MRS. CATHERINE GEPHARD-FAHLER
By Melva Frank, Dist. 233.
This is a story as told to me by Mrs. Fahler. It is the experience of her
She was born in Lebanon county, Pennsylvania. She came here when a little girl five years old; she is now eighty-seven years old. Mrs. Fahler came to Troy Grove township in 1850 with her parents, also a number of others, who were the Klinefelters, the
Gephards, the Meyers and the Fahlers.
They came part way by wagons and then on a steamboat from Pittsburgh to La Salle. It was their first ride on a steamboat and thought it a wonderful way of traveling. The rest of the way was traveled by ox teams. They settled a short distance north of Troy Grove, then known as Homer.
Their first home was a log house, as were all other homes at that time. There were no Indians here, but there were several newly built Indian huts. One hut was on the farm owned by Mrs. Fahler's father. Whenever the children were disobedient their parents would threaten to send them down to the Indian hut. The children would gladly obey their parents, because they were afraid the Indians would come back and get them.
There were no schoolhouses near by at that time. The first school Mrs. Fahler attended was taught by a neighbor woman. It was kept in this woman's home. The log house in which it was taught was then located on the farm where Charles Klinefelter now lives. There were no desks. Some of the children sat on the lady's bed. All those who could not sit on the bed sat on little benches without any backs. The children's backs would get very tired. The first real school that she can remember of was built where the schoolhouse known as the No. 6 school now stands.
When they first lived here there were no churches nor ministers. But each Sunday they gathered at one of the homes. They would study the Bible and teach the children Bible lessons and hold prayer meetings. At first the people were very homesick. There were no amusements. The only time they got togteher was when they held their services. After she became a young lady they held spelling bees.
When they came here her mother brought her spinning-wheel with her. Many of their garments were made of the home-spun material. For lights they made their own tallow candles. The lanterns were made by placing a candle in a tin with holes cut in it to allow the light to shine through.
Those days everyone had to help in the fields as they did not have any modern farming tools. Farming in those days was very hard work. Their plows were just an ordinary walking plow. All of the hay was cut with scythes and raked up with hand rakes. The small grain was cut with a hand tool they called a cradle, and it was threshed with a flail. They had their wheat ground into flour. The mill was located somewhere between Ottawa and Troy Grove. They took the wheat one day and returned home the next day. Some of their products were taken to Chicago by team and wagon, and needed supplies were brought back; others were hauled to La Salle. There was one store at Troy Grove where some supplies could be bought.
There was no city of Mendota where the city now stands; there was nothing but swamps. The swamps were infested with mosquitoes. The people had to build smudge fires to protect themselves. The land was then being offered for one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre. The people did not want to buy the land because it was so swampy. But after it was tiled it made wonderful farm land.
There were no railroads then. The first railroad was the Illinois Central. It was put through about the years of 1852 "to 1853. After the railroad was built, Mendota was built up and soon became a thriving town. The railroads helped others to come here to settle. It was a great help to the people not to have to haul their grain so far and to have supplies brought in.
The first cemetery laid out was north of Levi Kreiser's home. The bodies were later removed to the present cemetery, which is in the village of Troy Grove.
Mrs. Fahler has lived through many changes, such as from tallow candles to electric lights, and from ox teams to aeroplanes. Inventions, that are truly wonderful, which seventy years ago they would have thought impossible.