Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings

I laid in bed this morning breathing in the scent of freshly brewed coffee.  I love my husband!  Then my daughter made sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast.  We're doing the big Thanksgiving Dinner this evening.  The two of them are doing all the cooking... Roasted turkey, real mashed potatoes, candied yams, green beans and Jack's ever famous pecan pie.  Yum!  My daughter is adding a new pie this year, Chocolate Ricotta Hazelnut -- it looks amazing!  I am truly blessed in so many ways.... 

My great-great-great grandmother wrote a sketch that was published in Records of the Olden Time; or Fifty Years on the Prairies by Spencer Ellsworth.  You can download the entire book as a PDF here.  In reading it, I am always struck by how lucky we are today... and how blessed.

My maiden name was Hammett, and I was born in Warren county, Ky., six miles from Bowling Green, in 1812.  My father was a farmer, and likewise a blacksmith, cultivating a few acres of ground on which the necessary food for a numerous family was grown, together with the cotton for our clothing and tobacco for home consumption.  Money was scarce in those days, and with many mouths to fill we were early taught to work, and I remember when but ten years old of carding and spinning sufficient cotton to make half a yard of cloth.  It was my duty to attend to this department, and I early learned to plant and tend the cotton, to pick it when the time, and separate the seeds.  This was our summer labor, and the winter was devoted to carding, spinning, coloring, weaving and making up, leaving but little time for going to school.  My father had a numerous family, and was anxious to get where land was cheap and the boys couls each get a farm.  We heard much of Illinois; many of our neighbors went, and they sent back such glowing accounts that in the year I was twenty he started with his family.  We had two large wagons, five yokes of oxen, with sheep, horses and cows.  Myself and sister drove the sheep, my younger brothers drove the cattle and horses.  After a long but not eventful journey we reached the hoped-for land of promise and settled on the Senachwine creek, one mile north of Chillicothe, where the railroad now crosses.  Father and my brother-in-law immediately set about preparing for a crop, and succeeded in breaking, fencing and plowing sufficient for a few acres of corn.  A rough cabin was made out of rails, into which we moved until a larger and better one could be built.  We had been here but two weeks when all but father and mother were taken down with the ague.  Peoria, twenty-one miles distant, was the nearest place were either doctors or drugs abounded, and I thought I should surely die; but a good constitution pulled me through.  My attack of fever and ague lasted until "great snow storm."  On the 1st of February there came a heavy rain, carrying off the snow and creating a great flood.  The Senachwine overflowed its banks, and the back water from the river came up so rapidly that our stock was like to drown.  At ten o'clock at night my brother and sister waded out to the canoe and made their way through the driftwood to Brother John's, while the rest of us climbed on the beds to keep out of the water.  My father was not at home.  When he returned he entered the house in his canoe and took us off.  In the spring we made sugar, and the next summer succeeded in raising a very good crop of all kinds.  There was no mill in the country at that time, and our corn and wheat was ground on a hand mill made by my father, and the bran separated by a sieve.  My wedding cake was made from flour ground in this manner.  In the fall of 1831 I was married to S. B. McLaughlin.  We returned to Kentucky and lived there two years, but didn't get ahead much, and determined to return to Illinois.  We reached my father's with ten dollars in cash and a pair of ponies, gave five dollars to a Mr. Jones for a claim, and paid five dollars for dishes.  Our first labor was to build a cabon, after which we cleared ten acres and built a fence.  After the land was "logged" and the brush piled, my husband cut his foot and could do nothing, so the burning them up devolved on me.  Women of now-a-days, with a young babe and no "hired girl," if left in similar circumstances would have very likely sat down and cried, but I had no time for that, and so set to work and burned the log heaps and brush and hired the ground broken up and laid off, and then planted it, my husband being able to stand on one foot and assist some.  We raised a good crop, and have since been, on the whole, quite successful, for which I sincerely thank the Lord.  In course of time the cabin on the bottom gave place to a more convenient house on the place where we now live, and this in its turn has been replaced by one of more modern style, yet after all I think I found as much true enjoyment in the little cabin where we began housekeeping as I have since.  I have had thirteen children, nine of whom survive; seven are married, and I have fourteen grand-children. 
Rachel L. McLaughlin


  1. How lucky you are to have such a grand first-person account! I am just a tad envious (heehee!).....

  2. Believe me, I am well aware of how lucky I am to have found this!