by Bela Foster
Continuing . . .
1869 was a very wet year. It was so wet that scarcely anything except grass and weeds grew. Hardly a farmer raised more than one or two hundred bushels of corn. I remember that J. N. Barker worked the Deacon Woodward farm. He was to have half he raised and his board. He raised one load of corn. The boys sat pretty that year. They could go swimming every day if there was no work to do. The flies and mosquitos flourished as did the chinch bugs here last year. The horse fly is very voracious and is not particular about what animal supplies his meals. They hatch in the low lands and have eyes that are large and full of sight. They alight on an animal and when they are filled and they leave the blood flows for a few seconds. If the animal is not well blanketed it is covered red with blood spots before night. They did not bother by entering houses much. Mosquitos were the worst pests as they worked nights and cloudy days. In the evening we would build smudges something like your neighbor does with dry and green grass, on the windward side of the house, as we had no screens in those days. The flies were chased about with green branches and home made extirpators.
These pests multiplied almost any place that year. This year was followed by several years of malaria, starting that year. Some had chills every day, others every other day. The druggist could not supply the demand for quinine, which was used as a febrifuge. It is no wonder that people were sick and many died. The water they drank, the food they ate, the flies and mosquitoes preying on their system, was enough to bring these results. My sister, Martha and I were spared the suffering and therefore came in handy to help those who were sick.
A. M. Haling and others had made an agreement with the G. C. & S. Railway to give them the right of way if they would put a town on his land, the Beset half section. After some litigation the company put in a side track one half mile east of the present Fred Woodruff home. (Note: I have to get a plat for 1935ish, when Mr. Foster is writing these article.)
Mr. Haling put up an office and a large corn crib and bought corn and sold coal and flour. The company had also promised Alonzo Roberts, Van Stlenbert, Taylor John of Thawville and the people of Melvin, the same thing. When it looked as though the town would be at Beset, George H. Thompson and Doolittle erected a store building just north of Otto Bleich's house.
Notes: Otto Bleich is the father of Edwin Bleich per FAG. And Edwin Bleich is on the 1977 plat. And the side track would be located on what was Ray and Leonard Rock's property in 1977. Currently owned by John Zick Jr. per the 2016 plat. And in 2016 Chester Bleich would be the owner of the Edwin Bleich property. Chester died not too long ago; I posted the obit on the Roberts Illinois Facebook Group page.) So was the Thompson and Doolittle store building where the Bleich home is now standing, just over the tracks off of 54? And this was the store I believe that was moved from the Beset location, to Roberts, then to Thawville.
They also put up a temporary building on the east side of the road on the Haling property for a flax seed store house. They carried on the business for about one year, until the chances of a town at Beset was nil.
1871, Dr. Cassingham, then a young man saw the possibilities of a town in Lyman came here and had his office at Conger's who lived on the Tornowski farm on the hill a mile north of the Thompson store. He boarded at Conger's until his family came when he moved into the only residence in the new town which we named Bungtown. When the G. S. & C. began the erection of a depot on the Roberts land the hopes of a town at Beset waned. Bungtown was moved to the site of Roberts. Thompson's store was moved to Roberts and anchored a little north of where the hotel is now. Dr. Cassingham occupied it for a year or two and later it was put on skids and moved to Thawville. It stands on the south side of Thawville's main street yet but has been remodeled and changed in appearance.
James R Smith, of Kansas City , Missouri, writes Mr. Foster as follows: "I have been interested in the articles you have written in the Roberts Herald recently, giving a very interesting story of the early days, settlers and settlements of Lyman township and of Ford County."
"It is certainly splendid of you and the editor to give the readers of the Herald, such a plain and accurate account of those old times and conditions, which those first settlers passed through in helping to make Ford County what it is today."
"Many of the names and places mentioned by you were brought back very vividly to my memory, although it has been more than fifty years since I left Ford County, and many of those good old settlers have gone on again to another home. But those old sweet memories will always remain until time with us, also shall be not more. So far as I know, I believe my brother, David B. Smith and myself are the oldest living natives born of Lyman township. Both of us were born near the site of the old school on the Smith farm. Personally I thank you and the editor of the Robert Herald for the articles you have written."
--Roberts Herald. 17 April 1935.