From The Humeston New Era, date unknown
(The Humeston New Era, established in 1880,
is now online at Ancestry.com for the years, 1900-1921)
There is always something of interest in the lives of old people. Their memory reaching back to long years before the most of us were born, gives us a bit of history of great events but it remains for the old people to furnish those quiet reminiscences of bygone days so interesting to the younger generations. The thought of this occurred to your correspondent, and having occasion to visit Mr. A. Sears, one of the old and honored citizens of Washington Township, (Wayne County), I will give your readers the benefit of the pleasant chat I had with him.
Mr. Sears was born in Orange County, New York, May 5, 1826, and at the age of twenty started west to seek his fortune. His worldly possessions consisted of a grip sack, a few clothes and $100 in gold, which he earned by working for four dollars per month in winter and nine in summer. He went on foot to Harrisburg, PA., a distance of 180 miles, and finding this kind of travel wearisome, he went by canal to Pittsburgh, being 14 days on the road. The canal boats at that time were built in sections so that they could be transferred over the mountains, there being an engine on the top and a track like our present railroad track was built up the side of the mountain, on which the sections of the boats were carried over. Three different mountains were crossed in this way.
After the boats were safely in the canal again, they were fastened together, and started making about five miles an hour, changing teams every six hours. From Pittsburgh he started by steamer to Wheeling, VA. The Ohio River being very low at this point, several of the passengers, Mr. Sears among them, waded ashore. From there, he walked to Wheeling and then by stage to Cadiz, Ohio, then to Newcomerston. A few miles from there he found an old friend named Daniel Burt. He had been 28 days making the trip which would be considered very short these days.
He hired to Mr. Burt at $10 a month and remained there seven years, during which time he made several trips with stock to New York City. One trip with fat cattle taken from Coshocton County took from April 18 to July 4. The cattle were on full feed all the way through and often traveled but 7 or 8 miles a day. During his stay with Mr. Burt, he had accumulated some $800, and thinking to make a speck, he bought two good teams and took a contract of one mile of grading on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He did $1,000 worth of work and received $200, the head contractor skipping out and leaving subcontractors in the ditch. One team and wagon was all that was saved from this wreck. About this time a printer named Wolf, at Wheeling sent out cards offering to send people to San Francisco for $200, half to be paid down and half at the end of the journey. This caught Mr. Sears,' eye along with about a hundred others, and he sold his team and paid his $100 to Wolf. After waiting ten days for the steamer to take them from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, they found that the Wolf had fled to his den. Some of them have their tickets yet and the Wolf the $100.
He and his brother, Amos, then went to Illinois, arriving there in February, 1853. He took a job of driving back from Danville to Champion, and had the honor of carrying Judge Abraham Lincoln, and several other lawyers, two trips. They were a jolly set of fellows and many a good joke was passed among them. One trip, being in the night, some of the lawyers lost their stovepipe hats. There was a jug of peach brandy on board, which probably had something to do with the losing of the hats.
Mr. Sears came to Lucas County, Iowa in 1855 and having some $250 in cash, he invested $100 in 80 acres of land in the southwest corner of the county. A few days after securing his land he took sick with fever, and was attended by the late Dr. Fitch, of Chariton. The spring found his pocket book much depleted and he went to work making rails at 50 cents per hundred, and after gathering a few dollars together he bought 40 acres of University land, mostly on time, and went to work improving it. He got 20 acres broke the first year and the next year fenced it with rails and built a log cabin. He married Miss Mary Fudge June 18, 1857, and together they began life in his new home. He got a job making shingles for a new mill being built at Chariton, doing the shaving mostly by night. The spring of 1857 was one extremely hard on the new settler. Corn was $2 per bushel, flour $9 per hundred. Coffee was manufactured from corn meal and sorghum molasses and people had but little use for sugar. In 1858, his wife took sick and continued so for over a year, leaving Mr. Sears badly in debt. In 1859, the Pikes Peak fever struck him and he went through with an ox team in the hope of building up his fortune. He returned in a short time, however, poorer than when he went. In spring of 1860 he went to work for G. Westfall for 50 cents per day, having to walk 2½ miles to his work each day, the price being raised to 75 cents per day through harvest. in the fall of '60, he sustained the first real grief in the loss of his son, aged some 18 months.
At the age of 17, he joined the M.E. church and was baptized by immersion in Ezra Stanford's mill pond, close to the line of the state of New Jersey. He has been sometime in the valley, sometimes on the mountain top, but never forgetting the time and place where he first obtained a hope that reaches beyond the grave,
This article, was submitted by Melody Wilson, and it appeared in Vol 12 Issue 4 of the Lucas County Notes and Shakin' the Family Tree