A VISIT TO THE RIGGS FARM
By Eloise Holland, Dist. 139
Perhaps one of the oldest homes in La Salle County is that of Mr. and
Mrs. James Riggs.
Mrs. Riggs, whose name was Missouri Snell before her marriage, came to Deer Park township in 1851. She came with her father, mother, and her sisters and brothers, of which there were eleven.
They came in a covered wagon, drawn by horses with chain harnesses. They had two dogs with them. On their way they stopped at a tavern at night. The mother and daughters slept in the tavern and the father and sons in the wagon.
Of course, the first thing to do was to build a home. The men and boys set to work cutting down the trees in the forest and notching them to fit together. When completed, the house had one room downstairs and a loft in which to sleep upstairs. This old cabin still stands. Some improvements, however, have been made. It has a new roof of boards. Before Mr. Riggs died it was used as a stable.
Byron Snell, Mrs. Riggs' brother, was heard to say that the game was so plentiful that you could step outside and kill a deer as it passed by.
Later a barn was erected. Nails were seldom used, or even heard of, in those days. For use instead of them they mortised the beams together and pinned them with wooden pegs. The feed boxes in the barn are large and are hollowed out of large logs.
A very interesting building to visit is the shop. It contains many old relics used by the pioneers.
Some of these are a plow that was one of the first made by the Peru Plowworks. Another is a narrow with a wooden framework. Its teeth are made of iron, but do not slant as the ones used by farmers now. There is also a mower which is very small and peculiar looking.
There are a high two-seated buggy and a one-seated buggy. The two-seated one is high and has one seat in the front, while there is another that can be put on the back or left off. The one-seated one is on the same order but has but one seat.
A wooden hayrake is here, and also a wooden pitchfork. The hayrake is made of a board going through the center and with long wooden teeth on either side. The pitchfork handle and tines are carved from one piece of wood. Wedges are put in between the tines. A wooden cradle, used to catch grain when it fell, which was fastened onto a scythe, because in those days they had no reapers. An old wooden bedstead that has to be used with rope springs is very odd. There is a sausage grinder in which to grind meat. The meat stays inside the grinder and when it gets full you open it and take the meat out.
Hanging on the wall is a pattern for an axe handle. It is carved out of wood and is of good size. More patterns are for shoes for both ladies and gentlemen that are the shape of the foot. They fit the leather over it to measure it and then sew it.
A very interesting story is how a bobsled tongue is made. A log of the right size was cut and placed in a horse's manger. The saliva from the horse's mouth, which made it moist, together with weights that were fastened on each end, made the tongue curved so it would not hit the horses when fastened onto the sleigh.
An old-fashioned torch, which was used instead of lamps, and filled with lard oil served as a light at night.
These old relics are fast falling to pieces because they are scores of years old. Some of them, such as an ox saddle, an old-fashioned coffee grinder, and an oaken bucket, were used for display in the La Salle County centennial at Ottawa, Ill.
The house, which was built after the log cabin and barn, is quite large. It has old-fashioned rope bedsteads, pottery, and walnut chairs and tables.
As the house was about a quarter of a mile away from its nearest neighbor, a bell was erected so these old people could ring it when anything happened. It was on top of a building near the house and a wire extended from it down to the porch post.
Mr. and Mrs. Riggs are now both dead. Mr. Riggs died five or six years ago, but Mrs. Riggs died recently. A great deal of the information about the Riggs farm and about how Mrs. Riggs came here was given to me by Mrs. Riggs herself.