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This fete was usually supposed to be a strictly girls' affair; teachers went with us as chaperones, but somehow it always happened that bye and bye a few boys made their appearance, coming by very gayly on horseback, and stopping to see what was going on and finally making themselves quite useful, arranging and propelling swings, making bonfires, and even lending their horses to the girls who thought they would enjoy a little ride. On the whole we thought them quite good promotors of the fun. And so the day passed, full of enjoyment until time for us to go home, tired enough to sleep twelve hours, and wake in the morning to look forward to another May day.
A school of which I was quite fond was a singing school. I had, however, learned to read notes some time before this. It was held in the Congregational Sunday School room, fourteen or fifteen years old when I attended. It seemed that I was considered enough of a singer by this time to be invited to join the choir of our (Congregational) Church. It was quite a large choir. Besides the twenty or more singers we had a bass-viol, a cello, a violin, and a very active leader. I was asked to sing alto, principally because one was needed in that part more than anywhere else. So there were three of us altos. The principal one was Mrs. Keyes, wife of the pioneer. She knew how to sing, but she was past middle age, quite fleshy and could not sing fast even when necessary, rather to the annoyance of the rest of us, who were myself and a lad, the son of Judge Snow, and who had a really fine and well-trained voice. It was the custom for the congregation to turn around and "Face the music” when we sang, as the choir gallery was at the rear end of the church. Sometimes we had a really fine singer, who sang frequent solos. This was the Miss Ballard of the Mission Institute. But at all times I know we made a good deal of noise, and our leader was very proud of what he considered the result of his labors.
The first political campaign that I remember was when William Henry Harrison was presidential candidate. His admirers were very enthusiastic. The John Wood boys built a complete little log cabin mounted on wheels, and furnished it appropriately for the occasion. It was brilliantly lighted, and
drawn through the streets at night by oxen, Those who sat inside were served with hard cider and other appropriate refreshments, flags were flying bearing the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” and songs were sung. But as it sadly turned out, it was mostly “Tyler too" who was president.
Sometime during the 'forties my father and mother had visited Massachusetts, leaving my sister and myself with my aunt. While there they heard a good deal about the school that Mary Lyon had established, and from that time it was my father's aim to send me to it. I was much pleased with the idea, and did my best to be prepared to enter when I should be at the required age. I confess though, that it was rather difficult to study systematically with the miscellaneous curriculum of these differing schools and teachers as aids. I was accepted as a candidate for the school, and plans were made for me to leave Quincy early enough to permit of a term at an academy in Massachusetts, in order to assist my preparation.
As the time appointed for me to go was in 1850, that ends for about ten years my experience in Quincy.
By that time there had then been a great deal of grading done and side walks built, but the little city I was to leave, had no sewers, no public supply of water, no telegraph, nor telephone—no sewing machines, no furnaces in houses, no street cars.
However, I did not realize these deficiencies as drawbacks and thought Quincy quite a lively little town.
Well—in short as planned, in the spring of said year, in the care of a married man, friend of my parents, accompanied also by the mother of other friends, both of whom wished to go east at that time, we started. Of course, we had to take the boat for St. Louis first, stayed in that city over night to be ready for a boat, “The Mountaineer,” going up the Illinois. It came finally, and it took us as far as the stage of the water permitted, and then we boarded a canal boat that landed us in Chicago. We stopped there in a hotel that stood alone, looking out on a wide desolate sandy beach, the locality of which I have never since been able to locate, though in after years the entire beach became very familiar. The next "lap” of the journey was by boat, across Lake Michigan, and landing on the Michigan shore we met the first train of cars I
ever saw. On that we crossed the state to Detroit, and there embarked on another boat for Buffalo, where we could resume the journey to Albany and Massachusetts by rail. Traveling by rail was still for a number of years a very different proposition from the present. There were no dining cars, but trains stopped at certain stations for meals. Neither were there sleepers, and unless you preferred to take the chances of having a whole seat on which to curl up, you stopped off at some convenient point and went to a hotel, for the night.
The account of this journey is not for the purpose of nar. rating a personal experience but to show just how far modern improvements had by 1850 aided travelers. I must add, however, that it was every bit a week of delight for me, before we reached my destination.
When I made my first visit home I came by rail from Chicago to Joliet, or Peru, but as the Illinois was at that time at too low stage of water, for boats, travelers bound for Quincy obtained stage coach accommodations to the Mississippi, which made a very long, hot and dusty trip, bringing us to Oquawka, where with very poor accommodations we waited for a boat to take us the rest of the way.
After an absence of ten years, interrupted by visits of longer or shorter duration, I finally returned to stay. I then had a husband, and two little boys. I soon found a welcome place among former friends, as well as from those who to me had been, when I left, mature women, while I had been a young school girl to them.
As this narrative has now reached the period of the Civil War, which has been the theme of many able historians, I will only briefly mention my own insignificant part as one of the Quincy women, who did all they could for the care of our wounded soldiers. We, of course, needed much money to carry out our purposes, and for this end organized aid societies. "The Needle Pickets” gave dancing parties principally. The president was Mrs. Charles Morton, a brilliant woman, and niece-inlaw to the Tillsons. The other society was "The Sisters of the Good Samaritan," the president, Mrs. I. O. Woodruff, with Miss Christiana Tillson as treasurer, and myself as secretary.
& Mrs. Motron was the daughter of Archibald Williams a prominent lawyer of
Mrs. John Wood, second, was affiliated with us, and was a valued helper. She had visited our soldiers' encampments and made herself acquainted with their needs and longings which otherwise we could never have so well realized.
We gave art exhibitions with portraits of historic characters, posed by the best available young people, and presented statuary also. I think I can honestly say that all these were a real success. We also gave concerts in costume, and finally organized a company to give “old Folks Concerts." We had a fine leader in Dr. Nichols, who in his handsome black velvet suit, knee breeches, ruffled shirt bosom and ruffles at the wrist, a wig with a long cue tied with black ribbon, and buckled shoes; -looked and acted the part to perfection. The rest of us also dressed in the best looking old fashioned costumes we could devise. We sang old fashioned sacred music, interspersed with songs such as "Blue Eyed Mary," "The Last Rose of Summer," and “John Anderson my Jo John” given by some one of the lady singers.
These concerts were so popular that we were invited to give then in four or five other towns. When we could go by river the steamboats gave us our fare, and if by rail we were similarly favored, and citizens in the different towns entertained us; so we did make a good deal of money, and there is no use in denying that, though the occasion was so sad we really had a very jolly time. Our societies were glad when the war was over to be able to erect a monument to our soldiers. It stands now on the top of the highest Indian mound in Woodland Cemetery.
Quincy should have the credit of being the second city in the west to organize a woman's literary club, Jacksonville, (Ill.), being the first, I believe. Mrs. M. B. Denman, a lady of culture and leisure, was the moving spirit. She soon obtained the cooperation of congenial friends and “Friends in Council” came into being. She furnished a room for the regular meetings. There happened to be a little one storey building on the grounds near her home, that had been Mr. Denman's office, but was no longer used by him, and this was prepared and devoted to the use of the club. I was so fortunate as to be invited to "join,” which I did with pleasure, so I can speak with confidence about this enterprise. There were a number of really fine
minds that assembled there, and very interesting programs were enjoyed.
News of our club reached even to Massachusetts, with the result that Mr. Alcott, father of the author of "Little Women," visited us. IIe was a sweet, placid and well-informed old gentleman, and we had several very interesting visits with him. Some sad changes occurred in the "Friends in Council," during my lengthy absences. Mrs. Denman died. The building occupied by the club had been deeded to it, so it was still the club's home, though the land on which it stood belonged to the homestead.
It frequently happened in new western towns that it would seem to a stranger that half of the people one met were related. It really was so to some extent in Quincy in the thirties and forties. Of course, when a marriage occurred between members of two families, the relatives of each were increased, and as similar occurrences were frequent, the result was a long chain of related families. Such a chain, perhaps the longests, embraced John and Robert Tillson, Charles and Edward Savage, the Godfreys, Wells, Smiths, Bennesons, Woodruffs, Kellers, Skinners, Lockwoods and Mortons. Another chain included the Messrs. Lorenzo and Henry Bull, the Bushnells, Keyes, Collins, Parkers, the Mcladons, Richardsons, Rutherfords, Arthurs, Weems, Palmers and others.
.But as years go by, families become scattered, relationships are more and more attenuated, till they perhaps become unrecognizable, unless, it occurs, as it did a few years ago in Springfield, when my friend Mrs. Shumway discovered that an aunt of hers and one of mine each married John and Robert Tillson, respectively, 70 or 80 years ago.
Other families have died, and the only reminders of them left are inscriptions on tablets in the Memorial Building of the Quincy Historical Society located in what was once the home of Governor John Wood described in this article, or on tombstones, or monuments, in Woodland Cemetery.
“Sic transit gloria Mundi."
Of marriages among old friends, one was that of John Tillson, Jr., and Ann Eliza Wood, daughter of John Wood the first. He died, and his family moved to some farther western town a few years later. John Wood, Jr., married Josephine Skinner, one of my intimate friends. She told me with much