Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
The Green Family
"Old Billy Green," as he was called in the "thirties," was perhaps one of the oldest settlers. He lived about a mile south and a mile west of Salem. A half mile north of his house was a large branch that flowed all the year around. It was called the "Purkapile branch." A mile farther on and it emptied into the Sangamon. A mile above Salem Mills, north of the branch, the woods were filled with a growth of timber from eight to ten inches in diameter. A little to the north and forty rods east stood the Baptist Church. It must have been built some time in 1820. It was used also for a schoolhouse. Here is where I went to school for five years; Uncle Menter Graham was the teacher. Most of the time he lived in a brick house a half mile north. On the south of the branch the soil and timber was entirely different; the soil was black and covered with a growth of sagetree, with some large red oak, ash and elm, with no underbrush. The ground was covered with a fine coat of grass and as the road from the branch to old Billy's was up an incline for half mile I used to think it was like Paradise, especially in sugar making time, with hundreds of sugar troughs catching the sap, and the Green boys - Gaines and Jim - with a sled and one horse gathering up the sugar water to be boiled. And there the large apple trees that nearly hid the house always attracted attention. They must have been set out in an early day and always bore a fair crop of large red apples, and they were all good eating apples, if I can testify. Here lived Uncle Billy Green and his wife, Lizzie. Here he raised a large family. Uncle Billy was a quiet man that never had any difficulty with his neighbors. Gaines and Jim generally done the trading with the neighbors. They had a large amount of woodland, trees of the first growth. No Woodman's axe had ever cleft the forest. About once a year in August a storm would pass through and leave an immense amount of limbs broken off, so Gaines and Jim would sell it to the Salemites. Aunt Lizzie Green was a woman who made her mark in the community. I recollect her as a very zealous church-worker. The Baptist Church, north of the branch, was for many years the religious center of the community; in fact, the hardshells were the most numerous of any denomination. Among their preachers I remember Crow, Bagley, Fosters and Centre. One of their sacraments, which has now gone out of use, was the washing of feet. Christ said, "I have washed your feet, ye ought to also wash one another's feet," and while we are no theologian and never made it a study, we would like for Brother Curry or some other sticker for ancient customs to inform the community when foot washing was abolished. At the monthly meetings we have seen the brethren and sisters sit on a long bench and remove their shoes and socks and one brother with a basin of water would wash their feet, (and would remark that some of their feet needed washing); and then Lizzie, with a towel, would follow up and wipe them. This was all done in good order. Again we ask Brother Curry to inform us why feet are not washed now. As we said, Green raised a large family. There was Felix, who lived just west of the Baptist Church; he was a man of some force. We recollect Felix coming one time to the schoolhouse to settle a little scrap with Cousin Menter, and came out second best. Felix Green also had a large family. His oldest daughter, Polly, married Alex Pemberton. His son, Beaurope, it will be remembered, was hung on a black jack tree in Forest City twenty-five years ago by a mob. There had been some horse stealing and Beaurope Pemberton was implicated. Most all the actors in that mob have passed in their checks. Felix Green had a son, Evans, who was a rather fast young man. I will deal mostly with the first generation of the Greens. He got an education at Jacksonville college, went south after he left Salem, but came back and in 1852 lived less than a mile from Forest City. When I moved on the prairie I worked for him some in that early day. He often gave me good advice on how to get along in the world. I once cut his meadow on the halves with a scythe.
There was Nancy Cox, who died in Manito about forty years ago, and Frankie Armstrong, who lived near the old Green homestead, the mother of a number of sons and daughters. There was Nult Green who married Nancy Able. They lived in an early day adjoining Forest City. They had a boy Johnny Green, who was a small as Tom Thumb, and for years exhibited him on the road. Johnny was smart and a great favorite with the people. There was Robert Green, who I think moved to Texas. Next was Gaines, a prominent farmer of Mason county, who died a few years ago. He married one of Joe Watkins' daughters, and was one of Menard's most respected citizens. James Green went to Texas in an early day. Sallie Green had one hand that was palsied. She married Jerry Twombly, a Yankee, who lived just west of Frankie Armstrong, and married William Centre, and may be living yet.
Menard county is settled up by families I used to know. One family has increased till there is now a dozen families of the same kinship. The keep multiplying and the surplus find homes in western territories. Their farms descend from father and son. In Mason county it is very different. The land does not descend to the same family when death or removal makes it necessary to divide up a homestead. Some German, who by thrift and economy, has saved up his money, is a competitor for the land and the rightful owner of the soil goes west.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson