In the 1930's George Cole (1852-1943) of Shelby wrote an interesting story about his life in West Creek Township and the Kankakee Valley. His story is quoted as written, with remarks and information added by the Old Timer.
His parents were Henry P. Cole (1820-1888) and Eliza Jane Cole (1829-1856). George Cole was listed in the 1909 Directory of Lake County as a drayman at Shelby and was named as an early settler in the Kankakee Valley by Pat Tilton of Shelby, who wrote the 1976 Shelby History-News.
In 1935 George Cole wrote: "I was born Oct. 3,1852, over in West Creek Township on the farm which Henry Baughman now owns. [Several years later] on the 25th of August, my baby sister died, and that set my mother back in health. [The little sister was Mary L. Cole, six months old.] When my father came back from burying her, mother said, 'Did you leave room for me 'side of the baby ? I won't be with you much longer.' And she didn't live much longer, as she died that night." [His mother was Eliza Jane Cole, who died at the age of 27.]
"Dr. Pettibone of Crown Point was the closest doctor in those days, and he couldn't come oftener than once a week, as he took care of a large territory going all the way to Valparaiso, Deep River, Woods Mill, and a patient didn't have much chance in those days, when they had to wait a week for a doctor. I wasn't five years old when my mother died.
"In those days, it took five weeks before my mother's sister in England would know that my mother had died. There was no post office near then, and Cal McCanahan, of the Wheeler family, whose wife was a sister to Mrs. Burnham, would come on Friday with the mail. He went as far east as Valparaiso and all around thru that country, and then back to Crown Point and from there down to West Creek.
"Later on my father married another woman. She was a good stepmother, and made us an agreeable home. In 1872 my first stepmother died, and then my father married my second stepmother. At that time we were living near Lowell on the farm where Mrs. John Nolan now lives." [on Cline Ave., between State Rd. and Belshaw Rd.]
"We hauled stones from all over and put up a building and pump. We did not own the land, and the man who owned it sold the mortgage to Jabez Clark [1837 Lowell pioneer] and later to Duane Harris, father of Mrs. Volney Foster.
"Then we had to leave everything behind. Andrew Moore, father and I cut logs and put up a log house and ten days later we slept in the house. That house stood where Frank Haskell now lives." [on River Ridge east of Schneider, near the Wildwood subdivision]
"I made two trips over the marsh that day. Took the cattle down and hitched two teams to a wagon, and it was nine o'clock that night before I got there. It was quite a trip as the water in the marsh was raising, [and] Cedar Creek was flooded. Had to go past Tony Nomanson's old farm [south on Joe Martin Rd.] and east to Fuller Island [203rd Ave. near State Rd. 55] to get around the Cedar Creek water.
"In those West Creek times a peddler [sometimes called a "cracky wagon"] came around with groceries, and the outside of the wagon was filled with tin pans and kettles. He picked up eggs in exchange. He peddled whiskey, too.
"I remember one time when we were threshing at Johnathan Oster's, and Mr. William Kobelin and Oster were hauling grain to the granary, and as they hauled grain down they would bring two jugs of water back and leave with us to drink out of..
"This one time Mr. Kobelin happened to get this George Joehoe [could be Jarow]*, his sister was Mat Hoevet's wife, he came around with this peddler wagon to fill one of the jugs with whiskey. I took it and took a couple of good swallows before I knew what it was. That was the first time I was ever drunk in my life.
"There weren't any roads around here in those days. We got over the marsh in winter on the ice. It was about fifty-five years ago we hauled materials from Momence [Illinois]. We could haul from five to six hundred feet of lumber at a time. One time I was three days hauling fruit trees. Just a few families lived on River Ridge then, the Haskell's, Peter Thulen's and Thomas Flannigan. The Gale family lived farther north near Wheeler Island, as [did] also the Howard family. One of the Howard girls married McCusky. I was an old bachelor at that time and did not pay much attention to the girls. The Gales go out mostly across Worley Point [south of 205th Ave. near Joe Martin Rd., and a 1891 map of Lake County shows a village of "Gale"]. Sigler and Viant, who had opened a store at Lowell, furnished a team and brought groceries down as far as Fuller Island.
"Before I was married, I went to Momence to get salt. I drove one team and led another. Got down to Momence and went over to see the girl who was to be my wife. I told her to be ready to go back with me, and she said, 'Can't suit me any better.'
"She was working for lady by the name of Watson. I watered my horses and bought groceries, a barrel of flour, ten gallons of coal oil, a butter tub of sugar. Then I drove around and picked up my wife, and we drove back.
"One year in March we had lots of eggs, so I took an empty salt barrel and packed in bull rushes and then a layer of eggs and so on, until I had the barrel full. I was laughed at for shipping them to Chicago, but I got my money, seventeen cents a dozen.
"There was a steamboat on the Kankakee then, that hauled supplies from Momence. It was owned by Hamilton and Stratton. I had a saw mill then and bought wood and shipped it to Momence on that boat. Got about sixteen cords of wood on, and got five dollars a cord." [That steamer was the 'Morning Star' mentioned in an early column featuring the Ahlgrim Family of Shelby. Mr. Cole also mentioned another steamer, and said it had no name.] "It was more of a sporting boat, and hauled hunters.
"In 1876 and 1877 the 'Bluegrass Bridge' was built, they filled it in with dirt, hauled in with teams. They made it passable, but it was bumpy. My wife died just about that time, and left me with a little baby daughter, just a couple of weeks old. I had to take her to her grandmother's, and later went and got my first wife's sister, a Mrs. Luce, on the Sink place, she came over in the afternoon and ran cattle back, and the bridge went over, [because] running cattle over it upset it. I had been over it earlier, with a team."
[To be continued in the October column.]
* NOTE -- In the above story, George Cole speaks of Mat Hoevet's wife. Her maiden name was actually "Joho" rather than "Joehoe" or "Jarrow."
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