Jere Pearsall


[They spelled the name Jere and pronounced it "Jerry."]

Per Jere Pearsall, Port Byron, Ill., March 17, 1915

Our folks came down from Canada and after a time moved to a place near Chicago.

"I was born near Chicago and we moved to Rock Island County when I was between six and eight years old. When we moved out on the place in Coe Town we were two miles from any neighbor, where we put up the first shanty. When we first came we lived on Beisher Whiting's place above Cordova, - this was the year 1848 or '49. Whiting was a brother-in-law of father's, and we lived there from the fall until the first of July the following year. We worked up at his place and my oldest brother was drowned in the Mississippi while we lived there. He was bathing with some boys. We brought grappling hooks, etc. at once but couldn't find the body. We found him a few days after between Port Byron and LeClaire. Mrs. Belch- er and some others, I can't remember who, found his body floating down the river. They were young folks then, and shw was a Miss Holmes. Father had advertised all along down the river, but Miss Holmes and her companions didn't know of the drowning until they saw the body. I think that's about as old a sketch as you'll get around here. That was in '48 or '49.

"That Fall we moved to the farm in a shanty father built of slabs and cement. He split the shingles for the roof. The next Fall we added on to it a couple of rooms and lived there seven or eight years before he burned the brick, he made himself, and built the brick house which is still in use.

"Father made the brick right by the creek on the farm. He hired Joe McConnell to do the moulding. A hole where they dug the clay and a few old brick-bats is about all you can see of the place today.

"It's funny too the way he made the brick. He dug a pit; a pit about two feet deep, sealed it with bent boards around and made a circle around the outside big enough to get two yoke of cattle inside. He put in the clay and wet it and then had the cattle go 'round and 'round and tramp the clay or mortar and did a splendid job that way. The pit had a board floor in it, about fourteen to sixteen feet across. The man would mix the clay like a woman kneads bread and put it in a mould, strike it off, and after they let them dry they were put into a kiln. They would make the kiln of green brick, leaving arches to shove the wood in to burn them. You take clay and mix it well and it dries pretty hard. "That Fall they hauled the brick up from the kiln and father tended the masons himself, carrying the mortar and brick, and when he was finishing up the fourth story, up at the attic, he had got up with a hod of brick, and the ladder broke and he fell thirty or forty feet to the ground and he never was a sound man afterwards.

"Speaking of neighbors, Assenath Ennis lived two miles Southeast of us and Sam and Bill were our playmates. Joe Martin and Joe Walker were the nearest on their side, a couple of miles to the Northeast, and then North of us we had no neighbor 'till we got to Smith Ege - afterwards the Simon Trent farm on the line between Coe and Cordova Township. Northwest of us was the Tom Fowler place, about two miles from us. Southwest a couple of miles was a man by the name of Sargeant, I've forgotten his first name, and further on were the Miles Nicholson's I believe.

"Pleasant Point was our first school. It was two and a half miles away, but was the nearest one we had then. Hiram Weymouth was my first teacher there. He was from the East. He used to come to our house a good deal. Father and he were friends. He went to California afterwards. Pleasant Point was an old brick school, the first brick building ever put up out there in the country. There may have been some in Port Byron before.

"I don't remember when we divided up the district. When we did divide a little shanty was built out in the middle of the prairie between where Eureka School and Pleasant Point are now. William Nelson taught this School. We went there two or three terms. I don't know what they called it. They had a big school there. Afterwards they divided this District and made Eureka and the one South, one or two miles, I don't remember the name .

"One of the teachers at this shanty school was Mary Holmes of Port Byron. Afterward Mrs. Murphy. She boarded with our folks several years while teaching and was a good teacher. The school was midway of Father's and Ennis' and both were Directors.

"At that time there were hardly any public roads on section lines. We traveled through the country and picked our roads the best we could. We didn't pay any attention to section lines; there was hardly any roads laid out yet at that time.

"The stage line from Port Byron to Erie, or rather I shall say, from Rock Island to Dixon, had a four-horse stage every day. It often passed our place and often stopped there for meals; but they crossed the prairies wherever the road seemed best. They used to run some very fine coaches too, on that line and carried lots of passengers.

Many a time when I was a boy I'd go with father to help the stage drivers out of a muss, - the sloughs and creeks. They used to often get stuck with their coach and four horses. Many and many a time from '49 to 1851 I'd be with father to help them out. Father used to be a great hunter and if there was a little snow on the ground he'd take the rifle and start out to get a deer and he generally got one. He was a great hunter and a great marksman. He was hard to beat. He'd call me early and say he was going out for deer and if he got one he'd get on a high place and wave his red handkerchief and I'd get the horse and singletree and rope and I'd snake the deer home over the snow. We never stopped to hitch up a team. My! I hauled in many a deer he shot that way. I'd jump on the horse and ride with the deer snaked behind. I've seen as many as three or four flocks with as high as eight or ten in a flock, in a day. We lived a lot on venison. We considered it good meat.

Wild turkeys kept along wooded streams and didn't go out on the prairie. Father got some of them, and in fact I shot a couple on Rock River when I was about fifteen years old. Father had sent me to Lyndon to mill. Paul Farber ferried me across the Docia and I called back to Farber to come with a gun. There were wild turkeys. He came with both a shot gun and a rifle. I took the shot gun; the rifle didn't scatter enough for me, and we followed the flock. I got two fine wild turkeys and he got several. Farber was an early settler and ran a ferry at Hillsdale for stage and teams up and down Rock River during high water. When the water was low there was a ford where we crossed. Paul Farber was a great hunter too and he'd go out with father and they'd tramp all day sometimes, hungry, and come home without their deer. Father's rifle was a muzzle-loader with set trigger. I have the old rifle up stairs now that father hunted deer with. I hold it as a great relic.

Yes, I own the farm that had the Hunter's Lodge. The hunters came there from the East a great deal. Lambert of Philadelphia owned the place, but I do not know whether any 'Specially distinguished men came to hunt, and I don't remember the years that they came. I've seen them there when they'd have a crowd.

I kept the lantern for years that they used to have on a high pole. They'd swing a blue, red or yellow - different colored lights out at night as signals. They used to shoot lots of game. They'd shoot prairie chickens on the wing and that's where I got the notion of shooting on the wing. Before that I used to try and shoot them as they sat on the ground. I learned to be able to shoot them pretty well on the wing.

Father kept four or five yoke of oxen, but had a team of horses also. He used to drive to Chicago with wheat and produce. He brought the first McCormick reaper anywheres in the neighborhood. I don't think there was a reaper in Coe Town when he brought that one here.

Father used to prophesy that there would be great things here some day. If he could only have seen the things we have now! - telephones, automobiles and such things.

I don't know of any ditch fences before your Grandfather (Hauberg) came. We had a little of it but not much.

Our people were all Congregationalists and father helped to organize the Congregational Church in Port Byron. I think the Methodist had been organized there before.

(photo caption) [Jere Pearsall Golden Wedding at Port Byron, Ill. seated front: Geo. Genung, Jere & Mrs. Pearsall, ?, Billy McConnell, William Pearsall, Jim McConnell. standing: Clint Donahoo, Mrs. Geo. Genung, Mrs. & Mr. M.D. Hauberg, David Trowbridge (big Whiskers), G.W. McMurphy, Dr. Wm H. Lyford, J.W. Simonson, Mrs. Trowbridge - ? - ? Mrs. Fanny Ashdown McConnell & Mrs. r.]

[big box of 50 (?) roses presented by Sue & J.H. Hauberg.]


For questions or comments please contact specialcollections@augustana.edu