Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
George Kirby of Sandridge
Tuesday morning of this week found us on the C. P. & St. L. train, speeding south from our home at Forest City. We stopped at Oakford and found "Tobe" Kirby waiting for us. "Is this Mr. Onstot?" said he. "That's my name; is this Mr. Kirby?" asked I. "That's my name," returned he. So, with this self introduction, we took passage in his buggy for his residence east of Oakford. We found him a very agreeable companion. As we traveled along we passed a number of fine farm houses and he kindly and entertainingly answered all our questions regarding their ownership, etc. Also, along the route were school houses, such as are seen all over the country, where the children assemble to get a good common school education to equip them for the duties of life.
Finally ahead of us there loomed up a big farm house - big enough for a hotel, where our companion lives and where we stopped. The occasion of our visit was to attend the eighty-sixth birthday anniversary of George Kirby, the father of our host, whom we had not seen for more than fifty years. We were kindly, even cordially received.
George Kirby was born in Madison county, Illinois, December 20, 1812, and came to Clary's Grove, Menard county, in 1820. We doubt if there are a dozen people now living who were here when he came. The county was wild then. Venison, wild turkey and other game supplied the board tables in the rude cabin of his father, Cyrus Kirby. It was before any of the great inventions of the age had been made. There were no railroads, no telegraph, no telephones no bicycles. It must have been a lonesome time for young George, growing up at that time, but he did grow up. He received a common school education, and with his good common sense made a success in life while others with just as good or better advantages made dismal failures. He married Dorcas Atterberry in October, 1834. She died a few years ago. His son, George T., (our host), now conducts the farm. He is a "chip off the old block" - a fine specimen of the middle-aged men, sons of the pioneers of this country.
Among the guests where the venerable Squire D. Masters and wife, Mrs. Lucy Watkins, (sister of George Kirby), James Senter, (a son-in-law) and wife, and others. Mrs. Watkins has passed her ninetieth year.
A royal feast was spread. The fatted calf had been killed, and Mrs. George Kirby, Jr., and her daughters left nothing undone to make the guests feel at home. After dinner all repaired to the sitting room, where a blazing fire in the old fashioned fireplace, the first we had seen in many years, made everything look cheerful. "Uncle George" and Squire Masters regaled the party with anecdotes and incidents of early days, and upon comparing notes we found that there were three of us who had never drank liquor or used tobacco in any form.
"Uncle George" Kirby's success as a farmer is attested by his ownership of 1,200 acres of fine farm land. The home place is well kept and well stocked by the son, George T., better known as "Tobe." He is feeding sixty head of cattle and a fine lot of hogs at the present time. He not only feeds all the corn produced on the farm but buys as much more of the neighbors.
"Tobe" has a bachelor brother, Sam, a fine, good looking man in the prime of his life. If Sam lived in Mason county some buxom widow or old maid would capture him the first leap year that came around. We feel an interest in him and would help him to get a wife if he would say so.
The men of George Kirby's stamp have made this country what it is. They have left their impress on their sons, who in turn have sons that cultivate the moral and intellectual interests of the physical man. Many of the men we have written about, who lived and died in the early history of the county, contributed little to its morals.
We came from the Kirby home to Petersburg in the evening. The road was quite muddy, but with "Tobe" for our companion the trip was a pleasant one.
We like to meet these old settlers and as we have leisure now will be glad to do so at any time; and we promise to keep our end of the single-tree up.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson