Early Days of Greenbush: H. H. Hewett's Letter



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The following letter from Hanson H. Hewett was received in answer for information concerning the early days in Greenbush.

  • Hopkins, Mo., May 11, 1902.

    Wm. L. Snapp-Dear Sir:
    Yours of April 28 received. Have been rather busy or should have answered sooner. Your letter dated at Greenbush is the first one I recollect receiving from the old township since leaving in 1880.

    Now first in regard to my father’s death. Brother Oscar and myself were in California at the time. We returned the next spring (1851). I enclose you a newspaper slip a Mr. Bates sent to Mrs. Hewett by an old acquaintance of hers, a Mr. Barnes, a lawyer now living at La Harpe, which will give you some information in regard to the affair. He has one or two mistakes - one the Christian name and the amount of money.

    My father was born in Waldo county, Maine; also myself and brother Oscar. The date of his birth I do not recollect. We left Maine in 1831; moved to Licking county, Ohio, and left there in the spring of 1837; arrived at our old location in the early days of August; spent the winter in a little fourteen by fifteen foot cabin on the Livingston place; built and moved into the old residence the next summer. I was twelve years of age in September, 1837.

    I recollect those early days of nearly sixty-five years ago nearly as though it was yesterday. Of the early settlers of my recollection on our side of the timber when we came there were the Ratekins and Sisson families at the head of the timber some five miles west; Moses T, Hand, Wm. McMahill, John Foster, John Sargent, P. A. Vaughn, Abraham Johnson, Jacob Bear, I think Aaron Jennings, John P. Wood, and the Bond family-father and six sons - John C., Benjamin who died in ‘39 or ‘40, Joel, Barnet, Walter, and Nathan; all men of families except Walter who died about 1847, and Nathan who moved to Oregon, about 1851 or ‘2, and died there. Walter was the first constable that I can recollect. There was your grandfather, Alexander Willard, and son William, married with one or two children; and ‘Squire Thomas Moulton who was the first justice that I can recollect and held the office as long as he would have it. The first family to the east was the Goram family, 10 miles away. On the north side of the timber, the Snapps and James and Roley Simmons families. If there were any others I do not recollect them. The Jones and Pierces may possibly have been. Peter Cox, some six miles east of Greenbush, was the banker of the vicinity. If one wanted five or ten dollars, Peter was the man to apply to. I may have forgotten some that lived in the vicinity of Greenbush, but I think I did not know of any others.

    My father and Joseph Sisson were the only Yankees of all the number, as I recollect; the balance were all southerners; the most of them had moved from Sangamon and Morgan counties. Of all the full grown persons that I knew in 1837, only two are now living-John Simmons and my old neighbor, P. A. Vaughn. Each must be over ninety years old.

    Greenfield was then located, afterwards changed to Greenbush. The first postmaster that I recollect was Charles Stice. He also kept hotel and saloon, with John Wingate behind the bar. Dr. Isabell was the first physician, or possibly Dr. Sovereign. Drs. Ragon and Saunders were among the early physicians. A doctor of Berwick (have forgotten his name) was the first one that I ever knew to practice in Illinois.

    I recollect your father very well; recollect the day of his funeral; also he, Mr. Doty, and myself covering corn together with the hoe. Your mother, as well as the brothers and sisters, were schoolmates of mine. Your uncle William Willard and Barnet Bond were two of the first men that I worked with in Illinois. The work was cutting slough grass with the scythe. We would burn our oat and wheat straw at night as soon as threshed and work hard cutting prairie grass, when the straw was nearly or quite as good feed as the prairie hay; and we kept it up for years.

    Of the Snapp family, I will say something a little farther. Your father was a stalwart, stout man, stood some six feet two or three inches in height and rather fine looking. Your Uncle Robert had the most tenacious memory I think I ever knew. He used to say that he could tell the ages of all his brothers and sisters and their children. Perhaps not one man in a thousand could do it. Your uncle Franklin I used to think one of the shrewdest business men we had. I recollect the first drove of cattle I ever saw going to market was one he shipped to New Orleans. He drove them, I think, to St. Louis and shipped them from there, about the year 1843. R. M. Simmons went with him.

    While I have my hand in I cannot help referring to Major John C. Bond. There was one of the best men I ever knew - always had a good word and in fine spirits, well read and one of the best if not the finest conversationalist I ever knew. My father used to say that if he bad been educated and turned his attention to law he would have made a brilliant lawyer. His daughter, Ruby, I always considered one of the brightest intellectual women of my acquaintance. In the early days we had wolves and deer by the hundreds and prairie chickens by the thousands. Round Grove (first one south of us) used to be a good place for our hunters for game for many years.

    Well. I will say something of our own family. My mother died some eleven years ago at Des Moines, Iowa. My sister Miriam, Dr. T. J. Shreve’s wife, lives at Des Moines, Iowa. The doctor has a very fair practice. The youngest sister, Mrs. Blood, lives at Sioux City, Iowa. Brother Oscar died some three years ago in Colorado. Leander is farming in northern Nebraska. Of my own family, four boys and one girl, Alvin, the oldest, is living near here farming and in the dairy business; Lawrence and Ney and daughter are unmarried and living at home. Edgar, the youngest, is married and lives in New Mexico, at Las Vegas. He is president of the State Normal university; salary $2,500 per year: has contract for five years - now on his third year. For one of his age he is probably one of time best educators in the West. My health is tolerably good; my weight is one hundred and seventy-five pounds. Will be seventy-seven years old next September. This would sound somewhat as if I was along in ‘‘the sear and yellow leaf.”

    I have not answered you fully in regard to my father’s death. The two men, Brown and Williams, accosted him as he was walking up the hill by his horse and demanded his money. On his refusal, they clinched and they claimed that he was too much for them, and one of them seized a stone and struck him on the head, fracturing the skull. They then took his money, some seventeen hundred dollars, and helped him into his buggy; and the bay mare, being gentle, went some seven miles and then stopped at a house. The people took him in and he died there after some seven days. From what I could learn no murder that ever took place in Illinois created the excitement that this one did. The other man that was the instigator of the two doing the deed, was sent to the penitentiary for life, and died in about one year. The money was all recovered except about two hundred dollars.

  • Respectfully yours,
    H. H. HEWETT

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