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Mother Nature Fought A Losing ...
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Mother Nature Fought A Losing ...
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Newspaper Date:

Newspaper Article: MOTHER NATURE FOUGHT A LOSING BATTLE AGAINST EARLY SETTLERS

Spare indeed are the authentic records of our earliest settlers. Some facts, however, have been preserved by the elder chroniclers and here and there in out-of-the-way places still linger a few traditions of the early settlement. It is known that the first year and the few succeeding ones at Atlas were bitter years. Nature had moved in a good many centuries before our settlers and was running things pretty much her own style and she did not propose to surrender without a struggle her ancient, solitary reign. She greeted the new-comers with her miasmas and malarias, her swamp fevers and ague chills, her wolves and catamounts and rattlesnakes; she sent her chill winter winds whistling through their rude cabins and then she scorched them with several weeks of quiet fire. In a thousand ways she suggested to her unbidden guests that they had best pack up and hustle back East. But our settlers were a hardy race. They hadn’t started on a circular tour. And when at last Dame Nature understood that they had come to stay “she changed from a snarl to a purr, from mother-in-law to mother as it were,” and took them into full partnership, yielding lavishly of her stores and the fruits of her marvelously fertile soils.

Although Indian tribes, some of them of high culture, had inhabited for ages the fertile valleys of what is now Pike county, their records being left in mounds and prehistoric village sites, it was not until near the outbreak of the 1812 war that any white men abided for any length of time within the county’s present borders, and those who did were at best but temporary habitants.

Temporary Settlers

The first to erect a habitation and clear a patch of ground for a crop appears to have been a family by the name of Harpole, who came over from the Missouri border shortly before the beginning of the 1812 war, but who, before they could plant a crop were compelled to return to Fort Wood (site of present Clarksville, according to Col. John Shaw) for protection from the Indians who had gone on the war path under Black Hawk.

In 1814 or 1815 Samuel Hardin Lewis and his family came over from Missouri and stopped for a while in what is now Pleasant Hill township. Col. John Shaw, Indian scout, saw them there early in 1815.

Others, as noted in another story, abided in the county for a time but did not at once become permanent settlers. It was not until 1820 that the first permanent white settlements were made within the borders of what is now Pike county. It was in that year that Christian community civilization first blazed its way into this then wilderness region.

They Came to Stay in 1820

It was in the year 1820 that Ebenezer Franklin and Daniel Shinn and the sons of Micah Ross came out of the east to found homes in this far country. Franklin had camped on what is now Franklin Prairie, below Milton, in 1819, returning the following spring with his family to the vicinity of what is now Atlas.

True, these men who came to this region from about the beginning of the 1812 war to the time of the Atlas settlement were not the first white men to set foot within what is now Pike county. The first white men who came to this region were possibly Father Marquette, LaSalle, Louis Jolliet, Tonti, Iberville and others, who, as history records, made the trips up and down our border rivers in the seventeenth century. French and half-breed traders, trappers and coureurs-de-bois occasionally crossed our beautiful prairies and camped in the edge of our woodlands, but none lingered long within our borders. At night they pitched their tents and surrounded only by the wilderness with its denizens and roving red men, they rested their weary bodies until daybreak and then passed on.

Half-Breed Lived in Flint

The first to pause within the present limits of Pike county and remain for a long period of time was a French-Canadian trapper and hunter by the name of Tibault (the Jean B. Tebo of the early records). This half-breed is known to have occupied a rude hut on the Illinois river on what is now section 33, Flint township, as early as 1817. Tibault, however, can hardly lay claim to the title of “first settler”, inasmuch as he had no family, tilled no land and made no permanent abode. He was a half-wild creature who lived by his rifle and his traps. He was killed at Milton in 1844.

Wood and Keyes

Early in March 1820, before the coming of Franklin, Shinn or the Rosses, came John Wood and Willard Keyes to a location near modern New Canton, in present Pleasant Vale township. Wood and Keyes later figured in the founding and early settling of Quincy. They remained in what is now Pleasant Vale long enough to harvest three crops, in the period 1820-21.

A little later in March 1820 came Ebenezer Franklin to the vicinity of present Atlas. Some historians have regarded him as the first bona fide white settler in the county. He had undoubtedly been in the neighborhood of modern Milton in 1819 but he did not then establish a permanent settlement. After exploring the region of present Pike county in that year, he went back east for his family, returning again in March 1820, bringing his wife, son and three daughters and a man by the name of Israel Waters. Numerous of Franklin’s descendants still abide in the county. One of them is at present a candidate for the county superintendent of schools, Gilbert W. Franklin of Pearl.

Franklin Chose Atlas

Franklin stopped at a point about one-half mile east of the present site of Atlas and up Jockey Hollow. So far as known, his nearest neighbors for the first few weeks other than John Wood and Willard Keyes, were the half-breed, Tibault, on the Illinois river, and a man by the name of O’Neal who had come to what is now Point Precinct in Calhoun county in 1801 and who lived in a small cave which he had dug about a quarter-mile from the Mississippi river. O’Neal, despite the implications of his name, was a French trapper reputed to have come from the Evangeline country of Arcadia. He lived alone until his death in 1842. He was called “The Hermit” because of his reclusive habits.

Franklin had neither the tools nor the help to build a cabin for himself and family, so he was forced to pitch a tent, in which his family suffered terribly from the chill winds of early spring. The following May, assisted by a newcomer, Daniel Shinn, Franklin built himself a log cabin on the southeast quarter of section 22, about three-quarters of a mile from present Atlas and about 150 yards north of where the road has since run. Franklin at a later period lived for a time at Highland, south of Pittsfield, and it was to his home on Highland in early times, that settlers on or near the site of present Pittsfield went to vote in the elections. He died at Milton in 1878.

Shinn Family Arrives

In April, 1820, a month after the coming of Franklin, came Daniel Shinn and his wife, Mary, and their seven children, and a boy, then 6 years old, by the name of John Webb. The Shinns were natives of New Jersey but came here from Ohio. They brought with them the first wagon that ever rolled in Pike county. And now for the first time in the Pike county wilderness was heard the song and laughter of women and in the clearings the voices of little children at play.

Shinn took up from the government, of 160 acres of wild land on

(continued on page 4)

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