Our Notebook


I spent the better part of the morning at the local LDS church poring over an old book on their computers.  Although it’s been digitized, you can’t get it online directly, but only in their libraries, under the watchful supervision of church members.  There were several of them there, and I fit in the age demographic perfectly; they must have been bored because they all loved sharing my discovery.   Putting the pieces together is very much like finishing a jigsaw puzzle, and it gives me the same satisfaction that Georgia gets when her 1000 piece puzzle is finished.  I’d like to share this.

My family is related to the Beebes, who migrated in the 1830’s from Vermont to Illinois, but the documents I found) certainly fleshed out the story.

The Beebe family lived in Winhall, Vermont, a community which now consists of expensive second homes and condos … and an old cemetery.  The weather in southeastern Vermont was terrible in the early 1800′s; the world was in the grip of – get this – global cooling, and farms were failing everywhere.

Transportation was not easy in 1835, so when the family gave up, packed up everything they owned and headed west, they first went to Buffalo, New York (probably using the eleven year old Erie Canal for at least a part of the journey). They took a boat along Lake Erie to Detroit, Michigan Territory.   Along the way, they may have seen or witnessed part of the infamous Toledo War between the militias of Michigan Territory and the state of Ohio which wouldn’t be settled until the next year.

“The governors of both the state and territory send militia forces to the area, but the Strip is covered with dense arborvitae swamps (part of the “Great Black Swamp”). The two militias get lost for weeks and never actually find each other, though at one point a Michigan deputy is stabbed while arresting an Ohio man in a tavern. No one else is seriously injured.”

The Wild West in 1835 was Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. That year,  Andrew Jackson was the first president to be the subject of an assassination attempt; and P.T. Barnum’s circus began its first cross country tour.  So how did they get from Detroit to  Kankakee?  The one route suggested in that genealogy  book (overland from Detroit) is one possibility, but here’s another, more likely scenario from the Wikipedia entry on Great Lakes shipping:

The first steamboat on the upper Great Lakes was the passenger carrying Walk-In-The-Water, built in 1818 to navigate Lake Erie. It was a success and more vessels like it followed. Steamboats on the lakes grew in size and number, and additional decks were built on the superstructure to allow more capacity. This inexpensive method of adding capacity was adapted from river steamboats and successfully applied to lake-going craft

The Erie Canal opened in 1825, allowing settlers from New England and New York to reach Michigan by water through Albany and Buffalo. This route opening and the incorporation of Chicago in 1837, increased Great Lakes steamboat traffic from Detroit through the straits of Mackinaw to Chicago.

And from another maritime history of the Great Lakes

Immigration by Lake. — Flint in his “History of the Mississippi Valley,” published 1832, says: “On account of the universality and cheapness of steamboat and canal passage and transport, more than half the whole number of immigrants now arrive in the West by water. This remark applies to nine-tenths of those that come from Europe and the Northern States. They thus escape much of the expense, slowness, inconvenience and danger of the ancient, cumbrous and tiresome journey in wagons. They no longer experience the former vexations of incessant altercations with landlords, mutual charges of dishonesty, discomforts from new modes of speech and reckoning money, from breaking down carriages and wearing out horses. Immigrants from Virginia, Georgia and the two Carolinas still immigrate after the ancient fashion, in the Southern wagon. Perhaps more than half the Northern immigrants now arrive by way of the New York canal and Lake Erie. If their destination be the upper waters of the Wabash, they debark at Sandusky, and continue their route without approaching the Ohio. The greater number make their way from the lake to the Ohio, either by the Erie and Ohio, or the Dayton canal. From all points except those west of the Guyandot route, and the national road, when they reach the Ohio, or its navigable waters, the greater number of the families take water.”
Helped by the Erie Canal. — The opening of the Erie canal, in 1826, was a great factor in promoting the growth of the lake business. It was not felt immediately, but in a few years both freight and passenger business attained tremendous proportions, compared with the previous feeble volume of traffic.

On the Erie canal there were, in 1836, about 3,000 canal boats employed, leaving Albany almost every hour, affording facilities to emigrants to convey their families and property at a small expense. Between what was known as the packet and the line boat, there was but little choice, except that the former moved four miles per hour and the latter three miles per hour. The price of passage by the packet boat, including meals, from Albany to Buffalo, was $14.52; on a line boat, 1 ½ cents per mile for passage, or 2 ½ cents a mile, including meals, making for a passage the whole route in the former case, $5.44; in the latter, including meals, $9.07. For light goods, from Albany to Buffalo, the freight was 75 cents per hundred weight; heavy, $1, and furniture 75 cents per hundred weight.

Trade from 1833 to 1840. — In reviewing the trade of Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan between 1833 and 1840, Mr. Barton says: “In 1833 there were employed eleven steamboats, which cost the sum of $360,000: they carried to and from Buffalo, and other ports on the lakes, that summer, 61,485 passengers. Of these, 42,956 were taken from Buffalo, bound west; the remaining 18,529 were all landed at Buffalo, excepting some few distributed at the different ports along the lake. There were made, that season, three trips to the Upper Lakes, two to Chicago, and one to Green Bay; the amount of receipts for which was $4,356.

“By way of contrasting the time employed in making trips to Chicago in those days and the present, I will state that one of the boats left Buffalo June 23, at 9 P. M., and returned on July 18, at 10 P. M. The other left Buffalo July 20, at 4 P. M., and returned August 11.

“In 1834, the number of boats on the lakes was 48, of various sizes, from 150 to (one of them only) 750 tons, and cost in the construction $2,200,000. Some of these boats were run and others laid up. The business this year west of Detroit reached the sum of $201,838; this amount of business is made up (with the exception of some $12,000 or $14,000 paid by government for transportation of troops) by passengers, and freight of merchandise, going to the different towns (I cannot say ports, for there is none that a boat can enter with safety) on the borders of Lake Michigan; and passengers and produce, of which latter there was a good deal this year from the same quarter. In 1834 two trips were made to Green Bay, and three to Chicago, and the amount of business done was $6,272; the greatest part of this sum was for business west of Detroit, as the trips to Chicago were
made by a boat running from that place to Chicago.

“In 1835, as the spirit of land speculation had commenced west, the number of passengers crossing the lake was much increased, and, consequently, the aggregate business done must have presented a much enlarged margin over 1834.



So there’s a very good possibility that they did not disembark at Detroit but came all the way to Chicago by steamboat.  I wonder if anyone remembers.

The Beebe family found a place to farm a few miles south of Chicago, in Beebe’s Grove, which is now a part of a very nondescript  south Chicago suburb called Crete.

The land there was not hospitable to agriculture (i.e. nothing grew).   Daniel Beebe was close to his cousin Asa; they were later to marry  sisters Nancy and Henrietta Mellen.  In 1837, the 26 year old Daniel, Asa, and Daniel’s older brother Revillo  decided that they no longer wanted to try to scrape a living out of the hard clay soil of Beebe’s Grove, and moved 36 miles south along the Dixie Highway (now Illinois 1) and settled east of Aroma Park in a little crossroads they called Beebetown. Click on the thumbnail to the left. 1842 Daniel Beebe Land Records It’s the original 1842 land grant from President John Tyler to Daniel Beebe of his first farm. Daniel was 30 years old and he and Nancy had been married only a few months before.  And yes, it’s correct.  Kankakee County wasn’t created until February 11, 1853, so at the time he homesteaded the property, it was located in Will County.

Ten years later Daniel and Nancy’s fifth child Iola was born. Iola married Frank Baldwin.  Iola and Frank’s  first child, Lena, died in infancy; their second, Frank Jr., died of scarlet fever in 1902.  Iola and Frank’s third child was born in 1887 and lived until 1974:  my grandmother  Alura Baldwin Snyder.

Daniel was Grandma Snyder's grandfather

Beebetown Cemetery

Nearly all of these relatives are buried in the Beebetown Cemetery, which as you probably know, is a few hundred yards south and east of the family farm in Aroma Park. In the map view, the driveway is the boundary between farms. Unfortunately, the cemetery is located in the middle of a neighbors’ field, and there is no practical access,especially in the summer when the corn is high.

1 Comment

  1. Edward "Ted" Fienning

    This is just terrific information! I hope any relatives with photographs in the basement or stored away can get a digital copy to Steve. I am a huge fan of this effort, and the site looks great too.

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