Primary tabs



The land upon which the now village of Oakland is built, was entered by David McCord, in 1834. He built upon it a little log cabin of about 14 x 16 opposite our residence where our stock well stands. It happened that this, the first house built on these lands did in the course of time fall into our hands. We purchased the lot of John Davis, who then lived in a larger and better log house on the site of our before-mentioned residence. Reserving Mr. Davis for a future notice, we would remark of the little log cabin, that having had no present use for it, and unaware of the interest or romance of its origin, we sold this "relic" for the paltry sum of five dollars, and have forgotten to whom; only, that it was wanted for a stable. Mr. McCord was bought out by Mr. Josiah Black, a son-in-law of Mr. Ashmore, the same or early the next year, who built a double log house on what is now Pike street; partly covered at present by the residence of his son, Jas. S. Black. The next year, 1835, was famous for its town site speculations in Illinois, and Mr. Gideon M. Ashmore, having taken the "fever," bought of Mr. Black a small tract — sixteen or eighteen acres off of the s. e. s. e., of sec. 13 T.14, R.10 upon which he proceeded to lay out a town site. Mr. Canterberry, an attorney-at-law and county surveyor, came up


from Charleston, and after making due measurements, pegged it down and plotted and recorded the work so done in A. No. 1 style. This plat embraced the south side of the village from the middle of the public square. Sales being encouraging, Mr. Ashmore soon afterwards purchased an additional tract and completed his town site on the north. Matt, as he was called for short, was a speculator by nature, had much good gas in him and believed in names, high-sounding ones of course; but from the resources of his very limited education, he drew liberal draughts upon uncommon or little-used words, which words he made still more remarkable by his unheard of pronunciation. On this subject of names we once heard him offer a plea. His father, it appears, possessed the name of Samuel, a single simple name, in accordance with the puritanic tastes of our ancestors of a hundred years ago. He called his first son James, but adopting the "rolling stone" or rovers life, he soon became sensible that he was not to be a child of fortune. Strongly attached to his children, he gave them all he could give them, instead of money and lands, great tremendous names, such as Hezekiah Jefferson, Samuel Claybourne, George Washington, Gideon Madison, Omar and finally General Jackson. It is sad to relate that his poor girls had to put up with simple common, every day names. Matt, a full sketch of whose character we reserve for a future occasion, went the way of his father, only more so. He not only named his children (his boys, we mean) after the great ones of this world, but every thing he possessed from a dog up, had a heavy or patriotic title tagged to it. After mature study, he called his new paper town "Independence" and in the same spirit, he afterwards laid out the town of "Liberty," two miles north of Ashmore, but "Virtue" still remains to be platted. The name Independence was in many respects objectionable, it was too long, too many syllables, and malice and spite soon found for it a nick name in "Pinhook," which name stuck like a burr, and for a long time it was generally known by that alias. Even yet we occasionally hear this name from ill-bred or simple minded


people. In 1851 the name was changed by act of the legislature to Oakland, the name which the post office had always borne.

Mr. James Ashmore, known as "Squier Jim," is said to have put up the first buildings — all of logs. One was the old tavern which stood where the Oakland house now stands; another was on the corner occupied by Frank Coffin's store room, and a third, the most famous was a business house where Cash's brick store now stands. Here "Squier Jim" opened his law office, and John Wesley Sanders, a hunchback man, sold groceries, feed, etc., but whiskey more than all else. We will not stop just now to enlarge on the whiskey traffic then; like the looking glass it always reflects a true image, and he who would see a picture of what it was here thirty or forty years ago, can now find it anywhere along the frontier, or in the mining districts. How long law and whiskey held together, we are not informed. The idea then attached to the term "business," was to gather up a few "traps" or notions, make a start and sell out — the successor adding a few to the stock and "lumping it off" upon the first opportunity. If he got cash, which was seldom the case, he sold "dog cheap"; if on credit, the price was high; he discounted the note heavily or traded it for what he could get as soon as possible. Hence arose the story of the man who traded his goods for a dog, and then to close the concern, killed the dog. Sanders was a fair sort of a man, and had a reputation for gallant and chivalrous bearing. After wandering about for a number of years, he returned to this country and laid out "Warrenton," on Donica point. In the meantime "Squier Jim," did more for the town than Matt himself, built a frame storehouse on the corner now occupied by D. W. Mitchell. In this house John McClellan sold dry goods and general assortments in 1836. In 38 or 39, Jonas Trembly, a merchant of Georgetown, opened up a stock of goods in the log grocery and law office. These men, McClellan and Trembly, had no trouble in selling their goods, the difficulty lay in collecting. Nearly every family had a loom and provided their own woolen goods, jeans and flannels, but cotton goods had to be bought. Domestic sold at twenty cents per yard, and the luxuries of sugar, tea and coffee, much the same price as now. The means of payment were extremely limited. Corn, the


great staple of the country, could not be sold for money, it traded at ten cents per bushel. A four year old steer would bring ten dollars, and cows of first quality sold at the same price. They were bought up for the Wisconsin market. Hogs were then as they are now the great live stock staple of the country, and sold from four dollars down to one per hundred net. For butchered beef, the little sold, rated at two and three cents per pound.

The first blacksmith shop was opened at the north-east corner of the public square under a walnut tree, by a man named Maxey. Next to him in the same line, came Dick Hawkins; his shop stood where Tom Hodge's house is and his place of residence was on the lots where Dr. Peak now lives. Hawkins rented his shop and tools to John Hall, and moved to the Scattering Fork. Hall hammered away more or less for a couple of years, and then helped Mr. Trembly to take a drove of cows north. Hawkins returned after a while, and after him came the late David McConkey. Of carpenters there was none; every man was his own boss workman, and Mr. Jack-of-all-trades was a much more common and important gentleman than he is now.

Doctor Sterling Combs was the first physician. He located in 1836. Belonging to a consumptive race, he was short lived. A pretender named Montague, set up the next year, but a large portion of the practise was done by the Conduitts of Paris. Montague fizzled out and Dr. Wm. Patton started in the race for public favor, in 1838. Dr. P. made it a success, though a man with very little medical or other education. He remained till 1847, and then took to wandering; removed to Ohio, thence to Quincy, Ill., and died in Iowa, possessed of a considerable amount of this world's goods. He was distinguished for his lameness, his deafness and his inability to utter a word when he was angry. He filled the office of postmaster for many years. One of the Conduitt brothers (Wellington), located at the same time Dr. Patton did, but did not stay. He, like Combs, fell a victim to consumption. James and Alonzo Conduitt continued at Paris, and practiced much all over this country. We have heard James state that they rode from Bruitts creek, to the Brushy Fork of the Ambraw and that it took three days to make the circuit. Lastly our own self set up our tin sign in the last days of 1840.


The prairies were then without an inhabitant, save the deer and the wild wolf. Dr. Bacon for years did all the practice on the Okaw timber. He lived near Bourbon, Dr. Willard was a Grandview, and Charleston, Paris, Georgetown and Urbana, were the next nearest points where physicians were located, and upon whom the settlers depended in the frequent malarial sickness of those days.