Transcribed by Sharol Schaefer
Sharol Schaefer to TAHS
"Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall, Putnam Counties, Illinois," Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub Co., 1896.
LEWIS ERASTUS SKEEL, a worthy representative of one of the honored pioneer families of Putnam county, Illinois, was born at Xenia, Greene county, Ohio, June 22, 1824 and is a son of Nathan and Olive (Bacon) Skeel, the former a native of New York, and the latter of Vermont. The Skeel family is of Welsh extraction, descended from three brothers who came from Wales at an early day.
The parents were married in New York, where the mother had gone when a child of six years, later became residents of Greene county, Ohio, and when our subject was three years old removed to Cincinnati. After three years spent in that city they started by team for Illinois in the fall of 1830, and was accompanied by their eldest daughter, then Mrs. Peter Ellis, and her child. A brother-in-law of Mr. Skeel, Ezekiel Stacy, had come to Illinois four years previously, locating near Springfield, in Sangamon county, where part of the family spent the winter, while the remainder came to Ox Bow Prairie the same fall. In the spring of 1831, they were accompanied by Mr. Stacy to Putnam county. He located first on Ox Bow Prairie, and later removed to the west side of the river, where he laid out the little town of Webster near the present club house, which was quite a village at one time, but has since disappeared. There Mr. Stacy died.
The summer of 1831 was spent by Mr. Skeel and his family at Paynes Point, and he made a claim where our subject now lives, erecting a cabin near the site of the latter's present home. There they removed in the following fall, their nearest neighbor being Samuel Patterson, a half mile distant, and a mile only from the Hartzell trading post, which was not in sight. In the fall the Indians began to gather and three or four hundred camped along the river near the trading post during the winter, but in the spring scattered again. They belonged to the Pottawatomie's tribe, their chief being Shabbonie, while the chief Shirk Shak spent the winter at the mouth of Clear Creek four miles above Henry.
In the following spring the people became frightened about the Indian troubles and the Skeel family lived a part of the time in Harzell's building which had been removed to the village of Hennepin, and the women would mostly spend the nights there. Some of the time was passed at Fort Cribbs, which stood at Florid, and was so named on account of being constructed from two old corn cribs and was surrounded by a stockade. They also spent a portion of the time at old Fort Caledonia. The Indians, however, never molested them and that year more settlers were added to the community.
The Skeel family were in limited circumstances and during those pioneer day's lived quite frugally. In the first cabin erected upon his place the father died June 1, 1841, just four weeks after the death of General Harrison. He was an industrious, energetic man and had succeeded in placing eighty acres of his land under cultivation. Wild game was found in abundance and furnished most of the meat used by the frontier families. In the winter of 1831 a man by the name of Gallagher started an ox mill near Florid which ground some corn meal and even flour.
At the time of the father's death four of the children, three daughters and one son, were married, while Lewis E., aged seventeen, and Louisa Jane, aged ten years, were still at home. The other son, Linus B. Skeel, married Minerva Payne, who died at the age of twenty-seven years, and he later wedded Miss Flora Morrison, a native of Scotland. He entered one hundred and sixty acres adjoining his father's farm, where he lived until 1846, and then removed to Paynes Point. He later returned to a farm near Florid where the following twenty years were passed, and then went to Gibson City, Ford county, Illinois. He had served in the Black Hawk war. The sister of our subject, who was married on coming to this state, located at Paynes Point.
Another sister, Lucy Ann, was married in 1832 to Daniel Warren, of New York who made a claim on Big Indian creek in La Salle county, and there died. She later became the wife of Peter H. Dick, who - also lived in that county is now a widow and makes her home at Ottawa. In May, 1832, with her first husband she located twelve miles north of Ottawa, and was there living when Black Hawk started on his cam計aign. The old chief Shabbonie who was friendly with the family, notified them that some Sac and Fox Indians were on the way to that timber. When he arrived at the house. Mrs. Warren was alone, but she called her husband and his brother who were at work at the mill and they at once started for Ottawa, while Shabbonie went on to warn others. Two weeks later, Mr. Warren and his brother went back to see what damage had been done and a captain and young soldier volunteered to go with them. On reaching the cabin they found that the Indians had disturbed nothing, and after resting they started back to Ottawa. When half way, on reaching Buck creek, they stopped to gather wild strawberries which were plentiful at that point, and let their horses graze. Mr. Warren suggested that they start on, as they might be attacked by the Indians, but the captain scouted the idea, and Mr. Warren and his brother started on ahead. Hearing the reports of guns they looked back and saw that the young man had been shot and his horse had escaped. The captain was also shot, the ball passing through his leg into the horse, which stood quite still for some time, and then started on a run until it reached the Warrens, when it fell dead. The young man was killed and fearfully mangled, but the captain escaped with only the wound. The Hall massacre occurred about three miles from that point, further on up the creek.
After his father's death, in 1841, Lewis E. Skeel assumed the management of the home farm. He has hauled wheat to market in Chicago, where he would receive from thirty-eight to seventy-five cents per bushel, and the trip would require nine days. On his return he would bring freight, often hauling lumber. He has extended the boundaries of his farm, and in 1846, erected the main portion of his present residence.
On the 28th of October 1847, Mr. Skeel was united in marriage with Miss Nancy Jones, who is also a native of Greene county, Ohio, and came to Illinois in 1831, with her parents, Abram and Mary (Hays) Jones, who were married in Greene county, where they lived in the neighborhood of the Skeel family. Her parents located at Evans Point, Marshall county, but in 1833 removed to Princeton Bureau county, where the father died in 1858. Their farm included that part of Princeton where the depot now stands, and the brick house, in which Mr. and Mrs. Skeel were married, stands one-half mile west of the depot. The mother died in 1885, at the age of eighty-three years. Only two of the family are now living ****. Skeel and Barton Jones, of Columbia City, Iowa. One sister, Mrs. William S. Wilson, died in Ohio, Bureau county, and James, Daniel and John, all farmers, also spent their last day's in Bureau county. No children have been born to our subject and his worthy wife, but from the age of eleven years they reared Huron Warren, a nephew, and have given homes to other children. The mother of Mr. Skeel died at the old home, September 30, 1879 being ninety years, three months and eleven days old.
Formerly, Mr. Skeel supported the republican party, but is now a strong prohibitionist, and often attends the state convention of his party. Both himself and wife are faithful members of the Methodist Episcopal church, belonging to one organized in 1833, of which his mother was one of the original members. For over fifty-two years he has held membership in the same, and most of the time has been one of the officers, at the present time being class. leader, steward and trustee. By his brother-in-law's will--Peter H. Dick--he was appointed administrator of the estate, which was quite large and has since had charge of the loaning of his sister's money. He continued the operation of his land until eight years ago, since which time he has rented it, and now practically lives retired, enjoying the fruits of his former toil. His identification with the interests of Putnam county is as honorable as it is long, and is held in the highest respect and esteem by all who know him.