Much of the information about Barbara Grove Green comes from notes written down by her granddaughter, Maud Green, which I now have.
Barbara Grove was born near Woodstock, in Shenandoah County, Virginia, on the 15th of November, 1792, the daughter of John Grove and Barbara Lionberger. Both of her grandfathers, Christian Grove and John Lionberger, served in the Revolutionary War from Virginia. The Lionbergers were Swiss immigrants who arrived in America in 1735. John Grove, her father, of Swiss and German ancestry, was “a large and powerful man who could pick up a barrel of flour under each arm and toss them on a wagon”. Maud notes that Barbara had a vest which had belonged to her father, and that it was much too large for any other member of the family.
In 1805, when Barbara was thirteen, John Grove sold the land he had inherited from his father in Virginia and moved to Fairfield County, Ohio, where German and Swiss pioneers from Pennsylvania had already started a settlement. Barbara never attended an English-speaking school until arriving in Ohio. Among the settlers already established in that part of Ohio was Benjamin Green, with his large family.
Barbara Grove and John Green were married on March 28, 1813. Sixteen years later, after the birth of nine children, and the death of two of them, they moved from Ohio to Illinois. Barbara was then 37 and her youngest child was 14 months old. The party consisted of 10 men, ten children, and four women. The other three women were Barbara’s 19 year old sister, Emma DeBolt, who had a 3 month old baby; her 24 year old sister-in-law Annie, wife of her brother David, who had a 2 year old child; and her husband’s 24-year old niece, Elizabeth Brumbach, who was 6 months pregnant with her second child. As the oldest woman in the group, Barbara was surely called upon to provide support to the entire party.
The trip from Ohio to Illinois was full of adventure. One of the county histories tells the story of how the group was spending the night in a heavy rain (this is in November) and Barbara lay down in the wagon, trying to sleep and was frozen fast and unable to get up in the morning.
Once they arrived in Illinois, there was also plenty of work to do to feed the family. As Jesse Green told the story:
The second and third winters we were here we had about two feet of snow, which lay on the ground most of the winter, and drifted badly and crusted over so that we could ride over fences without difficulty, and prairie chickens were so plentiful and tame that on a frosty morning, they would sit on trees so near our cabin that Father stood in the door and shot them, until some of the men said he must stop before he shot away all of our ammunition, and leave none to shoot deer and turkeys. Our first winter here Brother David and myself trapped rising three hundred chickens, besides a large quantity of quail. After eating all we could, Mother merely saved their breasts salted and smoked them.
“Merely” is not the word I would use for salting and smoking three hundred prairie chicken breasts, but that was “women’s work” and Jesse didn’t seem to think too much of it.
The first year must have been a lonely one for the women of that small party, but the next year more settlers arrived from Ohio, many of them relatives. Then in 1833 Barbara’s mother and brother Elias came to Rutland,as well, so she was surrounded by family.
The Black Hawk War affected much of La Salle County. The Indian Creek Massacre may be the most well-known of the local occurances, but here is how Barbara Green related her part of the action to her granddaughter, many years later.
On the 16th of May 1832, about ten o’clock in the morning, myself and the girls were washing at the spring near where the feeder bridge now is when Eliza came down on horseback and told us that the Indians were coming & that we would have to go to Ottawa right away. Then we went to a place a couple of miles below Ottawa (to Penbrook) and stayed there all night the next day come up to Ottawa and next day home again. This was Sunday and the next day the men made a stockade around the house out of plank. After it was finished they tried it to see if a bullet would go through it, and it did, so they hung up feather beds all around. There were about sixty people here at the time, we were so crowded that they had to sleep on tables, under the beds and all over the house.
The same night George Walker came and told us that we must go to Ottawa again, so we left right away and went down to the river to get in the pirougue, but when we got there we found that Daniels’ had taken the boat and gone before we got there, so we had to walk. As I had forgot some of Rachel’s clothes and, coming back to the house, I found Jesse and David yet in bed. They had been waked before we started so I supposed they were with us. We followed the river bank all the way down and I had to carry Becky all the way because she would cry when anyone else took her.
Aunt Becky Trumbo was sick so that she could not walk and she rode on the horse behind old Mr. Letts. Eliza Trumbo was left standing on the river bank and we went off and forgot her. Wm Dunavan came back and got her. When we got to Ottawa there was no fort there, only a log cabin on the south side of the river, but they soon built a fort on top of the hill. We went to the fort but there was so much confusion there that we had the log house moved up on the hill and lived in it. We women didn’t know what the trouble was til we reached Ottawa and then they told us about the “Indian Creek Massacre” where there were sixteen people killed. Two boys who ran away and two girls who were taken prisoners, were the only ones that escaped.
The next day (?) a company of soldiers from the southern part of the state passed through Ottawa on the way up the river and two men Hazleton and Schemerhorn who lived at Mission Settlement intended to go with them to their farms but failed to get ready in time and so were an hour or two behind the soldiers.
The duties of a housewife on the frontier must have been endless. Maud writes that she remembers her grandmother making candles for them to carry upstairs. She also wrote “Grandma spent her time knitting socks and long stockings for all of us, out of factory yarn, and we had woolen underwear, skirts and dresses made of factory flannel”. The factory referred to is the Green’s woolen mill, which made both yarn and cloth.
John and Barbara Green had 70 grandchildren and they all came frequently to visit Barbara at her home in Dayton until she died in 1886, at the age of 93. Barbara also had over 200 great-nephews and great-nieces; the grandchildren of her 3 brothers and 3 sisters who lived across the river in Rutland. She had come a long way, from the little group of 24 pioneers to the senior member of a large family.