THE OLD DAVIDSON BARN[1]

Annie E. Davidson - Dec, 1943

 

The old barn on the Davidson homestead (90 x 60 ft.) about one mile northwest of Eureka, after continuous use for more than one hundred years, still stands as firm as though good for another century. Its frame was made from the hewn tree trunks from surrounding timber (some of them eighteen inches square) mortised together, held by wooden pins; no nails.

 

This barn was the scene of many interesting events in the development of community life in Walnut Grove, now Eureka. My father, William A. Davidson, born April 5, 1837, remembers vividly standing, leaning on his mother who was holding his baby brother Franklin, born August 10, 1839, in her lap, and being thrilled by some school boy dramatics, in an "exhibition" held in the barn. He said his mother wore a new bonnet and shawl, purchased in St. Louis (the nearest shopping place) and he thought she looked so pretty.

 

The Eureka Christian Church organized 1832, the first church in this community, which owned no "meeting house" until 1847, held several "Big Meetings" or "Protracted Meetings" in the barn, one of which was held by Barton W. Stone2. Baptisms were administered in Walnut Creek, which meanders through the farm. Often a hole had to be cut in the ice for the purpose.

 

Father remembered that a music firm in Peoria sent one or more representatives, periodically, who "put up" (entertainment free) in our house, held Singing School in the barn, and sold musical instruments.

 

Doubtless many husking bees and spelling schools, were held in the building. There were ten children in the Davidson family, and we can infer that they had their share of fun, along with the hardships and privations of pioneer life.

 

The Article of Agreement signed by Caleb Davidson and the party of the second part, for the building of this barn, I framed between glass and gave it to the Woodford County Historical Society at Metamora, several years ago3. As I remember it was dated 1838. It stated that Grandfather Davidson was to cut down, trim and haul the trees to the designated spot. I had a piece of the log chain used for this purpose, but recently it disappeared. The links of iron were as large as a man's hand.

 

Walnut Grove, where now stands Eureka, a little more than a century ago, was the "forest primeval," a body of timber several miles wide, lying for some eight miles along Walnut Creek.

 

Caleb and Martha Davidson, with four little children, came from Kentucky by wagon and horseback in 1830-31. It was the winter of the "big snow." They were nearly four months on the way to the farm which had been purchased from John Bird (the original settler) about one mile northwest of Eureka, on which was a two-room log cabin. As soon as possible he engaged a contractor, who brought his wife with him and lived with the Davidson family in a room built on for them, while building the house, a part of which still stands. Grandfather hauled wheat in wagons to Chicago and brought back lumber for a part of the house.

 

The Caleb Davidson handmade flax break, now in the Metamora Museum, reminds us of the time when our pioneers had to raise flax and hemp, process by hand into thread, and weave it into cloth.



Notes added by Steve Colburn, Oct. 6, 1996

1. This article was written in December 1943, at the urging of Byron L. Colburn. It was submitted for publication in the Woodford County Journal by Vera Colburn, great great granddaughter of Caleb Davidson, and appeared there on page 2, July 18, 1991.

2. Barton W. Stone was one of the founders of the denomination Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

3. Nora Davidson, in the 1978 edition of "Davidsons," says that the barn was built by Plinny Monroe in 1839.