Marshall County

Old Settlers of Marshall

L. P. Bates of Sparland, communicates the following sketch of Franklin W. Graves, to the Lacon Journal, who owned and occupied the ground upon which Sparland now stands 37 years ago; also of F. M. Bates. Both will be interesting to many of our old settlers who knew them in their day:

Franklin Ward Graves settled in what is now Sparland, in 1830. He was from Indiana, and came here because he thought it was a great wheat country. Mr. Graves and family lived here 16 years, and then started for California; because, as he believed, that was the best wheat country. Probably he thought he was going to a wheat country, but probably the frontiersman's life best suited his restless nature, and when his monopoly of the spontaneous production of the country was about to be disputed, he found this a poor wheat country. But hard was the fate of that ones happy family. Losing the way in attempting to find a nearer one, and overtaken by an early winter, among the Rocky mountains, several of the family, and many of the company perished of cold and hunger. So desperate was their condition that everything that could sustain life a moment was made use of, and even the horrid feast of human flesh was freely indulged. Whether any were sacrificed for the purpose, or whether the already dead sufficed, has always been in doubt, but the meat probably theory is, "That lots were cast, and the orgies of cannibalism consummated. Mr. Graves, Mrs. Graves, and a son-in-law and two children perished, the next after suffering more than death, obtained assistance from California and escaped. Mr. Graves and family were a true type of western early settlers. When they came here, and for two years after, the present town site of Sparland below the railroad, was the corn field of the Indians. They were on good terms with the natives, and after the Indians left any stranger or neighbor was always hospitably entertained. Their cabin stood very near where Mr. Cotton now lives, and one room was at once parlor, bedroom, kitchen, and to a considerable extent a grain warehouse. But there they lived from 1830 to 1846 and no healthier, happier, kinder family ever lived than they. In 1845 Mr. Graves sold near 500 acres for $1500, and whilst the trade was pending, he told the writer in confidence, that he was bound to sell if he only got congress price. But this was a fair price at that time. Another case of cheap land occurred with Richard Scholes of La Prairie township, about that time, or rather later. A gentleman from the east owning a beautiful quarter, came to look at the country; a winter storm came on, and being weather-bound, he pored over Mr. Scholes' library and offered Mr. Scholes the rare bargain of a splendid quarter of land for $100, and he would take a copy of Storms's works, which he had been reading, for a first payment, the balance on long time. The first could live without work. Game was plenty, deer and turkeys were numerous, honey in the woods was easy found, and of simple frugal habits, no over-taxing of the energies was required. But when enterprise took the load, struggles commenced and in the unaided contest with nature many a strong frame has been brought down. As an instance of the pioneer life, I will give a little history.

F. M. Bates came to Illinois in 1887, and possessing all the qualifications of a first class wrestler with nature, he went to work to make a farm. His claim of 160 acres must be fenced and plowed. He built a hut six feet by ten, door, chimney and window. He built in a ravine, 100 feet below the level, kept "bach" all winter, made rails, cut hard logs, carried his grub six miles on his shoulder, and in that long cold winter worked every day, and scarcely ever saw a human being, except on his visits to the settlement. Have men deteriorated, or where is the young man now that with a good education excellent business qualifications, that will shoulder his axe and with that alone carve out a fortune and a name?

Source: Marshall County Republican, Henry, Ill., 21 Nov 1867, page 1.
Contributed 2021 Oct 10 by Elizabeth Lachemann

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