The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Bell-Rodeffer Families Move Toward 98th Year In Publishing Area's Weekly Newspapers

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/owner

I remember when I was a young mother of 22, my daughter Tami asked me if in the olden days, I had to ride a horse to get to school. I laughed and said, it was only four years ago, I was in school but to her, it was a long time ago.

In our youth, things that happened one hundred years ago really seemed like an unattainable era in time. But, after we roll past the age of fifty, we realize half a hundred really isn't that long ago. As we look back, we see the progress and the things we have overcome. We are amazed by the Industrial Revolution and the men credited for building America: Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and Henry Ford. But, it didn't stop there. There has been a tremendous amount of progress since as our country continues to prosper, both in good times and in bad.

We've overcome the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, the Cuban Crises, Vietnam, 911 Iraq, and others. We have sent men and women into space, landed on the moon, developed the Microwave, Internet, computers, cars that talk, drive themself, planes that fly themselves, drones. We even have cars that can drive, fly and float. We've been able to do so much in the medical field as well.

As we slide into another year, I am realizing America in 2024, really is not that old. We learned in elementary school that "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" to discover the new world of America. Almost 300 years later, the Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776 declaring our freedom from the British rule."

Now in just two more years, it will be 2026. Our country will "only" be 250 years old, and our family newspapers will be 100 years old. It started by my grandparents C.M. Bell, his wife Hettie Staley Bell with my father, Paul G. Bell, purchasing their first newspaper in 1926, The Stronghurst Graphic.

I thought it would be interesting to share the life of Hettie's grandmother, Mrs. C.H. McLain who lived 4 years and 3 months shy of 100, by reprinting her lengthy obituary. She lived north of what is now the Richard Lutz residence north of Biggsville.

Stronghurst Graphic Vol. XLVII No.8

Mrs. C.H. McLain County Pioneer Passes Away

Mrs. Cornelia H. McLain, 27 years a resident of Stronghurst and 90 years a resident of Henderson County, passed away at the age of 95 years and 9 months, October 12, 1934 at the home of her granddaughter, Mrs. C.M. Bell and family of this place.

She passed quietly away after an illness which confined her in bed for ten months.

She was the daughter of Ambers Newton and Martha Anderson Armstrong, born Feb. 13, 1839 at Memphis, Tenn. Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon at the home. Rev. G. W. Hutton, pastor of the U.P. church delivered the sermon. Rev. E. E. Diffenbaugh of the M.E. Church offered the prayer and read the twenty-third Psalm, Mrs. McLain's favorite psalm. Rev. Hutton and Rev. Carl Vissering of the Christian church sang "We are Going Down the Valley One by One," and "Jesus Lover of My Soul." Miss Mary Dixson accompanied them at the piano.

Grandma McLain had a remarkable physical, mental and spiritual strength characteristic of the hard pioneers. Coming to the country with her parents and family in a covered wagon, settling near South Henderson church in the fall of 1844 when Oquawka was the only town in the county, and when most of the land had never been plowed, she learned God's truths from her parents and from nature, early in life, which proved a blessing to her for so many years.

She never forgot the first songs she learned at singing school near South Henderson and she commemorated her 95th birthday by singing the words– "Morning 'mid the mountains, lovely solitude; gushing streams and fountains, murmur God is good. Hymns of praises singing, thru the leafy wood; songsters sweetly singing, God, oh God is good."

Although much of her life was filled with sorrow and hardships, she found "God is good.," and experienced great joy in serving Him and following Christ her Master. She learned from books in a one-room country school house called Dutch Row and she later attended public school at Oquawka. Early in life she joined the Presbyterian Church in Biggsville and was active in church work.

She was married to Henry McLain, Sept. 21, 1858 at Biggsville and where they made their home. To this union, three children were born, Margaret Amelia, R. Edward, and Henrietta, the latter passing away in infancy. Her husband joined the Union forces in the Civil War and his wife bravely cared for their two children. After the war, he was the Postmaster at Biggsville for a short time but injuries he had received in service resulted in his death.

Mrs. McLain, with two small children, with no income for 18 months and then only a small income, courageously faced the future with faith in God and found that "when there is a will there is a way," for she successfully reared not only her own son and daughter, but also later when her daughter married and died leaving a three year old daughter, Hettie (now Mrs. C.M. Bell) she took her into her own home and was a mother to her. Few people in the history of the world have been privileged to witness such progress as has come about in Grandma McLain's lifetime.

Her father surveyed much of the land in Henderson and Warren Counties and also surveyed in Washington and Oregon states. He bought 160 acres at a $1.25 an acre 2 1/2 miles north of Biggsville, the place now known as the Mitchner farm. There was a few resident Indians here in these days and it was not uncommon to see deer near the house. Prairie chickens were in abundance and for many years there was plenty of wild game to eat.

She saw her brothers break prairie with a wooden plow pulled by a yoke of oxen, plowing for the first time many acres of land in Henderson County. She planted corn walking behind the plow and dropped the seed from her apron. She lived to see the improved methods by which the land was cultivated and the crops harvested, climaxing with the automatic corn picking machines and combine harvesters. She has seen her father buy land for $1.25 an acre and has lived to see the same land sell for two hundred times that much. She has seen vast open spaces, fenced with rails, replace with hedge and later with wire fence. She has see her father and brothers laboriously hew logs and make a two-room log cabin where she often slept in the loft, awakening many winter mornings with dazzling white snowflakes which had sifted thru the crevices between the logs to adorn her bed and to put a healthy tingle in her cheeks. She lived to see the log cabins displaced with stone, steel, and wood mansions, some of these even having their temperature automatically controlled.

She had read by candlelight, kerosene, pressure gas, and electric lights. She had waited months to see who had been elected President, and she had lived to hear within a comparatively few hours by radio complete election returns and actually heard the voices of three presidents. She remembered Lincoln being at Oquawka, Coxy's army passing through Biggsville, and lived to see after another war, another army of unemployed, march on to Washington.

She lived hen a fireplace was a necessity and years later, saw it become a luxury. She had taken wheat to the Mill to be ground into flour and never bought a loaf of bread until after she was married, later to have a loaf of bread sliced 30 miles away and delivered to her home the same day. She walked from near Biggsville to Oquawka for such things as needles, thread, sugar, and salt and she lived in a period when she could step to a telephone and such things were delivered to her door.

She came to this country over rough land in a covered wagon drawn by horses. She lived to travel on the same fields on a smooth concrete highway in an automobile that an early neighbor predicted would some day be invented but most thought was an impossibility. She lived to see dreams of flying in the air "the magic carpet" of fairy tales, come true. When the first railroad came through the county, she was there to help celebrate and to take a free ride from Biggville to Gladstone at the rapid rate of ten miles an hour. She lived in the period when the Zephyr passed over the same route at ten times that speed.

When her granddaughter was married and moved to Stronghurst, she came and made her home with her where she resided until her death.

Her later life was peaceful and she enjoyed many fine friends and was loved by all who knew her. She was active, even at an advanced age, knitting, drying dishes, caring for her flower garden, walking about the house and out of doors asserting that daily exercise, usefulness, and righteousness lengthened her life.

During her illness, she was a patient sufferer, being always thankful to God and trusting in Jesus to take her to his father's house where there are many mansions for those who trust Him and keep His commandments. In suffering, she often sang her favorite songs "Jesus Lover of My Soul." Her relatives, friends, nurses and a kind and skilled physician did all that was humanly possible to restore her health, but age stole upon her and she grew steadily weaker.

As death approached, as it must come to everyone, Grandma McLain's faith in God became her greatest asset. When human hands failed, as the time will come to everyone, true indeed are the words:

"Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me!
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.etc.

-Charles Wesley

She lived the triumphant life, death taking her from the land of the dying to the land of eternal life.

Interment was in Biggsville Cemetery. The funeral was in charge of Mr. Dewey Mudd funeral Director, Stronghurst.

She leaves to mourn her passing: five grandchildren, namely Mrs. C.M. Bell, Stronghurst, Mrs. Maud Law, Brookfield, IL, Arthur McLain, Kansas City, MO, Jack McLain, Chicago, Carl McLain, Galesburg, 13 great grandchildren: Arthur Dwight, Donald Murray, Edward Nelson, Otis Mauroe, William Graham, Robert Estel, Arthur Jr., Lorraine, Helen, Betty Jane, Marjorie, Dickie McLain and Paul Bell. Also Great grandchildren Arthur Dwight, Jr., Philip McLain Law and Wm. Graham Pruitt.