Mrs Eliza A. Laflin. Rock Island,Ill,. Aug,4.1915.
I went to Sears today to see Mrs Eliza A. Laflin,widow of Be[ne]dict Laflin.
She m[e]t me at the door and said, "[E]xcuse me,I'm a little lame I'm not very well today,we're having bad weather [weather] fo[r] August,it seems to have to rain every day.
We came here in the Spring of 1839,we had been living in Oxford Ohio,where Miami University is.
I was born in Hamilton the thirteenth of October 1827. My father kept the toll bridge there for a long time then he m[o]ved to the farm and then to Oxford and lived there until 1839 and then we came here to Mercer County Ill,. There were very few settlers when we came,it was more like a des[e]rt than a civilized country. Rock Island was a very small vill[a]ge,it was'nt Rock Island at all at that time,it was [Stevenson.]
My maiden name [was] Phare[s] and I have a brother in Moline,William Phares,92 years of age now,but he is very feeble. There was no chance for any schooling when we first came here and when fath[e]r got his farm fixed up we moved [back] to Ohio so we children could go to school,but we only stayed there from November to April,we all got home sick to be back[;]we felt shut up ,the paraires were were so wide[.][T]hey don't look so big now[,]all the farms have groves,but there was very little timber here then ,[T]here[']s thousands more timber now than there was then.[W]e could see twenty miles some places at that time,and so after five months we came back from Ohio and lived in Rock Island for near three [years,] and then moved back to the farm. When we first lived there,in 1839,there were only three houses within three to five miles of us. Settlers were very scarce in those days.
The first year we lived in the edge of a barren timber. I'll explain that a barren timber is one where the trees are very thin and far apart. We lived there from May to October until father got lumber to build a cabin on the p[rairie.] [I]t was hard to get anything to build with,you could'nt buy anything in Rock Island[;] could'nt buy a bedstead or table or hardly anything else. They put up a saw mill at Richland Grove,There was not much timber there, but good what there was of it[;]there was no under brush in those days. Father had a saw mill a mile up the creek from where Cable is,on Camp creek. Up at Andover the head [waters] of [Edwards] river they had a mill there where you could get wheat or corn ground,but generally if we were out of flour we had to go about fifty miles down on Hunters or [Pope] Creek. We crossed Rock River at Carr's ferry,a rope ferry;a rope with a pulley.
We crossed the Illionas river at Peoria,father came by river with the goods,and Uncle brought us in a light wagon;did'nt carry any more goods then we needed. He staid quite awhile[.] He said he could'nt stay here because there was no timber. You can't realize what it was like seventy six years ago and how the timber grew up,there were pastures without a tree and twenty five years after,timber was so thick that a cow could'nt go through. People wh[o] came later than sixty years ago can't relize how little timber there was in this country at that time.
From south and west from where Sears is now to Rock Island all were Indian corn fields. In 1843 there was lots of underbrush up around the woods here and lots of berries on[,]clear up past Moline. These corn hills were twelve to fourteen inches high and covered with grass,not weeds,and strawberry vines all over them. Where Sears is now,we had the first blue grass of any place around here. On the old army,or Indian trail running North and South from here,there was blue grass along that trail and people wanted blue grass very much,the native grass did'nt hold well in a yard and folks went to the old trail for seed, also sod[.][G]et some of that sod and it would soon spread.
A Mr Dixon owned land all around here and he lived in a brick house,now Mrs Woodroff's lot[,][T]here is no house there now,the bricks were poorly burnt, He had quite a number of sons and some daughters,one was Bradley. Liza Dixon married McDill. Mrs.McDill was my Sunday school teacher here,while we lived here in Rock Island. Old Mr Dixon owned all the land where the Watch Tower now is[,H]e had some man,a [g]erman I think,who was sent up to clear the ground at the top of the hill and he cut down the Watch Tower Tree,it was'nt much of a tree;a scrubby oak;but it was right in front of where the Inn was[.]Dixon felt very sorry, he knew it was a notable tree,though it was'nt a very great tree to look at. There use[d]to be a ceder tree hung below the rock, barely hung by the rock at the extreme lower point of the island of Rock Island,it was quite a bit down to the root of it and the men could get water from the river from the roots of that tree,but it had to be, pretty high water to do that.
I was at Fort Armstrong in 1843,a number of times. The block houses stood in a circle,the inland one,was the one nearer toward the south,and the guide also took us through the magazine[.][F]orty kegs of powder [were] in the magizine when we were there and father scolded us for going in,the walls were very thick,it was round-ing from the surface up and we had to go down two steps to the floor of the magizine,it was as long as this room,abuut sixteen or seventeen feet,but not as wide,the powder was in small kegs and did'nt take up much space in the middle of the magizine,and we walked away around it. Mr Bleu[e]r who lives here at Sears,says he was in those block houses when he was a boy.
In 1843 and 1844 after we had been to Ohio,we lived in Rock Island awhile when we first came there[.][W]hen we first came here we went to Mercer County,but after we got back from Ohio,we lived in Rock Island for three years,in order that we younger children might go to school.
I wonder what became of the soldiers that died at old Fort Armstrong.[A] great many soldiers died there in 1832 of chol[e]ra, they marked their graves with boards and they soon rotted. [Y]ou could see the rows of low graves down toward the river. The officers cemet[e]ry was seperate and apart from that of the [e]nlisted men,[T]hey had a fence of rock about three feet high around their cemet[e]ry,which was about forty or fifty feet square,there were quite a number of officers buried there,and I presume that these remains were moved to the [N]ational cemet[e]ry when that was established later,on the Island.
The first place that people of [Stephenson] or Rock Island buried must have been where Long View Park is,but after [Chippianock] was started,no more attention was paid to it,and the cattle pastured there;had paths,and the rain cut and washed ditches,and a man one time passing along there found the end of a coffin sticking out.
I read in the Rock Island Union of the old Barrel House where the first court was held in Rock Island County,I've been to the Old Barrel House, it stood there in the weeds and underbrush, there was a lovely spring there and a kind of a little creek, where Ben Cable's house is now. They've located the Barrel House too close to the river,it should be South of the street as it is now. Oh! there was some of the finest plums throuh there thatI've ever seen,and a girl friend of mine and I use[d]to go there and gather plums,this friend got a hand full of asparagus which was not common in this country at that time,she gathered every spear she could find around that Barrel House and took it home and cooked it,this was in 1843,I was sixteen years old.
As to the Conway family,I was well acquainted with the Conway folks, Joseph Conway was a brother to Miles Conway. Joseph was an old bachelor, and Miles Conway had quite a large family.There was Joseph,William,Miles,Susan and Mary.Susan Conway was just f four xxx days older than I.
I went to Mr.Woodruff's school.There were several young women and young men from Mercer County,and this was the best school.
There wasn't any Moline at that time.I've seen the old log xxxxx cabin in Moline many a time.At least I thought it was the first log cabin in Moline.
I have no photos of that very early time.There were no photos at that time.There were dauguerrotypes,and at Thomas Merryman's at Moline,we saw the first dauguerrotypes we had ever seen.We thought they were wonderful.We were living at Rock Island at that time.
Ben Goble,I knew him.He would wander around.I thought it was the funniest book I ever came across.The idea of anyone undertaking to write a book like he did.The Life of Black Hawk was supposed to be a pretty current history of his life and doings.
I saw Antoine LeClaire.What a man he was;couldn't anybody ride in his buggy with him- --and Antoine Gokey;he looked as much like an indian as anyone. Mrs.Obermeier was sick and Antoine [Gokey] drove the team,and I've seen his two little sisters pick gooseberries and take them to Davenport in a canoe.My! They would make the canoe go.They were fourteen or fifteen years old.Everybody used to go from Davenport to the island of Rock Island and gather gooseberries.
I was a little afraid once when we were living down in Mercer County.A large number of indians came along.They had some of the finest ponies and there were men,women and children well dressed in white folks' clothes,long hair,braided with beads, This was the day that the Davenport murderers were hanged and the men were all at Rock Island. George L.Davenport attended to the Indians,they were great friends of his. I remember the day his father was killed.[T]hat was a horrible thing,all his folks were at Rock Island celebrating the Fourth of July and that miserable Baxter, I've seen him many a time, John Baxter. I use[d]to see him every day.He'd loaf around a building--some kind of a business building which was right by our house in the next Lot.He had a brother and a sister;fine people;nothing like him. Yes,that miserable John.He was guide to the murderers.The Davenport's had done lots for him.He was a man,didn't amount to anything.According to all accounts a man by the name of Fox killed Davenport;one of these trifling men that didn't amount to anything.
We had no saloon at that time but had what they called a Dutch grocery,and grocery's generally kept a barrel of whiskey.
In those days you could stand on the North side of the Cour[t] House and count about every house in town.
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