An Interview with Mrs.Bailey Hobson
(By a representative from the "Inter-Ocean")
July 8th, 1883.
Mrs. Hobson still lives to tell the story of her early trials, which were such as few would now believe possible for a woman to pass through and a better historian for what came within her experience could not be found. Her little white cottage near the river bank in Naperville surrounded by flowers, is not more cheerful than the little white haired lady whose home it is. "Yes," said she, "so far as I know, I was the first white woman to live in what is now Du Page county, but it was not Du Page then; it was a part of Cook County.
There were others living just over the line in Will County. The Scott's and the Hawley's had moved there in the Fall of 1830 -- my husband, myself and five children came here in March 1831. My husband took up a great deal of land out here on the river about three miles from this place, but new settlers coming in, located so near us that in fixing up the deeds there was a great deal of mixing up, and much of what he had taken was settled on by others. That was one result of settling the country and locating land before there were any surveys. It left the farms in bad shape too.
Our land was on both sides of the river, and our house stood in the timber to protect it from the storms. Not long after we came my husband built a mill, and the people from all over the country came there for their flour and meal. This induced many new comers to settle near us. They wanted to be near the mill, and while it was at first very lonesome, our nearest neighbors being three miles away, in a few years we had plenty close at hand -- that is it was a good many at that time.
I shall never forget the first we went to Chicago. You have no doubt read a good deal about it, but you will never know what it really was to the people who really lived there then."
Question: "You refer to the massacre in 1832?" "Yes, we had been here a little over a year. It was May 17th -- we were just settling down to dinner when a man and a boy came in from a field near by and began to talk about the Indians coming. The boy said they were killing and burning everything in their way, and were at Hollenback, 30 miles away (that is where Newark is now located). We had lived there a short time before moving here. The report was exaggerated, but there was some shooting, but the fright was a good deal worse than it should have been. I don't think we would have all been killed had we remained at home, but I did think so then.
A friendly Indian came and advised us to leave. Just after dinner my husband started out to learn something further, but I would not stay at home alone with the children, and we all went together. On the high ground near, we could see some men, and we thought them Indians, but after we learned they were men from the Naper settlement who had come there to look for Indians. You could see a great way across the prairies from a high piece of ground there. We were frightened and went into the woods where we remained until night. Then I came back to the house with my husband and helped him fix the wagon and hitch up the oxen for the journey. We had left the children in the woods.
In the night, we loaded up and started for Chicago, where we arrived the next day about sundown. We had to cross the North branch of the river on an old wooden bridge. There was a little ferry boat but not one fourth of the people who came from all over the country, could cross on that. We got into the Fort and I was telling some people last year, that 50 years ago I was drinking water from the Chicago River, and not eating much of anything. We could not get down to the lake for the sand bar. I remember the boats had to anchor so far out, they were almost out of sight. I have not seen much of Chicago lately, but I remember well enough how it looked in 1832. "How long did you remain in the fort?" "Until the last of June -- the men left earlier and came back here to build a fort at home. The women and children remained, and three weeks passed without hearing anything from our husbands. We had pretty fair provisions, after the rations for the soldiers came.
But when Major Whistler and his soldiers arrived it was worse than the Indians; they drove us out of the Fort, that the soldiers might have the place for their protection. They were sent to Chicago to protect the settlers. They came and drove women and children from a place of protection that they might protect themselves. They had better not had been sent us. The proclamation was read one night, that the soldiers would be there the next morning and we must all be out by that time. Our husbands were away hunting Indians or building places of protection to take us to. We had no place to go. There were a few little cabins in Chicago where some of the women went, but there were three of us who remained in the Fort --Mrs. Hawley, Mrs. Blodgett and myself.
Some Wisconsin men who had come down to Chicago to help defend us were there yet when the soldiers came, and they secured a little room about 15 X 20 feet in another side of the Fort, which we with our 15 children occupied for three weeks. Yes, it was rather crowded, but it was better than being massacred by the Indians. We did not know whether our husbands were alive or not -- we could hear nothing from them. The soldiers said we were staying to eat up their provisions, rather than because we were afraid of the Indians. We did eat some of the food furnished them by the government, but we had to or starve. I don't think the soldiers were of much account. When Fort Payne at Naperville was finished, we came there, and remained until the war ended in August. I often think of the trials of those early days, and I believe they were too great for the men. There were five of us left with our children years ago. My husband died in 1850. The wives of both the Napers have been widows for years, and so were Mrs. Blodgett and Mrs. Hawley -- they are dead now. The men had to work too hard and it shortened their lives.
I have often remarked that I passed thru two wars and one famine. The war of 1812 and the rebellion and it was a famine when we came here. We had to go 50 miles to mill. My husband built a mill in 1834 and the people from all over the country came here to mill."
Question: "Were you very sociable in 1833?" "Yes, more so than people are here now -- our neighbors lived three and four miles away, but we visited each other often and had some pleasure in our sociability, but now people don't care whether they live for any one except themselves."
Bailey Hobson was the first settler in what is now Du Page County. In May, 1830, he came west from Orange County, Indiana, and made his claim near Holderman's Grove (Newark). He returned to Indana for his family and they reached the prairies of Illinois, accompanied by Lewis Stewart, on September 21, 1830. Link to genealogy of Bailey Hobson.
Taken from Naperville Centennial, 1831-1931, Copyright 1931, Fort Payne Chapter - Daughters of the American Revolution, Naperville, Illinois. Transcribed with permission by Diane Bauer.