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   On The Way To Herrick
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Imagine, if you will, that the year is about 1825; you are an ambitious, adventuresome young man living in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, or some other state in the East. You may have just taken a new wife, or you may still be unmarried. You may have fought for your country in the War of 1812 or one of the Indian Wars; and as your pay, you may have a piece of paper that says you can use it to buy land in that far-away place called the west.

You swallow that lump in your throat, bid goodbye to your family you may never see again and set out on your journey. As maps are almost unheard of, you have to depend on information that you can pick up as you move westward. Perhaps you get hooked up with a wagon train, either with your own wagon, if you are fortunate enough to have one, or help drive a wagon for someone else, such as a widow with several children. You may travel the National or Cumberland Road, which is really a wide trail from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. Or you may choose to go by river boat or raft down the Ohio to some point along the way where you may choose to leave the river and head cross country, very possibly on foot or with one or two pack animals. If you are traveling by land, and you come to a creek or river, you just hope your wagon is rather watertight because you must ford the watercourse and hope you don't lose any of your precious possessions in the crossing.

Along the way, you may decide the trip is just too much and you will stay in Indiana or Kentucky for a while before going on west. If you are still determined to go on, as you travel westward, you begin hearing that there are thousands of people in rather scattered settlements in the south part of Illinois with some groups of people located along the upper Mississippi River in the north part of Illinois.

When you reach Vandalia, you hear that there are some people living up along the Kaskaskia River in different places. You hear the story of how Guy Beck has found a very nice spot near a big spring where he is able to get plenty of water and near a large stream that has lots of fish in it. They say the area has a plentiful supply of wild animals such as deer, squirrels, and rabbits to eat, and also an abundant supply of raccoon, mink, otter, and other fur animals both for his own use and for swapping with the fur traders who travel through the area and with some of the Indians living there.

You decide to head north up the trail to the area where the Beck family is located. When you reach the area near the Beck family's home on what will be known 150 years later as the Berner and Stokes farms, you find that several families have settled in this area. You hear is said that John Depew filed the first official claim for land in January of 1821 in the area just north of what will later be known as Twin Churches. Other names your hear mentioned are those of James Bankston, William Nichols, and Guy Beck who also filed land claims later that same year. It is said that the Guy Beck family was the first to come in 1815 from Kentucky where both he and his wife were born. They are thought to be the first settlers in Fayette County. Guy is a blacksmith and can make most of the necessary tools. He and his father, Paul Beck, Sr., have just built the first grist mill on Big Spring Branch (Sec. 20, 8N, 2E) and have another mill and saw mill on a creek that is called Beck's creek in their honor. Other families living here are those of Silas Bankston, Jonathan Hill, Zadock Blankinship, Richard Thomasson, John Watwood, B. J. Wren, and father Berney Bone.

You find there has been a school since 1820 when Mosses Story started one in a small log house in the section just southeast of what will later be known as Twin Churches. There aren't very many pupils or teachers and even less money to pay a teacher.

The first marriage was that of Peyton Bankston and Ellen Thomasson, but no one is sure of the date of their marriage as calendars are not plentiful and not very necessary because many people are too busy learning to survive in their raw surroundings to have ever learned to read or write. Most people think the first baby born here was either the one in the Peyton Bankston family or the one in the Jonathan Hill family, but no one is really sure about it.

You may decide this would be a good place to live and start looking for a place to build a cabin, or you may prefer to go up north a little ways to a place called Cold Spring where you have heard that Charles Wakefield, Sr. moved in and settled in March of 1818, along with his wife and son Charles, Jr., their married sons, Simeon, John, and Enoch, and their families, and the family of their son-in-law, Ormsby Vanwinckle.

Having decided to check out the Cold Spring settlement, upon arriving there, you find the place gets its name from the very cold water which comes from a spring near the Wakefield houses, a place which will later be known as Horsman land. You hear that Charles Wakefield, Sr. has made his first official claim to land in what will later be known as Shelby County. Wakefield filed claim to eighty acres in Section 13, 10N, 2E, on July 19, 1821. Other families living near Cold Spring are the families of Thomas Pugh, John Walker, Lemuel Hawkins, Arthur Crocker, and the Widow Petties who came the same year as the Wakefields, all from St. Clair County near St. Louis, probably having come up the Mississippi River instead of over land. You also find that Simeon Wakefield has operated a mill since 1821.

There are several children and someone tells you that a teacher by the name of Moses Story started a school here in 1821 on the land near Ormsby Vanwinckle. The Story name sounds familiar, and you remember hearing that Story had started the first school in the Beck settlement in 1820.

You have been in the Beck settlement in Fayette County and the Cold Spring area in Shelby County, and you decide that someplace between these two settlements should be just the place for which you have been searching. A vast area stretches before you. You can have any place you want for $1.25 an acre! Where will you choose?

Just as the earlier settlers did, you are hunting for just the right spot. Much of the land is rather hilly and covered with trees, the areas being broken by numerous branches and streams. There are some areas of level land covered with prairie grass, but you would never consider building a cabin out in the open! You must have a spring to provide plenty of good water for your family and for possibly a cow or two. Also you must have a good supply of trees to cut down for logs with which to build your cabin and for rail fences to keep those cows from straying too far away and to keep them from getting into your garden area. When you find the right spot, you must hurry to build you cabin and grow or gather a food supply before winter comes.

The account which you have just read is quite possibly very similar to what actually did take place in the lives of those brave people who risked their all to find a new life in a new land. Accounts of those very early settlers are sketchy. Events which took place after 1825 are better documented since the court houses were in operation recording the land claims and all land transactions, probating the wills of those people who died and left material possessions to be divided among their heirs, and recording marriages, deaths, and some births as they took place. Census records also verify facts about lives of those early settlers.

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