The ancestors of this family came to America with the
Dutch colonists, and settled at New Amsterdam and Fort Orange (now the cities of
New York and Albany), and in the Revolutionary times were on the side of the
colonists, and actively participated in that memorable struggle.
Thomas K. Falkner was born in the year 1800, and in
1815 removed with his parents to Dearborn County, Indiana, where, in 1820, he
married Miss phoebe Heaton. Ten years after, they removed to Madison County,
Indiana, and settled on the banks of White River. In 1838 they removed to
Illinois, and entered lands in section 7, town 21, range 7, west of the 3d P.M.,
in Tazewell County, now Mason, built a cabin, and on the opening of spring began
to break prairie.
This was the first improvement in what is now Sherman
Township. The next fall came the Hibbs, Hampton and Dentler families, and
settled in the vicinity. West of their location to the town of Havana there were
seven or eight families along the border of the woods, to-wit: Coder,
McReynolds, Robert Falkner, Fisk, Howell, Brown, Fesler and Rishel. These lived
east of Havana, and constituted the inhabitants in the first thirty miles of
further. Nearly the whole country, from a short distance east of Havana, was a
vast unbroken prairie, over which roamed, at pleasures, herds of deer and
wolves, “none daring to molest or make afraid.” I am informed by Mr. John R.
Falkner, that in the spring of 1840, he, with two others, counted on Bull’s Eye
Prairie fifty-nine deer in on herd, and forty-two in another, all in sight at
the same time.
The marshes and sand hills about the heads of Quiver
creek and Long Point timber were famous hunting grounds for many years after
this. The only mill within the present boundaries of Mason County, was on Crane
creek, and known as the Corn Cracker, (see Mount’s mill) with a pair of seven
inch burns, and when everything was favorable, could crack one and a half
bushels of corn per hour. A boy was set on the top of a sack of corn, on
horseback, and traveled twelve, fifteen or twenty miles to this mill.
When wheat was to be ground the settlers must either go
to Mackinaw of to Fulton County, but usually to the former, by reason of the
scarcity of means to pay the toll at Ross’ ferry, (now Havana) which cost
eighty-seven and-a-half cents the round trip. The journey to Mackinaw mill took
four to five days, governed by the time they had to wait for a “grist” to be
ground. The contrast between living and farming in 1840 and 1876 cannot be
realized by a person who has not seen both. Now we look over the finely
cultivated fields and we see the farmer sowing his small grains by means of a
drill, and harvesting with a header or a self-raker, and planting his corn with
a check-row planter, and plowing it with a Blackhawk cultivator, or some other
modern improved plow. Then, you would have seen here and there a farmer sowing
his two or three acres of wheat by hand, broadcast, and harrowing it in with a
blackjack brush, and furrowing his ground for corn with a two-horse plow,
dropping it by hand and covering it with a hoe, and often plowing it with a
forked sapling hitched to a “steer”. He sowed his flax-seed on Good Friday, and
“in the moon”, and after “pulling” it, laid it out to “rot”, and then “breaking”
and “scutching” it by hand, it was turned over to the female department of the
household, to be “hackeled” and spun and wove into cloth, to make for the girls
and boys their summer wear.
But to return to our subject, Mr. Falkner’s family
consisted of five children, two boys and three girls – all lived and arrived at
maturity. William is on his farm in Salt Creek Township, a happy independent
farmer. Jane is the wife of John Henninger. John R, was for many years our very
able, competent and efficient county surveyor, now on his farm in the eastern
part of Mason County. Did space permit we would like to pass a deserved tribute
to the ability and the disinterestedness of Mr. John R. Falkner in his official
duties, but we are reluctantly compelled to forbear.
In June, 1839, within a short time after the location
of the family in their new home, the wife and mother was called to that bourne
whence no traveler returns, but the little family struggled on, and he father
was with them until 1865, when he too “followed that beckoning hand to the
shore” of that cold, dark river.
Contributed by: Mandy Reiley