Hardin County

William Henry Bascom

CAVE-IN-ROCK, Ill. (Oct. 17, 1935) — A few months ago, Mr. William Henry Bascom, with a sly twinkle in his eye, informed the writer that he had just "come of age." Having been born the 23rd of June 1855, he on the 23rd of last June passed his 80th milestone. He therefore became eligible to a place among those aged citizens of Hardin County, who having lived their four score years or more, are included in the list of subjects whose biographical sketches have appeared during the past year. Mr. Bascom was born at East Enterprise in Switzerland County, Indiana, and was the sn of the late Gais and Sarah Tinker Bascom. The father was born in one of the eastern states and the mother's native county was the same as her son.

East Enterprise was a town located between Vevay and Rising Sun, Indiana. During the latter half of the 19th century there seems to have been a general imigration of families from that part of Indiana to this section of Southern Illinois. Many of these families located in Hardin County.

According to Mr. Bascom's statement, people from the Hoosier State settled on and became owners of the land which is now Mrs. Hannah Tyre's farm and that which surrounds it for a radius of five miles.

The parents of Mr. Bascom were also among these who came here from that section when he was a lad of eight years. The family came down the Ohio River on a flat boat and landed at Cave-in-Rock on Christmas Eve in 1863, this being his first such trip, it made a very vivid impression on his mind.

At that time there was only one store in Cave-in-Rock. It stood where the Methodist church now stands and was owned by Mr. Vermillion and by the late Alex Frayser, who is well-known through out the county.

The only church was of Methodist denomination and was a log building wheich stood on the hill where the old cemetery now is.

Mr. Bascom states that only two houses are now standing which were here at that time, the one occupied by the family of John W. Blee and owned by J.W. Hill and one owned by Harley Frayser and his mother, Mrs. Dora Lackey. The only two people living who were citizens of Cave-in-Rock at the time of the arrival of the Bascom family were A.A. Gustin, whose home is near that town, and his sister, Mrs. Aaron Pell of Rosiclare.

Mr. Bascom was the second of three children. The oldest child was a sister who later became Mrs. Laura Kimball and who died in Reno, Nevada three years ago. His brother, Ben Bascom, died in Blythesville, Arkansas six years ago.

The night the family arrived an eight inch snow covered the ground. The father left the mother, sister and little brother in town, but took William Henry and drove out to the home of his uncle Nimrod Jenkins, who had already settled on a farm north east of Cave-in-Rock. As they rode in an ox cart, it took about two hours to cover a distance which now requires only a few minutes.

The family at first made their home in the village, occupying the house which stood just back of the house now owned by Tom Henry and formerly occupied by the Post Office. They stayed there until March 1864, then moved to a farm about one and a quiarter miles west of Cave-in-Rock and just below the Joe Riggs place. The hardships of pioneer life proved to be more than the father was able to endure and he died during the following October. After his death, the mother moved her little family to the Tom Douglas farm where an uncle then lived. She stayed there two years and then moved back to her own forty acre farm.

With the help of her two young sons, she succedded in clearing the land and they remained there until the children were grown.

Mr. Bascom attended a school in a log school house which stood where the house recently purchased from Charles Garland by Joe Frailey, now stands. He distinctly remembers the old Webster's blue backed spelling book which was the chief textbook of those days. He recalls a teacher by the nmae of Fugat. Kate MItchell was the name of another and a third was a mother of the late Hattie Rittenhouse.

On the 5th of January 1882, he was united in marriage to Josie Belt, daughter of the late Joel and Sarah Belt. They were married by Jake Hess in the old log house later owned by Mrs. Sallie Riggs and destroyed by fire a few years ago. They lived for a short time on the Simmons farm which Paris Oxford now owns, but in in December 1883 moved to their own home, a log house on the farm near town where he still makes his home. For fifty-three years they lived and worked together. At the time when this history was first recorded, death had not entered their home, but since that time Mr. Bascom has suffered the loss of his faithful wife, who passed away on the third of last August.

Five children were born to this union: Daisy, who is still at home with her father, Grover whose home is near Cave-in-Rock, and Mrs. Nola Smith of St. Louis. There are 12 grandchildren and one great grandson, James Henson Wingate, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hanson Wingate.

Mr. Bascom possesses a most remarkable memory and it is interesting to listen as he recalls many things not only with the history of Cave-in-Rock but with that of the nation as well. Among his memories are incidents which took place during the early days of the Civil War shortly before the family left Indiana. There were many calls for volunteers, and he well remembers how soldiers played fife and drum and then plead with their listeners to enlist in the service of their country. Fathers and sons would step out as volunteers while mothers and wives wept and even fainted as they were overcome by their fears of their loved ones.

All of his life Mr. Bascom has been honest and industrious. When but a lad he did all he could to lighten the burdens of his widowed mother who was left alone to support her family in a new and uncleared country. When he came to manhood and became the head of his own family, he persisted in his efforts to obtain a living from the soil and did so with the best of his ability.

Now that he is left without his companion of more than a half of a century, he is still courageously "carrying on" in his own little home, caring for himself and his daughter. His sight and hearing is still active, though he sometimes suffers rheumatic pains of old age. He makes frequent tripts to town, sometimes walking the distance more than once during the day.

His many friends sympathize with him in his bereavement, but hope that pleasant memories of the past will enable him to enjoy many more happy and peaceful years of life.

Thanks to Wanda H. Reed for contributing this article to the Hardin County ILGenWeb site. The Hardin County Independent first published this article by Kathryn McDonald on October 15, 1935.

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