Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2002 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

Surviving in the wild of Southern Illinois

For the past two weeks the memoirs of an early pioneer have appeared
here in serial columns. The Rev. Braxton Parrish tells of coming from
North Carolina to his arrival in Southern Illinois. Enroute he became a
bridegroom. We now take up his story of their settling in near Benton
in 1821. The entire neighborhood was invited to help them put up a

"We had six women and four men to help. The men kept up the corners and
the women lifted the logs up to them, and we did an admirable job. We
put the walls cabin fashion, weighted down the clapboard roof with
poles, cut openings for door and fireplace, all in one day. The next day
we moved into it, on the frozen earth among the chips and snow.

"We soon raised a wooden chimney daubed with mud, as high as the mantel
piece. We split trees and made puncheons for a floor, laid it down and
then we felt pretty comfortable. My wife says 'Now I can spin on this
floor,' and by the light of the fireplace, I took the cards and she the
wheel and we soon had three cuts of cotton yarn spun. We then had
prayer, and in that rude structure erected in the woods, surrounded by
howling wolves and panthers, we went to bed, slept soundly and were
supremely happy, such happiness as comes to but few of us in a lifetime.

"After this we built the chimney out with sticks and mud, and daubed the
cracks of the cabin. My wife carrying me all the mixed mud for that
purpose. While we were working it, it snowed so hard that I could
hardly see her to the clay hole. I wanted to quit, but she said no, and
we finished it that night. We made a door stuffer out of clapboard,
fastening them on with wooden pins, as nails were not to be had nearer
than 60 miles. We made our table out of slabs split from a walnut tree.
Our bedstead was nothing more than a platform made on forked sticks, and
all our furniture and utensils were of a like rude character, such as we
could make ourselves with the aid of an auger and an axe.

"And yet we had plenty to eat. The country was full of game, bear, deer,
turkey, as well as panthers, wolves and wildcats, and wild honey was
found in abundance. We could hear the wolves howling every night. The
first sow I ever owned was killed by a bear near my dooryard. I once
chased a bear over the very site of this town of Benton. This was, even
in that day, a fine country. Our cattle were fat winter and summer,
without any care of feeding them. In the winter the lowlands and bottoms
were covered with a grass we called 'winter grass,' which sustained our
stock in fine condition during the most rigorous weather. Pea vine,
grass and weeds were so thick we could trail a bear or horse all day.
There was no underbrush in the woods except now and then a little patch
which we called 'bear-roughs' where the fire had not reached.

"As I said, we had plenty of everything to eat, but how to get money was
the problem; we had none."

(Continued next week.)

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2 p.m.


Address letters to Genealogy, White County Historical Society, PO Box
121, Carmi, IL 62821.

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