Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 30

were looking for them to hang them. However, the affair did not go so far as to culminate in any such violence.

          The following Wednesday a sale was held of all our usual household and farm goods, and present on the occasion was our Aunt Fanny Johnson from Vandalia, Michigan, whose wagon we heaped up with many articles, among which I can yet see in my mind’s eye the old mahogany cradle in which most of us, if not all, had been rocked. She also took our old dog, Sport, now feeble from age, but we had a fine watch dog (Bull) given to us by Mr. John Bunbury, one of our near and best neighbors, and Bull was a valuable animal and as knowing as he was good. In that long trip he knew how to rest his tired and sore feet by climbing into one of the wagons and stealing a ride for miles at a time. We had six wagons, all covered with canvas in the style of the old emigrant wagons, and in them all our necessary articles for traveling. The wagons served also as sleeping quarters for the women while the men and boys slept under them with blankets, quilts and buffalo robes, or sometimes in barns and sheds when available, but not a house did we sleep in for eight weeks. A couple of sheet-iron and the rest of the cooking was done over the campfire.

          Our route lay through Northern Indiana, where a belated cold snap caught us near Valparaiso. Through Illinois we passed through Joliet, LaSalle, Ottawa, Galesburg, and on to the Mississippi River at Burlington. Through Illinois the roads were hub deep with mud owing to the spring rains and the thawing of the ground after the winter’s frost. The rivers were hight, and at Burlington we had to go five miles below the town to find a landing where the ferry boat could find a place to reach us to take us across the river. In Iowa both the weather and the roads were better, and after crossing the Iowa river at Farmington we found ourselves entering upon wide stretches of virgin prairie crossed by streams fringed with bands of timber of little density or extension on either side. Prairie chickens were abundant but no large game. We crossed the counties bordering on Missouri, and the principal towns we met with were the legal capitals of each county. There was much of a sameness about the scenery and the land seemed to be fertile and offered a fine opportunity for settlers. Yet we met with very few inhabitants and few travelers. Of the latter I remember but one family, who seemed to be only changing their location from Missouri to Iowa. They stopped with us one day as we halted for dinner at the side of the road. The mother of the family was very much interested in us, asking many questions and she was surprised to learn that we had come so far. Her geography was not very clear, for she asked if Michigan were not away across the ocean. We might have stopped and settled on sections of that fine soil but the land now was no temptation to my father; his destination was farther on - his thoughts were with his children.

          The way through Iowa was uneventful and rather monotonous. I have no recollection of being near any Catholic Church on Sundays except once when we came upon a little frame church in the country. Around the church were hitched the farmer’s teams, but the services must have been nearly over, so we did not stop. The womenfolks thought that the people would be coming out before they could put themselves in a presentable condition, and besides we were not sure if it was a Catholic church, but the plainness of the building and the prominence of the cross on its simple roof almost [t]old us it was.

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