View of the Mann Reaper
"The Old Reliable" — The Standard McCormick Reaper
The Standard Marsh Harvester as Made During the Seventies
Hon. Lewis Steward
Standard Harvester and Binder
J. F. Steward's Tractor Binder, Harvest of 1909
Gen. John L. Beveridge
James S. Waterman
William A. Talcott
Col. I. L. Ellwood
Earthquake Ruins in Guatemala
In the North Woods
Deer in Marsh's Park
"The Walnuts" — Residence of C. W. Marsh
BEING now in my seventy-seventh year, long retired from active business, with only a passive interest in the present and future, my mind naturally reverts to the past and dwells upon the acts and incidents of my long and busy life; not with much pleasure or satisfaction, however, for in such review I can see little but mistakes, lost opportunities and failures; so much that I ought not to have done, so much that I ought to have done at I left undone or did badly, and so little that I did thoroughly well.
But I have lived through the most remarkable period in the world's history, the period in which greater progress in all the useful arts and sciences has been made than during all the ages before, and in which great changes in the way of living have occurred; besides, it is sixty-one years since I came to Illinois; so, it seems to me that what I can remember as a witness of or participant in this progress; these changes and the development of the country, ought to be quite interesting if well told. In attempting
2to tell it, however, I have to depend upon memory and mind somewhat dulled by age; so with best efforts to be correct I shall probably make some mistakes. But let it be understood at once that I am writing these recollections not so much for the public as for my children and friends; if this work gives them pleasure or satisfaction I shall be satisfied, though I trust that the general reader will find enough in it to pay him for the time spent in its perusal.
The little I know regarding our forbears will be first in order. On my father's side our first progenitor in America, William Marsh, came from Kent County, England, during the great civil war. His father or brother (one of the genealogies says father, the other says brother), Captain James Marsh, was in King Charles' army and was killed in the battle of Edgehill; the son or brother, William, then a mere lad, later became involved in the struggle and his "two aunts, fearing for his safety, Cromwell becoming victorious, prevailed on him to go to America." He was about eighteen years old at that time. He settled in Connecticut. He was severely wounded in the war with the Narragansetts (King Philip's war), and after recovering married his nurse. This was about 1675. They had a large family.
The youngest son, Matthias, went up into Vermont, there married a Miss Brigham and was the father of William, known later as Col. William Marsh. The latter was an only son, I think, and past middle age at the breaking out of The Revolution. Having had some trouble with the "Green Mountain Boys" on account of his interest in the New York grants, and being descended from an old loyalist family, he became a "United Empire Loyalist"
3and went to Upper Canada, now Ontario, where he invested largely in lands. He was colonel of Canadian provincials in Burgoyne's army and later he was commissary. As I remember the story, he finally settled at Consecon, Prince Edward District (lying south of Bay of Quinte), where he died. One of his sons, Benjamin, and two of his daughters, whose names I do not remember, settled at Port Hope. His youngest son, Johnson, went back to Vermont, lived there many years, and then returned to Canada, settling at Port Sarnia, where he died about thirty years ago, having nearly reached 100 years of age. From his papers, as well as from my father, I obtained the information which I am trying to give of the early history of the family.
The eldest son, Matthias, was my grandfather. He lived on a farm located on the north shore of Bay of Quinte, near Trenton, and died there about eighty years ago. My grandmother, his first wife, was accidentally drowned in the bay near the mouth of the river Trent in 1810. Grandfather Marsh was the father of twenty-two children, sixteen by his first wife and six by his second. Ten of the first lot and all of the last were alive when I was a child old enough to know and remember them. They were all fairly well provided for. My father had an improved farm of 200 acres, part of the old homestead, and 100 acres in grant from the government as a U. E. Loyalist heir; and the others had farms, mills and stores in that locality. But few of the family can be found there now, and only two or three of the name. Most of those living are widely scattered over the continent.
The genealogy back to the emigration from England is remarkably brief, considering the long period covered:
4My father was Samuel, who was the son of Matthias, who was the son of Col. William, who was the son of Matthias, who was the son of the immigrant William, who was the son or brother of Captain James Marsh of Kent County, England, killed in the battle of Edgehill in 1642. Matthias, son of the first William, was alive in 1783. He left a genealogical statement, now in my possession, from which I have quoted. In Burke's "Landed Gentry of England," the Marsh family of Kent County is represented as very old, wealthy and highly connected. In very ancient deeds the name is given as De Marisco.
Of my mother's family I know but little. Grandfather and Grandmother Richardson were both of U. E. Loyalist families who went to Canada from the Mohawk Valley, N. Y. She was a Schermerhorn.
My earliest recollections begin with the Canadian rebellion of 1837-'38. My father was one of the rebels, or reformers, as they termed themselves. He had attended the earliest reform meetings, had been outspoken in condemnation of the policies of the government and had made himself obnoxious to the authorities before the rebellion broke out. I can dimly remember being frightened by the threatening cries of the red-coated soldiers as they marched by on the old "main road"; but the first incident that has remained ever clear in my mind was the first attempt to arrest father. This was in the summer of 1837, and as I was born March 22, 1834, I was less than three and a half years old when it occurred.
It was a warm Sunday morning, and father and mother were getting ready for "meetin" (not "church" as we say nowadays). Two men in plain clothes came to the open front door and asked to see father. Mother placed
5chairs for them against the door, which was swung back against the wall; then she went into the kitchen, telling them she would call Mr. Marsh who, she said, was at the barn getting out the horses. Father was then in the "spare" bedroom dressing; this both mother and I knew, but we had learned to be cautious and I said nothing. Being left alone with them, one of the men kindly called me to him. Looking up at him, as I stood by his knee, I saw the muzzle of a pistol that protruded from under the bottom of his waistcoat as he leaned forward to pat me on the head. (Pistols were then carried on the breast and not on the hip as now).
I knew at once what they came for; so withdrawing myself quietly, I went after mother, whom I found in the kitchen wondering what she should do. I pulled at her gown and as she turned to me I whispered that the men had come to take father, because they had pistols. Mother and I went out of the back door and to the rear window of the bedroom. Father was shaving and apparently so occupied with his thoughts that he did not notice or hear the light taps on the glass that mother only dare give lest she be heard by the men. Fortunately a neighbor, who happened to be at the barn, had become alarmed at something he saw, and started across the field for his home. His course brought him in view of the men at the door; they, thinking it was father trying to escape, rushed out and after him.
Mother finally got father's attention and he came to the window. She pantomined the situation to him, whereupon he carefully raised the window and started for the woods in the rear, half shaved and without hat and coat. When the men returned from their fruitless chase mother
6laughed at them and told them the bird had flown. I was highly praised for my discretion and was given most of the credit for father's escape.
The months that immediately followed were full of trouble and excitement. Father was skulking most of the time, and when at home on the watch against arrest. His work was neglected and things would have generally gone to the bad had not mother been gifted with more than ordinary energy and capacity. She managed and led the work on the farm, and faced the difficulties of the situation, and the enemies when they came to the house, with dauntless resolution.
In the fall the rebels developed a plan for taking Kingston. As soon as there might be sufficient sleighing, at the word to be given they were to come in small parties from all directions with arms hidden in their sleighs, and were to meet at some rendezvous near Kingston, I have forgotten where, thence to march on and take the town. When the word came father took his team and with apportioned load of men and arms, started for Kingston. He got there, as did most of the others, not as conquerors but as prisoners; for the plan was leaky, as are most of such plans, and the squads were arrested everywhere as they were coming in.
Father's team and sleigh were confiscated by the militia officer in charge of the arresting party and he was lodged in the old stone jail of Kingston. He laid there five months before his trial came on. As he was taken without arms on his person and driving his team only, sufficient proof for convicting him of high treason could not be adduced, and the jury declared him not guilty. I can well recollect his home-coming in the spring of 1838, his
7fondling of the baby girl that had come about a month before, and my own shyness of him because he was so strange to me and so pale from long confinement. He took no further part in the rebellion.
Shortly before father's arrival his horses had made a wonderful escape and returned home. They had been wintered on a small island down toward Kingston. When spring opened they were turned out on the supposition that they were sufficiently confined by the water; but they swam ashore and directed their course homeward, successfully keeping together and avoiding capture on the way. During the winter necessary teaming had been done with the oxen, and mother had been worrying over lack of horses for the approaching spring's work. I well remember the excitement when Aunt Jane rushed in early one morning and told mother, who was yet in bed after the birth of our sister, that the horses were in the yard. Hard-headed and practical as she naturally was she believed that God had put it into their heads to escape and had guided them on their way home, and she gave thanks accordingly.
This Canadian rebellion was so small an affair that it is but briefly noticed in current histories. It was badly planned and badly managed, yet its results were far-reaching and of vast importance to Canada. The chief cause of complaint was the "clergy reserve," a provision in the original act of the British Parliament, establishing a government for the two Canadas, which set aside one-seventh of the public lands for the benefit of the protestant clergy and this land the dominant Tory party was disposed to limit to the Episcopal church, thus to establish a state church in Canada as in England.
8Fortunately for Canada, Lord Durham, a leading British statesman of the liberal party, was sent to Canada in 1838, empowered to investigate the causes of the rebellion and to deal fairly with all parties concerned. His conciliatory course and disposition to favor the principal reforms demanded soon ended the disorders. The settlements that followed conceded substantially all for which the reformers fought, who, since, have been notably loyal. Comparatively little blood was spilt. There were two or three small battles in which but few were killed; and there was some guerilla warfare, led mainly by adventurers from the United States. Several were hanged and quite a number banished.
The most noted of these adventurers was Ben Lett, who spent the last years of his life in the county of DeKalb, Ill. He was the "Wild Bill" of the Canadian rebellion and was charged with many desperate deeds, the most memorable being the killing of Captain Usher and the blowing up of Brock's monument (since replaced by the fine shaft now standing on the left bank of the Niagara river below the falls). As I remember the story the rebels had taken or captured Navy Island, above the falls. They had there a little steamboat named "Caroline." Captain Usher led or directed an expedition that got possession of the boat in the night, cut it loose from its moorings and sent it over the falls. It was charged by the rebels that there were men left on the boat to go over with it and among them a boy, a brother or nephew of Ben Lett.
Soon after, Captain Usher was called to his door one night and killed (whether shot or stabbed I do not remember) and Brock's monument was blown up. Lett was
9charged by the Tory authorities with these and many other crimes. He was arrested, but soon broke jail and escaped. Strenuous efforts were made to retake him. Finally he was traced to a farm house on the lake side of the main road, a little east of Coburg. As the soldiers filed into the yard he ran out towards the lake and escaped their shots and pursuit. That was the last reported sight of him in Canada.
We came to Illinois in 1849. Some two or three years later my brother on returning with a grist from Elder-ding's mill, down below Sandwich on Somonauk Creek, overtook a man on the road who asked and of course was permitted to ride. Learning that my brother's name was Marsh and that he came from Trenton, Canada, he said, "Oh! you are a son of Sam Marsh. Tell the old man you gave a ride to Ben Lett and that I will come up to see him soon." But he didn't come; perhaps because he concluded, on second thought, that it would be better not to open any discussion of these old matters. At that time he had a brother, a very respectable man, living at or near Sandwich. I have never heard anything against Ben Lett as a citizen of this country. To what extent, if any, he was guilty of the crimes charged against him in Canada I do not know; but the foregoing were some of the stories current there when I was a boy. He died in Milwaukee, Wis., many years ago.
I WAS taught my letters and simple spelling at home before I was four years old. The summer after reaching four I was sent to the country school, distant nearly a mile; the same the next summer; and the following winter, when between five and six, I was taken to Consecon, a village some ten or twelve miles distant, to board with an aunt and attend school there; but soon becoming ill, from home-sickness mainly, I had to be brought home to stay.
When I was six years old I began to help on the farm, running errands, driving the cows and sheep, riding the horses for father or the hired man when "plowing out" corn — which was very tiresome — and soon after reaching seven I drove the oxen before the drag. Later I spread and raked hay, helped in harvest and learned to milk. My brother, two years younger, duly followed in such work. Most of it was hard and irksome for boys so young; but we liked sugar making, hay spreading, apple gathering and cider making. In the winters we went to school.
Our holiday or off-work enjoyments were fishing, boating, skating and hunting, partridges, black squirrels and wild pigeons (in their season) being abundant. Our hired
11man, who came to us when I was quite young and remained until we sold the farm in 1844, taught me to shoot when I was seven; and though I did not own a gun until I was twelve I had many a hunt with him.
The shooting and netting of wild pigeons during their seasonal flights was great sport. At certain times, usually in the spring, for several days they would be flying over from one section to another in enormous numbers, alighting for food as needed and then generally passing onward. Some small flocks would remain a considerable time or through the summer, establishing a roost in the woods and feeding in the fields, mornings and evenings.
The pigeon harvest was about as regular as any, and the harvesting implements were gun and net. As I remember, our net was about sixteen feet long and ten or twelve feet wide. It was weighted with lead on the ends and on the side that was thrown when net was sprung. To set the net, one side was pegged down at the edge of the "pigeon bed" (piece of ground smoothed and sprinkled with grain), and the net carefully folded along this side. Two spring-poles were set on the other edge of the bed, each connected by rope to the opposite loose corner of the net. These poles were bent over and so fastened that a pull on a rope, reaching to the "bough-house" in the rear, would loosen them and throw the net upward slightly and over the bed and the pigeons thereon.
To call the pigeons flying around or over, a live pigeon, blinded by a stitch in its eyelids, was fixed to a jointed bar or stool at end of the bed, which stool, being thrown up and down by means of a string pulled by the operator concealed in the bough-house, caused the pigeon to flutter its wings as pigeons do in feeding and thus to lure them
12to the bed. It was cruel sport; but it was an easy way to get them in large numbers and pigeon pie was delicious. If too many were caught for immediate use, part of them were saved alive in cages until wanted for the table.
These passenger pigeons, which used to be in such countless numbers, have entirely disappeared from this zone. It is about thirty years since the last were seen in this section. They were so numerous only a few years before their disappearance that it does not seem possible they were exterminated by man. It has been contended that some disease must have destroyed them.
The main road of Upper Canada, the old stage line between Toronto and Kingston, crossed the south end of our farm. That section of the country had long been settled, the land was good and the processes of farming must have been about the same as in other strictly agricultural sections in Canada and in the northern states at that time. Of our two hundred acres about one hundred were under cultivation and in meadow; the rest was pasture and woodland.
Although I was only eleven years old when we left the farm, I had done enough of its work to remember well what it was and how done. Oxen did the plowing, dragging and logging — of logs to the saw mill for lumber for the year's use and of logs for the big wood pile. Horses did the lighter hauling on the farm and on the road. The plow, made by a nearby blacksmith, had wooden moldboard and iron or steel share; it turned the soil on edge, not over. The same plow, or one of similar construction but smaller, did the work of "plowing-out" corn. The drag was of the old "crotch" or "A" pattern, very heavy, the frame often really the crotch of
13a young tree; it was used mainly on lumpy, clayey soils. The square harrow, of the old Roman pattern, was preferably used on lighter soils.
Sowing was all done by hand, broadcast. Corn was covered by the hoe, the seed being dropped by hand in shallow row-furrows made by the plow, and upon the hoe mainly depended its cultivation. Mowing was done with old-style scythes; spreading with wooden forks, and pitching with steel two-tine forks. The sickle was still in common use for harvesting grain; but the larger fields were generally cut with a scythe having a gathering peg in the snath near the heel. Not long before we left the farm the "grape-vine" cradle and a little thresher that threshed without cleaning were introduced from the United States.
Timber and lumber were plentiful and cheap; so the barns were large and most of the grain was stored therein and threshed out by flails in the winter or trodden out by horses on the big barn floor. The fanning mill for cleaning the grain was the only implement on the farm that might be called a machine.
Corn, which was of the small eastern kind, was generally "snapped" from the stalk and piled on the barn floor for husking, this being done at "odd spells" or in the evenings and often by husking-bees; and it was shelled by hand, or partly pounded off the cob by flail and finished by hand. Wagons (there were no carriages), sleighs, plows, harrow teeth, steel forks, hoe and shovel blades, etc., were made at the shops of the country wagonmaker and blacksmith, generally combined. Yokes, scoops, wooden forks, rakes and handles were made on the farm. Excepting the fanning mill, the outfit of implements did
14not cost twenty-five dollars, cash out. In short the methods and implements were but little in advance of those of ancient Egypt and Rome.
The farm products were various: wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, corn, hay, potatoes, apples, cider, wool, pork, butter, eggs, maple sugar and garden fruits and vegetables. There was plenty for the household and considerable, in the aggregate, for the local markets.
In the house the conditions of living had been much improved and made more comfortable than in the distant past, but the methods of work remained about as primitive. When I was about five years old the first stove was brought into the house and put up in the sitting room. It was a plain, square structure of cast iron and looked like a black box resting on pegs. It had griddle holes in the top; but its main purpose was to warm the room in winter, the fire-place being insufficient. Two or three years later an elevated oven was attached.
The little parlor was closed in the winter. The principal resort of the family was the big kitchen, where most of the household work was going on. It had a great fire-place at one end. An iron crane, provided with movable hooks for the attachment of pots and kettles, swung over the fire. Here most of the cooking was done. A brick oven built outside was used for baking in summer and when the weather would permit.
Around the great fire-place with its big fire, the backlog having been drawn in on a hand sled, gathered the family in the long winter evenings; the men to read, eat apples, drink cider, crack nuts, tell stories, etc., and the women to knit or sew. Their work was always before them. At the other end of the kitchen stood the spinning
15wheel, where the rolls of wool from the carding machine were spun by the women into yarn that went to the local weaver to be woven into cloth for the family's winter clothing.
The women made their own and the children's clothes, also the men's shirts and every-day pants, and they knitted the socks, stockings and mittens for all. They milked the cows, made the butter and did most of the work in the garden. (I am speaking of our women — my mother, her unmarried sister and the hired girl). How they ever got through with all this work and yet had time to do some reading and considerable visiting is a wonder to me as I recall their doings. They had no clubs or societies to attend, only religious meetings, quilting bees, weddings and funerals; but they sang at their work and they certainly were as strong and healthy and as contented as women are nowadays.
The local shoemaker, carrying his kit, went from house to house, mending and making boots and shoes and taking orders therefor, and the tailor traveled around in like manner; but there were no peripatetic dressmakers in those days.
Our reading matter, as I remember it, was the Bible and Hymn Book, Robbins' Compendium of the World's History, Riley's Narrative, Fox's Book of Martyrs, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, and such sentimental novels as Thaddeus of Warsaw, Scottish Chiefs, Children of the Abbey, Alonzo and Melissa, Pamela and Charlotte Temple. These novels were owned by us and others in the neighborhood, and constituted a sort of circulating library. They were generally read and wept over by the women and by most of the men. Father took
16a weekly newspaper, the name of which I forget. We had no instrumental music except the jews-harp; and the songs of the times were mostly doleful old ballads.
The advent of a circus or of an animal show was a great occasion. They were not then combined. When I was ten years old, after much teasing, father permitted me to go with the hired man to a circus at Trenton. (By the way, this hired man was with us several years and until we sold the farm; his wages were seven dollars a month, the year around, with board, washing and mending). It was Howe's circus and the clown was Dan Rice. The clown opened the performances with a song. This was a long string of doggerel verses, to the tune of Ole Dan Tucker, describing the show and making some local hits. One verse seemed so funny to me then that I have never forgotten it:
For to learn to ride I'm sure they go;
But to this circus they can teach
To ride five horses with a leg on each."
TRAVEL in that section was eastward and westward, and the means of public transportation, at the time of which I am writing, were limited to one small steamboat, "William IV.," that plied up and down the bay between Trenton and Kingston and to the stage line on the old main road already mentioned. The proprietor of the line was a man named Weller. He was a sturdy, energetic old fellow and gave the people good service. Being an American by birth or extraction, his Canadian employees thought that he was too much inclined to avail himself of "Yankee" help. As fist fighting was a popular amusement in Canada, and the usual resort for the settlement of personal grievances, it frequently happened that an American employee would get badly battered. At the time of the incident I am about to relate, an English stage driver, named Jackson, had the run westward from Trenton. He was a big, burly fellow, the bully of the drivers, and had recently so severely pounded a Yankee driver on the route eastward that the latter gave up his job. Weller did not discharge Jackson.
Soon after an American, who was working in a nearby wagon shop and boarding at our house, brought home with him one evening a young man whom he introduced as a friend from Watertown, N. Y., looking for a job,
18who would like to get board with us for a short time. As his appearance was quite prepossessing, mother consented to receive him.
After looking around for several days he finally announced that he had engaged to drive stage from Trenton eastward. Our folks were horrified. The young fellow — I forget his name, but remember his looks very well — was below medium size, of round, trim build and delicate features, neat in dress and quiet in manner, just the man to invite attack from Jackson and the others and to get brutally treated. We all liked him. We, especially mother, urged him not to undertake the job, as he would surely be abused and badly beaten; but he laughed, said he had seen Jackson and was not afraid.
The stages from the east and west met at the old Exchange tavern in Trenton at noon. I was then going to Trenton to school. The school house was not far from the tavern, and on the days when our friend was due I would run over to see how he was getting on. One day there was an excited crowd at the door and soon he and Jackson came out together, with their hats, coats and vests off, and went to the middle of the street where the crowd at once formed a ring around them. I worked my way through and tremblingly watched the proceedings. After some sparring, the big man made a lunge at the small man, there was a loud whack and the big man was lying flat on his back. He got up furious, made another rush and was again knocked down. When he got on his feet the second time he was decidedly cautious; so the other fellow had to force the fighting, which he did so quickly and effectively that it was all over in half a minute, Jackson lying in a heap and bawling "enough." The
19little Yankee helped him up, led him into the tavern and washed the blood from his face. Jackson took his licking manfully; they shook hands and were good friends after, so it was said. Weller had found the man whom the conditions required, and the lesson taught was salutary.
In 1842 or '3 there was a great temperance revival in that part of Canada. Lecturers, assisted by singers — missionaries, most of them, from the United States — held protracted meetings in the towns along our line. They had grewsome pictures — showing the awful effects of alcohol upon the stomach and other internal organs — which they hung around the platform and used to illustrate their lectures, the services closing with the singing of temperance songs and earnest appeals for signatures to the pledge.
The meeting at Trenton was held in the old school house that then stood on the common at the east side of the village. It was a log building, one story, with low ceiling of rough boards loosely laid upon the beams. In the rear end was a small door opening into the attic. The meeting was well attended and successful, and was continued several nights. But it did not please "Old" Starr, an anti-temperance man by word and example, who lived nearby.
He brooded and plotted. Taking advantage of the darkness, as the moon was not shining, he managed to get up into the attic a barrel which he partly filled with water and tilted so that it could be readily pulled over by a string attached and reaching to the outside. So one night when they were at the height of excitement inside, the lecturer passionately appealing for signatures to the
20pledge and the singers pouring forth their most popular song, the chorus of which was:
But wine for the tremulous debauchee."
Old Starr pulled the string and the water went down upon the missionaries, soaking them and a good many in the audience. Some rushed outside and found the old fellow near the door watching the results and enjoying his mischief; but his greediness for all the fun there was in it brought him to grief, for the wet ones were angry and they smote him many times and severely. I was not there, but father was.
Early in the "forties" the people of the northern states and in other parts of the world were greatly interested and aroused by the second advent preaching of Captain William Miller, and of the many who had become convinced that he had correctly interpreted the prophecies and the figures relating to the second coming of Christ. These, as they demonstrated, fixed the time for that momentous event in 1843; so, as the time approached, thousands sought safety in conversion. Soon after the passing of the date some of the leaders discovered a slight mistake in the calculations and extended the time to the fall of 1844. It was this second wave of Millerism that reached our part of Canada, and it took in a large portion of our community.
To most people of the present day Millerism or Second Adventism seems so ridiculous that they imagine it could only have taken in the weak and the ignorant. But really it was but a fitting finale to the orthodox beliefs of that time. It was orthodox then to believe that the world or
21the universe was created out of nothing in six literal days, about six thousand years ago; that all living things except what were in Noah's ark, were drowned in the deluge; that there was a hell of hottest fire prepared for the everlasting torment of the wicked and unwary; that there was a personal devil, the ruler of said hell, who had the freedom of the earth and was persistently and successfully luring the majority of mankind into his hot dominions against the will or wish of God the Almighty; that Christ in the flesh would come to earth the second time accompanied by his angels to judge all men; that the dead would be resurrected in material bodies; and that the prophets did foresee and forecast events in the remote future, such as the coming of Christ and the end of the world. Miller and his associates so believed, and further that prophecies not interpretable were worthless. Hence, they earnestly tried to interpret them and they believed, as did thousands of people of average intelligence, that they had succeeded.
My father accepted the Bible just as it reads, and early in 1844 he became a second adventist with fullest faith in the immediate coming. His house, as always, was open to the preachers and to the faithful. As the time approached there was much of excitement, of praying and singing, rejoicing and wailing and looking skyward; but there were no such ridiculous performances as the making of white robes or the climbing of hill-tops in our community, nor anywhere else, I believe, unless by crazy persons. I was there in the midst of it and know whereof I speak.
After the passing of the time most of the converts backslid. But father's faith in the prophecies and their
22interpretation remained unshaken. He concluded, as did many others, that the apparent delay of the advent was due to the chronological mistakes of men uninspired, and he kept looking for the soon coming of the Lord, caring little for anything else, until the day of his death, just forty years later. Yet father was an intelligent and fairly well-informed man, and on ordinary subjects his judgment was cool and generally sound. No man could be more honest in his beliefs.
IN 1843 one of father's nephews went west and bought a farm near Madison, Wis. Returning he reported so highly on this country and its prospects that father and mother became greatly interested; and, as about this time father found himself quite seriously embarrassed in consequence of having signed notes with one of his brothers, a merchant in Consecon, who had just failed, it was determined to sell out and go west. Early in 1844 the farm was sold, subject to occupation for the year. It was estimated then that with sale of other properties there would be left, after paying debts, about $4,000 to take away with us.
In May or June father, with a few hundred dollars in his pocket, started for the west to look the country over and to find a desirable location. But he did not go far; for, stopping with some friends on the way to Coburg, where he was going to take boat, he attended an advent meeting and became an enthusiastic convert, as I have previously stated. He resolved to remain and await among his friends the coming of the Lord. Mother was decidedly opposed to such course, but she could not move him. The result of their discussions was that he gave her his pocket-book, turned over to her all his temporal affairs and started out to warn his relatives and neighbors
24of the approaching judgment and to urge them to prepare therefor.
It was fortunate for him and the family that mother had control of affairs during the excitement that followed and continued to the end of the prophetic "Tenth day of the Seventh Month" period, some time in October, as otherwise the preachers and others interested would have drained him of the last dollar for the spreading of the great news and for the helping of the poor and needy of the faithful; indeed, though mother did her best to hold on to what she had, they got several hundred dollars away from her.
After the passing of this second set-time father's anxiety for the saving of souls relaxed somewhat — apparently because the time for salvation was not so strictly limited — and plans for the immediate future on earth were considered. Father left everything to mother, excepting that he would not go west yet awhile; and she, although having some faith in the "soon coming," concluded that while waiting it would be well to live where good schools could be had for us children; so in the spring of 1845 we moved to Coburg.
W. W. Marsh
My brother and I (he was nine and I eleven years old) were sent to the St. Andrew's School, which we attended about a year and a half, when I was entered "as day scholar" at Victoria College, as was my brother a year later. They were excellent schools; for the curriculum was not loaded with frills and fads as in our modern schools; the individual capacity of scholar or student was more considered and less retarded than it is now, and progress was aided by special instruction or by the application
25of the "taws," or other punishment as the case might require.
After the second session of my attendance, the confinement of the "day department" telling on me, I was given practically the freedom of the institution, with the understanding that I should disturb no one and that I should get my lessons and be prompt at recitation. It was a good deal of liberty to give a boy of thirteen at school, but I did not disappoint my teachers. During the following three sessions of my attendance I did much of my study in the pulpit of the chapel when at the institution. I also studied at home evenings. Not once was I reprimanded for bad behavior or bad recitation. I gained the first prizes in the only two prize classes I attended, Latin (Sallust) and geometry, and in the usual report sent to parents by the Principal at the end of each session I was marked perfect in "deportment." This statement may seem to be egotistical on my part; but I have made it simply because it is true. This deportment did not cover good manners, only good behavior at school. When I left college in the spring of 1849, soon after reaching fifteen, I was a pretty good scholar for my age; but most of what I had learned has been forgotten since.
Coburg at that time contained about 4,000 inhabitants, mostly of British birth or extraction — English, Scotch and Irish. Our speech and appearance indicated that we could not be classed with either; so, at first, we were supposed to be Americans, and we soon learned from experience how strong was the prejudice in Canada against the United States. Our neighbors avoided us or treated us very coolly until they learned that we were more Canadian than they were; and the boys on the streets
26hooted at my brother and me whenever we went out, calling us Yankees and pelting us.
Being country bred and among strangers we tried at first to avoid such attacks rather than to defend ourselves against them; but one day a leader of the boys, a sort of young bully, about my age, came up to me as I was looking into a store window and, calling me a d—d Yankee, kicked me. This was too much, and I turned on him in fury. It was then that my training in the field with hoe and rake and fork stood me in good stead, for the boy was as nothing in my hands. I yanked him to the ground and kicked and mauled him in such rapid succession that he was out of the fight before he had had time to get into it. After that encounter I did not try to avoid but rather courted attack or insult.
Unlike the town boys I knew nothing about the science of fist fighting. When a fight was imminent I did not wait for preliminaries but made a furious rush and the other fellow usually went down and out before he had a chance to put up his defense. Occasionally I would meet my more than match, but on the whole I rather enjoyed this rough-and-tumble way of making acquaintance with the boys of Coburg. My brother being younger and not so strong of his age took less part in such enjoyment.
The St. Andrew's was a Scotch school and the St. Patrick's, about a block distant, was an Irish school. There was always feud and fighting between the boys of the two schools, and so was there between the college boys and the town boys, in consequence we were put in the way of fighting wherever we might go. However there was not much malice in these fights; they were looked upon as merely boyish contests in strength, skill and courage
27age and were given little or no attention by teachers and other authorities except in some case of unusual brutality. Our other games and amusements, worthy of notice, were cricket, hand-ball and swimming in the summer, and skating and shinny-on-the-ice in winter.
Victoria College was a Methodist institution, that is, it was controlled, or supposed to be, by the Methodist Church, about the same, probably, as the Chicago University is by the Baptist Church. There were about two hundred students, as I remember (and in all the foregoing I have been writing from memory). The majority of them were sons of well-to-do people of the Methodist persuasion. Some twenty-five or thirty of the students were young men who were preparing themselves for the ministry, to whom, in consequence, certain concessions and privileges were extended that were not granted the others. This naturally aroused some jealousy and furnished excuse to the more mischievous students for playing their pranks upon the favored few. These occasionally would be carried so far as to attract the attention of the faculty and bring punishment upon the aggressors. And the steward, who furnished the food and took care of the rooms, came in for his share of troubles. So many young fellows together would naturally be up to various mischievous tricks and scrapes; but there were no organized hazings and no violent attacks upon classes or individuals. The government was liberal and the faculty had no difficulty in maintaining such discipline as was required.
The prejudice against Americans was as manifest here as in the town. The engagement of an American mathematical professor was very displeasing to a majority of
28the students, and some were openly offensive; but his patience, kindliness and ability soon won their regard and he became one of the most popular of the professors. During the Mexican war the sympathies of the institution were with the Mexicans. Had that country been as near as the United States many of the students would have gone over and enlisted. Two did run away for that purpose early in 1847, and they didn't come back.
This prejudice against the people of the United States has long since subsided; but I doubt that there has been much increase in the desire for annexation. The Canadians know what is good for them better than we do. They know that, although they have not the privilege of electing their ruler or chief magistrate, they escape the unhealthy excitement and general demoralization that accompany our presidential elections. They know that in other respects they enjoy as much liberty as we do. They know that their government, with much less taxation, is fully as efficient as ours for the dispensation of justice to all citizens, and for the prevention and punishment of crimes. They know that their schools are as good as ours; that their business and financial affairs are so conducted that wealth is more evenly distributed than it is here, and they believe that their people are a grade higher in intelligence and good citizenship, because Canada has not attracted such low grade people as have poured into the United States from other countries. They see much to lose and little or nothing to gain by annexation, and they don't want it.
IN 1847, mother, father being still indifferent to temporal affairs, sent by her brother-in-law, Mr. Hinds, who was going to this country, enough money to buy a quarter section of government land. He invested it in a piece near Shabbona Grove. Early in 1849 mother made a count of our assets and discovered that we still had about a thousand dollars; and she concluded that if we waited another year in Coburg we would have nothing left with which to get away. With her, decision was immediately followed by action. She laid the case before father, upon his return from one of his evangelizing trips, and he at once agreed with her that it was time to pull out for the west. They intended at first to start in the spring and go to Chicago by boat; but as there were reports of cholera from various places along the line, they changed their plan, with result that we left Coburg in May and went back into the country to spend the summer among mother's relatives, with intention to purchase there an outfit for making the trip overland.
We had a pleasant summer. Along in September, father and Uncle Hinds, who had been west in '47, bought three horses, paying $40 for one and $50 each for the other two, and a wagon for $40. They made the wagon box deeper and wider, fixed on a cover and arranged the
30inside for the fairly comfortable accommodation of four grown people and four children — father and mother, uncle and aunt and their baby, and brother and sister and myself — and room was found for a goodly lot of things besides. A feather bed was rolled up under the rear seat and things so arranged that it could be unrolled upon the bottom of the wagon box as a bed for us boys, who were to sleep in the wagon nights. The extra horse was to be tied to the rear of the wagon, to be used with the other two on heavy roads or to relieve them, as need might be. So one morning late in September, with many tears we took leave of our friends and started on our long journey.
We were nearly five weeks on the way to DeKalb county, Illinois; but we spent three or four days with mother's brother and family in western Canada and a couple of days in Chicago. It was a tedious and tiresome journey, and there was little of incident or of interesting scenery to relieve it. Rain fell upon us several times and the roads were often heavy with mud and sand. Yet it has left an agreeable impression upon my mind. I think we two boys really enjoyed it. We had our gun, were looking out for game wherever likely to see it, occasionally shot something, and the changes in the outlook as we passed along were enough to keep us interested. Generally we stopped by the roadside for lunch, when our game, if we had shot any, would be broiled and made part of the meal.
The objective point or end of each day's journey was usually fixed in the morning, and at night we would put up at some tavern or public house, where we would get our supper and breakfast, our elders and the children obtaining accommodations inside and we boys sleeping in
31the wagon which was run into the barn if room was found for it. We slept without fear, whether it was inside or outside, for our little gun was our bedfellow. Two or three times we failed to reach a public house for the night and had to prevail upon some farmer to take us in.
One incident on the way across Michigan may be worth relating. One morning we were told that the tavern we proposed to reach that night had a hard name. The last few miles of the road ran through a dreary stretch of swamp and pine woods, and the little place, when reached after dark, seemed sufficiently forbidding, as did the rough board tavern to which we drove up. The landlord received us pleasantly, and place for the wagon was found in the barn. When rooms were being engaged and he was told that we boys would sleep in the wagon, he was evidently annoyed and said there was plenty of room in the house. As we were arranging our bed, a man, apparently the hostler, as he had been fussing with the horses in stalls at the side of the barn floor, came to us and asked what we were doing, and when told that we were making our bed, he seemed worried. He said we were too young to sleep outside and that we ought to go back to the house. We showed him our gun and told him we were not afraid. "Well," he finally said, "if you hear anyone around in the night you musn't think you're going to be hurt." This made me suspicious and wakeful.
Along about midnight I heard the creaking of the barn door, and looking through a view hole in the canvas at the rear end of the wagon, I saw a man enter the barn and very carefully close the door. He slowly and stealthily came toward the wagon until he placed his hand on the tire of the wheel. I distinctly heard his touch and his
32breathing, but nothing more thereafter. He must have heard me, however, for my trembling shook the wagon — so I thought. Looking to the front I saw what appeared to be an open door, which convinced me that the man was going to steal our horses and would take them through that rear door. My gun was loaded but without cap on the nipple. The caps were tied up in one corner of my handkerchief. I bit through, took one out, put it on, cocked the gun and laid there waiting and willing to shoot any one who would attempt to get into the wagon or to lead a horse through that door. The nervous spell had passed and I was cool as ice; in short the desire to kill was on me and I preferred to wait and shoot the man rather than to speak and scare him away.
Thus I laid until broad daylight, having heard nothing further; then I got out of the wagon and saw that the open door was but a window through which the moon had been shining and that the horses were safe in their stalls. I looked all around for the man but could not find him, nor any sign of him. Then I got into the wagon and went to sleep. My brother had not been awakened. When we went in to breakfast I told my story of the night to the landlord. He laughed, said no one had sneaked into the barn and that I had been dreaming. He told father he had better take my gun from me or I would shoot somebody. In talking it over next day we concluded that the man was some one in hiding from the authorities and that the landlord and hostler were giving him shelter in the barn for the night. It was lucky for all concerned that he did not try to get into the wagon.
The hardest part of the journey was around the end of the lake from Michigan City to Chicago on account of
33the deep sand and the worn-out condition of the horses. We had planned to reach the city for the night, but could not make it and had to put up at a ramshackle tavern in the woods about where Douglas place now is, then two or three miles south of the city.
It was a quiet, beautiful morning, crisp and frosty, in Indian summer as we drove out of the timber and saw Chicago lying in the distance. But what we noticed first was a long cloud of dense, black smoke, hanging low over the buildings and extending from the lake far westward, which gave us the impression that the city was long and thin. To the right was the lake, unruffled and shining like silver under the bright morning sun. Directly before us was quite a stretch of flat, open prairie, with unfenced road meandering across it toward the city.
After driving a mile or so we came to a fenced field on the south side of the road. It was a corn field, and prairie chickens were sitting on the fence, sunning themselves after their breakfast. As they let the team approach near enough I slipped out of the wagon, got a shot and killed one, my first prairie chicken. Then we passed occasional enclosures of pieces of land or blocks, some under cultivation and some not, and houses scattered along the road until the buildings became sufficiently close and regular in their order to indicate to us that we had entered the city. We must have gone in on Michigan avenue, for the buildings were on one side and the lake on the other as we drove down to the east end of Randolph or Lake street and turned west toward the public house which had been recommended to us. It was the old "Sultana," a small, dingy, roughly built, wooden building, but whatever may have been its quality or reputation, we obtained
34"good quarters for man and beast" there, and were satisfied with the charges.
The population of Chicago in 1849 was a little over 80,000. The city was built on the original surface, a little above the level of the sluggish river, and was strung out from the lake westward along the river and its branches, extending farthest on the south branch. The business portion was mostly on the south side between the lake and the junction of the branches. The buildings were nearly all of wood and of cheap construction, in material, workmanship and finish, and they were notably dingy on account of the soft coal smoke and the dust from the unpaved streets, which latter were generally rough and rutted, muddy under rain and abominably dusty when dry. It was a lively business place, but dirty, ragged and in no respect handsome. Its business feeders were the lake, the Illinois and Michigan canal and the wagons and stages from the country, westward especially. Its only railway was that part of the old Chicago and Galena road which had reached Elgin.
After cleaning up and taking a short rest we went out to see the town. We went down toward the mouth of the river and saw old Fort Dearborn, that is, the old block house left standing solitary in its bare lot. It brought to mind the massacre of 1812, across the bloody ground of which we had ridden that morning, whose story I had read when trying to learn something of the country to which we were intending to go. Then we turned westward along the river. We were much interested in the many and various vessels lying in the sluggish stream. We went up as far as the junction of the two branches, turned south to see the old market and then around back
35to the tavern. A public house was seldom called hotel in those days.
Father had exchanged our Canadian money at Detroit and taken a draft for $600 on one Kinzie or Kedzie, I forget which, and next morning he and I started out to get it cashed. We found the man in his office. He manifested at once a much stronger disposition to sell us Chicago property than to pay the money. Father told him we did not want to stop in Chicago, but were going farther west and on a farm. Then he advised us to locate near the city, where there was always a market, and said he had a nice forty just west of town which he would sell us for the $600. He persuaded father to consent to look at it before going onward. We hitched up and all, except aunt and her baby, drove out over Randolph street bridge and about a mile beyond, where the man sent with us showed us the forty and expatiated on its possibilities; but the road was so rough and bad, the land so flat, and the outlook around and beyond so dreary, that none of us had the least desire to possess it. We refused the offer and got our money.
Next morning we started out on the old stage road, via Naperville and Aurora for Shabbona Grove, sixty miles distant. When we had crossed the wide flat and climbed the ridge beyond Lyons and beheld the real prairie with its gentle undulations, its waving grass, its black, rich soil, as shown in the fields, and the brown groves in the distance, all under a soft Indian summer sun, with a good road before us, we were delighted, transported, and father rose from his seat and thanked God for our deliverance from "that Chicago shark."
We stopped overnight at Naperville at a tavern then
36kept by Robert Bonney, the man who, some four or five years before, had hunted down and brought to justice the murderers of Col. Davenport, of Rock Island, and in so doing had broken up an organization of horse-thieves and robbers, the members of which, scattered over Illinois and northern Missouri, had been depredating upon the settlers with almost absolute impunity for several years. A very interesting account of their doings and of his adventures while on their track is given in his book, "The Banditti of the Prairie." Mr. Bonney was a large and good looking man, then in the prime of manhood. The next day we passed through Aurora and put up for the night with a relative of my uncle, and in the following afternoon drove up to the log cabin of my uncle's brother, near Shabbona Grove, where our long journey ended.
We spent the next day in looking over our new country. It was ideal Indian summer weather. We were delighted with the prairie, with its breadth, its freshness and its freedom. We went up on "Holbrook's Knoll," a height a short distance southwest of the present village of Waterman, and from that elevated point surveyed the land. Southward an immense tract of treeless, undulating prairie, dotted by scattered cabins near the timber, was spread out before us, the view bounded by Shabbona Grove, Pritchard's Grove and Ross Grove to the right, by Indian Creek timber in front and by Somonauk timber to the left. Eastward was Squaw Grove and northward was the boundless prairie, the view in that direction unbroken by house or tree so far as the eye could reach.
Few of the old settlers are left who can remember the virgin prairies of Illinois as they were sixty or seventy years ago; and those living on them now, who saw them
37not in the early days, can scarcely realize how they looked. Fences and buildings and plantings of trees interrupt in every direction the clean sweep of the eye; and in summer time the view is bounded by timber, apparently, the orchards and planted groves on the farms blending in the distance and to the eye forming a continuous belt along the horizon. The climate of this prairie country has not suffered through destruction of its timber, for there is far more foliage to-day than there was sixty years ago.
UNCLE was taken in by his brother and we had to hunt for permanent shelter. Fortunately, on the farm adjoining our piece of land there were two log houses, one of which was unoccupied, and a cash offer of $50 to the owner obtained the use of it and forty acres of land for the coming year. The house or cabin was fourteen by eighteen feet, one room below and attic reached by ladder, with "puncheon" floors and roof of oak "shakes." It was made as comfortable as possible by careful cleaning and outside filling of crevices with clay mortar. Meantime furniture and other necessary things had been bought in Aurora and we moved in, glad enough to get housed again.
Then we laid in a stock of provisions and of feed for our horses, paying $1.50 for dressed pork, 8 cents per pound for butter, 8 cents per dozen for eggs, 25 cents per bushel for potatoes, 50 cents for wheat, 15 cents for corn and a shilling for oats. A good cow was bought for $9. Another trip had to be made to Aurora, with a grist of wheat and corn, and for more furniture.
Being now fully settled we began to look around for more land. We were offered a piece next to ours for $3 per acre. We did not buy at once, because we wanted to visit our relative near Madison, Wis., and to see more of
39the country before locating permanently.
With this in view father had built a "jumper," a light sleigh made of small poles, the runners shaved and bent to required slant, and provided with necessary box and seats. Snow fell heavily soon after the middle of December. Sleighing became good about the 20th, and we started on our trip north, though warned by the older settlers that no dependence could be put on sleighing in this country. But we had lived where snow, when it fell, usually staid on till spring; so we took the chance, which luckily favored us, as the snow did not go off until after the holidays.
From the house, about a mile east of the north end of Shabbona Grove, the road was but little better than a trail across the prairie toward Sycamore, the first fifteen miles without a house; then we had the south end of Huntley's Grove (the site of DeKalb) about a mile to our left, where two or three houses or cabins could be seen, and three or four miles farther we turned around the corner of the old graveyard, nearly opposite the J. S. Waterman place, into Somonauk street, Sycamore, and drove down to the Mansion House for dinner. Between Sycamore and Genoa the country was pretty well settled; northward from Genoa it was a broad wild prairie with no houses until near Marengo, in which little town we stopped for the night. Beyond, it was mostly an "oak-opening" country till we reached Big Foot prairie at the west end of Lake Geneva, which was then surrounded by forest, with no settlement in sight from the west end.
In crossing a prairie between Big Foot and Whitewater we passed through a field of standing straw, the heads of grain having been cut off and the tops left as level as a floor. We could not understand it. We had heard of
40reapers, but supposed that they cut near the ground. On the farther side was a house and in the yard, standing in the snow, was a big strange machine. We halted to examine it and were told by the man of the house that it was an Esterly header, made at Whitewater. We stopped at Whitewater a couple of days with mother's brother and then went on to Madison.
Our relative's farm was on a small prairie a few miles south of the city. He tried to induce us to settle there; but the price of land was too high, and we thought it was too far north. So, after a few days visit we returned to Illinois, well satisfied that we could do no better than to locate where we had already made a beginning. We immediately bought the piece of land previously mentioned and began the work necessary for the establishment of a farm.
The snow went off early in January and there was no more sleighing that winter; but the weather was cold and dry, and the roads soon became excellent and so remained until spring. My brother was nearly fourteen years old and I nearly sixteen. With father in the lead we took to the work like men. Provided with axes and saw we went daily to our wood-lot, a mile and half distant, cut down the big trees, sawed and split them into rails, posts and pickets. These we hauled onto the place as fast as they were ready; and at the opening of spring we had enough stuff cut to inclose a hundred acres, by joining neighbors' fences, and such inclosure was accomplished during the year. Meantime we cultivated the forty acres, harvested the crops and broke twenty-five acres on our own place. We also hauled material from Aurora for a small house and hired a carpenter to put it up. It
41was but a shell, clapboarded and not plastered, in which we had to live two years before we could build and get into a new and better one.
During this first winter, we, my brother and I, as father never fired a gun, shot many prairie chickens and quails, just as many as we needed or could use; for they were in such numbers that little skill was required in shooting them, which we did mostly on our way to and from the wood-lot. Thus we were supplied with fresh meat. Mother seldom had to use more than the breasts of the chickens, which she sliced and fried or broiled as steaks. Chickens would frequently light on the house, on the straw roof of the prairie stable and on the cow-yard fence. Quails did not venture so far out. They wintered in the hazel brush (which then edged or bordered all the timber), as there was little or no cover for them beyond. Squirrels and rabbits were plentiful, but we did not care to eat either.
We looked for deer or signs of them but did not find a track in the grove or on the prairie. In fact I have never seen a wild deer in DeKalb county, though I hunted for them a good deal in those early days. I did find and follow the tracks of three in Somonauk timber in the winter of '51, but could not get sight of them; and I found the bed of one in the grass once when I was hunting ducks far out on the prairie. Undoubtedly there had been very many deer in this country prior to the winter of 1842 when the deep snow, crusted, made them easy victims to their butchers — men and wolves. The comparatively few that survived, and their increase, were slaughtered under similar conditions in the winter of 1848.
That buffaloes in large numbers had roamed these
42prairies not so very long before was evidenced by their many bones, and skulls with the horns attached, that were to be found near watering places, leading to which were still to be seen their deep paths in the sod, sixty years ago. I was told that Shabbona, an Indian chief, said that they were numerous prior to the winter of 1809, when they were killed off by the severe cold and deep snow.
We arrived too late in the fall to find many water fowls in the country. They had gone south for the winter; and it was not until after their return in the spring that we realized what varieties and quantities there were of them. A short distance northward from the place on which we were living was a long range or chain of sloughs, some deep and some shallow (all drained out since and converted into good farm land) which appeared to have been long the resort of every species of water fowl that visited this country. Here in the spring congregated geese, ducks, cranes, curlews, snipe, plovers, rails, herons, etc., in great numbers and varieties. And early in the mornings of the first soft days of April their cries and calls, mingled with the crowing of prairie cocks and the cackling of their hens, made a medley of noises that cannot be described. It was a "Halleluiah of the Birds," not very musical but extremely pleasant to the ears of sportsmen.
Excepting the geese, all these birds found such cover on the prairie as they required for their nests and the rearing of their young. In short our virgin prairies swarmed with such game birds; and they decreased gradually as they were driven farther back by man's increasing occupancy of the land, until finally there was no place left for them. Of the small birds there were few upon the wild prairie or about our early prairie homes. They
43came later as trees and orchards were planted and grew; and they too have greatly decreased during late years, as crows have increased and guns in the hands of boys have become more common.
THE spring of 1850 opened early with conditions favorable to operations on the farm. It was then nearly six years since we had left the farm in Canada, and, as we bought the implements required for our work in this country, our attention was particularly called to the changes and improvements. The utter failure of the old eastern plow, with wooden moldboard and steel share, to meet the requirements of prairie soil, and the very unsatisfactory work of the ordinary cast iron plow, had resulted in the production by John Deere and others of steel plows and later of Oliver chilled plows, which would turn the soil over, and would scour, that is, keep bright and clean. Such plows, as made in those early days, were about as effective as those now on the market. As there were no stumps nor fixed stones to avoid, the Roman harrow had been doubled or jointed so as to give it greater spread and adjustability. Harrows were made by the local blacksmith; so were the rod plows for breaking the prairie sod and the shovel plows for "plowing out" corn — this work was not yet termed "cultivating." Scythes and cradles were substantially the same as in Canada when we left. Mowers were unknown.
One McCormick reaper had been introduced the summer before, but not favorably received, chiefly because very few farmers were disposed to raise enough grain at prevailing prices to need a reaper. The little thresher that merely beat the grain from the straw had been generally succeeded by the combined thresher and separator, having capacity of about 200 bushels of wheat or 400 bushels of oats per day. Corn shellers were known but not yet in use in our neighborhood. Grain was sown by hand. Corn was planted by hand and hoe, and upon the hoe mainly depended its cultivation. Our outfit for the season was stubble plow, harrow, breaking plow, single-shovel plow for corn, two hoes, two forks, two rakes, a scythe, a cradle, a spade and a scoop. These tools had been much improved, and as made at the factories were provided with handles.
On the 18th day of August, 1850, began a series of the most terrific thunder-storms ever known in this section. Generally, the summer had been hot and dry, the heat increasing down to the date given. Toward evening that day a very black cloud arose in the west, and rapidly moving upward and over, soon covered the heavens, when the lightning, thunder and rain broke forth with extraordinary violence and so continued without any interruption until morning. The lightning kept the one lower room of our house, the log cabin we had rented, almost as light as day. The rain overflowed the shakes and was driven in between the logs so as to inundate the floor. We were all forced to climb upon the one bed in the room, fortunately located in a corner where the leakage was least. Upon that we huddled together without attempting to sleep until the storm halted in the morning.
An empty twelve-quart pail in the yard had been filled
46to overflowing. In a pasture across the road, a few rods from the house, laid three cattle struck dead by the lightning. Several cattle in the thinly settled neighborhood were killed but not any person. Before noon of this second day a similar storm began and continued all the afternoon and into the night, and next day there was another violent storm but not of long duration. The sloughs were filled and the low grounds covered with water. The roar of Big Indian creek could be heard for miles.
Many years after in speaking of these storms with a pioneer who had become wealthy and prominent, he declared that at his place a barrel standing by itself and outside of any possible drip, was filled to the top with the rain that fell during the three days. This seems impossible, but he stated it as a fact of his own knowledge. Fortunately these storms were comparatively local; had they extended over much of the country the damage would have been very great. The climate of this section is ever trying to beat its worst, but it has not yet come anywhere near doing so in this instance.
Always in the settlement of a new country the lawless element is much more manifest than in the older or fully developed sections; for criminals, fleeing from the laws of well regulated communities, seek cover in the more primitive, where lack of law or inability to enforce it furnishes safety to them and also encourages other evil-disposed persons to prey upon the honest. Generally their depredations continue increasingly until some unusually great or brutal crime arouses and concentrates the honest element in a direct attack upon the criminal element, either through more resolute and efficient application of the law or
47resort to the court of Judge Lynch. So it happened in this country.
Success and impunity had so largely increased the numbers of thieves, robbers and counterfeiters, who infested this state and northern Missouri, and had so emboldened them that they had formed a regular organization and literally defied the honest and law-abiding. Finally their depredations in this locality culminated in the murder of Captain Campbell and in the lynching of the two Driscolls in 1841. This tragedy has been so frequently presented in the various histories of DeKalb county that I shall not dwell upon it, especially as I am confining myself so far as possible to matters in which I participated or which came under my observation. It is sufficient to say that the blood was not shed in vain, for it broke up whatever part of the organization may have existed in this section.
But westward and southward the organization still flourished and the depredations of the banditti continued as before until another bloody culmination, the murder of Col. Davenport at Rock Island, July 4, 1845. The prominence of Col. Davenport and the circumstances attending the murder aroused the people as never before to the necessity of breaking up the band or organization and of bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. Concerted action was taken at once for hunting down the murderers, and Bonney started on his difficult and perilous undertaking. He succeeded in arresting or causing the arrest of all who were implicated in the murder of Col. Davenport, three of whom were hanged, two sent to the penitentiary and two, the worst of the lot, broke jail and escaped to parts unknown. The organization received its death blow; the members either took
48warning and quit the business or operated individually thereafter.
One morning, early in the fall of 1850, our next neighbor, the man who owned the place we had rented, ran over and told us that his horses had been stolen. The news soon spread throughout the community and the people came rushing in from all directions. The old settlers were full of stories of the bandits, and the excitement was intense. It did not take long to discover which way the thief had gone with the horses. He had covered his tracks so poorly that his identity was fixed in a few hours and in two or three days the horses were found and brought back. He was caught soon after, tried, convicted on confession and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary, the judge taking into consideration his advanced age, his ill health and his inaptitude as a horse thief. He had played a lone hand, evidently, and had lost every trick.
He was an immigrant from Canada, with a good wife and a large and interesting family. Having lost his property in Canada, he had come to this country with little means, so had squatted on some land a couple of miles north of what was then considered the boundary line of civilization. Here he had constructed a sort of half cabin and half dugout the year before and broken up some thirty or forty acres. This he had sown to wheat in the spring. Aided by his son, fourteen or fifteen years old, he had harvested his crop, which was good, and then he was taken sick. The grain was still in the shock when the terrific storms occurred which I have described. Much of his grain was washed away and the rest badly damaged. He had little or nothing with which to carry his family
49through the winter and so in desperation he stole the horses. This is what he told the court and it was true so far as we knew. He would have taken our horses, which were better and just as easy to get, had not mother given him beneficial medicine and helped the family when he was sick. His wife's folks in Canada, highly respectable people, provided for her and family and took them home in the spring.
In the fall of 1850 we moved into the little house built upon our own place. The winter following was mild and wet with no hard freezing. Eighteen inches of snow, as roughly estimated, fell on the first Sunday in April and six inches the second Sunday. Thereafter until nearly midsummer it rained most of the time. During ten consecutive days in June there was not an hour of sunshine. It was the wettest, nastiest, and most discouraging season of all in the record. Our wheat was blighted, our corn did not fully ripen, and our oats were rusted so as to be poisonous. We wallowed in water and mud at our work. Prices were so low for what little we could spare of the poor stuff we had raised that we did not see how we could pull through until another harvest. In fact we were so disgusted that we heartily wished we had staid in Canada or gone on to California. But the rain stopped at last and the fall of 1851 was fine, with a delightful Indian summer. Our courage returned. We borrowed a little money at forty per cent and went ahead as best we could.
As Shabbona with his family left the grove in the spring of 1849 and we arrived in the fall we were too late to see the Indians. The road to our wood-lot entered the grove near the log house and the grounds which they occupied
50when here, and the many stories we had been told about him and his tribe greatly interested us; so when, one morning in the fall of 1851, we heard that the Indians had come back, my brother and I started out to see them. We did not find them at their old place, that being occupied by a settler who had purchased it since their last departure; but they had made a camp near-by in a piece of thick grove where they had put up one small wigwam. There were possibly a dozen of them, men, women and children, huddled around a fire outside, and several ponies were tied to trees. They seemed to be in trouble; they took no notice of us and we did not speak to them. The old chief, Shabbona, was evidently preparing for a journey. Feeling that we were unwelcome visitors we only staid a few minutes. Within a day or two we learned that the Indians had left the grove and gone, nobody knew where. I saw Shabbona only once after, and that was at the Lincoln and Douglas debate at Ottawa in 1858. He was sitting on the platform beside Owen Lovejoy and behind Lincoln, apparently listening with attention to the speeches. He was then more than eighty years old; but he still retained his plumpness and was a really good looking man, although he was but an old Indian. He died the next year.
Several histories of Shabbona have been published, but all, unfortunately, long after his death. They do not always agree in their statements regarding events in his life, because not much can be found in the records, it was too late to obtain anything directly from him, and most of the information gathered had been carried so many years in the memories of the old people who knew him that their stories could not be expected to harmonize in
51dates and details. But they all agree in that he was "a noble red man."
All the testimony goes to show that he was by nature kindly, honorable and generous; that after he ceased to be an active warrior he was a true and constant friend of the white man; that he saved the lives of many white people at the risk of his own life, and that, instead of being duly rewarded for his services, he was robbed of all his rightful possessions by speculators and by our government and left with his family dependent upon charity.
A BRIEF sketch of the life of Shabbona may now be in order. He was by birth an Ottawa chief, a grand nephew of Pontiac, and was born between the years 1775 and 1780 in Canada, or in Ohio, or in Illinois on the Maumee river or the Kaskaskia river. It is known that he was in the vicinity of Chicago about 1800 and sojourned with a band of Pottawatomies under Chief Spotka; that he soon after married Spotka's daughter, and upon the death of Spotka he succeeded him as chief. Not long after, he moved with his band to Shabbona Grove, which thereafter he considered his home, although he did not make it his permanent abiding place. He became involved in Tecumseh's schemes, and traveled around with and aided the latter in his efforts to unite the tribes against the white settlers in the west.
When war was declared between the United States and Great Britain in 1813, he went with his warriors to join the Indians assembled about Fort Dearborn. He arrived there in the afternoon of the day of the massacre, and the only part he took in the affair was to help Chiefs Black Partridge and Sauganash protect the few prisoners taken, whose lives were threatened by the many Indians who had come in after the massacre. Shabbona with his band then made their way to the camp of Tecumseh and his allies. He was appointed aid to Tecumseh and so
53served until the death of the latter in the Battle of The Thames, Oct. 5, 1813. He was by the side of Tecumseh when that great chief was shot by Col. Johnson.
The results of that war convinced him that it was useless for the Indians to resist the whites, and at its close he returned to his grove determined to live in peace with them. To this determination he steadily adhered thereafter. He cultivated friendship with the whites and exerted himself whenever occasion called to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts between them and the Indians. At the outbreak of the Winnebagoes in 1837 he promptly visited the neighboring Pottawatomie villages and urged them to keep the peace. He was well received and successful at all except at the camp of Big Foot; there he was made prisoner and would have been killed by the chief had not the wiser warriors feared the consequences and in the night set him free. They, also, decided not to join the Winnebagoes.
But it was in the Black Hawk War that Shabbona rendered greatest service to the whites. Early in 1833 Black Hawk and the Prophet called a council of the tribes, the Pottawatomies, Winnebagoes, Sauks and Foxes, and earnestly urged an alliance and a concerted attack upon the settlers. Shabbona was there and his influence prevailed with the Pottawatomies; they refused to join the union and the council broke up without effecting it. Black Hawk, however, persisted in his determination to fight the whites. In April he crossed the Mississippi with his band and went onward to a place since known as Stillman's Run, about thirty miles northeast from Dixon's Ferry (now Dixon) where he made a camp in a grove. Not meeting with representatives from other tribes as he
54expected, he sent out messengers for their chiefs. Shabbona and Waubonsie promptly responded, the former with intent to persuade Black Hawk not to begin a conflict with the whites which would surely end in his destruction, and the latter to hear the arguments and look over the situation before coming to decision. Shabbona returned and Waubonsie awaited the arrival of other chiefs.
While Black Hawk was awaiting and counseling with these chiefs a large force of militia had been concentrated at Dixon's Ferry, and a scouting party of about 370 mounted men were sent out under Major Stillman to break up Black Hawk's camp. Being informed by his scouts that the white soldiers were near he sent a flag of truce by a messenger to meet them and to invite the officers to a parley, but the soldiers ignored the flag and killed the messenger. Naturally this made him furious and he immediately prepared for battle. He extended the line of his little army of forty warriors along the edge of the timber, where, concealed by the bushes and brush, they awaited the approach of the soldiers. The latter, riding along in a disorderly manner as they neared the ambush, were suddenly greeted with terrific yells and a shower of bullets, apparently from a large body of Indians. They were so greatly surprised, and thrown into such confusion, that Major Stillman immediately ordered a retreat. The order was promptly obeyed; they turned tails to the howling foe and fled toward Dixon, with Black Hawk and his warriors in hot pursuit, leaving their dead and wounded on the field.
The night of the day after, Shabbona was awakened and informed of the disaster. He knew that Black Hawk's victory would bring many Indians to his standard who
55hitherto had stood aloof and that massacre of the settlers would immediately follow; so he aroused his son and nephew and "mounting in hot haste" they started out in different directions to warn the settlements most exposed of the impending danger. He took a southward course, riding "fast and furious" over the prairie, stopping only to warn, and to entreat sometimes, as he was not always believed, until all the settlers on his route and along the Bureau and Indian creeks had been notified and given an opportunity to seek safety. But some did not take advantage of his warning, notably at one settlement on Indian creek, where, despite his most earnest entreaties, the settlers decided to remain and were in consequence the next day butchered to the number of fifteen men, women and children. One man only escaped and two girls were carried off, but soon after they were ransomed and returned unharmed. On this wild ride Shabbona was forty-eight hours in the saddle; he rode his own pony to death and borrowed another of a settler to bear him forward on his mission and when that was completed to carry him back to his home.
Such were Shabbona's services to the whites, and how was he rewarded? Perhaps I can answer this question as well as any one. In 1864, "Whispering" Smith, a Chicago lawyer whom some may remember, came out here and, assuming to represent the heirs of Shabbona, commenced or threatened to commence proceedings against owners of land in Shabbona Grove, on the plea that the old Chief's rights in the reservation had not been properly or legally extinguished and that therefore the sale by the government was invalid. At a meeting of said owners I was commissioned to go to Washington,
56to investigate and report before answer should be made to Smith. It was not a difficult undertaking. I had ready access to the treaties, orders and correspondence relating to the matter in the Indian Department, and I soon found how the government, when its and the people's obligations to Shabbona were fresh had made pretense of rewarding him; and how, later, it and wily speculators had robbed him.
I have not preserved the memoranda then made and I do not clearly remember the particulars; but I told Mr. Boies, when he was compiling his History of DeKalb County, forty years ago, what I had learned in Washington regarding the Shabbona title. His brief statement in said history is correct, according to my memory. I quote as follows:
"In the treaty made at Prairie Du Chien, in 1839 — by which the Pottawatomies ceded this section of country to the United States — two sections of land at this grove were made a reservation to Shabeney. In another treaty, made at Tippecanoe, Ind., in October, 1832, these lands were again reserved to Shabonier, the French method of spelling the same name. In a third treaty, made in September, 1833, it is provided that these lands reserved shall be grants in fee simple, which might be sold and conveyed by the recipient, a privilege which he had not before possessed; but in the following year this provision was rejected by the Senate, leaving them, as before, simple reservations. * * *
"In 1845 Old Shabbona, ignorant of the repeal of that provision of the treaty which gave him a right to sell his land, sold to Azell A. Gates and Orrin Gates his entire reservation. This was speedily divided into tracts and
57re-sold by the Gateses to the inhabitants of the adjoining prairies. (The Gates brothers' names were Asahel A. Gates and Wyram Gates, I think.)
"But three years later these purchasers were astonished at finding that these lands were offered for sale by the United States government, as were the adjoining prairies. An investigation, made through Hon. John Wentworth, then member of Congress for this district, disclosed the fact that the deed of Shabbona to the Gateses was void; and that the government held that, as Shabbona, by transferring and giving up possession, had forfeited the use of the reservation, it was competent for the government to sell it as other public lands in this department were sold."
The only way then by which the purchasers from the Gateses could have their lands, which were worth many times the government price, was to attend the land sale at Dixon and bid them in as offered at auction. They immediately organized and prepared for action. On the day of sale they were there in force, well armed and determined to prevent any one from bidding higher than the minimum price, $1. 25 per acre; and they got their lands at that price.
Our government never notified Shabbona that it had broken the treaty, and the Gateses letters to Wentworth, on file in Washington, indicate that they did not know this at the time of their purchase. It is evident from the transactions and the stories of his white neighbors, that Shabbona was childishly ignorant of white men's business methods and of the value of money except in small sums, and that, having become desirous to sell, he was easily induced by the Gateses to part with his reservation "for a song." I was told that, besides building him a log house,
58which leaked so he would not live in it, and reserving therewith a few acres of timber and prairie for his wood and his cornfield, they only paid him $300 in cash; while others said they were to give him more, later, but did not because his title proved to be invalid. The Gateses learned this fact not long after their purchase, as the letters in Washington show; but that did not prevent their selling of the wood-lots at good round prices to the settlers, who remained as ignorant as Shabbona of the condition of the title until advised by the notice of government sale aforesaid.
The action of Congressman Wentworth in the interest of the Gateses was what brought attention to the matter in Washington and resulted in the order to put the reservation upon the market. Evidently the Indian Department took the position that inasmuch as Shabbona had sold his right and had gone away the ratification of his sale to the Gateses would benefit only these speculators; and probably Wentworth soon came to the same conclusion as no further steps were taken. The rights of the settlers who had purchased from the Gateses were not considered because they had made no appeal, being ignorant of the conditions.
Of course the time had arrived when the reservation had to be sold and divided, for the settlers were becoming so many that they must and would have the timber. This Shabbona had long realized and he was willing to sell. Had he or his friends, and he had some in Chicago who were influential, known that the government had broken the treaty, they might and probably would have taken such steps as would have given him the full benefit of its sale which, properly managed and with fairness to
59settlers, might have yielded him several thousand dollars, though all the government got for it was $1,600, less expenses of sale.
The special provision in the treaty of 1833, conceding to Shabbona the right to sell a property long possessed by him as his own, was a ridiculously small payment or reward for his great and fully acknowledged services; and the depriving him of such right by our Senate the very next year, without cause or notice and only for its paltry value to the government, was a mean, ungrateful and despicable act. There never has been any excuse for it.
It has been a common saying in this country that the only good Indians are dead Indians, and too frequently that has been the keynote of our policy when dealing with Indians. Unless Shabbona and his band were remarkably exceptional, they demonstrated that there must have been a considerable number of good Indians whom our people have overlooked or failed to recognize.
Here was an Indian who having pledged friendship and good faith maintained them to the end. After he had declared for peace he worked for peace to the best of his ability. He used his influence to keep his people quiet and to prevent misunderstandings that might lead to conflicts between the races. He and his band protected the peaceful whites when they were threatened by the men of his own race. With great exertion and at the risk of his own life he saved many lives of white people. Finally he and his following, some twenty-five or thirty persons, and their ponies, lived their free and easy life several years in the midst of a white settlement, in peace, friendship and fair dealing with all. There was some petty thieving but no willful trespass, an occasional drunk
60but no serious rows or fights among themselves and none with the settlers. Complaints or misunderstandings when brought to the attention of the old chief were promptly considered and adjusted or their recurrence prevented. He instructed his people to be courteous to the whites but not familiar. He was quite strict with them and they obeyed him. All this and much more I was told by the old settlers. They were unanimous in their expressions of good will toward the little community of Indians and especially toward its chief, who, apparently, had made warm friends of them all. Would white people under like conditions have left any better record?
When Shabbona left the grove in the spring of 1849 he did not intend to abandon his home, for he gave the premises and various things in charge of his nearest neighbor, to be cared for until his return. When he came back in the fall of 1851 and found his place occupied by strangers and was informed by his neighbor of the proceedings during his absence, his grief was great; but another and more direct blow was awaiting him at the place where he had left his people making a camp, for there he found a man trying to prevent their work, cursing and threatening them for cutting poles and making a fire in his timber and ready to pour out the vials of his wrath upon the sorrow-stricken old man. On learning who he was, however, the settler, a newcomer, moderated his language, and as it was late he withdrew his order that they must get out at once and left them, only cautioning against cutting the timber. They fixed up a temporary camp; but Shabbona threw himself on the ground outside and laid there without speaking until morning. In a day or two they pulled up and left the grove forever.
Apparently Shabbona did not know where to go. His next camping place was in Big Rock timber, about twenty miles eastward. There he and his people were found, a day or two later, by an old friend, a near neighbor of ours, as he was returning from Aurora. His story, as told to us that evening and as I gave it to Mr. Boies, was in substance as follows: Shabbona seemed utterly cast down; and in reply to inquiries as to why he left and where he was going, he said he had long been a friend of the white people; that he had treated them well; that the burying ground of his family was at the grove; that he had lived there and wanted to die there; that he had lost all and was very poor. Then he told how, because his people had burned a few sticks of wood, "big white man call me damn Indian. Shabbona never damn white man," and pointing upwards, while the tears ran down his old cheeks, he continued, "No big white man, no damn Indian up there, all like; all like." And while the old settler told us this the tears were running down his old cheeks. Very many interesting stories about the old chief and his people have been published in the various histories referred to, which it is not necessary for me to repeat.
From Big Rock timber he and his little band wandered southward and around aimlessly, their wants being supplied by the settlers, until finally some benevolent friends contributed enough to buy him a little home near Morris, Ill.; and they also obtained a pension of $300 a year from the government for him as a Black Hawk War veteran. He died in 1859 and was buried in the Morris cemetery. In 1864 his widow, Pokanoka, was drowned in a creek she was trying to cross; she was buried beside him; and in 1903 a suitable monument was erected to their memory.
62His little band of followers have been scattered to the four winds.
In the foregoing sketch of the life of Shabbona I have endeavored to present facts only, such as are well authenticated, apparently, or are shown in the records; but very likely the information obtained was not always correct.
IN 1853 our crops were good, prices for products had advanced and prospects were encouraging. The C. B& Q. railway, connecting with the old Galena (now Northwestern), at Turner Junction (now West Chicago), had entered Aurora the year before and made that town — thirty miles distant — our nearest market. So, there we now hauled our stuff and did our trading instead of driving on to Chicago; and, although said railway had reached and passed Waverly (now and long since Leland), then our nearest station, twelve miles south, we kept on going to Aurora for several years, as did our neighbors, generally. With the average load for the roads of that time — forty bushels of wheat or the equivalent — it was a day's drive to Aurora. 'Twas slow and tedious; but in marketing seasons there would be so many of us on the road together that we could and did make things lively. We were always ready to help each other when we "got slewed" or into other trouble, and generally we had a jolly time in town. On returning we were frequently loaded with lumber or other stuff for the farm, and occasionally one or more would be with something that he would better have left. But when roads were bad and one had to make a trip alone with a load, his experience was often woeful.
Many a time have I been stuck in the mud of a main
64road or in the sloughs that had to be crossed when following the devious wagon tracks across the wild prairie. In such cases we had to lift out and tote to shore — whether of slough or of mud — more or less of the load, and then we might have to use a rail, which, when the conditions justified we usually carried along, to pry up the wheels so as to lessen the resistance of the mud or sod; and sometimes we had to lead the horses forward onto firmer ground and hitch them by a chain to the end of the wagon pole.
As samples of such work I will relate the following incidents: Once when returning rather late from DeKalb with a load of lumber, in crossing the Duffy slough I turned out to avoid a deep mud hole and the wheels went down to the hubs in the bog. The horses could not move the wagon even after it had been entirely unloaded. I had to uncouple the wagon, hitch the horses by a chain to the end of the pole to pull out the front wheels and then to the reach to pull out the hind wheels. After putting the wagon together and reloading I had twelve miles yet to go, wet and muddy, in a raw night, late in the fall.
Another time when my brother and I were coming from town with a load of shingles, I, sitting on a bunch and driving the horses as they slowly pulled the wagon along the narrow canal of liquid mud used as road, one fore wheel dropped into a hole, the bunch of shingles tipped forward and dropped me directly in front of the wheel, which advanced sufficiently to force my head completely under the mud, when fortunately the horses stopped. After I had pulled myself out and had clawed the mud out of my mouth and eyes and ears, my brother said I spoke some words that, so far as his knowledge went,
65were new and never used before. We were then seven or eight miles from home and the weather cold enough to freeze the mud sticking to my clothes and hair. In winter time those long hauls with loaded wagons, when the thermometer was down to zero and a blizzard wind blowing, were not pleasure trips; not many of our young farmers of the present day would attempt them and no hired man would.
Later, when we were raising more grain it was a common practice, if one had a carload to sell and roads were passable, to get some neighbors to turn in and help haul the grain to the nearest railway station where they would load it on a car for Chicago, the owner going in with it or consigning it to some known commission man. But for some years longer we continued the practice of driving our fat cattle in to Chicago. Bull's Head, where the Washingtonian Home now is, was then the headquarters of the cattle market. The city did not extend in that direction beyond the old tavern the last time we drove a lot of cattle in; and we found resting place and pasture for them on farms, now solid city, while we went forward and arranged for their sale and delivery. This was about the middle of the "sixties," according to my recollection.
In 1858 the last call was made for a wolf hunt. Notices were duly sent out to the people of the surrounding country, asking them to attend and advising them of the day and of the point of meeting, the center toward which all should direct their course and which they were told to reach at or near a certain hour. The point selected was on the prairie some four or five miles north of Squaw Grove. The day was fine and people turned out from all
66directions. They came on horseback, of course, with whoop and hello and the firing of guns toward the common center where we expected to inclose and kill many wolves; but there was "nary" a wolf within the circle. Only three had been seen, as reported, and they had run through the line when it was yet too open. Not a deer was started.
We had a wild time on the wild prairie, and though we did no more we demonstrated that there were very few wolves or other wild animals on our big prairie at that time. From the point of meeting not a house was to be seen westward; only the tops of the trees of Shabbona Grove were visible; eastward the view was not interrupted by grove or settlement; Squaw Grove and a house or two at its north end were in sight southward; and far to the north, near Lost Grove, stood out plainly, on a rise of ground, a small house newly painted white, glistening in the sun and attracting particular attention because a painted house out on the prairie was yet a rare object.
The directors of our country school having failed to get the teacher they wanted for the winter of 1852-3, one of them came to me and suggested that I should undertake the job. The salary offered was $16 per month, and "board around," for three months; payment to be collected from the heads of families sending children, to be pro-rated according to the number of days of their attendance. This meant no pay until the end of term and then only as much as could be collected. It was not a very attractive offer; but it was in accord with prices and conditions then prevailing. I was not yet nineteen years of age and not a particularly sedate youth, and though confident as to teaching was very doubtful as to
67government. Finally I concluded that it would be better than working in the grove or lying around, so I accepted.
The school opened with about forty in attendance and a dozen or more in prospect, ranging in ages from six to twenty. When school was called to order and before work was begun, I told them that they had come to learn as much as they could, undoubtedly, and to that end my time ought to be given to their instruction and not wasted on their government; therefore, I proposed to put them on their good behavior from the start. I also appealed to the older scholars, young men and women, to set good examples, promising if they would help me in that way I would so help them all in their studies that they would surely make good progress.
Such propositions, often made at school openings, have not been always followed by satisfactory results, but mine turned out very well. I had some trouble of course. There are incorrigibles in every school; and I had to demonstrate to the well-disposed that I was really in earnest, before their action and example had good effect upon the unruly, and this I did by constant devotion to their instruction, in school and out of school, by going from one to another when not hearing classes, showing, explaining and helping them in their difficulties, and also taking pains to do so evenings where boarding.
This boarding around was tough. It was "pork and tater" and heavy bread and biscuit, less or worse, and sometimes I had to sleep with the children; but I took it all as if I liked it, and that made friends of the parents. The weather was very cold much of the time and I suffered more or less where I boarded and on the long walks to and fro. My ears were frozen and my nose frosted.
68The directors thought the school was rather disorderly, but there were no fights between the teacher and the big scholars as in former schools and it was acknowledged that the scholars had made good progress. The directors collected and paid me part of my salary and left me to get the rest if I could. I got most of it.
We had good crops in 1853. Aurora had become an active market for all our products and prices were somewhat higher; so conditions had considerably improved. When we first came into this section, which then had no railroads and no general market nearer than Chicago, with prices there so low that often the proceeds of a load would not much more than pay for the hauling, we, as well as other settlers, did not expect to make more than a comfortable living on our farms. But the building of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railway across the south end of the county in 1851, and of the Dixon Air Line, now the main line of Chicago & Northwestern, across the center of the county in 1854, and the better prices of products, began to open all eyes to the possibilities of prairie farming. A brisk emigration from east to west began; and Chicago speculators, also seeing these possibilities, in 1853 and 1854 grabbed all the government land left on our yet wild prairies, getting most of it on soldiers' land warrants at seventy-five to eighty cents per acre.
During these previous years we had made very little improvement in our methods of farming, though each year considerable breaking had been done, thus adding to
70the acreage under cultivation. We still sowed by hand, planted by hand and hoe, cultivated by hoe and "double-shovel" plow (a second shovel having been added), and mowed, raked and cradled as before. Reapers, of several kinds and makes by that time had been introduced and been followed by other improved machines and implements; but few were bought because of the little incentive for large production.
In 1854, however, the boom in prices caused by the demands of the Crimean War, awakened the entire country to the possibilities of agriculture. Hitherto our acreage in grain had been limited to the capacity of the cradle. A good cradler could not average more than three acres per day, so the cutting of thirty acres would require ten days of his work, or about two weeks as the weather would run, during which time the grain, more or less, would get too ripe and fall. At that time the wheat on an acre of prairie would sell for several times the price of the land. It was a simple proposition then: put in more wheat and buy a reaper, buy more land and put in more wheat. Corn was also in good demand; so better implements and machinery for producing that grain and making it ready for the market were required.
Thus commenced the boom of the "fifties;" and thus was fully opened this wonderful era of production, development and world-wide adoption of American farm machinery. With largely increased acreage and profitable returns per acre, farmers would have and could pay for the various implements and machines which were required for such increased acreage. Besides reapers they needed seeders, planters, cultivators, mowers, shellers, etc., and they soon got them. During the years just
71passed, inventors and manufacturers had been producing and slowly introducing such machinery, but it was generally crude and imperfect. Now, however, the great and constantly increasing demand increased the number of producers, and competition stimulated invention and improvement as never before, and so the industry began its victorious progress. The boom continued until about the middle of 1857 when without having given sufficient warning for any class to heed, it collapsed.
Meantime farmers had been building (we built a house in 1854 and a barn in 1855), buying more land, buying machinery, carriages, sewing machines, melodeons, and fine furniture, and generally running into debt; merchants gave credit to any one who would buy, and manufacturers had expanded to meet the inflated demand. Prices fell somewhat at the close of the Crimean War in 1856, but not enough to seriously disturb confidence. Business continued fairly prosperous during the first part of 1857. The season was cool and late; but crops were good and conditions were generally satisfactory until about the close of harvest, when the failure of some big financial institutions eastward started an avalanche of failures.
What was dubbed "wild cat" money played an important part in the catastrophe. This wild cat money was bills of private banks, established by northern capitalists in Georgia or other southern states, where the banking laws were very loose and put little or no restriction upon the issue, which bills were brought north for circulation. Because of the great need of currency during the period of inflation, this money was readily taken where the capitalists issuing it were known and trusted, and we handled the crisp bills of the Bank of Macon, the Bank of Atlanta
72etc., without question. When the crash came most of this stuff was about as valuable as Confederate money at the close of the war. But some of the capitalists redeemed what they had issued, notably in this section George Smith, the old Scotch banker at Milwaukee.
In the fall of 1857 prices of farm products were low and falling and business was stagnant. Nearly everybody was in debt and hardly anybody could pay. Some pulled through all right, many made assignments, and others ran away, and a few sharpers with ready money fattened upon the sacrifices of the most needy. Many manufacturers who had been doing a flourishing business were compelled to close their works, to be opened soon or to change ownership or to remain closed.
The year 1858 was one of the worst of our wet seasons; wheat was blighted, oats were rusted so as to be almost worthless, corn was only a middling crop, and the returns for what stuff we could spare were very light. The season of 1859 was remarkably cool and dry; there was frost in every month and a killing frost for corn on low ground on the 4th of July. All the corn was injured in this section. Wheat was a fair crop but the price was too low to give us much relief. Those were the years that tried men's souls; and worse were coming.
I forgot to notice in its time, about 1853, the blessed advent in the household of kerosene oil, when the glimmer of candle and grease-oil lamp gave place to the brilliant but soft light of kerosene, a light that never has been excelled.
POLITICS were rampant during the "fifties" and slavery was the burning question. It overshadowed the distinctive policies or measures ordinarily advocated by the other parties — the Whigs, the Democrats and the Free-soilers — and it had the Abolitionists in the north and the Fire-eaters in the south as violent agitators to keep it hot before the people of both sections. The various phases of its discussion occupied the attention of Congress and of the Supreme Court to the exclusion of other important matters. Congress gave us the Fugitive Slave law in 1850, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in 1854, and the Supreme Court turned out the Dred Scott decision in 1857. To add to the confusion and agitation, in 1853-'4 and '5, a secret society, strong in numbers and in the ability of its members, popularly designated the "Know Nothings," undertook to organize a strictly American party. Their aims were so tersely presented in one of the songs of the time that I will quote a verse:
I'd arrange my business accordin';
The niggers I would sell,
The Irish send to hell,
And the Dutch to the other side of Jordan."
But the slavery question overshadowed all other aims and issues, so that effort proved abortive. In 1854 the Republican party was organized and in 1856 John C. Fremont was its candidate for the presidency. My first vote was for Fremont.
In the summer of 1858 my brother and I, with two others, went by carriage down to Ottawa, thirty miles distant, to attend the debate held there between Lincoln and Douglas. Having started early we arrived in time to obtain good positions for hearing what was said and for closely observing the speakers. I stood near the open end of the platform where Lincoln, Owen Lovejoy and Chief Shabbona were seated. Douglas' place on the platform was at about the middle of the front bench.
Although a Republican, I highly appreciated Douglas' ability and believed him honest in his assertions that his plan would settle the slavery question and allay the excitement which was already threatening the peace of the country. Because of what had been reported of Lincoln, I doubted his ability to cope with Douglas and expected to see in him a very common sort of a man. One of our party was a schoolmaster and a Democrat. As I remember, Douglas opened the debate, Lincoln followed, and Douglas closed.
Judge Douglas was a short, broad-shouldered man with lion-like head and face. He was a fluent, forceful speaker; but he pounded out his propositions in a manner rather too dogmatic ("sledge-hammer style," remarked our Democratic friend), and too often he left the main question to indulge in personal charges and explanations. He was occasionally coarse in his expressions, as for instance, he accused Lincoln of having purposely misstated something
75and roared out, "I will bring him to his milk." One of these remarks brought Lincoln to his feet, with a stern expression on his face, but before he had time to interrupt, as apparently he intended, Lovejoy, sitting behind, grabbed his coat, pulled him back and whispered something that induced him to resume his seat. Douglas' speech gave me the impression that he was as ready to appeal to prejudice as to reason.
When Lincoln arose and went forward to speak I saw that he was a man of much length. He was dressed in broadcloth and his long black coat gave him a ministerial look. His clothes were not noticeably ill-fitting and his appearance was eminently respectable. He was not handsome, neither was he ugly. His manner in speaking was earnest and dignified; he stood well and indulged in comparatively few gestures, which, so far as I was competent to judge, were neither awkward nor ill-timed; he stuck well to his text, evidently much more desirous of convincing his hearers that his political doctrines were true than of making them laugh or applaud, and he held their attention to the end. It was the unanimous opinion of our party that Lincoln made the better impression upon the crowd.
At the close of the debate some of Douglas' friends made a rush for him, raised him to their shoulders and started to carry him off the grounds, but they stumbled after taking a few steps, lost their hold and let him fall sprawling. They lifted him up again and this time successfully carried him forth. Not to be outdone by the Democrats some Republicans went for Lincoln and despite his earnest protests, loaded him on their shoulders. I
76have never forgotten the expression on his face as they bore him along. It was serio-comic in the extreme.
In order to make a strong contrast between Lincoln's looks and his gifts, his lowly origin and his high attainments, writers have been so much in the habit of describing him as ugly, awkward, uncouth, unkempt, ill-dressed, ill-mannered, etc., that people, particularly in the east, have the idea that he was a sort of "woolly westerner," especially before he had the advantages of eastern society. The truth is that he was not really ugly, nor was he ungainly or badly dressed on his public appearances. His face when lighted up in speaking was quite attractive. In short he looked like a kindly, old fashioned, professional man who was making a good living but putting on no style.
Something ought to be said about our social life during those early years. We had religious meetings in private houses at first, later in school houses as they were built, and occasionally camp meetings in the grove. There were violinists among us and we had "rounds" of dances in our cabins during the winter, and later we attended balls given at the taverns in the nearest towns which had sprung up around the railway stations. We had spelling schools, debating schools and singing schools. We learned something at each, besides the fun in going and coming. We would fill the empty box of wagon or sleigh with straw, cover it with blankets, crowd in and wrap ourselves in blankets or buffalo skins (such skins cost then only $6 or $7 each) and take our jolly rides. It was literally "Wait for the wagon and we'll all take a ride," as the old song of the time goes.
Spiritualism had worked its way in by the middle of
77the "fifties," so sittings or seances were frequently held in the houses of believers, and in other houses where the young folks would gather in to try their hands at table-tipping, etc. The hand holding was pleasant, though the table might fail to tip and the spirits to respond. I came near forgetting "the Fourth" and the great times we had when celebrating the national holiday, the spread-eagle speeches, the firing of the anvil, the chase of the shaved pig, the climbing of the greased pole that had a five dollar bill at the top, and all the other games and tricks that served to amuse the crowd of old folks, young folks and children, and to get their money.
It must not be supposed that we wholly neglected literary matters or had no aspiration for higher culture. Spelling schools and debating schools brought together those who were best educated of both sexes — scholars, teachers and outsiders. At such gatherings and at our social visits we discussed current literature and the poets, and we loaned our books to each other. There were many earnest and intelligent readers and some who displayed considerable literary talent, the full development of which was prevented by other interests or occupations. This couplet from Gray's Elegy might be applicable here:
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
When I was teaching school at Shabbona Center, in the winter of 1855-6, we formed a little coterie for mutual instruction and consideration of each other's productions. In my callow youth I was very fond of poetry and weakly tried to court the muse. I had read nearly all the works of the most famous poets and owned several volumes of
78them. Any of these, as wanted, I loaned to the members of our circle; and I got them interested in verse-making, their efforts to be submitted at our meetings for criticism and mutual benefit. Some of these productions, in our judgment, were very good; but I have forgotten them all and even the names of most of the members, not one of whom, except myself, is now alive, I believe. One of my own productions, however, has been preserved, and this sample of our efforts at that period I may be excused for presenting. It was written one evening at the request of a young lady of rare talent who long ago passed into the beyond.
And should I write as you desire,
Sure everyone who read would know it,
And say I touched a tuneless lyre.
Which a lady bids him raise,
Will surely never win a guerdon
Of either sympathy or praise.
Inspire my muse or guide my pen
As spirits do, so that there may be
Some strains like yours produced again.
My sluggish muse grows dull apace,
And critics now will snarl and yelp me,
Because I lack poetic grace.
From sermons preached most any day;
They in vain preliminaries
Are wasted much, and so my lay.
May grace and peace abide with thee!
But hold! I'll make just one restriction,
I'll pray for you, if you'll for me.
How she may have criticised the foregoing I cannot now remember.
THE late J. F. Glidden, inventor of barb wire, brought the first reaper, a Hussey, into DeKalb county in 1845; the first in our neighborhood was a McCormick in 1850. As stated before, there was little need of such machines until 1854, when Crimean War prices and rapidly increasing production widened and greatly increased the demand for them. Many, of different kinds, were sold in '55, more and in greater variety in '56, and so on until '58, when the poor crops and the effects of the panic of the previous year halted the business in its upward course.
In 1855 our grain was cut by an Atkins self raker hired for the purpose, and we decided to buy one; but we changed our minds and in '56, in connection with a neighbor, purchased a Mann reaper, because it was simpler and cheaper. Next year we bought out our neighbor. And this brings me down to the invention of our harvester. In justice to the machine and to its inventors I think it proper to tell the full story of its production and introduction, which will show how it originated and how the foundation of the modern harvester and binder was laid —
81such story having been partly told in Farm Implement News, Chicago, in 1893.
In 1856-'57 C. W. and W. W. Marsh, then farmers in DeKalb county, Ill., owned a Mann reaper, made by Haskell, Barker & Aldridge, of Michigan City, Ind. This machine had a long canvas carrier or endless apron, which, running behind the drive wheel, delivered the grain into a receptacle, whence it was discharged in gavels upon the stubble by a revolving rake, located at the outer edge of the receptacle and operated by an attendant, riding. The canvas carrier was elevated at its outer end sufficiently to allow a gavel to be collected between its point of delivery and the lower edge of the receptacle, which was swept by the stubble. The drive wheels, four feet and two inches high, occupied a fixed position forward of the platform and carrier. I operated the rake on this machine and we did good work with it; but the Mann was not successful on the market because it required two men to operate it, while self-raking reapers were accomplishing the same with one man; there was a strong prejudice against canvas carriers, and as built by the firm named the machine was imperfect in construction.
It was while observing how nicely a gavel could be packed in the receptacle and how it was strung out by the forward motion of the machine in the act of being discharged upon the stubble — as with every side-delivery reaper — that the idea of binding grain on the machine came into our heads. Various experiments for quick binding were made, elevated receiver and tables were considered
82and convenient height for them was estimated; but no modification of the Mann reaper was attempted for reasons sufficiently obvious to us and given in testimony in suit with the McCormicks.
During the ensuing year we, my brother and I, developed the distinctive features of the Marsh harvester, viz.: its general form; the location of the appliances for binding and of the binders outside the drive wheel and opposite to the grain wheel, by which weight would be compensatorily distributed, proper balance obtained and traction increased; the plan of carrying, elevating over drive wheel and delivering grain; and unfortunately for the patents a bundle carrier was also studied out. The features and the plans having been settled, patent was applied for and the construction of the harvester begun early in June, 1858, at the country repair shop of an amateur mechanic. We, the mechanic and I, assisted by my brother, broke up the Mann machine, cut down its drive wheel to three feet four inches, and from such of its gears and irons as we could use and others picked out of a scrap pile, we provided the machinery required in the erection of the first Marsh harvester. The proposed bundle carrier was not constructed, though place was made for it. This crude machine as it went into the field was in form, principles and purposes the same as all harvesters of this class that followed; and if that first harvester were standing in a field to-day, with tables and platform removed, a person at a little distance would wonder whether it was an old, weather-beaten Deering or McCormick or other standard harvester, minus the automatic binder. The grain was reeled, cut, carried by the platform canvas to the elevator, taken up over the
83drive wheel, delivered into the receptacle and then bound by hand on tables, one at each end of the receptacle, by my brother and myself, standing on foot-platform provided. The machine, though rudely constructed, went right along, and before harvest was over we could handle all that a five-foot cut could deliver to us; indeed, we soon became so expert that either could bind alone in heavy grain for a considerable time.
How was the grain harvested at that time? Considerable by cradles, some by headers, but the most of it by reapers, from which latter the grain was discharged by fork and hand rake, or by self-rake into the stubble, at the average rate of ten or twelve acres per day, to be bound by four, five or six men, according to width of cut and conditions.
What was accomplished by the invention of the Marsh harvester? A machine was provided with which two men, and a boy or girl to drive, could cut and bind from eight to ten acres per day. (The estimates for both classes of machines are moderate averages, as with either much more could be done under favorable conditions.) Thus in the saving of labor and in reducing the expenses of harvesting, the Marsh brothers, by the production of their harvester, accomplished as much as C. H. McCormick did in the production of his reaper, and the saving and reduction came where since it has been most needed, in the binding; for in 1858 a man on their machine could bind by hand far faster than ever man had bound since the sun has been ripening grain, in short could do the work of two and thus save half the expense.
Had any machine like the Marsh harvester been previously produced? As with nearly every practical invention
84the idea had been vaguely foreshadowed, but with a single exception, the late Augustus Adams, of Sandwich, Ill., no one had ever before bound a bundle on a machine, made for that purpose and practically operating in the field, and we never had heard of any such attempt. Mr. Adams had started in the right direction early in the "fifties," but before he went far enough to settle any point he took another road and soon quit.
We brought out the first practical hand binding harvester. Reapers and mowers, so called, with single and double driving wheels, could be found in the records and some had succeeded in cutting grain and grass before the time of McCormick and Hussey and of Lewis Miller, as anybody "skilled in the art" knows, but to these later inventors and not to those who failed to make their efforts practical, belongs the credit of establishing the reaper and mower; and so we claim credit for producing the harvester. Unfortunately for practical inventors, the crude old things, that never got beyond the patent office or the first machine, are made as much of by patent lawyers and experts as live and useful inventions, and can be effectively used by them to destroy the latter. For instance, such an impracticable monstrosity as the Watson & Renwick patent, a nightmare in wheels and belts and toggles, is set forth by them as the prototype of the harvester and binder.
Was the Marsh harvester a patentable invention? Most assuredly. It was immediately patented, but the claim as issued was a combination of carrying devices, binding appliances and bundle carrier, suggested by the examiner and accepted by our twenty-five dollar patent agent as a substitute for the claims which I had suggested. In our
85ignorance of patents we supposed that the claim as issued held the whole machine. Some years later, when first examined by a patent lawyer and long before any one else had built a harvester, it was discovered that the claim was worthless, had in fact been beaten by ourselves, because we had dropped out one element or feature of the combination, the bundle carrier. The patent was reissued soon after and proper claims allowed in accordance with the rules under which the patent office was then acting and with Supreme Court decisions sustaining them. A reissue, of course, is allowed nothing more than original specification shows, and expires at the same time as would the original patent. At that period courts were ruling favorably toward patents and inventors; but fifteen years later the Supreme Court (the court, whose members in the Hayes-Tilden contest voted as partisans on every question that had any effect on the result), apparently in sympathy with the granger movement and demands, began ruling the other way, and it was decided that inventors who had waited so long as we before reissue had lost their original rights. Every patent lawyer familiar with the Marsh-McCormick case (which will be considered later) knows that had a model been made of our machine as it went into the field, and had the specifications been drawn by an experienced attorney, the first patent would have been one of the strongest in harvesting machines and would have held against any defense that could have been made.
But whether or not the original reissued patent was technically valid, we had invented and produced a new machine, unlike others on the market in form and purpose, of such merit and capacity that it could and did
86revolutionize the prevailing system of harvesting, which even the late Cyrus H. McCormick acknowledged by building it and further, in 1876 or 1877, by offering to pay a royalty for the use of the Marsh patents, including those taken out for improvements, of $5 per machine; then remarking before myself and others who will remember, that he was willing to pay this in recognition of the invention, though he believed the original patent as reissued could be beaten in the courts. At the same time, Walter A. B. Wood and other manufacturers offered to pay more in order to effect a general settlement; but there were complications — others interested in the patents and exclusive licenses given long before — that prevented, and the matter took its long and expensive course in law. Had it been possible to make such settlement our subsequent misfortunes might have been evaded; but the fight had to go on, and I cannot blame the McCormicks for making a vigorous defense. Mr. Wood's attorney told me years after, that if we had accepted their offer and given them a license the royalties on their output during the remainder of the life of the Marsh patents would have amounted to about $180,000. Other concerns at the time were just as anxious for licenses.
Returning to the advent of the Marsh harvester and following its course: The years after the panic of 1857 and the first years of the Civil War constituted a period of great depression; we could only devote ourselves to improving the machine and to endeavors to interest manufacturers. In 1859 my brother went to Chicago and there had the foundation parts of the harvester done in a machine shop. We finished it at home and it proved thoroughly reliable. We cut and bound with it about 130
87acres. Such success and orders from our neighbors induced us to undertake the building of a dozen machines for the harvest of 1860.
It was a foolish undertaking. Castings were made in Chicago; machine work was done at DeKalb, and fitting, etc., at home in a little shop built for the purpose. Machines were imperfectly constructed, of course; and for the unusually heavy growth of straw that season they proved to be lacking in both strength and capacity. At the request of our customers we gave a public trial in a field of barley on the 4th of July and the machine failed to satisfy. It was our first experience in cutting and binding barley. The grain was thick and short; we could not get the machine low enough, binding was difficult and something broke. The trial was a failure and our customers "went back" on their orders.
This was an awful blow. The farm was mortgaged, machines condemned and confidence gone; and the future was black enough. It was a sorry Fourth for us. I could not sleep that night, and walked the road in agony of mind till morning. None of those who had helped in making the model, or machines, or in binding, was disposed then to claim any part in the invention, as some of them were years later. We had paid all the bills and no one yearned for any share of the honors. Generally our friends advised us to get out as well as we might and quit. But with some alterations we made two or three of them do good work through the harvest, and the prompt and generous encouragement given us by the late Lewis Steward, of Plano, when he saw the machine at work, renewed our confidence.
In the winter of 1860-61 my brother, in connection with
88Mr. Hollister, "Uncle John," turned out a machine for the harvest of 1861 that had all the qualities required for field work. During the seasons of 1861, '62 and '63 over 400 acres were harvested with it. In the fall of 1863 we went to Plano and in connection with Mr. Steward began to build for the market in a small way. We put out twenty-five machines for harvest of 1864, all which were sold, gave satisfaction and were paid for. Their satisfactory work in the hands of farmers induced Easter & Gammon to apply for and take a license for certain states.
We continued making and successfully marketing to the extent of our means and capacity at Plano. In the course of two or three years Marsh harvesters were also being manufactured at Rockford, Ill., by Emerson, Talcott & Co., and at Springfield, O., by Warder, Mitchell & Co. for J. D. Easter& Co., and for Mr. Gammon, Easter & Gammon having meantime dissolved partnership and divided territory. The struggle for supremacy was then fairly on.
There were various makes of reapers — hand rakers, self rakers and droppers — but only one harvester, the Marsh, and it had the field against it. In the fierce contest that followed for place on the market J. D. Easter, then in his prime, was the leader, Mr. Deering coming in later. The Marsh harvester was a new departure, a machine unlike any other in form and purpose. Alone it had to overcome the prejudices of customers, increased and intensified by publications of manufacturers of the then standard machines and their agents, who were unanimous in condemnation of the pestilent innovation. The harvester is orthodox now, it was heterodox then. But
89finally it was accepted by all. Two or three concerns took licenses; others began building harvesters without license as the turn of the trade forced them, and a few made them merely for the purpose of developing automatic binders. From the time of the invention of our machine to the harvest of 1872, fifteen years, no other harvester or machine similar to it was on the market; and but few, comparatively, of these outside harvesters were made until 1875; hence no other machine can divide honors with the Marsh harvester in the revolution that had been accomplished.
Alone the Marsh harvester changed the system from "reaping" to "harvesting." And alone it prepared the way and furnished the only foundation for the next and last great advance in harvesting, the successful introduction of the automatic binder, which at first it carried as an attachment and with which, under various modifications and improvements, it was later incorporated, the two as combined constituting now the harvesting machine of the world. This being true, has any other grain cutting machine made such a record? And a little further on I will show by the testimony of successful inventors of binders how impossible it had been to produce a practical automatic binder before the advent of the Marsh harvester, and how each did make a success of his binder when he applied it to the Marsh harvester.
Although the Marsh harvester was a machine that accomplished more in reducing the labor and expense of harvest than any of the reapers, its invention or production was a simple process. There were no difficult mechanical problems to solve as in the production of a binder. The only remarkable fact to note is this, that we
90so combined and used the elements and limited means at our disposal as to obtain in the first machine the results we sought. Knowing little or nothing of mechanics, but being well posted in practical harvesting as it was then conducted, we took the most direct road to the end desired. We did not have to invent a cutting device or reel or other parts, which were common to reapers of the day; but we had to make a new form of machine in order to carry out our plan of elevating and binding and to attain the necessary balance and compactness. This plan or form is shown in every "binder" (so generally termed now) on the markets of the world, whether the machine be made in America or Europe.
THE first patent for a binder was taken out in 1850, and during the ten years following over thirty patents were issued in this class; but only two machines, Sherwood's and Burson's, got upon the market, the latter in considerable numbers. Both were attachments to reapers, were operated by hand and bound with wire. The trade soon went back on them; and nothing further was heard of automatic binders until late in the "sixties," when, apparently, a new generation of binder inventors came forth, who, happily for their efforts, found the Marsh harvester ready and able to bear them to success.
John F. Steward, now in charge of the patent department of the International Harvester Company and the best authority living on harvesting machinery, I think, said in an article discussing this question:
"Some things in modern self-binding harvesters came to stay, and they were born on the shoulders of the Marsh harvester. Locke, Gordon, Appleby, Payne, Carpenter, and every inventor who in any measure successfully bound grain, first did so by placing his binding attachment upon a Marsh harvester, taking the grain from a receptacle
92wherein it fell and removing it to another receptacle where it was bound."
But in order to put his and my statements beyond question I will refer to and quote from the sworn testimony of these and other binder inventors and experts, as given in the suit of the Gordon Bros. and Osborne against Warder, Bushnell & Glessner in 1885, long after the Marsh patents had expired, when no reason existed for concealing the facts.
Probably the first man to discover in the Marsh harvester the only sure foundation for the automatic binder was S. D. Carpenter, then living at Madison, Wis. He long had been trying to produce a binder but had failed, when finally our harvester suggested a new effort. His testimony and that of S. L. Sheldon, who sold him a Marsh harvester for the purpose, showed that he began this work as early as 1867, or earlier.
James F. Gordon, late of Rochester, N. Y., inventor of the once famous "Crane" wire binder, in his testimony told how he began away back in 1863 to work on a binder and continued his efforts to form a practical combination of reaper and binder without such success as could reach the market until 1870. He said in answer to question 10: "Some time in the winter of 1870-'71 I succeeded in making arrangements with another party to attach the binder to a Marsh harvester." Many thousands of "Crane" binders were built by the Marsh harvester people and by D. M. Osborne & Co.
John H. Gordon, brother of Jas. F., then of Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1873 brought out his packer binder on a Marsh harvester. A few were made at Plano; and later he developed that excellent wire binder known as the "Gordon
93Buckeye," which, like others, occupied the place of the manual binders on the Marsh harvester.
S. D. Locke had a long experience, beginning in 1861. Speaking of his binder of 1864, which failed, in answer to question 193: "What harvester did you put it on?" he said: "I did not put it on a harvester, I put it on a reaper." He fully understood the distinction between the two. In answer to question 252: "My experience had taught me that some other machine than an ordinary reaper must be employed to deliver the grain successfully into a binding machine." About 1870 Walter A. Wood procured a Marsh harvester from J. D. Easter & Co. for Mr. Locke's experiments and by 1873 his wire binder, as mounted on the Marsh harvester, began to flow out of the Wood factory. And when asked in question 284 if he knew of any practical binder between 1861 and 1869 he answered: "I did not and do not now believe there was one. If there was one, it was buried long since so deep under the mechanical rubbish of the past that for it there cannot be any resurrection." Later the Wood company built the Holmes twine binder; that also was developed upon a Marsh harvester and went upon the market attached to a harvester of this class.
The Withington was a famous wire binder, and many thousands of them were built and sold by the McCormick company. Regarding this binder, Wm. R. Baker, a veteran foreman of the McCormick works, gave some interesting testimony from which I quote as follows:
Q. 16. "To what reaper or harvester were these grain binding machines attached?"
Ans. "They were attached to harvesters of the Marsh harvester type."
Q. 17. "Where were they attached on the harvester of the Marsh type as respects the location of the platform on which the men stood who bound the grain on the Marsh harvester?"
Ans. "On the same side of the machine, occupying the same position."
Q. 41. "How could a purchaser of your Marsh harvester (meaning the harvester built by the McCormick company) with the binder stand for hand binding, convert the same, if at all, into a combined harvesting and binding machine?"
Ans. "By simply removing the hand binding attachment and substituting the automatic binder in its place."
Marquis L. Gorham had a harvester and binder in the field in 1874. His patents were purchased by the McCormick company. Orange R. Gorham, cousin of the late Marquis L. Gorham, testified in the same case. He was asked:
Q. 13. "Where was this binding machine located upon the Marsh harvester with reference to the location of the platform (referring to platform on which men stood and bound) which had been removed?"
Ans. "It occupied the position vacated by the removal of the platform."
Mr. Appleby, the most successful and famous of all the inventors of binders, undertook to attach a binder to a reaper along in 1868 or '69. Later he went to Beloit, Wis., and there experimented on a Marsh harvester or one of the same type, and still later he went to Mr. Deering who represented the Marsh harvester and who pushed the machine to the front. There can be no dispute about this foremost binder's connection with our machine.
Other inventors of binders took the same course, but I have furnished testimony enough to prove that prior to the advent of the Marsh harvester all efforts to produce a practical automatic grain-binder in connection with any reaper had failed, and that soon after our harvester appeared upon the market the various inventors of binders made successful attachments of their machines thereto, the fittest having survived and held place on our form or style of machine to this day. And I may add that all efforts made since to produce a practical binder without the harvester for its foundation have failed, some of them disastrously, as I can well attest.
Whether the patents were good or not, the Marsh harvester was the first of its class. And in view of all it accomplished, first as a hand-binding harvester and next as foundation for and in combination with the automatic binder, constituting the standard grain binding harvester of the world, every machine showing its plan and form, I feel justified in asking what other machine in the general class of harvesting machinery is or has been of greater value to the world and to its manufacturers, or was more worthy of patent protection?
Now I will have something to say about the patents. The original combination claim, suggested by the examiner to Munn & Co., our patent agents, as the easiest way to obtain the patent office fee and for them to earn their $25, was found to be worthless by the first patent lawyer who examined the patent, some six years after its issue, just as we were beginning to put machines upon the market and several years before infringers began to build. Having obtained instructions from the patent office, I undertook the reissue. I also had applied for patent on improvements
96which was granted in 1864. These had to be reissued again after our lawyers, employed a little later, had examined them. The 1864 patent covered the extension forward of the elevator. Another patent was granted in 1867 covering rear drive belt.
To state it briefly, in the suit against the McCormicks, the only one carried through, the other suits being held in abeyance, we set forth infringement of the claims covering binders' tables, binders' platform, curved deflector at top of elevator, location of binders' platform in line with drive wheel and grain wheel for traction, fore and aft balance, and front extension of elevator. As is usual in such cases, several "hidden away" and "abortive" efforts of the past were brought forward to defeat the priority of our claims; but of these I shall take no notice.
The sharpest fight was over the function of the castor wheel, under the bundle carrier located behind the binders' stand. The purpose of this castor wheel was to prevent the carrier from striking the ground, especially when turning a corner in the field; but as the model made for the patent office was not provided with reel, pole and other front fixings, because no claims were based on them, it rested back on the castor wheel as well as upon the two ground wheels (drive wheel and grain wheel), hence the defendants contended that the machine patented was a three-wheeled machine and must be hauled by a limber tongue or pole, that is, jointed at its attachment to the machine, and that consequently such of our claims as were based on the assumption that our patented machine was a two-wheeler, to be pulled by a rigidly attached pole, were worthless.
Looking at the denuded model any one might think it
97was a three-wheeler, to be pulled by a limber pole, provided he did not take into consideration the front fixtures yet to be added and did not know that the draft forward and the downward strain in cutting, with sickle beam in front of the two ground wheels, would surely pitch the machine forward and render it inoperative, practically, unless supported in front by stiff pole.
In my testimony I explained that the patented machine was a two-wheeler with rigid pole, the castor being simply a floating safety wheel; that the main frame of the first harvester, built from original model, projected rearward for bundle carrier and this safety wheel, but that we went into the field without attaching either, and never did in fact. Defendants contended that it was impossible to operate the machine constructed according to model and patent without use of limber pole. This contention resulted in the waste of much time and in much expense and ill feeling. It was dogmatic science on a rigid level against experience in the grain field, and it was ignorance ridiculing what it did not understand.
I knew that such floating safety wheels had been sent out with all the Mann machines in 1857 to support the rear of the platform when turning corners, and I knew for what purpose our castor was intended. To settle the matter two full sized complete machines were made from the model of 1858, one by Mr. Bayliss, another defendant, and one by ourselves. The first was built with view of supporting defendants' theory and the second with full knowledge on my part that it would operate the same as did the first harvester we built.
The Bayliss machine was tried by Mr. Bayliss and his experts — no one on our side being present — who reported
98under oath that the machine was inoperative with stiff pole, but would work pretty well with limber pole. As it was entered as "Defendants' Exhibit" in this McCormick suit, we had right to try it; and it and our full sized Marsh of 1858 were put in the same grain field. It showed plainly that the builder wanted it to discredit the patent and to support the three-wheel, limber pole theory, as it was coarsely constructed and disproportionately heavy in the rear. It did not do good work and it would not operate according to the opposing testimony; with the pole limber it ran wabbly and some of the time on its nose, lifting castor wheel off the ground, but with rigid pole it ran steadily and without any difficulty over any ground in the field. We wanted Mr. Bayliss or some of his experts who were present to show us how they managed to get the sort of work they had testified to, but they declined. I should add that the McCormicks did not build that machine, nor did they expert it; but they used it in their defense, not knowing the character of its construction and operation. Our model 1858 machine operated as I had testified that it would and did good, practical work. We were very sorry that the judge could not see the performances of both.
This castor wheel episode had no effect upon the judge's decision, as that was based, not on the merits of the case or any of the testimony, but simply upon the then recent decisions of the Supreme Court which rendered invalid deferred reissues; and I have paid more attention to it than it deserves because the defendants made so much of it, especially before that final trial.
And I have dwelt longer on the harvester than I intended; but having taken hold it was hard to let go. I did
99not undertake this review because it was agreeable to me, for looking back over our part in the history of the harvester I can recall little but care and doubt in the beginning, hard work and bitter contests succeeding, and great loss and flat failure for the ending; but I felt that it was a duty to our children, if to no one else, to leave a record of the facts regarding the course of the Marsh harvester.
I know that the public has fallen into the habit of giving the elder C. H. McCormick full credit for the invention of the modern harvesting machine as if it were his production or a simple improvement on his reaper. As well might it be said that Franklin was the inventor of the telegraph or Morse was the inventor of the telephone. I have no disposition to question his right to his reaper or the greatness of his work; but there is nothing of his, as original invention, in the modern self-binding grain harvester.
Judge Drummond's decision, which follows, shows that the new decisions of the Supreme Court made it useless for him to consider the merits of the invention. Our suit was next in number to the Ellwood-Glidden barb wire case; had it also been before Judge Blodgett it would have been decided before the Supreme Court decisions killed reissues, as theirs was, and with similar effect upon our fortunes. Judge Drummond was notably slow.
Charles W. Marsh, et al. )
Cyrus H. McCormick, et al.)
"This case was argued by the counsel of the respective parties upon the general merits involved in the pleadings, exhibits, and evidence; but the court considers it unnecessary to discuss or decide any other question in the case than that which arises upon the validity of the reissue of the respective patents mentioned in the pleadings. Whatever may be my own opinion upon the validity of these reissues it seems to me that recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States render it necessary for this court to hold that these reissues are invalid. There is no doubt that the Supreme Court has heretofore decided to be valid many reissues obtained at a longer interval from the date of original patents than in this case; but that court in its recent decisions several times repeated seems inclined to hold and to adhere to its ruling that when reissues have been obtained after the lapse of so many years as in this case, that laches will be imputed in the absence of any explanation repelling the same to the parties obtaining the reissue and therefore that they are invalid on that account. In this case no explanation of the delay is given, and therefore in conformity with these several rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States, I think I must hold
101in this case that the reissues are invalid and that the bill must be dismissed."
Judge Drummond's decision simply announced that the Marsh patents had been beaten by the Supreme Court's reversal of its own decisions and not by the McCormicks. But they and other infringers were enabled thereby to trespass with impunity upon our rights in the machine, whether legal or moral, the same as if the patents had been beaten on their merits. Had the question of laches been raised during the course of the suit, we could have furnished as good and sufficient explanation as in any case of the kind.
After the expiration of the patents and reissues, one of Walter A. Wood's attorneys sent me a copy of the opinion of Esek Cowan, chief counsel of the Wood company. After discussing the various claims he said:
"But these things are to be observed:
"1. The Marsh invention was a very meritorious one, which held the market for a long time and was very generally adopted.
"2. The reissue (No. 2015) includes nothing but what was clearly shown and clearly described in the original, though claimed in connection with other devices.
"3. The reissue is within seven years of the date of the patent and was granted, as I am informed, not to cover subsequent inventions, but before the Marsh harvester had gone into use to any extent.
"4. The very stringent doctrine of the Supreme Court may perhaps be a trifle modified in view of these facts,
102and if so the liability of the Wood company would be measured by hundreds of thousands, even at a very moderate royalty * * *.
"It seems to me that it would be only prudent to make such a settlement in view of the uncertainty of litigation, and of the very serious consequences to your company, if the decision in the McCormick case should be favorable to the patents."
One can imagine what a difference in our fortunes proper issue of our patents would have made.
In speaking of the bitter fight against the harvester I did not mean to pass any reflections upon the methods or practices of the opposing manufacturers. Strenuous competition was the rule in those days. For each machine a fight for life on the market had to be made. The makers and representatives of the various reapers were continually at war with each other, in the fields, at trials and in their publications; but the harvester, being distinctly different, had to bear the brunt of their combined attacks.
The leaders of that period were like generals of opposing armies, winning and losing battles — advancing, retreating, strengthening, re-forming and again marching forward. They lived strenuous lives and some fell by the way. Against the earlier pioneers, McCormick, Hussey, Esterly, Seymour and Morgan, J. H. Manny, Talcott and Emerson, et al, there rushed into the arena such grand men as D. M. Osborne, Walter A. Wood, Lewis Miller, the Whiteley brothers, Ben. Warder, Cyrenus Wheeler, Sam. Johnston, et al. "There were giants in those days."
And when our harvester entered the field besides ourselves and the Steward brothers — Lewis, George and John F. — its flag was borne forward by J. D. Easter, E.
103H. Gammon, William Deering, Ralph Emerson and W. A. Talcott. They planted it so firmly that, with its ally the automatic binder, it has been able to "hold the fort" against all.
IN 1858 gold was discovered at or in the vicinity of Pike's Peak, Colo. The exaggerated reports of the findings were readily believed by those of our people who were out of employment or had suffered most from the effects of the recent panic, the worthless money and the poor crops. They turned in that direction for relief, and thousands of them in 1859 took their weary course across the plains, generally illy provided for such a journey. Many started on foot, some with so little means that they had to take the chance of working or begging their way through.
The sufferings on the way and on their arrival in that then barren and uninhabited region can better be imagined than described. Hundreds died from want and exposure and the various hardships of the journey and return; for, as little gold was found, scarcely any for the bare-handed, the majority had to turn back under conditions much less favorable than when they started out.
A humorous illustration of the trip was that of the party that passed through this section early in the pilgrimage with good team and gaily painted wagon, on the clean canvas cover of which latter was painted in big letters the legend "Pike's Peak or Bust," and many weeks later returned with team, lean and crippled, and
105wagon, worn and scarred, bearing on its tattered canvas under the said legend the words, "Busted, by Thunder," scrawled with the burnt point of a stick.
These people were not looking for silver, and many rocks rich in that metal were pawed aside in their fruitless search for gold. However, many staid because they had to stay, more gold was discovered and later much silver, the result of it all being that an empire in extent and wealth was founded with Denver for its capital.
The blighted grain of 1858 and the drouth and frosts of 1859 had provided no means for recovery from the effects of the panic of 1857, and we entered 1860 in deep depression. But nature did more for us that year than it ever had done before or has done since; it gave us the best of all our crop seasons. The winter was steadily and moderately cold. Soon after the beginning of the year snow fell without wind to the depth or six or seven inches. This made a good foundation for sleighing and more snow falling, sleighing continued good until about the first of March, when it melted away so gradually under warm sunshine that the ground dried as fast as it was uncovered and the roads continued good while the frost was coming out. The fields were ready for seeding as early as March 10. We began sowing wheat that day and dust followed the drag.
The weather continued wholly favorable through the season with the result that our crops of every kind, grain, grass, vegetables and fruit, were enormous. The wheat crop gave good returns to those who sold early, as prices were fair for a few weeks after harvest, and the yield averaged about thirty bushels per acre. But the increasing excitement of the presidential campaign,
106as the day of election grew near, depressed the markets, and the evident determination of the south to secede after the election of Lincoln demoralized business in general. Prices of all products rapidly declined and of some fell below the cost of production. Corn during the winter following sold as low as ten cents per bushel. A considerable portion of the crop was burned for fuel.
About the middle of May, 1860, a terrible tornado crossed the Mississippi river, partly destroying Albany on this side and killing several people there; thence it went eastward across the state, leveling everything in its way. It passed through Lee Center, destroying several houses and killing a few people; it plowed a channel through Twin Grove, erased a farm house northwest of Shabbona Grove, killing its three inmates; then bounded upward to strike again at Dundee, where it did considerable damage and passed on to dissipate itself over Lake Michigan. Fortunately its track was narrow, only about twenty rods wide where its awful power was most manifest, and the country through which it passed was thinly settled at that time, else there would have been much loss of life and property.
We drove westward along its track several miles the next day. Where the track was narrowest and its greatest force exerted, everything was pulverized; the prairie was scalped, large boulders were torn from the sod and carried off bodily. The cast iron drive wheel of a McCormick reaper was found nearly two miles from the place where the machine was demolished. The tires, strung out and twisted like a string, and a few scattered spokes were all that we could find of a wagon that had stood at the farm house. The whirl of the tornado was
107toward its center and against the course of the sun, as was plainly to be seen from the circular marks left on the ground, and the stuff caught in its grasp was shot up from the center and widely scattered over the country on both sides, as no wind was blowing across its track.
DURING the course of the presidential campaign all parties made strenuous efforts to arouse the voters, and the excitement was intense. The Wide Awakes, a semi-military organization, uniformed and drilled, comprising a majority of the young Republicans, with torches and banners and music paraded at the political meetings of their party. The more hot-headed organized companies for military drill, having for example Col. Ellsworth and his Zouaves, whose wonderful performances were witnessed at the Wigwam in Chicago, where Lincoln was nominated, and at other great public gatherings. Probably this military spirit got its impetus or incentive not so much from expectation of war with the south as from the newspaper accounts of the spectacular performances of the French emperor's Zouaves and Turcos in the war with Austria the year before. Whether so or not, I know that we Lincoln Republicans had no ill-feeling against the south; that we had no disposition to meddle with slavery there, and that all we wanted was to keep slavery within its bounds and to preserve the union, hoping that the good sense and patriotism
109of the majority on both sides of the line would prevent the hot-heads from rushing the country into war.
After the election, when it became evident that South Carolina and probably other southern states really meant to secede, nearly everybody realized the gravity of the situation, and many foresaw the direful conflict confronting us. The military spirit subsided somewhat. The hilarity of the campaign was succeeded by depression. Thoughtful men, and those who had much at stake, hated the idea of war with all its fearful consequences. I was one of the latter. The year before I had married, there was a baby boy in the house and we had "great expectations" on our harvester. It seemed to us that war would interrupt all our plans and spoil the best years of our lives. Hence we deprecated offensive agitation, still hoping for compromise.
But not all felt as we did. Some were too violently inflamed against the south to keep quiet; and there were many who, having lost much or all during the long period of hard times, or being out of employment on account of the industrial stagnation, cared little for consequences and were waiting for anything to turn up; these were ready to lend themselves to any kind of fun or excitement.
In nearly all rural communities there are restless and ambitious persons, generally young men, who seek to be leaders and have their followers, and who take advantage of any occasion to push themselves forward. It was so in our community. They had organized a sort of military company during the campaign and had drilled the boys as best they could, using laths and sticks for guns. But they had attracted more ridicule than serious attention
110They were quiet after election until somebody introduced a bill in the state legislature, providing, as I remember, among other things, that the guns in the arsenal at Springfield be loaned to such amateur military companies. At once the boys were called out and a public drill at the little town of Shabbona Grove was announced, where recruits would be solicited. This brought together several of us who were opposed to such demonstration. We did not regard the matter seriously; we simply did not like it and were disposed to make fun of it. Some one remarked "Marsh, why not fire one of your poems at them?" It was so agreed, the fellow who proposed it offered to read the production to the crowd that would be witnessing the drill. I wrote the "poem" and gave it to him; but after getting there I asked him not to read it, as these would-be soldiers were mostly good fellows and were being sufficiently guyed by the crowd.
Because it gives a good idea of the feelings of conservative young Republicans at that time, and because I think it rather witty, I will reproduce it.
Look down upon us here, I pray.
I know thou hast but little leisure,
Hearing so many prayers each day.
Put some aside and 'tend to us,
For we're the boys will save the kentry;
We've sworn to stop this pesky fuss.
That we were "pukes" or "string-beans" we;
It so we have been much berated.
Behold us, gallant sons of thee!
Our Capting P______, gellorious feller!
Knew we the ship of state could save,
And so he called us boys together,
And to us all directions gave.
And coaxed him to accept the station;
His modesty's great, but we did 'spect
His love was greater for the nation.
And then he swore by the eternal
That if his kentry should demand it,
He'd not refuse though made a Kernel.
Our leaders and our mighty men.
We've always done just as they told us,
No matter what or where or when.
And never have dared disobey;
At caucus or town-meeting turn-up,
We always do just as they say.
When our ossifers put us through;
When they whoa-haw and then back-gee us,
He'd swear for spite par sacre dieu!
Proclaim of war he'd now have done,
Disband his Zuaves and corps Turco,
And cry "my occupation's gone."
Though without, I think, we'll fight quite well. For we're so bold, our chiefs so brave,
We'll foller them if they — go — to — h—ll.
Soon after it was reported that the bill referred to had been defeated and the company disbanded. But a few weeks later, this military spirit was revived as by an electric shock and the fires of patriotism kindled throughout the north by the news of the firing on Fort Sumter. Most of these boys and their "ossifers," and of those who poked fun at them, went into the real war when the call came and fought bravely on many a bloody field.
The arrogant and reckless act of the south in firing upon Fort Sumter aroused the north to a white heat of indignation. It was looked upon as a direct challenge to this section, and our people, with few exceptions and regardless of party or previous policy, accepted it as such and stepped promptly forward to meet it. The first blow had been struck, compromise was now out of the question, the union must be preserved and the rebels punished for their temerity. The president's first call for seventy-five thousand volunteers to serve for three months, made a few days after the fall of Sumter, was answered as soon as it was heard. The boys tumbled over each other, so to speak, to get place in the ranks, and so they did when second call was made a couple of weeks later.
Now most of the men who responded to these first calls were not actuated so much by burning patriotism, or by a disposition to really hurt the people of the south, as they were to show the latter that the north had got tired of their foolishness and meant to make them behave
113— the opportunity to enlist offering relief from the prevailing inactivity and employment in a novel and exciting but not particularly dangerous undertaking. Most of our people believed that the prompt and general uprising in the north would bring the people of the south to their senses and that the trouble soon would be over. They were encouraged in this belief by such eminent authority as William H. Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, who so signally failed to understand the temper of the south and the magnitude of the impending struggle that, even after the fall of Sumter, he asserted that the contest would be settled inside of three months. And our own Gen. John F. Farnsworth told us in one of his speeches that, if need were, our women with their brooms could sweep the rebels into the Gulf of Mexico. In short, comparatively few at that time anticipated much serious fighting.
But the southern agitators had worked their people into a fury of hate and pride by representing that we of the north were sordid, selfish, ever disposed to encroach upon the rights of others, and so cowardly that a half dozen of us would be no match for one of them; so really they did not want to be in association or union with us and they had no idea that we could make them stay in. Of course, with such notions in their heads, any reasonable compromise or settlement was impossible. Their hatred and contempt for us and our lack of enmity toward them will account for the discomfiture of our armies in the first battles of the war. Our soldiers and the folks at home had to suffer much before their anger was sufficiently aroused to make them anxious to hurt the south.
People in late years, not familiar with the conditions
114existing at the beginning of the war, have been disposed to give to those who first enlisted more credit for patriotism and courage than to those who enlisted later, and also to speak disparagingly of the "stay-at-homes" of that period. As a matter of fact the latter often displayed real self-denial in giving place to those who wanted to go, or they held back because their self-sacrifice in leaving would be greater than that of those who were crowding in before them; besides men were needed at home as well as in the army, and generally those who remained at home were the ones most needed there. Remembering the conditions I think "honors were easy" as between the men who first enlisted and the men who remained. And I think also that those who last enlisted under the inducement of big bounties should not throw stones at the stay-at-homes. But if special credit for patriotism and self-sacrifice is due to any class it is to the men who came forward immediately after the first year of the war when its horrors were manifest in the killed and wounded and the sick, and when the magnitude of the struggle was apparent to all. In all this I do not mean to detract in the least from the credit due to our western volunteers, whether they enlisted early or late, for I believe this section turned out the best and bravest men, taking them as a whole, that ever learned to be soldiers. Southern soldiers were just as brave but not so steady.
THE deplorable conditions just before and at the beginning of the war were intensified by the complete demoralization of our paper currency. Following the collapse of the wild cat money and of the various banks of issue that failed during the panic of 1857, the bad years of 1858 and 1859 gave us little surplus for the market and money of any sort was mighty scarce with us. Gold and silver money was in limited circulation and our paper currency was mostly bills of our state banks secured by the bonds of southern states. The value of these bills followed the quickly successive movements of these states in their course of secession. For instance, when the legislature of a state was called together to consider the question of secession the bonds of that state immediately fell off several points and the bills secured by them would be marked down accordingly at the financial headquarters in Chicago, notices being sent out stating the discount or the value put upon them by the banks. Next would come the news that the legislature had convened and resolution for secession introduced, then another fall in bonds and bills would follow; finally the state would secede and the bonds and bills would be nearly or quite worthless. As several states were in the course of secession, some moving quickly
116and others slowly, the complications, the uncertainties and the rapidity of the changes from bad to worse may be imagined. If we had bills in pocket we knew not what the value of one or the other might be or which would be worthless next morning. When the war was really on, all this money, known at the time as "stump-tail," was worthless; and, as the better secured bills of other northern states seldom reached us, we had to depend upon the little gold and silver in circulation.
The extraordinary expenses incident to the preparations for and prosecution of the war soon exhausted the treasury and forced the government to borrow from banks and capitalists; and, as the diminished revenues were incapable even of furnishing the means for repaying the loans, the government, as emergencies compelled, issued treasury notes due at fixed times — one year, two years and three years. These notes, because of the fear that the government would be unable to pay them at maturity, soon suffered discount for coin, which latter was being withdrawn from circulation. Next the banks suspended specie payment. Finally, early in 1862, when it became evident that the government needed very much more money than it could obtain through its revenues or by borrowing, and that it could not maintain its notes at par with coin, the legal tender act was passed by Congress and bills, since known as "greenbacks," were issued as needs demanded. Immediately all the coin was withdrawn and we saw no more in circulation during the seventeen years ensuing. Many young people in this country reached the age of maturity without ever having handled a piece of gold or silver money and only had seen such in the show windows of banks and brokers.
The withdrawal of all the coin left us without change of any kind except postage stamps, which came into general use for such purpose and went largely into circulation; hence the slang expression "he's got the stamps," as applied to a person having money in plenty. Some months later, to meet the urgent demands for change, Congress authorized the issue of fractional currency, known thereafter as "shinplasters."
The country was now provided with standard paper money, money that would pass for its face in trade and in the payment of debts. Although its value, as measured by coin, might decline, such decline was only shown in the advancing prices of things bought and sold. It proved to be excellent money for the times. Therewith provided, with good crops and increasing foreign demand for our agricultural surplus, and also with large and increasing war demands for the products of both factory and farm, the northern states soon recovered from previous losses and entered upon a long period of material prosperity.
But the years of the war were sad and gloomy. Our young men, our friends and relatives, were scattered through all the armies, and battles were so frequent that constantly we were watching with solemn interest the reports from the bloody fields to learn who had been killed or wounded. After every important battle one or more of our families had lost a member. And the reports of sickness and death were about as frequent from the hospitals. Nearly or quite every family in our neighborhood was called upon to mourn such loss or losses before the war was over.
JAMES LOW, one of my cousins in the army, died at Gallatin, Tenn., in the spring of 1863. Shortly after, Uncle Low learned that another son, Johnson Low, had fallen sick and had been taken to a hospital in Memphis. As my uncle was then suffering from heart disease, from which he died a few months later, I was asked to go down to Memphis to find the boy, get his discharge, if possible, and bring him home if he was able to come.
Transportation then was by the Illinois Central Railway to Cairo, thence by boat to Memphis. On the way to Cairo battles and war measures were freely discussed by the passengers. One of them near me having made a statement which I knew was incorrect, regarding the action of the administration at Washington on the Mason and Slidell affair, I contradicted him. He was indignant and positive and so was I. The argument was becoming rather hot when a gentleman, who was sitting in front of us and had taken no part in any of the discussions, turned toward us and said, addressing me:
"Young man, you are right. I was there and I know." This ended the discussion, as I remember.
He was a broad-shouldered, fine looking man of about forty years. As his countenance was inviting I took
119the liberty soon after to thank him for helping me out in the argument. He volunteered some information regarding the point at issue, then he asked me where I was going. I told him where and what for. He said he was going to Memphis, also, for a sick son who was in some hospital there. The similarity of our purposes led to further conversation. Finally he suggested that we keep together, which we did for the several days we were on the road, and in Memphis, until he found his son and started homeward with him.
He was John F. Potter, member of Congress from Wisconsin, known then throughout the country as "Bowie-Knife" Potter. He died three or four years ago. Quite unlike the cartoons of him in 1860 and later, which generally represented him as a big raw-boned, hairy-faced lumberman, he was a handsome man, smooth-shaven, of medium size but of rather stout build, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. As he found in me an earnest listener he talked freely about national affairs, and his own. Of course I asked him about the fracas in Congress in which he had participated and his affair that followed with Roger A. Pryor. The following was his version:
Little attention was given to anything but slavery in the Congress of 1860. The discussions were bitter, often sharply personal. The southern members, generally, manifested more arrogance than usual, and several were out spoken in their contempt for the honor and courage of the north. Such aspersions, he said, had enraged him and he wondered that northern members, who had been directly assailed or insulted, could have shown so little resentment.
Finally one day Galusha A. Grow, a member from
120Pennsylvania, a man rather weak in body but strong in language, in one of his impassioned speeches on the ever burning question, walked down the aisle and faced the Democratic side of the House. Some one on that side told him to address the speaker. Then Keitt, of South Carolina, ordered him to return to his seat; but he continued and the fiery southerner sprang out with intent to force him back. At this Potter and others from each side rushed into the aisle and a disgraceful scrimmage was the result. Mr. Potter said he hardly knew what happened next, further than that he was pushing and hitting in his endeavor to reach Grow. In the melee he hit Barksdale, of Mississippi, on the head and in withdrawing his hand Barksdale's wig came with it. At the instant his thought was that he had knocked off the top of the man's head, and the sensation for a moment was horrible; but when he saw what it was, the whole affair seemed so ridiculous that he gave the wig a fling into the crowd, laughed to himself and backed out, the scrimmage being about through, with nobody much hurt.
Pryor was not in the row, as I remember the story; but next day, in discussing the fracas, Potter and he exchanged some hot words which resulted in a challenge from Pryor. Potter accepted it and having, as the challenged party, the right to name the weapons, he chose the bowie knife, inasmuch as he was not skilled in the use of pistols or sword and the bowie was a southern weapon. It was reported that he also stipulated that the duel should take place in a dark room; but if my memory is correct he denied this. As Pryor was a small man, his friends contended that he would be at too much disadvantage; so they prevailed on him not to accept the
121terms and the matter rested. Mr. Potter said he expected to be attacked on the street and went prepared therefor, for several days.
The northern newspapers made the most of the affair, or course, publishing a lot of sensational stuff about it, generally in praise of Mr. Potters action; in consequence he became for a time the hero of the north. Some of his eastern admirers had an immense bowie knife made for him, which they presented, with a glowing eulogy. Several years later I visited Mr. Potter at his home on Potter's lake, a few miles from the old town of East Troy, Wis. The great bowie, five or six feet long, elaborately finished, was then standing on the veranda of the old tavern. I mentioned it to him and he said he had given it to the town because he did not want the ugly thing about the house.
In the spring of 1863 the western army under Grant was drawing in towards Vicksburg. Memphis was the headquarters for the receipt and distribution of supplies, and it was also the great center of hospitals. The city was a huge exposition of the waste of war in lives and property and of its generally demoralizing consequences. Rows of residences along the river bank had been removed or destroyed, evidently for the purpose of having open ground in case of attack. The city was dirty, ragged and neglected. Its government was subservient to the army and was unable or unwilling to keep public utilities in repair. The citizens in general had given up, withdrawn into their homes or gone away; for few were seen on the streets, which, apparently, were given over to negroes and mules, and soldiers and prostitutes. But
122saddest of all were the many great hospitals filled with the wounded, the sick and the dying.
The finding of my cousin was a difficult undertaking. I only knew that he was in a hospital in Memphis and I had to inquire from one to another. The stewards, pestered by so many such inquiries, were irritable and slow in giving answer or information. The one in charge of the hospital where I found my cousin's name entered was half drunk. I had to wait some time for the doctor, who was out, for permission to see the boy. When the doctor came I saw that he, too, was full of whiskey; but he was good natured and went with me. The boy was glad enough to see me. He was anxious to go home, to get out from among the sick and dying. The doctor said that he would not be able to stand the journey, but the boy insisted that he could. The doctor then advised me to see Dr. Allen, or rather Col. Allen as he ranked, chief of the department of hospitals, etc., and possibly I might induce him to see and discharge the boy, who was in the first stage of consumption he thought. It was not an easy matter to get an interview with Col. Allen; but I found a friend in his secretary who put the case so well before the Colonel that he sent out for me and within fifteen minutes we were in his carriage and on the way to the hospital. He examined my cousin and gave orders for his discharge. When leaving the ward I passed with the doctor into a small room adjoining, the room into which patients were carried when death was near. On a cot lay a dying soldier, a young man of large frame and good features, but so wasted that he was but skin and bone, apparently. He was dictating to an attendant his last letter to his wife. He would say
123a few words, then pause for breath and try again. Two big tears had rolled from his eyes into the hollows below and lay there alone as if they had exhausted the fountain.
My cousin and I started for home two or three days later. He bore the journey well. He never fully regained his health, but died within a few years as a result of his experience in the army.
In the summer of 1860 a slender, sickly-looking young fellow came to the house and asked if we needed help, saying that he had broken down in school and was tramping for his health, but now would like to do light work for a while and would leave the question of wages to us, to be settled when we could know what his work might be worth. His appearance was in his favor and we took him in. His name was Rodman Cook, a brother of lawyer Homer Cook, of Waukegan, partner of the late Judge Upton before the latter was elected to the bench. He was bright and interesting, quite well educated and greedy for information. He remained with us a couple of months, when we settled with him to his satisfaction and he left for home, we supposed. We heard nothing from him afterwards.
One day while in Memphis I met on the street a strapping young officer, of unusually neat and soldierly appearance, who, after passing, turned and called my name. It was Rodman Cook. We went to the hotel together and he told me his story. As I remember it, he had gone into the army in the spring of 1861, not as a soldier but in some clerical capacity. He was at the siege of Island No. 10, and when that place was taken he went on down the river to Memphis with the fleet
124of Commodore Davis. There he got in with some fellows who were running boats up the rivers and bayous for cotton. This was very dangerous work; but it paid extremely well, as cotton was so scarce and dear during the war that a boatload was a little fortune; and there was no lack of reckless fellows who would take the risk for the money that was in it. The Confederates carefully guarded their cotton, as it was their most valuable asset, and they had no mercy for the cotton hunters or cotton raiders if the latter were trapped or taken in any fight. Young Cook had been on several of these excursions with very successful results, had made quite a lot of money and had worked his way up until at that time he was in command of a swift little cotton steamer, well armed. He was then about to start on one of his expeditions. We parted with best wishes for each others success. Not long after my return home, there was among the war items in the newspaper one from Memphis stating that Captain Rodman Cook had been shot from ambush and killed while standing on the deck of his cotton boat. He was one of the many who never returned.
In the summer of 1863, as I recollect, something in which the town was deeply interested, I have forgotten what it was, required the advice or sanction of Governor Yates. He was stopping at the Sherman House in Chicago at the time, and I was deputed to lay the matter before him. There was no difficulty in obtaining an audience with him. He received me in his room, Mrs. Yates being present and remaining through the interview. I stated my case, and as it was one that required some consideration, inquiries on his part and explanations on mine, the interview was long enough to give me lasting
125impressions of the man. I liked him at once, because of his kindly, courteous manner when receiving me. I was but a young farmer and expected to be treated coolly or indifferently; but his cordiality put me at ease, relieved me of all embarrassment and gave me confidence while presenting my case. He paid not merely respectful but interested attention to my statements, disclosing a natural willingness to please or to favor. His action regarding the matter under consideration was satisfactory. When I left him I was, as one writes, his "grateful and obedient servant" politically, and I always so remained. Our great war governor was in person and manner a very attractive gentleman.
IN the fall of 1863 I moved to Plano, and in connection with George Steward, backed by Lewis Steward, we began the manufacture of Marsh harvesters in the little shop attached to the grain elevator of Steward & Henning. We got out twenty-five machines for the harvest of 1864, which we marketed successfully.
During the two or three preceding seasons we had tried hard to interest manufacturers of reapers and of other farm machinery, and capitalists also, by showing them the work of our harvester in various fields and by participating in the reaper trial held at DeKalb in the harvest of 1863 where we won first prize, my brother binding an acre of heavy grain in fifty-two minutes, doing excellent work; but, though its performance was eminently satisfactory in every instance, we could not induce them to undertake its manufacture. Apparently it was such an innovation in form and operation, and our work on it so much beyond what they believed to be the capacity of ordinary binders, that they feared to take hold of it.
Our effort at Plano convinced us that we had not the
127necessary experience, means and command of mechanical ability to successfully manufacture the machine and establish it on the market. It induced us to accept the offer of Champlin & Taylor, of Sycamore, for a third interest in our patents, and to consent to grant a license to Easter & Gammon, of Chicago, for six of the then best states. They obtained such license on their representations that they were fully competent to develop the machine in the shop and on the market.
I think now that the granting of this license was our first great mistake (the weakness of our patents being more a misfortune than a mistake and then subject to full correction, as permitted by the law, by the rules of the patent office and by the decisions of the Supreme Court); for, as it turned out, Easter & Gammon had worse luck in their first efforts at getting a thoroughly well made and well formed machine upon the market than we had at Piano, which forced us to continue our work there, with a limited territory, in order to keep up the reputation of the machine. In the fall of 1864 I returned to the farm, and not long after my brother took my place at Plano.
January 1, 1864, was the most terrible day of all in the sixty-one winters I have seen in this country. The storm began in the night before with heavy snow and strong southwest wind. In the morning the wind, increasing, veered to the west and later to the northwest and the cold rapidly increased, thermometers during the day and evening registering from thirty to thirty-five degrees below zero. It was almost impossible to make headway against the blinding snow and arctic wind. The snow was piled in huge drifts, rendering highways and railways
128ways almost or quite impassable for several days. Much stock in transit perished and in several instances passengers were held many hours in the drift-blocked cars. As cattle on the farms were then seldom housed, but left to care for themselves about the straw stacks and under the sheds, they suffered terribly; some were frozen to death and many droves, maddened by their sufferings, stampeded down the wind, seeking shelter in groves or ravines to be gathered in or digged out as found after the storm subsided. Quite a number of cattle were buried under the snow that drifted over the straw stacks against which they were trying to find shelter or under stacks that were blown over by the blast, and some were taken out alive after being thus buried for many days, as happened to two steers on our farm. It was estimated that half the fowls in our country were frozen in their shelters or blown away.
The spring of 1865 opened early and pleasant. War news indicated that the Confederates were becoming exhausted, that they would soon have to give up the struggle, and that the long and bloody contest was nearing its close. Early in April we learned that the "On to Richmond" cry, which had caused the shedding of so much blood, had at last been answered and the city was in the possession of our army. Almost immediately following came the news of Lee's surrender. It was glad news to us all and great was the rejoicing.
One morning a few days later, we loaded up our farm wagon with ourselves and men and started for the little old town of Shabbona Grove, three miles away, to hear the latest news and to join in the general congratulations. We were a hilarious party. As we descended the
129bluff and looked across the valley of Indian creek upon the little town on the other side, we saw that the flag was at half-mast. It gave us a chill. "What can have happened? What can have happened?" we repeated. Before the store and postoffice as we drove up was an excited crowd. To the question, "What is the matter?" we were answered, "The south has risen again, Lincoln and his cabinet are murdered, and Washington is taken." "Not quite so bad as that," called out another, "Washington is not taken, but Lincoln and Seward are killed, that's sure."
Never during all the war with its worst returns of killed and wounded were more bitter curses heaped upon the south than by that little crowd. The change from joy to bitter grief and disappointment fairly crazed the people. They wept and swore together and I think every man there, able to go, would have enlisted at once if called upon then. A little later a rider came in from Leland and gave us more assuring news. Washington had not been attacked, Seward was yet alive, but Lincoln was dead. However we still supposed that this outbreak was the result of a conspiracy in the south to murder our leaders and to renew the war, and we expected to hear next that the rebels were rushing toward Washington. In short, we were so excited that we were ready to believe anything before the papers came containing full accounts of the affair, which by the way were sufficiently sensational.
The assassination of President Lincoln was a great disaster to the nation, and it was a doubly sad blow to the unfortunate south; for, although we soon learned that the crime was but the frenzied deed of a half-mad actor,
130in no way instigated by the southern people or their leaders, it reached the hearts of the entire north and hardened them at a time when they were being softened by the return of peace and by the losses and misfortunes of the south, and it struck down the man best fitted and most disposed to lead this sentiment toward gentle and magnanimous measures. Had Lincoln lived the policy of reconstruction would have been milder, less offensive and less humiliating to the southern people.
During the winter of 1865, when it became evident that the war was nearly over, we often wondered what might be the consequences when the hundreds of thousands of soldiers would be disbanded and sent home. For years the majority of them had been withdrawn from peaceful occupations and engaged in the destructive operations of war, from the quietude of home to the rough and stirring activity of camp and field. They had been familiarized with the taking of life, with suffering in every form and with the forceful appropriation of property not their own.
Such experience, we thought, must necessarily have been more or less hardening or demoralizing upon all, and upon the many with tendencies toward evil it must have developed inclination to lawlessness and crime. How will all these men, poured upon the country at once, find employment? Will not many be disinclined to work and will not a considerable number resort to robbery or other crimes? Thus we wondered and queried, having in mind what has happened in other countries after long wars. But to the honor of our army boys, and especially those of the west, it can be said that as they returned they quietly melted, as it seemed, into their respective
131communities with very little disturbance to moral or industrial conditions.
During and after the second year of the war, the issue of greenbacks and of national bank bills later, furnished plenty of currency, all of the same value; and as crops were good and prices of all products high and rising, business became very active and prosperity general in this part of the country. The conditions particularly favored the farmers, because the debts contracted during the bad previous years could now be paid with the cheap money received for their dear products.
War requirements in addition to foreign demand greatly stimulated production with the result that the area under cultivation was rapidly increased; and so was the demand for improved farm machinery, not only in consequence of the larger acreage but because scarcity of help required more and better implements. Drills, seeders, corn planters, double cultivators, mowers, horse rakes, self-raking reapers, etc., in large variety and of good construction came into common use. Sewing machines were in nearly every farmer's house, organs had displaced melodeons and occasionally a piano found place there.
Before the war very little attention had been given by prairie farmers to the production of tame hay; but the requirements of the army for that product resulted in the general seeding of meadows and an increased demand for mowers, rakes and hay tools in consequence. Just as the war closed the value of paper money, as measured by gold, suddenly advanced and prices of all commodities fell accordingly, but financiers soon took into consideration the enormous debt of the country and our currency went back to former value. These fluctuations
132in the value of money occured in so short time that the prosperous conditions were not disturbed thereby.
WE were introducing our machine at that time. To give an idea of what harvester experting was I will relate a bit of my experience which may be interesting: For the harvest of 1865 we had shipped from Plano on orders taken by an agency at McGregor, Ia., two machines to be delivered at Ossian, about forty miles westward from McGregor and as far out as the railway had reached. Easter & Gammon had also shipped one of their Marsh harvesters, made at Beloit, for a farmer who lived a few miles west of McGregor.
I went out there to set up, start and generally look after the three machines. It was a wet harvest. The agent drove out to the farm with me and helped in setting up the Beloit harvester, which we started in grain and got ready for further trial next morning. I staid over night with the farmer, a German, and made myself as agreeable as I could to the family, which consisted of wife, grown daughter and several young children. It rained heavily during the night and put the grain in bad shape for harvesting. I wanted to hold over a day to give the grain, ground and machine a chance to dry; but the farmer would not hear to that, as he had invited his neighbors to see the new machine work. The best I could do was to get him to wait until after dinner.
Many farmers had collected by the time we were ready to start the harvester. I remember that it was very hot and some one had brought in a keg of beer. Considering the conditions I did very well. I bound with some one or other of the "crack" binders in attendance, and then alone. The "bully" binder of the community had not tried his hand yet, and a call was made for him. It was apparent, as he came up, that he had been giving considerable attention to the keg. He refused to bind with me, but said he would try it alone, for, if I could do it he could, as no man could beat him binding. I told him to get on.
He was a big, muscular fellow, and a little unsteady from liquor. He had about all he could do to keep his place on the platform, as the machine moved along, so he couldn't give much attention to his binding. He was stalled and had called a halt before the machine had gone three rods. He tried it again with about the same result; then he jumped off and swore he could lick me, if he couldn't beat me binding. Apparently the crowd was disposed to encourage a fight; but the farmer's daughter, who had been following the harvester with others, drew their attention by asking if she might try to bind. I placed her at the rear table and so favored her that she got the knack of it very soon; then, at a place where grain stood nicely, I told the driver to go slow and I stepped off. She bound the grain alone for several rods and until I stopped the machine for the shouting crowd.
The "bully" binder was really hooted off the field. But alas! my triumph was short, for in crossing a rut, made by the recent rains, a little more carelessly than usual, one
135of the main castings broke and the machine was rendered useless until the repair could be forwarded.
Leaving the crippled machine to be cared for by the agent I went on to Ossian to look after the two shipped from Plano. I found them unloaded upon the ground beside the track, as were piles of reapers and other machinery to be sold or distributed to farmers westward. Everything was exposed to the frequent rains of the season, as there was no freight depot or warehouse. The rough tavern was full of agents and experts and of farmers coming in for machinery. It was a noisy, bantering crowd. My machines had been shipped partly set up, as were all the old Plano "blues," and I immediately went to work on one to put it in shape for action. Its strange appearance attracted the attention of all. Generally they were disposed to look upon it as a freak and we, the harvester and I, were the butt of many good natured jokes and some contemptuous comments.
There was a small field of wheat a few rods from the railway; it stood well and was about ready to be cut. I went to the farmer's house and prevailed on him to come with his team next morning and help me do some harvesting for him, on condition that I pay for whatever damage I might do. Freight not having been paid, I got permission of the freight agent to move the machine into the field, which he gave more from curiosity to see the thing work than from kindness, I thought.
The farmer was on hand right after breakfast, and so were the "boys." As he was hitching on I discovered that some one had pried open the tool box and stolen the elevator belt and monkey wrench. I supplied these from the other harvester; then we drove in, followed by
136the laughing, jeering crowd. The farmer had a good team, he drove well and I was on my mettle. He went around the field several times, and we did better work than any of those fellows had ever before seen done in a harvest field. One man binding as much grain as four did ordinarily was rather a surprise for them; so they poked no more fun at us, the harvester and me.
Fortunately the farmer who had given his order for the machine had come in the night before and without making himself known to me had witnessed the trial. He was ready to pay the freight and to start at once for his place, seventy miles farther west. Only taking time to settle with the landlord, pay freight and telegraph for duplicates of the parts stolen, we loaded the machine just as it was on the wagon, lengthwise with binding part forward, and started on our long journey.
At that time northern Iowa was sparsely settled. Between the groves or streams there were wide stretches of naked prairie, as in this section ten years earlier. The roads were simply tracks across the prairie, then muddy and much rutted by the prevailing rains. With our peculiar load the mules could not be urged beyond a walk. The farmer was a frank, active young fellow, ambitious and hopeful. He had served as a militiaman under Gen. Sibley during the tatter's campaign against the Indians, who were guilty of the horrible massacres committed in Minnesota and Dakota in 1862. He had saved some money, taken up a quarter section of land, married and was doing first rate, he said.
He had brought his gun along and young prairie chickens were plentiful; so, with the watching for birds and occasional shooting, and his many tales of his adventures
137in the west and during the pursuit of the Indians, the tedium of the journey was considerably relieved. He had provided food for the trip; so we lunched by the roadside, and when night came we drew out and halted under a big oak tree near a beautiful spring. He tethered his mules; then he built a fire, made coffee and broiled a couple of chickens, which with the other provisions made an excellent supper. Soon after we rolled ourselves in the blankets and slept comfortably upon the ground until early morning. Breakfast was ready by the time I was, and we were soon on the road again. We reached his place a little before night.
He had a beautiful piece of land, with a comfortable little house on it, near a strip of timber that bordered a small, swift stream. His young and quite pretty wife had been alone while he was making the trip. She said he had to be away over night often, but she was not afraid, pointing to an army revolver hanging to the wall and to a big dog that was watching her as she talked. The trial next day was satisfactory; the wife drove the team and I instructed him in binding, which he was not slow in learning. He paid me the price of the machine and early the following morning I started out on foot on my return.
Unless I could catch a ride on the way I would have to walk about twenty miles to reach a little town, where conveyance to Ossian could probably be obtained. I was anxious to get back and walked forward briskly and cheerily. I got dinner at a farm house; then resumed my journey, with several miles yet to make across an unbroken prairie. When about half way it began to rain and it kept on raining. There was no shelter and no team
138going in my direction, so I could but trudge onward through the mud and rain. When the town was reached, though soaking wet and pretty well used up, I sought at once and soon engaged a conveyance for Ossian, to start early next morning. The wetting and exposure gave me a severe cold and I awoke in the morning with a raging toothache. We got to Ossian late in the evening. My valise having been left there I had at last a chance to clean up and change clothing.
The man who ordered the other harvester had come in meantime and taken it out to his farm near Decorah. The extras had arrived. I hired the farmer in whose wheat field the machine had been tried, to drive over with me. I was sick and still suffering terribly with toothache; but fortunately for me everything went off well, the machine on trial satisfied the farmer and that evening he took me into Decorah. By this time the sick tooth had become unbearable. Sleep was impossible, so about midnight I dressed myself and went out to walk the street.
Passing a doctor's sign before a residence I determined at once to have the thing pulled. I rang up the doctor. He proved to be a practitioner of the old school, for he brought out a turnkey instead of forceps. The terrible machine had been in my mouth once before and I objected, but that was all he had. Few now living know what it is to have a solid tooth twisted out of the jaw by a turnkey. It was what suggested the modern stump-puller. I let him hitch on to the tooth, he gave the necessary twist and with a crash the thing came out. I put a finger in my mouth, felt the splinters from the jaw sticking through the bruised flesh and found a vacancy too large for one tooth. He had twisted out two double
139teeth, one that only needed filling and another that was perfectly sound, and badly splintered my jaw. He only charged for the pulling of one tooth. Fortunately my work was done before the occurrence of this adventure and I went home to recruit.
In 1867 I bought the place near DeKalb on which I am still living. In the summer of 1868 we sold our farm near Shabbona Grove and moved to DeKalb, and soon after began the building of our present home. In the fall of that year I was elected representative in the state legislature, and my time during the winter following was spent in Springfield. As a member of the House I did nothing, either good or bad, to particularly distinguish myself, but simply voted on measures that came before us as the interest of my constituents demanded or suggested. It was the last assembly under the old constitution, and being the last chance for special legislation various remarkable privileges were granted. I learned something about the methods of law-making and of political manipulation.
In 1868 we had retired from personal participation in the business at Plano and had intended to invest what money we could spare from patent-fee receipts in western lands, when prominent citizens of Sycamore proposed that we establish there a factory for the manufacture of Marsh harvesters for territory not yet licensed west of the Missouri river. We hesitated a considerable time over the offer, but finally were persuaded to consent; the necessary agreements were signed, the Sycamore Marsh Harvester Manufacturing Company was incorporated, and in 1869 buildings were erected under the supervision of my brother.
This was our second great mistake. The territory at that time was too new, too limited and the people too poor. Sufficient capital for the business was not provided, and could not be obtained unless we furnished it or pledged ourselves personally for it, a risk which no one should take for the benefit of other stockholders, for success will bring few thanks and failure many curses. However the company did very well for several years in spite of its limitations and until — but that is another story, as Kipling would say, to be related hereafter.
The winter of 1869 was mild and wet, the spring was raw and wet, and the summer was cool and wet. My wife died May 6, 1869. I was very ill with a fever in June or July, and while lying in bed, moved to the window for the purpose, I watched the weird and wonderful eclipse of the sun which occurred one afternoon that summer. The weather was clear and still. As the shadow slowly crept across the face of the sun and the bright light of day faded into palid twilight all nature seemed to be hushed into silence. October 1, 1869, we moved into our new house.
DURING the winter of 1870 three Marsh harvesters were shipped from our Plano factory to Europe on special orders as follows: One to the Austrian Minister of Agriculture, Vienna; one to the Agricultural School at Ungarisch Altenberg, Hungary, and one for the International Reaper Trial to be held July 11, 12 and 13, at Groswardein, Hungary. In the spring of that year I went to Europe for the purpose mainly of attending to these machines, accompanied by Mr. K—, an Americanized Hungarian, who was going over to introduce several patented improvements that he had selected, and also to establish an agency for the harvester at Budapest, if the prospect for sales should seem favorable. He was highly educated and master of several languages.
We started early in May so as to have time, before harvest should claim our attention, for seeing something of the countries and cities we should pass through on the way. We took ship for Glasgow, spent a few days in Scotland, then crossed over to Hamburg. From Hamburg we went to Berlin and onward through Dresden and Prague to Vienna, stopping a few days at each of the cities mentioned. We called on the minister of agriculture and learned that his harvester had arrived and been sent out to the imperial farm at Voesendorf, some five or six miles from the city; and we arranged for notification of the time when grain would be ready to cut and we should be needed.
We spent a week in Vienna; then went by steamer down the Danube to Budapest. It was a very interesting journey, no part of it more so than the ride on the famous river; but this route has been often described by travelers and tourists, so I shall not bore my readers by repeating the story.
We remained in Budapest a couple of weeks while waiting for the time of the reaper trial. My companion was not a native of the city, but he was quite at home there, particularly among those of his class, political refugees of the revolution of 1848-'9, returned under the amnesty proclamation of 1867. Several of these men had fled to the United States and they were very pleased, apparently, to meet with any one from that country. The American consul, Mr. Kauser, was of this class, and had lived in Chicago several years. He received us most cordially, offered us the freedom of his house, and really insisted that we should make ourselves at home there. Few Americans were visiting Budapest or any part of Hungary forty years ago and we were from Chicago. Our fourth of July was spent with him and his family. One member, his niece, little Etelka Gerster, several years after became famous as the prima donna, Madam Gerster. She was at that time about sixteen years old and was developing the talent that later brought her fame and fortune. She was a very nice little girl and often sang for us.
We had occasion to call on the British consul for something, and on entering his office I noticed a tall, slender man standing before him, as if about to take leave. He
143was talking and gesticulating excitedly. As he turned toward us I saw that he had a remarkable face, long and thin with protruding chin and a large nose drooping over a retreating mouth. Mr. K— and he recognized each other at once. After their greetings I was introduced to Mr. Joseph Pulitzer, of St. Louis. When he had gone out the consul laughed and said the young man had been lecturing him and denouncing the British government on account of some action or policy, I have forgotten what. He spoke of him as one would of a person somewhat flighty or possessed of a highly exalted ego. We met Joe Pulitzer several times while we were in Budapest and he gave me a similar impression. He was very voluble, assertive and excitable, manifesting in his talk a sort of exaltation like that which precedes certain forms of insanity. Mr. K— said that Pulitzer was a rattlebrained newsmonger, or reporter of sensational news, for a St. Louis paper, and possibly was indulging a little too freely in the good Hungarian wines.
He was visiting his mother, a very pleasant middle-aged lady, whose second husband was a mill owner, named Miller, as I remember. She was then stopping or boarding at the Kaiser Bad (Emperor's bath), where we had taken rooms. Our acquaintance with her was much more agreeable than with her son. I did not like him, and we both were disposed to avoid him. Who of us could then have imagined that this erratic, nervous fellow would climb to the topmost heights of newspaperdom, be owner of the New York World and a multimillionaire within comparatively few years?
INASMUCH as our adventures and various incidents at the reaper trial at Groswardein were really quite interesting, I shall relate them in full, being so disposed more particularly because some incorrect accounts of them have been published.
We went to Groswardein, about 150 miles southeast of Budapest, a week in advance of the trial in order that we might learn the ways of Hungarian peasants in a harvest field and have time to engage and instruct binders. We had letters to the local officials in charge of the trial and also to Baron Barothy, who had been a political refugee, but was now manager of the principal bank in that city. On presentation of our letter to him he insisted peremptorily that we should go to his house and be his guests during our stay in Groswardein. He ordered his carriage, took us to the hotel, got our baggage and went directly to his home with us. There he introduced us to the baroness, showed us our rooms and then took leave, saying he had some business at the bank yet to transact, after completing which he would return and give his attention to our affairs.
And now an introduction to Baron Barothy (Bar-o-te) will be in order. He was about fifty years of age. In figure he was a little below medium height, stoutly built 144
145and erect like a trained soldier; his head was large, hair thick and bushy and face round and ruddy. In manner he was quick, brusque and impulsive. In this country he would have been termed a hustler. He was an officer in Gen. Bern's arrny, during the revolution of 1848-'9. He escaped into Turkey when said army, retreating before the Russians, broke up near the Turkish frontier, and later he came to the United States. With some money sent him by his brother he purchased a farm of four hundred acres near Omaha, Neb. He told us that he walked across the state of Iowa, looking for a farm such as he wanted and at a price that he could pay, finding it at last beyond the Missouri river. He lived on this farm several years and until the amnesty proclamation of 1867, when he returned to look after his deceased brother's estate, which included shares in the bank he was managing. His first wife died before he came to America; their one child, a son, he sent for and left here. While on the farm in Nebraska he married a German girl, by whom he had a son, a youth of thirteen or fourteen years when we were at Groswardein. He had become an American citizen, and, apparently, had been so fortunate or so well treated while in the United States that he was enthusiastic in his praises of our country and its institutions. All which accounts for his taking charge of us so promptly, and for the notable help he gave us later.
The trial was competitive, forty gold ducats and diploma being the first prize. It was to be held in a field of wheat on the bishop's estate, about three miles from the city (the prelates of Hungary are well fixed in landed estates). The field adjoined a small forest, owned by the bishop and in charge of a Saxon yager or forester who,
146with his wife, lived in a comfortable lodge in the woods near by. The isolation of the forester's abode suggested to me its desirability as a quiet place for setting up and keeping the harvester. On mentioning this to the baron, who had been fully advised of our plans and had ridden out with us, he at once ordered the driver to the forester's lodge. The big, blonde Saxon readily assented to our request, and immediately on our return to the city the baron sent a team out with the machine.
It was necessary to get permission from the bishop to operate the machine in the field, and also authority to use men and teams employed on the farm. The baron attended to this matter for us, obtaining an order to the yager directing him to see that we were supplied with what we might need. Fortunately for us the yager was a foreigner and a Saxon; his sympathies were with us, and he immediately claimed relationship with me as an Anglo-Saxon, which I readily acknowledged, my companion acting as interpreter. He gave us the most of his time while we were there, helped us to set up the machine, brought us team and men as needed, and quickly learned to bind with me. Several languages are spoken in Hungary, but German is official and is taught in all the schools.
As soon as we began work I saw that the peasants were against us. The best of them, as selected by the yager, would not learn to bind, nor to drive and handle the machine properly. We tried several, but could not get willing or satisfactory work from them, even though we paid largely and promised much more if they would learn to do fairly well what we wanted of them. The yager said that they looked upon the machine as their enemy,
147as a contrivance of the devil to deprive them of their right to earn their bread. Their threatening remarks led him to fear that they might damage the machine, so every night it was driven up close to his lodge, and he slept beside it as we learned later.
The reapers used on the estate were Johnston's self rakers as made for eastern Europe (sweep-rake, without seat). The horses attached were led. The way of binding there was to make the bands of rye straw in the winter; to bring them to the field when reaping began and deposit them in convenient bunches, where they were moistened. As the machine started two or three men followed with hooks, shaped like a hand sickle, with which they gathered and snugged the gavels; next followed women with bands, laying one across each gavel, and after them came the binders and then the shockers. I counted sixteen men and women working after one reaper. The bands were strong, long and limber and I adopted them for our binding, by fixing an iron rod to the outside of each table of the machine and hanging them thereon.
The trial was held under the auspices of the state agricultural society; the entries were ten machines, of English, German and Hungarian makes, and our harvester. The first day was devoted to preliminaries, the arrangement of program, appointment of judges, etc., and the making ready of the machines. The second day was given to the exhibition of the machines, explanations of their principles, capacity, etc., including dynamometer tests in and out of the grain. On the third day came the real trial, the competition for best and most economical work. The trial field was divided so that each machine
148had two lots. The first lot was for determining quality of work, waste being considered, of course, but not speed or endurance, as judges were to make frequent examinations. The second lot was turned over to the machine and its operators who were to do their best, in their own way and without interruption.
The peasants on the farm had done so poorly that we had given them up; the baron had supplied a driver from town and the Saxon had consented to help me do the binding.
Operations on trial day were to begin at 10 a.m. The driver had orders to bring the harvester to the field early. When we arrived we found the machine in place and the Saxon beside it anxiously awaiting us. Our first glance at his countenance told us that it covered a tale of woe. He had had a scrimmage with a poacher that morning and in hitting him had bruised his hand — it was considerably swollen — so that he could not bind, but he had brought in one of the peasants we had been training to take his place.
The day was fair but very hot. There was a large crowd in attendance, composed mainly of farmers, land owners and notables from the surrounding country, leading business men from the city and parties interested in the machines. A few ladies in carriages were also in the field.
Before work began the baron, attired in a coarse linen suit, with a common American straw hat on his big head, rode up to us. He said he used to drive on his own reaper in America; that he had made up his mind that morning to drive for us through the trial, so he had put on a suit of his Nebraska farm clothes and here he was
149ready for business. I gladly accepted his offer, thinking that he could drive better than any one on the ground, and I could direct him when necessary regarding speed as I could not the driver engaged.
The baron's outfit attracted general attention. At the call of some ladies in a nearby carriage he went to them. They had a short but excited conversation and he came back laughing. He said they were his sister-in-law and daughters; they were scandalized by his appearance, and were terribly shocked on learning that he was going to drive on the machine; they begged him not to so demean himself and disgrace them; but he simply told them they were all d—d fools and turned away. That carriage immediately left the field. He drove for us to the end of the trial and his driving saved the day. His example told on the Saxon, for after noting the blundering work of the peasant, while the machine made a couple of rounds, he jerked him off the platform, took his place thereon and bound with me until the lot was finished.
I have forgotten to say that the grain was fully ripe and stood straight, but it was pretty well supplied with Canada thistles — yes, Canada thistles. A German reaper had cut the lot next to ours. Its representative was a hustling young Jew of Budapest. He came over to the harvester and followed around with the judges several times. I noticed that he was making remarks about its operation and catching his eye pointed him to his own machine, but he still followed. As we halted at a corner he stepped forward and called attention to the shelled wheat lying on the rear beam of the platform behind the canvas. I rolled one of the damp bands into a snug wad and threw it at him, hitting him fairly on the side of his
150head. The fellow jumped as if he had been shot, looked around and saw me shaking my fist at him. It startled the judges also, but the baron met the occasion with a torrent of Hungarian, seasoned with expletives, I was told, directed first at the Jew, ordering him away, etc., and next at the judges, expostulating with them for allowing a competitor to interfere in such a way. They took the baron good naturedly, as everybody seemed to, and told the fellow to attend to his own business.
I stepped off the platform and asked one of the judges, who spoke English, if they would please examine the ground carefully for waste, explaining that the reel would knock out some grain, most of which on our machine would pass up and be bound in the bundle or would lie behind the canvas; while with ordinary reapers it would be swept off upon the ground with the gavel. They did so and found no perceptible waste on my lot, but considerable shelled grain under and about the gavels delivered from the German machine. The Jew kept at a safe distance thereafter. The baron enjoyed the incident immensely; it lingered with him.
Next came the trial of speed and endurance, quality of work to be considered, of course. Each lot contained about three quarters of an acre. The grain on mine was in fine condition for binding, barring the thistles, so, though my hands were bleeding from raw wounds made in setting up the machine and from the wear and tear since, I determined to bind it alone with team going at usual reaping speed. As we struck into the grain I told the baron to keep the team right up to their work. With a good supply of strong, ready-made bands which had been carefully strung upon the rods, I was able to take
151care of the grain as fast as it came. We cut and bound the lot in twenty-eight minutes without missing a bundle or making a balk of any kind; indeed, it was as nice a piece of work as I ever saw done, but every bundle was marked with my blood.
The trial over I took account of my condition. I was drenched with perspiration, my clothes were full of beards and thistles and my bruised and pricked hands were giving me much pain. We left the field as early as possible so that I might wash up, doctor my hands and change clothing.
It was now night. The judges were at the principal hotel where they and the officials and the exhibitors and the other notables were to indulge in a banquet and a general jollification. We had been invited, but I was so used up that I refused to go with the others and went to bed. Shortly after a man in livery came with a message from one of the officials requesting my presence at the hotel. The baroness explained to him that I was in bed, sick. A little later the baron came rushing in exclaiming that I had won the first prize and must go right over to receive it before the banquet should begin.
I stood not upon the order of my going but went. I was marched up before the dais upon which the judges sat, was greeted with a short speech in Hungarian from the chief official, and was handed the forty gold ducats, diploma to follow. I returned thanks in English. Neither understood the other; but I had the ducats and was happy despite my sore hands and tired body. We learned that the representatives of the other machines had joined in a vigorous protest against the award to our harvester, on the plea that it was not a reaper and therefore not properly
152a competitor. Over there as here it was the field against the harvester.
The banquet was a great success in number of participants, in noisy conversation, in much eating and drinking, accompanied by continuous music from a Gypsy band. After the banquet came the speaking. In course they called upon me for a speech. Now nature did not intend me for a public speaker; but had afflicted me with constitutional stage fright as with a birth-mark. I have never been able to stand before a public audience and plainly tell what I knew or wanted to say. But on this occasion I had no fear. Whether it was due to our success, to the golden ducats in my pocket, to the wine or to the fact that no one understood English well enough to closely follow what I might say, or to all, for the first and only time in my life I arose and made a speech without trepidation. I harangued them with the self assurance of a seasoned stump-speaker about something or nothing, I cannot remember what. At last recollecting that we were going to leave them and start toward home next day, there came to my mind some lines from Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel," which I had learned for declamation when a boy. I spouted them forth as follows:
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand?" Etc.
As I sat down the banqueters applauded vociferously, the baron stared at me wonderingly and my friend laughed
153quietly. Next morning a newspaper in its account of the banquet, said that Herr Marsh spoke with that readiness and eloquence for which his countrymen are so celebrated.
The foregoing is the full story of my participation in the Groswardein reaper trial. It may seem to be punctuated by a good many "I's;" but it has been told in part and that incorrectly in "Casson's Romance of the Reaper," and I had to tell the story of my own doings in order to put it straight. I will add that there were no "grand dukes" at the trial or in any way connected with it. Grand dukes are not lying around loose in Europe and Hungary has none, though there seemed to be a plentiful supply of counts and barons. And furthermore I am not writing a romance.
Our leave-taking of Baron Barothy and family was really affecting. We were the only Americans who had been in Groswardein since his return. We had come from the far west where he had resided. We had made good his claims for American superiority. My friend was well acquainted with his son Victor in Chicago. Pointing to his second son, he said: "When he reaches eighteen years I am going to send him to Chicago to learn American ways in his youth, and to become an American citizen. Here he cannot work and hold place in his class, and I will not have a loafer in my family." The baroness broke into tears and cried, "He will send my boy away. Oh, he will do it."
I have never heard of Baron Barothy since. Some twelve or fifteen years ago the Chicago newspapers gave an account of the suicide of a young Hungarian, brother of Victor Barothy, the wine merchant. He had shot himself to make good his pledge in what is termed the
154American duel in Hungary; that is, when two persons have a deadly quarrel, instead of fighting it out with deadly weapons, they draw lots and the loser must kill himself within a fixed period. It is really a Hungarian and not at all an American duel, yet it is so called in Hungary, as I have noticed in several Hungarian works, notably in Maurus Jokai's "Debts of Honor" and "Eyes Like the Sea."
ON our return to Budapest we learned that war had been declared between France and Prussia. Shortly after we went on to Ungarisch Altenberg. We operated a harvester ordered there, three or four days, on the college farm for the professors and students. Everything went off satisfactorily. Weather was fine and grain in good condition. We were able to instruct two German peasants so that they bound very well under the inducement of liberal extra pay. The country, like that at Groswardein, is generally level, with fertile soil.
Here we met a prince or duke and his duchess, Nicholas of Wurtemberg and his wife. He was the son or nephew of the king of Wurtemberg. They were spending a few days at a castle, near the town, for the purpose of hunting some kind of game, woodcock, I think, in the neighboring forest. Having heard about the new American harvester, they drove out to see it. They were much interested in its operation; both followed around after it on foot, making inquiries and observations to me as they spoke English perfectly. They were very nice and unassuming in manner. He was about thirty-five years of age and she a year or two younger, apparently. They looked like brother and sister. The same description
156could fit both; slender, of medium height, neither handsome nor ill looking, rather frail and narrow shouldered, appearing on the whole as if they had come of worn-out stock. Unknown, they would not attract attention anywhere. They did not converse with the professors except to ask necessary questions. They held aloof from the crowd, and people did not approach them.
The last day the professors had a public trial, which the students and many of the townspeople attended. They were not permitted to follow the machine, however. The piece of grain selected was nearly or quite half a mile long. The duke and duchess came early. She remained in the big carriage at a corner of the field, while he followed around with me (my friend had sought the shade) several times, though it was extremely hot. On one of the rounds he called a halt at the farther end of the piece. Stepping up before the grain receiver he said, substantially: European peasants, generally speaking, will not learn to bind on this machine; but an automatic binder can be applied here — pointing to the receiver — and the process of harvesting by machinery be completed. Then he showed how he thought a steel arm, carrying wire, might embrace a gavel in the receiver, the twist and cut be accomplished by some device, and the bundle bound and cast off. His idea was quite like that of the several inventors who at that time were applying their inventions to the Marsh harvester in the United States. He further said that if I would stay or return, we would employ good mechanics and work out the problem. I did not believe then that it was possible to produce a practical automatic binder and so told him.
Wherever we operated the harvester in Europe I noticed
157that no thought was given to the condition of the men at work on it. However tired or thirsty they might be, no suggestion of rest was made and no water was provided or time allowed for getting it, except as we might order. At this trial the crowd at the end of the field was well supplied with drinks. The professors in charge frequently quenched their thirst, and so did I. It was left for the duke to teach us all a lesson. On return from the last round he made with me, he went to his carriage and came back with two big mugs of beer which he handed to the sweating Germans on the machine. They drank, but were, apparently, too astonished or too abashed to speak their thanks. He went again to the carriage, brought back two glasses of beer, handed me one, drank to my health and success, said good-bye and drove off. We saw them no more.
Next day we went up to Vienna where we found letters from home. Mr. K— had been acting as correspondent for The Chicago Tribune and I for The Post. Here he received a cablegram from his paper, asking if he could go to the headquarters of the German army and there represent it during the war. After some consideration he cabled his acceptance of the proposition. While he was awaiting instructions we went out to Voesendorf to start the machine in the wheat harvest then just beginning on the imperial farm.
Voesendorf, some five or six miles from Vienna, is an estate of the crown. It lies in a beautiful vale at the end of a range of half-clad hills, almost mountainous, once heavily wooded and still called the Viennese forests. The place was originally a hunting resort of the royal family, and was so used until the beginning of the last century.
158The little village on the estate consisted of an old palace, built in the thirteenth century, with a few houses adjoining for the retainers, purveyors, etc. When we were there Baron Brenner, a jolly old bachelor, was in charge of the property, residing in the palace and overseeing the work on the big farm. We were his guests during the several days in which the machine was being officially tested, operated and exhibited.
Here for the first time we found men who could be taught to bind and to manage the machine, after the usual instructions, without our assistance or presence, the conditions, fortunately, being all favorable. The heads of the agricultural department and other notables came out from the city to see the harvester work. Usually after a brief inspection of its operations, they sought shade within the thick walls of the palace, where they were treated to various refreshments by the baron. It was a jolly, easy week for us all, the end of our work; thereafter my course would be homeward.
The baron went out one morning to give some orders before we would start for the field, but soon rushed in exclaiming excitedly, "Ludovica ist hier, Ludovica ist hier." Evidently my friend had told him her story, for he knew at once who she was and why she came. We went out to her carriage. Mr. K— talked with her a few minutes, then got in and drove off with her, leaving us for the time without explanation of his prompt action. As her story is quite interesting I will now tell it.
One morning soon after our arrival in Budapest, we
159took a bus at the steamboat landing to go out to the park. There was one other passenger, a handsome young lady, apparently about twenty-five years old. Mr. K— looked at his watch and she asked him, in German, the time. He answered that in Chicago it was — o'clock, but in Budapest, as he figured, it was — o'clock. This understood quite well, but, of course, not the conversation that followed. As she left the bus she gave him her card. He then told me that the young lady wanted to go to the United States and had been making inquiries regarding the country, the chances for obtaining employment as teacher of music or art, the cost of the journey, etc., and that he was going to call on her that afternoon to talk the matter over further.
On his return from the call he said that the address given him was the house of a friend where he met her and learned that she was a daughter of Baron Geming (barons are plentiful over there), that her mother was dead and her father married again, to a woman with whom she could not live agreeably; in short, that her present life was intolerable and she was determined on going to the United States where she believed she could make her living as teacher of music or painting, all which had induced her to seek from him the information she had been so anxious to obtain. He had answered her questions as best he could; and at her request had promised to call on her again at her home — when she should set the time by note to be left at our hotel — as she wanted to show him some of her work. Mr. K— further said that she was evidently intelligent, highly cultured and apparently honest; but back of it all there seemed to be some mystery.
That evening he mentioned his adventure to Consul Kauser, who then told us the sad story of Ludovica Geming. Her father, Baron Geming, had at one time been quite wealthy, but in speculation and gambling he had lost nearly all his property. Then he had taken to drink, had become morose and really brutal to his family. His wife died leaving two children, this daughter and a son several years younger. The mother had some property which she left to them; but the father had wasted most of it. His habits became worse, and as a wind-up to a long spell of hard drinking he had married one of his servants. Ludovica was rarely gifted, high spirited and beautiful; but the bad behavior of her father and the bringing of such a stepmother into the family not only wounded her pride, but, in connection with the loss of property, repelled eligible suitors. One appeared, however, in the person of a wealthy widower, of middle age, whom her father favored and she hated.
Mr. Kauser then explained how completely a woman was controlled by the male head of a family in Hungary. She was always subject to restraint, as a minor child is in this country. If a wife went anywhere against her husband's consent he could have her arrested and brought back, and the same with an unmarried daughter, no matter how old she might be. If the husband and father were dead his son could assume such authority.
On account of the persistence of said suitor and the persecution of her father, Ludovica ran away to Vienna, whether to friends or to seek employment there I do not remember. She was soon located, an order for her arrest forwarded and she was thrown into a common jail among a promiscuous lot of the lowest criminals. Before
161officials from Budapest came for her she had been shamefully abused by the male prisoners. On the way home as they were crossing the great chain bridge, which hangs high above navigation over the Danube at Budapest, she sprang out of the carriage and jumped from the bridge into the river. She was rescued by some English boatmen. The abuse and the shock of the attempt at suicide nearly killed her. She was seriously ill several months, quite insane part of the time, and it was thought that she had not as fully recovered her mental as her physical health.
Her case aroused general indignation at prison methods. The Budapesten officials made charges against the Viennese officials. The charges and retorts made public the abominable conditions prevailing in the prisons of both cities. Then the Hungarian parliament took the case into consideration and induced the government at Vienna to take action, with the result that after a great deal of sensational publication and discussion some prison reforms were accomplished, especially in the matter of promiscuous detention.
This account greatly aroused Mr. K—'s interest in the girl and my curiosity. A few days later came her note of invitation which much to my gratification included me. At the time appointed we went to her home. The house was plain, not large, but it was elegantly furnished, much more so than we had anticipated. She received us cordially, her brother, a lad of about fifteen years, being with her. Evidently he was in her confidence.
Her manner was that of a well-bred lady. I could not understand the conversation that ensued, but I noticed
162that her voice was well toned and her gestures and movements were graceful. She really was a beautiful woman, much above the average in a city noted for the beauty of its ladies. She was tall and slender, of well rounded form, and she had what poets might term a sweet, sad face. She showed some of her paintings, played the piano and sang for us and seemed anxious to make a good impression, as, indeed, she did. When returning my friend said she was an artist, that she could make her way in America and he would help her to get there.
He saw her again and they planned that she should accompany us on our return. Her brother wanted to go also, but that was not deemed safe or expedient, Mr. K— promising, however, that he would help him to join her next year when he would be coming over again. He explained our work, told her about when we expected to get around back to Vienna, and arranged that as soon as we could definitely fix the date for our start homeward he would duly notify her so that she could join us at the exact time. They were not to meet again for fear of arousing suspicion, but she was to prepare for the journey and be ready at notice to come to us, provided she could carry her plans through, of which she seemed quite confident. All this I learned from him, as I took no part and assumed no responsibility in the adventure.
Soon after we went to Groswardein. On our return, before we left Budapest, her brother brought Mr. K— a note stating that she would be ready. We went on to Ungarisch Altenberg and then to Vienna as related. As soon as Mr. K— had determined to remain in Europe with the German army we had to take Ludovica's case into consideration. We decided at once that the
163plan could not be carried out, as in returning, on account of the war, I would have to go down to Venice, then across Italy, up through France and on to London, stopping at various places on the way; we could not understand each other and it would not be proper for us to travel together, especially for her. So my friend wrote her explaining the conditions, telling her that she could not go with us, but promising that he would help her through next year.
But the girl had set her heart on going; she had burned the bridges behind her, so to speak, having pawned for expenses the diamonds her mother left her, and had so cut loose from home that she could not stay. In desperation, therefore, she came on to Vienna determined to go forward with or without our company. Mr. K— could not discuss the matter with her at Voesendorf, so accompanied her back to the city, as stated. Arriving at the hotel they found officers already there after her. They would have arrested my friend also; but luckily her declaration that he had advised against her following was supported by his letter which she showed them, so they had no case against him. Her grief at being compelled to return was pitiable. Next year Mr. K— inquired for her and learned that she had gone down the river to Belgrade, as was reported, and her father had given her up.
A few days later Mr. K— received his despatches; he started northward for the German army and I southward for Venice, and onward by the route already mentioned. I was alone, couldn't speak Italian or French, and it was a lonesome journey. The French troops had been withdrawn from Rome and Italy was ablaze. I
164stopped off at Milan, went up to Lake Maggiore, then on to Turin, over Mount Cents and up through France to Paris, where I arrived immediately after the great battle of Gravelotte, in which the French army was badly defeated. All Paris was in gloom. Trainloads of wounded were arriving. Riots were beginning. The empire was tottering. Three of four days there were enough. I went over to London where I engaged passage from Liverpool, and a week later I was on the Atlantic homeward bound.
IN the fall of 1870 I was elected to the state Senate in connection with J. W. Eddy, of Kane county. The senatorial district then comprised the counties of De Kalb, Kane and Dupage, and was entitled to two members of the Senate. The election was preceded by a very spirited contest, on account of a split in the Republican senatorial convention, held at Turner Junction (now West Chicago), and the nomination of two pairs of candidates. Dupage county was the most directly interested in this contest, the old, county-seat fight between Naperville and Wheaton not having yet been fully settled.
As I favored and was pledged to the Wheaton side of the controversy, the people of that town and of the north end of Dupage county strongly supported me. One of these supporters, in convention and during the campaign, was a young lawyer of Wheaton, a slender young fellow with pale, intellectual face, named Elbridge H. Gary. For many, years past he has been chairman and guiding spirit of the United States Steel Corporation. His name will be perpetuated by the recently established city of iron and steel workers south of Chicago.
The twenty-seventh General Assembly of Illinois was the first held under the then new constitution. Special legislation having ended with the old constitution it was
166the province of this assembly to provide general laws to meet and fit the needs of private enterprises, public utilities, state institutions, etc. The work and its responsibilities were onerous; but the assembly, with Governor John M. Palmer's able assistance — he was one of our best governors — was equal to the occasion and gave to the state a code of general laws which have seldom failed to meet the requirements when properly applied or executed or obeyed by the officials selected to administer them.
No more able or more reliable body of men ever assembled in Springfield. Republicans and Democrats generally ignored party politics and worked together harmoniously for the common good. In the House, James P. Root and William M. Smith were prominent leaders of the Republicans, and Col. William R. Morrison and William Springer of the Democrats. In the Senate no one was distinctively a leader; but there were several members who took leading parts in the framing and discussion of the bills, notably, on the Republican side, Gen. Allen C. Fuller, of Boone county, James K. Edsall, of Lee, Andrew Crawford, of Henry, Thomas A. Boyd, of Fulton, Judge W. H. Underwood, of St. Clair, Gen. John McNulta, of McLean, and John N. Jewett and Gen. John L. Beveridge, of Cook; and on the Democratic side Samuel L. Casey, of Jefferson, James M. Epier, of Morgan, William Reddick, of La Salle, John Landrigan, of Edwards, and James M. Washburn, of Williamson. Only two of these men are now living.
I made agreeable, and in some instances intimate, acquaintance with many persons, not members of the legislature, with whose names the people of the state were
167familiar forty years ago. Among them I recall, with pleasant memories, Jesse K. Dubois, Gen. Charles Lippincott, Milton Hay, Virgil Hickox, Jacob Bunn, Col. Sam. Buckmaster, Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, George S. Bangs, Gen. Richard J. Oglesby and Gen. John A. Logan. I knew James H. Beveridge and Floyd K. Whittemore before they left our county for Springfield, and the renewed acquaintance developed into close friendship. They are all dead.
Gen. Beveridge was boarding with his brother and family. Their home life so attracted me that I begged to be included, and they took me in on account of old acquaintance. This brought me into intimate association with one of the best men I have ever known. John L. Beveridge was a gentleman by nature and training. Of fine and commanding presence, innate courtesy and good address, he was a notable figure in the Senate. His ability and conscientious devotion to the work made him a most valuable member. But he was too modest and too scrupulous for marked success in politics; so, though he was soon after made governor and gave us an excellent administration, he was later left in the rear by the more self-assured and pushing politicians of his time. The last years of his life he spent in contented retirement at Hollywood, Cal., where he died at the advanced age of eighty-six.
BOTH the Plano and the Sycamore factories had been shipping harvesters to an agent, Henry Green, located at Boulder, Colo., for farmers occupying the valleys of the streams that run down from the mountains and empty into the Platte river. So in September, 1871, I fixed up for a trip to Colorado, for the purpose of looking after the business and then of spending a few days hunting and fishing in the mountains, intending also to lay over a few days at some point on the way for a brief buffalo hunt. With all this in view I arranged to go by the southern route, that is, from Kansas City over the Kansas Pacific railway to Denver, and obtained permit to stop off at a station in the buffalo country where I expected to engage a hunter to guide and assist me in the slaughter of the big animals.
Of course I was well armed — with rifle, revolver, big knife and many cartridges. Not far beyond Abilene we began to see buffaloes (more properly bisons, but let us still call them buffaloes) from the train in scattering lots at first and then in large herds or droves. They were leisurely moving southward, crossing the track here and there, apparently less afraid of the locomotive and train than herded cattle would be. Several times speed had to
169be slackened to avoid running into them. They seemed to be bent on taking their course with little or no regard to what might be in their way. There were many stragglers in the rear. Evidently they were old bulls that had been driven out of the herds by the younger and stronger, and sick or decrepit animals that had fallen behind. These stragglers were moving on alone or in couples or more. They manifested less fear of the train than did the herds, only halting as they found themselves too close, and very seldom turning back from it.
With windows raised the passengers were intently watching the animals and their movements. As the train slackened speed to let a bunch cross, two old bulls scrambled up the embankment and over the track just in front of the engine, so that in passing they were but a few rods from the car in which I was sitting. The temptation to shoot was too strong to resist, so I pulled out my revolver and fired at the one in the rear, missing him, but hitting the other as I could see by his flinching and turning to attack his mate as the aggressor. We left them fighting because of the pain I had wantonly inflicted. It occurred to me at once that the act was shameful, and also on further reflection that hunting buffaloes was mere butchery, little better than shooting cattle in a pasture, and I soon decided not to indulge in it, but to go on directly to Denver.
In answer to inquiry our agent at Boulder had informed me that there was plenty of game in the foot-hills and trout in the streams, and that he would be glad to accompany me on a hunting and fishing excursion. In Denver I called on Kendrick Skeels, an old-time resident of DeKalb, whom many will remember, told him
170what we were intending to do after getting through with our business and asked him to join us. He said he would if he could, and he did.
Several days were spent at Boulder in settling accounts and in making excursions to the neighboring valleys, bordering the streams which, coming down from the mountains, empty into the Platte river several miles out on the plains, the river running northward nearly parallel with the range as far as Greeley where it bends eastward. These streams, northward from the latitude of Denver, were, in their order, then named as follows: Little Boulder, Boulder, St. Vrains, Little Thompson and Big Thompson, the latter emptying into the Platte at Greeley. Forty years ago their rich valleys were being rapidly brought under cultivation, with wheat as the chief product. Between them were wide ridgelands, unsettled and apparently barren.
Our business ended and Skeels on hand, we loaded our traps, arms and ammunition, eatables and drinkables, upon Green's buckboard wagon, climbed on and started off. Our objective point for the night was the ranch of Dave Likens on the Little Thompson, where we arrived in good season, and were received with hearty welcome. The house and buildings were close up against the range, just where the stream leaves the canyon to make its way through the foot-hills in its course towards the Platte, a most beautiful location.
"Old Dave," as everybody in that region called him, was a tall, raw-boned Missourian, a jolly bachelor past middle age, a noted story-teller and a "wild steer" when in town. During the Pike's Peak excitement in 1859 he had come out, like so many others, after gold, but not
171finding as much of it as he expected, he, unlike the majority of the disappointed gold seekers, determined to remain in that region and try his hand at farming and cattle raising. He had been very successful and was now the owner of a big herd of cattle and a large ranch along the creek.
His house, miles from any other, was a sort of rude bungalow, but very comfortable. It stood on a smooth piece of ground, a few feet above the level of the stream and in the midst of a well-cultivated garden, which was then yielding an abundant supply of most delicious melons. There was not a woman on the place. Old Dave and his men did all the work on the premises and did it well apparently, for the rooms were clean, the beds good and the meals satisfactory.
Green prevailed on the old man to accompany us; so next day we discarded the buckboard, loaded the stuff into Likens' covered wagon, hitched the mules to it and off again we started. That night we made camp in the foot-hills over on the Big Thompson. We had seen a few antelopes on the way, but did not get a shot. Next day we devoted to antelope hunting. Several were seen, two or three shots were fired, but not one brought down. We broke camp on the second morning, and worked our way up stream as far as the team could go. That afternoon we fished, and such fishing! The stream was alive with trout. We could see them by the dozen in the pellucid pools. The fishing was simply throwing in the baited hook and pulling out a trout. That evening we broiled twenty for supper.
The weather was delightful. As many will recollect, the September before the great fire in Chicago was very
172warm. It was too warm up there in the mountains for successful hunting, Likens said. But sitting or lying around the camp-fire that night after a good day's work and an excellent supper was very enjoyable. Old Dave was in fine fettle, and when a little more toddy had limbered his tongue he poured forth story after story. He told of his early struggles, when almost bare-handed he was exerting his wits and his body to the utmost to establish a home in that wild country, of his troubles with the Indians, whom he hated "like pizen," of his collisions with the desperadoes who infested that section in the early days, and of his sprees in Denver. Most of his stories I have forgotten and some of them would not bear repeating.
He knew Jack Slade and several of his gang. According to Likens, Slade must have been a human tiger. Slade was for a time an employe of one of the old California stage line companies. Among the other employes he had confederates who did the stealing of horses, cattle, etc., while he looked after their protection by misdirecting, intimidating or killing pursuers. They had things pretty much their own way for two or three years, or until the atrocious murder of Jules — another desperado but not so villanous — by Slade aroused such general indignation that he had to leave that part of the country. He went to Virginia City where a year or two later he was hanged by the Vigilantes.
The story of this murder as told by Likens was substantially the same as it appears in the annals of Colorado. In nervy exploits and pistol practice Slade and Jules were rivals to some extent. They had quarreled, and in the first encounter Jules got the better of Slade, I have
173forgotten how. They were separated, but Slade swore vengeance. It seems that their roads led apart for a couple of years thereafter, when some friends of Slade on the North Platte captured Jules and notified Slade. He came on fast and furious. When he arrived he found his victim bound to a post in a corral. Slade shot him twenty-two times before killing him, telling him each time where he was going to hit, avoiding a vital spot until the last. Then he cut off Jules' ears and put them into his pocket. It was his boastful exhibition of these bloody trophies in a Denver saloon, soon after, that called attention to the barbarous deed and started proceedings that caused him to precipitately leave the territory. Julesburg was named after Jules.
Old Dave's stories kept us up late, but early next morning he routed us out of our blanketed beds on the ground and bade us prepare for our proposed hunt after black-tail deer. We put lunches in pockets, intending to be out all day. We separated, taking different routes or directions, and keeping them as far as possible. I tramped and climbed and watched for deer until nearly noon, without seeing a sign of one, when, becoming thoroughly disgusted, I made my way back to camp as fast as I could. There I found Green and Old Dave. Green said he had just come in, having seen nothing, and Dave said he hadn't been out at all; just slid behind a rock and waited till we had got away, then came back to camp and went a-fishing. He said he knew the day before that the deer were still up on the mountains, but concluded not to tell us so, thinking that a hunt after them wouldn't hurt us much and would better satisfy us. Skeels came in a little later with a report similar to mine. We all fished
174that afternoon with great success, but, tired of catching more fish than we wanted or could take care of, we broke camp the following morning and returned to the ranch.
On invitation of Likens we staid at the ranch next day to rest, and also to see a little resort or retreat that he had in a pocket valley up the canyon, of which he had been telling us. As it was not far we walked up. It was a singularly beautiful place. The canyon there widened so as to form a little valley, which was bounded on its sides and closed at its upper end — excepting the stream's narrow channel — by towering bluffs. Here Likens had built a snug, little log cabin, which he used as a retreat or resting place when he was tired of seeing folks and wanted to meditate on his sins and the sins of others, especially after he had been to Denver.
In a corner of the cabin hung the skeleton of a man. We asked why he kept such a gruesome object in view. "Oh," said he, "that's one of my pets. It's the only Indian I'm dead sure I killed, though I have shot at many of 'em. I like to feel that I have got him safe." Of course we must have the story, which he very willingly related. As I recollect, it was as follows:
In 1865 during the troubles with the Utes a small band of them ran off his cattle from the lower end of the ranch. His man in charge escaped, made quick report and was sent in haste over to the St. Vrain settlement for help. He returned in a few hours with half a dozen settlers and they set out in pursuit of the Indians. The latter with the cattle entered the mountains not far from the place where we had just been camping. Dave was well acquainted with the locality and the surroundings
175he knew they would not undertake to drive the cattle through that night, but would go as far as they could, then seek a hiding place and wait till daylight. He guessed where that would be — a little canyon off the trail, well adapted to hold the cattle and to afford defense.
The settlers followed the trail as far as they dared, then Dave went forward to reconnoitre. He was nearing the supposed hiding place when, as he was turning a point of rock, an Indian from the other side came right in front of him, so close that they stood almost breast to breast as both halted in surprise. Dave's wits came first. Grasping his pistol, but not daring to shoot, he fetched the Indian a smashing blow on the head that sent him to ground with a crushed skull. Having thus disposed of this scout from the Indians, Dave returned to his party. They worked their way carefully toward the hiding place and reached it just as the Indian dogs gave the alarm. They rushed in, firing rapidly. The Indians, taken by surprise, scattered. The settlers gathered the cattle, drove them back to the main trail and then home safely. A year or so later Dave was up that way, found the skeleton, brought it home, wired and hung it up as a most satisfactory Indian relic.
We returned to Boulder next day. Thence I went up to Black Hawk to visit a cousin living there; with him came down to Denver to attend the fair, and at its close started for home. On the return I saw no live buffaloes west of Fort Hayes, but the fresh carcasses along the track near a "dug-out" station in western Kansas, where a few soldiers were quartered, indicated that a large drove had crossed recently. From the platform of the
176car I counted, as the train halted, thirty-six carcasses with hides on and apparently untouched. On inquiry we were told that the soldiers had killed them for their tongues, as a big drove was passing southward a few days before. A short distance east of Fort Hayes the train stopped at a watering place in the valley of a little stream. As we ascended to the general level we saw that the plain was covered with buffaloes as far as the eye could reach, so far that the most distant in view were mere specks against the horizon. It was then half past one, and the train did not pass entirely beyond the herd until four o'clock. Apparently there were hundreds of thousands in this herd. Bones, skeletons and carcasses lined the way all through the buffalo region. Bones were all that could be seen of our buffaloes a few years later.
ON my way home from Colorado I passed through Chicago, Saturday, October 7, 1871. That night a fire broke out in the city on the west side and swept off all the buildings on an area of about sixteen acres, next the river, between Adams and Van Buren streets. On Sunday night at about 9 o'clock a barn on the corner of DeKoven and Jefferson streets, west side, took fire and started a conflagration that destroyed the best part of the city. Its origin is still a mystery, though popularly laid to the kicking over of a kerosene lamp by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. This fire, as driven forward by a southwest gale after a long period of drouth, soon passed beyond control. Burning fragments of buildings were blown across the river, igniting buildings on the south side, and they in turn furnished like torches to be carried forward by the blast and widely scattered northward and eastward. The conflagration, increasing in violence and extent as thus driven onward, had destroyed most of the business portion of the south side, had jumped the river in many places and was rapidly devouring the north side, by Monday morning; and it continued its work of destruction all that day and the following night, when little was left to feed its fires. The area burned over, including streets, was 2,100 acres or about three and a half square miles. The property loss was estimated at $200,000,000. The loss of life was never clearly ascertained, the estimates ranging from 200 to 500, while some contended that this loss was much greater.
Immediately after the fire Governor Palmer issued a call for a special session of the legislature, to convene on Friday, Oct. 13, for the purpose of devising and providing means for state relief to the stricken city. The assembly, directly after organization, passed resolutions, conveying sympathy and promise of assistance to the people of Chicago; next appointed committees to consider the several propositions contained in the governor's call, and then adjourned until Monday, the 16th, in order to give members an opportunity to visit the city meantime.
With many other members I spent Saturday in Chicago, riding around among the still burning and smoking ruins, and conferring with leading citizens. The burnt district was a harrowing sight. Think of three and a half square miles of solid city utterly destroyed by fire, of the destruction and desolation, of the weird and fantastic features of the remains!
The legislature convened on the following Monday and immediately began work on relief measures suggested by the governor in his message. The most important of these were covered by a bill providing for the re-assessment of the state in order to relieve Chicago from paying taxes on the vast amount of property destroyed, and by a bill providing that the amount hitherto expended by the city upon the Illinois and Michigan canal be refunded and the lien of the city upon the revenues of the canal thereby extinguished, as permitted by option held by the state. Both bills were put through as rapidly as possible.
By the passage of the latter bill Chicago would be in receipt of nearly $3,000,000 to use in reconstruction of bridges and public buildings, in removing obstructions from the streets and in paying expenses of the city government, etc. These measures and others of less importance having been pushed through, the special session adjourned Oct. 24.
This twenty-seventh general assembly had four sessions, two regular and two special. The first regular opened January 4, 1871, and adjourned April 17 to November 15. The first special session, called for the purpose mainly of fixing salaries and providing means for the state's expenditures, opened May 24, 1871, and closed June 22. The second special, called to provide relief for Chicago after the fire, opened October 13 and closed October 24. And the second regular opened November 15, 1871, and closed April 9, 1872. It gave the members who attended to their duties as legislators little time for anything else.
On account of proposed reapportionment of the senatorial districts, the first senatorial term under the new constitution was limited to two years; so my time expired in the fall of 1872. I had had about as much of legislation as I wanted; and having become convinced that I was not likely to distinguish myself in that line, and that attention to my own business would be more to my profit as well as to my credit, I retired from the field and have never since sought a political office or position.
THE February, 1867, number of Harper's Monthly Magazine gave an extended sketch of "Wild Bill" the most famous union scout and daredevil of the western border states during the Civil War. Having read it and various other accounts of his exploits, as they had appeared in the newspapers from time to time, I was much interested when our agent at Warrensburg, where I was stopping over Sunday while making a trip in Missouri on harvester business in 1872, told me that Wild Bill was manager of the club house in that town. I am quite sure it was at Warrensburg, though it might have been at some other town where we had an agency in that part of Missouri. Anyhow Wild Bill was running the club house in the town where I was stopping and I wanted to see him. The agent said he would go with and introduce me there, and we went.
On the way to the club house he said we would meet a number of leading people there, and he wanted to know what title he should give me on introduction. I asked if a title was necessary. He laughed and said, "Yes, all those fellows have handles to their names — major, colonel, general or judge — and if you haven't they'll think you don't amount to much." He next asked if I held any office. When told that I was a member of our state
181Senate, he brightened up and said that would do very well but a military title was better, so, as senator ought to be good for colonel, he would introduce me as Col. Marsh, and thus I was presented to the titled assemblage and to Wild Bill at the club house. As he looked me over and through, I felt that my impression on him would have been better had I been introduced as plain Mr. Marsh.
We only exchanged a few commonplace remarks, enough for me to notice that his voice was low, his language ordinary and his smile pleasant. I observed him closely, as any one would a man who had killed many men with his own hands, who had a national reputation for daring and bloody exploits as scout and desperado. He must have been then nearly forty years old, but looked younger. In stature he was fully six feet, erect, well proportioned, with great breadth and depth of chest; in every respect a remarkably handsome man. There was not a bit of the bully or braggart in his manner or talk. He was neatly dressed in ordinary clothes and had the appearance of a quiet, rather reserved gentleman of the southwest.
The article in Harper's gives so good a description of him, as I saw him, that I quote from it. "There was a singular grace and dignity of carriage about that figure which would have called your attention, meet it where you would. The head which crowned it was now covered by a large sombrero underneath which there shone out a quiet, manly face; so gentle is its expression as he greets you as utterly to belie the history of its owner, yet it is not a face to be trifled with. The lips thin and sensitive, the jaw not too square, the cheek bones slightly
182prominent, a mass of fine dark hair falls below the neck to the shoulders. The eyes, now that you are in friendly intercourse, are as gentle as a woman's." The article repeats the story of Bill's greatest fight, that with the McKandlas band, in which he killed ten men and was himself so cut and shot that he came near dying, and relates several other of his exploits.
Two or three years later Wild Bill was appointed U. S. marshal for the southern district of Kansas. While he was acting in that capacity, I, in company with the late and much lamented John Syme, met him in Kansas City. He was then carrying his arm in a sling, having been shot through the shoulder, at a border town, while trying to arrest or break up a gang of outlaws, three of whom he killed. Not very long after he was shot and killed at Yankton while on his way to the Black Hills, by a man who had followed him from Kansas City and sneaked in behind him. His real name was William Hitchcock or Hickox. He was born at or near Springfield, Ill.
As I have previously stated, 1869 was a very wet year. Our climate went to the other extreme in 1870 and gave us the driest year on the record, with very light crops in consequence. It was the beginning of a dry period which extended to midsummer in 1875, when tremendous thunder storms began a period of wet seasons. (I mean that during a wet or a dry period of years the rain and snow fall is more or less than normal.) The five years, 1871 to 1875 inclusive, were generally favorable to farmers; crops were good and prices were high enough to give fairly profitable returns.
Neither the farmers nor the makers of farm machinery suffered much on account of the panic which followed
183the failure of Jay Cooke & Co. in 1873. That hit hardest in the mercantile and financial centers. The implement industry showed good progress. The harvester had become a standard machine, and binders were being attached. Mowers had quite superseded combined machines for cutting grass. Threshing machines did more and much better work. Wind mills, disk cultivators and riding plows — single or gang — were generally used.
During this period, also, barb wire fencing was invented and made sufficiently practical for the requirements of the farm and the market. Joseph Glidden obtained his first patent in 1874. That year he and I. L. Ellwood began the manufacture of the Glidden fencing in a small way, and the next year they built the first barb wire factory. Two or three years later the Washburn & Moen Company, of Worcester, Mass., bought Mr. Glidden's half interest in the business and the patents. Jacob Haish began his work in this line about the same time. The production of this kind of fencing was most opportune; for the supply of lumber was diminishing and a reliable board fence was very costly. Barb wire "filled the bill," the demand for it was enormous and the inventors and manufacturers were richly rewarded as they deserved to be. Through its manufacture, and the business thereby attracted, the little town of DeKalb has grown into a thriving city.
The harvester trade was never more active than in 1874. Our make was exhausted and many orders were left unfilled. In short, it was the best year we ever had. Marked success in one's own line of work frequently tempts him to venture into new and unfamiliar lines. So it was in my case at this time, for I allowed myself
184to be drawn into a publication scheme that lost for us considerable money and gave me much more trouble than I bargained for.
MY brother and I were both fond of field sports, shooting and fishing; so, when a call was made in 1874 for a meeting in Chicago of sportsmen for the purpose of organizing an association to aid in the preservation of game, etc., we attended and took part in the proceedings. A couple of adventurous and impecunious young fellows in Chicago, believing that such action offered a favorable opportunity for projecting a sporting paper in the west, similar to Forest and Stream in the east, incorporated an association for the publication of Chicago Field and Stream (later termed The Chicago Field, and still later The American Field.) Having no money of their own they solicited subscriptions to the stock from members of the sportsmen's association. In this way they obtained enough from several of us to start and keep the paper going a few months, when it became hopelessly involved through incompetent and wasteful management; in debt for material, etc., with everything mortgaged. In order to save our interest I bid in the stuff and the paper as the mortgages fell due. Thus we became the chief owners of the concern.
It was a lame duck, and I have found that it is better to let lame ducks die than to nurse them along. But I believed there was a good field for such a paper in the
186west, where most of the game was, if it were properly edited and managed; so we paid its debts, engaged a well recommended manager, selected one of the young fellows for editor, arranged for contributions from several writers in this line, changed the name to the Chicago Field, and went ahead. I gave it as much of my personal attention as I could spare and occasionally contributed to its columns.
During the next two years we much improved the paper and increased its business; but as it continually lost money, I came to the conclusion that we must have at its head some one of established reputation as authority on field sports. After much negotiation I finally, in 1876, prevailed on Dr. Rowe ("Mohawk"), of Forest and Stream, to come in with us and take the management. He proved to be the right man for the place; the paper soon began to pay its way, and later, as The American Field, it became eminently successful. In 1881, on account of our many burdens, we sold out to him. Meantime for convenience of publication we had become interested also in a printing establishment from which unfortunately we were unable to free ourselves before it became involved in the failure of some book concerns, thus complicating and increasing our financial burdens. And all this exhibits the folly of allowing one's self to be drawn into outside ventures which he cannot control or must leave to the management of others.
Many in this section will remember John J. McKinnon, who in his palmy days, along in the "seventies," owned the old John R. Hamlin farm, south of Sycamore, and some will also remember his thoroughbred horse, Red Eye. But few, I think, know that McKinnon induced
187the most famous animal painter of the first half of the last century, Troye, "The Landseer of America," to leave his plantation home in Alabama, where he had been in retirement for several years, and to come up here, though past eighty, to paint Red Eye. Troye had painted every famous race horse from Eclipse and Sir Henry down to the time of his retirement, and McKinnon was determined that his finish should be on Red Eye; and so it proved to be, for the old man died not long after his return home.
While he was here, that is, at McKinnon's place, I met him several times. He was tall, thin and straight, with the manners of an old-fashioned southern gentleman to his friends, but shy of and brusque to strangers. He was much interested in the operations of our harvester, with the result that I sent him a machine for his plantation and he sent me some of his pictures of famous horses; two of which, Eclipse and Sir Henry, painted in 1834, the year in which I was born, are of considerable value, I am told.
Troye did not seek patronage or recognition outside of the horse racing and horse breeding interests of his time, hence the general public know little of his work. Hamilton Busbey, in his article "The Running Turf of America," published in the June and July, 1870, numbers of Harper's Monthly, paid a warm tribute to the genius of Troye and said, "His portraits grace the walls of cultivated homes in all parts of the New World and are found in many of the galleries of the Old." By the way, these old Harpers are mines of useful information.
Many other notables, besides the politicians who are ever coming and going, have visited this community; of
188whom none is more worthy of notice than Christine Nilsson. In her childhood in Sweden she sang at fairs and on the streets. Several who knew her there had immigrated to America and settled at Sycamore. One of them had particularly befriended her, and when she, in the height of her fame, came to Chicago, he went in to see her. He invited her out to Sycamore to visit the Swedish residents and suggested that she give a concert for the benefit of their church. She readily consented, and increased the favor by agreeing to give two concerts, one to the Swedes in their language and another of English songs to the Americans. It was arranged that the American concert should come off first, early in the evening in the old Methodist church, so that she would have no limit to her time with her people at their hall. The affair was decidedly informal and most enjoyable. She acted like a school girl out for a good time. She sang for us song after song as requested, in a charmingly gracious manner. The Swedish concert was highly emotional; her light songs were greeted with much laughter and her sweet home songs brought tears and sobs. She won the hearts of all the people.
While speaking of notables I am reminded that Tennessee Claflin, now Lady Cook, the noted suffragist, and her parents spent a considerable time in DeKalb during the "fifties." She was then a girl in her 'teens, a handsome blonde with long curling hair. They were using her as a fortune-teller or spirit raiser for whatever could be made in that profession.
IN 1873, by appointment of Governor Beveridge, I became one of the trustees of the Illinois Northern Hospital for the Insane at Elgin, which position I held continuously, being reappointed by the several governors succeeding, until 1893, when a Democratic administration was inaugurated under Governor Altgeld. At the time of my appointment the other trustees were Henry Sherman, of Elgin, and C. N. Holden, of Chicago. Dr. E. A. Kilbourne was superintendent. Only the north wing of the main building had been completed and occupied.
The grounds were in chaotic condition, covered by the debris of the finished part and by material for the construction of the center. As soon as they could be relieved from such covering we began to grade, to lay out the grounds and to plant trees. This work, though most of the time under the direct care of a landscape gardener, was planned mainly by Dr. Kilbourne and closely supervised by him, the trustees inspecting and advising at their monthly meetings. To me it was very interesting work. I gave to it considerable extra time, and assisted Dr.
190Kilbourne to the best of my ability. The now notably beautiful grounds at the Elgin institution are the result of our early care and of the attention we continued to give them as the institution was enlarged and extended.
It was the intention of the makers of the general law which covered the management of these charitable institutions, that such institutions should not be reckoned among the spoils of succeeding parties or administrations, and also that they should be continuously under experienced management. To this end the terms of the first trustees, appointed under the law, were fixed at two, four and six years, respectively, and thereafter six years for all. Thus the terms would lap and always two of the members would have had some experience. The governor was authorized by the law to appoint the trustees and their successors, as vacancies should occur by expiration of term, by death, resignation or removal for misconduct. Beyond the power to appoint the trustees and to call them to account for misconduct, the governor had no authority under the law to meddle with the management The trustees were directed by the law to organize, to appoint the superintendent, and the superintendent was, in his turn, to select and employ his assistants and other help, subject, like other transactions in the management of the institution, to the consideration of the trustees.
All the governors, after the adoption of the new constitution and down to the time of Altgeld, respected the law and the plain intention of its makers. Governor Cullom, to show his disposition to keep these institutions free from politics and political place-hunters, appointed a Democrat as trustee on any of the boards where a vacancy
191had occurred. No better man was ever appointed than the Democratic member of our board, Frederick Stahl, of Galena.
During the twenty years of my first service on the board the appointment or employment of no one was influenced by his politics. Only once was this question raised, when I suggested the name of Dr. Brooks to succeed Dr. Kilbourne, deceased, and then I could not answer. No governor ever asked or demanded place for any of his friends or followers, or ever suggested the appointment of any one, except once, when Governor Fifer telegraphed recommending for superintendent one of the members of the board of state charities, whom we rejected because we considered him too old and not sufficiently practical in business matters. Later the governor explained how he had been "cornered," and he commended our action. And all the governors visited the institutions oftener and apparently took more interest in them before than after their political prostitution.
During all this period there were no graft scandals and no serious troubles. Of course mistakes were sometimes made; occasionally accidents occurred, or employes failed in their duties, or a scandalous story was circulated. Similar troubles befall well governed communities of sane people. How then can sensible folks expect that such occurrences can be entirely prevented in a big community in which nearly all are incapable of self restraint? I know that we earnestly tried to give good care to the patients and to the interests of the state. No abuse was tolerated when known, and no money was wilfully misapplied. I never saw any disposition on the part of my associates or of the superintendents to do or cover up
192any wrong; and I do not believe we were much better than those in charge of other institutions. In short, the reputation of these charitable institutions was excellent until our governors began to use them as pawns in politics, and opposition papers in consequence to abuse them for political effect.
Dr. Kilbourne and Dr. Brooks were efficient and conscientious superintendents. The cares and responsibilities of the service shortened the life of Dr. Kilbourne. Dr. Brooks left a good practice to enter it, was turned adrift by the Democratic administration and never regained his hold upon business. Probably his death came earlier in consequence of such experience. The trustees worked for nothing, but had their expenses paid. My twenty years of service cost the tax payers a little over $500. Furthermore, I had never recommended any one for place in the institution on account of personal or political interest.
Governor Altgeld, because of change from Republican to Democratic administration in this state, had some excuse for discharging without cause all appointed officials and their assistants and replacing them by those of his own party. But such action as applied to the officials of the charitable institutions was contrary to the letter and spirit of the law covering them. The Democrats had long been out and they were very anxious to get in; they wanted to see what had been going on and to enjoy whatever benefits might accrue. As they now had full possession of the institutions and their records, the public would have been quickly advised if they had discovered evidence of any bad management in the past worth noticing. Apparently they found nothing for they said nothing
193It was left for the Republicans to befoul their own nests.
Governor Tanner gave the Democrats a dose of their own medicine by turning them all out. His appointments were made with an eye to the payment of his political debts — past, present and future — rather than to the best interests of the institutions. To this end, in several cases salaries were unnecessarily increased and new positions invented. The political regime for these institutions was now fully inaugurated. The newspapers unfriendly to Tanner took a whack at them occasionally and, as such matter was sensational, other newspapers soon fell into the same habit. To the credit of Governor Tanner it can be said that after the appointments were made he left his appointees subject to the local management.
Governor Yates when elected found himself in a peculiar position. At the convention in which he was nominated he had promised Tanner's friends, in order to get their much needed support, that he would not displace a specified number of Tanner's appointees; and this made it very difficult for him to meet his obligations to his own friends. Remember that under the law neither Tanner nor Yates had any authority to appoint or displace officials or employes of the charitable institutions, except to fill vacancies in the boards of trustees or to discharge from them in cases of misconduct. (I use the word "misconduct" because it applies to various faults.)
Having been recommended by some of my friends to Governor Yates for one of the trustees on the board of the institution at Elgin, I was duly appointed. At the first regular meeting of the board under the Yates administration, Dr. F. Dr. Dr. S. Whitman, of Belvidere, who had
194succeeded Dr. Hamilton, deceased, as superintendent, was reappointed. Our inspection of the institution was satisfactory; it appeared to be well kept and well managed. We discussed reforms and improvements suggested by the superintendent and also appointments which the governor might desire. We learned that the big farm had run down considerably and that its management required a general overhauling. Prior to the advent of the Altgeld administration it had been yielding a handsome profit; the dairy was furnishing all the milk required by the institution, and large quantities of vegetables were being produced. But through the neglect and inefficiency of the political farmers employed these products had fallen off until now, the superintendent said, the state was paying nearly $400 per month for milk, and the yield of vegetables was comparatively light. The head farmer seemed to be incapable of improving the conditions; but he was closely related to the very influential politician who had secured his appointment. We were told also that needless positions had been created and certain salaries unnecessarily increased. The conditions required immediate consultation with the governor; so we all went down to see him.
We explained the situation to the governor and found that he had promised to retain the men whom we wished at once to remove — the farmer for inefficiency and the assistant store-keeper as unnecessary — and also that he expected us to find places for two or three of his own friends. He was more tenacious for the retention of the former than for the placement of the latter. He wanted much to keep his word, but he also wanted good service for the institutions, as his course later demonstrated.
195The situation was distressing. Had it been as it was in the days before the advent of the Altgeld administration, when the governors respected the law, we would have stood up and said "Governor, we are going to run the institution for the best interests of the state and its wards and not to pay the political debts of our governors. The superintendent whom we have appointed will take charge of the appointment and removal of his subordinates as the law directs." But we knew that the political system of running the institutions had been established and that the only thing to do was to make the best of it; so we tried to harmonize interests as far as possible. Dr. Whitman, the superintendent, suggested some changes by which he could take in the governor's men, in distinct understanding that they must do their work, and the governor promised that, if we would retain the two men mentioned for awhile, he would find other places for them. This the governor failed to do, and many months later we had to discharge them peremptorily. Meantime political contributions by employes had been distinctly declared voluntary and refused transmission through the office.
I have gone into these details for the purpose of showing how demoralizing was the political system of running the state charitable institutions, how obstructive to discipline, good work, proper responsibility and economical administration. And it was all contrary to the letter and spirit of the law. Governor Yates did not establish the system; he inherited it and he couldn't easily abandon it. He gave the state a very good administration. Being young and ambitious he made some mistakes which the Chicago newspapers magnified to the utmost. For some
196reason, probably because he refused to submit to all their demands, they turned against him and most shamefully abused him.
Governor Deneen, our great reform governor, the Moses from the bullrushes of Chicago politics, who was to lead our party in this state back to its pristine purity — according to the Chicago newspapers which stood sponsors for him — had been elected by the time we had got the institution into fairly satisfactory condition. The useless members of the force had been eliminated, the farm much improved under competent management, and other improvements made for which the state had provided money. In short the institution was in fine running order inside and outside, thanks to the able and persistent efforts of the superintendent, and naturally he wanted the new governor to come out and look it over. So did the trustees. He saw the governor and got promise of a visit at a certain time, but he didn't come. He wrote him, telephoned him, saw him, getting promises always but never the governor, until the inquiry from us at monthly meetings, "When is the governor coming out?" became a rather disagreeable joke on the doctor.
During the year after his election, and until I resigned, Governor Deneen had never visited the institution and knew nothing about its management or condition, except what he might have gathered from parties interested, for or against.
In the spring of 1905 the terms of two of the trustees had expired, the lap of terms having been lost through the political shuffling. One of them ceased coming to the meetings; the other continued to attend, as he might until his successor had been appointed, so that there
197should be a quorum for business. It was the duty of the governor to appoint at least one in order to insure such quorum.
On the 28th or 29th of October 1905, I was summoned to a special meeting of the board. On arriving at the institution I found two new trustees there with credentials from the governor. One bore a certificate from his excellency appointing him president of the board, and also a long list of appointees, twenty-four in number, among them the secretary of the board. Thus, instead of allowing the board to organize itself in accordance with the law, and the superintendent to make necessary appointments, the governor had taken such responsibility upon himself, a plain usurpation of the rights and duties of the trustees, and also of the superintendent.
Apparently Governor Deneen's main object was to hurry these, his appointees, untrained and untried, into the positions of our experienced employes — assistant physicians, chief clerk, book-keeper, history clerk, store-keeper, etc. — so that they should be safely placed before November 1, a day or two later, when the civil service law would take effect; by which action the governor would beat the state out of the benefits of the law, pay his political debts and force into the service a lot of fellows, most of whom would have been barred out if they had been subjected to examination. Only two or three of them made good and held their jobs.
But this program could not be carried out in full; for the two new trustees saw plainly that the business operations of the institution would be seriously embarrassed if a lot of raw recruits were immediately put in the places of the experienced employes, especially in the offices,
198when the superintendent explained to them (the trustees) what the duties were and the necessity of experience and familiarity for their proper performance; so they telephoned to the governor, explaining the situation and suggesting that only such changes be made as would not endanger the service. They came to some understanding and the appointments of several were ratified by the board. But even then, to make sure of reasonably efficient service, the trustees considered it necessary to keep several of the ousted officials in their places for a time, if they would consent to remain under pay, in order that they might instruct the new officials in their new duties. With this proposition the superintendent and I went down to the displaced officials. After much urging they magnanimously consented to remain, only, however, as a personal favor to us. Had Yates been guilty of any such irregularities, giving them the mildest designation possible, the Chicago newspapers would have flayed him, but as committed by their man Deneen they took no notice of them.
I remained on the board until after the December meeting, when I resigned. I did so not because of any objection to serve with the new trustees, who appeared to be good men, but because I was old enough to retire and I did not care to serve under such a — well, such conditions. The governor acknowledged receipt of my resignation and my name was stricken off the list. But a couple of years later it appeared in its old place in the reports to the legislature, because, as I suppose, he had discovered that he had disobeyed the law in not appointing my successor and feared that some one might call him to account for such neglect.
A few months after my retirement Dr. Whitman resigned from the superintendency. When I went on the board this last term I was so prejudiced against his supposedly political management that I would not vote for his reappointment. I soon saw reason to change my opinion and long before I left the board I regarded him as eminently able, reliable and efficient, as well fitted for the position as any superintendent in the state.
It may be said that I have gone too much into the details of my connection with the Elgin institution, but I was on the board of its trustees twenty-five years, and many things would occur worth noticing in such a long period. Besides, I thought it well to show up the pernicious results of political interference with the management of charitable institutions by tracing its course through our institution from its dirty beginning to its rotten end.
Whether the conditions will be better or worse under the new system remains to be tested. I still believe that a properly qualified superintendent, aided as need be by his assistants, can select a better class of employes than the "paper" candidates furnished by the Civil Service Board, and that the withdrawal from the superintendent of the right to employ and peremptorily discharge is more or less detrimental to discipline. It is too early to pass judgment on the work of the Board of Administration. But it is a political board, since the members are appointed by the governor and hold office for six years instead of "during good behavior." They may save considerable by buying in large quantities, and they may lose by lack of ability to properly determine what and how much to buy; and it is not impossible for them to have interests
200in the sales or the sellers. Then there are the Charities Commission and the Board of Visitors. These boards unless the members are of much better material than "common clay," are liable to clash, to disagree in their conclusions, reports or advice, or to be influenced by jealousies. They will keep the superintendents in hot water.
THE wet period beginning in the summer of 1875, as mentioned, continued through 1876 and, with short intermisson in 1877, for several years thereafter. During this period agricultural immigration pushed westward far out upon the "American desert." It was not a prosperous period for agriculture as crops were not over-abundant and prices of farm products were generally low.
At our great Centennial Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1876, the magnificent displays of farm machinery and of other improved machines, devices and appliances, showed that wonderful progress had been made in all the useful and practical arts within the preceding fifty years or since the era of rapid and expanding development began. The display of farm implements and machines was gorgeous. Manufacturers of farm machinery vied with each other, as never before or since, in the fine finish of their exhibits. Gold and silver and nickel plating was common. One reaper cost in the making about $5,000, it was said. The harvester exhibited by Gammon & Deering and the Sycamore Marsh Harvester Manufacturing Company, made by the latter, cost more than $1,000. Automatic grain binders (their first appearance at a big exhibition)
202harvesters, reapers, mowers, plows (single, gang and sulky), cultivators, seeders, drills, corn planters, horse rakes, hay loaders and balers, corn shelters, cider mills, farm scales, wind mills, and threshers, of various makes and styles, were shown; also a steam thresher and ditching" machine; besides an endless variety of the smaller implements and tools.
In 1876 there was a notable three-cornered fight in our "old fourth" district for membership of Congress, the candidates being William Lathrop, of Winnebago county and Gen. S. A. Hurlbut, of Boone county, Republicans, nominated at the memorable split convention in Geneva, and John F. Farnsworth, the Democratic nominee. At the same time Shelby M. Cullom, Republican, and Lewis Steward, of Plano, Democrat, were nominees of their respective parties for governor. Hayes and Tilden were the presidential candidates; but it was an off year, with no important question to arouse the people, who, generally speaking, were unusually apathetic.
It happened that I had been appointed member of the state central committee for the district and this fight, so far as the committee was concerned, fell to my charge. The other members of the committee were very much worried lest the contest between the two Republicans would so divide the votes that Farnsworth would have a majority over either. They urged the withdrawal of one or the other, they didn't care which. But neither was disposed to give way to the other; and I contended that it would be better to keep both in the field, because each would make a desperate effort to beat the other and thus bring out all the Republican votes, and some from Democrats locally interested, while if either withdrew the bitterness
203of feeling aroused between the factions would prevent his followers from voting for the other and cause many of them to turn to Farnsworth, who, as an old-time Republican and union general with good record, had many Republican friends in the district.
It was one of the few times in which my judgment on a matter of importance proved to be sound. We had a mighty lively campaign, the liveliest in the state. Lathrop won out by a good majority, and what was of more importance to the party, the contest saved Cullom and beat my old friend and business associate, Steward, for the former got the votes that had been divided between Lathrop and Hurlbut, which votes taken together gave an old fashioned majority to the banner district and pulled him just out of the reach of his opponent. As many will remember the vote in the state was very close; if it had been a little closer we would have had some nasty contests in southern districts where our side had won by adopting Democratic methods, as we would say.
While serving on this committee I met a good many prominent people, the frequent meeting with two of whom, Senator Logan and Gen. Hurlbut, greatly increased my respect for them. Senator Logan spent a good deal of time at headquarters, coming over there to meet and visit with friends. He seldom volunteered any advice to the committee and when advice was sought of him he gave it without any assumption of authority. He was very companionable, frank, genial and unassuming.
I had known Gen. Hurlbut many years but had never become closely acquainted with him. I was a member of the committee and was supporting Lathrop in the contest; so Hurlbut and I met in the committee room as political
204opponents, but he was always as friendly as if we were working together. He discussed the difficulties and disagreeable features of the situation fairly and frankly. He was the party most aggrieved yet he complained the least. We became very good friends and later did some political work together. He was of an open and generous nature. We maintained occasional correspondence until his death at Lima, Peru, where he was U. S. minister. His last letter reached me a considerable time after the notice of his death had been published.
Hon. Lewis Steward, of Plano, was a man of great natural ability and of wide information. He was notably hospitable and kept open house, not only for his friends but for the "stranger at the gate," if deemed worthy, and especially for any person prominent in literature, politics or religion. Occasionally he would invite me over to meet some notable whom he was to entertain.
Some time during the "seventies" — I forget the year — Mr. Steward notified me that Senor Zamacona, Mexican minister or commissioner of agriculture, would be out to Plano to go through the harvester works and to look over his and other farms in the neighborhood. I joined them duly. The Senor was a fine specimen of the Spanish-Mexican gentleman; a thoroughbred with courtly manners, tall, spare and high-featured. He spoke English fluently. He was up here for the purpose of obtaining some practical knowledge of our improved agricultural methods, and of interesting capitalists in an international railway project that he and General John C. Fremont were promoting. From Plano he was going to Chicago to meet the general and in the evening to give an address, on Mexican resources and the advantages of closer connections
205between the countries, to a called meeting of prominent citizens. Being desirous of seeing General Fremont, for whom as first Republican nominee for the presidency I had cast my first vote, I went in with them.
Senor Zamacona came to the hall accompanied by the general and his wife, Jessie Benton Fremont. The audience was disappointingly small, but the Senor gave an interesting and apparently satisfactory address. After its close an informal reception was held, and all who wished were presented to the Fremonts. They were a handsome couple. He was rather reserved, his manner giving us the impression that his many disappointments had saddened or soured him; but she was as chatty and lively as a girl, though her hair was white as snow. Their lives had been full of romance and adventure, of success and failure. When he was running for the presidency they were the most popular couple in the United States, he on account of his great services and perilous adventures while exploring in the far west, which obtained for him the title of "Pathfinder," and she, because of their love story and her devotion to him. But their day had passed, and at the time of this meeting there were few to do them reverence.
AS I have previously stated, the Marsh Harvester Manufacturing Company at Sycamore was organized in 1869, mainly for the purpose of making harvesters for territory, mostly west of the Missouri river, not licensed to Easter & Gammon. It was a broad territory, but at that time thinly settled and its farmers were poor. Later, during the first half of the "seventies," it suffered much from drouth and grasshoppers. Under the conditions the demand for harvesters was not sufficient to keep the shops running steadily and advantageously; and the efforts in other lines had not much improved the situation. The necessity for larger production was evident to both stockholders and citizens; so, when in the fall of 1875 the company obtained a big manufacturing contract from E— & Co., of Chicago, for machines for the harvest of 1876, there was great rejoicing in town, because it meant that the shops would be run to full capacity and with a much larger number of operatives. During the year following business was lively in Sycamore.
207In the fall of 1876 E— & Co. refused to make a contract for the next year, but offered instead to purchase a controlling interest in the works, with stated purpose of having all the harvesters for their territory made there. This proposition pleased all parties — citizens, stockholders and ourselves, because it promised continuous and greatly enlarged operations, more economical manufacture, and relief to my brother and me from the burdens and responsibilities of the business. We were constantly urged to make a deal with them if possible, which we really were anxious to do as the withdrawal of their work, for which capacity of the shops had been increased, would leave conditions worse than before. After considerable negotiation an arrangement was made between the two concerns which I will duly set forth.
The Sycamore Marsh Harvester Manufacturing Company was incorporated under a special charter which gave the concern privileges not allowed by the general law enacted later. According to agreement with certain leading citizens of Sycamore, who had the matter in charge, and ourselves, they were first to subscribe or furnish paid up subscriptions to the amount of $30,000, then to credit us with $30,000 on the subscription lists as bonus for locating in Sycamore, and thereafter subscriptions and payments were to be equal between them and us until the list would reach $100,000. In this way it was raised to $78,000, but could get no farther. We then offered to furnish capital up to the $100,000, or more if needed, charging interest on our advances. Upon this proposition the company was fully organized and work began. Our bonus was the water in the stock and its value depended entirely upon our success. For every dollar the
208Sycamore people paid they received a dollar in stock, on which, after the first year, 10 per cent annual dividends were paid down to 1876.
To get a controlling interest E— & Co. obtained options at $200 for $100 of stock from all of the citizen holders who would sell at that rate and from us enough more to give them a small majority. This purchase having been accomplished the company was reorganized November 7, and capital stock raised to $200,000, E— & Co. and the remaining holders taking their proportionate shares of the $122,000 new stock. E— & Co. were to have full possession and management on and after January 1, 1877; but the business of the two concerns was to be kept separate — excepting the manufacturing part, which was to be joint — each to supply its share, as estimated, of current requirements and each to make definite payments for machines taken for its territory at the end of season when full cost could be determined. All this I have given from memory, because the record book of the harvester company has been lost or mislaid.
The balance sheet of the company, drawn off by A. M. Stark, its secretary, and M. E. H—, book-keeper for E— & Co., December 6, 1876, showed that the aggregate value of the assets at cost prices was $592,352. 34, and the amount of the debts was $121,503. 62, assets in excess of debts being $470,848. 72; but putting in the capital stock, $200,000, as a liability the net surplus would be $270,848. 72. Our advances and payments for the company covered nearly all its indebtedness at that time. Assuming that the assets might shrink considerably we had made a fine record for the concern, considering the small capital and limited territory; and it was a decidedly clean
209piece of manufacturing property when turned over to E— & Co.
This deal with E— & Co. was the fatal mistake of our business lives, for, besides the losses we sustained through their failure, and the consequent failure and our attempted redemption of the harvester company, it led or forced us to take chances later that completed our ruin. The people of Sycamore did not charge us with being foolish or reckless at the time of making this deal; they were highly pleased with it, and generally the transaction was regarded as one that would be mutually beneficial. Mr. F—, the financial man of E— & Co., assured us that they were worth $400,000; their credit was good at the First National and other banks in Chicago; their dealings with us had always been satisfactory; their business, we knew, was profitable if properly managed, and it ought to be more profitable when they could get their machines at cost of making. They had also contracted with Gammon & Deering for the output of the Plano factory and for their territory in which to place such output. In short, the good credit of E— &, Co. enabled them to obtain full control of the Marsh harvester trade for the year 1877.
Because of falling prices and of the uncertainties attendant upon the approach of specie resumption — which under the act of 1875 was to take effect January 1, 1879 — business was decidedly dull in 1877. E— & Co. had made preparations for a big trade; but as the season advanced it became evident that the demand would be unusually light and that they would be heavily overloaded. We knew that they were having a hard struggle and were leaning too much upon the harvester company; but what
210could we do? They had control, were making a strong and apparently successful fight to pull through, and any interruption of their plans might precipitate a disaster. As president of the company I occasionally enjoined Mr. F— against endangering it by too much complication with their affairs, which he promised not to do. So we awaited the time for annual reports and settlements.
Meanwhile we had been taking a rest. We had also been looking up western lands, of which at that time there were plenty to be had cheap, with intention to invest largely therein with moneys coming from patent licenses and from the harvester company and E— & Co. at the end of the season. In York county, Nebraska, we found plenty of school lands that could be bought at from $3 to $4 per acre. And later we learned that the unsold lands in Republic and Jewell counties, Kansas, and in Thayer and Nuckolls counties, Nebraska, of a railway company, had to be disposed of by sale in New York City on or before an early date. On investigation we found that the title was good and the price very low; so low that we concluded to take as many of them as we could get. We sent a man out with descriptive lists to locate and select. He reported favorably on about 30,000 acres. These we proposed to buy. Just then came the crash; E— & Co. failed and dragged down the harvester company. In consequence we had to give up any large purchase of lands; but a little before they were closed out in New York, we, in connection with Mr. Bosworth, of Elgin, sent down and bought between 7,000 and 8,000 acres at a cost, including every expense, of $1. 56 per acre. Two or three years later they were sold for $6 to $10 per acre and now they are worth from $25 to $75.
The failure of E— & Co. occurred December 12, 1877 and the harvester company made an assignment two days later. The statement then drawn from the books by the assignee, Mr. Stark, showed that, though over $140,000 had been collected from the company's farmers' notes during the year under the E— administration, its direct liabilities had been increased from $121,503. 62 to $410,021. 79, besides a large amount, not definitely known, of indirect liability on account of the use of its name for the benefit of E— & Co.; and that the nominal value of the company's assets was $842,527. 56. According to the statement the nominal loss during the season was only about $40,000; but a considerable portion of these assets consisted of unsalable or worthless stuff unloaded upon the company, and of farmers' notes pledged for the security of E— & Co.'s debts, as also for its own. As usual in such cases later developments largely increased liabilities and decreased assets; it was soon discovered that the debts of the company would reach about $530,000 and that the net value of the assets would fall far below the figures given.
It was a sickening wreck. I have never held Mr. E— responsible for it. He had been in poor health a long time and knew but little about the financial affairs of his own concern or of the harvester company, which were wholly under Mr. F—'s management. Gammon & Deering took over E— & Co.'s assets and settled with their unsecured creditors at eleven cents on the dollar. At first the unsecured creditors of the harvester company wanted full payment; but the development of indirect liabilities and the character of the assets — largely of machines and other stuff widely scattered and of
212uncertain value, of material at factory valued at $160,000 (three times as much as was needed for the now restricted business) and of unnecessary machinery — induced them to drop to eighty cents on the dollar, which they offered to take in notes on reasonable time with the endorsement of C. W. and W. W. Marsh on the last half. Aud thus settlement was made.
We wanted to pay the creditors all that we could safely and also to save the business to the stockholders and to the city; and this we might have done had not a new element or condition, the increasing demand for automatic binders, developed meanwhile. We did not much fear the competition with wire binders, because of the general prejudice against wire, nor with twine binders, because as yet none had fully demonstrated its practicability and twine was too expensive, we thought. The year 1878 was mostly spent in settling the affairs of the company and in locating and trying to dispose of its scattered property. This proved to be a very difficult and disappointing undertaking. The failure of the company discredited its goods, to some extent. To induce agents to sell the old stuff we had to make losing concessions; and if they were willing to contract for new harvesters they generally wanted binders also, which the company did not make and could not promise.
In 1879 our principal patents and the licenses expired. When making settlement with the company's creditors we had looked forward to such time for unrestricted territory and a larger and more satisfactory trade; instead we had found that the harvester without an automatic binder could not hold its place in the market. In short during these three years of mismanagement and
213misfortunes the harvester company had fallen quite behind its competitors, was losing money on its comparatively small product and must have a binder for its harvester or go out of business.
At that time several wire binders, attached to the Marsh harvester or other harvesters of that type, were doing fair work and finding a ready market, and two twine binders were coming prominently forward; but none yet had fully met all the requirements so as to take the lead distinctively. The need of a binder for our company was imperative, and that it ought to be one of our own was evident; so we, C. W. &, W. W. Marsh, employed inventors whose devices seemed to be promising, and spent our money freely in various efforts to produce a practical binder. Meantime the company purchased wire binders from the Deering concern to supply the most urgent demands. We also did our best to maintain the trade in straight harvesters and to get clean of the stuff with which the company was loaded at the time of the failure.
The Appleby twine binder had been doing so well in the field that in 1878 Gammon & Deering became interested in it and took shop right under the patents. In 1880 Mr. Deering (Mr. Gammon having retired from the firm in 1879 with nearly a million for his portion), on the strength of late improvements upon this binder, determined to make a bold push for the trade. He built and put out 3,000 of them on his Marsh harvesters. They made a wonderfully successful record, and demonstrated that a satisfactory automatic harvesting machine had at last been produced. Wire had to give place to twine, and harvesters without binders could only be sold to
214those who could not get twine binders or were not able to pay their price.
Nearly all the other manufacturers obtained shop rights under the Appleby patents. But our overburdened company had no money for such investment; besides, we foolishly believed we were producing something as good or better. We thought that we were too weak financially to compete with the big concerns on the same machine and that in order to succeed we must have one distinctively different. Some of the ablest men in the business equally impressed by the necessity of having machines of their own, spent fortunes in their efforts to produce them.
As there always had been a prejudice against canvas carriers on harvesters we were disposed to favor Whitney's chain carriers for forcing grain directly from the platform to the binder. His plan seemed to be feasible. If it could be made to operate successfully we could produce a more compact and apparently a much more durable machine than the combined harvester and binder, and it would be of an entirely different type. As finally developed the Marsh-Whitney was a pretty good machine. It did beautiful work where conditions favored it and fairly well most anywhere when handled by an expert. After going through the harvest of 1881 successfully with several of them we fully believed that it was sufficiently practical to be put upon the market, moderately.
The harvester company had not yet paid half of what it owed at time of failure; its collections had not been sufficient to meet all claims as they fell due and extensions had to be endorsed by us, and its assets had so shrunken in value that it was doubtful if they would yield enough to pay all its debts; so, while it still had the shops
215and machinery, it had no capital and no credit with which to engage in a new enterprise.
Our losses through the failures, loans to the harvester company and investment in its stock, most of which we owned, made it possible for us to furnish necessary capital.
IN view of all the conditions we concluded that we must quit manufacturing and wind up the harvester company's affairs or organize a new company with capital sufficient to continue the business. We laid the matter before Mr. James S. Waterman and other leading citizens. After due consideration it was determined to organize the Marsh Binder Manufacturing Company, with capital stock of $300,000, to take over the shops and machinery of the harvester company and to furnish means for the manufacture of harvesting machines, mainly Marsh-Whitney binders.
As proposed we, C. W. & W. W. Marsh, subscribed for more than half the stock — for ourselves and for the harvester company, which mostly belonged to us — the officials of the harvester company subscribed liberally, as did a few outsiders, and many citizens put their names down for as much as their means would permit. The aggregate amount of stock taken by the citizens was $51100, of which James S. Waterman took $15,000, R. Ellwood $5,000, and William Loomis $5,000; the remainder, $26,100, was taken in small sums by twenty-four subscribers. Of the outsiders I. L. Ellwood took $10,000,
217and C. W. Yale, of Geneva, Ill., an old reaper man, took $8,000, after he had watched the operations of the Marsh-Whitney binder in the field to his full satisfaction.
Really the cash capital was small for such an undertaking; but it would have been enough to establish the business successfully had the Marsh-Whitney binder been as good as it promised or we believed it to be, or had we gone slow on that and built standard Marsh harvesters and Appleby binders while testing the other more widely and thoroughly in the hands of farmers. Such was our original intention; and I had arranged with the owners of the Appleby patents for a shop-right license. But before the new company had been brought into working order these patents were purchased by W. N. Whitely, of Springfield, O., who, on application to him for license, refused to grant it and threatened immediate proceedings against us if we should infringe.
Here is where we made a ruinous mistake. We ought to have gone slow in the shops and on the market until we had obtained the verdict of the trade on our new machine, or we ought to have built the standard machines and taken our chances against Whitely's warnings. Unfortunately, as it proved, we did neither; we undertook to produce a modified Appleby that might avoid injunction, and started out largely with the Marsh-Whitney, enough orders having come in to take all and more than we could make. Later, Whitely offered to license us, but we were too far along in our work and too confident.
The season of 1882 was notably wet, showers were frequent, grain was of heavy growth and much tangled. The harvest was unfavorable to the introduction of any
218new machine. In the effort to make ours light, neat and compact we did not give it sufficient capacity and strength for the abundant straw and the trying conditions. In some localities it gave good satisfaction, in others it failed to meet requirements or expectations. Several hundred were sold and settled for, some were retained by purchasers for repairs and another season's trial, and many were so broken that they had to be returned to the shops. But the reports were generally favorable to the principles of the machine and to its success if properly built. It was evident that the trade wanted a binder of that type. Several manufacturers who had seen it work expressed the opinion that it would succeed and also their desire to build it when perfected. We had not done as well as we expected; still we were not discouraged.
There was no difficulty in obtaining orders for our second year's product. The machines were given greater capacity, weight and strength; but 1883 was a dry year and grain was so short and thin that they worked as if too big and coarse for it; the toothed chains would not deliver it in good shape to the binder, and they also proved to be less durable and more troublesome under wear than canvas carriers. A device was soon applied that materially aided the chains in their delivery, but it came too late to be of much benefit to the season's trade, though it kept a good many machines in farmers' hands for another season's trial.
Before the harvest of 1883 was over my confidence in the Marsh-Whitney machine had been shaken and I feared that it would prove a failure. The modified Appleby binder on our harvester had given us considerable
219trouble, and the Marsh-Whitney, which we had intended to make a leader and upon which we had staked so much, apparently could not be made good enough to hold place on the market against the perfected standard machine. Besides, the building of it was costing us more than we expected, while the large manufacturers were reducing shop-cost by producing in great quantities and, competing on the one style of machine, were forcing its price down to figures that would give small manufacturers little or no profit.
If the machines could not be made to work better next harvest there would be nothing left for us to do but to close out as best we could. The situation was difficult for us. We dare not acknowledge our fears for that would bring all creditors upon us; in such case the large amount of stuff we had for sale could not be marketed and this property would be sacrificed to the damage of all concerned. Agents build up trade on a machine with expectation that it will be permanent, hence they are not disposed to act for a bankrupt or liquidating concern. The shops must be kept running on a few machines and on repairs and alterations or improvements; but money had to be provided therefor, and for current needs and demands, and for repairing and experting the machines through the next harvest. This financial burden fell on me; it was a heavy and heart-sickening load.
The cash capital of the binder company had been mostly exhausted in the manufacture of the machines, in supplying material and twine and in the general expenses of the business. We sold our stock in the Sycamore National Bank and in the Marsh National Bank at Lincoln, Neb., in this latter sale taking over as part payment
220the $30,000 of stock in the binder company that C W. Mosher had subscribed and paid for. Thus we raised about $50,000 in cash. With this, the collections and some loans and help from stockholders, we kept things moving and promptly met all requirements and demands not only on account of the binder company but also of the harvester company (a considerable portion of whose old debts had been extended from time to time), running along quite smoothly down into the spring of 1884, when the Grant & Ward failure in New York tightened the money market and made my burden almost intolerable. Thereafter it was a "life and death" struggle, but I managed to keep the concern afloat until machines were nearly all placed, repairs made and delivered, experts engaged and harvest about to begin with a fair show for sales, when the unexpected blow fell. The attack on the binder company having been started the creditors of both concerns came down upon us and our career as manufacturers and business men was ended.
It was June 30, 1884, an ever memorable day for us. No more opportune time for the destruction of the company and its property could have been selected. Most of its machines and twine and extras were widely scattered through the country, in the hands of agents and farmers or in transit. With everything tied up at the factory, with the stain of bankruptcy on the goods, with no money to pay for the time and expense of experts, the trade could not be saved; agents would repudiate their contracts and orders, and farmers would not buy or settle for what they had taken out. The conditions were so overwhelmingly against us that we gave up the fight.
Then I went home and to bed. For months the strain on me had been so great that I could only get sleep by dosing myself with whiskey and milk. That night I slept without the usual dose. But the reaction prostrated me. Two or three weeks later I was able to go to the office, lighter then and ever since by more than thirty pounds. While ill at home I had been selected for assignee of the binder company by its creditors. The book-keepers had prepared statements of the affairs of the three concerns — harvester company, binder company and C. W. & W. W. Marsh. The wrecks had been complete. Only the binder company had made an assignment. The harvester company had been ruined by the E— & Co. failures, the binder company by manufacturing inferior machines and C. W. & W. W. Marsh by trying to uphold both.
Examination of the binder company's statement showed, excluding capital stock, that there was a considerable margin of assets at cost or face value over liabilities; but they consisted of shops, machinery, material, unfinished parts and extras for binders, etc. — useless unless manufacture were continued; of margins on farmers' notes deposited as collateral at banks — to be wiped out by expenses and losses in collection; and of machines, twine, etc., at factory or distributed, of cost value about $140,000 — substantially worthless, because unsalable for want of necessary attention and of the repairs and improvements that had been provided but not applied, lacking which agents had generally abandoned them. In several instances they had refused to pay freight on carloads ordered.
The factory and all the stuff at home were under
222execution, while the goods distributed, upon which only I could administer as assignee, could not be disposed of for the reasons given. Suffice it to say that during that season and the next I realized from the stuff, above expenses of trying to market it, only enough to pay my self-imposed salary of $100 per month and three-quarters of the dues to the workmen, the preferred creditors, then I turned over some notes to their selected trustee and gave up the job, because I must do something better for myself and family.
The harvester company's assets paid most of its debts; but C. W. & W. W. Marsh went out with absolutely nothing and worse. Their losses through E— & Co., the harvester company and the binder company (in which latter concern they had put more than $235,000, counting their investments in its capital stock and their cash advances) had absorbed all their property and besides they were endorsers for many thousands on unpaid notes of the two companies. They withheld nothing from the creditors, but handed out their notes, accounts and claims to the last dollar. Seven years before they were worth more than $400,000, with land deals in negotiation and in prospect that would have made them millionaires in a few years, with large annual receipts and court awards anticipated, from their patents, and they owed nothing that they could not pay on demand by a check. Now, when past middle age, they were penniless and their credit as business men destroyed. They would have been left without homes had not their wives kept the few thousands of their own from being drawn into the vortex. Our mental sufferings may be imagined. As for me I felt worse over the losses of others than of my
223own. I did not worry about my future, not doubting my ability to make a living; but the loss of business friendships and associations and of the respect that attends success hurt me most. Pity was as offensive as contempt. My feeling was to withdraw myself from everything that was associated with our misfortunes. I hated to go to Sycamore, to look upon the old shops, to be reminded of what had been and of what might have been; and even now, twenty-six years after, I seldom enter the town without seeing the ghost of what was lost. Yet Sycamore's loss through us, beyond what some of its citizens had invested in the stock of the unfortunate concerns, was small; and it must have gained much, during the fifteen years in which our shops were running and we were distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the little city.
Of course we made mistakes. Any one can see mistakes when viewing the consequences. We ought not to have undertaken to manufacture at Sycamore with so little experience and capital and territory. We ought not to have sold to E— & Co. without better guarantees as to their ability and responsibility. Yet where could we obtain them? We ought not to have endorsed the harvester company's composition paper; but it would have gone to pieces then if we hadn't. We ought to have built straight harvesters and Appleby binders, license or no license; but all the small harvester concerns and some of the big ones have gone to the wall since, have failed or wound up or been merged in the "harvester trust," because of competition on one style of machine. We feared this result, as did others wiser and more experienced. D. M. Osborne lost more than twice as much as
224we, and shortened his life in his unsuccessful effort develop a binder of his own. Lewis Miller, founder of the "Buckeye" business, spent a fortune on his low down binder failed and died poor. W. N. Whitely, founder of the Champion business, wasted over $100,000 on his "Strasburg clock" machine before he bought the Applebly patents. Like efforts on the part of J. F. Seiberling hastened his failure. None of them came so near to success as we did. Had we finally succeeded, it would have been hailed as a brilliant achievement, but failing, it was a foolish and reckless venture.
THE National Republican convention, held in Chicago from June 2 to 8, 1880, was an important event in the political history of the Republican party. It was the culmination of the memorable contest between Grant and Blaine for the presidential nomination, in which both were defeated and Garfield was chosen, and it settled the question of representation in future national conventions by declaring that thereafter a congressional district should be the unit, in other words, that the people of such district should have the right to select their own delegates. The contest was fierce and Illinois was the storm center.
The majority of the Republicans in the southern and central parts of the state, led by Senator Logan, were for Grant; while in the northern part they were about equally divided between Grant, Blaine and Washburne. The state central committee, with A. M. Jones ("Long" Jones) at the head, was for Grant. In the selection of delegates for the state convention, to be held at Springfield, May 19, the Cook county convention broke up in
226a row and two sets of delegates were appointed. This put the first three congressional districts in a contest for seats in the state convention and left the Grant delegates from other parts of the state in control of its organization. Our old fourth district, comprising Kane, DeKalb, McHenry, Boone and Winnebago counties, was divided as follows: DeKalb, McHenry and Boone were for Blaine, Winnebago was for Grant, and Kane was mixed; the Blaine delegates being largely in the majority. I was one of the delegates from DeKalb county. I may here remark that our opposition to General Grant was not personal, but was due to sentiment against a third term and disposition to give Blaine his turn.
Upon the opening of the convention we found that the state central committee had given seats to the Grant delegates appointed by the bolting part of the Cook county convention, and that the Grant forces were in the saddle, apparently determined to override all precedents and to deliver a solid state delegation to their candidate. When notices were posted by the state central committee, advising the delegates from congressional districts of the places and purposes of their meetings, we discovered that selection of delegates to the national convention had been omitted.
As several of our delegation were standing before the notice and discussing the omission, Judge Coon, the late A. B. Coon, of Marengo, came to us. I asked the old gentleman what ought we to do in this case and he answered, "Why, damn 'em, they don't intend to let us select our own delegates. The thing for you to do is to go right ahead, nominate your men as we have always done, send their names in and then we'll see what they
227are going to do about it." We acted on this advice. Two delegates to the national convention and their alternates were duly selected. As the first three districts were in contest the fourth was the first on call; it was therefore the first to report, to present the names of its delegates with those selected for committees. The other anti-Grant district delegations followed suit; some having selected their men as we had, while others seeing the point of our action, immediately withdrew into the hall or lobby and there hastily chose their delegates. But the convention, being under control of the Grant majority, refused to give a hearing to such part of our reports as related to selection of delegates and through a committee named by the chair appointed Grant men to represent our districts in the national convention. This was the action from which we appealed to the national convention.
The national convention assembled June 2 in the hall of the old Inter-State Exposition building. As the delegates appointed by committee at the state convention had the credentials they were admitted to seats in the hall, while the contestants had to await the action of the convention on their appeal. (I have forgotten to say that I was one of the contestants, as a selected delegate from the fourth district). There were contests from several states, but that of Illinois was by far the most important because the admission of the contestants would make a big break into Grant's solid delegation from the state convention and, besides the loss of the votes, would greatly impair his prestige as a candidate. This the managers of the interests of the other candidates fully appreciated, and it gave us contestants unusually good
228opportunities to become acquainted with some of the most prominent men in the country.
We, who were for Blaine, were particularly welcome at the Blaine headquarters. There we frequently met Hannibal Hamlin, a right jolly old gentleman; Eugene Hale, very nice but rather stiff; Wm. P. Frye, frank and friendly; Wm. E. Chandler, nervous, sarcastic and addicted to very strong language; Creed Haymond, of California, of chivalrous bearing but somewhat stilted; James F. Joy ("Jim" Joy), a noted railway magnate of that period; Senator O. D. Conger, of Michigan, tall and dark, sleek and ministerial, and the shrewdest manager of them all; and many others.
There were six candidates, Grant, Blaine, Sherman, Edmunds, Windom and Washburne. Grant was considerably in the lead, hence the disposition of the others was to mass against him, and as the combined votes of their delegations exceeded his, they were able to control the organization, the appointment of committees, etc. Senator Hoar of Massachusetts, an Edmunds delegate, was made chairman.
Logan and Conkling led the Grant forces and they made a desperate fight for his nomination. Logan was much the better manager. He was alert to all the movements and prompt in action, but not at all dictatorial. His speech and manner indicated that though he was determined to win and would stand by his guns to the last giving shot for shot, yet he was not disposed to wound unnecessarily. Conkling, on the contrary, though alert and ready as Logan, was offensively arrogant. He seemed to be in a quarrelsome mood and on the watch for opportunities to make sarcastic and irritating remarks. All
229impressed by his fine appearance and evident ability, but he made no friends and several enemies. Although his speech nominating Grant was a splendid effort I think he was a damage rather than a help to his candidate, because had he not so antagonized the Blaine delegates some of them might have gone over to Grant when the break towards Garfield began. Roscoe Conkling was a handsome man, tall, straight and broad-shouldered, an able and well trained orator; but he was also, as Blaine described him, a good deal of a turkey cock.
The committee on credentials, with Senator Conger as its chairman, reported in favor of the Illinois contestants, excepting the second district. Of course the Grant leaders strongly opposed the report, which, after a lengthy discussion, was adopted by the convention. These contests occupied the attention of the convention until Saturday, its fourth day, when we contestants were admitted as legitimate delegates. That the decision in our favor was based more on its merits than on the political interests of the majority, is evidenced by the action, immediately following, of the convention in adopting congressional district representation as the rule thereafter. Later the Democratic party adopted the same rule, as did other parties; so our contest, in which this district took the lead, resulted in the establishment of a general rule in accordance with our contention. Chicago newspapers gave Herman Raster, then editor of the Staats zeitung, credit for having suggested the initiatory action taken at the state convention. Anyhow we led off under the advice of Judge Coon, though later we understood
230that Mr. Raster was advising other district delegations to do as we had done.
The nominations and nominating speeches were made in the Saturday night session, which lasted until nearly midnight. Mr. Joy presented the name of Blaine in short sensible speech. Conkling made his famous "Appomattox apple tree" speech in nominating Grant, and Garfield spoke for Sherman. The other nominating and the seconding speeches were generally good. The great hall was crowded with enthusiastic partisans who howled themselves hoarse as the names of their favorites were presented.
Garfield's nominating speech was the best of any delivered during the entire course of the convention. It was strong, dispassionate and conciliatory, but beautiful in word and sentiment and classic in its well rounded periods. The wonder of it was that he could make such a soul-stirring plea for so cold a subject as John Sherman. He has been accused of betraying Sherman because he did not run away from the votes given him. Sherman had not a ghost of a chance in that convention. Through its long and stormy course Garfield had been steadily winning friends by his sensible suggestions and by his success as a peacemaker. His timely interference extricated the convention from the dangerous dilemma into which Conkling had led it, in his attempt to oust three of the West Virginia delegates. He was a man of noble presence and whenever he arose to speak he commanded full and interested attention.
Balloting for presidential nominees did not begin until Monday, the fifth day of the convention. The number of delegates was 756, of whose votes on first ballot
231Grant received 304, Blaine 284, and Sherman 93, the other votes being divided between Edmunds, Washburne and Windom. On second ballot the number of Grant voters was 305, "the immortal 305," the "old guard" whom he held to the end. Twenty-eight ballots were taken during the day and the evening, with very little change, Garfield getting one steady vote and two toward the close.
During the afternoon recess several of us went over to the Blaine headquarters to confer with the leaders. We were shown into a side room where were Hale, Chandler and others engaged in discussion of the situation. Apparently they were doubtful of Blaine's nomination. Eighteen ballots had been taken. Grant had gained one steady vote and Blaine had lost one. There was no indication of a break in any direction. We told them that we and many others were ready to vote for Garfield whenever it should appear useless to vote longer for Blaine. They insisted that we hold on steadily through the night session, as any break might throw enough votes to Grant for his nomination, while something more favorable might turn up before next morning's session. But I felt sure that the convention was turning toward Garfield. I had seen it in the faces of the delegates whenever he spoke or made a motion, and I had heard it in their talk. The Indiana delegation, with Ben. Harrison at the head, sat behind us, and the Georgia delegation, colored, sat in front; they were talking for Garfield. It was in the air, as I told Editor Boies on our way back from headquarters. In the evening session ten more ballots were taken with no manual change in the situation.
The continuous excitement, late hours, heat in the and a bad cold had nearly prostrated me, and I had quite lost my voice in trying to do my share of the yelling in the convention. Toward the close of the evening session I concluded to go home, so I gave my place to the alternate and started out with Judge Robinson for our train. As we were walking through the long covered way that connected the hall with the entrance we met Garfield. He stopped us to inquire about the balloting. Judge Robinson answered that there had been no change. As we stood talking I felt impelled to tell him that most of the delegates on our side of the hall were for him, that I was sure he would be nominated and that I was ready to begin the break if he approved; but I didn't, because I had lost my voice and my vim. Even after he had started on I hesitated and turned to follow, when Robinson's reminder that we must hurry to catch the train broke the spell. I went home and to bed. Next day Garfield was nominated. What an opportunity I lost.
This Republican convention was remarkable in that it substantially ignored the tariff question, no reference having been made to it in the many speeches, nor in the platform except the following brief sentence: "We reaffirm the belief avowed in 1876 that the duties levied for the purpose of revenue should so discriminate as to favor American labor." A Democrat could subscribe to that as cheerfully as a Republican. Neither in the speeches of our leaders nor in the platform was the claim made that the prosperity of the country was due to the Republican policy of tariff protection. Nor was there a hint of warning given of the dire evils that might befall the country should the Democrats win and attempt to reduce
233the duties. The only protection advocated in the contention was that of the negro in his right and effort to vote. Senator Hoar, in his speech on taking the chair, said: "The Republican party lives but for this: That every man within our borders may dwell secure in a happy home and may cast and have counted his equal vote and may send his child at the public charge to a free school." Evidently our leaders then did not fully appreciate the blessings of high tariff, or how to use it for the benefit of the party.
The Republican party was organized for the purpose of resisting the encroachments of the slave power. It comprised Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, Free-Traders and any one who held as paramount the central idea. It controlled the government during the war and enacted high tariff laws to produce necessary revenues and incidentally to encourage and protect infant industries. It did not reduce the rates after the war as promised, because, as it explained, the national debt had to be paid. It still maintained high rates, after this debt had been materially reduced, in order to encourage the founding of new industries and to protect those already established. In 1876 it proposed to transfer a portion of the benefits of tariff protection to American labor, and the same in our convention of 1880. Yet our leaders then appeared to be uncertain which would be the better policy for the party, to put the duties up or to put them down; but during the canvass that fall in Indiana, Blaine, in speaking to large bodies of workmen, as at South end, dwelt strongly on the disposition of our party to give them tariff help. The men accepted this talk in good faith and the state gave a good Republican
234majority. Apparently this indicated the direction which leaders should take. In 1884 a strong tariff plank was inserted in our party platform; and since then our tariff carpenters have been making these planks stronger and generally higher, until now tariff protection to producers is high and cost of everything to consumers is high and belief in high tariff is expected of every orthodox or high class Republican. Surely "the goose hangs high."
THIRTY years and more ago the people of Winnebago county, and especially of Rockford, took great pride and interest in their county fair. The naturally beautiful grounds were well kept, attractive exhibits were sought, and distinguished speakers were obtained for the opening services. Whether or not the great expositions have weakened interest in this fair, as in most other county fairs, I do not know.
Winnebago county had gone strongly for Grant in the contest for presidential nomination in 1880; so naturally the managers of the fair that fall turned to him as the most distinguished and attractive personage whom they might get for the opening of their exhibition. The general, who was then living at Galena, his old home, responded favorably to their request. It was arranged that he and Mrs. Grant should come down to Rockford the day before the opening, where they were to be entertained at the spacious home of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Talcott, who would give a reception in their honor that evening.
William A. Talcott, of the old firm of Emerson, Talcott & Co., was one of the finest men I ever knew, and
236one of the dearest friends I ever had. As a business man he was keen, prompt and successful and also notably fair and honorable; as a citizen he was public-spirited, charitable and philanthropic; and in social life he was the peer of the best. Having acquired a reasonable fortune he retired from business several years ago. Not long after, while he and Mrs. Talcott were traveling in Palestine, he caught a severe cold and within a few days died of pneumonia in Jerusalem.
Well, Mr. Talcott invited me over to be his guest during the reception, and at the opening ceremonies of the fair the next day. I found there General and Mrs. Grant and Judge Taft, father of President Taft. The reception was a notable event in Rockford. In the forenoon of the next day Mr. Talcott took us about the city and through its principal factories. The procession to the fair grounds was to form at the house immediately after noon, when a train from the east should arrive bringing a company of soldiers from Belvidere; so lunch was spread at twelve sharp. After lunch Mr. Talcott said to the general, "As you and friend Marsh are the only smokers here, we will give up the library to you while awaiting the soldiers and the formation of the procession." During the evening previous, and the forenoon, conversation with the general had been limited to casual remarks; but I could see that he was disposed to be genial and friendly, although he knew that I had been one of the Blaine delegates who had displaced his delegates at the late convention.
Now that we were seated, each enjoying his cigar, he talked freely and as unreservedly as he might to an old friend, apparently. Some one at the lunch had asked
237him what were his conclusions as to the value of missionary work in the far eastern countries which he had recently visited. As his answer had been brief, I referred to the subject and expressed a desire for further information. The substance of his remarks as I remember was about as follows: The old practice of simply carrying the Bible to the heathen and undertaking directly to make converts of them had not been productive of much genuine faith or permanent improvement, not enough in some instances to counterbalance certain evils that generally follow efforts to civilize; but latterly missionaries were establishing schools and endeavoring to elevate the minds of their pupils and the community to an appreciation of the blessings of Christian civilization. In this way they were doing good and successful work. It was true that a few of them had disgraced their calling by yielding to the influences of the climate and environments; but generally they were self-denying and devoted to their mission. He related several illustrating instances and incidents that came under his observation.
I referred to the recent presidential contest by stating that the opposition to him in our district was not personal, but was due to sentiment against third term and sympathy for Blaine. He said he had not intended to become a candidate, and only yielded to the solicitation of his friends after he had got to thinking that, as his second term had not been wholly satisfactory to the people or to himself, on account of certain scandals and troubles which he mentioned, he would like to have another trial, believing that with his experience and the knowledge he had obtained since, he could give the country a much better administration. However, it was all
238for the best probably, and he had no complaints to make against the opposition except for some false statements made by persons whom he had regarded as friends, and these had hurt him deeply.
Speaking of his cordial reception abroad and of the many banquets and entertainments to which he had been subjected, he said he had become very tired of them; that physically he was not able, as some men were, to stand the wear and tear of such dissipation. As an example, he gave an amusing account of a night recently spent in Philadelphia with General Cadwalader as his host or guide. There was first the appointed banquet at which they sat a couple of hours, eating and drinking and smoking. Then came an earnest request from the leaders of an Irish society for their attendance as promised at an entertainment they were giving. Upon arrival there, they were at once conducted into a side room where they were pressed to drink Irish whiskey with their Irish friends. "As for me," said Grant, "I had to beg off; but Cadwalader took glass after glass with them after having drunk a quart of champagne at the banquet, and didn't seem to mind it a bit, though he was past eighty years. Next morning on my way to the depot I stopped at his office to leave a parting word, not expecting to find him in, but there he sat attending to his mail, apparently as fresh as he was the day before, while I felt quite used up."
Meantime we had been told that the train which was to bring the soldiers was late. In fact it was nearly three o'clock before the procession was formed. We had each smoked two of the mild Havanas furnished by Mr. Talcott, when the general reached over and took a third from the box. He looked at it a moment, put it back and
239pulled from his pocket a big black cigar which he held up turning to me with a peculiar smile that meant to say, "This is the thing," as he lighted it. All this time we were alone and he was talking and smoking. Certainly he was not "the silent man" during those two or three hours.
The soldiers came at last, the procession was formed and all moved down to the fair grounds, where Gen. Grant made a brief opening address, which was followed by an appropriate and eloquent speech by Ex-senator Lyman Trumbull, and the ceremonies of the occasion were ended.
Gen. Grant was then fifty-eight years of age and he did not look any older. One would judged from his appearance that he was in good health, was living well but temperately and was storing strength for many more years of enjoyable life. He was not a man of imposing presence, but the unassuming dignity of his manner was impressive and his face was attractive and trustworthy. He was a most interesting conversationalist, his mind apparently well stored with general information, his memory tenacious of details and his language good with a peculiarly easy flow. I saw but little of Mrs. Grant as she was appropriated by the ladies. Judge Taft did not remain for the opening of the fair, as I recollect. He was a large, big-boned man and apparently very good-natured.
MY second marriage occurred January 10, 1881. That winter will long be remembered on account of its tremendous snow storms and their interruption to travel and business. Very little snow fell before the middle of January, after which storm followed storm in quick succession until the highways were so filled and drifted that travel on them was impossible much of the time, and the railways were so blockaded by some of the big storms that trains could not get through for several days.
I was then driving from my home to the office in Sycamore, a distance of about four miles, every day, when I could. The brief memoranda of the storms and blockades that I made at the time in my diary, which I had been keeping for several years, will tell the story of that extraordinary season with sufficient clearness.
"1st blockade: Friday, Feb. 11. — Terrific storm in evening and night — rain, hail, snow, wind. 12th. — Trains stopped for the day. In the afternoon worked through the deep drifts to Sycamore.
"2nd blockade: Sunday, Feb. 27. — Rain changing to snow, and by evening an awful storm. 28th. — Could not get through to Sycamore; trains not running. This
241is a remarkable storm, commencing warm with thunder on the evening of the 26th, giving us rain, hail, sleet and snow in succession with very high wind.
"3rd blockade: Wednesday, March 2. — Stormy and sleety. 3rd. — Tremendous snow; completely snowed in. 4th. — Still snowing. 5th and 6th. — Shut in. 7th. — Got through to Sycamore. Trains from the east held up from Thursday to Sunday morning, from the west till Monday p. m. (mem.) Probably this is the greatest snow storm since the country was settled. "4th blockade: Friday, March 11. — Another snow blizzard. 12th — Tried to get to Sycamore but could not. 13th. — Went to Sycamore through the fields with horse and cutter, driving over three barb wire fences on the snow banks; nearly three hours making the four miles. Trains stopped more or less from Saturday till Monday.
"5th blockade: Saturday, March 19. — Awful snow storm, with a hurricane of wind, raged all day and night and into the next day. 20th, 21st and 22nd. — Penned in and the voice of the engine not heard in the land. 23rd. — Made a break for Sycamore; started at 9 a. m. in company of three teams and fifteen men with shovels; we broke and cut our way through, arriving in Sycamore at 12 m. Channels through greatest snow banks so deep, with snow piled so high on sides, that teams coming from different directions can't be seen and drivers call over before entering. Three feet of solid snow in the timber.
"6th blockade: Monday, April 11. — Another big snow storm and snow gorge; trains not seriously bothered, but country roads blocked badly."
The foregoing shows what this climate is capable of
242doing on occasions. It was estimated that more snow fell that winter than in all the winters of the previous twenty years. Doctors and people in the country who had to go about went on foot generally, and many procured snow shoes. After the last snow storm the weather became unseasonably warm and summer weather followed. We had no spring that year. Corn was planted as early as usual and before the banks of snow along the fences had fully disappeared.
The year 1882 was remarkable for its many storms of rain, sleet and snow. According to my record, storms of one kind or another occurred on 134 days. A tremendous storm of thunder and rain occurred on the night of June 29; it has not been beaten since. No one complained of dust in the roads that year. There was an extraordinary cold spell in January, 1883, the thermometer in Sycamore ranging from 32 to 36 below zero on the 24th.
The firm of C. W. & W. W. Marsh went down with the Marsh companies that failed in 1884, as has been stated. The brothers had worked together and had done business jointly since they began to do for themselves. After the break-up at Sycamore they had nothing with which to continue their joint work, and they had nothing to divide. They had to separate, each to make his own way thereafter. W. W. Marsh went to Nebraska and soon after to Arkansas to take charge of a mill there. His early purchases in that state of cheap timbered land, which became quite valuable later, and other good investments yielded him enough for a comfortable living after a few years, when he returned to
243his old home in Sycamore where he is contentedly awaiting the last call.
In the fall of 1884, A. M. Leslie, of Chicago, had conceived the idea of starting a farm implement trade journal and was looking around for some one to join him who was familiar with the industry and could write sufficiently well to become its editor. A mutual friend, who had noticed my occasional articles in the Chicago Field, recommended me. Mr. Leslie and I met, our interview was satisfactory and I decided to go in with him. We had the name of the paper — Farm Implement News — with him as promoter and me as editor, but it needed an experienced publisher. Soon after we found just the man for the place, Mr. E. J. Baker, who, though young, had had years of training in a printing office and had already branched out with a little paper of his own substantially in the same line as the one proposed.
We joined forces and began our work. The first number of Farm Implement News appeared in April, 1885. It was to be a dealers' paper, to bear to them the news of the trade and the advertisements of the manufacturers; also to be a medium for the discussion of matters of common interest to the industry. We were unanimous in our determination, then and always, that it should be fair, honest and reliable. It was the first of its class and it successfully opened a new field of journalism. It early advocated and assisted in the formation of dealers' associations, as also the organization of the manufacturers' association — the first call for which went out from its office. Its success has demonstrated its value both to its owners and to the trade. Mr. Leslie and I retired from active work on it several years ago,
244but its quality has been maintained or improved under the very able management of Mr. Baker and the editorial ability of Mr. C. A. Lukens.
IN the winter of 1887 Colonel and Mrs. I. L. Ellwood invited Mrs. Marsh and me to be their guests at their winter home in Palatka, Flordia, and to accompany them and Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Ellwood in various excursions on the St. John river and along the coast in their new steam yacht, Augusta. We spent a most delightful month with them. The invitation came at a time when I was barely earning enough to keep my family and when we were still trying to get used to our changed circumstances. It was a delicate manifestation of friendship and sympathy on the part of Col. and Mrs. Ellwood, characteristic of them and highly appreciated by us.
At that time the orange industry of Florida was in its highest state of prosperity. Large orchards, the trees laden with the golden fruit, fine residences and well kept grounds occupied the high lands along the river in the orange region. A few years later, recurring hard frosts killed the trees and nearly destroyed the industry, so that when next we were there, in 1906, dead trees and weeds and abandoned buildings marked the sites of many a plantation that was flourishing and beautiful in 1887. Meantime also the demand for lumber had reached the
246magnificent cypress trees that then bordered the river and they have gone to the mills. These losses have deprived the shores of their beauty and given them a comparatively desolate aspect, though orange culture has been revived to a considerable extent and various other products now occupy the old grounds.
The summer of 1887 was extremely hot and dry. Small grain and hay were so far advanced before the drouth became injurious that they came through with little damage. But corn was badly hurt; the crop was notably short, and prices ran up from about 40 cents per bushel early in the summer to 60 cents before the crop was harvested. The "bulls" in corn made fortunes that summer and fall.
In the spring of 1889, my much valued friend, Col. Frank P. Holland, proprietor of Farm and Ranch, Dallas, Tex., obtained for me an invitation from the officials of the Texas Press Association to attend their convention, to be held at El Paso, and to accompany them on their excursion to the city of Mexico. I joined the party that went from Dallas. The distance across the state between Texarkana and El Paso, by the old Texas Pacific Railway, is about eight hundred miles.
There is no finer agricultural section in the United States than that about Dallas and Forth Worth. It was then well settled. But westward from Fort Worth we passed into a region of red or light colored soils, of mesquite bushes and prairie-dog towns, which to me seemed to be poor farming country. I was told, however, that it was being farmed successfully, and Abilene in its midst appeared to be a flourishing town. Farther toward the western side of the state there was a wide
247stretch of desert country, apparently, with little growth upon it except cactus and no settlements nor inhabitants except at the railway stations. But even that part of the state has been settled since and is yielding a living to those who have ventured upon it, I understand. As we approached El Paso and the Rio Grande the fine farms and luxuriant vegetation showed what could be accomplished by irrigation.
The convention, which was a notable success, extended through the three last days of April, and on May 1 we started for the city of Mexico. The members of the association and their few guests filled two sleepers. It was a jolly, genial crowd but quite well behaved, every one, apparently, being disposed to fully enjoy the occasion and to contribute to the enjoyment of the others. Col. W. A. Shaw (Bilshaw) was the champion story teller of our party.
The run to the city of Mexico was made in two days. I shall not attempt any description of the country; our people have had a plenty of that. But I will notice one little incident by the way, because it suggested action on my part that had a considerable effect upon the pursuits of the family later. As the train halted for dinner the second day, one of the party noticing the name of the station called out "By jimminy, this is Jimenez." "No, it isn't," answered another, "it is He-ma-nays, as pronounced in Spanish." "Well," said the other, "Spanish must be a hard language to pronounce if this is a sample," to which it was replied that no other was easier after the sounds of the letters had been learned. This induced me to seek more information from the gentleman who knew Spanish, and resulted in my determination to
248undertake its acquisition. So on my return I proposed to the folks at home that in the evenings and at lets times we should study Spanish. We immediately began on it, teaching ourselves and taking lessons from professors, persisting until nearly all the family became more or less familiar with the language. This effort was a good investment. It greatly increased our enjoyment of trips which later we took to Mexico and other Spanish American countries; and so influenced my son-in-law Mr. Beaupre, that he applied for a consulate in Mexico. He was appointed to Acapulco, but was soon transferred to Guatemala as consul general; next he was sent to Bogota, where he was promoted to the Ministry; later he was given such position at Buenos Aires, and two years ago, in the line of advancement, he was transferred to The Hague.
Returning to the trip to Mexico: It was highly satisfactory to the participants and was completed without accident or notable incident. At that time Mexico had but just entered on its course of rapid progress. The country and the cities were about as they had been for centuries. One might imagine himself in Egypt or in some oriental country where civilization had reached the medieval plane and halted. The city of Mexico located in its elevated basin and surrounded by lofty mountains had no drainage. Its filth had seeped into the soil for many centuries and its various stenches considerably marred our enjoyment of the beauty and romance of the city and its surroundings. Since then a tunnel has been driven through the mountains, by which the city and valley are drained, and the country in general has been so modernized by the application of up-to-date improvements
249as to make it considerably less charming or interesting to tourists; so it appeared to me on later visits.
An immense amount, in the aggregate, of American capital has been invested in Mexico — in railroads, mines and lands, which investments, encouraged and protected the wise, though autocratic, President Diaz, have generally proved profitable. More as dictator than as constitutional ruler, he has governed the country for twenty-six consecutive years, during which time he has maintained peace and order throughout the Republic, and led or forced his people so far forward that there is good reason to believe that they will quietly continue in the path of peace and progress after his death. The resident Americans whom we met were generally satisfied with the conditions and with the government.
PRICES of products were generally low and times rather dull through the "eighties." In 1890 we got the McKinley tariff and with it promises from its advocates that improvement would immediately follow. In 1891 it happened that in this country the climatic conditions were extremely favorable to agriculture and in Europe extremely unfavorable, with the result that crops were big here and light there. Foreign demand for our agricultural products increased as soon as these conditions became apparent, and prices advanced rapidly as the season progressed and it became evident that all we could spare from our abundant harvests would be needed abroad.
Such prospects, and much confidence in the efficiency of the new tariff, quickly stimulated trade and industry. After harvest, when the money for the big yields came pouring in, business boomed and industrial expansion became general. In anticipation of the continuance of such
251prosperity the productive capacity of established works was generally increased and many new factories were built. But this prosperity had no permanent foundation; it was based upon an extraordinary freak of the weather and it was wrecked by an extraordinary freak of the weather.
The spring of 1892 opened unfavorably; the weather was rainy and raw, and it continued rainy and raw all through the spring months and nearly to July. Crops were planted late and in the mud, and cultivation was done in the mud. In short it was the wettest, rawest and dirtiest of all our nasty springs. It was the season of the famous "mud embargo," so called because the mud prevented travel and carriage over the country roads to and from market and for the time arrested rural traffic in the west. Prospects early that summer were quite the reverse of what they were the year before. Instead of big crops and advancing prices we were facing short crops and declining prices. The brief period of prosperity was ended and the reaction that culminated in the panic of the following year had already begun.
After harvest the conditions grew worse; prices of farm products continued to decline until the advances made in 1891 were lost; demand for manufactured goods fell off, and generally plans for future operations had to be reconsidered and reduced. The disappointment and dissatisfaction consequent were disastrous to the Republican party. Its leaders, in claiming credit for their tariff as a maker of prosperity, had promised dollar wheat to the farmer and employment with good wages to the laborer, and now they could not deliver. They lost the election. During the winter following the bankers
252were attacking silver coinage and questioning the stability of our currency. And again spring was excessively wet and discouraging until quite late. Trade was stagnant and the panic was on.
The conditions demanded prompt action on the part of the Democratic administration just inaugurated and President Cleveland called an extra session of Congress not to amend or revise the tariff but to reform the financial system by repealing the law governing the coinage of silver. This remedy afforded little or no relief. During the winter of 1893-4 the Wilson bill was introduced and passed by Congress, but it did not come into effect until late in August, 1894, more than two years after the reaction had begun that ended in the general collapse.
No one then charged the panic to the Cleveland administration or to the Wilson tariff. That would have been as ridiculous as to say that Tom was sick Monday because he got his feet wet Tuesday. The Wilson bill was not at all a free-trade measure, not so much so as the present Payne law, according to Speaker Cannon, who recently stated that under the latter more goods were admitted free than under any other of our tariff laws. Yet, in a few years after the panic our leaders began to charge it up against the Cleveland administration and the free-trade schedule of the Wilson law; and they have continued to make such charge in campaign speeches or whenever our people get restive under high duties, until the rank and file of our party, and some of our leaders, perhaps, really believe it to be true. That's politics.
The period of lowest depression lasted about five years, from early summer in 1892 to early summer in 1897. At that time it was generally believed that over-production
253was the main cause of the depression; that the use of highly improved labor-saving machinery in nearly every line had increased production until it was greater than consumption required; thus, manual labor had been displaced, the markets glutted and products cheapened, to continue cheap or to become cheaper as machinery might be further improved. Others contended that the depression was due to the limited output of gold, which was making real money dearer, and to the over-production of silver, its unstable value making currency as a whole unreliable — the one causing low prices of products and the other disturbing confidence and discouraging enterprise. Owing to the decrease in the yield of gold from the mines in California and Australia, the world's annual production of gold through the "eighties" only averaged a little above $100,000,000 in value annually; one year it fell below that sum. During that period the times were generally dull in Europe, as in this country (excepting our spurt in 1891), and the depression continued until after the middle of the "nineties," by which time the discovery and operation of new gold fields in South Africa, West Australia and Alaska, and improved processes for extracting the metal, had doubled production. Then, in 1896, the times began to show decided improvement in Europe, and the next year in this country, the yearns delay here having been caused by the financial question at issue in the presidential election.
In 1895 or 1896 Joseph Chamberlain, British colonial secretary, made an extensive tour through the colonies, during which he gave particular attention to gold mining and its possibilities. On his return, in an address before the British Board of Trade, he stated that the increasing
254increasing yield of gold was such that within a year or two the world's production would reach $300,000,000, the mines giving promise of further increase and of keeping up the supply for many years. He expressed the opinion that the lengthy depression had been largely due to the failure of gold production to keep pace with the needs of the world; that the supply of gold having been short and limited, its value as money had been too high, and that of commodities, as measured by it, too low, that is, for money too much of commodities had to be given, hence products were cheap and production was discouraged. But with the large and increasing output of gold, money would be easier and cheaper, prices of products would be advancing and trade and industry become increasingly active. In view of such conditions he predicted that the world was about to enter upon an era of greater prosperity than was ever known. The annual yield of gold is now valued at over $400,000,000, and Chamberlain has proved to be a true prophet.
It was fortunate that the time for holding the Columbian Exposition was changed from 1892 to 1893, as the weather through the winter, spring and early summer of '92 would have prevented completion of the buildings and grounds and the installation of machinery and exhibits in due season. The spring of '93 was bad enough; but after the middle of May the climatic conditions became and continued notably favorable. The beauty of the great "White City" cannot be forgotten by those who saw it. Never before had there been such a creation, nor has there been since. It would be foolish for me to attempt any description of it or its multitudinous attractions. It was a great success as a show, but not as a
255financial venture. The farm implement and machinery department was immense and well filled, the exhibits showing that since the centennial exhibition many improvements and various valuable inventions had been made, chief among the latter, on account of its importance to agriculture, was the manure spreader. The automobile, crude and clumsy as compared with those of to-day, made its first appearance at a great exposition in this country.
IN the winter of 1898, Mr. Beaupre being then consul-general in Guatemala, we decided to visit that country. Our party consisted of my wife, daughter, self and D. E. Wood, of Elgin. The evening of our arrival at New Orleans, the newspapers gave brief reports of the assassination the day before of President Barrios and of the probabilities of revolution in Guatemala. Mr. Beaupre had cabled us not to come, but the dispatch did not reach us and we went on. The run down the river from New Orleans and across the gulf to Puerto Barrios takes three days. At that time the railway from the port toward the capital reached only to El Rancho, 132 miles, and the rest of the distance, about 60 miles, had to be made by mule-back on a trail over a wild and mountainous country.
On arrival at Puerto Barrios we were officially informed that the country was under martial law and that if we went ashore we could not return without permission of the government. We were advised to remain on board the boat and to go back with it; but one of the passengers, an American, with whom we had become
257acquainted, then and for many years a resident of Guatemala, assured us that there would be little or no danger in making the journey to the capital, as most of the way was by rail and on the trail we would find the natives kindly and inoffensive, and the soldiers, if we met any, respectful. I had been in poor health some time before we started, was awfully sick on the boat and felt that I must get ashore whatever might be the danger. The others were not afraid, so we landed.
The train had been waiting for the boat and we were soon speeding along through the forests and jungles of the "hot lands" that lie down by the sea. Near stations patches had been cleared and planted to bananas, sugar cane, etc. As we ascended toward the interior vegetation gradually became sub-tropical in appearance, and at El Rancho, about 800 feet above sea level, the landscape, climate and products were similar to those of southern California, limes and oranges of finest quality being abundant.
The mule ride from El Rancho to the capital was extremely interesting, but tiresome, of course. The sixty miles is usually made in two days. The trail southward is up and down over parallel ranges, the one a little higher than the other, until the central plateau on which lies the city, some 4,800 feet above the sea, is reached. The scenery is wild, beautiful, or magnificent, as the ever changing points of view unfold it. Our little caravan met with no accident or annoyances. We were pleasantly received and treated by the people (Indians or natives) of the little villages through which we passed or in which we stopped. Several times we met squads of soldiers who courteously gave us right of way. That
258a plan had been laid to rob us seemed probable from what we learned; but a considerable addition to our party prevented any such attempt, if it had been considered. We got through all right. The city had recovered from the excitement caused by the assassination and by the bloody affray between the incoming and outgoing garrisons of the barracks; the change of administration had been fully accomplished; Vice-President Cabrera had assumed the presidency and conditions had become normal.
Central Guatemala is dominated by three great volcanoes named Agua, Fuego and Pacaya, and these have been closely identified with the most startling events in its history. The country was conquered from the Indians by Alvarado, the famous companion of Cortez, in 1524. In 1527 the foundations of the first capital were laid at the base of Agua, on a gentle slope that descends toward the valley between it and Fuego. By the forced work of thousands of Indians its building proceeded so rapidly that in 1530 it was a handsome city. In 1541 it was buried by water and mud which were thrown out of Agua during an, Alvarado's wife perishing with the other inhabitants. Another site, a beautiful little valley about three miles from the foot of the mountain, was selected. Here the capital was rebuilt. In time it became a populous and wealthy city, the ecclesiastical center of Central America. In 1773 it was totally destroyed by an earthquake. At that time it contained forty-five churches and as many convents, massive structures, the broken remains of which are mostly lying where they fell, as this site also was abandoned. The ruins of the two old cities, now named Vieja and Antigua,
259are exceedingly interesting examples of the awfully destructive power of earthquakes. The last site selected or the ruling city was about thirty miles westward, on broad and extensive valley, where Guatemala Nueva, or New Guatemala, the present capital, was duly erected. Pacaya dominates Amatitlan, the town and lake and beautiful country surrounding. The once flourishing city was recked a couple of centuries back and the straggling town that remains was severely shaken five or six years ago. Steam and hot water are continually issuing from the base of the mountain into the lake and along its shore. Besides the wrecks caused by earthquakes, there are many interesting ruins and relics of a prehistoric civilization.
Guatemala is rich in natural resources and fine scenery, and its elevated center is blessed with a most delightful climate; but its beauty and advantages are wasted upon people who, as a whole, are incapable of appreciating and developing them, or of selecting and supporting leaders who might show them how to improve their condition. It is a country to which might well be applied a couplet from an old missionary hymn:
And only man is vile."
If it were owned by the United States or England it would soon be made a paradise. And now there is no other country, so easily reached, that will so well repay a visit — which is the principal reason for my saying so much about it.
The way is down to New Orleans, then down the river a hundred miles to the gulf, a day and a half on
260the gulf and another day, including a few hours at beautiful Balize, on the Caribbean Sea among the coral islands and you are at Puerto Barrios. The railway is now completed from the port to the capital. The train leaves in the morning and arrives at the city in the evening. Climatically, the day's journey begins in the tropics and ends in the temperate zone; in the morning heat and the jungle, in the evening refreshing coolness among the oaks and pines that grow on the hills before the city, the gradual ascent unfolding interesting changes in vegetation and all the way presenting varied views, with splendid mountain scenery toward the end.
While we were in Guatemala the Maine was blown up, or blown down (the direction of the explosion being yet a moot question) in the harbor of Havana. Everybody assumed that war with Spain was sure to follow. The probabilities were freely discussed by the official representatives of various nations. They were generally of the opinion that the United States would win in the end, but not until the Spanish fleet had destroyed some of our unprotected cities on the Atlantic coast and had captured many of our merchant vessels, the fear of which caused several persons going or returning to the United States to take the Pacific route to San Francisco. The events that soon followed showed how poor was their judgment. We were about six weeks in the country, enjoyed the visit very much and returned the way we came without incident worth noticing, my health having been fully restored.
IN November, 1898, Col. I. L. Ellwood and I went down to Texas, on invitation of our friend, Holland, at Dallas, to join him and three other sportsmen in a hunting and fishing expedition among the islands and lagoons lying between the gulf of Mexico and the main land in the vicinity of Rockport. Two little schooners had been engaged and by noon of the day after our arrival in Rockport we were out upon the water. We landed at an island distant a few miles and that afternoon and evening the party killed two deer, fifteen geese, sixty ducks, thirty-two quails and ten snipes. Next morning we sailed to another island where in the afternoon we killed fourteen geese and fourteen ducks, and during the day following thirty-seven geese, thirteen ducks and forty quails. Next morning we moved again, and that day the killing was seventy-three geese, forty-one ducks, thirty-seven quails, two whooping cranes and one wild cat. (The cranes were brought down by Col. Ellwood at one shot of both barrels. These immense birds are well known in Minnesota and North Dakota, and like the geese move northward and southward with the changes of the season. They are becoming scarce.) On the morning of the fifth day we started for a bay wherein diamond back terrapin were said to be abundant; but a storm coming up, the noses of the schooners were turned toward Rockport, which we were mighty glad to reach,
262all having had more than we wanted of bounding billows and most of us enough of the sport. Next morning we started for home.
The count of game bagged was 391, and probably as many birds went off wounded — more or less — as were killed. The best shot and most persistent and successful hunter of the party was Bruce Leffingwell, well known by sportsmen as a pleasing writer on game and shooting. My record was the lowest, because I was the poorest shot and had the least desire to kill. Such butchery has greatly decreased the game in that favorite resort. And abundant as it appeared to our party, it was less than we had in Illinois in the early days when, besides numberless prairie chickens and quails the year around, our sloughs in the open seasons swarmed with geese, ducks, cranes, snipes and plovers of all kinds. They were killed off or their haunts were broken up long ago. Unless more carefully protected all such game will be exterminated before this generation shall have passed.
When we made our home on the edge of this grove near DeKalb, forty years ago, song birds of many kinds were very numerous. In the spring flocks of them on their way northward would drop in the woods to feed and then pass onward, leaving some of their number to pass the season here. Often have I wakened just at dawn on fine summer mornings to hear first the peep of some small bird, then answering cries; next the calls of other kinds of birds and the answers, and so on until as the day opened there was such a chorus of intermingled calls and songs that it was almost impossible to recognize any one distinctively. But for many years no such morning chorus
263has saluted us. We still have birds in the grove and on the lawn, but they are few as compared with those of the not remote past. Robins are yet plentiful in the summer, and sparrows and crows are with us always. These latter, and squirrels, perhaps, and boys with guns have destroyed or driven away most of our songsters.
When this section of the country was new we farmers had, or could only procure, the common old-fashioned, muzzle-loading guns, not to be compared with the modern breech loaders for strong and rapid shooting, and we could not afford the time and expense required for the practice necessary in order to become "crack shots;" but game was so plentiful that, with such poor guns and skill as we had, almost anyone could get a good bag. I was very fond of hunting and spent as much time with dog and gun as I could spare; not so much for the killing as for the pleasure of rambling over the prairie and through the fields, of watching the intelligent performances of the dog and studying the habits of the various birds. I could not indulge this disposition during the period in which we were engaged in the harvester business — inventing, introducing and building — and before we were relieved of that burden game had quite disappeared from this section. In consequence of such disappearance some sportsmen and others, who in their vacations desired to cut entirely clear from business cares and civilization, were going singly or in parties or clubs into the "North Woods" of Wisconsin or Michigan, to hunt and fish during the open season.
One of these clubs, whose members I knew and much respected, had taken the name of Leather-Stocking Club. In 1886, on invitation to become a member, I joined them.
264Our practice was to go far into the wild woods early in the fall of every year, to make camp at some place previously selected as favorable to both hunting and fishing, and to remain there two or three weeks. Our camp equipage consisted of three tents (usually set end to end, constituting kitchen, diner and sleeping room), two light stoves — especially constructed — two boats and necessary utensils and provisions except meat. The stuff, landed at nearest station, made loads for two teams; but when we purposed returning to the same locality the following year, we had it stored, if possible, at some convenient place. Having made our camp and put things in order the "boys" (we were all boys when we got into the wilderness) hunted, fished or strolled, with only one responsibility upon them: that they must provide the cook with fresh meat.
The pioneers or originators of this club were, at the time I joined, Richard Hadley, of Marengo; O. F. Butler, of McHenry; D. E. Wood and Alfred Bosworth, of Elgin. A. J. Mann, Judge Ranstead and W. T. Wait, of Elgin; Hiram Ellwood and J. H. Lewis, of DeKalb; John Syme and E. J. Baker, of Farm Implement News, and Dr. William Cuthbertson, of Chicago, joined later. I particularly mention the names of these gentlemen because I believe that no like number, having diverse occupations, opinions and interests, could be gathered into such close companionship and be more congenial or more ready to contribute to each other's pleasure than they were. I look back to my association with them in these outings as among the most care-free and happiest occasions of my life. Hadley, Ellwood, Syme and Mann have gone forward to the happy hunting grounds, and
265others of us must soon follow.
We were never all in the woods at one time, but enough of us would go every year to make up a sufficiently full party. And what delightful times we had! Hunting and fishing and boating; strolling in the woods and groves; stalking, shooting and bringing in the game; sitting near a runway and listening to the silence while awaiting the appearance of a deer, or lying in tent and barkening to the roar of a storm as it swept through the forest — waltzing with the tall tree-tops and rocking the "vaulted groves." And when toward evening we gathered in from the woods or lake, what appetites we had, and how we enjoyed the tales of the day's adventures, and how soon we sought rest on our blanket beds, laid upon the well padded ground, to sleep soundly the long night through. Alas, we can have no return of those happy days.
These meetings in the woods were regularly maintained for about fifteen years, when inability to find locations not over-run by amateur hunters, changes in the laws covering the open season, and decreasing attendance on account of death, age and infirmity, broke up the organization. I held my place some ten or twelve years and then dropped out because I was getting too old for such rough trips, and also because the instinctive disposition to hunt and slay, inherited from our savage ancestors, was weakening with age or my conscience was becoming awakened to the cruelty of the sport. In justice to the members of our club I will add, that, when camp was well provided with meat, hunting and fishing were not strenuously prosecuted; and little or no game was killed merely for the sport of shooting.
AS wild animals and birds have always interested me more than the domestic, it occurred to me a few years after we moved into this home that the piece of woods, on the edge of which our house stands, would make a nice little park, wherein I could keep deer and other wild things as I might collect them; so in 1874 I put a high, tight fence around twenty acres, and began my collection with a pair of common or Virginia deer, the doe from a neighbor and the buck from Judge Catenas park at Ottawa. The increase was quite rapid, as matured does usually have twin fawns, and in a few years I had a herd of twenty or more.
I soon found that deer care little for grass, unless it be fresh and tender, and even then they will turn to weeds of any kind, except thistles, in preference. They did very well, however, in spring and summer so long as they could browse the shoots from the brush and get leaves from the trees; but in three or four years they had killed all the brush and also all the small limbs of the trees within their reach when standing erect on their
267hind legs. As thereafter the grass and weeds in the park did not furnish them sufficient food in the summer, I had to give them oats, which grain is the best for them; and I have regularly continued this practice since, feeding them oats daily — more or less as the conditions or seasons demanded. In the fall I have fed them pumpkins (their favorite food), beets, cabbages, potatoes, apples, etc., as any of these could most readily be obtained; in the winter oats and clover hay and in late years alfalfa, which is the best fodder for them. They don't like corn fodder and would starve to death on timothy hay. The summer season, with its mosquitoes, flies, heat and dried grass, is harder on them than the winter, the rigors of the latter being borne by them quite comfortably, apparently.
After several years the herd had become so large and the care and expense of keeping it so burdensome that I concluded to cut the number down — by marketing, selling and giving away — to about half a dozen, and to reduce the park to ten acres. I believed that the few would be as interesting as the many, would be much more easily attended and much less liable to break out if stampeded. The results of the change have been very satisfactory. The few soon became quieter and more approachable. Their increase, three or four each year, has been kept down by killing for holiday venison and by disposing of fawns when little. Last year I took up a fawn and thoroughly tamed it before turning it back into the park; and by maintaining familiarity with it since, the others have been encouraged to come closer and have become considerably tamer. They now always come at my call, my whistle.
Deer are very fearful of dogs; and when occasionally one has got in and chased them, some have jumped the old board fence — which was eight and a half feet high. It was replaced several years ago by woven wire, six feet high. No deer has ever gone over it. They will jump against it when frightened, but apparently they do not see it plainly enough to make such spring as would carry them over. Their inhabitiveness is well developed. When forced out they return as soon as their fright is over and try to get in by running along the fence, seeking an opening, and occasionally one has jumped back. They will not leave unless chased away by dogs. I have lost several in that way.
Deer can be bred and raised as easily as sheep. The first consideration is a dog-tight, woven wire fence at least six feet high, enclosing a piece of ground roomy enough for exercise, for their running and playing. I have already told what they should be fed. They are light eaters but need strong food. Mine take about twelve bushels of oats per head during the year — very little in the spring after grass starts, more in the summer, little in the fall and much, comparatively, in the winter. They drink frequently in hot or warm weather, but seldom and very little in the winter; then they will refuse water for days at a time, even when there is no snow on the ground. They need no shelter other than a wind-break in winter. Mine refuse to go under the shed I prepared for them and have always chosen their own beds, though sometimes they will lie on hay or straw thrown out to them. As they originally came from the southwest, have been crossed with bucks from that direction and have too limited a range, they are much smaller than the northern
269deer; but they are healthy, breed well and fatten quickly in the fall, especially if they can have pumpkins. It is now thirty-six years since I began raising them and I have never lost one by disease.
Does drop their fawns along in the fore part of June, and being undisturbed in the woods they grow up half wild and shy of strangers, never allowing a close approach. Thus bred the bucks are never dangerous; but if brought up by hand they become very tame and saucy, and often vicious as they grow old. A tame doe usually is gentle and affectionate. These are called red deer by some because their coat is of a light red color in the summer, but in the fall and winter it is of a silver gray, shading into white and black or dark markings. Fawns change their spotted coats for the gray in September. A young fawn is the most beautiful and most winsome of all animals.
The beauty and graceful action of antelopes, as I had seen them on the plains, gave me a desire to have a pair of them in the park. The result of my application to several friends in Colorado was that five were sent to me. They were handsome creatures, but the feed or climate did not agree with them. They were never sprightly and playful like the deer, and soon became notably dull and inactive. In answer to my inquiries Judge Caton told me he had never had any luck with them; that of the several he had placed in his park not one had lived eighteen months; that they had been accustomed to alkali in their feed on the plains, and the lack of it here subjected them to a cutaneous disease which killed them all. He advised me to give them soda freely in their feed; I did so, but they all got scabby and died within two
270years. A black tailed deer that I obtained two or three years later died in the same way.
The most interesting animal I ever had in the park was a buffalo. I bought him from a showman. He was a great shaggy fellow, a stag, but as gentle and playful as a calf. He was always ready for company, whether of man or beast. He would look his invitation to me to come into the park and play with him, and when I went in he would prance around and follow me like a dog. He tried to be friendly with the deer, but they would not associate with him. He would play by himself, capering and throwing up things with his horns. One day I saw him tossing or trying to toss a twelve-foot fence board, under which he could not easily get his horns; so I gave him a pole of about the same length and he had lots of fun with it, tossing it high and dodging it as it fell.
Not long after getting him I put a two year old colt in the park. After a few days the colt responded to his advances and they became great friends. They ate and played together and slept near each other. Their pranks were quite entertaining. Horses were generally afraid of him and some were frightened if they caught his scent; in consequence I had to put a fence across the end of the park next the road to keep him back. The second year I took the colt out. The buffalo's distress and lonesomeness were so manifest that one day in pity of him I led him over to the pasture and turned him loose with the cattle. They would have nothing to do with him. He would approach and they would move off. His action was really pleading; it was like that of a strange negro boy trying to make up to a lot of white children. The bull, a big surly fellow, that later became so vicious
271that I had to dispose of him, stood aloof and watched the proceedings for a short time and then made for the stranger. He came forward pawing and bellowing, the buffalo acting as if curious to know what he meant. He partly dodged the first charge of the bull, and then fully aroused he met and returned the second with such vigor that the bull was forced back and around so that the buffalo catching him in the side turned him over. He scrambled up and ran toward the rest of the cattle. I left the buffalo there; but in an hour or so, having failed to make friends of the cattle, he came scampering back, leaping the intervening fences. He learned later to break the park fence and I had to sell him — to another showman.
The first wild bird that I placed in the park was a sandhill crane. Years before, when he was captured, his wing had been crippled so that he could not fly; in consequence, apparently, he was abnormally active on his legs. We called him Tim. He was big, strong, fearless and knowing; he made himself boss of the grounds at once and held that position for several years — until I killed him. He would attack deer, buffalo or horse, if either got in his way, but never a person. Despite his belligerent disposition he wanted companionship, like all other animals and birds I have known. His first mate was a cross buck, one that had been brought up by hand. We had named him Billy. Their friendship began with mutual forbearance on the feeding ground; it seemed that one respected the horns and the other the big sharp bill. They soon began to stroll off together and in course of a month or two they were inseparable companions — where one was there the other was.
One day a visitor was standing by the gate when the buck came up and thrust his horns through. The man grabbed them and held on. Just then the crane came walking along the fence-path, across which stood the deer. Tim hesitated a moment as if to give Billy time to get out of the way; but as Billy didn't Tim gave him a sharp dig with his bill. The buck jerked loose from the man and turned on the crane. As he charged with lowered horns they went under the crane and threw the long legged bird to the rear and astride his back, where it clung, yelling its notes of rage and defiance. This was too much for Billy and he broke for the tall timber, dismounting his rider in a couple of jumps. For several days after they cautiously approached the feeding ground from opposite sides and, avoiding each other while feeding, they departed separately. But soon they were around together as before. Billy was killed by lightning not long after.
Tim fully acknowledged subjection to me, and he was generally civil to the other bird occupants of the park, the wild turkeys and geese which I put in later. Between him and the wild geese there were never any conflicts, owing probably to the close association of these birds when at large. But he hated animal intruders and attacked the buffalo, the colt and even horses when first turned in. Sometimes he continued his assaults so long that I had to interfere. Usually after I had clubbed and chased him off he desisted. Several times in the night, hearing his war cry and an animal running, I have gone out and beaten him off. And occasionally he would have fits of ungovernable rage, and like an oriental running "amuck," he would attack everything in his
273way. If I was home and heard his savage croaks, when thus on the war path, I would drive him into the "catching" corner and there grab and give him a thorough drubbing, after which he would sneak off and behave himself. He had been in the park about fifteen years — never having grown older, apparently — when one of these fits cost him his life. It was along in May when the turkey mothers were leading their young that, on returning from the office, I heard a big rumpus in the park and Tim's croak above the noise. I ran in and found him at work on the turkeys, chasing and killing the young ones and fighting their mothers. I went for him with a club and his neck was soon broken. The count of what were left of the flocks, disclosed a loss of twenty-three, dead and missing.
A year or two after Billy's death, and long before the tragedy of the turkeys, I obtained from Minnesota a couple of young whooping cranes. When fully matured the whooping crane is the tallest of American birds and almost the largest. Its plumage is white with black tips on the wings. By some it is called the American ostrich; but there is little resemblance to the real ostrich, except in the beauty of the tail feathers. Tim welcomed them into the park. They were gentle and tractable, and were becoming used to their new surroundings when the turkeys, during a severe storm, attacked the younger of the two and pounded it so that it died within a few days. I killed the sauciest of the gobblers and looked after the remaining whooper carefully. It did well, and grew to be an unusually large and handsome bird of its kind, much larger than the sand-hill, and able, if it chose, to be master of the menagerie; but it was extremely gentle,
274affectionate and inoffensive. I never saw it manifest anger at anything. It was my pet. When I went into the park it would run to meet me and often would stick its head and neck under my arm and walk along with me chuckling with satisfaction. Tim mated with it socially. To a piece of high ground, bare of trees, near the road, they often resorted for their dance, their preferred time for it being the still spell that usually precedes a storm. It was an extraordinary performance, always interesting to the family and astonishing to the passers-by. This crane was so tame and contented that I had been quite careless about clipping its wings about the time of Tim's death. It was evidently unsettled by the loss of its mate, for the very next day it flopped over the fence and was shot by "the boy behind the gun," to whom mainly the country owes the present scarcity of wild birds.
The second spring after establishing the park I obtained a trio of wild turkeys from Judge Caton and a pair from a friend in Kansas. At that time the timber, with which my grove was connected, extended along the banks of the Kishwaukee unbroken for several miles. Following the judge's direction I clipped a wing on each of the gobblers, so that they could not get out of the park, and put them all in. The hens soon disappeared and we saw them no more until September, when they were found, with their half grown broods, twenty-five or thirty in all, running along the fence and trying, evidently, to get to the gobblers. We carefully worked them into the park, where they were welcomed by the gobblers, and, being fed grain at once and thereafter, they made no effort to get out. The hens had nested in the brush of the wood, had brought forth and maintained
275their young through the summer and had come home to their waiting husbands.
I followed this plan of raising them several years, until the timber was cut down and the brush destroyed by pasturage. It was very successful. The birds maintained their trim, rangy forms and glossy plumage, and when all were in I had flocks of 75 to 100. They made a beautiful show. We did not put them on the market; but ate them, distributed them among our friends and kept a considerable flock for the succeeding year. As the timber was being cleared off and their cover decreased, I reduced the number, and finally had to confine them to the park, clipping the hens as well as the gobblers. They deteriorated rapidly after their range had been thus limited, losing in size, form and plumage. Then a disease began to take off the young and continued increasingly from year to year until we could not bring any to maturity. Turkeys cannot be raised successfully without wide range.
Popularly a goose is the symbol of folly. But I have heard old hunters say that "a wild goose is the wisest bird that flies," and my experience with both tame and wild geese prompts me to say that a goose shows more sagacity and higher traits or qualities than any other of the domestic or game birds. They manifest more sense in providing food and in protecting their young; they are more alert to danger and more cunning in avoiding it, and the gander is more devoted to his mate and their brood and braver in their defense. I had several wild geese, that were caught when wounded, but they all managed to get away, soon or late. Next, I got a pair that had been hatched out from wild eggs under a tame
276goose, and later I put a wild goose with broken wing in with them. These were the last of my wild birds. The story of their long life in the park and of the pitiful death of the old wild goose, the last of the three, was written by me for a Chicago paper at the time, about twenty years ago. I give it now as it was published then, believing that it is just as interesting now as it was then.
"POOR old goosey, poor old goosey," sobbed my niece as she softly stroked the head and neck, extended across her lap, of the dying bird. The poor old thing seemed to understand the sympathetic words and caresses, for she quietly maintained her position, breathing slowly and quite regularly for a few minutes and until the final moment came, when she struggled to her feet, gave a weak, convulsive honk, and tumbled forward dead.
"And this is her story: About fifteen years ago a friend winged a wild goose, and knowing that I had a little park, or a few acres inclosed with a high, tight fence, in which were kept some wild animals and fowls, he forwarded the wounded bird, and it was dropped in among the others. I had at the time a pair of geese of the same variety, Canada honkers, that had been raised from the eggs and were very tame. They resented the stranger's intrusion, and always held her aloof; indeed, they never established any friendship or familiarity with her. She was quiet and inoffensive, and manifested her desire for companionship by hanging about them as closely as they would allow, and when they rested, day or night, she could always be found near, and with her head toward them. Thus she led a lonely sort of life
278for a couple of years. Her wing had healed, but so distorted that she was quite deformed as well as crippled.
"It has been my practice to run these wild fowls into an inclosure and trap, especially prepared for the purpose, and to clip their wings each spring and fall so that they might not fly away if so disposed. About two years after this goose came I delayed clipping the wings of the others until reminded of my neglect by observing that one, the goose, had regained her powers of flight and was making excursions outside, and before I could manage to catch her, while thus enjoying her freedom, she was shot. The gander, whose wings meantime had been cut, anxiously awaited the return of his mate, not ceasing his calls for her until several days had elapsed; then he began to make friends with the stranger, who responsively met his advances and they became inseparable companions thereafter. These geese do not breed in captivity.
"Whether touched by the loss of his first wife or influenced by the crippled condition and amiability of the second, it is certain that he treated the latter with greater consideration. His solicitude for her welfare was apparent in every movement. On the feed ground — where the deer, cranes and turkeys fed with the geese — he took his place in front of her and kept them all at a respectful distance while she was eating. It was amusing as well as annoying to see him charge upon the turkeys and deer and send them scampering away. Then he would return to the old goose, proudly bragging of his exploits, and she would respond with words of praise or congratulation. What else? Nothing could be plainer than that they talked to and understood each other.
"His mastery of the animals in the park and increasing years emboldened him to attack women and children, and finally he did not hesitate to face and fight a man, especially a stranger (all these birds and animals at once distinguish a stranger from a person belonging to the place), if the man attempted to approach or disturb his old wife. Last fall he ventured finally to attack me, and, not vanquished by the first shaking and cuffing that I gave him, he ventured to battle the second and third time, and when satisfied that he was getting the worst of it, he retired with his ‘face to the foe,’ backing and tacking and sounding his notes of defiance until he reached the goose, which had been quietly watching the conflict; then they talked the matter over, and she apparently advised him that discretion in this case was better than valor, for they moved slowly away, the gander covering the retreat. Thereafter he gave me the right of way without dispute. His pugnacity and bravery, while it afforded visitors much amusement, also inspired respect because of his chivalrous defense of his crippled mate.
"And thus, as the years passed by, together they welcomed the succeeding springs and waddled over the lawn, affectionately gabbling to each other as they sought the first tender shoots of herb and grass; together they enjoyed the shade in summer, and bathed, and plumed themselves in the falling rain; and as cold weather returned they found the sunny places, and together they endured the storms and frosts of winter.
"I had regularly clipped the wings of the gander until this spring, when again that duty was neglected so long that he regained his flight and could rise above pursuit;
280and, evidently remembering former operations of the kind, he refused to be cajoled into the trap. At first he made short excursions outside, would rise and circle above the trees, honking loudly, and then return to his mate, trying to get her to accompany him; but she could only watch his proud flight, answer his honks and welcome his returns. As he made wider excursions and was longer absent her uneasiness became quite marked. She took the most open and elevated position, and, with head erect, watched and called; and when she caught the sound of his returning honk she sent forth joyful cries and received him with various manifestations of pleasure. These exhibitions were extremely interesting, they were so like human actions and expressions of feeling. Finally one morning he soared away to return no more. Probably he met the fate that befell the other several years before.
"All that day the old goose maintained her position of expectancy upon the open ground, calling, watching, and waiting. Her uneasiness increased as night approached, when, evidently despairing of his return, she started out to find him. She thoroughly hunted through the park, crossing and recrossing, and having satisfied herself that he could not be found within, she went to the fence and followed that around, calling loudly every few moments. She kept this up all through the night. It took her about half an hour to make the circuit, as from our bedroom we could tell how she was moving — her calls growing more distinct as she passed along the fence on the side nearest, and more faint as she went on by until lost, to be caught again on the upper side as she returned. My wife became so interested in the bereavement
281of the poor old bird that she fell to watching for the returning cries and could not sleep. Next morning she was still traveling along the fence. She would walk a few rods, stop, call, and listen, and then move on. I noticed that she invariably followed the course of the sun in her circuits of the park, turning always to the right. She continued these endless journeys during this and the five succeeding days and nights, for whenever either of us was awake we would hear the passing, plaintive cries. Occasionally she would rest beside the fence, but she never came to the feed ground and refused to eat the grain I threw before her. The night before she died my wife awoke me, crying that she could not stand this any longer, and that I must kill the goose and end her misery. To our ears it appeared that she was resting at last on the ground where she and her mate used to pass the nights, and that the feeble, recurrent calls were emitted in her sleep. Next morning I found her lying on her breast too weak to move out of my way — in fact then dying. Her devoted search, and her grief for her loved and lost had worn her out, and she was nearing that bourne or resting ground where roaring gun and crashing shot can not disturb the peace nor destroy the mates of faithful geese. So I called to the family and we gathered around her. My niece sat down upon the leaves and took the poor old bird upon her lap, where soon she died, while tears of sympathy and sorrow fell from the eyes of all.
"I remembered that, in the years long past when the children were home, they had established a little graveyard wherein were deposited the bodies of their dead pets. Many a sorrowful funeral had taken place under
282the branches of the big walnut tree, and the little graves, long since neglected and overgrown, had been sprinkled with the honest tears of the childish mourners. So there we took the goose and among the ashes of the children's dead we buried her.
"Man, when first he crudely fashioned religious and civil systems for his guidance, had no conception of the universe as it is, and he looked out upon but a small portion of the world. What came within his limited vision he supposed to be the center of all, with the sun, moon, and stars to heat, light, and adorn it. With such narrow views, yet dimly conscious of his own powers and possibilities, he could easily conceive that all was made for him, subject only to some unknown being or beings above of similar nature, but far more powerful, because they worked through the unseen and mysterious forces of nature; so, knowing that his life and death were controlled by these mysterious laws, specially directed, as he supposed, by the higher beings, he arrogated to himself full control, including life and death, of all the lower living things. For which reason chiefly, perhaps, the rights of the latter have never been sufficiently considered nor respected, and cruelty to animals has been so generally practiced; and even now, with our advanced civilization, we little heed the sufferings, the cries, and the piteous appeals of the ‘dumb brutes,’ so called. But when one looks up to the starry heavens and beholds the many ‘other worlds than ours,’ he can realize how insignificant, comparatively, is this, and he may imagine that the difference between man and other animals is so little, when contemplating the universe, that the ears of the Great Creator of all are just as open to the language of beasts and birds as of
283men; that to him the social gabble of two old geese may be as sensible and important as tea-table gossip or their angry clatter as political discussion; and that the cries which pain and sorrow wring from the more defenseless animals reach as high as like expressions of human suffering. Who thinks or dreams thus will be careful to exercise this power — under the original law that might makes right — with mercy to all lower animals and in such manner as to avoid all unnecessary pain; for that they have the capacity to suffer, besides physical pain, deep sorrows and griefs that kill, has often been demonstrated and is apparent to every one who tries to understand them.
"From my desk I look out upon the little fresh mound that marks the last resting place of the faithful bird, and I am reminded that in a few years, each succeeding seemingly shorter, a like though somewhat larger mound must cover this worn-out body. The memory and the mound of one may be effaced somewhat sooner than those of the other, but in 100 years — one throb of eternity — man and goose will be equal before the dwellers then, and neither of as much consequence to them as the dust that may be stirred by a passing breeze."
HAVING lost my wild birds so disastrously I made no effort to obtain others; and, as the deer had always done well and given no trouble, they were left in full possession of the park. Now, some may think that I have said too much about these animals and birds; but they have been so very much to me, and they fill so distinct a place in my recollections, that I could not pass them by without due notice. Daily attention — when at home and well — to their wants and doings, called me out into the fresh air, provided me with regular exercise and diverted my mind from business cares and perplexities. I have no doubt that my present strength and activity of body are due largely to the care of this park and its inmates and to my work on the grounds.
It may be asked, "Why did not you give the like attention to domestic animals and birds, in which you could have found profit as well as exercise and diversion?" My answer is, that I had been familiar with them since childhood and had no curiosity to satisfy regarding them. With the exception of the dog, which is the only animal that will leave its kind and follow man through love of him, domestication has dulled their faculties and destroyed their alertness. Popularly the horse is regarded as the noblest and most intelligent of our domestic animals. He is the handsomest and most spirited, but he has less
285sense than any of them. His most notable trait is his remembrance of home. When a horse gets into trouble he loses his head and becomes merely a wrecking machine. For instance, if he puts his foot over a barbed wire, he does not know enough to put it back, but jerks and struggles until he maims or kills himself, while a cow or other animal of the kind, if it gets into such a scrape, carefully works its way out and avoids the danger thereafter. Story books tell of the horse's love for and devotion to his master. According to my experience the horse has little or no sentiment for any one except his driver, and that is of fear; that when he comes voluntarily to man it is for food or favor and not through love. He loves liberty and the companionship of his fellows, but he is held as a slave — bound, beaten, driven and confined. No other animal is fonder of play, and none is worked so hard and continuously. In short, no other animal suffers such abuse from man as the horse; and with his strength if he had half the sense of a dog he would not submit to it. Of course I am considering the average horse.
Like human beings, birds and animals have their individual characteristics, and these are more sharply defined in the wild than in the tame, I think. They vary widely in their manifestations of disposition and of instinct or intelligence — whichever it may be. Take the deer for instance: They manifest plainly their distinctive traits, are respectively bold, timid, irritable, gentle, selfish, dainty, greedy, alert, stupid, sullen, playful, etc., or may have more or less of these attributes. Substantially the same can be said of the domestic animals. Each animal has its individual peculiarities, as every close observer knows.
THE autumn of 1898 was so very dry that there was no fall growth to cover the ground before winter set in, and as no snow fell the ground remained bare and was deeply frozen when occurred the hardest prolonged freezing spell known to the oldest inhabitant. The intense cold began with the last week of January and continued without interruption about fifteen days, during which time the weather was below zero continuously, thermometers in the country showing a range of twenty to thirty degrees below during the nights. The intense cold and the deep freezing killed many trees — especially the young and thrifty — and nearly all the hedges and shrubbery, and so injured many more trees that they died during the succeeding dry years, 1901 being one of the driest and hottest on record. Since 1901 and until this year the seasons have been generally wet, that is, plenty of rain fell though not always just as wanted. This year is remarkable in that already it has broken the record four times, having given us the longest run of sleighing, the warmest and most pleasant March, the worst storm on advanced vegetation — that of April 23 and 24 — and the hottest June.
Because so much of my life was spent outside — in the
287field and on the road — and because my work and business depended so much upon the weather, naturally I became observant of its peculiarities. The most notable changes, the most remarkable storms or spells, and the dominant conditions each year were impressed upon my memory; hence the weather is somewhat prominent in these recollections. Northern Illinois or this "Lower lake region" has a rough, irregular climate; but its average is favorable to crops and vegetation and such average has been maintained without permanent change during the long period of my residence in this section, though it is often remarked that our climate is changing — for better or worse as the conditions at the time may prompt. About twenty-five years ago I wrote an article for a Chicago newspaper in which I gave my weather observations and records down to that time. As it contains much information on the subject and may be interesting to many I reproduce it:
The couplet from Byron's Childe Harold,
All that we know is nothing can be known.’
288whatever. We meet and say, ‘It is a cold day,’ or hot, or wet, as the case may be, as if we were imparting some news, when the parties addressed are shivering, sweltering or under umbrellas and feel and know the conditions for themselves. If we should say it is a cold day but it will be warm and pleasant next Sunday — which would be news indeed — they would think we were jesting, or if in earnest that we were losing our senses.
"Ordinarily it is impossible to forecast the weather in this section twenty-four hours, unless we are having a ‘bad spell,’ in which case it is safe to calculate on its continuance. The telegraph, through the signal bureau, gives us probabilities of weather and of approaching storms a day or so in advance, more or less reliably. This is the only information at our command, or ever will be; but it may be improved by experience, so that approaching waves or currents will be noted more quickly and their direction and scope more definitely determined. (There has not been much improvement since this was written). All weather prophets are humbugs or charlatans. The guess of a wise man on this subject, as on many others, is no better than the guess of a fool.
"The writer has lived in this section of the country since 1849. His occupations and movements have been such as to render him dependent upon the weather, and nearly every day he had to be exposed to it, hence he necessarily would be observant of it. Besides, he has kept a record of the worst storms and for many years last passed has noted the conditions daily; but his conclusions are that it was a waste of time and care, for the old lady who said she had often noticed that it rained when cloudy, was just as weatherwise as he. However
289he is enabled by such notes to recall many peculiar exhibits of our climate, and to make some observations on the subject that may be appreciated by those who notice the weather.
"People living comfortably indoors, do not give much attention to the conditions outside, and few probably are prepared to believe that the climate of this section is the most irregular and disagreeable of its latitude, and is much more so than any in the temperate zone. How few really pleasant and fully satisfactory days can one remember. They are exceptional here, and you pass over long lists of every other sort to find them. But if in the spring, summer or fall you go to some other section you find pleasant days there, though generally when you leave here it is rainy or muddy or excessively hot or chillingly cool or very windy, and when you return you are usually met by one or other of these disagreeable conditions.
"Every kind of weather from Greenland to the gulf is fully represented here and we seem to get the meanest, the very refuse of it all. We have no recognized pleasant season of the year, though the fall months are the most comfortable. September usually gives us some pleasant days; and, if we get real Indian summer weather, October and sometimes the fore part of November furnish the finest days of the year. We have no spring, such as we read about. ‘Spring, spring, beautiful spring;’ who can recollect one? Poets sing of them, but those poets do not live in Illinois. The first of May — of all the year ‘the maddest, merriest day’ in old England, associated in our minds (because of these confounded poets) with romping, flower-crowned maids, clad in bright summer
290stuff, dancing on the velvet green, in an atmosphere laden with the sweetness and freshness of opening buds and flowers — what sort of a day is it in northern Illinois? We will turn to our notes and inform you, beginning ten years back.
"May 1, 1875. — Rained ice and then snowed.
"May 1, 1876. — Cloudy and raw.
"May 1, 1877. — Cold; sharp frost last night.
"May 1, 1878. — Rainy.
"May 1, 1879. — Very cold day; hard frost last night.
"May 1, 1880. — Fine day though quite windy.
"May 1, 1881. — Warm and rainy; lots of old snow on the ground.
"May 1, 1882. — Fair, but cold.
"May 1, 1883. — Cold, yet quite pleasant.
"May 1, 1884. — Rained in afternoon.
"Where in this list would one want to stick a May pole? Yet with all its disagreeableness our climate seems to be fairly healthy as we adapt ourselves to it.
"The history of the weather for the past forty years would indicate that it was disposed to move in cycles or climatic periods, varying in character and duration. Thus 1844, '51 and '58, every seventh year, was excessively wet, and people talked of the septennial rainy year as a regular occurrence; but we went from '58 to '69 for an extremely wet year. The seventh year thereafter, '76, could be numbered with the wet; and with the exception of '77, it has been wet ever since. (This was written in 1885.)
"Beginning with the winter of 1875 (meaning the winter after January 1) and ending in '82 we had eight winters that alternated, as if the weather vibrated from
291cold and snowy one winter to soft and rainy the next; so, generally people assumed that these seasons always thus alternated. The winters since '82 have cured them of that notion. Then there have been dry and wet periods of several years each. Thus, beginning with 1870, the dryest year on our record, the ground became gradually dryer, as evidenced by lowering wells, till nearly through '75. In '76 the wells were filled full, and they have so remained since. This long wet period has caused western lands to be productive much beyond the ordinary rain limits and settlers have pushed far out upon the desert, to suffer seriously we fear when dry seasons return.
"The most disagreeable wet year was 1851; 1860 was the pleasantest and most productive; 1870 was the dryest, and 1882 had the greatest number of storms of rain and snow. The heaviest thunder-storm in our record began in the afternoon of August 18, 1850, and lasted, with short intermissions, two nights and a day. The nearest approach to it was the storm on the night of June 29, 1882. The most unbearably cold day was January 1,1864. Infernally hot days have been too numerous to mention. The winter and spring of 1881 gave us the most extraordinary snow-storms. The weather figures for 1882 are remarkable. There was rain or snow (more or less) on 134 days. There were 29 cloudy days without rain, 18 very hot dry days, 17 pleasant winter days — except for mud, — 32 clear cold days, 20 wind-stormy days, and 115 pleasant days. Considering the extraordinary number of stormy days there was a surprisingly large number of the pleasant. 1883, with fewer storms, had, comparatively, few fine days; it was a decidedly sour year. And so we might go on giving details of weather changes and
292peculiarities; but of what use? It will not help any one to make a better guess on the weather for next year or to-morrow. One's conclusions are that it is well to be prepared in this section for all kinds of weather; to have rubber coats, overcoats, dusters and umbrellas always at hand, for you may need any of them at short notice. Usually one day is no indication of what the next may be, except in ‘spells;’ then give heed to the old Illinois farmer's sayings: ‘Whatever kind of weather we've had entirely too much of, look for a darned sight more of it,’ and 'No matter how bad the storms or the past records have been, our weather is always trying to beat them."
Of the weather since the year in which the foregoing was written I have already made brief mention in its order.
AT the beginning of these recollections I had no constructive plan; just started in to tell what I could remember of my life experiences and observations, intending to relate only what might be interesting or instructive, and to be brief in statement. As I plodded along, much that had been mentally buried was revived; and when writing about the Marsh harvester and our business affairs I expanded somewhat, thinking more of my family and friends than of the reader outside; thus this work has already reached dimensions not originally anticipated. I shall not add to it by noticing recent occurrences, with which all should be as familiar as I am; but will close by making a few contrasts between past and present conditions, showing what wonderful changes have taken place during the span of a man's life.
When I was a boy old enough to begin work on the farm, the outfit of implements consisted of plow, made by the country blacksmith, harrow, its frame of home construction, scythe, grain cradle and fanning mill; and the farm tools were a couple each of hoes, rakes, and forks, a spade, shovel, scoop and grindstone — all the handles home-made. The cash outlay for all which, excluding the fanning mill, did not exceed $25. And when I came to Illinois in 1849, the only improvement was in the quality and finish of the plow and the farm tools, which by that time were factory-made, the drag or harrow and
294the single shovel corn plow being still the country blacksmith's product. The value of the outfit, excluding fanning mill as before, on the average farm did not exceed $50.
Now, for a farm of 160 to 200 acres, the equipment of machinery and tools will cost from $700 to $1,000, according to selection and completeness, and will consist of a single and a gang or sulky plow, drag, disc harrow, pulverizer, seeder, corn planter, a couple of corn cultivators, mower, a front and a side delivery hay rake, hay loader, horse fork in barn, harvester and binder, corn harvester, manure spreader, corn shelter, fanning mill, wind mill and cream separator if cows are kept, besides the usual tools — hoes, forks, etc.
When I was a boy old enough to remember, farmers' houses and the homes of the middle class were lighted by tallow candles or grease-oil lamps or by home-made lamps, constructed by erecting a cotton cloth wick in the center of a saucer of lard, and they were heated and partly lighted by fire-places in which also the cooking was done. A few heating stoves of crude construction had been introduced. Our clothes were mostly from wool, spun, woven and made up in the house. There were no spring beds, spring couches, nor spring chairs. Floors were bare, except in the "spare rooms," where they were covered by rag carpets or carpets of home weaving. There were no fixed instruments of music. Bath rooms, such as are common to all classes of modern houses, were unknown then. Farmers and their families rode to town or to meeting in lumber wagons or sleighs. In towns and cities people generally walked. Only the rich could ride in carriages. Long journeys were made on horseback or
295in stage coaches. Common schools were few and far between. Away down east a few steamboats were running and one or two short lines of railways were in operation. I was ten years old when the telegraph was first put to practical use. Even then the day of steam had but just dawned. In short, the world, having made but little progress in the practical arts and in manner of living for several centuries, was just beginning to move forward at the time of my earliest remembrance.
Now homes and buildings in cities and towns are nearly all lighted by gas or electricity; many farm houses are thus lighted, and kerosene, which makes as good a light as any, is within the reach of the poorest. Farm houses as well as city and town residences, are evenly and comfortably heated by various modern appliances. Clothes are made in shops devoted to such work. Fine and luxurious furniture and "boughten" carpets are in common use. The tinkle of the piano is heard in houses of all classes. Good schools are free to all. Everybody rides and rapidly nowadays, whether going far or near, in steam cars steamboats, trolley cars and autos. Even the farmer, after long indulging himself and family in the luxury of a fine carriage, thinks himself rich enough, occasionally, to own and enjoy an auto. The telephone is in almost every house, the phonograph is nearly as common, and the flying machine is holding out wonderful possibilities. Most of these improvements and advances, especially those last mentioned, were undreamed of when I was a boy. In short, the average man to-day enjoys more comforts and luxuries, sees more and has more opportunities for obtaining knowledge than the richest noble, seventy years ago.
When I was a boy a man worth $10,000 was considered quite rich, one worth $100,000 was almost "out of sight," and a millionaire was a rare being of whom we sometimes heard, but whom we never expected to see — he was so remote and so exalted. Now an estate of $10,000 is a mere bagatelle, fortunes of $100,000 are so numerous that the possessors go unnoticed, and millionaires are so common that they attract no particular attention. Multi-millionaires are generally products of our large cities, of New York especially, and, as a class, are held in low estimation on account of the crooked ways in which most of them have obtained their enormous holdings. When I came into this county, not half a dozen men in it were worth $10,000, now hundreds are worth $100,000, and there are quite a number of millionaires — half a dozen of them in this town of DeKalb.
And now with such wonderful improvement in the way of living and such great increase in wealth, are our people any better or happier? Not much, if any, I think. Better education and the greater advantages enjoyed have increased the knowledge and improved the manners of our men, making them gentler toward each other and more disposed to act — especially in bodies — for the relief of the weak and unfortunate. But have these advantages made them more honorable, more truthful, more moral or more contented? It does not so appear. Unrest and extravagance are general. The greed for gain has grown with our progress. There is no "wealth beyond the dreams of avarice," of our money getters; and some of them are such fools that they shorten their lives in strenuous efforts to gain more after having obtained more than enough. Never before in the history of our country
297was there a time when dishonesty and crime, official turpitude and political corruption were more prevalent or when the people have had greater reason to cry out against the exactions of trusts, monopolies and speculators and against the many adulterations foisted upon them, including the published news. Dollars and votes have become the chief objects of pursuit, and they are as often attained by devious ways as by the straight. The man of money has taken precedence of the man of brains or genius; hence we have so many who are great in wealth and so few who are great in literature or statesmanship. It was the reverse in the days of my youth. When Jay Gould and Jim Fisk cornered gold and precipitated the "Black Friday" panic, and when they financially wrecked the Erie railroad, our people were shocked and demanded that the scoundrels be summarily punished. In later years such performances became so common as to blunt our sense of honor. But we may now hope for better things, as a result of the campaign for reformation recently opened.
Women are better educated and more companionable; but they are also more restless, more extravagant and less devoted to home duties than they were when I was young; and some of them are loudly clamoring for the ballot. The average woman, however, doesn't want it. She knows that her rights are well protected, and she does not wish to soil herself with the mud of politics. I can recollect of, only one woman, in ordinary life, who in my hearing expressed any anxiety to vote. She was a widow, the possessor of considerable property, and she was grumbling about her taxes. Her contention that unmarried women, possessing taxable property, have a
298better right to the ballot than men having no taxable property, was logical. But opening the already too open polls to women at large would increase the political confusion and, possibly, the corruption. Generally, womanly women would not avail themselves of the privilege. Besides, divorces are frequent enough without introducing the disturbing element of political strife into the household. Nature made woman weaker, physically and mentally, than man, and also better and more refined. Man, compared with her, is coarse, strong and aggressive. By confining themselves to the duties for which nature has prepared them, respectively, the better they will harmonize. Let her stay in; let him go out.
The children of the much smaller families of this generation are more carefully raised and have far greater opportunities; yet they are not so well disciplined, not so obedient, not so steady and purposeful as were the children of the larger families of their grandparents. Many of the boys seem to be imbued with the idea that success in life is best attained by beating it out of others; and the girls are too generally averse to home work.
When I was young few girls remained unmarried. Now young men shirk the responsibilities of marriage, because of the high cost of living, and because of the various easily obtained enjoyments of modern life as single, with the result that girls are largely thrown upon their own resources, and offices, stores, etc., are full of well educated young women who ably and faithfully perform their duties, thus demonstrating their capacity to manage homes of their own, if they had them.
Everything considered, the great advances made have not been altogether beneficial to home life and to society
299in general. As already stated, people now are much wiser and are provided with more comforts and enjoyments than they were at the beginning of this progressive period, but they are not more contented, not happier and not much, if any, better. They have not grown beyond the need of the moral, restraining and consoling influences of genuine religion whatever may be its articles of faith. The religion that leads one to be kind, helpful and provident, to seek success without trespassing upon the rights of others and to make reparation if wrong be done, is a pretty good religion and its rewards accompany its practice.
And here I rest, trusting that these recollections and observations will not be as tiresome to the readers as they have been to me. I fully realize that I am an old man. I have witnessed and participated in a greater advance of practical civilization than had been made in all the ages before; but I have drawn aside and will not see much more of it, because for me the lights will be turned off soon. The friends and associates of "my day and generation" are nearly all dead. I am well along in the evening of life and the night of death is near. But its approach does not worry me. One should calmly face the inevitable.
My years are now several beyond the number allotted to man, yet I am healthy and vigorous, mainly because I have been temperate and always active. Despite the struggles and losses and sorrows, my life has been well worth the living, and I feel that I have not done so badly but that there will be something to my credit on the balance sheet of good and ill. "So mote it be."