By John Pillion, Dist. 193
Thomas Pillion, my grandfather, was born in Tipparary county, Ireland, in
the year of 1840. When a young man he left the land of his birth to seek his
fortune in other lands, finally landing at New Orleans. Here he secured work
on the levees of the Mississippi river and worked for many months. He also
worked as deck hand on the steamboats plying on the Mississippi and Illinois
On one of these journeys he stopped in Ottawa during the year 1860 and obtained work from a coal contractor named Peter Skusce. Here he purchased a team of horses and wagon and began digging coal. This he sold to the residents of Ottawa.
In 1862 he married Hanorah Cull, the daughter of Michael and Elizabeth Cull. They went to housekeeping in a little cabin on the bank of the Fox river, across from where the waterworks now stands. The accommodations were very poor and they decided to move into the country. In March of 1875 he bought an eighty acre farm in section five of Wallace township. He bought this land from John McCarthy. Loading his household goods and some supplies in his wagon, with his wife and seven children they struck out on the trail across the prairie to their new home.
At that time Wallace had no drainage system, and being a flat prairie a great many difficulties were encountered in trying to reach their new home. Sometimes they would have to drive a great distance out of their way to avoid the sloughs, as there was a great deal of water here in that season of the year.
When the spring opened they began planting their crops on the high ground. The oats and wheat ground were plowed with a walking plow drawn by two horses. Then sown by hand, cut with a cradle, then threshed with a flail. The corn ground was plowed in the same manner and it was was harrowed.
The harrow was made by driving wooden pegs into bars of wood, and fastening them together.
After the ground was harrowed it was marked crossways with a marker and then the corn was planted with a planter crossways of these marks. One man drove the team and another person sat in the middle of the planter pulling or pushing a lever to drop the corn as they crossed each mark.
The grain was hauled to Ottawa with a team and wagon and shipped to Chicago by way of the Illinois and Michigan canal.
The first years' crops were rather disappointing, owing to lack of drainage. Leaving the rest of his family at home on the farm he and his oldest daughter returned to Ottawa for two winters to dig coal to make some money with which to tile the farm. In the spring of 1877 he began tiling the land, hauling the tile from Dayton, Illinois.
In the year of 1880 he bought another eighty acres of land which joined his on the west. This farm had to be fenced. This was done by putting down posts and then stretching smooth wire on them. The barbs were put on this wire with pinchers as there was no barb wire in those days.
While Grandfather was doing this work outside, Grandmother and the girls were doing their share inside and outside. Grandmother spun the wool into cloth and made the clothes. They made the garden, herded and milked the cows and made the cream into butter and cheese.
Grandfather and Grandmother were staunch members of the Catholic church, so they seldom, if ever, missed church. Those who were old enough were always allowed to go with either mother or father and the other one remained home to watch the smaller children and prepared the noonday meal. Sometimes a lot of hardships were endured then, as their means of traveling were very inconvenient.
Grandfather resided on this farm until his death in 1909.
During the number of years they lived a great many changes took place. When they first moved on the farm they traveled by team and wagon, then came the "Democrat buggy," the double carriage, the phaeton, and last of all the little old Ford.
At first they cut the grain with the cradle, then came the self rake and the Marsh harvester. The self binder which followed this, used wire to tie the bundles instead of twine. This was found to kill the live stock that ate the straw after threshing and it was replaced by twine.
The grain was first threshed with a flail. This was done by putting the grain on the floor and beating it out with a stick of wood. The straw was then shaken up with a fork to get the grain out. The grain was taken out in the open air and poured from one vessel to another, allowing the wind to blow the chaff from the grain.
Soon the threshing machines were invented. The machines were driven by horse power and fed by hand. One man stood on top and cut the band, then handed it to another man to throw in the feeder.
These machines were replaced by one driven by steam power. The two-horse walking plow was replaced by the gang and sulky plows. The walking cultivator by a riding plow, and the hand drop corn planter by the Bern's check rower.