This is an excerpt from the family history book I am writing. It includes the reprint of the article written by Edward Moss of the 1836 trip from Buffalo, New York to Belvidere, Illinois. By way of explanation, Edward Moss was my uncle, brother to my great, great, great grandmother Charlotte Sherwood (Moss) Kingsley [later Charlotte Lord after her second marriage]. I have included the opening paragraph from my book to "set the scene" so to speak. Sincerely, Melanie Smith McLean, VA
Introduction (excerpt from the family history book - narrative follows):
Calvin and Charlotte (Moss) Kingsley along with Calvin's children from his first marriage, young Dewitt and James and the new baby Charles Morton Kingsley, traveled from New York to Illinois in 1835/36. Charlotte may have been pregnant with Calvin, Jr. during some of this trip, as he was born not long after they settled in Belvidere, Illinois. It was an arduous trek full of hardships and challenges. The story of this journey was told by Charlotte's brother Edward Moss and is a fascinating first-hand account of the journey from New York, through Lake Erie, down Lake Huron, coming into Chicago and then to Belvidere, Illinois. Edward Moss, Charlotte and Calvin Kingsley and another Moss brother, Andrew Fuller (referred to as "AF" in the text), made the journey with their families. Edward was single at the time. He wrote this account fifty years later at the request of the Boone County Historical Society.
Half a Century - The Narration
(Written by Edward Moss, born 1815)
The suggestion has frequently been made that the publication of individual reminisces, relating to the settlement of this region, would beof some interest and possible value. It has been stated that while the general facts are embodied in our county history, yet many personal experiences not possible to place in a work of that character might be profitably narrated. As one of the old settlers I have been requested to contribute my share in the manner alluded to, and cheerfully comply. It is not claimed that any especially remarkable incidents are herewith recorded, but an endeavor will be made to convey some ideas of the primitive and arduous methods of pioneering, and the situation of Belvidere fifty years ago. I trust moreover that this narration will be followed by others from the early settlers, which will unquestionably furnish an interesting supplement to our more pretentious chronicle.
My home when a boy was in Washington County, eastern New York. In 1821, my father moved with his family westward to near Westfield, Chautaugua County, same state. I was then about six years of age and distinctly remember the journey, and that it was a long and tedious one of six weeks, being made with team and wagon. Our route was through Saratoga, Johnstown, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, all at that time places of quite moderate size. The country through which we traveled was heavily wooded, and the roads, as in all new and comparatively, wild regions poor. After a few years experience in Chautaugua, my father having a large family to provide for, and imbued with energy and love of adventure, and believing that the family might materially better their condition by another removal, began talking up the project. Although Horace Greeley had not then come before the public with his "Go west, young man!" yet the sons were looking in that direct and developing the thought on which "Go West" was founded. I realize that it would be somewhat difficult to impress on this generation the true condition of our country at that time. Now the railway, telegraph, telephone and daily newspapers are becoming accepted and ordinary facts and the facilities for obtaining information so abundant that none are really ignorant, if some be illiterate. But at that time only a part of these inventions and press facilities were available, and those to quite a limited extent.
In 1827, the New York and Erie Canal was completed and in use from Albany to Buffalo. A horse railway, three miles in length, from Buffalo to Black Rock, on the Niagara River, which I had seen, was in operation as also a short line of railway from Schenectady to Albany sixteen miles, built in 1832. Besides these I believe there were no other railroads in the country.
A few Chautaugua people had in 1835, traveled as far west as Illinois, and viewed its vast prairies, prepared by a Divine hand for man's occupation, and on their return home gave glowing accounts of the new country As the outcome of these observations Dr. John S.King, Nathaniel Crosby and some others had planned to form a company for building mills and staring a settlement in Illinois. Although my father did not at that time move west, his advice to his sons was to improve the first opportunity of inspecting that new land of promise. Calvin Kingsley, my brother-in-law, had been employed by the said company referred to as head mechanic and millwright, and when the positions of assistants were offered to my brother, A.F.Moss and myself, they were accepted and with some others, engaged as workmen, we went to Dunkirk, then an inconsiderable port on Lake Erie, fifty miles west of Buffalo. There the company chartered and loaded a sail vessel. Its commander was Captain John Vail. The freight consisted of cabinet furniture, window-sash, wagons, mill-irons, and gearing, with provisions and miscellaneous supplies.
We sailed out of Dunkirk, April 23, 1836. There were on board, besides those mentioned and the officer and crew, including several families, from twenty to twenty-five persons. I think ours was the first sail out that season. We called at all ports on the south shore of Lake Erie, and passed through St.Clair Flats on our way to Lake Huron. The passage through the Flats was a tedious one as the water was shallow and the true cannel was blind and entirely innocent of dredging. We frequently stuck in mud at which times the sailors were compelled to cast anchor some distance astern and while they worked at the windlass, the passengers pranced from one end of the ship to the other to work it off the mud in search of a deeper channel. It took us about a week to get through the Flats and up the St. Clair River, where we anchored at Fort Gratiot, on the American shore. After visiting two or three days a favoring wind sprang up and our vessel gallantly rode out into the blue water of Lake Huron. As the day advanced, the wind freshened and soon blew a gale. All the passengers excepting a few men who were needed to assist the crew, were driven below and the hatches battened down. The storm at length became so violent that the Captain ordered the vessel put about to seek a harbor. We finally reached in safety the port from which we had started in the early morning. In two or three days, the gale having subsided, we ventured out again. Then we once more headed westward and the breezes favoring, duly arrived at the island of Mackinac, and anchored under the guns of the Fort. Our voyage up Huron was devoid of special incident, except the passing through the fields of floating ice, considerable in extent. Fort Mackinac, in high northern latitude 46 degrees, was at that time a place of some note, being garrisoned by United States troops and equipped for war; and known, besides, as an Indian trading and supply agency, to which was attached a school and mission. The large island, with the fort on its summit, one hundred and fifty feet above the lake, its rocky prominence and verdure-covered sides presented a beautiful picture for the emigrating voyagers.
Remaining at the Straits three days, we resumed our voyage and called at Milwaukee, Southport (now Racine) and other ports on Lake Michigan, and on the 23rd of May entered the Chicago River, our seemingly intolerable sail ended, and as we went up the river to our dock, we passed old Fort Dearborn, located on the south bank of Chicago River near the lake. The soldiers as they paced their rounds were in full view, giving evidence of a military occupation not even then deemed a mere formality. Chicago at that time claimed to have a population of about 3,500 persons. It was scatted over quite an expanse of territory, and in rainy weather each street became a model mud hole.
C. Kingsley and family, A.F. Moss and others started immediately for the Kishwaukee Valley, seventy-five miles west. I remained in Chicago to put the furniture and window-sash together and prepare it for sale, for which purpose I obtained of a man named Taylor a shop on South Water Street. That work detained me until some time in July. When this work was off my hands, the Belvidere company sent some teams out in charge of four or five men. The wagons were loaded with mill gearing, salt and supplies for the settlement. And then, in company with the men, I commenced my first prairie journey. In our route we crossed the Fox River near Geneva, now the county seat of Kane County, also a point now named Genoa, where we remained the last night of our trip. As much rain had fallen with the previous few days the sloughs were full of water, and their bottoms soft as putty. The teams had not been well kept and were thin and worn, and our progress was therefore slow. We left the cabin where Genoa is situated at an early hour in the morning, got no dinner, passed through a heavy rain and thunder storm, and night overtook us with one wagon stalled. This we left in the mud and tried to push on, but had gone only a short distance when another team was sloughed. By this time, it was dark and as the men believed we were still a number of miles from our destination, it was decided to unhitch all the teams and let them run at will, and proceed on foot. The only defined trace was the Indian trail which we could only distinguish in the splash of our feet in the water and occasional flashes of lightening as we tramped along. On nearing the unbridged Kishwaukee, we saw a light shining from a cabin on the north bank of the river, a little below where Durham and Western's butter factory now stands.
It was now the middle of the night and this was our fourth day out from Chicago. It seemed like quite a venture, but the men said that if I, whom was the tallest, because the stream was much swollen, would go ahead they would follow. The hour was too late and I was too wearied, wet and hungry to parley long, so I assented and waded in with our clothes on. The water at the deepest part came up to my arm-pits, but Blatchford, who was much shorter than myself, found it up to his neck and timidly inquired, "Moss, is it much deeper out there?" at which there was a burst of laughter, and a forward march that soon landed us on the north shore in safety. Whitney went to Father Casell's about one miles above, on the present Lace farm; Blatchford, to his father's at the cabin and the rest of us were directed to the "Belvidere Hotel," a small frame house covered with puncheon, "rived slabs of timber nailed onto posts." We asked for shelter and a voice within replied that there was no room that we must go to the double log house. Away were therefore went, and after arousing the log house people were informed that they had not room, or food in the house, and that we must go to the "hotel." Well, as they had possession and it seemed useless to discuss the matter, back we went to the hotel. The distance was probably only about twenty rods, but it seemed much longer on that particular night. On rapping up the inmates of the hotel again, and giving them to understand that we had been without food since early morning, the voice of a woman was heard to say with considerable emphasis, "Do let the men in and don't keep them standing there all night" When inside it was discovered that nobody possessed a match, so one was procured from the double log-house, a light struck, and a view of the interior of the hotel afforded us.
The hotel consisted of one room on the ground floor, about sixteen feet square containing two beds; and a loft. The Landlady, Mrs. S. P.Doty, told us where to find a bowl of milk, and some bread, which was soon eaten - she did not get up, but directed us to climb up the pegs on this side of the room to the loft, where we would find some pieces of rag carpeting, the best the house could afford in the way of beds, except those already occupied. On reaching the upper floor we discovered three beds filled with men. I spread out a piece of carpet on the floor, laid my tired body, encased in the same thoroughly saturated suite of clothes in which I had emerged from the Kishwaukee, down upon it and endeavored to sleep. Thus passed my first night in Belvidere, and what was afterwards Boone county; for at that time this section of country was a part of Jo Daviess county, which extended on the west of the Mississippi River. The land was not surveyed until late in the fall of that year. When the morning came I was informed that my brother-in-law, C. Kingsley, who it will be remembered had preceded me, had located on the south side of the river, one mile west and I soon forded the stream again, near the present mill dam, and soon beheld familiar faces once more. The first building used for trade in Belvidere, was erected by Charles Goodhue, which was erected that season, was located near the last Cephas Gardner's residence, in which was sold the goods usually kept in a country store. No roads were laid out until late in that year, 1836, when the state road was established. That settled the place for a bridge over the Kishwaukee. Soon after, S.P. Doty moved his hotel to what became the southwest corner of State St. and Lincoln Ave. These fixed the points for the beginning of the new city.
The saw-mill was built and the mill-dam and race-way so far completed that the mill started up in October.. Two or three more buildings were begun in the little town that summer. It was then customary for traders in the southern part of this state and Indiana to dispatch large wagons, each dawn by eight or ten yoke of oxen and freighted with supplies, to the pioneer settlements in this region. After disposing of their provisions, the men would engage in breaking the prairies here and farther north. That first summer one of these teams passed through the settlement, having as part of its cargo barrels of flour. C. Kingsley, of our party managed to scare up twenty dollars to buy one barrel, and an agreeable addition to the regular fare was anticipated. Two or three days later some beautiful looking bread was prepared, of which all hands partook freely. It was not. long however, before those who had eaten of this bread were attacked by veritable and vigorous seasickness on land. An investigation followed, and it was found that the flour had been made from what was called "sick" wheat, a variety developing in Indiana, and that its effects were invariably the same, and wholly worthless. The late Oliver Hale also bought flour of the same parties with like results. Such wheat is now, I believe, unknown, but at that time it was occasionally found, and the Chicago papers warned the people to look out for it. As generally about two weeks elapsed before the current issues of these papers reached us, we were without this precious bit of information. As the peddlers of flour had been gone two or three days, it was thought useless to look for redress. At this time the charge for transporting each letter through the mails (there were no postage stamps), which was usually paid by the receiver, was twenty-five cents, the letter and envelope were one, secured by sealing wax or wafers.
The treasury of the Belvidere Mill Co. about that time exhibited distressing symptoms of emptiness, and its officers were unable to pay the arrears due the mechanics, consequently we were on the lookout for a new job and something to eat. About the first of November Mr. Kingsley moved his family and A.F.Moss and myself went to Rockford, under engagement to work on the first Rockford Hotel. Daniel H. Whitney of Belvidere, had the contract. C. Kingsley and family with whom myself and others boarded, lived in a puncheon shanty, without a floor, and open as a barn, until around the first of January, however when a better house was ready for us, into which we promptly moved.
About the first of March some difficulty arose about the contract, the supply of money was exhausted and the work on the hotel was therefore suspended without employment, and we returned to Belvidere were we had made claims. Immediately thereafter we commenced to improve our claims, and entered on what became our future homes and avocations - that of a farmer. Of the succeeding years it is perhaps not necessary for me to now refer. Their events, as connected with the growth of Boone County are generally known, and not particularly germane to the subject on hand. I trust that the patience of those who have perused the foregoing has not been entirely exhausted and that what I have narrated may have been of some interest to them.
submitted by Melanie Smith
©1999 Melanie Smith