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The Westward Migration


Forty years before the American Revolution, a group of Highland Scots came to America and settled in Washington County in eastern New York. They were hardy, independent and accustomed to carrying arms; the type of immigrant especially important to the colonial governors who needed protection from the Indians and French along with expanding borders. Their grant of land, consisting of some 40 square miles, lay east of the Hudson River in the foothills of the Green Mountains. The country was then an unbroken wilderness without roads. The only means of travel was on foot or horseback.

In the years 1738, 1739, and 1740, Captain Campbell brought 472 prospective settlers to the same frontier. Alexander McNaughton in 1764 brought a large number of colonists to a nearby area known as the Argyle Patent which contained 47,450 acres. That same year, a group of Ulster-Scots, many related to persons already residing in the area, came from Pelham, Massachusetts.

In 1764, the Reverend Dr. Thomas Clark brought his entire Presbyterian congregation of about 300 Ulster Scots. This is said to be the only ecclesiastical body that came here as an entirety, with no break in their religious services. These colonists possessed a strong bond in their allegiance to the Presbyterian Church and through inter-marriage the ties of kinship had become even closer.” Their lives centered around the church and the local church school. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War many of the men took up arms for independence.

In the center of the Argyle community, near Cossayuna, New York, lived George Beveridge and his wife, Ann Hoy. Their white clapboard house was home for seven children. After a century of settlement, the Beveridges came to believe that Washington County was no longer the land of opportunity. Land, once almost free, had become very expensive. The future for their children lay in the new world beyond the Alleghenies. After much prayer, thought and discussion, it was decided that this middle-aged father and his 14 year old son would go on the long journey westward in search of new lands.

In 1838, George Beveridge took a pair of stout horses, loaded his wagon with woolen cloth, and traveled across New York, Ohio and Indiana. It was a journey of one thousand miles that finally brought him to the village of Chicago. Leaving Chicago, his face still towards the west, he took the newly-opened stage road leading toward the lead mines of Galena. Sixty miles west of Chicago, he came to a log cabin where the stage coach ran before its door. It had been the first white man’s house in DeKalb County. Before retiring for the night, Mr. Beveridge had traded what remained of his woolen cloth, together with his wagon and horses, for the cabin with squatter’s rights to 400 acres along either side of the stream. It would be a year before he returned to the mountains of Washington County for his wife and children.

“There is something valiant and courageous in the picture of this middle-aged pair, planning to break with all the traditions of life as they knew it, to leave their comfortable house and a lifetime’s associations to set out for a new country, a veritable wilderness to their eyes, and begin as pioneers at a time of life when they might have thought only of rest and surcease from labor.”

“Finally all was in readiness and in the month of May, 1842, the Beveridge family set out on their pilgrimage.” The party consisted of the parents and four unmarried children, the youngest being Agnes who was just thirteen. Also in the party was an older daughter Isabel and her husband William French. Jennett, the oldest child, who was married to James Henry was left behind, as was also the second son, Andrew. He was about to enter Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. This time the Beveridges made use of the canal and traveled the Great Lakes. The journey took seventeen days.

When they finally reached Somonauk, Illinois, it was raining. “The mud was deep and black.” The log house was leaking. The next morning, John Beveridge found his mother weeping as if her heart was breaking. “As she cried, she said she could never live here. She had come from the land where she was born and where she had lived fifty-four years...to a new land to dwell among strangers, from a comfortable home where she had raised her family, into a poor log house on the frontier of civilization.”

Three years later she returned to Washington County, N.Y., for a visit, “strange to say, she was glad to return to her log house, and she never regretted the change in her life.”

The log house was built of rough logs, “chinked and daubed with clay, with puncheon floors and shale roof, consisting of five rooms, an attic, and a lean-to.” The men and boys slept in the attic, “with rain drops in the summer and snowflakes in winter enlivening sleep.” A large room next to the granary contained a chimney and two small windows. This was the sitting room, dining room and the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Beveridge.

Travelers often stayed over night in the log house, which had once been used as a county inn. They were served good meals and had a good bed. The cost was seventy-five cents and included lodging and meals, with their horses being fed and stabled.