Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties
Including Personal Reminiscens of Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902

The West End of Salem

Page 152

In my writings of old times in Menard it is as it was when I knew it, not as it was in after years, and my imagination is just as vivid and fresh as though the incidents only happened yesterday.

No. 6 was Hill's store. This is the place where all persons congregated. Hill came at an early day and was an important personage as long as Salem lasted. He made a trip to St. Louis in the spring and fall. First going to Beardstown; he would then take a steamboat to St. Louis and would stay a week or so. A stock of goods in those days would be a curiosity now. His standard goods were blue calico, brown muslin, and cotton chain for the weaver. No luxuries were indulged in. There was no canned fruit then, no dried fruit, as the farmers brought in dried apples and peaches. Hill's store was headquarters for all political discussions. The farmers would congregate there and discuss the questions of the day. Peter Cartright, who was a politician then as well as a preacher, would spend hours on the porch, and by his wit and sallies keep the audience in an uproar of laughter, and the man who undertook to badger Uncle Peter always came out second best. Cartright was a frequent visitor at Salem and had not then risen to the zenith of his fame as a preacher.

No. 7 was where Dr. John Allen lived. He came to Salem in an early day and soon had the leading practice in the country. He was a Christian gentleman of the highest type and belonged to the Presbyterian Church. He was very aggressive in all his views. He soon had a Sunday school going. There being no school, he would open his house. After a while the doctor organized a temperance society, which raised great opposition, even the church members were his great opponents, the hardshelled Baptists. Dr. Allen was lame in one leg, and consequently had a heap of ups and downs in life. While living in Salem he married Margaret Moore, who lived near Indian Point. She died about the time he moved to Petersburg, which was in 1840. He was a good collector. In the fall of the year he would buy dressed hogs and make bacon of them, and would send them to St. Louis and thus collect his bills. He kept at this after he moved to Petersburg, and would salt down 200 or 300 head.

No. 8 was Hill's dwelling near his store. In 1837 he marred Parthena Nance, a sister of Hon. Thomas Nance, a prominent man, who lived on Rock Creek, and who died in the past year.

Across the street in No. 9, lived Alexander Ferguson. If he had an occupation, it was a shoemaker. In the fall, farmers who had taken their hides to the tan yard the year before, would bring them to Ferguson with the measures of the whole family. I have seen William Sampson come after his shoes with a two bushel sack and take a dozen pair home. There were very rough and would not be worn now. Alex. Ferguson had a brother that was a great fighter. He would fight any man just to show how good a man he was.

No. 10 was the carding machine, run by Hardin Bale for several years, before he moved it down to Petersburg in 1841. Every person kept sheep in those days, and took the wool to the machine where it was carded by taking soil out of the wool or sometimes they would pay for it. They commenced bringing in wool in May and by June the building would be full. It was amusing to see the sacks of all sorts and sizes and sometimes old petticoats. For every ten pounds of wool they would bring a gallon of grease, mostly in old gourds. Hardin Bale did not spin or weave till after he moved to Petersburg. He was a man of great energy and a natural machinist. In early life everything he touched turned into money. In after life everything went against him.

No. 11 was Robert Johnson's, the wheelright. He made looms, spinning wheels, and chairs, and was a very useful man in the community. He had two daughters and one son, Nannie and Amanda and his son Robert. Johnson's family always camped at Rock Creek. Mrs. Johnson was religious and was subject to the "jerks", which was worse than the shaking ague. After a severe spell she would be sick for several days.

No. 12 was the residence of Martin Waddle, the village hatter. No hats were sold by the storekeeper, except straw hats. Waddle made hats for 50 cents out of rabbit fur, and hats of coon fur as high as $2. He had one son and several daughters. There were Jane and Polly Waddle and the boy's name I have forgotten. I think Waddle had all the work he could do, though the hats he made would be a curiosity now.

No. 13 was the cooper shop of Henry Onstot. Coopering was a great trade then and the best of white oak timber was close at hand. He would cut a dozen trees in the spring and have the staves seasoned a year ahead. Bale's mill used a great many flour barrels and there was a good demand for country trade. The surplus was sent to Beardstown and Springfield.

No. 14 was one of the busiest places in town. It was Miller's blacksmith shop. Everything in iron had to be made, and the iron had to be forged out of large bars of iron.

No. 15 was my father's house after 1835. It was a large log house with a frame room on the west end. The house was used for preaching. Rev. J. M. Berry preached here for a number of years. His sermons were always doctrinal. Final perseverance was his best hold. He would sandwich it on some place in the sermon, and he was a great sticker for infant baptism. After his son, William Berry died, he was a very solemn man. The only way I could get even with the old Cumberland preacher was when I rode his horses to water. I put them through for a mile or so at a fast gait. No preacher in those days ever rode in a carriage. H was always horseback, with a pair of saddle bags, and he always carried books.

Nos. 16 and 17 was a double log house. In the west end lived Jack Kelso with his wife. He had no children and was a jolly, contented specimen of humanity. He had no trade and was ready to do a day's work if wanted. In summer he depended on his fish hook. He was an expert. He could catch fish when others couldn't get a bite. In winter his trusty rifle always kept him in meat. In the fall he would find enough bee trees to furnish him with honey. His wife was a sister to Miller's wife. He always lived well and was a happy man. In the other end of the house lived Joshua Miller, the village blacksmith. He was a short, heavy man, and had a son named Caleb and a daughter named Louisa. He always had plenty of work and when work was slack he would iron a wagon. Miller's was he place where the whangdoodle preachers held forth, but as a preacher in Mississippi said: "It was better to have a hardshell than no shell at all." I have now endeavored to picture Salem in its glory, and if James Bale will have it mowed of next Chautauqua and stakes are furnished, I will locate where every house stood that I have described.

Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson



1902 Index

Copyright 2007 Jeanie Lowe & contributors
All rights reserved
Illinois Ancestors