News of Dayton – 1850

Pages 1 and 4 of a letter from Josiah Shaver to Jesse Green

                                                                                                                                                Ottawa, Illinois Feb 6th 1850

Mr. Jesse Green Esqr.

                Dear Cousin

                                I am seated for the first time to address you since you left us. But we were very sorry to see in your last of Nov. 8 ’49 to E. Trumbo stating that up to that time you had not heard a word from home. (which letter came in Ottawa on the 26th of Jan ’50 with many more, one for your wife of an earlier date, and some for the Mrses Dunavans) I hardly know where to commence in giving you the news, for I expect that your folks have written of events as they transpired, and much that I may write will likely be no news to you but thinking that perhaps you will not receive all I will commence back at the time of your departure and come up as near correct as my memory will serve me. The first item of importance is the cholera which scared the folks more than it hurt them. It made its appearance in Ottawa in the fore part of June. Never was there such a cleaning of the St.s and renovating and white-washing of houses & cellars before in that place which fortunately cept it from raging very much about, but 30 or 40 died with it there and many of them caught it on the canal. The Country folks never stoped going in on buissiness. The folks in Dayton were perty badly scared at one time being so many in one house. They feared if it got among them that it would make bad work. But fortunatley they were joyfully disappointed (for they expected it) for there was but one case in Dayton and that was Cousin David thought that he had every symptom of it, but by using the cholera medicine he soon was as well as ever. It did not cramp him. Aunt Anna Groves died with it Aug 8th ’49. She took it and had not been exposed to it in any way, and in a few days Aunt Trumbo took it but was soon relieved. That is all of the connections that suffered any with it. Colman Olmstead’s wife and two oldest daughters died with it, also Jesse Johnson’s wife and oldest girl. (Colman is married again to his wife’s cister, an old maid)

It was much worse in Peru at one time in July it was nearly deserted all kinds of buissiness stopped for a few days. Here it was but a short time that they feared it. Your son Byron died on the 6th of may ’49. He was sensible until the last he wanted to be carried across the room but a few minutes before he expired. We had great trouble with the seed corn, almost all had to plant over from once to three times, which cept very backward until quite late but we had such an extraordinarily good fall that corn was first rate, wheat on an average both Spring and winter was scarcely a half crop. Potatoes, tolerable good, rot doing but little damage. Corn market last summer ranged at one time from .30 to .37 cts pr. Bush, and came down to 2 shillings at which price it readily sells for now in the ear. Wheat market was up last fall to 5 and 6 shillings pr. Bushl and then fell and was very low until lately. It is worth now best qual .75 cts pr. B. Pork was very dull from $1.75 to 2.50 pr. Hund. Lbs. Ottawa has improved very fast this last summer. We had a delightful warm and dry fall until the 25th of Nov. when winter set in but we have had a pleasant winter this far. Some snow which made good sleighing for two or three weeks. For the last two weeks it has been quite warm and windy, but it is colder today. The ice has started in the river. W. Irwin, Commision merchant of Ottawa (Eaton Goodel’s brother-in-law) went to Chicago last June and there entered his passage on a vessel for the lumber country, as he intended to purchase some lumber to bring home with him, and that was the last track that could be got of him all supposed that he was murdered or fell overboard in the night as the officers of the boat could tell nothing about him, all was mystery until lately when a Mr. Kellog returned from California and said that he saw him in Sanfrancisco, and a few days ago they got a letter from him. It is supposed that he got scared too soon. (he ran from debt.) A. W. Magill of Ottawa failed this fall. His store was sold at auction. The California Fever is raging this winter as bad as last if not worse, although Elias Trumbo and David and I have not got it so bad but I do sincerely wish that I had of went with you. George & Theodore Gibson are going. Aaron Daniels & John Holkan are using every effort to make a raise to go, the Connord boys are going. All intend to go with the oxen. In fact they are going from all over the country. Alison & Ralph Woodruff & Jo. Hall started a month ago, and Ralph died in Peoria in a drunken fit, and the others came back on account they say that they would have to lay too long at the isthmus. George Galloway with a number of them on that side are going to start soon. Our Township Organization caried unaminous. The commissioners are now laying out their boundaries, and in April we elect our officers which is some 14 or 15 in each town. I can’t give you the boundaries of them as they are fractions and will be attached, to some other and the commissioners have not got this far along. The banc of Marseilles has gone the way of all the living. Old L. Kimble died this last fall with an old complaint. Jack Trumbo had been in Cincinatti over a year, studying to be a physician when the cholera broke out there and he started for home, and died with it near the mouth of the Ohio river, and his father went in the fall and took him up and brought him to Ottawa for interment. The connections here have been unusually healthy since you left, your folks have got along very well as far as I know. They all remain in the big brick house. Their greatest anxiety is for your welfare which is often increased by the long space of time between letters, as I will tell you by and by. You will have to try for a large lump or your wife will beat you, as she found over a 7 pounder. The married part of the emigrants have generally left their representatives they range from a month to 8 weeks of age, yours is a fine daughter about 6 weeks old wife and child well. Tell George & Albert that their wives can present them with a Son each

Tell Snelling that his wife has a daughter also. All are well and doing well. Mrs. Zeluff is in the same fix. (Surely the idea of California is quite prolific.) Eliza Gibson had a young daughter. So much for the live stock. Rachel & Rebecca have been on a visit to their Unkle William Greens this winter for 6 or 8 weeks. They were all well and his oldest daughter come home with them and is there now. David is not running the factory this winter and he thinks that it will hardly quit expense in the winter. Old man Hite gets along very well. They all think a great deal of him the girls say he is so good and fatherly that they can’t help but like him. Ben is living with David and talks some of California. Feb 13th river closed up again roads have been excellent for the last 2 weeks neither snow nor rain, excellent, winter weather. Winter wheat looks fine yet. Grain is on the raise wheat 80 cts corn 28 cts They say that the California gold has made quite a visible change on real estate and in the markets in N.Y.

                We but seldom hear from you. We heard tolerably regular from you until you left Fort Hall and then it was over 3 months before we got any more, which you wrote about 300 miles from the diggings, then the next was when you got through which was some 8 weeks after incoming. We were glad to hear of your success in getting through, and in your first adventures in the diggings, and may you continue to be successful until, as the song goes “now I’ve got all I want I cannot lift any more &.c.” Tell Snelling his folks are all well and John gets along as well as well as could be expected. I will write to him soon. Please write soon. Tell Joseph a line from him would be thankfully received. My respects to you all.

                                                                                From your affectionate cousin   J. R. Shaver

Mr. Jesse Green Esqr

Feb 20 This leaves us all well. I have not got a line from any since you left.  J. R. Shaver    write soon

He Wasn’t the One

Joseph Green

Joseph Green (pictured above) is the youth mentioned in the following article from the Ottawa Free Trader. However, he was NOT the young man who was the subject of the horrible revenge.

Important Correction1

The following horrible relation, which we believe first appeared in print in the Lacon Herald in a letter from the plains, is going the rounds of the papers:

Revenge — Horrible. —Among the overland emigration for California, last spring, was Mr. Green, of “Green’s Wollen [sic] Factory,” Fox river, and two of his sons, the youngest a youth. — It is reported that while passing through a tribe of Indians, this youth who was naturally full of mischief, killed a squaw.  The tribe having been well advised of the fact, hastened after and overtook the company, and demanded the murderer. — At first the demand was resisted; but after the Indians had informed them that they would destroy the company if their request was not granted, the youth was surrendered into their hands.  They then stripped him, and in the presence of his father and the whole company, they skinned him from head to foot!  He lived four hours after he was thus flayed.  This should be a warning to all interested not to trifle with the unfortunate sons of the forest.

We have made considerable inquiry since we first saw this account in print, and find that it is true in its essential particulars, with one very important exception, and that is the name.  Instead of a son of Mr. Green, it was a young man by the name of Wasson, of Perkins’ Grove, Bureau county, who went with a company from Knox’s Grove, Lee county.  He is said to have been very fool hardy and reckless in character.  He made a threat, on leaving Independence, that he would shoot the first Indian he saw, but had not carried his threat into effect, until he had nearly reached California.  Then one of the company reminding him of it, he said he had forgotten it, but would carry it out yet.  He shortly after saw a squaw sitting on a log, and raising his piece, he murdered her in cold blood.  The Indians almost instantly thereupon surrounded the company and visited upon the murderer the terrible retribution above indicated.

This account is confirmed by four or five letters from members of the company, all of which agree in the essential particulars.  How the correspondent of the Lacon paper got the name of Mr. Green mixed up in the affair is more than we can tell.  Certain it is, however, that no letter from any of Mr. Green’s party, and there have been dozens received, ever hinted at any such occurrence, and, indeed, the very son himself said to have been killed, has written since his arrival in the mines, and the letters in his own familiar hand writing are in the hand of his friends.


  1. Ottawa (Illinois] Free Trader, February 23, 1850, p. 2, col. 2

To the East by Steamer

Cleveland Daily Herald (Cleveland, Ohio), Tuesday, October 12, 1841

Among the passengers on the Steamer De Witt Clinton in October 1941 was Jesse Green, of Dayton, Illinois. It is very likely that he was traveling east to acquire machinery or supplies for their new woolen mill. He was traveling in style, as you may see by the description below.

STEAMBOAT LAUNCH. – The fine new steamboat DE WITT CLINTON, was to be launched from the ship yard of Captain F. Church, at Huron, on Saturday last. She is a first class boat, 500 tons burthen, built for the Troy & Erie Line, and will be commanded by by Capt. Byram H. Squires. This is the second steamboat built in this yard this season.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
Monday, July 25, 1836 p.2, c.4

The DE WITT CLINTON, which left this port yesterday afternoon for Buffalo, is a new and handsome steam freight boat. She is 147 feet in length, 27 feet beam about 48 feet on the guards, and 11 feet depth of hold. Tonnage registered at 415, but by carpenter’s measure nearer 490. Although built for a freight boat, she is so constructed as to accommodate a goodly number of passengers; there being in the main and forward cabins 72 berths, in the ladies’ cabin 30, and on the promenade deck 8 state-rooms, with 3 berths in each, beside 6 others near the steering wheel, and perhaps 20 more on the main deck, for the hands, &c., being in all about 150. The arrangement of the ladies’ cabin is very convenient being across the deck, with a broad and spacious hall between the ranges of berths. The workmanship of the whole is plain but neat and substantial. The machinery (high pressure) is very powerful.
Cleveland Weekly Advertiser
Thursday, September 15, 1836 p.2 c.6

Steam paddle DeWITT CLINTON. Of 413 tons gross. Built Huron, Ohio, 1836. First home port, Buffalo, N.Y. DISPOSITION. — Lost by stranding 1851.
Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States
The Lytle – Holdcamper List, 1790 to 1868

 

Old Settlers Reunion – Part 1

Covered Wagon

At the 1877 La Salle County Old Settlers Reunion the principal speaker was The Honorable Perry A. Armstrong of Morris, a lawyer and member of the state legislature for several terms. His lengthy speech was reported in the Ottawa Free Trader on August 18 and told of the early days of the county. Excerpts from that speech are given below.

“The state of Ohio, though comparatively speaking one of the younger states, contributed largely towards furnishing the first settlers of this county, among whom I will mention the Greens, Shavers, Groves, Debolts, Dunavans, Hupps, Brumbacks, Pitzers, Richeys, Strawns, Milligans, Trumbos, Armstrongs, Parrs, Hitts, Reynolds, Wallaces and Bruners, all of whom have left many descendants. New York also contributed handsomely to the first inhabitants, while Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and many of the eastern states had their representatives here at an early day. As a general rule we could distinguish whether the incoming emigrant were Yankee or from the Middle States.

The Yankee drove but one span of horses to his wagon and rode on the wagon to drive – the other drove from four to six horses to his wagon, riding the left hand wheel-horse to drive. The wagon of the Yankee was coupled longer than the other, had a flexible tongue held up by a neck yoke, and was of several inches narrower gauge and far lighter draft. The box was much lower and longer than the other’s, and of simpler construction and more easily taken apart to put on and oil.

The Buckeye or the Middle State wagon was schooner-shaped and closely coupled together. The rear wheels were some 12 inches greater in diameter than the front ones. It had a still tongue, which was ever busy pounding the legs of the wheel horses. The team was driven by a single line. Three sharp jerks to turn to the right – a steady pull to turn to the left, guided them.

The harness was both a curiosity and a monstrosity – a curiosity, how it ever came into use; a monstrosity by way of punishment to the poor horses who wore them. Great heavy blind bridles, huge collars, massive hames, broad backband and heavy trace-chains for the leaders, immense breeching that literally covered the hind-quarters of the wheel-horses, side-straps full five inches wide for tugs, and large bent-skin housings upon the wethers of each horse, were sufficient to melt anything in the shape of flesh.

The box was much higher at the ends than in the middle and was made of panel work, and so mortised together that the entire weight had to be lifted up in taking it off or putting it on the wagon. Hence it required the united effort of a whole family to handle it. These schooner wagons being about 5 inches wider than the Eastern wagon, they of course never tracked with them, and hence they made a new track, at least on one side. Being very heavy they sank to hard pan in every slough, and when planted they are “solid muldoons.”

These wagons, so dissimilar, each had their advocates for a while, but the superior advantages possessed by the Eastern wagon were so patent that the prairie schooners were abandoned and suffered, like the wonderful one-horse chaise, to tumble to pieces and were never repaired or duplicated.

Carriages and buggies (either open or covered) were unknown to us. Instead of buggy-riding we practiced that far more elegant and invigorating mode of pleasure-riding – horse-back exercise. Our young ladies enjoyed riding on horseback with more genuine pleasure than those of today enjoy the buggy or phaeton. It gave them rosy cheeks and robust constitutions, even though eight yards of calico were sufficient to make a dress for any of them. Our young man deemed it a pleasure to mount his horse of a Sabbath morning and ride 20 miles to escort a young lady 10 miles further to attend meeting. We had no churches or ministers at that time. Divine services were held by our pioneer preachers at private houses all over the country.”

————- to be continued —————–