Old Settlers' Tales by F.F. Crevecoeur

The people of Pleasant Valley had religious services at a very early day. Even before 1860 Missionary Knipe held services from time to time in the settlers' home. Such services were held in Hoover's and Eytchison's houses in this locality, and people from Vienna would attend them. Seats were made of boards placed around the room, and though the rooms were small, the accomodations seem to have been sufficient. The old folks still living who attended these services all say that they enjoyed them much more than they do those of the present, as a more religious or christian spirit seemed to obtain then than now, brought about, no doubt by the sparcity of the population and the pleasure incident to meeting one another, which did not happen so often then as now, when neighbors are near and plentiful.

People had to put up with inconveniences then, too, that are not thought of now. One lady says that when Sunday was approaching when service was to to [sic] be held, to prepare for it, she washed her dress and wore a gunny sack while it was drying.

Knox was also an early preacher to our pioneers, and was followed later by Woodard or Woodyard, Hurd, and J.Q. Buffington.

The Pleasant Valley school district (No. 16) was organized in 1863. School was taught a year earlier than the above date in Mr. Hoover's old house. Miss Mary Kane was the teacher. She was followed by Sarah Corbett, a sister to Rev. Murch, who next taught the school. In 1863 the old log school house was built near the southeast corner of Steve Eytchison's farm, and Lewis Hoover was the teacher. He was followed by Miss Harriet Grover (Mrs. Steele). When Mr. Hoover taught, his son's (Henry) wife attended, taking her little daughter, Laura, with her. He also had among his pupils Garrett's, Ledington's, Callaway's, Eytchison's, Grover's, Bellwood's, Wainscott's, and Taylor's children. There were some fifteen or twenty of them.

In 1860 aid was distributed among the destitute. This aid consisted of corn, beans, and other things, and was shipped in grain sacks with S.C. Pomeroy's name on them, as he was the general agent for aid distributed in Kansas. These sacks were afterward made up into pants, and when there was a gathering of men and boys they looked rather picturesque with "S.C. Pomeroy" showing in various parts of their attire.

The earliest records of the district have been lost, but in 1870 Hugh Sutherland was director, S.H. Taylor was clerk, and J.H. Heinstrong was treasurer. A Miss Rider taught the school that summer, and was the first teacher the writer went to after coming to Kansas. A man was engaged to teach a three months' term the following winter, for which he was to receive $50 per month. He had taught but two or three weeks when he had occasion to punish Mary Ann Taylor, but as he did it in a brutal manner he was discharged and another teacher hired. Mr. Coldren taught a four months' term tue [sic] following summer (1871), and that fall the new school house (frame) was built. Bonds to the amount of $1,200 were voted for that purpose. William Wilson did the carpenter work on the new house. Miss Jennie Hill taught the school in the summer of 1872. She opened the school each morning with devotions, requiring each scholar as he passed out each evening to about face and bow to the school, for which she was heartily disliked, and nothing gave some of the children so great pleasure as to be able to slip out at night unobserved by the teacher, without having made their bow. Yet, Miss Hill seemed to be the very exemplification of kindness, and she was engaged to teach the school again about ten years after she had taught her first there.

J.J. Hostutler was the next teacher. He taught the school during the winter of [sic] 1872-3, the summers of 1873 and 1874. The last day of the 1874 term he had a general dinner and picnic in the grove south of the cemetery, and parents turned out to enjoy a day of pleasure and recreation with their children. Of course, the customary exercises, such as speaking and singing, were rendered by the children. There happened a young man at the picnic who was selling a sort of liniment which he called Cherokee Indian medicine. At the noon hour he made the woods ring with claims as to the good qualities of his medicine, and contrived to sell some. While the exercises were going on in the afternoon he asked permission of Mr. Hostutler to address the children, which was granted, only he was to wait until the exercises should be over. Mr. Hostutler, at the close, made an address to the children and also to their parents. The medicine man was seated just behind him, awaiting his turnt to speak, when for some reason or other he quietly slipped away unperceived by the teacher, but the scholars had seen him leave and were keenly alive to the situation; so when Mr. Hostutler was through speaking he turned around to introduce the medicine man as the next speaker, when the children all broke out laughing. Mr. Hostutler says that he was so taken back when he saw his man had flown he hardly knew what to do or say.

Mr. Hostutler believed in the finer sentiments having influence on the minds of his pupils, even if they were raised in the backwoods, and during the summer termsof his school always had his desk supplied with bouquets of flowers, mostly wild ones, which the children would see were fresh every day. The writer never failed to bring him some, such as phlox roses, primroses, larkspurs, and many others as they came in bloom, and was dubbed his "Flower Boy" by the teacher.

Mr. Hostutler boarded at Hon. O.J. Grover's while teaching at Pleasant Valley. Mr. Grover was a member of the school board, and Mr. Hostutler mentioned furnishing the schools with pictures, as he thought they would have an elevating influence on his charges. Mr. Grover thought they would be of very little good, as he was sure they would soon be destroyed, but the teacher differed from him, and at his own expense sent for some, which were placed on the walls of the old school house, and now, more than 27 years later, the same pictures adorn the new one, which shows what care they received. Mr. Hostutler also believed music had charms to tame, not only savage breasts, but humans as well, and when he taught his first summer term of school here ordered a set of day-school singing books, which were in use all the time he taught here, and it must be believed that the investment was not lost on his scholars, as they hold him in fond remembrance for what he did for them. Neither did he think readin', writin' and rithmetic were all there was to an education, for in connection with the lessons in botany which occur in Wilson's fourth reader, which was in use in the school at that time, he had the children go out and gather different forms of plants, flowers and leaves, and explained their shape and the terms used by botanists in describing them. Mr. Coldren, when he taught, would elucidate in matters of natural history, which was also very interesting to young minds.

When Mr. Hostutler was teaching the winter term of school here a spelling contest was arranged between this school and the pupils of the Points school. The contest took place in the Pleasant Valley school, and each school put their best spellers to the test, some six or seven in each district, most of whom later became teachers. Prizes, consisting of a large framed picture and a map of the world was offered by Henry Regar. The school that spelled the other down was to have first choice of the prizes. In addition to the above prizes, Mr. Hostutler offered a framed picture, as a premium, to the one of his scholars who would be the last to be spelled down. The selection of some one to pronounce was let by lot and it fell to the Points school, who chose Frank Giles. He had a high-pitched voice, which made it difficult for those not used to hearing him to understand, and which bothered the Pleasant Valley scholars, who were not acquainted with him; so that it led to their defeat. Miss Addie Points, of the Points school, won the contest. She selected the picture as the prize won by her school and the map was given to the other.

After this contest, another trial was arranged for the same evening, and Steve Eytchison and Peerry Taylor were among the last to remain among the spellers, but they were finally spelled down also. Little Francina White, who was not considered an overly bright scholar, still held the floor, contrary to all expectation, and spelled both schools down in this trial, thus securing the prize offered by Mr. Hostutler. When she moved away from here, a few years later, she donated her premium to the school which was the scene of her victory. A year or two ago, when her parents visited in this locality, they had the pleasure of visiting the school and gazing on the picture won by their child. It gave them as great pleasure to see the same old picture adorning the walls of the new school house as they experienced the evening their daughter carried off the honors of the school some twenty-five years ago.

Mr. Hoover and Mr. Eytchison set out the first apple orchards in the valley. Their trees were got of Mr. Clippinger, of Centralia.

As tea and coffee were not always to be had, substitutes were resorted to. Tea would be made of strawberry leaves, red root (species of Ceanothus), and sycamore chips. For coffee they would use such things as roasted corn, wheat, rye, or barley, and sometimes oats; but the favority seems to have been corn meal made into a very stiff dough with sorghum, which was crumbled and then browned. Well, perhaps all these decoctions were as healthy as the more modern drinks, for Bright's disease and appendicitis were unknown to them.

The first settler on upper Mound creek (Rocky Scrabble) was a family by the name of Hollister, consisting of a husband, wife and five children. He was located on what is now the J.J. Lefebvre farm, and was living on the north end of the place in a board shanty. He was a man of some means, as he had about a hundred head of cattle. In 1867 he moved, with his family, to Rock creek, this county.

Joseph Pecheur, who was born in France, came to the United States in 1864, in the month of April. He settled at Louisville, Ohio, where he remained for two years and taught school. He then went to Illinois, where he stayed four months. He, then, in company with his cousin, Rene Trotman, and another man by the name of John Smisher, came to Neuchatel in the fall of 66. Soon after arriving, he homesteaded 80 acres of land now owned by the writer, and bought the house owned by Mr. Hollister, which he proceeded to move across the line onto his own farm. He had the house raised on a sort of wagon, and he evening he moved the house, while it was yet on the wagon, a terrific rain storm came up to which we will allude again further on, which scared Mr. Pecheur and Mr. Hollister and his family, who were still living in the house, half to death, as the wind blew in the windows, which were covered with boards, and drenched them all pretty thoroughly, while the ground outside was completely covered with water.

Mr. Hollister had been a burner of lime before he came to Kansas and showed Mr. Pecheur how to proceed to arrange a kiln. The first one Mr. Pecheur burned was in May or June of the year he moved onto his place, in 1867. As neither Mr. Hollister nor Mr. Pecheur were acquainted with the character of the Kansas stone, they built the arch of unsuitable material; so, soon after the fire was started, the arch broke in, necessitating the rebuilding of the kiln. Mr. Pecheur then secured the services of his neighbor, Casimir Stiennon to rebuild. Not having teams, they carried stones, for a new arch, from the hill east of the house to the kiln, which was near the house, in their arms. This time the burning proceeded to a happy conclusion without any further accidents. In 1869 he thought he would try burning a kiln of brick, as Jacob Young, who had newly arrived and had burned bricks in Illinois, thought it could be made a success. He, therefore, secured Mr. Young and his two sons to help, and they put up a kiln containing 86,000 bricks, which was a complete success. His cousin, Mr. Trotman, also helped on this kiln. The bricks sold for from $8 to $10 per thousand, and helped Mr. Pecheur quite a bit in securing a start. The chimney and fire-place in the writer's old house were built of these bricks, and after having been used 30 years, and the writer's new house was built, the old bricks were found to be almost as good as new, and most of them are doing service in the chimney in the new house. Mr. Pecheur burned another kiln of bricks in 1871, containing 35,000 bricks, and burned one or two kilns of lime each year for several years, burning about a dozen altogether. Mr. Pecheur's two daughters, Mary and Adeline, came from France in 1875. Mary died in Leavenworth a number of years ago, while Adeline (Mrs. Victor Lelievre) is living near Broderick. Mr. Trotman stayed here but a short while, when he returned to Ohio, then to France, and is at present in California.

Casimir Stiennon, a native of Belgium, his wife, Josephine, and his children, John, Mary, Joseph, and Sarah, came to Neuchatel in 1866 from Wisconsin, and stayed around there about a year, when he homesteaded 80 acres of land now belonging to Charles Doolittle. He built a two-room log house at the foot of the hill, just across the creek west from the Rocky Scrabble school house. At the back of the second room, which was between the first room and the hill, he had built a cave, so that his house was practically a lean-to against the hill; and when that storm occurred which was mentioned farther up, the water which flowed down the hill ran right into his house, and he and his family were in as pretty a plight as can be imagined.

His oldest son, George, was by a former wife, a Miss Gilson, sister to the Neuchatel Gilsons, and was a rather odd character. Like most of the pioneers, he was better versed in nature's handiworks than in the inventions and devices of men. On one occasion, while roaming along the creek north of his house, he saw a nice, little round piece of iron hidden on the bank of the creek, and proceeded to pick it up, but had no sooner done so when he found himself caught by a vise-like instrument, which turned out to be a steel-trap that had been placed there for mink by some settle living farther up. He managed to unfasten the chain, and carried the thing home just as it was, still hanging by his fingers, as he did not know how to release himself from its grip. His father then loosened it and explained how the thing worked. The trapper called a few days later and got his trap back. Another time, when he was about 15 years old, he was sent to Mr. Peyrouse's on an errand. It so happened that Mr. Peyrouse had a turkey gobbler, a bird John had never seen before. When he approached the house he was met by the gobbler, who wanted to form his acquaintance. John commenced looking about for a way to escape, and yelled for help. Mr. and Mrs. Peyrouse came to the door and tried to reassure him, and, watching his chance, he managed to run into the house. Mr. Peyrouse then told him that the creature was harmless, but he replied: "Don't you know such an animal can eat a man up?"

Mr. Stiennon had a piece of bottom land broken out by the writer's father in the fall of 1869, and as he did not know what to plant on the ground the next spring, and having plenty of water and muskmelon seed, he planted these and, and sucd [sic] a lot of melons we have never seen since. Wagon loads of them were hauled away, and yet it seemed there were no less in the patch. The writer's mother made a quantity of rather dark-colored molasses by boiling down the juice of the watermelon in a common iron pot.

Mr. Stienmon [sic] had also planted a piece of the ground to sorghum and borrowed a cane-mill and an old-fashioned evaporating pan and made a quantity of sorghum that year. The children ate a great quantity of the green cane, and Mr. Stienmon's [sic] youngest son (Joseph) was taken sick, which was ascribed to the cane, and died at 8 years of age. He was buried in a plain pine box made by Mr. Pecheur. His youngest daughter (Sarah) was rather unfortunate, also, for she was once bitten by a rattlesnake and another time had an arm broken by falling from a wagon on which she was trying to climb.

Mr. Stiennon built a bake oven of brick, some that Mr. Pecheur burnt, near the timber in front of his house, soon after Mr. Pecheur had burned his first kiln. This was raised on a stone foundation, and was about four or five feet square. It was built in the form of an arch, with an opening in front one foot square, through which to fire up and put the bread in, and a small opening at the rear, for a chimney. Brush wood was put in it and fired, and when the bricks had become heated sufficiently the fire and ashes were raked out and the bread was put in for an hour or more. Loaves as big around as a common dish pan were baked in it, to the number of four or six and were of very good quality when done.

Mr. Stiennon bought a couple of yearling colts about the year 1871, and they either strayed away or were stolen, for he never found them, which was a hard blow to him. He had a yoke of oxen, which he used to drive to town and mill, and they enjoyed playing tricks on him, as he was too lenient to punish them when they did wrong. On one occasion he started in a wagon with a load of eggs, in the spring of the year, for America City. He had to follow along the creek to the parallel, where the crossing was, and as he was driving near an inviting buffalo hole, the day being warm, the oxen concluded a bath would be just the thing, and so turned down into the water, upsetting the wagon with the eggs, breaking most of them. "The worst of it was," said Mr. Steinnon, [sic] "that my wife scolded me for letting the eggs be broken, while she allowed the children to break alot of them by rolling them on the floor as if they were marbles," for eggs were very cheap then, selling for 5 or 6 cents a dozen.

About 1874 he traded his oxen in part payment for a team of horses to Fred Bonjour, sr., and as they were wild, he did not dare to work them, so he really was worse off than when he had his oxen.

He had several children born on the homestead, Isaac, Naomi, Joseph, and Daniel. The daughter, Mary, though but 10 or 12 years of age, was capable of feats we doubt there is any girl living near here would be capable of accomplishing. When watermelons were so plentiful it was a nearly every day occurrence for her to go to the patch and bring home three melons as large as water buckets. She carried one under each arm and the third, which she was careful to gather with a long stem, she held in her teeth. On one occasion she, in company with brother, John, and the writer, went to Coal creek to gather walnuts. Each found about half a bushel of the nuts. On our way home each tried different schemes to secure part of the others nuts, and Mary proposed to crack a walnut with her teeth on condition that her brother and ourself should each give her a walnut for her trouble, to which we agreed, and she cracked the nut without any more ado than many people make to crack a hazelnut.

In the spring of 1875 Mr. Stiennon sold out to Charles Doolittle, giving his farm, team, three or four cows, several hogs, chickens, and farm implements for $1,000, and moved with his family to Oregon, where he is supposed to be still living, near Fairview.

Jacob Young, his wife, two sons (George and William), and a crippled daughter came here from Iowa and homesteaded the 80 acres of land which is the present home of Mr. Noble in the year 1869. Mr. Young was a Pennsylvanian by birth. The following winter he took a lot of sheep to feed belonging to Fred Bonjour, sr., and had the misfortune to lose a great many of them. George married Jane Ewing and William married Lucretia Ewing about the year 1873. George homesteaded 80 acres now occupied by Charles Doolittle, on which he built a small stone house, and lived there several years. Jacob Young's daughter, who was perfectly helpless from her birth and also of weak mind, died in the early 70's, at the age of 12 years. A son, Frank, was born to him on the homestead, as also another daughter, who, like her oldet [sic] sister, was a cripple. Mr. Young sold out in 1876, and moved to Blue Rapids, and from there to Wyandotte county. George went away about the same time, having sold his farm to Obed Ewing, and lived near Blaine a number of years. William is reported to have died in Riley county many years ago.

Noel Lefebvre, who, with his wife, Francoise, are natives of Belgium, came to this locality from Chicago, Ill., about the year 1867. He homesteaded 80 acres of land, now partly owned Reuben Kelly and partly by Mr. Atwater. He built a log house on the present site of Mr. Kelly's home. He brought two boys with him, Alexis and Noel, jr., and perhaps a third; Zachariah, Daniel, Mary, and Desiree were born on the homestead. Alexis and Zachariah died in the spring of 1877.

Like a good many others, Mr. Lefebvre was afraid of robbers. One night he heard someone holding a conference near his house, and he came to the conclusion someone was planning an attack on him; so he got up and went upstairs with his shogun to watch, removing some of the boards of the floor which were not nailed down, so he could have a good view of the door. He then had his wife light the lamp and be ready to open the door, while he pointed the gun at the opening. Soon the men, having seen the light, knocked for admittance. Mrs. Lefebvre had no sooner opened the door, when she yelled: "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" It turned out to be John Reboul and one or two of his sons, who were returning from Centralia, and who, before seeing the light, had been discussing the advisability of seeking admission to warm themselves.

Mr. Lefebvre and family are now residents of Greenwood county.

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