USGenWeb Cherokee County Iowa IAGenWeb

Cherokee County Biographies

Autobiography of David James Hays

My great grandfather, David James Hays, composed his autobiography during the last decade of his life. I am quite certain that his daughter Edith, my grandmother, assisted him in the endeavor. She also kept diaries, wrote poems, and, in profuse notes and writings, passed on the legacy of her own life and that of her family. I am indebted to both of them for leaving me their memories and for granting to their children and heirs the gift of a godly heritage preserved in their words.

Joan Olsson

January 1999

David James Hays: An Autobiography

My paternal grandfather was David Hays. His wife's name was Mary; he was of Welsh descent. They lived in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia and they were staunch Quakers. Grandfather was a carpenter by trade and helped build the Old White House, the one that was burned by the British in the war of 1812. It is strange how little I ever learned or remember of my [paternal] grandparents.

David Hays was born in the State of Delaware, near the city of Wilmington, in the year 1766, where he grew to manhood, which was during the Revolutionary war. Young Hays saw much of the "times that try men's souls." He saw both the English and colonial armies. He had the honor of handing Gen. Washington a drink of water a few days before the Battle of Brandywine, as the army was passing his father's home. This was in 1777, he at that time being about eleven years old. In the year 1800, he removed to Frederick County, Va., and, in the year 1805, was married to Mary Horsman, and removed to Harrison County, Ohio, in the same year, where he resided until the year 1815, during which he removed to the present limits of Washington Township; settled in John Steele's Survey, No. 1,458, where he resided until his death, which occurred in the year of 1844. He was a man of strong common sense and kind disposition, strictly honest in all his dealings with his fellow-men, and was ever ready to give a helping hand. He was universally respected for his many virtues.

P. 798

History of Clinton County, Ohio

W. H. Beers & Co.


...David and Mary (Horsman) Hays, the former a native of Delaware, was born June 6, 1766, and the latter, of Frederick County, Va., was born January 21, 1782....Mr. Hays was one of the organizers of Washington Township and aided in many of its prominent improvements. He died April 30, 1844. His father came from Wales several years before the American Revolution. [The previous statement is incorrect. David was a descendant of Henry Hayes of England] Mrs. Hays died July 12, 1838.

P. 1142

History of Clinton County, Ohio

W. H. Beers & Co.


Following is the will of David Hays, obtained from Clinton County:

Special Court. June 6th A.D. 1844

The State of Ohio Clinton County ss.

Be it remembered that at a Special Court of Common Pleas begun and held at Wilmington within and for the County of Clinton aforesaid on the sixth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight-hundred and four, before Jesse Hughes Jr., Isaac Thornburgh, and David F. Walker associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of said County. The last Will and Testament of David Hays, late of the County of Clinton, Ohio deceased was presented to the same Court here for probate in the words and figures following to wit:

Will: David Hays of the County of Clinton in the state of Ohio do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following, that is to say: First. "It is my will that my funeral expenses and my just debts be fully paid. Second. I give devise and bequeath to my sons Amos Hays, Elijah Hays, David Hays, Joel Hays, Nathan Hays, Ezra Hays, and Jonathan Hays one equal seventh part of my real and personal estate except as follows (to wit) -- First, it is my Will that Amos Hays be charged (and that it constitute a part of the estate) with fifteen dollars it being for a cow and four sheep got of me about the 18th March A.D. 1832 -- Second. It is my will that Elijah Hays and Joel Hays be charged with fifty dollars each (and that it constitute a part of the estate) it being for a Horse, Cow, and four sheep got of me by each of them (by the former about the 25th October 1832, by the latter about the 29th November 1832. Third -- It is my will that my sons Ezra Hays and Jonathan Hays have all the money on hand at my death to be equally divided between them (after paying my funeral expenses) Fourth -- It is my will that my sons Ezra Hays and Jonathan Hays have (in consideration of services rendered me in the decline of life not having received an Equivalent in my lifetime) two hundred dollars each to be paid by my Executor out of the real and personal property when sold (exclusive of a seventh part as above devised -- And lastly I hereby constitute and appoint my much esteemed friends Thomas Hibbin and Horatio Cast Executors of this my last Will and Testament revoking and annulling all former Wills by me made and ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this 27th April 1842. David Hays, Signed published and declared by the above David Hays as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who at his request have signed as Witnesses to the same.

T. L. Carothers

John L. Hackney

The State of Ohio Clinton County. Court of Common Pleas

June 1st A.D. 1844. Personally came into open Court John L. Hackney one of the subsenting Witnesses to the last Will and Testament of David Hays Sen. late of said County deceased who being duly affirmed depose and say. that they were present at the Execution of said Will. that they saw the testator sign and heard him acknowledge the same as his last Will and Testament and that at the time of the Execution there of said testator was of full age, sound mind and memory, and not under any apparent restraint. John L. Hackney.

Sworn to and subscribed in open Court of Common Pleas June 6th A.D. 1844. Personally came into Open Court Yhomas L. Carothers one of the subscribing Witnesses to the last Will and Testament of David Hays late of said County deceased who being duly sworn depose and say that he was present at the Execution of said Will that he saw the testator sign and heard him acknowledge the same as his last Will and Testament and that, at the time of the Execution thereof, said Testator was of full age, of sound mind and memory, and not under any apparent restraint. Thomas L. Carothers

Sworn to and subscribed in open Court the day and year first above written. By the Court

And it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that the said David Hays Senr. at the time of writing said Will was of full age and of sound mind and memory and not under any apparent restraint, It is ordered that said Will and the proof so reduced to writing be recorded, And thereupon, on motion of Thomas Hibben and Horatio Cast the Executors in said Will named it is ordered that Letters Testamentary be granted to the said Thomas Hibben and Horatio Cast, who thereupon gave bond with Jacob P. Brindle and John Mount their securities to the acceptance of the Court in the final sum of Five thousand dollars conditioned according to law. Whereupon the Court appoint James Brown, George Shields and Peter Tomlin appraisers of the personal estate of said deceased.

E. Nance

July 7, 1844

July Term 1844

The state of Ohio Clinton County, s.s.

Court of Common Pleas

Begun and holden at Wilmington within and for the County of Clinton and State afforementioned on the fourth Monday of July in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty four.


Elijah Nance, President

Jesse Hughes Associate

Isaac Thornburgh

David F. Walker Judges

John Carman. Shff

Thomas L. Carothers Clerk Officers of the Court

The above will was certified by Kim Moore, Deputy Clerk; G. Allen Gano, Judge; 20th day of May, 1996

Clinton County, Ohio

They moved to Harrison County, Ohio, where my father, Amos, was born September 7, 1809. [Many Quakers from Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia, migrated to this county, where the first Quaker meeting in Ohio, Short Creek Meeting, was planted] Afterwards they removed to Clinton County, which was about forty miles from Cincinnati. There they took up 100 acres of heavily-timbered land which took him and his seven sons about a generation to get into good farming shape. I remember father telling that all of them together did not have $500 per year in cash, and that the only source of revenue was ashes [obtained in great quantities from burning off timber and brush while clearing land] which they sold in Cincinnati [for soapmaking] for cash to pay their taxes. Their children all had biblical names: Elijah, David, Amos, Joel, Ezra, Nathan, Jonathan, and Ruth.

Grandmother lived and died a faithful Friend but grandfather was excluded from the Meeting in middle life because he would not say he was sorry for striking a neighbor (who sorely needed it!). [Note: David was actually disowned from Hopewell Monthly Meeting before he and Marry were married. Their marriage was performed by a "priest" outside the Friend's Meeting, and so was not acknowledged as a legitimate marriage within the Society of Friends.] But the family were brought up strict Quaker.

Amos, my father, though strongly opposed by all his relatives, espoused a new faith, that of the Disciples of Christ, and was baptized. The preaching was by Walter Scott and A. Rains. It was at that church, in 1830, that he met and married his wife, Mary Howe, an ardent adherent of the new faith; she was scarcely 15 and he was 21.

Amos Hays (frequently spelled Hayes) was an early pioneer in the Willow Springs, Wisconsin area, near Mineral Point. He was a farmer and, at various times, town assessor, city assessor, and justice of the peace. He is mentioned frequently in the diary of his brother-in-law, Henry Howe, as a person who handled legal matters for his neighbors and family. His son David speaks of him being a teacher when they resided in the Oneco, Illinois area.

Amos Hays died at the age of 85 years, six months. He is buried in Willow Springs, according to his death certificate, but we were unable to find a marker for his grave--or that of either his first wife, Mary Howe Hays, or his second wife, Jane Reid Hays, at the Ft. Defiance Cemetery or the Ray/Pilling Cemetery. I assume they were either not erected or, more likely, have been destroyed. Ft. Defiance cemetery, where his daughter, Jane Hays Noble and her husband, Levi Noble and his family are buried, is not well maintained and there were some gravestones in the weeds in the corner. Many of the people most closely associated with Amos Hays and his family are buried there; presumably he and Mary (and perhaps Jane Reid Hays, his second wife) were also.

Mary's father, James Howe, had lived in Virginia. He thought he belonged to one of the first families of Virginia. I have heard him tell how some of his ancestors bought their wives for so many pounds of tobacco, or paid their fare from Europe in that way and then married them. He married a Dutch girl named Catherine Totherow who could not speak a word of English until she was twelve years old. When I knew her she had forgotten all her Dutch except a few words of profane or vulgar phrases!

James, a Baptist preacher, had recently joined the Disciples of Christ. He and Catherine [Tetherow] Howe raised a family of nine boys and three girls. [Henry, John, Michael Tetherow, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Ann, George, Rachel, James, Campbell, Franklin, Abner H., Rebecca] Among them were two quite prominent preachers [Daniel Radcliffe and Henry]; the rest, as you could well imagine, good, bad, and indifferent! I lived near several of them, and do not profess to think they were made of superior clay, nor do I suppose my father's family were superior to them in nature or achievements.

James Howe was a Baptist preacher in Clinton County, Ohio, and was among the first pastors of the Baptist Church in Wilmington, Ohio. He was married to Catherine Totherow, and during his early years in Clinton County, Ohio, ran an inn--or "public house". He was part of what was called the Mahoning Association (further research needed to learn more about this) and came with its members into the Disciples of Christ movement in its earliest stages. He was a pioneer, moving from Virginia to Ohio in the early 1800s and to Illinois, Missouri, and southern Wisconsin, where he died in Green County. He is buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Winslow, Stephenson County, Illinois.

Both my parents and grandparents were native Americans--but that is no matter for congratulations when considering "Poor Lo", our Indian cousin! [This is not, as far as I can ascertain, a reference to an actual person; rather it is a generic tag.] Father, having been cast out by his own people because of joining the new faith, followed his wife's folks out to Bureau County, Illinois in the summer of 1833. They arrived with about as near nothing, except a small daughter [Jane], as a young couple could well have. They located near James Howe's sawmill, and Amos was hired to run the saw, an up-and-down one on Indian Creek. I do not know how long he worked there but it was there that my sister Ruth was born in 1835, and myself on January 19, 1839, and we did not leave that place until the summer of 1843.

During the ten years the family lived there they had chills each summer and fall.

Though I was only a little past four when we left there I still have a few memories. I remember how our dwelling house looked, with its porch on the south and its fence around it. I remember finding our dog, old short-tail Watch, dead under the porch. I remember my first pants. And in January of 1843 Pap caught a big, wild turkey in a rail-trap. Also, a big fish was struck by the mill wheel so was brought home for dinner. I think that was the year a boy struck me with a piece of quilting frame and I fell against the door. I wear the scar yet. These are some things I remember. Others, perhaps, were told me and I imagine I remember--and of which I am just as sure[!].

In the summer of '43 we moved one hundred miles north to Stephenson County, Illinois, where we rented a little cabin on the edge of timber, and near a family named St. John. I think they owned our cabin. We became very friendly with them, my sisters visiting their girls, and visits back and forth for several years even after we moved quite aways away. The father of Andrew St. John lived with them, and he was over 100 years old, was of French descent, and had married a woman with some small amount of Negro blood in her veins. The grandchildren did not show any, and the family was not despised for being a small fraction African.

In 1844 a valuable ram named Old Dave, attacked Ruth and me. Pap threw a corn knife, broke his leg, and it had to be set splinted, for he was too valuable to kill, although he had been a terror to us children. And I remember that a neighbor left a side of very strong pork on our table while we were at church, to pay father for teaching his children. All the schools were subscription schools then.

In 1845 we moved, and our nearest town was three miles northeast, named Oneco. It was our post office and market town, a string of houses along the road for about a half a mile, along with stores, tavern, blacksmith shop, etc.. There were plenty of drinks, and usually a fight or so every Saturday; but there was no church.

Father bought half of Uncle Henry Howe's goat claim, 80 acres. We moved into a real old house, and I wish I could describe it. It contained no sawed lumber or nails. The house was one of the oldest in all of that country. The chimney was six feet wide made of staves and mud, then of sticks and mud. There was a floor of puncheons [half logs with flat sides up]; the roof was of split shakes held down by weight poles. Doors were of split boards pegged together and had wooden latches and hinges--with the latch string always out for neighbors. The cracks between logs were stopped [stuffed] with sticks and mud, which had to be repaired every fall. But it was all ours! There was plenty of wood, the best water, game and some wild food, ours for the taking; how rich we felt. We lived there on this place about ten years, perhaps the most interesting period of a person's life--and about the best remembered when one grows old. Days were filled with the real lore of joy and love and true living, crowded with worthwhile adventures.

Even now, years later, how vivid to my recollection are the great quaking asps bent over the house, the old fishing hole, the hollow elm tree where we caught so many rabbits (by twisting them with forked sticks). I recall the blazed trail by which we went two miles to school, sometimes over a fearsome log when the creek was swollen. At school we had a playground shaped like Illinois--with a big log over the "Mississippi". And I remember the many berry patches, plum and crabapple trees and grapes, all without limit or charge; and hundreds of other things so dear to the boyish heart. That same year father bought some fine hewed logs from a neighbor, Jack Noble, for $20. We built a house about 16 x 20 feet. This house had modern doors and windows, and had a roof with shakes actually nailed on. There was a sawed oak floor--we had no pine. We had no chimney for we had our first stove, which we were very proud of. These stoves were very new and the first I had seen was but a few months earlier at mother's sister's, Aunt Rachel Hildebrant's.

On October 4, 1845, my sister Sarah was born. I can remember it distinctly. There was quite a snow storm, and a few days afterwards, we moved from that old house across the creek and meadow into a newer but smaller house where Uncle Henry Howe had lived. Mother and baby were moved on a sleigh. The newer house was built on the same plan as the older one. Though the house was not nicer, there was a more level yard, and it was a much prettier location. Soon we had a stable, corn crib, sheds and fences for stock, making it quite handy for those times. Our milk house was below the cold, bubbling spring.

Joel Bearns and his wife and her mother, Aunt Polly Walton, moved into our old house when we moved out. They came from Ohio and were a quaint, old-fashioned family--plain and economical. We became good friends with them and the Than Waltons.

Joel Bearn's wagon would be a wonder today. The bed cost more than the running gear. It was very high before and behind and was spliced and ribbed like a life-saving boat for the ocean, in a fashion quite common before my time I understood.

The Than Walton family bought a 40 acre place near ours, and it was covered with pin oak and quaking ash trees. Such big piles of brush as he made when he cleared the ground I've never seen since! Than and his son, DeCalb put in a crop of corn among the small stumps, and he used a sneller plow that had a curved coulter to slide over larger roots. He succeeded quite well without grubbing [pulling out stumps] that first year. His team was a yoke of oxen that had the color and appearance of buffalo--named Buff and Wooley. DeCalb and I became great playmates. It was sad that later he turned out bad, even killing a woman. His father was a kind man but perhaps over-strict with his children.

We kept several cows, sheep, hogs, and plenty of chickens and geese, and one old mare, Old Doll. And there were wild geese. We always kept ten to twenty geese for an abundance of good soft pillows and feather beds, as well as an occasional good fat roast. It was my task to yoke the goslings to keep them out of the garden, and to find their nests when they hid in the meadow. Father caught a big wild gander, with a wing broken from a shot, that we kept for several years; he was as tame as any of the geese, and was a good fighter and a good weather prophet. He kept off intruders from the nests; and if there was a storm coming he flapped his wings and honked in a lively manner. We had about a dozen half-breeds that looked more wild than the tame ones--were plumper and lighter colored. The wild geese could fly for miles if their wings were not clipped--but their eggs would not hatch.

Once mother found our geese all lying on their backs, apparently dead. She hurriedly plucked off all their down and feathers. Then she discovered they were only drunk from eating mash from a late grape-jelly making. My sisters had to make them red flannel coats for the winter, and I'll never forget how funny they looked. Finally, one day, they wandered to a millpond and were shot. I found them dead, carried back as many as I could, weeping bitterly all the way.

The sheep, and especially the young lambs, were always of special interest to me as a boy. One thing connected [related] to them I would always see, and that was the sheep-washing, just before shearing. Father made a pen on the bank of the Pecatonica River, about two miles west of home, into which we drove the sheep. He then caught them one by one and carried them into the river, where he thoroughly washed the wool--to the great terror of the poor sheep, for they dread water as much as a cat does. Then, in a few days, he sheared them, placing them on a table, while my part was to hold the poor dumb head. Afterwards we had the job we children always dreaded--picking wool. We took it a handful at a time and carefully picked out all the burs, ticks, and dirt. Oh, the smell!

Flax now is mostly raised for the seed, but we used to raise it to spin and weave into linen for towels, table cloths, sheets and shirts. They would pull it out by the roots, spread it on the ground to rot. Then they would break it, which was done on a rough home machine, with something like fingers pressed down between other fingers, so closely fitting as to break the woody stem from the fiber of the plant. Breaking flax was very hard work indeed.

After this the fiber had to be hackled with a little hand machine provided with many sharp projections like fork tines. The operator would take a handful of flax fibers and whip it through the tines until the fiber was free from the woody part. Then it was ready for the little spinning wheel.

We had two spinning wheels; a small one for flax, and a big wheel for wool--which my sister Jean could run with notable success (four and a fourth skeins--thirteen cuts per day--was her record I think).

My father had made a loom, which he ran in winter, making the best kind of jeans[?] and linsey from our own yarn. Mother always colored it before weaving, using walnut shells, hickory, bark, etc.; some dresses were quite beautifully striped with red, black, yellow, brown, and green. They were almost as pretty--and much more sensible and durable--as the calico ones that soon afterwards came into fashion, which the girls were beginning to covet. He also wove cloth which was fulled at a carding and fulling mill on Richland Creek, about four miles north east of us.

That creek also had two large grist mills on it; one, about four miles east of us, was called Bower's Mill. It later had quite a town built around it, called Orangeville. I often went to that mill, on Old Doll, sometimes with a bag of corn, bringing back the sack full of the best meal, worth at current [1905] prices about twenty cents. The miller took one eighth as till [pay] or, if it was wheat, one tenth, giving us our share of bran and shorts.

There were some wild animals. Illinois was a prairie state, but we had adjoining us on the west a strip of heavy timber with brush and smaller trees on the east and south. Deer were quite plentiful; sometimes they ran within a few yards of the house; and at times I saw five or six together. Father kept no gun so any venison we got was given us. Rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and quail were plentiful and once in awhile we got a 'coon. I used to trap quails and once caught thirteen in a trap. Some bear were around; I remember that one big one was killed near us because he had robbed a pig pen. There were a few wildcat, and they were a terror to us children. Musk rats, mink and beaver had once been plentiful but only a few were left; beaver dams still remained to show us their work. I never was much of a hunter.

The first school I attended was near Oneco, and at first I was only a visitor with my older sisters. The teacher was named Lewis G. Reid. He had a long hickory in every corner, and used it frequently; even so the order was far from good. My first teacher was M. L. Hutchinson, a jolly Yankee, to whom I went all six months of the winter term. I never attended but one summer school. He inspired us with a love for music, having us sing songs every day, even our geography and multiplication lessons; some of his school songs I still remember.

His hobby was electricity. With a rude machine he gave shocks to a boy standing on a glass stool and it made his hair stand on end. Then he had us hold hands, the more valiant of us, to make a circuit--much to the horror of our parents, who thought it akin to witchcraft.

In our spelling bees, I often wore home a gold 50 cent piece on a string in honor of spelling down the class, and was chosen among the first in the evening spellings. And I enjoyed the Singin' Schools immensely.

Next term we had a young Vermonter, Andrew Hinds. He was green and shabby, about 17; but later he became a judge, a politician, and an esteemed landowner and church man. He loomed high in my boyish esteem, and was my model in later teaching - quiet, compelling order without the whip that was so common then; he was reserved, but showed appreciation of real worth. I made good advances in his school, especially in reading, spelling, and arithmetic. We all liked him; there was hardly a dry eye when school closed.

It was customary then to teach even on holidays. It was thought a fine lark to fasten the teacher out on Christmas mornings, and to make him treat the school. Once the larger scholars fastened all the doors and windows. When he came to the door with an armful of wood, he said, "Open this door quicker than lightning!". One of the bravest pulled the ten-penny nail holding the latch with his teeth about that quick! Such was his influence.

My third teacher was John Connor, an Irishman of the old style--a fine penman, but that is all I can remember to his credit as a teacher. He led his little boy Johnny to school, and always brought his coffee pot with him to school to heat up his dinner. Often he used his shillelagh, on the whole class, without apparent cause as far as I could understand. He was the only teacher that ever struck me. My sisters did not tell, but the next day when I pleaded hard to stay home and help in the sugar camp father would not listen, and that ended it. I never liked his school, and it did me little good.

My fourth teacher was a Yankee with the reddest hair I'd ever seen; his name was Hinckley. He was probably the best mathematician of all my teachers. I was 13 that winter, getting ahead fast, and into algebra. I was also among the first chosen in the spelling matches, of which there were many in the old Mt. Pleasant School. We wondered why it was named that because it was the most unpleasant place in the winter time, located on a high open spot on the north of a fine grove of timber. Anyway, wood was cheap and the big box stove nearly always red. These four schools were about all I had [of schooling] while living near Oneco.

In the fall of 1849 father made a trip to Chicago. He had a good team and hauled about 2,500 pounds of wheat; the roads were not good, it was 115 miles, and he was gone two weeks. He sold his wheat for about 40 cents per bushel. He could not have even been able to pay the expenses of the trip if he had not hauled back a load of store goods for an Oneco merchant. I think this was about an average trip for those times--Oh, the "good old times!".

But most of all we were interested in his tales of the [train] cars that ran 15 to 20 miles per hour; the train whistle could be heard four or five miles away. That seemed like a fairy tale to us, and oh how we wanted to see them.

It was in 1852, I think, that I went with my cousin, Harvey M. Howe, to Freeport and got to see the cars. We took our old mare [Doll or Kate], and our democart wagon to get a barrel of salt for the cattle. Harvey and I were great chums, and though we started out early on our 15 mile trip it was long after dark when we got home. We took our time, seeing all we could of the great wonder of our times. And we almost forgot both time and salt! I don't think London would look as big to me now as Freeport did then. I can hardly see a train even now without that old thrill creeping up my spine.

Howes and Van Matres were very prominent families in the neighborhood just north of us, probably composing about half of the people. Rivalry between them was such that it could almost have been called a feud. Although most of them belonged to the same church there were frequent altercations. One incident was when Uncle Jim Howe had to go over into the Territory (Wisconsin) in order to marry Melissa Van Matre; her Uncle Jeff went after them, caught up, and when he tried to haul her off the horse he was shot in the shoulder; so he desisted. The wedding went off, and a large family resulted. Hair-pulling and face-scratching were common occurrences.

Silas Howe was born March 15, 1850, the youngest child of John Howe. His mother died, leaving six children from one day old to twelve years. Uncle John left them all with his mother and went to California. Aunt Rebecca brought him and unceremoniously left him with us to keep when he was but three weeks old. Silas was an object lesson in heredity. He and my brother Nathan were but three months different in age (Nathan, born December 2, 1849, being the older), and they were together all the time. Though he seldom saw his older brothers, Silas had their disposition, and became a worthless fellow, of no help to any one. He ran away from our home at about eighteen.

Our neighbors, brothers Seth and Dennard Shockley, often helped us with the harvest. I always remember them because of their great dissimilarity. Seth weighed 350 pounds. He was good-natured, a good worker on the farm. He was about the best person to stack straw I ever worked with; he just flattened it right down! His brother was quite a contrast, was 6' 7" tall, and he could toss the hay good and high; he was the fastest brick-layer in that part of Illinois. Dennard [married 1/26/1837 Maria Van Winkle, Clinton County, Ohio] later moved to Freeport and became its mayor. He was not very intelligent but when he wore a tall hat he thought he was just about equal to old Abe or anybody.

In June of 1851 there was the greatest hail storm I ever heard of. Hail stones as big as a pint cup fell, breaking roofs and exposed windows, and killing stock.

The four sons of Isaac Miller [married Margaret Hildebrant 9/17/1835, Clinton County, Ohio] lived about one-and-a-half mile north of us, and were my most frequent companions. Two were older and two younger than I, all good moral boys, named Lum Lafe [Ralph], Newt [Newton], and Will [William]. We spent many happy hours together, often picking berries, grapes or plums for our families. Once while gathering wild onions on the creek, a big frog got up Lum's leg. He hollered, "A snake!"--then squeezed and beat it to a jelly before we could get it out! He was a very scared boy and it was a big joke on him for sure. Another time I was at their house I took colic. I would not take Mrs. Miller's medicine so she said, "I wish Polly Hays would stay home and take care of her brats!". I ran off home, though I was supposed to stay all night, for our folks were off to see a sick cousin. I think mother never quite forgave her for this.


At this point I am going to include a paper written by Christopher Columbus Miller in 1902 and read at the Miller-Hildebrant Reunion [Christopher Columbus Miller married Electra A. Kibby 4/1/1858, Clinton County, Ohio], that year, held at Ft. Ancient, Clinton County, Ohio. He is the "Lum" in the preceding story. I am grateful to his grandson, husband of Maxine Miller, a genealogist at the Clinton County Genealogical Society, for giving me permission to use it in this book.


A Paper

by C. C. Miller

Brothers, sisters, and kind friends:

At our meeting one year ago it was suggested by our worthy chairman that someone tell what they remember of father's and mother's removal to their home in Illinois. With some degree of reluctance, your humble servant consented to tell you something of our life in that western home.

The first trip was made in the fall, September, 1838, I suppose when I was made about eighteen months old, as I have often heard mother relate. This journey of over 500 miles was made in a covered two-horse jolt wagon. They went by the way of Dayton, Indianapolis, Urbana, Bloomington, Peoria, Princeton, Dixon's Ferry, Freeport, to near the old insignificant town of Oneco, Stephenson County, Illinois. I can account for this roundabout trip (as one can see, by looking at the map--they went many miles out of a direct line to their destination) only that this route was more thickly settled, and that the rivers were more apt to have ferries on them for crossing.

It must be remembered at that early day the dwellings of the settlers were often very far apart, sometimes a days journey between them.

I have no remembrance whatever of this journey, nor do I know when or by whom our first house was built, but I rather think it was begun by Uncle Ralph Hildebrant, as he had gone out there some two years before.

This house was a single room hewed log structure, 18 x 20 feet, with a huge stone chimney and fireplace, which extended almost across one end. It was here before this fireplace that our mother done her cooking and baking for many years. I well remember her scanty supply of pots, skillets, and ovens. One day, after several years, father brought home what they called a reflector. This was to bake bread in, but one still had to use the heat from the fireplace to run it. It was made of sheet iron and stood upon four legs, with a support for the pans and bread. It had a cover or hood made of tin, open in front to catch and reflect the heat upon the bread below. I don't believe it was much account except for baking biscuits. I cannot tell when the first cooking stove was obtained; perhaps about 1845.

At that early day cabinetmakers had not arrived and our furniture and house furnishings were scarce and very rude in make. I recollect seeing Father make our first bedsteads, and also the kind of timber of which they were made. They were made of white hickory saplings, hewed and shaped up with an ax and drawing knife. They were built right on the spot in the house where they were to stand, and they were made very stationary too, being fastened to one of the house logs by inserting one end railing in a two-inch auger hole at the proper height. One was made higher, under which could be pushed the indispensable trundle bed on which the kids slept.

Our farm and Uncle Ralph's lay adjoining each other; his comprised 120 acres, and ours 240 acres--about 200 acres of prairie and brush and 40 acres of timber in which was a very good sugar camp. I think this was more land than they bought at the first purchase, as I can remember of being along with them one day when they were out building some preemption houses on some corners[of sections]. These were simply little 4x4 pens made of quaking asp poles and were placed there to notify all intruders to stay off this land. I can also remember of seeing a lot of money passed out on the breakfast table and seeing Father and Uncle count and put it in a belt that was to be worn around Uncle Ralph's body under his clothing while on a horseback journey down to Dixon, where the land office was located. I think this was soon after our return from Ohio in 1840.

Our neighbors at first were mostly from Clinton County, Ohio; among them were Joe, Jeff, and Morgan Van Matre and families, two families of Shockleys, Waltons, Bearns [Beams/Beans?], Howes, Harknesses, Throckmortons, Van Winkles, and others from Ohio. Two families named, Hubert and Buck, were from New York. As is natural for a Yankee, they located down in the woods southwest of our sugar camp. Joe Norris and family were from Kentucky. He lived on the east side of the timber from us on the road to Freeport and Rightsell's mill on Richland Creek, where we got our milling done.

Amos Hayes and family and his father-in-law, James Howe, and family were also from Ohio, coming there I think about 1840. It was from this family Uncle Ralph obtained his wife. Although but a small boy I can remember when they were married. Uncle had lived with us before, and he and Aunt Rachel stayed with us until he finished his little frame house, which stood on the road to Oneco from where we lived.

But I must hurry on. Our living in the winter time was mostly bread, meat, and potatoes, and often corn bread three times daily. In the summer we would have some fruit, which grew wild in the woods and thickets. Red raspberries, blackberries, plums, gooseberries, and crab apples were plenty in their season. The purple sorrel was the first thing to be obtained in the spring, from which pies were made, and it was a very good substitute for rhubarb. Often, in the winter, we would have venison to eat, as the deer were plentiful in places. In the spring we would have a feast of fine fish, obtained by seining in Richland Creek or the Pecatonica River. This river is very deep, and could only be seined in a few places by wading. Our place of fishing was where the road crossed it going to the town of Winslow, four miles west of us.

But I must tell you something of the wild pigeons; and by the way, this bird, once so plentiful, is said to be now entirely gone or extinct. Never have I known them to be so numerous as they were between 1845 and 1850. At one time I saw them flying in such dense masses as to almost hide the sun. It would have been extremely dangerous for one to have gone into the woods where they were roosting at night, on account of the timber they were on breaking down. Father killed dozens of them by loading his rifle with shot. But we didn't fancy pigeons very much, they being blue, and many very tough.

Our first schools were of the board-around subscription sort, and always in the spring or summer. They were held in some old shop or unused building, but about 1846 or 1847 there was a great change made in the school system. More of the enterprising Yankees had come west, and they soon began the introduction of new things and new methods into the schools. I can well remember the morning when John K. Brewster and the teacher handed my brother Ralph [Lafe] and me our first McGuffey's Readers; the first to him, the second, to me. Our mother had been our best and main teacher up to that time, she having taught us to read from our old Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, this being all the school books about the house to this time. Some of the lessons learned from it are indelibly stamped upon my memory, never to be forgotten. Our mother was an excellent reader, and she loved to read and explain her reading to her children. But her reading matter was very limited at that time. Books and newspapers were not near so plentiful or cheap as at the present time. Father at this time was a very poor reader, and seemed to care but little for it. Our first newspaper was the Cincinnati Dollar Weekly Times, published, I think, by C. W. Starbuck. In latter years Father became more of a news reader, and his favorite papers were the Cincinnati Weekly Gazette and the Clinton Republican.

But I must get back to Illinois. While we lived there, there was no church buildings outside the largest towns, and the school house was used for religious meetings in the winter season, and the grove, or "God's first temple", in the summer season. The people would come for miles in their jolt wagons, drawn by yokes of oxen. Aunt Rachel's brother, Henry Howe, was all the preacher I ever knew there, after whose wife our sister, Camellia J. Johnson [Camilia Jane Miller married Joel Johnson 11/24/1870, Clinton County, Ohio], was named. Our sister Lydia was named after Mrs. Lydia Norris, our only doctor while we stayed there. One time when sick she made me drink warm water until I vomited--and I've never liked warm water since!

Henry Howe was the oldest son of James and Catherine Howe. He was a circuit-riding preacher in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin from about 1850 until his death in 1868. His granddaughter, Jesse Howe Nebelthau, edited and privately published a book entitled "The Diary Of A Circuit Rider" which is excerpts from his diary. It gives a wonderful insight into the heart and mind of a pioneer of the frontier and the faith. There are many mentions of various Hays, Howe, and Olney ancestors: Levi Noble, Amos Hays, Washington Olney, David James Hays, Mary Ann Olney, and others. In fact, on page 58, was this diary entry:

"1866, April 4. I, this day solemnized the marriage of D. J. Hays and M. A. Olney."

At his death all of the Christian Churches in Wisconsin at that time had been planted by him. He had been appointed state missionary in 1864 and had covered the whole western part of the state in his travels. His diary "presents a self-drawn picture of a determined, dogmatic, rather quick-tempered, but lovable old gentleman, who was moved by a deep conviction and a sense of urgency in preaching the gospel in its purity and simplicity that we would do well to emulate." So wrote Harry Bucalstein, minister, First Church of Christ, Kenosh, Wisconsin in 1938. "He believed he had a message for the people and had to preach it."

He was an elder at the Richland Center, Wisconsin, church for many years. The stone over his grave in the Richland Center cemetery bears an inscription that seems to characterize his life and work; it says of him, "Fallen on Zion's battlefield after preaching the gospel of Christ for more than thirty years and turning many to righteousness."

I often think I would like to view the old homestead once more, and to drink from the old spring where we cooled our thirst more than fifty years ago. I wonder if the old cedar tree which Father planted sixty years ago is still standing above the wall. I imagine there are not many of the landmarks left by which I could distinguish the place, nor many of the people I once knew.

I cannot help but think of the difference in the mode of travel now, and the difference in time it takes to make this short journey of 500 miles, and the time of Father's and Mother's first trip. What took them twenty days to do can be done in that many hours, and instead of the muddy roads and bumping and jolting over the rough corduroy swamps of Indiana, one can travel now almost with the wind [!], and with ease and pleasure.

Father, in his little sketch book, tells us something of his and Mother's return to Ohio in 1840. I suppose this trip was made to finish up some unsettled business. All business at that time had to attended to directly in person. No such thing as money orders, bank drafts, checks, or express companies were in existence at this time, and all the money worth anything outside of the state was gold and silver, and no mode of conveying it except on your person.

I have no remembrance of this trip except on our return to Illinois. I can remember bumps and thumps over the swampy, rutted roads that we passed over in Indiana. Three horses were driven to the wagon on this trip, a little black horse named Jim being the leader.

Father and Uncle Ralph usually had a yoke of oxen on the farm, mostly used by Uncle but sometimes by Father. At one time he was using them in drawing up logs of wood when he met with an accident that came near killing him. The tree had fallen in the brush, and, the oxen starting with the drag before he could get to the side, he was jerked down and the whole tree dragged over him, rolling him over and over. He always said that the thickness of the brush saved his life.

After Uncle Ralph's return from Texas in Spring of 1849 he rigged out three yoke of cattle and he and I broke prairie all that summer, with only one yoke, the leaders, being broken. The other four were wild steers, but we soon had them broken and could plow up any brush or sapling that could be bent down by the yoke on the oxen. After it was plowed we harrowed the saplings and roots out and piled them in heaps, leaving the ground loose and mellow as an ash heap. Here was where we grew our last crop of corn in Illinois.

In this plowing we found and destroyed many wolf dens and also killed many rattlesnakes. The rattlesnakes we sometimes found in the ant hills. From the place of entrance a wolf will dig a hole just under the surface for many feet, then it will burrow deeper and widen the place for its den or bed.

But I find that I am on page 15, and as I don't want to weary you with this rambling narrative, will tell you something of our last journey back to Clinton County, Ohio. This was begun about September 10, 1850. There were more of us to make this trip than on previous journeys, as the family had increased to six children--four boys and two girls. My sisters were Molly E. Vandervort [Marry E. Miller married John M. Vandervort 1/1/1863, Clinton County, Ohio] and Lydia C. Hunter [Lydia E. Miller married J. F. Hunter 2/20/1868, Clinton County, Ohio]. Besides our family, we were accompanied by an old maiden lady, Lydia Walton, as far as Attica, Indiana, where she left us to remain with her uncle, Dr. John McNulty. Here it is we forded the Wabash River and bade adieu to the beautiful prairies we had traveled over for so many days. Through Kane, Kankakee, and Iroquois Counties in Illinois and western Indiana, up to the Wabash River, it was an unbroken prairie.

After staying overnight with Dr. McNulty we went, the next day, ten miles down the east bank of the Wabash to the little town of Newton in Fountain County to stop overnight with Mrs. Malinda Stafford, who was a sister to Aunt Polly Walton and aunt to Jane Beam, and at whose solicitation we made the stop-over. This Mrs. Stafford was a widow, owning a large farm near this town and having a large family of children. Here it was we found the best apple orchard we had ever seen, and you may believe we children fairly reveled in Maiden Blush apples and cider while we stayed there. It was here we boys found out that apples did not have to be red to be ripe. With apples and cider and helping her boys take care of the show horses they were feeding for a show exhibiting there, we boys were right in it!

This Mrs. Stafford has been dead many years, but has children and grandchildren still living there. It was here I saw my first log-heap, an old deadening of timber coming up to the very edge of town. Mother did some necessary baking and washing while here, and on Monday morning early we resumed our way, and in little more than a week we arrived at our destination, Grandfather Hildebrant's, where part of us wintered, the balance of us staying at Grandfather Miller's.

Grandfather Hildebrant had a large orchard at that time, and it was a fruit year more plentiful than at any place yet. Besides, he had a cider mill which was constantly in use. The last thing to be heard at night and the first in the morning was the creaking of the old cider mill. Here was work for us all, helping make cider, picking up and peeling apples to dry and to make apple butter. Picking and sorting winter apples was our every day's work until all were cared for. Grandfather's large brass and copper kettles were always full of apple butter or cider being boiled to make the apple butter. He always found a ready market for all the apple butter he could make--at fifty cents a gallon.

This was grandfather's principal occupation until cold weather set in, or the wild pigeons began to fly, when he would be watching and catching them. I have known him to keep some of these birds shut up in a corn crib for years, to have them for what he called "flyers and stool pigeons". The flyers were cast out from the bough-house, or place of secretion, after they were blinded by taking a stitch in the eyelids and drawing them together, to attract an approaching flock. They could only go as far as the place where the net was set, where it would play up and down the stool pigeon, whose eyes were also blinded. When rightly done, the flock would alight around it, and while busily engaged in picking up the corn, Grandfather would spring a large net, by means of a large cord or small rope, over them, scarcely one escaping.

But I find my scribbling has grown long enough, and if I have not entertained you profitably I hope it has been with pleasure. By the kindness of a Divine Providence I trust that we may meet to greet and enjoy each other's society and friendship in our annual reunions these many years. So, thanking you all, I will close.

July 30, 1902

C.C. Miller


In May of 1853 father sold out from where we'd lived for ten years, to a Pennsylvania Dutchman named Wohlfort. About three-fourths of the county was Dutch, so we might as well have lived in a foreign land.

Both father and mother had been in poor health, the farm ran down and would hardly support us. My brother Nathan was only three-and-a-half. Girls were counted of little value on those pioneer farms. Our land had been good, but we were only able to improve 20 acres of it. The rest was mostly brush and small trees, and the fences were very poor. I had begun to clear off a patch of trees, intending to put in a crop of corn with a sneller plow, when father sold the place, and we had to leave. He sold for about $1200 and it took half of that to pay off his debts. I was their oldest boy and only 14, and had been working hard--too hard. I had plowed twenty-five acres that year, as father had rheumatism. Father got discouraged and sold the place--an unwise move.

We moved into Uncle Ralph Hildebrant's house in Oneco then, since he had moved into the Oneco store, and we stayed there until the spring of 1854. This farm was about one-and-a-half miles on the road to Oneco. That summer I picked blackberries for fifty days to dry, to sell and for our own use. Also, I gathered nuts, cut and hauled wood, and did such farm work as I could.

My youngest sister, Mary Catherine ("Sis", as we called her) was born in that house March 15, 1854.

Some time in April we moved to Oneco, into a house owned by Uncle John Howe. The larger part was occupied by Uncle Ralph Hildebrant. Several buildings were on the premises, formerly used as tavern, store, and barn. We shared the house with him, and, as poor relations, found it hard. The business had gone to the railroad, and the town was dying. The most plentiful things I remember were the fleas.

Since we had a good yolk of oxen, Old Buck and Tom, we rented a place from Uncle George about a mile away, and we raised quite a crop of oats and corn. I put a collar and harness on old Tom and plowed the corn with him. The greater part of our oats fell during a storm, so I had to mow with a scythe, a very hard task for a 15 year old. Uncle George scolded us because we wasted so much.

About the middle of September, 1854, we moved to near Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Father had located 120 acres, four-and-a-half miles south east of town. It was all prairie and eight miles from any timber we could get, so father rented a double log cabin and sixty-five acres of plow land from Colonel Parkinson. We had quite a time moving the forty miles [from Oneco]; we had two loads. Than Walton took his buffaloes and helped us. We had eight or ten cattle, and as many hogs, that we tried to drive. I tired myself out so that I was sick, but we lost the pigs in the brush and had to leave them--for which we were very sorry. At about two in the afternoon on one trip it started to rain so we all stopped at a hotel. A woman named Aunt Ann paid me very fine attentions.

That fall, before I could go to school (which began September 22), I worked harder than at any other time in my life in the same length of time. I plowed forty acres of hard plowing, hauled wood, or rails, every day for six weeks, helped neighbors thresh so we could have straw for our cattle, and the other work necessary to everyday living. The weather was favorable, but the cabins were so open we needed a big load of wood every week to keep them warm.

This was prairie land with no timber and it made easier plowing. The next summer I put in 40 acres of corn. We raised a fair crop and were able to pay our $2.00 per acre rent quite easily, with enough left to keep us in some comfort. Father was not able to do much because of his rheumatism, and he had a very bad carbuncle on his back that laid him up for several weeks.

Water had to be hauled from half a mile away, which was a terrible chore, and the girls did that with Old Kate when I was not home. I got no schooling for two years, except that winter when I went to school for two months. The teacher, a man named Lacey, was a poor scholar and a worse teacher.

We stayed two winters in the Parkinson cabins. The second winter I went to school to a Mr. Bass. He was pretty good in mathematics, but otherwise a poor teacher. But I went through elementary algebra this term, also won several laurels at spelling school. There were about thirty scholars. Our schoolhouse was too cold to study in. Several froze their feet when they sat still too long.

The next spring, 1856, we moved into a little cabin belonging to Peter Lawrence, about a mile from our new place. We had twenty acres broken up and we tended that and fenced it, also quarried and hauled rocks for our new house, which we moved into when it was finished in December. Both my sisters, Jane and Ruth, were married on October 1st of that year [1856], at Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Jane married Levi Noble, a fine and pious Quaker such as she deserved. Ruth married Elijah Lieurance who, aside from a tendency to drink if allowed in town, was a kindly farmer. They had four girls and three boys. Two other couples were married at the same time.

The winter of 1856-1857 was a very hard one with snow over two feet deep. It was about the worst I ever saw, and at one time the crust was hard enough to bear up a man. But it would not hold up a deer, so a good many got caught and were killed with clubs. Our corn fodder (our only feed) was covered with snow, was a quarter of a mile away, and the snow had drifted around and over it some eight feet deep before the sleet came. We had to shovel it out, and carry it home on our backs nearly all winter--with the weather below zero nearly every day.

In 1857 feeling was becoming strong on the slavery question, especially among the Quakers. Run-away slaves found refuge and were passed on from farm house to farm house among these kindly folk until they could cross the border into Canada. Some of the Howes, however, being from Virginia, were southern sympathizers. Arguments were heated on Saturday nights at the tavern and store. Abe Lincoln's name was dear to most of us. Stephen Douglas was the "city man", but the "rail splitter" was one of ourselves. His homely stories were retold at every fireside; even the school boys either worshipped or poked fun at him.

Teaching school in winter and plowing with the oxen in spring, putting in corn, oats and wheat, harvesting from June 'till September--the years passedWar followed close on Lincoln's inauguration, and the able young men all went. No, not all, for the Quakers did not. I was 21 and drafted, though with Father rheumatic and crippled the farm work depended on me. My Quaker training prejudiced me against taking arms, especially with neighbors and cousins and uncles I loved on the opposite lines. The requirement for a substitute was to pay $225. That was a fortune then. I had never seen more than $10 at one time. But teaching school days and singing school at night, saving carefully, I managed a substitute. Hardly an able-bodied man remained behind. Quakers suffered active persecution for their beliefs. The nation seemed to be about to perish like the Kilkenny cats and the face of Lincoln reflected the sadness that lay on all our hearts. How we loved and set our hopes on Lincoln.

One day I came home from plowing, put on my one good suit, and went to the nearest center to enlist in Grant's Army. I was a commissary sergeant, having good knowledge of figures, and not wishing to bear arms and kill. I had to stand much criticism still--for wormy hardtack, etc.. Whenever possible I got flour from the grist mill, as on the farm, and set yeast bread, getting a darky woman to oversee the kneading and baking; though I often had to do it with my own hands. It was worthwhile to see how those boys enjoyed the real home flavor of fresh bread. The food was terrible, for we had no milk or canned foods, just salt pork, beans and porridge, often rain-soaked, stale or, even worse, cooked by men who knew nothing of cooking.

The darkies were bewildered as to whether they were free or not. To relieve the tediousness of camp some of us spent our evenings teaching groups of them to read the Bible. Since they were used to nothing but slavery it took months to learn even the alphabet.

In 1862, a letter was received from Mary Olney. She was sister to Henry, who was in the next bed to mine in the hospital (if one could call it that). We were laid out with army fever. Hen wasn't much at writing and the folks were pretty anxious about him. I got more than my share of letter-writing for the fellows, for this fever sure took the life out of us. We longed for home and clean beds. There was only one gawky boy to wait on twenty or thirty of us, and the food was not fit for a well man! One poor fellow got up, wandered out and ate a lot of "love apples" in a field. We thought he would die before morning, because they were supposed to be deadly poison. But a fill of tomatoes did the poor fellow good and he went back for more!

Mary Olney continued to write to Hen and me, and I sure didn't mind. In November of that year Lincoln was re-elected, of course. We were hopeful the war wouldn't go on much longer. It was terrible to see southern farms destroyed, and no men, or women, fit to work them. The darkies were like scared rabbits. The farms at home were neglected, too; it all seemed so useless. All the slaves could have been bought and given farms with the money the war cost. Then--WAR OVER AT LAST! We looked forward to soon being home.

Lincoln assassinated! I went with hundreds of others to see the funeral train stop at Oneco. Strong men wept like children as they crowded near the platform at every station. America never saw the like of this. We loved him; he was dearer than a brother to each of us men. The nation wept as one man. Well, perhaps not all.

Home again, and I was still weak and pale, heavily bearded, and traces of army fever stuck to me for the rest of my life. My stepmother did not welcome me home. [Mary How Hays died sometime between 1854 when Mary Catherine was born and 1860 when Amos Hays applied for a marriage license with Jane Reid, daughter of Lewis Reid (David's former schoolteacher) in Clinton County, Ohio. He married Jane in 1862 in Mineral Point.] All was changed and I left soon for Iowa [Cherokee County], where Henry Olney said homesteads were free and land was rich. Mary was there, whose letters had cheered the long months of fever. And when I saw her it didn't take long to get her consent to settle on a homestead--with a borrowed yoke of oxen, a cow, chickens (that was her dowry) and a sod cabin. [Married April 4, 1866] Not long after this my sister Ruth and her growing family settled on another like homestead; also two or three of the Olney family lived near. Corn and hogs grew well, and we even used corn for fuel.

Baby Paul was born, then Ruth. One night when I was away, I dreamed Ruth was dying. Hurrying home the following day, I found that it was true; she was already beyond help--dead! There were no churches, and no doctors within twenty miles. Neighbors did what they could to help in such times.

Mary had much of sickness those first years. But she was one to whom others came for help in their illnesses. I had to be preacher, undertaker, and comforter, while she was both friend and nurse (without pay) to the women all about us on the prairie. A homey church grew up that we both loved. I taught school winters in Cherokee County, Iowa and the boys and girls were almost as dear to me as my own.

It was 1883, and our boys were growing up. "Go West" had been the family motto from Virginia on. Now we were reading of California, about the fruit, the irrigation, and the sunshine. Iowa was no longer a frontier where there was need for "pioneers, neighbors, friends, pilgrims". Land was plentiful out west, cheap and new, and it called. Our former neighbors, the Prescotts and Pierces, were out in the San Joaquin Valley, prospering on raisin vineyards, and bragging about the climate.

We had an auction, sold the farm, stock, and furniture. And in September, 1883

we went to the train depot in Aunt Nerve's [Minerva Olney Sangwin] sleigh. On the way we stopped in Santa Rosa and San Francisco, then on to the Fresno area. There we bought, through Charles Pierce, twenty acres on a canal in Easton. We put up a two-story frame house, a barn, etc. and lived there until 1910, when Nathan and Emma married and took over the farm.

Judd and I helped build up the Northside Christian Church in Fresno as modernism was killing all spirituality in the larger churches. A nice meeting began in Clovis. In the days when Millerton was the county seat, Grandpa DeWitt and his lovely old wife had gone up and down the San Joaquin Valley for forty years, holding meetings in various little schoolhouse Sunday Schools. Clovis was one of the results.

There had been rousing camp meetings at Auberry Valley where every June we spent a jolly and friendly two weeks while we drank in the sermons and song, sitting on plank benches under the pines.

Paul was almost like a son to the DeWitts and they encouraged him to go to a Bible College in Texas. He stayed on there awhile, becoming a Bible teacher in Nashville, after marrying the niece of the school's president. Paul was a life-long student of the Word. It is not in colleges though, but in simple pioneering, such as the Quakers loved, that Truth is kept out of the ruts of mere creeds, the molten and graven images of our times.

David James Hays was born in Bureau County, Illinois on January 19, 1839, and died in Fresno County, California, December 4, 1914, of arteriosclerosis and angina pectoris. He is buried in Mt. View Cemetery.


We old folk live in memories

and through eternity,

whatever else shall vanish,

still liveth memory!


You who are heirs to this father's line

read carefully,

and see the wealth of simple things

like faith, and work, and honesty!

The Olney Side

Mother was an Olney, forceful, stern, taciturn, direct; yet underneath the hard shell was generosity and gentleness. She was a very "Seer" in quick understanding of any situation and the shouldering of any load. Neighbors were always at our back door unloading ludicrous things in her eager lap: a baby with a spasm, a drunk husband, an ailing pup or turkey, a problem child!

Mother listened for an hour without comment to John Rostick's mother. Then, pushing her churn aside, silently led the mother into the best bedroom where the two knelt and prayed, then came out becalmed and wiping their eyes on checked aprons. Johnny is 75 now, and teaches a Bible class regularly, speaking with vast respect of the every things he so flouted then. Old Miss Musaise (a Friend), looking 90 but never owning her age, would totter in to have her "rheumatics" rubbed. And Mother Skews usually came just in time for supper, eating six of mother's cream biscuits with ham and gravy, then belching furiously as she cried out, "Oh, me 'art, me 'art", as the gas pains struck her! Two things she adored--eating and singing revival hymns; and she never failed singing loudest at our meetings and being oftenest at our meal, so mother kept a strong chair at hand for her 230 pounds!

Mother's spare room was open for traveling preachers of every sect and the hard-ups of every description. In August of 1888 "Long" and "Shorty" (sailors) asked for a job picking grapes and stayed a month; we children sat entranced noons and evenings over their sea tales. They wore watch chains of heavy gold with tropical cut stones, and were generous with quarters. Mother rebuked them, and considered them spendthrifts. Long always remained for family worship. He and I spoke freely of those "big thoughts" of which I was so full. He called me "Little Sister", and the tears ran down his brown cheeks the day he tossed me up and told me good-bye. "I'll see you Up There", he whispered, then took the dusty road. I saw a tear in my mother's eyes and knew she was praying, for mother never stood long just idle.

Source:Joan Olsson

Return to Biography Index

Return to Home Page