From: The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois
By E. Duis
Published by Leader Pub. and Print. House, 1874
Jeremiah Rhodes, son of Rev. Ebenezer Rhodes, was born February 11,
1806, in Champaign County, Ohio. There he received his common school
education until he was eighteen years of age. School began there at
eight o'clock in the morning and was kept eight hours during the day.
He remembers the war of 1812 very clearly, though he was then very
young. His father was a corporal in the army during that exciting
contest. In the fall of 1823 the Rhodes- family came to Illinois, to
Sangamon County. They had no very exciting adventures on their journey,
but when they arrived at their destination at Blooming Grove matters
became interesting enough. The Indians came for them and ordered them
away from the country. Mr. Rhodes, sen., was out in the woods making
rails, when a party of Indians came to his house and sent one of their
number to bring him in. Old Machina, the chief, then told Mr. Rhodes
not to make corn there, but to go back to the other side of the
Sangamon River. The chief declared he had never signed any treaty
ceding the land to the whites, and that white men should not settle
there. The facts relating to the treaty were, that Old Machina was sick
at the time, but sent his son to treat with the whites, and the son
signed the articles. When the Indian agent told Machina of this he
acknowledged its truth, but said: "My heart did not go with it." Old
Machina threatened to burn the houses of the settlers, but at last
allowed Mr. Rhodes' family to remain until fall to gather their crops.
Mr. Rhodes' recollection of the Indians is pretty clear. lie remembers
one time when the whole tribe of the Kickapoos went on a spree or
drunken dance. They used up twenty gallons of whisky, and invited in
their Pottawotamie friends. On this grand occasion one of the Indians
showed that he had learned a beautiful lesson from civilization, for
while drunk he beat his wife over the head with a whisky bottle. At the
great dance, about six or eight Indians formed in twos and jumped
around flat-footed, with tinkling bells attached to their ankles. Old
Machina had a gourd with stones in it, and these he shook up and down
to keep time. Another musical instrument was formed from a ten gallon
keg with a deer skin drawn tightly over one end. This was carried on
the back of a half-grown papoose, and was beaten with a stick. The
dancers had their bodies painted black, but over their breasts was
painted in white a pair of hands and arms crossed. Outside of the
circle of dancers an Indian held up a stick cut in the shape of a gun.
The stick was pointed upwards, and was supposed to be an emblem of
peace. Another Indian held up a tomahawk, with his hand close to the
blade, but what this meant is not easy to be seen. The Indians received
a little assistance in their performance by old John Dawson, who danced
and sang with them. They were willing to allow his dancing, but stopped
his singing, as it spoiled the exquisite music of the gourd full of
rocks and the keg. The Indians kept time by repeating monotonously the
words : "Hu way," "hu way," &c., and the squaws, who were
gathered in a circle around the dancers, looked on admiringly.
The Indians were very superstitious, and their ideas sometimes took
queer shapes. At one time a squaw died from some sickness, which
brought on the lockjaw, and as she was drawing her last breath an
Indian went out and fired his gun in the air to send her spirit up to
heaven. The Indians believed in witchcraft. An old squaw was once
accused of bewitching a child, which was sick, and it was said that she
held communication with an Indian at Fort George, four hundred miles
distant, and that they flew to each other as fast as a chicken, and
held consultation as to how many people they were able to kill.
The Indians were very revengeful, and their quarrels nearly always
resulted fatally. They sometimes practiced the duello to settle their
difficulties. Mr. Rhodes remembers two Indians who fought a duel on the
banks of the Illinois River. One of them was a Kickapoo and the other a
Pottawotamie. One fought with a tomahawk and the other with a butcher
knife ; the one with the butcher knife was successful.
The Indians wished very much to prevent the settlement of the country
by frightening off the whites, and succeeded in scaring away three
families, who had settled on the Mackinaw, by firing guns and
brandishing butcher knives. They threatened to kill Mrs. Benson's
cattle and pigs if she went to her husband who lived at Blooming Grove,
thirty miles away. But the brave woman replied to the threat by holding
up one of her children and saying : "And my papooses too ?" "No,"
replied the chief, Machina, "I would go to damnation if I should do
The Indians traded with the settlers giving them beeswax and moccasins
in return for corn. In the fall of the year when they made preparations
to move into winter quarters, they frequently buried their corn to keep
it during the winter.
The Indians had occasionally some curiosity to hear the preaching of
the gospel, and to learn something of the God of rhe white man. At one
time the Kickapoos went so far as to hold a meeting, and have an
interpreter to tell them what the preacher said.
Among the various devices for grinding wheat and corn was the mill with
grinding stones cut from nigger heads on the prairie. After the wheat
was ground, the flour was separated from the bran by sifting in a box
with a bottom of two cloths, through which the flour passed. Mr.
Rhodes' father built one of these mills, which served the neighborhood
for three years. The nearest mill besides this one was forty-five miles
distant. It is not easy for us to appreciate the difficulties, which
sprang from the absence of the common conveniences of life. The
settlers were obliged to go to the Sangamon River to get their plough
irons sharpened, a distance of fifty miles.
The old settlers being liable to all the ills that flesh is heir to
occasionally stood in need of the attentions of the doctor or the
surgeon. They could get along very well so far as the doctor was
concerned, but the surgeon's skill was not easily obtained. Mr. Rhodes'
younger brother was so unfortunate as to break his leg, and old John
Dawson attended him and set the limb. The patient recovered, but his
leg was always crooked.
The West was formerly subject to occasional whirlwinds and hurricanes,
but it does not seem to have been visited by them of late years. A
terrible hurricane passed through Blooming Grove and tore down many
forest trees. Still another passed through in 1859, and was strong
enough to pick up a mule out of a pasture and carry it over two fences.
The Rhodes family tell some curious things of the memorable change in
the weather, which occurred in December, 1836. After being warm and
rainy it turned so suddenly cold that the geese and chickens froze fast
in the slush of snow and water. When they became frozen fast, they
squalled as they always do when caught. Mrs. Rhodes thawed them out
with warm water. Some of the chickens had their bills frozen full of
ice. When the sudden change took place and the wind came, the cattle
ran bawling for the timber and were not seen again for three days. Mr.
Rhodes has been a thrifty farmer, but his trade was that of a
chairmaker. He built the substantial dwelling where he now lives, with
the assistance of his eldest son.
Mr. Rhodes now feels the effects of age, though he enjoys a Mr degree
of health. He is about five feet and eleven inches in height. His hair
was once dark, but is now sprinkled with gray. His eyes are dark, but
have a mild, honest expression, and he is a kind-hearted, pleasant old
Mr. Rhodes was married March 26, 1835, to Mathurza Johnson. He has
raised ten children, five boys and five girls, and of these nine are