Mrs. Jeanette (Pigsley) Mitchell was born in Jefferson county, N.Y. near Sackett’s harbor, March 22, 1832, and is the second daughter of Welcome and Thirza Pigsley, who settled on the place (south of Canton, Illinois) where Calvin Fluke now lives, in 1836.
"We drove through from New York to Lake Michigan," said Mrs. Mitchell "and crossed the lake on a schooner. From Chicago we came overland to Fulton county, Illinois. When we reached Fulton county we stopped with settlers who had preceded us to the land which was said to ‘flow with milk and honey,’ until our cabin was erected. Calvin Fluke now owns the old Pigsley homestead and the cabin stood near the site of Mr. Fluke’s residence."
"The first thing after a new settler arrived was to find a suitable location and to set about building a cabin. Our cabin was a crude structure with one room. Trees of uniform size were selected for the new cabin, the logs were cut the desired length, each end being ‘saddled,’ or notched, so as to bring them as near together as possible. The cracks were ‘chinked’ or ‘daubed’ to keep the wind from whistling through. This ‘daubing’ had to be renewed every fall before cold weather set in. The building was covered with clapboards held in place by weight poles. A wide fireplace was cut out of one end of the cabin and the mud-and-stick chimney was built on the outside. A doorway was also cut through one of the walls and the door was made of spliced clapboards and hung on wooden hinges. This was opened by pulling a leather latchstring. The latchstring was always ‘hanging out’ as a welcome to all. The fireplace was large and would hold enough wood to supply an ordinary stove a week. Beds, splint-bottomed chairs, a pine table, a rude cupboard, and a large and small spinning wheel and few other articles constituted the furniture of the cabin homes of the early settlers of Fulton county. On either side of the big fireplace were poles and kettles and over all a mantle on which was placed a tallow dip. The mantle was sort of ‘Catch-all’ for the family and was generally loaded. To witness the various processes of cooking in those days would alike surprise and amuse those who have grown up since cooking stoves and ranges came into use. Kettles were hung over the large fire suspended on trammels which were held by strong poles. A long handled pan was used for cooking meat. It was held on the fire by hand. This pan was also used for baking shortcake. The best thing for baking bread was the flat bottomed bake kettle, with a closely fitting lid and commonly known as a ‘dutch oven.’ With hot coals over and under it bread will bake quickly and nicely."
"The loom was not less necessary than the wheel. Not every cabin however, in which spinning was done, had a loom. But there were always some in each settlement who, besides doing their own weaving did some for others. Nearly all the clothes worn by men and women were home made. We had no ‘boughten’ clothes in the earlier days of the county. Wheat bread did not become a common article of food for some years after we came to the county. Among the more general forms of amusements were the quilting bee, wool picking, log-rolling, house-raising, and later the apple and peach paring. There used to be plenty of apples and peaches, too, in Fulton county."
"Father had six girls, and only one boy, and much depended on us girls in assisting to clear his land and carry on his farming. Father was a farmer, teacher and preacher, and also did the shoemaking for the family. We girls helped to improve the old homestead and did much of the outdoor work. We lived there for 22 years, or until 1858, when the family moved to St. Augustine in Knox county, where both father and mother spent the remainder of their lives. Father died in 1874 and mother in 1879, ages respectively 77 and 73 years. Their remains are interred in the St. Augustine cemetery. Father was a member of the Missionary Baptist church and Mother belonged to the Freewill Baptist church. There are only four children of the Pigsley family now living. Mrs. Deborah Owens, residing in Arkansas; P. W. Pigsley, a resident of Cass county, Iowa; Mrs. Rebecca Ricketts, living in Sedalia, Mo., and myself."
"Both my father and Father Mitchell were bitterly opposed to secret organizations. I omitted to mention that we moved to Woodford county in 1848, lived there five years, and then moved back on the old Fulton county homestead. Mother used to earn $1 a day weaving. I have seen many a pack of wolves running across their field. They killed a pet lamb once, belonging to my sister Lavina, and she took a good cry over it. After we had been here awhile we girls had one calico dress for Sunday but we wore homespun gowns for every day and we made our own clothes, too. The country was thinly settled, our circumstances were limited, we were compelled to work early and late for our sustenance."
"I was married on the fifteenth day of October, 1848, to Joseph Mitchell, my father, the Rev. Welcome Pigsley, officiating. We have 11 children, all living: Albert C. who married Luella Brooks, lives in Fremont county, Iowa; Nancy M. is the wife of William May, of Joshua township; Mrs. Jennie L. Schafer is a resident of Fremont county, Iowa; Mrs. Thirza M. Haskins is the wife of Frank Haskins, living near Farragut, Iowa; Charles F. married Fanny Hall and their home is in Fremont county, Iowa; G. W. Mitchell married Nettie Bryte and they are residents of Page county, Iowa; Mathew H. resides on the old home place, in Deerfield township; Mrs. Bessie M. Keefauver is the wife of Charles Keefauver and lives on a farm in Joshua township; Mrs. Lula Ollis lives on a farm in Joshua township; Mrs. Addie H. Skinner is at home taking care of us in our old age. Mrs. Adele Spenny, wife of Forest Spenny, is on a farm in Joshua township."
"But I have told you enough for the present. Both Mr. Mitchell and myself have worked long and faithfully, have reared a large family of useful men and women, and thank God they are all living."
Both Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell are getting well along in years and are among the earliest settlers of Fulton county still living. They have grown with its growth and have been no unimportant factor in making it one of the richest counties in the state. For more than 57 years they have permitted to walk life’s road together. They have 11 children, all living, and 35 grandchildren. This worthy couple celebrated their fifty-seventh wedding anniversary on the fifteenth day of last October. Joseph Mitchell is a staunch Republican and still takes quite an interest in political affairs. They both belong to the Baptist church and their membership dates back to pioneer days. With each passing year they have continued to add to the long list of their friends and are today very highly respected and esteemed in the community where the greater portion of their long lives have been spent. Intelligent and moral, they have been very useful citizens in helping build up home enterprises, and have been an influence for much good in social and religious matters.
by Jeannette Mitchell
Canton Weekly Register, January 4, 1906