Old Times In Schuyler 

First Settlement in Schuyler
By Howard F. Dyson, 1918

When Rev. Chauncey Hobart, then a resident of Red Wing, Minn., received the report of the first old settlers’ meeting he responded with the following letter, which is an authentic account of the first settlement of Schuyler:

I noticed with some degree of interest the report of the “Old Settlers’ Convention” holden in Rushville December 23d, 1859, and was much pleased to see a list of old friends, and can most sincerely wish, not as the Persians say, that they “may live a thousand years,” but that they may live to a good old age, and die with the firm trust in the world’s Redeemer for eternal life. I write, however, to correct what you say was passed upon as “historical facts known to be such by those present.”

The first paragraph, stating that Thomas Beard and Orris McCartney were the first settlers, contains several mistakes, known to be such by myself and brother, Ephraim Eggleston and wife, Rev. W. H. Taylor, Orris McCartney and Mrs. Ruth Huntly.

The facts of the first settlement of Schuyler were as follows: The week before the 19th of February, 1823, Samuel Gooch (pronounced Gouge), Orris McCartney and Samuel Bogart crossed the Illinois river on the ice at Downing’s Landing (Beardstown) with about three hundred hogs, to give the hogs the benefit of the range which was very abundant. They came from the Swinerton neighborhood, six miles west of Mt. Pleasant (since called Jacksonville), in Morgan county. Their team and Bogart returned, the team not crossing the river; and their provisions, etc., was hauled from the river to the S.E. 16, 2 N. 1 W., by my father’s team, borrowed for that purpose. My father, Calvin Hobart, resided at the time six miles east of the river. Gooch and McCartney brought the hogs over. Beard was not there and had never been in the county only as a bee hunter the previous fall. Gooch and McCartney built a camp, of logs on three sides, and open in front, and covered with lynn puncheons. McCartney returned immediately, and neither regarded themselves as having removed–their effects remaining in Morgan county until the river broke up.

On the 18th day of February, 1823, my father and family, and W. H. Taylor, started and came as far as the river, and staid all night with E. Eggleston. On the 19th we crossed the river on the ice, and came to the camp alluded to above. When the family arrived the sun was about an hour high–Mr. Gooch being one of the party from the river. Neither Beard nor McCartney was there. All hands turned out and raised a log cabin near the camp in three days about forty rods a little north of west from Mrs. Minshall’s residence. Into this we moved and remained some four days, until another was built some thirty-five rods west, and about forty feet northwest of a leaning elm tree (now standing, I think) from under the roots of which a spring broke out. Mr. Gooch returned to Morgan county, and remained several weeks, and then moved over in company with McCartney. About the first of March my grandfather, Jonas Hobart and wife, and Ruth Powers (subsequently Mrs. Gooch) were brought over by my father, and moved into the first cabin built. My father, Calvin Hobart, was the first man that settled in Schuyler county; no other man can lay claim to this honor unless it be Mr. Gooch, and he had no thought of making it his home until after my father had settled.

About the first of April Mr. Eggleston and family came in canoes to a point where the road now runs about the middle of Frederick, and was moved up by my father’s team, and settled on the S.W. 16, 2N. 1W. So much for the first error.

The second error relates to the “first field cleared and cultivated.” The meeting made a great mistake when they stated it as a historical fact known by persons present that the first field was on 27, by Beard and McCartney. About sixty feet a little west of north from the old elm above alluded to was the first furrow turned in Schuyler, in April, 1823. It was turned by a barshire plow, drawn by a yoke of six year old oxen, called Duke and Buck, the first a black ox with a white face and the other brown with a few white spots. The plough was held by my father, and the team driven by myself, I think. My father cleared about five acres of timber and broke some ten acres of prairie, most of which was done before anything was done on 27.

Mr. Eggleston also cleared and planted a few acres the same spring before the farm on 27 was cleared; also, my grandfather cleared some two acres which was ploughed before the farm alluded to. I think it was about the first week in May when McCartney, Gooch, W. H. Taylor, and Isaac M. Rouse–all unmarried men–commenced to clear and fence the farm on section 27. It was planted in June, and the crop was badly hurt by the frost. All these little beginnings were made in the spring of 1823.

The first marriage is correctly stated–G. Gooch and Ruth Powers, November, 1824. The first death was a son of Jonathan Reno, in the summer of 1826, a lad of some nine or ten years old. The first adult was Mr. Stansbury, as stated.

The first mill was built by Calvin Hobart, in November, 1823, on Sec. 16, some 100 feet N.E. of the old elm alluded to above. It was a band mill–run by horse-power, and the drum turned by a bank, made of raw hide, ninety feet long. The second one was this old one rejuvenated, and having a new upper stone, made by Thomas McKee, since deceased, and owned by James Vance, Esq., and was built on Sec 21, 2N. 1W., near where Daniel Berry now lives. The third was a horse mill built by Calvin Hobart, on section 17, 2N. 1W. It was a horse mill, as it was propelled by horses fastened to a large cog-wheel, some forty feet in diameter, started in the spring of 1827. The fourth was a horse mill, “double geared,” built by Wm. McKee Sr., on Sec. 18, 2N., 1W.

The first sermon was preached in my father’s house, in Nov., 1823, by Levin Green, a Methodist local preacher. The first camp-meeting was holden on Sec. 19, one mile north of Rushville, on what has since become the back yard of a house built some years since by Mr. Murray, on the west side of the road, and some two hundred yards north of the place where old father Sparks died. Levin Green lived there then, and I think it was in 1828.

The first school taught was kept by W. H. Taylor in the winter of ’23 and ’24 in the first house (described above) built in the county. The next schools were taught as stated by Mr. Manlove, in which the worthy gentleman and his very worthy lady taught the ideas of young Schuylerites “how to shoot.”

Yours truly, for historical truth,
Chauncey Hobart.

P.S. It may be of interest to the Old Settlers’ Convention to state that in the spring of 1823, after W. Eggleston had left Downing’s Landing (Beardstown) the house which he vacated was burned, probably by the Indians, and for some three months no one visited there. About the first of September Thomas Beard built a rude log hut and made it his home for several years, and never was a citizen of Schuyler until in 1826 or 1827, he built a house on the west side of the river and lived in it for one or two years.

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Copyright © by Judi Gilker 2006