TRAVELLERS OF THE THIRTIES
The difficulties which beset the traveller to St. Joseph county retarded settlement. Old letters in the possession of many of the early families tell of the hardships. A typical pen picture shows "a white haired patriach with head erect and firm step going steadily onward at the head of ox teams; stalwart sons and daughters undaunted by hardships guiding the ox teams; the younger children driving cattle or sheep or swine; and weary with the long tramp, trudged the pioneer mother, a child by the hand and a child in her arms."
Civic grandchildren of these women of the covered wagon days may well pay special tribute in this centennial year to the pioneer mothers. "They, who never faltered, though they walked with unsteady footsteps through purvation and suffering. If the fortitude of the pioneer fathers opened the way through the wilderness, the abiding faith, courage and endurance of the mothers, sustained the family after the seeelements were made."
People came to St. Joseph County by two great movements of immigration and the early population of the secton is therefore varied. Settlers of St. Joseph county came directly through Ohio and Indiana and, in less numbers, from Kentucky and Tennessee-a great many from Virginia and Pennsylvania. The French traders came from Detroit.
The Carey Mission established on the St. Joseph river in 1822-23, under the direction of Governor Cass, was the result of his expedition to this region in 1820. Rev. Isaac McCoy from Fort Wayne had charge of the mission and it drew many settlers into southwestern Michigan. "The mission, the prairies, the Chicago trail and water power were the combined influences which determined the first settlements and led the immigration along the "blazes." In 1827 at the first election held in White Pigeon, the county polled fourteen votes; four years later two hundred votes. Crawford county, Ohio, sent several families to the Grand Traverse and selected it as a most valuable mill site and in the next year opened a typical first store with codfish, a keg of tobacco and five barrels of whiskeky as stock in trade."
In 1829 St. Joseph county was organized and local government established on the township system.
In "The St. Joes" by B. C. Kedzie, published in Volume 28, of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Mr. Kedzie writes of his boyhood life in pioneer Michigan "nine miles from a lemon and twenty-five from post office, doctor, and civilization."
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
He describes the United States Land Office at Monroe, and the settlers and speculators who frequented it, and from memory pictures the movers, their families and household gods and goods, always going west and always asking directions for finding "St. Joe County." The Kedzies dubbed them the "St. Joes." A white covered wagon proclaimed their mission and destination. Twenty, forty a day the wagons filed past to the Canaan of the west. They were hardy, sober, honest. Rarely they travelled on Sunday, more rarely did they turn their faces east."
Mr. Kedzie tells of his home being over crowded with the St. Joes, sometimes forty would remain over night-dooryard, barnyard and lane were crowded. He tells of coming down the little Jacobs ladder one morning and noted four men lying side by side "packed as close as pickled herring," their heads resting on a bolster. "The four men, one after another, got up and stretched themselves into full wakefulness, and then the bolster got up and stretched into a man."
An article published in the Northwestern Journal, December 2, 1829, pictures the Ashael Savery, later the hero of the Chicago road: "Mr. Savary left this city last spring with his wife, two children, a hired man and a span of horses. He put up a block house on Pigeon prairie, fenced in a field of seventy-five acres and planted corn. He harvested a crop of three thousand bushels. He has paid the first cost of his land and expenses and has money in his pockets." With such glowing prospects were settlers urged to "at least try an exploring tour in the region of St. Joseph."
In the spring of 1829, with three yoke of oxen, and in company with the McInterfers, Abram and Molly Rickert came from Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and "took up" the land lying south of present site of Three Rivers, Abraham Rickert was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in 1782; married Mary M. Engle, 1810. They had seven children: Leonard, b. 1811; Catherine, Abraham Jr., Mary, Samuel, Jacob and Abner b. 1829 near Mottville.
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