Reminiscences of Dr. S. E. Willing
Published in the Kendall County Record, April 25, 1888
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
To the editor: The receipt of you excellent and pretty paper with so many old and familiar names in it revives in my mind many events of earlier days. However, not the earliest. About forty-two years ago (1846) my father settled in Bristol, which was then a bright thriving little village. It was then honored by the youthful active labors of such men as Dr. Wheeler and Dr. McClelland, Mr. Lane, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Short. Judge Helms also lived there as well as others of note and sturdy influence. I
If I remember correctly the county capital had been recently removed from Yorkville to Oswego. Consequently, Yorkville was presenting a very discouraged looking aspect just then. But her time to rejoice came again. I suppose she has grown to be a beautiful little city.
The year of 1846 was a very fruitful year in most everything. Wild fruits were very abundant. Mr. Gillam, who owned a farm near town on the riverbank, had plenty of peaches. Most every boy in town knew it. That fall men were given every fifth bushel for husking corn. That would be good wages at present price for corn.
Ague was equally abundant. I should say that fully two-thirds of the people had ague or bilious fever at the same time. Doctors and drug stores flourished.
A daguerrian artist somehow got permission to set up his business within the sacred walls of the Baptist Church in Bristol. One morning found all his stock in trade "dumped" into the Blackberry (Creek.) A lawsuit and a church trial followed. What became of the zealous churchman, who did the mischief, I do not now remember. I only remember that he was exceedingly partial to cold water.
In the same church we had soon after an exhibition of the Morse telegraph invention. Which has now become a universal necessity to the greater part of the earth. Among the amusing illustrations of the evening was the old one now, of taking a half-dollar out of an electrified basin of water. Much of an amusing character was afforded for all present.
Those were the days of such men as "Long" John Wentworth. Z. Eastman and many others were laying the foundation of the great republic in the west.
These were giants in the land then, noble and faithful men. We were all alive as to human rights, especially for the freedom and emancipation of the African race in our own country. The Underground Railroad was doing a good business. Our prairie rang with songs of liberty and patriotism as we turned the virgin soil and gathered the bountiful harvests. How pleasant were "Those days when we were pioneers, fifty years ago. Signed: S. E. Willing, M.D.