The following four accounts of the great Dutch-American migration from Somerset County, New Jersey to Fairview, Illinois in the mid-19th Century were taken from three volumes of the Somerset County Historical Quarterly. Three of these accounts are from eyewitnesses and one is from a family member.The following second account of the great Dutch-American migration from Somerset County, New Jersey to Fairview, Illinois in the mid-19th Century entitled "From New Jersey To Illinois In 1837: From A Sketch Prepared by One of the Family," was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. III, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1914, pp. 278~280:46
The first article, entitled "An Illinois Journey in 1837 by the Late Hon. Peter A. Voorhees, Franklin Park, N. J." was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1918, pp.53~55:41 It is a letter from a Dutch-American who visited the community in Fairview, and describes his five-week journey from New Jersey, the opportunities in Illinois, and the hard-working, religious settlers who emigrated there.
The second article, entitled " From New Jersey To Illinois In 1837: From A Sketch Prepared by One of the Family," was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. III, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1914, pp. 278~280:46 It is the story of Dutch-American William B. Wikoff, who came to Fairview in wagons and on a steamboat, and describes the severe conditions his family endured, the malarial fever which took four of his children, and the good crops that finally came.
The third article, entitled "Somerset Settlers at Fairview, Illinois, 1845 From An Unpublished Letter," was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. II, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1913, pp. 255~259:39 It is a letter describing one of the terrible epidemics which ravaged the Dutch settlers in Fairview, and other hardships, blessings, and details of their daily lives.
The fourth article, entitled "From New Jersey To Illinois In 1846: By John A. Powelson, Pluckemin, N. J.," was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. III, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1914, pp. 109~112:45 It features letters from Peter S. Powelson and from Mrs. Mary P. Voorhees, who came all the way from North Branch, N. J. to Fairview in wagons with her family when she was sixteen years old.
From the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1918, pp.53~55:41
AN ILLINOIS JOURNEY IN 1837
BY THE LATE HON. PETER A. VOORHEES, FRANKLIN PARK, N. J.
[NOTE.--The following letter was written by the late Hon. Peter A. Voorhees, better known as "Sheriff" Voorhees, then of Six-Mile Run (now Franklin Park). It was addressed to Henry Vroom DeMott, of Middlebush. According to the then custom it was folded and sealed, without envelope, and endorsed "Single Sheet," and also "25," the latter indicating the amount of postage].
"MIDDLETOWN, KENTUCKY, December 9th, 1837.
"DEAR UNCLE: According to promise, I now embrace this opportunity of addressing a few hasty lines to you. And in doing so I
feel grateful to our Heavenly Parent for that kind care and protection which He has manifested towards me in all my journey, and can this morning say that I am well, and I hope that these few lines may find you and all in the enjoyment of the same inestimable blessing; and then, though far distant, we may unite our praises and bless our God for all His mercies towards us. I shall now give you a brief detail of my journey and leave particulars until I see you.
"We left the 12 of October and reached Fairview in Illinois the 16 of November. Just five weeks, but we did not travel on Sundays. Lost some time for rain, besides our visiting on the road, and some distance out of our way we travelled to see the country. I think we rode about 26 or 27 days, making about 1050 miles, and old 'Blacky' took me safe through. We had good company, mostly good roads, and for the length of time the finest of weather. We travelled to Wheeling 8 in number, with 5 carriages, and attracted a good deal of attention, being generally treated with marked respect. But it was hard on their coffee pots and tables where we supped and breakfasted; and here I would remark that our specie came sometimes in excellent demand. I spent one week in Fairview, Ill., leaving there the 23 of Nov. and going by water to Louisville, Kentucky, which I reached Dec'r 2 in the morning, having lost some time waiting for the s. boats, and then one of them broke its main shaft and laid us by, but we landed in safety and were taken off by another boat. But our passage was pleasant, for the weather was warm and up to this is warm still. I found my friends all well and doing as well as they can.
"But perhaps you would ask how I was pleased with the country? I would answer, in general I was much disappointed. Some parts about which I had heard much bragging I disliked, while on the other hand many places cried down appeared to take my eye. This arises in part from the attachments which people have to their situations and their endeavoring to build up their neighborhoods, and, next, I perhaps viewed it in a different light from what I would if I had intended to emigrate. But in short I do say it is the garden of our Republic. I may be mistaken, but I think the soil as rich as ever the sun shone upon, and with proper cultivation these Western States will become (and very soon, too) the pride of our Republic. Do not think I brag when I tell you I believe I can do better here with 10 dollars than I can with 100 in N. Jersey. I have seen many openings for a man with $1,000 capital in 5 yrs. to realize 10,000, yes, 15,000 dollars advance. In short there is no business in which a man of enterprise may not embark and realize a tenfold increase.
"Almost all of our number purchased land at Fairview. Abm. Cortelyou bought 200 acres for $2,300, a delightful place. Daniel Polhemus bought 240 acres, 80 acres of which is good woodland, for $1,800. Cheap; cheap! John G. Voorhees bought 240 acres and five town lots--one with a new frame on it--and 3 log cabins and 1300 rails to the delivered on the farm for $3,326. Abm. Williamson bought 80 acres next to town for $850, and Henry Kocks bought 140 acres for $1,650, besides some breaking and rails. And there are some fair bargains yet to be made. I traded Black for 5 acres of land next to
town and two town lots, so now I am a landholder in the West,--an honor, you know, for a Jerseyman Yankee.
"Fairview is a Jersey settlement and Mr. Wilson has organized a Dutch church there, and they are in fine spirits about building a house next summer. They have set off their lot for the church and subscribed about $1,100 in a little time for the work. We must remember them in N. Jersey for they have the only Dutch church West of the Alleghanies.
"And they feel very near to me as a people. The Sabbath we spent with them was a precious day. You may judge when I tell you such men as Peter Pumyea and Lawrence Williamson and others were bathed in tears, and some asking what they must do to be saved. My Dear Uncle, here is an open door for usefulness, and I must confess that a strong sense of duty bore hard upon my mind when, with earnest persuasions and entreaties, they plead with me to move among them. I love them as a people; their town is a strict temperance town, and all long for the establishment of a church among them. The Lord prosper their efforts!
"Pennsylvania is the finest improved State I ever saw. In Ohio I saw the finest corn, and in Illinois the best wheat, and the prettiest prairie in Indiana. In Kentucky I have seen some delightful situations, and around Lexington it is hard to be beaten. I had the honor of seeing and passing over the plantation of Henry Clay. A delightful one it is, too, but for its buildings, which are but common. But its beauty for scenery and richness of soil are rarely equalled. I had not the pleasure to see either him or his son, he being at Washington and his son in the Legislature at Frankfort. I think I will leave Kentucky on Monday, the 11th, for Cincinnati; tarry 3 or 4 days in Ohio, then make for home by the way of Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. I think I will be home by New Year with luck, but if you see our folks tell them not to look much for me until about the 8th or 10th of January. I long to hear from home, as I have had but one letter.
"I remain, your friend,
"PETER A. VOORHEES.
"I spent a day or two in Springfield. Saw Lewis, Cornelius Van Nostrand and Cornelius Van Liew. All well."
FROM A SKETCH PREPARED BY ONE OF THE FAMILY
WILLIAM B. WIKOFF, son of Garret Wikoff, of Griggstown, emigrated from Somerset County, N. J., to Fairview, Fulton county, Illinois, in 1837. His family, consisting of himself, wife and eight children, traveled overland in wagons as far as Wheeling, W. Va., where they took a steamboat down the Ohio to Cairo, and thence up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Disembarking there, they crossed the Mississippi and journeyed by land to Whitehall, Illinois, having been one month on the route from New Jersey. After remaining six weeks at Whitehall, Mr. Wikoff pushed on to Fairview, Fulton county, the place where he had decided to settle, arriving there about the 1st of August.The following third account from an eyewitness of the great Dutch-American migration from Somerset County, New Jersey to Fairview, Illinois in the mid-19th Century entitled "Somerset Settlers at Fairview, Illinois, 1845 From An Unpublished Letter," was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. II, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1913, pp. 255~259:39
The only shelter that he could secure for his large family was part of a house belonging to an earlier settler, consisting of a single room, with no walls or chimney. The room, however, being large, the house was converted into three apartments by hanging up blankets, which served for partitions. Cooking was done out doors. To secure a stove before cold weather set in necessitated a journey of sixty miles to Springfield. This stove was known as the "tin-plate," and consisted of a small oven, about large enough to bake two loaves of bread, with a place for the fire underneath. Wheat was purchased at $1.50 per bushel, carried forty miles to the mill, and ground on shares. During the severe winters, the streams being all frozen up, wheat, corn and other grains had to be
ground in coffee mills or pounded into meal by hand with wooden hammers. Groceries were scarce, especially coffee and sugar, which could hardly be had at any price. A substitute for coffee was found in roasted corn, peas and rye. Instead of sugar, pumpkin and crab apple molasses were used. Game of all kinds was plentiful and the only kind of meat to be obtained.
In addition to the severe winters terrible prairie fires had to be encountered. These were the common dread of man and beast. The immense growth of wild grass furnished ample food to these fearful destroyers. A mere spark let fall by the careless hunter would sometimes kindle a fire that would lay waste a tract of country hundred of miles in extent. When once the fire got under way, impelled by the driving wind, it was next to impossible to arrest or change its course. The settlers were constantly on the alert, and, at a given signal men, women and children were obliged to turn out by night or day and fight the fire, not only to save their homes but their lives.
During the summer of 1838 Mr. Wikoff began the construction of his first house. Owing to difficulty in securing lumber he only succeeded in getting it enclosed the first year. Trees had to be felled and the logs carted many miles to be sawn. Joists, rafters and sills were hewn with the axe in the woods and used in the rough. Shingles and laths were taken from logs cut the proper length and then split by hand.
Very soon after entering the new house, and while it had no proper walls and chimney, nearly the whole family were attacked by malarial fever, and four of the children succumbed to the terrible disease in less than two months. The eldest son, John Bainbridge, was the first person buried in the new cemetery at Fairview. The graveyard was then situated on the wild prairie, with no fence or other enclosure. After the second year times improved. The abatement of the fever was succeeded by good crops, and the colonists from that time on began to enjoy the fruits of their labors and privations. Mr. Wikoff, who was among the first settlers, took a prominent part in helping to further the progress of the colony. He took a special interest in church and school affairs, and Fairview became known for the healthy moral tone of its inhabitants. The erection of the fine church and school buildings that at present help to adorn the village is due, not a little, to his personal exertions.
With a view to bettering his financial condition, as well as influenced by a desire to be near a son and daughter who had preceded him, Mr. Wikoff sold his property at Fairview in May, 1849, and removed to Henry, Will county, of the same state. Here he likewise identified himself with public interests, and lent substantial aid in building the first church and schoolhouse in that village. During his first ten years'
residence at Henry he erected five dwelling houses and improved three farms from the raw prairies. In 1860, at the age of sixty-five he gave up farming, and built a homestead in the town (now city) of Henry, which he occupied until his death.
Mr. Wikoff's wife was Elizabeth Bainbridge, of Somerset County. She was his true helpmeet for sixty years, and possessed the same unflinching faith in God as her husband. In 1867 they celebrated their golden wedding, when children and grandchildren assembled to do honor to their worthy parents. Mrs. Wikoff passed away in 1877 at the age of eighty, steadfast to the end in the blessed religion which she had for many years devotedly followed. Mr. Wikoff followed her two years later, in his 85th year. Both lie buried side by side in the family plot at Henry.
The children who survived them were: Elizabeth Croxen, wife of Richard Garretson, of Duquoin, Illinois; Rachel, wife of Alfred H. Powell, of Springfield, Missouri; Garret, of Antelope county, Nebraska, and Peter W., of Henry, Illinois.
[Page 255]The following fourth account from an eyewitness of the great Dutch-American migration from Somerset County, New Jersey to Fairview, Illinois in the mid-19th Century entitled "From New Jersey To Illinois In 1846: By John A. Powelson, Pluckemin, N. J.," was published in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. III, Somerville, New Jersey, January, 1914, pp. 109~112:45
SOMERSET SETTLERS AT FAIRVIEW, ILLINOIS, 1845
FROM AN UNPUBLISHED LETTER
EMIGRATION westward from Somerset County, as well as from all other counties in New Jersey, has been going on ever since before the Revolution. From time to time the QUARTERLY will print particulars concerning some of those who left "good old Somerset" simply because they felt that "Westward the star of empire takes its way." At present our readers may be interested in a letter from Fairview, Illinois, January 11 (no date, but believed to be 1845), which throws considerable light upon the times in that section at that period and particulars of various families whose relatives then were and still are in Somerset. The letter was directed to Capt. Samuel Beekman, Harlingen, this County. It is signed "Grand-daughter, Christianna Vanarsdale." A notice of some of the persons mentioned in the letter follows after it:
"In the midst of sickness and death we are enjoying health, and may these few lines find you enjoying the same blessing. The fever is raging in the midst of us, and God in His Providence is calling the people to their homes. He is cutting them off on our right hand and on our left. It is a gloomy time among us. We have warnings daily to prepare for sickness and death. This day another of our fellow-creatures has been committed to the silent tomb--the house appointed for all living. We have just returned from a house of mourning. I expect you have heard something of the family of William Wyckoff--they are a distressed, afflicted and bereaved family. In the first place, their eldest son, Bainbridge, was taken with the fever and died very unexpectedly. The same week Mr. Wyckoff was taken and has been poorly, but has recovered. The youngest daughter was taken and died. Another daughter, Elizabeth, was taken, but has recovered. The remains of their oldest daughter, Gertrude, were committed to the grave yesterday afternoon. Last night, Judith, another daughter, breathed her last and her remains were followed to the grave and laid by her side this afternoon. Rachel and Peter are living yet, but very poorly, and I am afraid that, before this letter reaches you, they, too, will be no more. In a few weeks they have buried four of their children, and have four left, but it is feared that two of them will not survive long. It was a heartrending scene, to witness so many lying sick in one room, and every moment appeared to be their last.
"Daniel Gruendyke has a son poorly with this same fever and a number of others. This fever is something similar to the typhus. We have a good Doctor, and all think a great deal of him. He came out with Dominie Wilson. He has had a great many patients with the fever, but has never lost more than one out of a family until Mr. Wyckoff's family were taken. He has ridden day and night. When he tires one horse out, he gets another.
"Mr. Pomyea has been very low with the fever. He has never enjoyed good health since he returned from the east. He was taken sick unexpectedly and fell from his chair. The neighbors were sent for as he appeared to be dying. He was getting cold, and called his children around his bedside and bid them farewell, and then closed his eyes, and laid apparently in a dying state for three days and nights, his family and neighbors watching his bedside to see him breathe his last. All the medicine given him was brandy with a treatment of rubbing him with it. I am persuaded to believe if brandy ever was the means of saving a person's life, it saved his. He is getting better now, but is feeble. This fever is considered rather contagious. When Peter complains, I am alarmed. He was with Pomyea so much and sat up with him often. Oh! how can we be thankful enough, that we have been preserved thus far amidst sickness and disease! The inhabitants have removed the burying-ground to Daniel Polhemus's farm close by town.
"Now, Grandfather and Grandmother, I will tell you a little about the times in this western world. In the first place, we have had some very cold weather. People's wells have frozen over two and three inches thick. The old settlers say they have never known their wells to freeze so thick before. We have had fine sleighing for five weeks, and it has the
appearance of more snow yet. We have all done killing--our beef were very fat. We killed on New Year's day. The weather had been so cold we waited for a favorable day. That day the snow thawed from off the roof of the house the first time in three weeks. Times are hard and money is scarce with us, so as to feel the effects of it. I am not ashamed to tell it, yet I feel perfectly contented. We live comfortably. The difficulty is that the people can't sell their grain for money, and how are they to pay their debts? The grain is lying in heaps, and yet they can get no money for it. We want some enterprising men here to build store houses and flatboats, so people can have a place to store their grain and send it off to the Southern states. Grain is scarce and high. There has been a miscrop for some years. The people do not get discouraged here; they say these times won't last much longer. Stock is high here. Peter is making rails this winter, but carts all he can for people, especially for those he owes. When we want anything, if we can't pay for it, we go without it. Peter has formed a resolution not to run in debt any more, and therefore we deny ourselves often. Peter has made his cattle clear this summer by breaking prairie, and will be ready to break his own in the spring as soon as it will do and put in a crop. Peter had a miscrop of corn; it was owing to the foul seed that came up before the corn got a start. William Wyckoff had a miscrop in the same field, but we have enough for our own use. Next week Peter wants to take some logs to the sawmill for palings for the garden fence. We have a worm fence around the house, yet I am in hopes of getting things fixed around us after a while, if we have luck, but we can't expect to have things right away.
"Now I will tell you the price of groceries here. Sugar, a bit per pound; coffee, 18 cents; tea, one dollar; pepper, ginger, allspice, 25 cents; butter, 18 cents and in some places a bit; eggs a bit; drygoods are quite low to what they were when we first came here. I think after a while things will be as they ought to be.
"William Beekman has been to see us. Peter is wintering a horse for him. We have log stables, corncribs and pigpens. Vanderveer Polhemus lives with us this winter. I have had as much sewing for the public this winter as I could do so far. There are so many men here who are single, that it keeps the women busy enough. Dominie Wilson and his wife, and John C. Voorhees and his wife, spent the evening with us last week. We did not forget to have a talk about Jersey. ... I must change my mind very much if I ever want to come back to Jersey to live. I would rather live here--we have certainly a better prospect here than we had in Jersey."
Concerning some of the persons named, perhaps all of whom went to Fairview from Somerset County, Judge George C. Beekman, of Red Bank, who sends the original of the foregoing letter to the QUARTERLY, writes as follows:
"I think Christianna, wife of Peter Van Arsdale, who writes the letter, belonged to the Van Derveers of near Griggstown. She writes in a familiar way of Vanderveer Polhemus as an old friend. The two
Polhemus young men belonged to the Somerset family, as none of the Monmouth county Polhemus family migrated at that time to Illinois. This Polhemus family were originally from Kings county, Long Island, and settled early in Monmouth and Somerset. I think Christianna Van Arsdale would mention only people from Somerset, who were well known to Samuel Beekman. In her letter she writes of Wyckoff, Voorhees and others as persons known to him who have gone out from Somerset. This migration to Fairview, Illinois seems to have been a large, well-organized body of men and women, principally I think from Somerset, Middlesex and Mercer counties. Pomyea seems to have been an active leader and organizer of the migration. It enabled them to retain the increased value of the land thus settled in their own hands and charge subsequent settlers a far greater price for the real estate. Pomyea may have resided at Rocky Hill, or possibly near Hightstown.
"Peter Van Arsdale was eldest son of Abram Van Arsdale. He married Elizabeth Beekman, the eldest child of Samuel Beekman (to whom the letter is addressed) and Helena Ten Broeck, his wife. The latter was born March 9th, 1788, and married Abram Van Arsdale, who was well known in Somerset at that time. Later in life, and after his wife's death on June 27, 1847, Van Arsdale carried on quite a large business in wheat, corn and other grain, on Washington street, New York City. Peter married Christianna Vanderveer in Somerset.
"It seems to me well worth while to record the history of the migrations from Somerset County, and the part taken by the people in building up the Western states. I do not know if your County has kept such a record. I know soon after the Revolution there was some migration from Somerset and Hunterdon counties up in Central New York in the vicinity of what is now Middletown. Later there was quite a migration from Somerset to that part of New York where the salt springs are found. Quite a number of families from Somerset settled at Otsego. Peter Ten Broeck, the third son of Cornelius Ten Broeck and Margaret Low his wife, were among those settlers. He died there unmarried, from injuries received from a fall on the ice.
"William [T] Beekman was the second son of Cornelius T. Beekman, who was the eldest son of Samuel Beekman and Helena Ten Broeck. Cornelius T. was born Oct. 25, 1789; married January 14, 1813, Elizabeth Todd, and died April 21, 1860; is buried in the old Harlingen graveyard by his parents. By this wife he had nine children, five sons and four daughters. His second son was William Todd Beekman. He was born in Somerset, Feb. 23, 1815. His third child, James Waldron, born Dec. 9, 1816. Sometime between 1835 and 1840 William T. and James W. went out together to Illinois. They had no associates in this
venture. They settled first at Clarys Grove in Illinois. Here, subsequently, William T. married Mary Conover Spear, daughter of an old settler near Clarys Grove, and had there two children. He then removed to Cedar Grove, Ill., where some more children were born, or ten in all; five boys and five girls. In the latter part of his life he resided at Petersburg, Ill., where he died over eighty years of age. His brother, James W. also married in Illinois, Dec. 16, 1841, Leah Perkins, the daughter of a settler near Clarys Grove. He had four children. William T. was very active in getting the railroad built between Chicago and a point on the Mississippi river, opposite the city of St. Louis. This railroad did a wonderful work in the development of Illinois.
"In the QUARTERLY of April, 1912, was begun the publication of Neshanic baptisms. Among them are named two of the younger children of Cornelius T. Beekman and Elizabeth Todd. His eighth child was named Jane Ten Eyck, born July 9, 1827. His ninth and youngest child was Helen, born Dec. 28, 1829. She died young. The fact that those two children were baptised at Neshanic is evidence that the parents must have resided there in those years.
"Peter T. Beekman was second son of Samuel Beekman and Helena Ten Broeck. He was born April 21, 1796; married, Oct. 1, 1820, Eliza Carpenter and settled on a farm about one mile from the Neshanic Mills, but on the opposite side of the river. He had four sons and one daughter born at this place. His wife died when his children were quite young. His near residence to Neshanic Mills interested him in taking control. He induced his brother, Cornelius T., to join him in operating them. I think it was between 1827 and 1830 when the two brothers controlled these mills. Peter T. also represented Somerset County in the New Jersey Assembly in the years 1845-'6. One of his sons, Theodore, married a Miss Wyckoff of Middlebush."
BY JOHN A. POWELSON, PLUCKEMIN, N. J.
THE REFERENCE in the October QUARTERLY (Vol. II, p. 255), to some of those who left "good old Somerset" for the far West in the 'forties, and the Fairview letter quoted, recall the fact that, in the month of May, 1846, three families migrated from North Branch to Fairview, the Jersey settlement on the Fulton county, Illinois, prairie. Charles S. Brokaw, Cornelius Ten Eyck and Peter S. Powelson with their families and six wagons made up the caravan. They were among the earliest, but not the earliest, from Somerset to join that Western Colony. The Rev. Abraham D. Wilson, pastor of the North Branch Reformed Dutch Church (1831-'38), had preceded them as a missionary to Illinois (1838-'40), and in 1841 had taken charge of the Fairview church as its first pastor. Not that he was unpopular in his former charge, for one of his old parishioners once remarked that "no one ever had any fault to find with Domine Wilson, except that he moved away from North Branch," but that he desired to be in the Western field.Visitors since 4/24/2002:
The families named reached their destination in safety, and Mr. Brokaw and Mr. Ten Eyck shared largely in the prosperity which, in time, came to the Fairview settlers. Peter S. Powelson lived only a few months, leaving a widow and eight children. Of the boys, Abram was taken into the home of Daniel Polhemus. He proved so trustworthy that in time he not only married Julia, a daughter of Mr. Polhemus, but became the owner of his father-in-law's fine farm by the edge of Fairview village. John went to California in the days of the gold fever; was one of the "'Forty-niners" who crossed the plains with ox-teams. He returned, however; married Elizabeth Springer, and then settled at Warrensburg, Missouri. Simon joined the Seventh Illinois Cavalry in the Civil War. He was so daring that the Confederates finally captured and imprisoned him. After his release, "to even up matters" (as he used to say), he captured a Southern girl, for he married Miss Jane Bickers, of LaGrange, Tenn. One of the daughters, Sophia, died soon after reaching Fairview. Aletta Ann was a teacher in the Fairview schools and remained single. Lamatta married John Groendyke; Eliza married C. H. Wyckoff, and Mary P. married Uriah Voorhees. One of
her sons, Elliott, is an ordained minister in the Des Moines Conference.
In 1903, desiring additional facts of that overland journey, I wrote Mrs. Mary P. Voorhees, of Nebraska, (then in her seventy-second year), a woman of excellent memory, and received an interesting communication, from which the following is taken:
"Yes, my father came all the way from North Branch, N. J., to Fairview, in wagons with his family. But we were not all small children. Sister Lamatta was twenty-five years old, Eliza twenty-two, Aletta Ann twenty, I was sixteen, brother John fourteen. The three littles ones were Abram, eight; Sophia, seven; Simon, five. My father was married in Middlebush in 1822. My mother, Julietta Gray, was born in 1802, at Albany, N. Y. She was left an orphan when two years old, and was brought to Middlebush by her mother's brother, Simon Wyckoff, who was appointed her guardian, and with whom she lived until womanhood.
"In the spring of 1846 my father sold the farm to your grandfather, and we started for the West. The railroad had reached Somerville from New York, but there was no sign of any road farther west. I remember seeing the first train that came to Somerville, and I laugh yet when I think what funny-looking cars it had. On the 18th day of May we started on our journey. It was on a Monday morning. There was quite a crowd of neighbors and friends to see us start, for it was thought then to be a great undertaking, and truly it was. There were the Alleghenies to cross, the black swamp in Indiana and mighty rivers to be ferried over. We all gathered in the front yard, while Domine Campbell prayed, commending us to the care of the 'God of our fathers.' Then my father climbed into the loaded wagon, and my mother into the small spring wagon, with the little ones, and my three sisters, brother John and myself walked on behind, crying. We had the company of two neighbors, Charles S. Brokaw and Cornelius Ten Eyck, young married people, each having one little child.
"We got along better than our neighbors, Messrs. Brokaw and Ten Eyck, as their horses' necks got sore, and they fell behind. We took different roads across the mountains, they going by Pittsburgh, and we by Wheeling. We waited at Wheeling a whole day for them to catch up. Then we drove down to the river to ferry across, and just as a steamboat was landing, behold, there were our neighbors on the boat, they having got on board at Pittsburgh, and concluding they would go the rest of the way by water. They wanted us to do the same, but, after my father and mother had gone on board and seen the accommodations, it was decided we would rather trust to the land. So we watched them steam down the river, and then we ferried over into the Buckeye State.
"We got along pretty well now till half way across Ohio. Poor old gray, the horse to the light wagon, gave out there, so we had to leave her. My father bought another horse and we started on, arriving at Fairview on Saturday, the fourth day of July, having been just six weeks and four days on the road, and traveling nearly twelve hundred miles. We were welcomed by a host of old neighbors and friends of my father and mother, and we liked the country from the first. My father especially seemed delighted
with everything, but he was not strong, and soon began to fail. On the 24th of December he left us for his heavenly home."
The following two letters were written by the above-named Peter S. Powelson to my grandfather, John A. Powelson, of Pluckemin. The first was during the above-named trip and was from Wheeling, W. Va., dated June 4, 1846:
"Have arrived within two miles of the city of Wheeling, at which place I told you I would write you how we got over the mountains. And, first, I must let you know that through the mercy of God we are all enjoying good health. 'Blessed be His name forever' for such a favor. We arrived the first afternoon within eleven miles of Easton, where I weighed my load. It weighed twenty-seven hundred and fifty pounds. The wagon weighing ten hundred and fifty, it left my load proper seventeen hundred, besides the passengers. I concluded taking it as far as Harrisburg, and then sending one box by the canal to Wheeling. But when we arrived at Harrisburg the horses seemed to get along so well that we concluded to take it over the mountains. The road over the first was four miles up and as many down. The second was almost as long. We traveled in all one hundred miles before we got over the mountains. The bay horses look almost as well as when I started. I went off and forgot my dog and coffee mill, for which I am very sorry. We are going to cross the Ohio river to-morrow. We overtook Jacob Ten Eyck and Suydam when we got to Jacksonville. We stayed together the first night. The next morning we started first and they never overtook us until Saturday, when we put up to bake bread. They went on, and on Monday, about ten o'clock, we overtook them again, when we went on together to Chambersburg. We started first, and have never seen them since. Have stopped twice since to bake bread. They have not overtaken us as yet. We feel afraid something has happened to them or their horses. We have had good weather since we started, except when we crossed the Alleghenies."
The second letter was from Fairview, dated July 26, 1846:
"Having arrived at my journey's end, I have been so busy working in harvest I have had no time to write. We arrived at Fairview on Saturday, about noon. Major Isaac Brokaw took us to his house. John and I helped him ten days in harvest. He had more than one hundred loads of wheat. Peter Ten Eyck, from North Branch, expects to have two thousand bushels of wheat. The man who lives on William Van Doren's farm will have one hundred and fifty loads of wheat. We have moved in the log cabin, which is very small, only one room. Wheat is low; only three shillings a bushel. Old corn is ten cents a bushel. Everything is plentiful and cheap. We had but fourteen dollars left when we arrived at Fairview. Cows sell from eight to twelve dollars, with calves; hogs one and a-half cents per pound alive; sheep one dollar a head. The land is very rich, and it appears that it will never wear out. There is land here that has been plowed twelve years and appears just as good."
At a reunion of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry, Aug. 28 and 29, 1901,
Simon Powelson, in an address concerning early days in Fairview, remarked:
"When we reached this fine country many fine farms which have since been conquered from forest and prairie still lay out. Game of all kinds was abundant. By 1850 most of the deer and wolves had disappeared. I went with father to Duncan's mill once and we were absent from home a week. We could not get our grist until our turn came. While at the mill, father bought some wheat thinking to bring it to Canton and sell it at a profit. But the wheat market was so flat that he could not dispose of it, and on the way home I traded a bushel of it to Deacon Andrews for a bushel of walnuts. The country around Fairview was low and wet, and great ponds stood over it. The fever and ague drove out some settlers; in fact, quite a number of those who came before we did. Wild hogs were an unfailing source of meat in the early '30's, and were hunted and killed even after we came to the county. There were practically no markets. I have hauled wheat to Copperas Creek in dead of winter, thinly clad, and never saw a fire till I reached home. After father's death I commenced to work for John Polhemus, at $5 a month. It was while working there I was bitten by a big timber rattlesnake, with twenty-two rattles and a button. The bite did not kill me, but we got the snake."