The Past and Present of Woodford County, Illinois by William Henry Perrin, H. H. Hill, Wm. Le Baron, Jr., & Co, Jr. Wm. Le Baron, & Co, H.H. Hill and Company, H.H. Hill and Company
Rev. James Owen was born in Fairfax County, Va., in 1801, and removed with his father's family to Kentucky, where they remained three years.
They came to Illinois, and settled in Wayne County in the Spring of 1819. They crossed the river, on their trip to this State, at Shawneetown, when there was but one store in that city, and but few other houses. In his trips back and forth, Mr. Owen has crossed the Mississippi at Shawneetown seven times.
He remained in Wayne County with his father's family until 1835, when he removed to Woodford County, and settled in Cazenovia, near the line between it and Partridge Township. He made a trip to this county the year previous to his removal to visit his brother, who had settled at Walnut Grove in 1829. While he yet lived in Wayne County, he had a horse stolen, and followed the thief over five hundred miles, and finally succeeded in recovering his horse in a distant part of Indiana, but failed to bag the thief, who, when he found he was getting into close quarters, abandoned the nag and made his escape.
When Mr. Owen settled on his present place in 1835, on the bluff overlooking one of the branches of Richland Creek, there were but a few large trees scattered over the plain, which Kentuckians and Virginians call "barrens." The beautiful young forest surrounding him now has grown up since. He brought with him a lot of scions, or roots of apple, peach, pear and cherry trees, in a box of dirt, which he planted in the moist earth near a fine spring of water, and though it was in the month of May they grew and flourished.The next year he planted his young trees in an orchard prepared for the purpose, where he soon had a variety of fruit. This was the first orchard in the township; some of the trees are still standing, and, unlike the barren fig tree, are bringing forth good fruit. Previous to his effort at fruit, there had been nothing of the kind in the neighborhood but wild plums and crab apples.
Mr. Owen entered land as he needed it, and could pay for it, and at one time owned several farms, which he let out to tenants. But finding that only what he himself superintended was a paying investment, he sold off all of his superfluous lands, and retained only a sufficiency for the wants of himself and family.
His house was the voting place when there were but three precincts and three voting places in the county, and many are the lively times and stirring scenes enacted on the old bluff, when the Partridge and Spring Bay Hills poured out their hardy yeomanry and naturalized voters to exercise their rights of franchise at the ballot box. All little neighborhood disputes were settled at this annual assembling of the clans, and with whisky at twenty cents a gallon, the crowd never lacked for the exhilarating beverage, which generally aided them very materially to cancel their slight differences.
Mr. Owen has been a great hunter in his day, and has probably killed more deer than he has seen years, although he is verging on to his four score. He informed us that in 1848 he killed fifty-two foxes, and that "it was not a very good year either for foxes." He had the first pack of hounds ever introduced into the township, and thus waged a bitter warfare against the whole fox tribe - those arrant foes to young pigs and lambs.
He was intimately acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, and, though a life-long Democrat, quite a strong friendship existed between them; and he, to use his own words, "used to have lots of fun with Honest Old Abe." As a relic of the past, Mr. Owen has a bill of the genuine old Continental money, dated in 1779, of the denomination of forty dollars, and signed by "John Graff" and J. C. Masoner."
It looks as little like the present United States notes as a counterfeit nickel resembles a twenty dollar gold piece.