Thursday, April 14, 2016

One Thousand Miles in a Covered Wagon, Part II

Not long after the Scots arrived in Washington County, New York, the “clouds of war” began to gather over the young nation. The young men, as they do in every generation, marched off to war. The War of Independence actually lasted a long time, the first battle being fought at Concord in April 1775. Fighting continued through 1782 and finally ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

When peace arrived and independence came, the community in Salem, New York, had found “a certain prosperity and comfort” on their little farms. Houses had been built, lands cleared, and roads constructed. Children had gone to college, like John Savage in our last Blog or Mary Dunlop who went to Princeton. The church was the center of life and schools were functioning, teaching grammar, philosophy, spelling, Latin and Virgil. Life was good. However, some worried about the future.

George Beveridge and his wife, Ann Hoy, had seven children and were comfortably living in their clapboard house. They were active in the life of the community and were members of the South Argyle United Presbyterian Church. They raised their children to be “God-fearing citizens.” However, the settlement in Washington County was no longer the land of opportunity for their children. Andrew Jackson, in their opinion, had ruined the banks and financial panics swept the country. The land around them was mostly occupied and available lands were expensive. “In this crisis they turned their thoughts to the new world beyond the Alleghenies.”

There undoubtedly was a lot of discussion and prayer about the future. It was Mrs. Beveridge who finally persuaded her husband to undertake the journey. So, this “middle-aged” father and his fourteen-year-old son, John L., began the preparations.

On an autumn day in 1838, they started the journey. A covered wagon pulled by two stout horses was loaded with their necessities, along with a stock of woolen cloth which would finance their expedition. Across the state of New York and the farming communities of Ohio and Indiana, they traveled toward their unknown destination. They rounded the end of Lake Michigan and came to a small settlement. Chicago wasn’t much in 1838. They had now traveled one thousand miles and had not found a home.

They continued west, leaving civilization as they knew it for the “broad stretches of the valley of the Mississippi.” They took the new road to the lead mines of Galena, passing through Dixon’s Ferry and finally came to a rolling prairie between the Fox and the Rock rivers. It was fertile ground. It was Indian country until 1832 and had not long been opened to settlement.

One October evening, George Beveridge and his son came to Somonauk Creek. On the north side stood a log cabin with the stage road running at its door. It was the first house built by a white man in De Kalb County and had often served as an inn for the stage coach. Before he slept that night, George Beveridge had traded his wagon, his horses, and the remaining stock of woolen goods for the log cabin and 400 acres of land occupied under squatters’ rights.

He stayed one entire year and in the autumn of 1839 returned to his home in Salem, New York. But, it was not until 1842 that final preparations for the move were completed. The farm had to be sold and decisions made as to what household effects and stock could be taken. Finally in May 1842 the family started for their new home on the prairies of Illinois. This time they used the canal and the Great Lakes making the journey in seventeen days.

In the party were Mr. and Mrs. Beveridge, and four unmarried children: James Hoy who was twenty-five, Thomas George, twenty-two, John Lourie, eighteen, and daughter Agnes who was thirteen. Isabel, an older daughter and her husband William French were also going. Jennett, the oldest child, had married James Henry and was left behind as was the second son, Andrew. He was entering Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to study for the ministry.

“There is something valiant, courageous, in the picture of this middle-aged pair, planning to break with all the traditions of life as they knew it, to leave their comfortable house and a lifetime’s associations to set out for a new country, a veritable wilderness to their eyes, and begin anew as pioneers at a time of life when they might have thought only of rest and surcease from labor.”

When they finally arrived at the Somonauk creek and their log cabin, George Beveridge found his wife weeping on the back porch.

To be continued...

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

NOTE: The Scottish American History Club will meet on Saturday, May 14, 2016. This is the second Saturday of May. It will be our annual birthday celebration. 

We will also have on display a wedding dress. When Mary Anne McCleery married John C. Beveridge on January 10, 1865 in Somonauk, Illinois, she wore this beautiful dress. Albert H. Beveridge of Augusta, Georgia, donated her dress to the museum. He is the great grandson of Mary Anne and John C. Beveridge.

Lauren Szady, who is the Museum Assistant at the Lombard Historical Society will be our guest and give some history of wedding dresses. Reservations are helpful so please call 708.447.5092 and plan to join us. The museum is open at 9 a.m. and the meeting begins at 10. 

In addition, the museum has been given some WWI medals and these will also be on display. The medals belonged to Charles Albert McCombe who was born in Glasgow and fought with the Arygll and Sutherland Highlanders. These were donated by Betty J. McCombe Cook who lives in Texas. We are hoping that family members who live in the Chicago area will also join us on Saturday, May 14.

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