Waiting for the Cold Spell to End

Photo of garden cart and plants

These are the seeds I started March 15. The biggest growers are the annuals, the centaurea, nicotiana, and tithonia. They toughen up well enough with temperatures in the fifties, but need an eye kept on them in case the wind blows too cold. Of perennials, I have rudbeckia, columbine, shasta daisy, lupine, achillea, foxglove, hollyhock, catmint, coreopsis, hibiscus. The slower-growing annuals are coleus, impatiens (the big ones flowering above were started from cuttings), larkspur, calendula, ageratum…and I just started the end of spring annuals, that could sprout sown directly; but, in the case of sunflower, are vulnerable to birds eating them, or need a good start to root well and bloom sooner: morning glory, marigold, and nasturtium.


Photo of Milkweed border

Along the side of the garage I have a stand of swamp milkweed (white-flowered) that grows every summer into a seasonal hedge. These plants get a lot of love from bees and wasps; so far, I haven’t seen monarchs. But, as every year, I want to tout the tithonia flower, which is very attractive to monarchs. That may be because the kind that migrate to Mexico are looking for a familiar haven along the way (tithonia is also called Mexican sunflower). When they go to seed in the late summer, goldfinches will feed on them too.


Photo of old yew bush

On my old property, I planted an acorn and grew a Chestnut oak about twenty or thirty feet tall at the time I left. I’d like to think it’s still there…maybe it isn’t. But owners can do what they need to with their own place. My garage was first hedged with yew, bushes grown a couple feet taller than me. If they were left alone, there’d be no moving up the side between my property and the neighbors’. I don’t myself like trimmed foundation bushes, so I cut them down, rather than try keeping them up—I couldn’t get the stumps, because my chainsaw is only a little battery-operated one. One yew, and I’m happy it did, if I can keep it small, came back and has a sort of Bristlecone pine vibe.


Photo of my grandfather and his brother

My grandfather (left), his brother (right). I don’t know who the skinny man in the center is.


Photo of my grandfather, his brother and mother

Same group, but with my great-grandmother in the middle.


Photo of my great grandmother

My great-grandmother Barker, 1960s, probably Mt. Vernon, Illinois



Be a Backyard Naturalist

If you’re having a down week…because you can’t go to work, or can’t go anyplace other than work, and it isn’t officially spring, try getting outdoors in any case. Find out what nature is gifting you with this year. Go online and hunt for the plants you can’t identify. If you’re feeling well, fresh air and exercise will keep you that way (fingers crossed), and keep your spirits up. Take a bag to a city or state park, and pick up trash. Take some photos. And observe the natural world in this interim between seasons.


Photo of crowns of two oaks


Here are the two crowns of my mighty oaks, which is why I’m still bagging up their humongous leaf fall, and finding ways to re-assimilate so much organic material into the environment.


Photo of bird feather


This feather is likely from a mourning dove. Notice the beautiful downy stuff at the bottom of the shaft.


Photo of piece of wood gnawed by squirrel


What’s left of an old landscape timber, having long since lost its weatherproofing. See how these curved spaces are cut out? That’s from squirrels (possibly chipmunks) gnawing to hone their teeth.


Photo of hole in tree trunk


Here the choicest real estate in the animal world of my yard. Last year red-bellied woodpeckers nested here first, then northern flickers, then through the winter, squirrels. The opening has gotten quite a bit bigger than originally. We’ll see who gets the house this spring.


Photo of cypress branches used to prevent washing


While doing such chores outside as I can, I clipped back the branches of a cypress shrub. Last time, I talked about the “wash” problem, with so much rain as opposed to wintertime snow. This is one way to improve sloped beds in your garden. Evergreen branch-ends are airy and won’t stop perennials from pushing up, but they’ll slow water running downhill.


Photo of daffodils in spring


Here’s another chore, when the foliage dies back. You can see I’ve got some good-sized stands of non-blooming daffodils, that need dividing and replanting.


Photo of tulips caged to protect from deer


I love tulips. When I was growing up, Sunday papers had little magazines, and the magazines always had ads at the back for Dutch tulips, showing fields with rows and rows of color. I don’t know, tulips’ optimum blooming life being short, whether that would be practical and affordable, but it was a little dream of mine to plant so many tulips, one day when I had a yard. Right now, I can hardly keep them safe from the deer (maybe strength in numbers would make a difference), but here’s a way to protect your vulnerable bulbs: cage-style hanging baskets turned upside down.


Photo of seeds started under lights


And here are this year’s seeds, just now started. Mostly, members of the Compositae family (daisies, black-eyed susans), the flowers deer hate most. I do keep my shelves in a bedroom, where the plants are warm and safe from the cats. It’s not that hard to avoid making a mess. Tip: if you spill dirt, leave it until it’s completely dry before you vacuum.


Photo of my grandmother in her rose bed


And here’s my grandmother (Vera Barker) in her rose garden, probably from the 1970s. This corner at the back of the bungalow was covered in broken concrete slabs, always a thing I liked playing stepping stones on. I suppose it kept the weeds off…I don’t know if concrete is good for roses. She never grew a lot of flowers, but always had opium poppies, salmon-colored. That might sound strange, but old farmstead gardens were planted with medicinal flowers and herbs, and Grandma kept up the tradition by saving the seeds.




Some New/Old Photos


My grandfather, Randall Barker, with my mother. I don’t know the location…it looks like a country church. And below, my great-grandmother Barker, an Illinois teenager in the 1890s, wearing the true prairie dress.


A Pension Letter and Retirement Accolades

My grandmother had only an eighth-grade education, and grew up on a farm. She and my grandfather were able to work at a variety of jobs, at the Mount Vernon shoe factory (Brown Co., I believe), eventually in the school system. Just to editorialize, let me raise the question of whether the changes in the workplace reflect a difference in the work force itself? Do “unskilled” people today get pushed farther to the margin, although they, like the generations before them, will learn how to do their jobs, on the job? We have certifications and diplomas, the lack of which shut people out, while the people themselves must be as intelligent and capable as ever. My grandparents saved, bought and paid off a house, saved more, and left a legacy that helped me pay off my student loans. Are today’s unskilled workers not shut out of the housing market, for the disproportionate cost by percentage of income?


A Veteran Seeks His Pension

My ancestor, Jacob Barker, petitioned the court three times, trying to win a pension, as under the law passed in 1832, he would have been entitled to. Effectively, the law was enacted fifty years after the end of the war (1783), limiting the number of pensioners; further, though Jacob received a disabling wound to his leg, he could not prove he’d served for six months altogether, another limitation of the law. He probably was not aware that the state of South Carolina had a record of his service. In the 1840s, neither the railroads nor the telegraph were in practical terms of use to the average person, so a records search in another state would also be too difficult and expensive to bear on a country court case.

This transcript, from my mother’s documents, is listed as R497, fn39SC, originally transcribed by Will Graves. I have added, for readability, more punctuation, and made a few corrections of terminology, people and place names.

State of Illinois, Hambleton [Hamilton] County: On this 27th day of November 1834, personally appeared in open Court before William Allen one of the County Commissioners of the County and State [the] aforesaid Jacob Barker, a resident of the County and State aforesaid aged seventy-one years, who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832.

That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officer and served herein as stated:


That in the year 1782, he was drafted for one month under the command of Major Lyles, he then living in South Carolina, Fairfield County, and that he rendezvoused at Colonel John Winn’s [in] Winnsboro, South Carolina. From there they marched to McCord’s Ferry on Broad [in] State of South Carolina, and they laid there something more than one month after which they were dismissed by Major Lyles to return home having served, including the time of marching to and from home a time of one month and some days. And that in the year 1782, he was again drafted for one month, commanded by Major Lyles and that he rendezvoused at Winnsboro, South Carolina; from there they marched, and that they were employed in ranging and scouting through the country in different directions after the Tories, etc., and that they were dismissed from this Tour by [word obliterated] on the Catawba River, South Carolina, a distance of sixty-five or seventy miles from home, having served one month and six days.

And in that same year of 1782 he was again drafted under Captain Bishop and Major Lyles and that they rendezvoused at Winnsboro, South Carolina, and that they were employed in ranging and scouting after the Tories on Little River, Broad River, Catawba River, and the Congaree, Colonel Winn having command of this tour and that they were dismissed on Broad River, South Carolina, near a place called Shyries [Shirers] Ferry, he then returned home having served one month and eight days—and that in the year 1782, he was again drafted under Major Lyles and Colonel Winn and that they were stationed at Colonel Winn’s South Carolina, Fairfield County, after remaining some time at Colonel Winn’s, they were employed in ranging and scouting through the country until their time was out; he then returned home having served one month and nine days, and that again in the year 1782, he was again called out under Lieutenant Lyles, commanded by Colonel David Hopkins, and that they joined General Green [Nathanael Greene], near the Congaree; from there they marched to the Eutaw Springs, where we had an engagement with the British which lasted something over three hours; the militia were commanded at this place by General Pickens; and that after firing the third time, the applicant was shot through the right leg, being then compelled to retire; they then were dismissed and returned home, having served one month and fifteen days; and that he knows of no person whose testimony he can procure to establish his services; he hereby relinquishes every claim to a pension or annuity, except the present and declares that his name is not [on] the agency of any State whatever. Sworn to and subscribed this day and date above written.


S/Jacob Barker, X his mark

[David Powell and John Douglass gave the standard supporting affidavit.]


Where and in what year were you born?

Answer: In the year 1754.

Have you any record of your age?

Answer: No.

Where were you living when called into service?

South Carolina, Fairfield County.

How were you called into service?

Answer: I was drafted.

Where have you lived since the Revolutionary War?

Answer: From South Carolina, I moved to Livingston County, State of Kentucky; from there to Hopkins County, Kentucky; from there to the State of Illinois, Hambleton County, where I now live.


Sworn to the day and year aforesaid:

S/Jacob Barker, X his mark


State of Illinois, Hamilton County: September term of the Hamilton Circuit Court.


On this 22nd day of September, the year of 1841, at the Hamilton Circuit Court, now in session, the same being a Court of record having a clerk and seal, in open Court, before the Honorable Walter B. Seates, associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, and Presiding Judge of the Hamilton Circuit Court, appeared Jacob Barker, of Hamilton County, in the State of Illinois aforesaid, about eighty years of age, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress, passed June the 7th, 1832:


That he entered the service of the United States under Major Lyles, about the age of 17 years, and served as herein after stated; when he so entered the service of the United States, he lived in Fairfield County in the State of South Carolina, and was drafted into the service from Colonel Winn’s Regiment of Fairfield County militia, and he belonged to the company of Captain Mobesly [Mosely or Mobley?]; that when this declarant was so drafted, he was drafted for a month, but the exact year he does not know from his extreme old age and consequent debility of mind and body, but it was the same year the battle of Ninety-Six was fought, he is quite sure; he cannot recollect the number [of] men that composed the force under Lyles, but to the best of his recollection, there could not be much over 60 or 70, if that; that when the force under Lyles aforesaid, was organized this declarant and the rest of the Company marched from their place of rendezvous in Fairfield County to Ankins [Ancrum’s] Ferry on Broad River, in said County, where they lay for a few days, and then Lyles crossed Broad River, with part of the force, which set out under him to assist the Americans at Ninety-Six; this declarant and several others having stayed behind for the want of arms; and about staying behind at Ancrum’s Ferry as aforesaid, one of those who stayed behind took the smallpox; after this, declarant and some of the others having got arms crossed after Lyles and joined him; Lyles and his force were too late in coming up to be of any assistance to the Americans who were overpowered by the British; the next tour which this declarant took, after Lyles returned from Ninety-Six to Fairfield County and his first tour had expired, was under Captain Hill as a volunteer, and lay part of the time at Lyles Ford on Broad River; and whilst lying there he was wounded in his thigh by a shot fired from a rifle across the River, by which this declarant was disabled for further service for one month at least, but cannot now recollect how long he was on this tour but he is certain that is was on the actual service against the British and Tories from the time his first tour expired until the time he was again drafted shortly before the battle of Eutaw Springs (excepting the time he lost when he was wounded as aforesaid); that shortly before the battle of Eutaw Springs he was again drafted into the service of the United States, and the Regiment to which he was attached was commanded by Colonel David Hopkins and the same Major Manus Lyles was their major, and Captain Bishop was Captain of this declarant’s Company. He was drafted this time for one month, and during this time, the battle of Eutaw Springs was fought; that he marched from Fairfield County aforesaid to the place of rendezvous to join his Regiment and from that marched to join the army under Generals Greene and Pickens; that he was in the battle of Eutaw Springs and under the command of David Hopkins, Colonel of the Regiment as aforesaid; that during the fight this declarant saw General Pickens lying on the road leading to Charleston; he was lying on the ground, when this declarant came up to him and asked him if he was badly wounded; when the General replied, “I am not exactly wounded, but I have been struck by a spent ball, which struck me in the pit of the stomach and has hurt me badly, but I will be up soon again and among you”, or some such words in substance; that this declarant was himself so badly wounded in the battle of Eutaw Springs, in the right leg, that he had to be borne off the field of battle by one Isaac Waggoner, since dead, and a man of the name of James Taylor helped to carry him home to his father’s house, but what has become of said Taylor, this declarant cannot tell, as he has not heard of him for many years, and the last they heard of him was that he had gone from South Carolina, to the State of Missouri; but where he lives or whether he is alive or dead, this declarant cannot tell; that he has no evidence to prove the facts herein stated, but his own oath, that he knows of; that this declarant was disabled from performing further service in consequence of his wounds received in the battle of Eutaw Springs for 9 weeks or thereabouts, and when recovered set out again to join the American Army under Greene and Pickens; but before he could join the Army which was then at [place unknown], peace was proclaimed; that this declarant from his extreme age cannot recollect everything that happened during the time he served, nor dates when things happened, and he is unable either to read or write, or he should have tried sooner for a pension; that he employed a man of the name of Newman Jones 4 or 5 years ago to try and get a pension for him, but has never heard from said Newman more about it; that he to the best of his recollection served the United States for a period not less than 6 months altogether; that he therefore relinquishes all Claim to pension or annuity, except the present and his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any State; that is, the declarant cannot state the exact year in which he was born having no record of his age, that he was in his 17th year in the year the battle of Ninety-Six was fought; that he was born in Fairfield County, South Carolina, lived there until 24 years after the battle of Eutaw Springs, then moved into Hopkins County, Kentucky, where he lived about [words obliterated] years, and then moved into County of Hamilton in this state, where he has lived ever since; that he is well known by William Gholson, a clergyman, and William Allen, who is his neighbor, who can state what he knows and believes concerning this declarant’s standing and character for veracity.

Sworn to and subscribed in open Court this 22nd of September, 1841.

S/Jeduthun P. Hardy, Clerk

S/Jacob Barker, X his mark

[William Gholson, a clergyman, and A. D. Grimes gave the standard supporting affidavit.]

State of Illinois, Hamilton County: Before us, two Justices of the Peace in and for said County and State personally appeared Jacob Barker of said County and State, and personally also well known to us, as a person of credibility, who, being of lawful age (88 years old), and first duly sworn, according to law, doth on his oath declare, that he was drafted from the Militia of Fairfield County, in the State of South Carolina in (say) 1780 at home, and taken to Winnsboro, the County seat, and joined the Regiment commanded by Colonel John Winn (Richard Winn his son called General of the forces).

We went to Ancrum’s Ferry under Major [Aromanus Lyles]—continued there two or three weeks—we went then to the aid of the Army at Ninety-Six under Generals Greene and Sumter, then returned to Shirer’s Ferry across Broad River, home again, being out one month. He states that he was carried off again under the command of Captain Brashears, and served one month, then returned home; was called out again under Lieutenant Ephraim Lyles, and under him served 2 tours, one month each time; was called out again under Captain David Mayberry; was out one month through the Country. He states he went out the 6th time under Lieutenant West Daniel, and was out about 35 days and was wounded at the battle of Eutaw Springs by a musket ball, which cut off a piece of one of the bones of the right leg, and passed off through the fleshy part of the leg. He states he was carried off the field, and for 5 weeks, could not mark the ground with his leg. He states it injured him ever since in his farming pursuits materially by lameness. General Greene was there [as] commander in chief and Colonels David Hopkins and Pickens (was wounded in the battle), commanded the South Carolina Militia. He states his reasons for not applying sooner was there was no pension for militia men until the 7th of June 1832, and a want of knowledge, and a competent person, prevented him ever since, and further Deponent saith not.


Signed (witnessed):

S/John Braden, Jr.

S/Jacob Barker, X his mark

Sworn and subscribed before us Justices of the Peace as above, on this 16th day of October, 1843.

S/Samuel Wilson, JP

S/John Braden, JP


[Veteran’s application was rejected because he failed to allege that he served the required six months of active service.]



Catawba River

Congaree River

Nathanael Greene

Andrew Pickens

Siege of Ninety-Six

Battle of Eutaw Springs

Dr. L. B. Gregory

Here are reminiscences of pioneer days in Jefferson County, Illinois, recorded when Dr. Gregory (my Great-Grandmother’s grandfather) was alive.

A print from the Civil War era, featuring Illinoisan General John A. Logan, a figure mentioned in the story below.

Just who was the first settler in what is now Farrington Township we cannot say, as settlements were made in many adjoining neighborhoods before this, and it is not easy to say just when the first man stepped over into Farrington and pitched his tent. But among the first settlers were the Wellses, Gregorys, Haynies, Abraham Buffington, William B. Johnson, Joseph Norman and others. Berryman and Barney Wells were, perhaps, the first of these; at least, they were here when the Gregorys came. They were from Tennessee, and Berryman Wells settled on Section 14, Barney on Section 8; they have long been dead, but have descendants living in the county. Of the Gregorys, there were Jonathan and Benjamin, who came about 1828-30, and Absalom Gregory, a brother came some two years later. They were all Kentuckians, and settled, Jonathan on Section 23, Benjamin on Section 24, and Absalom on Section 26. They are dead, but still have descendants living, among whom is Dr. L. B. Gregory, the Postmaster General of Logansville, and the model farmer of the township, whose barn is a pattern for all to follow after. The Doctor is quite a stock-raiser, and the extreme docility of his stock, particularly his domestic animals, show the great care and attention they receive from their owner. We have been there and witness that whereof we speak. Dr. Gregory owns some 1400 or 1500 acres of as good land as may be found in Farrington Township. He is one of the self-made men of the country, and deserves great credit for what he is. He began life, as he informed us, without a dime, and what he is he is, indebted to no one but himself. His mind is well stored with incidents of the early history of the county, many of which he regaled us with. He came here but a lad, and his busy life has extended through all the hard times, the trials and hardships to which early settlers were subjected. He delights to tell of the time when he collected nearly the entire revenue of the county in coon skins and deer skins, which were a legal tender. John Allen was then sheriff; the season had been a hard one; people had but small crops; but few had made enough to live on, and as to money, that was an unknown quantity. In this state of affairs Sheriff Allen employed Dr. Gregory to collect the county taxes. Gregory says every farmer in those days, who could raise $8 or $10, would buy a barrel of whisky to sell again (license to sell whisky did not then cost as much as now), and as there was no money, they would take coon skins for whisky. Hence, nearly every man had a large number of coon skins on hand, and these were nearly all these whisky sellers, who were able to pay their taxes. So he collected the biggest part of the taxes in coon skins and deer skins.


The first road through the township was the Mount Vernon & Maysville road, and the next road leading from Mount Vernon to Xenia. The township is now blest with as good roads as any other portion of the county, and good, substantial bridges span the streams where the principal roads cross them.

As to the educational and religious facilities, not as much can be said as in some other localities. Church edifices are not plentiful, and most of the schoolhouses are a little dilapidated, though there are some new ones, and some that are used for church as well as school purposes.

Dr. Gregory says the first teacher he went to school to was a Mr. Joseph Price, and he thinks it was the first school in the township. The doctor’s description of that school and schoolhouse and his attendance at it is quite humorous. The house, he says, was a pole cabin about sixteen feet square, slab seats, and without any floor except the ground. The fire was built in the middle of the room, and around this “council fire” the pioneer boys and girls attained the wisdom and inspiration to fit them for after life. Dr. Gregory says he wore buckskin breeches and buckskin hunting shirt, and on his way to school of a morning through the rain and snow, his breeches, which were not very well tanned, would get wet and stretch out until they would be down under his feet. But, sitting around the log-heap fire in that old schoolhouse, they would get dry and draw up until they were nearly to his knees, thus displaying his “shapely shins”, which had stood exposure to the elements until they were about like young scaley-barked hickories.

The next schoolteacher after Price was probably Absalom Gregory, an uncle of the present Dr. Gregory, alluded to above. He was followed by elder R. T. Camp, a Baptist preacher, who, notwithstanding his holy calling, was as illiterate and unlearned as the fishermen of Galilee. William Johnson was also an early teacher. Another of the early schoolhouses was built on Horse Creek. It was also a rude log cabin. The next schoolhouse in this portion of the township was built at Farrington. There are now six schoolhouses in the township, some of them good, substantial buildings, and some of them badly needed to be replaced with better one. Farrington township is Democratic in politics. It is not so great a Democratic stronghold as it used to be, mainly through the influence of that old Republican wheel-horse, Dr. Gregory, who says he intends to make it Republican yet, if he lives long enough. According to the late Ohio election, he has an army contract on hand. In 1869, Farrington was made a township. Since then, the following is a list of the township officials. (List has Gregory elected Township Supervisor 1873, 1875, 1879, 1881, 1883; Collector 1872.)


Logansville, a little northeast of Farrington, consists of the post office of that name and a small store kept by Dr. Gregory. He commenced selling goods here some fifteen or twenty years ago, and about the same time, through the influence of Gen. John A. Logan, then in the United States’ Senate, he got a post office, and honored the “swarthy Senator” by giving it his name. Although rejoicing under the high-sounding name of Logansville, there is no town, nor has there been a town laid out here.

Excerpted from The History of Jefferson County, Illinois, William Henry Perrin, 1883.