JAMES P. McPHERSON FAMILY
AS SEEN IN THE DIARY ENTRIES
FROM JANUARY 1 THROUGH MARCH, 1856
In 1856, James P. McPherson turned 40 on 14 November, and Mary, 34 on 30 January. The family included six children, William, age 13; James, age 11; Jabez, age 9; Anne, age 6; and Elizabeth, age 4; and Mary Jane, age 1. The family still lived in the log cabin that James P. built in 1850, which by now was bulging with kids, and stuff, as well as an array of visitors. In addition to the family, McPherson's kin, Anne and Thomas Adamson arrived in late September. In January. Thomas went to Madison and to locate a place for he and his family. He returned to Springdale on Sunday, 6 January, to pack up their belongings. Then, on Thursday, 17 January, according to James P.'s diary, "Mrs. Adamson moved into Madison." Mary and James P. evidently accompanied or followed the Adamsons, as Mary was in Madison and they "bot. a new stove" on that same day.
HOME AND FAMILY LIFE
The New Year started off with James P. working on a coat for Billy and measuring John Beat for a vest. During January, he spent several days sewing for the boys and himself.
On the evening of the 1st, the McPherson's holiday dinner guests were Mrs. Cairncross and Mr. and Mrs. James Morrison. James P. then spent a few days fixing fence and chopping and hauling wood. In fact, whenever James P. was at home during January, February, and March, he was chopping and hauling firewood.
In January, he also had William Henderson build a closet for the family. In mid-February he borrowed Furman Housel's farming mill so that he could clean up his wheat. A few days later, he borrowed Cairncross's horses and took the wheat to Madison to have it milled to flour. Out of 20 bushels of grist (grain that has been separated from the chaff), he received 725 lbs of flour. He then returned flour that he had borrowed from Thomas McGregor and James Morrison.
In addition to chopping wood and splitting rails, McPherson also was at the Blacksmith shop with wagon and chain. He later fixed the hounds of the wagon the hounds (the hounds fastened the rear axle to the reach and the front axle to the wagon tongue).
With Anne Adamson living in Madison, Mary more frequently went to Madison, presumably to visit Anne. James P. also noted in his diary that John Edi's dog bit 11 year old Jim.
As usual, James P. spent Sundays at home with his family, receiving guests, and visiting friends and neighbors. He visited Alex and William Cairncross, Robert Craig, Samuel Lamont, Furman Housel, and William Henderson. Also the following came to visit the McPhersons during this first quarter of 1856: Alexander, William and Stewart Cairncross; James P. Beard; C. S. Wright; Mr. Cook; James Mahoney; John, Edi; H. Lewis; C. Lust; S. Wright; Chauncey Wakely; and Bernard Brink.
James P.'s correspondence was fairly light during this quarter. Only the letters to William Davidson and Thomas Adamson appeared to be personal correspondence, with the rest related to community and political activities.
25 January Posted letter to William Davidson
25 January Posted letter to Adam Mickle, Modina
25 January Posted letter to Land Office, Mineral Point
15 February Posted letter to Judge George Dow
22 February Posted letter to Thomas Adamson, containing two letter received for him
19 March 19 Received letter from J. W. Cook, by Peter Harper
COMMUNITY AND POLITICAL LIFE
On 7 January, James P. went to Madison, where he spent the entire week on "county business." Then on 15 January he was at the Poor House settling with Mr. Pickett (Mrs. Pickett passed away at the Poor House on ). The next day he went to Madison to sell County land in the town of Burk to Pat Carmody. James P. noted that Carmody was not prepared to buy the land. Later in the month, he paid $2 for T. Brady's fair to Wiota.
On 27 January, McPherson embarked upon an extended, and apparently unplanned for trek for the county. He left for Madison on Sunday evening, stopping at the Poor House for the night. Then he proceeded on to Madison, where he bought and paid for several bills of goods for the Poor House. The next day, he noted that Mr. Dow had not attended to the previous arrangements to accompany Mr. W. R. Taylor in escorting "the crazy girl" to the Illinois Hospital for the Insane. James P. then made arrangement for himself to accompany Mr. Taylor in this endeavor.
McPherson and Taylor left Madison with the "crazy girl" for Chicago. The weather was cold and
snowy and they were delayed and did not get
into Chicago until late in the evening. They left Chicago en
route to Springfield, Illinois, but were stopped between Gardner and
Dwight, Illinois, due to snow obstructing the way. The three
engines of the train tried to break through the snow, but to no
avail. The passengers were forced to stay in the train all
night, which was very uncomfortable. Sometime during the next
morning, sleds were brought from Dwight to transport the passengers
to somewhat warmer accommodations in Dwight. James P. rode down
in a sled with two ladies and the "crazy girl."
|Train in Winter Snow, near Jackson, WI|
He said that they were "almost froze when they reached the tavern." Because all of the rooms, as well as the floor space in the tavern, were taken by other folks, James P. and Taylor were housed overnight in Mr. Concle's upstairs, open and unheated garret room.
The next morning, “shivering and shaking,” James P. and Taylor found a thermometer which showed the temperature at "27 degrees below Zero." As the two men made their way to the tavern for breakfast, Taylor's ears and James P.'s foot "were froze." The train was finally brought to Dwight late in the day, but could go no further due an obstruction further down the line. The poor passengers were again obliged to spend another very cold and miserable night in the train cars.
Monday afternoon, about 2 p.m., after more than five days since leaving Chicago, the train was finally again on it's way to Springfield, Illinois. Taylor, James P., and the "crazy girl" then proceeded on to Jacksonville and the state hospital for the insane. They checked the girl into the hospital, and by 3:30 p.m., they were headed back towards Springfield and on their way home. They were only detained by snow for a few hours between Janesville and Madison. By Sunday, 10 February, two weeks after leaving on this unexpected trek, James P. arrived home -- although he did have to stop at the Poor house and pay Mr. Cook $50, presumable for caring for the Poor House.
During this trek, James P. did stop in Rockford, to inquire about his friend, William Davidson, only to find the Davidson had gone to Patterson, N.J. McPherson, also took a bit of time in Janesville to see Robert Brand, who was to be found well and prospering.
Two weeks later, McPherson was at Primrose where he met with "Mr. Hoyt, sick pauper." Then on 4 March, McPherson was again in Madison doing county business and "opened offers for building Poor House, which was awarded to J. and W. Vrormen. He finalized the contract and returned home on 7 March.
In addition to James P.'s positions in the county and at the Poor House, he was also quite busy with work related to being a Justice of the Peace: he was at Robert Craigs and Belleville drawing and taking acknowledgments of deeds; he issued Summons in the case of W. Brown vs. Wooley; he assisted Evor Thorson and Andrew Henderson in rescinding their contract for Sale of Land (evidently Evor found other ways to obtain his son's apprenticeship contract, or perhaps didn't need to have his son released from the apprenticeship); Drew deeds for Samuel Lamont and T.B. Miles. (Miles and McPherson appear to be speaking,at least in regard to this deed, but the easy friend ship of earlier days seems to be absent.)
McPherson was also visited by Chuancey Wakely in regard to an attachment case, Bryon vs. Wakely. McPherson obtained a non-suit on errors in process and service. He was later visited again by Mr. Wakely and Mr. Hough. Evidently, in the evening, "a mob took Mr. Wakely's horses from the custody of the Constable and drove them off." He then went to Madison with Mr. Wakely and upon their return went to the trial for second suit against Wakely. They settled without going to trial.
Apparently, Wakely was not the only person having problems with Philander Bryon, because on 12 March, McPherson was in Mt. Vernon taking evidence in case of B. Lewis, V.D.Spears, add S.H. Naffsinger against Philander Bryon. He was again in Mt. Vernon taking evidence on 13 March. Then on Saturday, 15 March there was a meeting at the school house about the Bryons. The community feeling about the Bryons had not lessened, as on the afternoon of 22 March, there was an "anti-Bryon Meeting at Mt. Vernon. Perhaps in the future, we will hear more from McPherson's diary about the suits and feelings against the Bryons.
McPherson also made out road petition for Stevenson; Drew a contract between J. Salamanson and Andrew Henderson; Drew a mortgage for A. Lust; was at the trial between Rider and Newhaven; and was at the town Board at Gilbert Olson's.
Springdale also got a new teacher. On 1 March, McPherson was visited by Mr. Fargo. Then on 10 of March, Fargo again visited, and the teacher was at McPherson's all night on 14 March. He then took the teacher, Mr. Barnes, to meet with James Morrison and Thomas McGregor.
All things considered, James P. McPherson had a very busy 1st quarter of 1856.
FOLKS MENTIONED IN OCTOBER-DECEMBER 1855 DIARY ENTRIES
M. S. Barnes, teacher
James P. Beard
Robert Brand, Janesville
A. Brown & wife
Alexander Cairncross & wife
William Cairncross & wife
Mrs. Cairncross, mother
J. W. Cook
George Dow, Judge
H. N. Fargo
L. P. Higge, Esq. (attorney)
Furman Housel & wife
Samuel Lamont & wife
James B. McPherson
Adam Mickel, Modina
Thomas B. Miles & wife
James Morrison & wife
W. R. Taylor
C. S. Wright, Cross Plains
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© Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications