Hardin County

An Early Traveler's Report

By J. J. Williams
Excerpted from his 1854 Diary

Tuesday, Oct. 24th: We started by sun up, it was still cloudy and misting this morning. Two miles from camp we came to the town of Marion, the county seat of Crittendon County a new town and a very pretty little place; here we met several acquaintances formerly of Logan County who seemed very glad to see us. William Rutherford, Merida Ragsdale and Cowtton were the persons of whom I speak. At Marion I saw the smallest speciman of a man I ever saw anywhere. His name is John Nelson Martin, he is a saddler by trade, about 3 feet high and 25 years old. From this place to the Ohio River the road is awful hilly and rocky and the land along the road looks poor. We arrived at the River between 3 and 4 o¹clock, we crossed at Barker¹s Ferry, they took our waggon and carriage at the first load, our dog Watch did not go in, and was left. I went back after him and we met in the middle of the river, swimming, and the boat ran over (him); he came out however and swam back to the Kentucky side I didn¹t get him this time but I did the next time. Fairly landed on the Illinois shore. I took one last look at the Kentucky shore and here I am, in a state that I claim not as my own, my native state. FAREWELL, KENTUCKY, beloved Kentucky, a long, long farewell. I bid you, with all your noble sons and lovely daughters, a long adieu. I may never more see thee: I may never tread thy soil again, but I will ever remember my native state, though far, far away I roam. Ohio, thou art beautiful, ah passing beautiful, but you are rolling between me and the loved home of my youth. Home, did I say Home, but I am a wanderer on earth. Camped 1 1/2 miles from the river, traveled 16 miles.

Oct. 25th: Food for horses being scarce, we provided ourselves with corn directly after we started. The road was still hilly this morning as it had been for two days. Soon after leaving camp on coming to the top of a hill a beautiful sight burst upon our vision: the hills stretched far away in the distance, some trees were clothed in the variegated hues of Autumn; some of them were yellow, some red and some still wore the fresh green of spring. The scene as it lay all bathed in the morning light and the hill after hill stretching away below and around us, was truly enchanting and beautiful. We came to the foot of Patz¹ hill about ten o¹clock; there is a house at the foot of the hill where legend says many a man has stopped for the night and never been heard of more. It looks like a place for deeds dark and dreadful. The hills and rocks around have a wild and fearful look about and seem to be a fit place for the ghosts of the murdered dead, to howl in. It may be fancy, but the house itself has a forbidding appearance, every shutter was closed but those that were broken off and looked like they might have been shut for half a score of years. Came to some tolerable level ground and camped within four miles of Equallity, near a salt spring and several salt wells and the remains of some old salt works; travelled 19 miles.

Thursday, October 26th: Got a tolerable late start but went on very well after we got started. We came to the town of Equality, 3 miles from camp and crossed the Saline Creek on a toll bridge. We put three letters in the office here, Dick Bryant one, Austin one and myself one. After passing Equality, the country is very level and inclined to be swampy. Water and provisions are scarce and hard to get. The road is very dry and dusty as much so as it was in Logan (County, Kentucky) in the summer. Equality is situated on a hill and commands a splendid view to the south. The town is a pretty little place containing some fine buildings and some not so fine. Autumn is farther advanced here than anywhere I have seen. Camped 16 miles west of Equality and I drank water from a creek with no rocks about it, having travelled 19 miles. . .

The above is an excerpt from a diary written by J.J. Williams who moved, with his family from Keysburg, Kentucky, to southwest Missouri in October-November, 1854. The family traveled by covered wagon caravan. The wagons crossed the Ohio River on Barker's Ferry, probably in the area of Cave-In Rock State Park, then proceeded north up Potts Hill, past an old salt spring, and through the town of Equality, Illinois. This excerpt picks up on the Kentucky side of the river. J.J. Williams was 20 at the time of the trip, and died in 1896 in Missouri.

Copyright - Permission is granted for Jon Musgrave to post whatever portions of this diary he deems appropriate on websites which have a historical focus. All other rights reserved by Donald E. Skinner

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