Definition of an Old Settler

early settler

There were many Old Settlers Reunions in La Salle County in the 1870s and 1880s and many arguments as to what constituted an old settler, but there was little argument as to the three major events one had to have experienced to be a true Old Settler. Those were the deep snow of 1830-31, the cholera epidemic of 1832-1834, and the sudden freeze of 1836.

Jesse Green wrote about these in his memoir, although he was a year off in his recollection of the sudden freeze. But he wrote his memoir in 1895, at the age of 78, so he was close enough. None of the Green family died from cholera in the 1832 epidemic and consequently it does not play a large role in Jesse’s memoir.

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. 

I will give an account of the most sudden, and greatest change in temperature, in my recollection, which occurred in the early winter of 1837 & ’38.  I left home about noon when it was drizzling rain sufficient to wet my clothing, and when I reached a point a little below Starved Rock, it commenced turning cold so fast that I ran my horse as fast as he could go to Utica, and by the time I reached the hospitable home of Simon Crasiar, it had frozen the ground hard enough to bear up my horse, and my clothing as stiff as it would freeze from being wet.  I had to be helped from my horse, and saddle and all together my clothing being frozen to the saddle, and I do not think I could have gone a quarter of a mile farther. The next day returning home it was a terrible cold day, my left side against the wind was nearly frozen by the time I reached Ottawa, where I went into a store to warm myself, and all I could do to prevent it, fell asleep in a short time, I heard a number say that during that blizzard, they saw chickens frozen in their tracks.

For more information, has this page devoted to the stories of the Winter of the Deep Snow. And see here for information on the Sudden Freeze of 1836, and here for more on the cholera epidemic.

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