From: The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois
By E. Duis
Published by Leader Pub. and Print. House, 1874
John H. S. Rhodes was born October 16, 1796, on George's Creek in
Maryland. His father, Ebenezer Rhodes, and his mother, Mary Starr, were
of English and German descent. When he was three years of age he moved
to Pennsylvania with his father's family, and at the age of nine years
he came to Ohio. Here he grew up to manhood, and in course of time was
married, as would naturally be expected. In 1823 all of the Rhodes
family came to Illinois. During the first winter of their arrival they
stayed in Sangamon County, and in April, 1824, came to Blooming Grove,
then called Keg Grove. There are two explanations of the change of name
to Blooming Grove; one is that its latter name was suggested by Mrs.
William Orendorff,and the other is that it was agreed to by
Orendorff and John Rhodes. It is very probable that both of these
explanations are correct, and indeed the evidence'in favor of either
cannot be disputed. Mr. Rhodes says that while he and Thomas Orendorff
were writing letters they asked each other what they should call the
place, and Mr. Orendorff, glancing at the maple trees, which were in
full bloom, said : "It looks blooming here, I think we will call it
Blooming Grove." It has kept the name ever since. Mr. Rhodes was very
poor when he came to Blooming Grove, indeed his worldly possessions
consisted at that time of almost nothing at all. The winter after he
came to the Grove he went to Sangamon County and husked corn for Hardy
Council and his brother-in-law, McClellan. He received his wages in
corn, and was allowed two and a half bushels per day for himself and
He husked corn until his wages amounted to a load and then
started home. When he arrived at Elkhart Grove he ground his corn at
the little horse mill belonging to Judge Latham, the Indian agent. He
crossed Salt Creek and the Kickapoo during the following day. As the
Kickapoo was high he took his load across in a canoe, took his wagon
across in pieces, and swain his horses over. It was very cold and they
were covered with a coating of ice. After going three miles he stopped
over night at the house of a man named Lantrus, and the following
morning started at day-break for home. After going about five miles he
was obliged to walk on account of the cold; but after a few miles
walking he found that the bottoms of his moccasins were worn off and
his bare feet were pressing the snow, for in the meantime a severe snow
storm had set in from the northwest. When he had gone half way home it
seemed that he must freeze to death. Then he thought of his wife and
children, who would starve for the want of the corn in his wagon ; and
the strong man began to cry. But the thought of his family nerved him,
and he hung on to the wagon, and his horses walked home. It was after
night when he arrived, and found his feet frozen to his ankles. He
immediately put them in a tub of water, while his wife took care of the
horses. For weeks afterwards his feet were all drawn up and he felt in
them a burning sensation as if a hot iron had passed over them.While he
had been gone every one at home had been industrious; even the dogs had
done their duty and killed fourteen wolves.
Mr. Rhodes has had many adventures while hunting. A few years after he
came to Blooming Grove, he went on a hunt to Old Town timber. There he
slept one night in a hollow log, and the next morning started a buck,
and shot it a little too far back to kill it. After following the. buck
some distance, he saw it standing and tossing his head up and down as
if in distress. Mr. Rhodes shot at the head, as the buck was not
standing sideways to him, and down it came. The hunter incautiously ran
up and struck the deer in the forehead with a tomahawk ; but the deer
sprang up and pitched Mr. Rhodes on the ground, and attempted to gore
him with its horns. Mr. Rhodes grasped the antlers, and they struck in
his stomach. The buck tried to draw back to come with force on the
prostrate hunter, but Mr. Rhodes held it fast. Then it lifted Mr.
Rhodes up on its antlers and tried to pitch him over its head, but the
hunter's shoulder struck on the neck 6f the deer. Then the buck
thrashed him around for nearly three-quarters of an hour and made a
noise like the bellowing of a bull. But at last it tired of the contest
and stopped to blow, with its tongue hanging out of its mouth. The
second time he stopped to blow, Mr. Rhodes grasped his butcher knife
and quickly cut the cords behind the deer's fore leg, and the next time
the buck made a lunge it came down on one knee. Then Mr. Rhodes, with
another stroke cut the cords of the remaining fore leg, and the buck
fell, and the hunter rolled off of the horns. He was so badly bruised
that he expected to die immediately, and was for a while in great pain
; but he recovered himself soon after and killed his deer. After this
contest he never approached his game without a loaded gun. The buck was
one -of great size, and when dressed his meat weighed nearly two
Mr. Rhodes' experience with the Indians has usually been pleasant. He
found them to be like their white brethren in many things; some were
honest and some were dishonest. There were large numbers of Kickapoos
wThen he first came, and afterwards a few hundred Delawares made their
appearance, and stayed until the commencement of the Black Hawk
The Indians were usually very playful and loved fun and practical
jokes. The old chief Machiua was a very cunning Indian and had some
strange peculiarities. He always denied selling the country to the
whites. John Ehodes told him that he did sell the country to the
whites, and that Boss Stony (the President) had it on paper. Machiua
replied: "D—n quick putting black upon white."
"When what was called the Winnebago war was threatened, John Rhodes
called out the company of men of which he was captain and responded to
the call made by the Governor for troops; but the matter was soon
settled and the troops never took the field.
During the Black Hawk war, which occurred a few years afterwards in
1832, Major McClure and Captain Rhodes called out a company, of which
McClure was chosen captain and Rhodes first lieutenant. They marched to
Dixon where they arrived the evening before the fight at Stillmau's
Run. After the fight they moved with the rest of the army up to the
battleground and helped to bury the dead. From there his company went
to Indian Creek where the families of Davis, Hall and Pettigrew were
massacred. These they buried and John Rhodes himself carried out their
bodies. It seems that these people had been told of the coming of the
Indians; but Davis, who was a blacksmith and a man of great strength
and courage, refused to heed the warning. When the Indians came they
found him at a building at work and the families in the house. The
families were massacred almost without resistance, but Davis had his
gun with him and fought with desperation. He was found covered with a
hundred wounds and his gun was bent and twisted in every direction.
Shortly after the burial of these families the troops were discharged,
and the army was re-organized, and John Rhodes and the most of his
company came home.
In early days great attention was paid to military drill. At first a
company was organized under the militia law of the State, and Mr.
Rhodes was chosen captain; but afterwards the country became so well
settled that the company grew to a regiment, of which Merritt Covel
was- chosen colonel, Robert McClure was made major and A. Gridley,
adjutant. The regiment was obliged to drill five times a year, and
whoever failed to come to training was court-martialed. On these
occasions the colonel presided and in his absence the eldest captain,
which was John Rhodes.
Mr. Rhodes takes great pleasure in calling to mind the scenes of the
early settlement. He helped to build the first mill on his father's
place in 1825, with the grinding stones of nigger- heads. He has been a
great hunter and often killed deer and wolves where the court house
stands. While bringing up a lot of hogs from Sangamon County, he was
followed by a wild boar, lie shot the animal twice without killing it,
when it attacked him and he was obliged to climb a cherry tree to
escape. The wild hogs had once been tame, but had lost all the
qualities of domestic animals, and were as wild as if their swinish
ancestors had never known a pig-pen.
Mr. Rhodes was a natural hunter, and a sharp marksman and never felt'
the cold tremors or " buck ague " come over him when about to shoot. He
was a man of steady nerve, and when his finger pressed the trigger the
gun was covering the game. In his early youth he was a hunter. At one
time while living in Ohio, and only seventeen or eighteen years of age,
he was called to help kill a bear, which had been found not far away.
The dogs drove the bear into a swamp and brought him to bay, and when
Mr. Rhodes came up, the animal climbed a tree, the dogs hanging to him
until he was ten feet high. The bear's jaw was broken by a shot and he
came down when the dogs pitched into him. Mr. Rhodes joined in the
melee, and struck the bear in the forehead with a tomahawk. The weapon
stuck fast and the bear raked Rhodes' arm from the shoulder down. He
succeeded in loosening it and struck again, when it again stuck fast,
and he received another rake from the shoulder down. Then a hunter, who
was looking on, called out: "John, a little lower," and Mr. Rhodes
struck the bear just above the eyes, which killed it.
Unlike most hunters, Mr. Rhodes has acquired a great deal of property.
He has purchased in all about two thousand acres of land and has five
hundred acres under his own management.
John Rhodes is fully six feet in height and was formerly very straight
and muscular. Although he is now far advanced in years, his eyes have a
bright, expressive look when he is interested in anything. He is a good
business man, and has as much confidence in his ability to manage his
financial aft'airs as in his ability to kill a deer or run a wolf. He
appears younger than he is, and seems to be in the full possession of
all his faculties. It would appear that he has many years yet to live,
and his great vitality would even now bear him up under many hardships.
John Rhodes has been married three times, and has had thirteen
children, seven of whom are living. lie first married Mary Johnson, who
died December 15, 1845. Five children of this marriage are living. They
Cynthia Ann, wife of Benjamin Turnipseed, born July 28, 1819, lives at
the head of the Mackinaw.
Caroline Bellew, wife of William Bellew, was born February 6, 1823, and
lives at the head of the Mackinaw.
William J. Rhodes, born February 16, 1825, lives a mile east of his
Emily Brewster, wife of John Brewster, was born June 21, 1827, and
lives one mile south of her father's.
Aaron Pain Rhodes was born April 28, 1833, and lives one and a half
miles southeast of his father's, on the Leroy road.
John Rhodes married the second time to Mrs. Mary Ann Yazel, a widow,
and by this marriage has two living children. They are:
Samuel M. Rhodes, born September 16, 1850, and Cinderella Rhodes, born
August 15, 1852, live at home.
John Rhodes married, the last time, Mrs. Maria Ensminger, a widow, on
the 13th of March, 1863. They appear to take the world comfortably.
Mrs. Rhodes is a wide awake lady. She takes a great deal of interest in
the history of other days, and is one of the most agreeable of women.