History of St. Charles County, Missouri (Chapter 2)

History of St. Charles County, Missouri


Chapter 2
Experiences of the Early Settlers

Their Common Interests and Mutual Dependence -- First Houses -- The Historical Log Cabin -- Household Conveniences and Comforts -- Furniture and Bills of Fare -- Characteristics of the Early Settlers -- Farm Implements -- Inconveniences of Travel -- The First Mills and other Mills and Milling Industries -- Trading Points -- Hunting and Trapping -- "Coursing" Bees -- Recreations and Amusements -- Early "Characters" -- Anecdotes and Reminisences

pages 108 - 124


The experiences of the early pioneers of this country goes far to confirm the theory that, after all, happiness is pretty evenly balanced in this world. They had their privations and hardships, but they had also their own peculiar joys. If they were poor, they were free from the burden of pride and vanity; free also from the anxiety and care that always attends the possession of wealth. Other people's eyes cost them nothing. If they had few neighbors, they were on the best of terms with those they had. Envy, jealousy and strife had not crept in. A common interest and a common sympathy bound them together with the strong ties. They were a little world to themselves, and the good feeling that prevailed was all the stronger because there were so far removed from the great world of the East.

Among those pioneers there was realized such a community of interest that there existed a community of feeling. There were no castes, except an aristocracy of benevolence, and no nobility, except a nobility of generosity. They were bound together with such a strong bond of sympathy, inspired by the consciousness of common hardship, that they were practically communists.

Neighbors did not even wait for an invitation or request to help one another. Was a settler's cabin burned or blown down? No sooner was the fact known throughout the neighborhood than the settlers assembled to assist the unfortunate one to rebuild his home. They came with as little hesitation, and with as much alacrity, as though they were all members of the same family and bound together by ties of blood. One man's interest was every other man's interest. Now, this general state of feeling among the pioneers was by no means peculiar to these counties, although it was strongly illustrated here. It prevailed generally throughout the West during the time of the early settlement. The very nature of things taught the settlers the necessity of dwelling together in this spirit. It was their only protection. They had come far away from the well established reign of law, and entered into a new country, where civil authority was still feeble and totally unable to afford protection and redress grievances. Here the settlers lived some little time before there was an officer of the law in the county. Each man's protection was in the good will and friendship of those about him, and the thing that any man might well dread was the ill will of the community. It was more terrible than the law. It was no uncommon thing in the early times for hardened men, who had no fears of jails or penitentiaries, to stand in great fear of the indignation of a pioneer community. Such were some of the characteristics of St. Charles county.


HOUSE AND HOME COMFORTS

The first buildings in the county were not just like the log cabins that immediately succeeded them. The latter required some help and a great deal of labor to build. The very first buildings constructed were a cross between "hoop cabins" and Indian bark huts. As soon as enough men could get together for a "cabin raising" then log cabins were in style. Many a pioneer can remember the happiest time of his life as that when he lived in one of these homely but comfortable old cabins.

A window with sash and glass was a rarity, and was an evidence of wealth and aristocracy which but few could support. They were often made with greased paper put over the window, which admitted a little light, but more often there was nothing whatever over it, or the cracks between the logs, without either chinking or daubing, were the dependence for light and air. The doors were fastened with old-fashioned wooden latches, and for a friend, or neighbor, or traveler, the string always hung out, for the pioneers of the West were hospitable and entertained visitors to the best of their ability. It is noticeable with what affection the pioneers speak of their old log cabins. It may be doubted whether palaces ever sheltered happier hearts than those homely cabins. The following is a good description of those old landmarks, but few of which now remain: --

"These were of round logs, notched together at the corners, ribbed with poles and covered with boards split from a tree. A puncheon floor was then laid down, a hole cut in the end and a stick chimney run up. A clapboard door is made, a window is opened by cutting out a hole in the side or end two feet square and finished without glass or transparency. The house is then 'chinked' and 'daubed' with mud. The cabin is now ready to go into. The household and kitchen furniture is now adjusted, and life on the frontier is begun in earnest.

"The one-legged bedstead, now a piece of furniture of the past, was made by cutting a stick the proper length, boring holes at one end one and a half inches in diameter, at right angles, and the same sized holes corresponding with those in the logs of the cabin the length and breadth desired for the bed, in which are inserted poles.

"Upon these poles the clapboards are laid, or linn bark is interwoven consecutively from pole to pole. Upon this primitive structure the bed was laid. The convenience of a cook stove was not thought of, but instead, the cooking was done by the faithful housewife in pots, kettles or skillets, on and about the big fire-place, and very frequently over and around, too, the distended pedal extremities of the legal sovereign of the household, while the latter was indulging in the luxuries of a cob-pipe and discussing the probable results of a contemplated deer hunt on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers or some one of their small tributaries."

These log cabins were really not so bad after all.

The people of to-day, familiarized with "Charter Oak" cooking stoves and ranges, would be ill at home were they compelled to prepare a meal with no other conveniences than those provided in a pioneer cabin. Rude fire-places were built in chimneys composed of mud and sticks, or, at best, undressed stone. These fire-places served for heating and cooking purposes; also, for ventilation. Around the cheerful blaze of this fire the meal was prepared, they were not such as would tempt an epicure, but such as afforded the most healthful nourishment for a race of people who were driven to the exposure and hardships which were their lot. We hear of few dyspeptics in those days. Another advantage of these cooking arrangements was that the stove-pipe never fell down, and the pioneer was spared being subjected to the most trying of ordeals, and one probably more productive of profanity than any other.

Before the country became supplied with mills were of easy access, and even in some instances afterward, hominy-blocks were used. They exist now only in the memory of the oldest settlers, but as relics of the "long ago," a description of them may not be uninteresting: --

A tree of suitable size, say from eighteen inches to two feet in diameter, was selected in the forest and felled to the ground. If a cross-cut saw happened to be convenient, the tree was "butted," that is, the kerf end was sawed off, so that it would stand steady when ready for use. If there was no cross-cut saw in the neighborhood, strong arms and sharp axes were ready to do the work. Then the proper length, from four to five feet, was measured off and sawed or cut square. When this was done the block was raised on end and the work of cutting out a hollow in one of the ends was commenced. This was generally done with a common chopping ax. Sometimes a smaller one was used. When the cavity was judged to be large enough, a fire was built in it, and carefully watched till the ragged edges were burned away. When completed the hominy-block somewhat resembled a druggist's mortar. Then a pestle, or something to crush the corn, was necessary. This was usually made from a suitably sized piece of timber, with an iron wedge attached, the large end down. This completed the machinery, and the block was ready for use. Sometimes one hominy-block accommodated an entire neighborhood and was the means of staying the hunger of many mouths.

In giving the bill of fare above we should have added meat, for of this they had plenty. Deer would be seen daily trooping over the prairie in droves of from 12 to 20, and sometimes as many as 50 would be seen grazing together. Elk were also found, and wild turkeys and prairie chickens without number. Bears were not unknown. Music of the natural order was not wanting, and every night the pioneers were lulled to rest by the screeching of panthers and the howling of wolves. When the dogs ventured too far out from the cabins at night, they would be driven back by the wolves chasing them up to the very cabin doors. Trapping wolves became a very profitable business after the State began to pay a bounty for wolf scalps.

All the streams of water also abounded in fish, and a good supply of these could be procured by the expense of a little time and labor. Those who years ago improved the fishing advantages of the country never tire of telling of the dainty meals which the streams afforded. Sometimes large parties would get together, and, having been provided with cooking utensils and facilities for camping out, would go off some distance and spend weeks together. No danger then of being ordered off a man's premises or arrested for trepass. One of the peculiar circumstances that surrounded the early life of the pioneers was a strange loneliness. The solitude seemed almost to oppress them. Months would pass during which they would scarcely see a human face outside their own families.

On occasions of special interest, such as election, holiday celebrations, or camp-meetings, it was nothing unusual for a few settlers who lived in the immediate neighborhood of the meeting to entertain scores of those who had come from a distance.

Rough and rude though the surroundings may have been, the pioneers were none the less honest, sincere, hospitable and kind in their relations. It is true, as a rule, and of universal application, that there is a greater degree of real humanity among the pioneers of any country than there is when the country becomes old and rich. If there is an absence of refinement, that absence is more than compensated in the presence of generous hearts and truthful lives. They are bold, industrious and enterprising. Generally speaking, they are earnest thinkers, and possessed of a diversified fund of useful, practical information. As a rule they do not arrive at a conclusion by means of a course of rational reasoning, but, nevertheless, have a queer way at getting at the facts. They hate cowards and shams of every kind, and above all things, falsehoods and deception, and cultivate an integrity which seldom permits them to prostitute themselves to a narrow policy of imposture. Such were the characteristics of the men and women who pioneered the way to the country of the Sacs and Foxes. A few of them yet remain, and although some of their descendants are among the wealthy and most substantial of the people of the county, they have not forgotten their old time hospitality and free and easy ways. In contrasting the present social affairs with pioneer times, one has well said: --

"Then, if a house was to be raised, every man 'turned out,' and often the women, too, and while the men piled up the logs that fashioned the primitive dwelling-place, the women prepared the dinner. Sometimes it was cooked by big log fires near the site where the cabin was building; in other cases it was prepared at the nearest cabin, and at the proper hour was carried to where the men were at work. If one man in the neighborhood killed a beef, a pig or a deer, every other family in the neighborhood was sure to receive a piece.

"We were all on an equality. Aristocratic feelings were unknown, and would not have been tolerated. What one had we all had, and that was the happiest period of my life. But to-day, if you lean against a neighbor's shade tree he will charge you for it. If you are poor and fall sick, you may lie and suffer almost unnoticed and unattended, and probably go to the poor-house; and just as like as not the man who would report you to the authorities as a subject of county care would charge the county for making the report."

Of the old settlers, some are still living in the county in the enjoyment of the fortunes they founded in early times, "having reaped an hundredfold." Nearly all, however, have passed away. A few of them have gone to the far West, and are still playing the part of pioneers. But wherever they may be, whatever fate may betide them, it is but truth to say that they were excellent men as a class, and have left a deep and enduring impression upon the county and the State. "They builded better than they knew." They were, of course, men of activity and energy, or they would never have decided to face the trials of pioneer life. The great majority of them were poor, but the lessons taught them in the early days were of such a character that few of them have remained so. They made their mistakes in business pursuits like other men. Scarcely one of them but allowed golden opportunities, for pecuniary profit, at least, to pass by unheeded. What now are some of the choicest farms in St. Charles county were not taken up by the pioneers, who preferred land of very much less value. They have seen many of their prophecies fulfilled, and others come to naught. Whether they have attained the success they desired, their own hearts can tell.

To one looking over the situation then, from the standpoint now, it certainly does not seem very cheering, and yet, from the testimony of some old pioneers, it was a most enjoyable time, and we of the present live in degenerate days.

At that time it certainly would have been much more difficult for those old settlers to understand how it could be possible that sixty-five years hence the citizens of the present age of the county's progress would be complaining of hard times and destitution, and that they themselves, perhaps, would be among that number, than it is now for us to appreciate how they could feel so cheerful and contented with their meager means and humble lot of hardships and deprivations during those early pioneer days.

The secret was, doubtless, that they lived within their means, however limited, not coveting more of luxury and comfort than their income would afford, and the natural result was prosperity and contentment, with always room for one more stranger at the fireside, and a cordial welcome to a place at their table for even the most hungry guest.

Humanity, with all its ills, is, nevertheless, fortunately characterized with remarkable flexibility, which enables it to accommodate itself to circumstances. After all, the secret of happiness lies in one's ability to accommodate himself to his surroundings.

It is sometimes remarked that there were no places of public entertainment till later years. The truth is, there were many such places; in fact, every cabin was a place of entertainment, and these hotels were sometimes crowded to their utmost capacity. On such occasions, when bedtime came, the first family would take the back part of the cabin, and so continue filling up by families until the limit was reached. The young men slept in the wagon outside. In the morning, those nearest the door arose first and went outside to dress. Meals were served on the end of a wagon, and consisted of corn bread, buttermilk, and fat pork, and occasionally coffee, to take away the morning chill. On Sundays, for a change, they had bread made of wheat "tramped out" on the ground by horses, cleaned with a sheet, and pounded by hand. This was the best the most fastidious could obtain, and this only one day in seven. Not a momemt of time was lost. It was necessary that they should raise enough sod corn to take them through the coming winter, and also get as much breaking done as possible. They brought with them enough corn to give the horses an occasional feed, in order to keep them able for hard work, but in the main they had to live on prairie grass. The cattle got nothing else than grass.


AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENTS

An interesting comparison might be drawn between the conveniences which now make the life of a farmer comparatively an easy one, and the almost total lack of such conveniences in early days. A brief description of the accommodations possessed by the tillers of the soil will now be given.

Let the children of such illustrious sires draw their own comparisons, and may the results of these comparisons silence the voice of complaint which so often is heard in the land.

The only plows they had at first were what they styled "bull plows." The mold-boards were generally of wood, but in some cases they were half wood and half iron. The man who had one of the latter description was looked upon as something of an aristocrat. But these old "bull plows" did good service, and they must be awarded the honor of first stirring the soil of St. Charles county, as well as that of the oldest counties of the State.

The amount of money which some farmers annually invest in agricultural implements would have kept the pioneer farmer in farming utensils during a whole lifetime. The pioneer farmer invested little money in such things, because he had little money to spare, and then again because the expensive machinery now used would not have been at all adapted to the requirements of pioneer farming. "The bull-plow" was probably better suited to the fields abounding in stumps and roots than would the modern sulky plow have been, and the old-fashioned wheat cradle did better execution than would a modern harvester under like circumstances. The prairies were seldom settled till after the pioneer period, and that portion of the country which was the hardest to put under cultivation, and the most difficult to cultivate after it was improved, first was cultivated; it was well for the country that such was the case, for the present generation, familiarized as it is with farming machinery of such complicated pattern, would scarcely undertake the clearing off of dense forests and cultivating the ground with the kind of implements their fathers used, and which they would have to use for some kinds of work.


MILLS AND TRADING POINTS

Notwithstanding the fact that some fo the early settlers were energetic millwrights, who employed all their energy and what means they possessed, in erecting mills at a few of the many favorite millsites which abound in the county, yet going to mill in those days, when there were no roads, no bridges, no ferry boats, and scarcely any conveniences for traveling, was no small task, where so many rivers and treacherous streams were to be crossed, and such a trip was often attended with great danger to the traveler when these streams were swollen beyond their banks. But even under these circumstances, some of the more adventurous and more ingenious ones, in case of emergency, found the ways and means by which to cross the swollen stream, and succeed in making the trip. At other times again, all attempts failed them, and they were compelled to remain at home until the waters subsided, and depend on the generosity of their fortunate neighbors.

Some stories are related with regard to the danger, perils and hardships of forced travel to mills, and for provisions, which remind one of forced marches in military campaigns, and when we hear of the heroic and daring conduct of the hardy pioneers in procuring bread for their loved ones, we think that here were heroes more valiant than any of the renowned soldiers of ancient or modern times.

During the first two years, and perhaps not until some time afterward, there was not a public highway established and worked on which they could travel, and as the settlers were generally far apart, and mills and trading points were at great distances, going from place to place was not only very tedious, but attended sometimes with great danger. Not a railroad had yet entered the State, and there was scarcely a thought in the minds of the people here of such a thing ever reaching the wild West; and, if thought of, people had no conception of what a revolution a railroad and telegraph line through the county would cause in its progress. Then there was no railroad in the United States, not a mile of track on the continent; while now there are over 100,000 miles of railroad extending their trunks and branches in every direction over our land.

Supplies in those days were obtained at St. Louis. Mail was carried by horses and wagon transportation, and telegraph dispatches were transmitted by the memory and lips of emigrants coming in or strangers passing through.

The first mill was built in the county in 1801,and was known as Jonathan Bryan's mill, situated on a small branch that empties into the Femme Osage creek. At first the mill only ground corn, which had to be sifted after it was ground, as there were no bolts in the mill. The mill had no gearing, the buhrs being located on the wheel, and running with the same velocity as the wheel. It was a frame mill, one story high, and had a capacity of 6 to 10 bushels a day. People came from far and near, attracted by the reports of the completion of the mill, with their grists, so that, for days before it was ready for work, the creek bottom was dotted over with hungry and patient men, waiting until it was ready to do their work, so that they might return with their meal and flour to supply their families, and those of their neighbors, thus enduring the hardships of camp life in those early days in order that they might be able to secure the simple necessaries of life devoid of all luxuries.

Among the earliest water mills were Rutger's, Cottle's, Coon's Denny's, Hoffman's (situated on the Dardenne), Baldridge's Zumwalt's, Audrain's, Mollitor's (on the Peruque), Dibbit's, Hay's, Taylor's (on the Femme Osage), and McSpaddin's, on Callaway's fork.


EARLY HORSE MILLS

One was near the residence of Francis Howell -- a band mill. William Crowe, Peter Hoffman, Isaac Fulkerson, Jonathan Bryan and John Pittman were the owners and operators of horse mills.


POWDER MILLS

The first powder mill was erected on Howell's Prairie by P. K. Robbins; Robert Beatty built a powder mill on Green's Bottom, and a man by the name of McSpaddin erected one near the Little Femme Osage.

Francis Howell made gunpowder by hand and sold it at $1 a pound.


HUNTING AND TRAPPING

The sports and means of recreation were not so numerous and varied among the early settlers as at present, but they were more enjoyable and invigorating than now.

Hunters nowadays would only be too glad to be able to find and enjoy their favorable opportunity for hunting and fishing, and even travel many miles, counting it rare pleasure to spend a few weeks on the water-courses and wild prairies, in hunt and chase and fishing frolics. There were a good many excellent hunters here at an early day, who enjoyed the sport as well as any can at the present day.

Wild animals of almost every species known in the wilds of the West were found in great abundance. The prairies and woods and streams and various bodies of water were all thickly inhabited before the white man came, and for some time afterward. Although the Indians slew many of them, yet the natural law prevailed here as well as elsewhere -- "wild men and wild beasts thrive together."

Serpents were to be foundin such large numbers, and of such immense size, that some stories told by the early settlers would be incredible were it not for the large array of concurrent testimony, which is to be had from the most authentic sources. Deer, turkeys, ducks, geese, squirrels, and various other kinds of choice game were plentiful, and to be had at the expense of killing only. The fur animals were abundant; such as the otter, beaver, mink, muskrat, raccoon, panther, fox, wolf, wild-cat and bear.

An old resident of the county told us that, in 1809, while he was traveling a distance of six miles he saw as many as 73 deer, in herds of from 6 to 10.


HUNTING BEE TREES

Another source of profitable recreation among the old settlers was that of hunting bees. The forests along the water-courses were especially prolific of bee trees. They were found in great numbers on all the streams in the county. Many of the early settlers, during the late summer, would go into camp for days at a time, for the purpose of hunting and securing the honey of wild bees, which was not only extremely rich and found in great abundance, but always commanded a good price in the home market.

The Indians have ever regarded the honey bee as the forerunner of the white man, while it is a conceded fact that the quail always follows the footprints of civilization.

The following passage is found in the "Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the year 1842, by Captain John C. Fremont," page 69: --

"Here on the summit, where the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any sound, and the solitude complete, we thought ourselves beyond the regions of animated life; but while we were sitting on the rocks a solitary bee came winging its flight from the eastern valley and lit on the knee of one of the men. We pleased ourselves with the idea that he was the first of his species to cross the mountain barrier, a solitary pioneer to foretell the advance of civilization."

Gregg, in his "Commerce of the Prairies," page 178, Vol. 1, says: "The honey bee appears to have emigrated exclusively from the east, as its march has been observed westward. The bee, among Western pioneers, is the proverbial precursor of the Anglo-American population. In fact, the aborigines of the frontier have generally corroborated this statement, for they used to say that they knew the white man was not far behind when the bees appeared among them.

There were other recreations, such as shooting matches and quilting parties, which prevailed in those days, and which were enjoyed to the fullest extent. The quilting parties were especially pleasant and agreeable to those who attended. The established rule in those days at these parties was to pay either one dollar in money or split one hundred rails during the course of the day. The men would generally split the rails, and the women would remain in the house and do the quilting. After the day's work was done the night would be passed in dancing.

All the swains that there abide
With jigs and rural dance resort.

When daylight came the music and dancing would cease, and the gallant young men would escort the fair ladies to their respective homes.


WOLVES

One of the oldest pioneers tells us that for many years after he came to what is now known as St. Charles county the wolves were very numerous, and that he paid his taxes for many years in wolf scalps. His cabin was at the edge of the timber that skirted Cuivre river, and at night the howls of these animals were so loud and incessant that to sleep at times was almost impossible.

Often at midnight, all
"At once there rose so wild a yell,
Within that dark and narrow dell,
As all the fiends from heaven that fell,
Had pealed the banner cry of hell."

At such times the whole air seemed to filled with the vibrations of their most infernal and diabolical music. The wolf was not only a midnight prowler here, but was seen in the day-time, singly or in packs, warily skulking upon the outskirts of a thicket, or sallying cautiously along the open path with a sneaking look of mingled cowardice and cruelty.

One among the most eccentric characters of early times in Missouri was Major Jack A. S. Andeson. He was born in North Carolina, but removed with his parents to Kentucky in 1770.

His father died in that State, and his mother and her children afterward emigrated to Missouri. Jack received a good education, and became a fine mathematician, surveyor and scribe. During the War of 1812 he served as a major in Col. Dick Johnson's regiment, and was present in the battle of the Thames when his leader killed the celebrated Tecumseh.

After his removal to Missouri he was employed by the government to assist in surveying the territorial county of St. Charles, and in that capacity became well known to the old settlers. His compass, a bottle of whiskey and his dogs were his inseparable and most beloved companions. He dressed entirely in buck skin, and his hunting shirt was filled with pockets, inside and out, in which he carried his papers and other worldly possessions. He would often carry young puppies in his pockets or the bosom of his shirt, while their mother trotted behind or hunted game for her master to shoot. He paid no attention to roads or paths but always traveled in a direct line to the place where he was going, across creeks, hills, valleys, and through thick woods. He was never known to sleep in a bed, preferring to lie on the ground, or a puncheon floor, covered with a blanket or buffalo robe. No one ever saw him smile, and his countenance always bore a sad and melancholy expression. He was never married, and died in old age, in destitute circumstances, in an old out-house two miles south of Fulton. He was buried in Mr. Craighead's family graveyard. A number of amusing anecdotes are related of this singular character, a few of which we give in this connection.

One day Mr. Thomas Glenn, of Montgomery county, went to Flanders Callaway's mill, on Teuque creek, with a sack of corn to be ground into meal, and on his return home met Jack Anderson, who accompanied him as far aw Cuivre creek, which they found to be frozen over. The ice was not strong enough to bear the weight of the horse, so they slid the sack of meal over, and then started up the stream, intending to cross higher up, where the water was so swift that it had not frozen; but Anderson purposely wandered around with his companion until he was confused and bewildered him, and then took him on a long jaunt into Boone and Callaway counties, where they remained about three weeks engaged in hunting, and when they returned they were loaded with game. They stopped one night at the house of Mr. Thomas Harrison, who treated them in a very hospitable manner and gave them the best room in the house. During the night Anderson got up and skinned several raccoons, and after having roasted them he called his dogs in and fed the carcasses to them on the floor, which of course ruined the carpet and greatly damaged the furniture. Mr. Harrison, who felt outraged at the affair, charged them for the damages, and as Anderson had no money, Glenn had to pay the bill.

During his wanderings, Anderson frequently stopped at the house of Maj. Isaac Van Bibber, where he was always treated well and fared sumptuously; but on one occasion he stopped there late at night when they happened to be out of meal, and he had to go to bed without his supper. He lay down upon the floor and pretended to be asleep. Soon after a son-in-law of Van Bibber's, named Hickerson, who was living there, came in from a day's hunt, almost famished, having had nothing to eat during the day. He begged his wife to sift the bran and see if she could get meal enough to bake him a hoe-cake. She did as requested, made the cake and put it to bake in the ashes of the fire. Anderson, who had observed the proceedings, now arose, complaining that he could not sleep, owing to the disturbed condition of his mind in regard to a survey he had made that day, in which he could not find the corners. Pretending to illustrate the matter, he took the Jacob staff of his compass and began to mark in the ashes, first cutting the cake into four equal parts, and then stirring it around and round until it was thoroughly mixed with the ashes. Hickerson watched the operation with tears in his eyes, for he was nearly starved, and when Anderson had retired again, he begged his wife to go out and milk the cows and get him some milk to drink. She did so, but on her return Anderson met her at the door; it being very dark, she supposed he was her husband and gave him the milk, which he drank, and went back to bed. This exhausted Hickerson's patience, and calling up his dogs he went into the woods and caught a raccoon and roasted and ate it before he returned to the house, swearing that old Jack Anderson should not beat him out of his supper again.

Among the queer geniuses of early days was old Squire Colgin, of St. Charles. He was a justice of the peace, and usually rendered his decisions in a manner peculiar to himself, and the way he considered right, without descending from his lofty prerogative to consult the law. A man called Miller once sued a neighbor named Kirkpatrick on an open account in Colgin's court. Colgin rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and after the decision was given, Miller thougt of a buffalo robe he had sold Kirkpatrick, but which he had forgotten to include in the bill. So he whispered to Colgin to make an entry of it on the back of the judgment, which he did in the following words: "Mr. Miller says that Kirk (as he wrote it) got a buffalo skin for $8, that he forgot to charge in the account, therefore, I, Daniel Colgin, justice of the peace of this court, believe that Miller tells the truth about the skin, and I do hereby put it down on the back of the judgment, for to be collected at the same time the balance is paid. Danile Colgin, J.P."

Kirkpatrick, very naturally, got mad at the decision, and said if he were going to heaven and should see Miller coming too, he would change his course and go the other place. Colgin considered this contempt of his court, and fined him $1.

Another case that was entered upon Colgin's docket still further manifested his peculiar sense of justice. Two citizens of St. Charles had a quarrel about a piece of ice which one had sold the other, and which fell short half a pound. While they were quarreling the ice all melted away, and the dealer went to Colgin and sued the other man for the price of the ice, which was 6 cents. Colgin gave judgment in his favor, but made him pay half the costs (75 cents), because he thought it was right that the costs should be divided between them for being "such blamed fools as to quarrel about a little piece of ice that he could eat in five minutes any warm day."

Colgin afterward removed to Cote Sans Dessein, in Callaway county, where he and his son opened a store, which was the first store kept by an American in that county.

The older citizens of St. Charles county will remember a rich character known as Gen. Burdine, who resided in Dog Prairie at an early date. He made his living by hunting and fishing, and was distinguished for his eccentricities and the marvelous yarns he could tell about his adventures in the woods. A few of these be give below, as the General told them: --

He shot a buck, one day, and killed him so dead that he did not fall, but remained standing until the General went up to him and pulled him over by the ear. On another occasion he was hunting on Cuivre river, when he discovered a large, fat buck standing on the opposite side, and on looking up into a tree, just over him, he saw a fine, large turkey. He decided to kill both, but had only a single-barreled gun, and knew that as soon as he shot one the other would leave. But a happy thought struck him. He put another ball on top of the one that was already in his gun, and with that he shot the turkey; then, dropping the muzzle of his gun in the twinkling of an eye, he killed the buck with the other ball. He now had to wade the river to get his game, and in doing so caught the seat of his buckskin pants full of fine fish, which he carried home along with his turkey and deer. Another time while the General was hunting, he shot all his bullets away, but happening to have a lot of shoemaker's awls in his pockets, he loaded his gun with them. Presently he saw three deer in a group, and fired at them and killed two. The third one was pegged fast to a tree by one of the awls, where he swung and kicked until the General let him loose and took him home alive.

Late one very cold afternoon the General shot a buffalo on the bank of a creek and removing the skin, he rolled himself up in it and lay down and slept all night. Next morning the skin was frozen so hard that he could not unroll himself or even get on his feet and he began to think he would have to lie there and starve to death. But finally he rolled himself down the bank of the creek and landed in a warm spring, which soon thawed the skin until it was soft and he unrolled himself and went home rejoicing. One day, before he was grown, the General saw a wood-pecker fly into his hole in a tree and he climbed up to catch him. When he put his hand into the hole, he caught a black snake, which frightened him so badly that he let go his hold and fell into the forks of the tree, where he became wedged in so tight that he could not get out. He began to call for help and pretty soon a boy came along whom he sent to get an ax to cut the tree down. The boy did as he was directed and cut the tree so that it fell right side up, and the General was saved.

He had a pony named Ned, that he rode on all his hunting expeditions, and Ned was as smart as a horse as any one could desire to see. One day they came to a deep creek with steep banks, across which the General felled a small sapling with his tomahawk, intending to walk over and let Ned swim. But Ned winked one eye and smiled in his peculiarly sly manner, as much as to say, "Never mind, old fellow, I'll show a trick worth knowing." The General started across holding the bridle in his hand, but when he reached the middle of the creek he stopped and looked back to see how Ned was getting along, when, to his amazement, he saw the pony walking the sapling after him! Ned shook his head and motioned for his master to go on, and so they passed over in safety, without either of them getting wet. Ned was a native of Kentucky, and his master had owned him so long that they felt like brothers. The pony was thoroughly trained in hunting and was exceedingly fond of the sport. Whenever his master killed a deer, he always insisted upon licking the blood.

The General once undertook to explain to a party of gentlemen the manner in which the distance across Cuivre river could be measured by an engineer. Said he: "You see, gentlemen, the surveyor first gets an obligation across the stream, and sticks down his compass. Then he leanders up or down the river, as the case may be, and gits a nuther obligation from that; then he leanders back to the first obligation and works it out by figgers. It's simple enough," added the old General, "and I could do it myself, although I don't know a darned thing about figgers."

His children were about as eccentric as himself. One of his sons, whom he called Jim, was particularly noted for his oddities and the number of singular scrapes that he managed to get himself into. In early days the people sometimes amused themselves at an entertainment called a "gander pulling," which was something like the more modern "tournaments." A suitable track having been cleared off, a gander would be hung on a cross-bar, with his head down, and just low enough so that a man on horseback could reach his outstretched neck. Then the contestants would ride at full gallop under the cross-bar, and the one who succeeded in pulling the gander's head off without losing his seat in his saddle, was declared the victor and crowned accordingly. Jim went to one of these gander pullings one day, on board of an old mule, which was so extremely lazy and slow that he felt confident he would have plenty of time to "pull the gander." When his turn came he started in at a gait that was slow enough to satisfy his brightest anticipations, and when he came under the gander he laid hold of his head with a full determination never to let go until victory crowned his efforts. But just at that moment somebody gave the old mule a sharp cut with a whip, and he made a lunge forward and left Jim hanging in the air by the gander's neck. The old gander proved to be a tough one, and Jim had to let go without wringing his coveted neck.

Jonathan Bryan built the first water-mill in Missouri, in 1801. It was situated on a small spring branch that empties into Femme Osage creek, in St. Charles county. The mill would grind from six to ten bushels of grain in twenty-four hours, and for several years it supplied the settlements from St. Charles to Loutre island with meal and flour, the same stones grinding both wheat and corn. The flour was bolte in a box, by hand, and they made a pretty good flour that way. Mr. Bryan would fill the hopper with grain in the morning, and the mill would grind on that until noon, when the hopper would again be filled. The meal ran into a large pewter basin which sat on the floor at the bottom of the stones. Daniel Boone was living at that time with his son Nathan, about a mile from the mill, and he had an old dog named Cuff that used to got to the mill in Mr. Bryan's absence and lick the meal out of the basin as fast as it ran from the spout. When it did not run fast enough to suit him he would sit sit down and howl and bark, and one day Mr. Bryan heard him and hastened to the mill to see what was the matter. He soon discovered where his meal had been going, and after that he exchanged the pewter basin for a tin coffee-pot, which was too small at the top for Cuff to get his head into it. But he made the attempt one day, and got the coffee-pot fast on his head and ran away with it. Mr. Bryan subsequently built a larger mill, and sold the stone of the old one to Mr. Aleck Logan, of Montgomery county, who tied them together with a hickory withe and carried them to his home on Bear creek.

Mr. Ira Cottle, of St. Charles county, once had a difficulty with Hon. Benjamin Emmons, Sr., about a calf, each claiming it as his property. They finally concluded to try Solomon on the calf, and let it decide which cow was its mother. So it was turned into a lot with two cows, and at first it ran to the one owned by Cottle. "Aha!" he exclaimed, great elated, "I told you it was my calf -- see how it runs to its mother." But about this time the calf discovered its mistake, and ran to the other cow, and remained with her.

"Confound the calf," said Cottle, "it don't know its own mother." But it had decided against him, and according to the terms of the agreement he was bound to submit, which he did with as good graces as he could command.


Transcribed June 2003 by Deborah Heimann -- Co-ordinator for the St. Charles County, Missouri USGenWeb pages.