Lighting Ancestral Lamps

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Hyatt7, Early Pioneer
of Ohio and Illinois

William Benton Bunn, Sr., used to tell hair raising stories about the wild animals frequenting Hyatt and family's log cabin home area 1n southeast Claremont Township, Richland county, Illinois, during the 1840's. For instance, Betsey, Hyatt's wife, sent her children, William Benton, Sr., and a sister, to the woodpile for a basket of chips and kindling shortly after dark one crisp autumn evening. The children completed their errand, but almost as soon as they returned to their home, the family was terrified by the terrible shrieking and screeching of an animal that they immediately recognized as a panther. This wood yard was not more than one hundred yards from the house. Grandmother Betsey was equal to the occasion. She recognized that the fierce animal, that had scented the children, was deadly afraid of fire. Today a mother would probably not have known how to have met the situation, but Betsey, the pioneer grandmother did. The huge fireplace in their home was alive with slowly dying embers. Immediately upon hearing the screeching animal, she scooped up one full shovel of live coals after another and threw them with all her might in the direction of the animal. A few shovelfuls thrown at the wild beast and it hurriedly retreated. Grandfather Hyatt at the time was on a distant area of the farm completing his evening chores. He heard the terrible screeching of the panther. He was scared stiff' so to speak, because he feared for the lives of his loved ones. Of course, his loaded and trusty rifle was hereby. He grabbed his gun and hurried for home on the run. The panther was not to be seen, but he was greatly relieved when he found his entire family unharmed. Many equally hair raising hand-me-down stories could be repeated if space permitted.

This couple of hardy pioneers had the unique distinction of pioneering in two states. The first one was Ohio. Hyatt was born in Ohio only two years after that state was admitted to the union. Betsey and her father's family Immigrated to Ohio only a few years later. They "set up" house-keeping in the wilderness. Then about the time the area began to develop, a semblance of settlement through the building of roads, schools, and churches. They pulled stakes and moved to the wilderness of east southeast Illinois in I839. Illinois had been recognized as a state a mere twenty years. Everywhere over this area the population was sparse, and the country side was unchanged from its original appearance. Since this situation prevailed, Hyatt and Betsey began life again as that of early rugged pioneers. Much progress was made in the area's development before Betsey's death on June 22, 1868, and Hyatt's death December 5, l871. Relatively speaking, however, this southern Illinois country had only slowly developed agriculturally and otherwise at the close of their lives. Betsey, was buried in Wesley Chapel cemetery' Lawrence County, several miles from her home because the Methodist Episcopal burying grounds at that time were few and far between. Hyatt outlived his wife only about three and one half years, but in the meantime burial grounds had been provided at the Mt. Olive Methodist church, located within two miles of Hyatt's farm. Hyatt was a staunch supporter of the Mt. Olive Church. He was much interested in seeing this meeting place grow and prosper; thus, he requested that he be buried in the new burial grounds at Mt. Olive. This request was met.

Thus ended the lives of an honorable, upright, and persevering pioneer couple.

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