The article, “Daniel Prince” by Mrs. J. E. Merritt in 1906, recounts the story of the first white man to settle in the Grove area of Illinois in 1821. Daniel Prince lived a solitary life among the wild men of the forest until he married in 1833 and started a family. He was known for his hospitality and kindness to his neighbors, often providing food for the poor in the vicinity. Despite his lack of religious profession, he allowed ministers to hold services in his cabin. The article offers an insight into the life of this pioneer and the impact he had on the community he helped found.
By Mrs. J. E. Merritt, 1906.
As near as we have been able to learn, Daniel Prince of Indiana was the first white man to settle at the Grove, He came to this locality in 1821 and started his home on the South side of the grove, on the land now belonging to Mr. S. S. Slane. His cabin was built after the style of Mr. Cutter’s, save that it had no glass windows, no upper story, and had a hole in the side for a door.
Here Mr. Prince lived for many years among the wild men of the forest with no companion save his faithful Thomas, concerning whom many interesting anecdotes are related. He early made friends with the red men, and when the Black Hawk War broke out in 1832, unlike the other early settlers he did not go into the Fort at Peoria, but remained on his farm and was unmolested.
For several years Mr. Prince and his wife remained here improving their home farm. But as others moved in and the neighborhood began to assume a more civilized aspect, a restless longing for the pioneer life he so loved, impelled him in 1839 to move to Southwestern Missouri, a country which at that time was the wild, unimproved West. And here I am sorry to say, we lose track of him, none of his descendants having lived in this part of the country for any length of time. One of his sons, I am told, visited with his relatives, the Morrow’s, a few years ago.
Many interesting and amusing stories are told by the old settlers who were acquainted with this eccentric, but benevolent man. Hospitality was the first law of his life, soon after settling here he began to raise a nursery. When he set out his own orchard, he planted a row of trees all along the South and West sides of his farm which were free for all. Travelers were invited to help themselves, all from far and near were welcome to the apples as long as they lasted. The first apple sauce the writer ever remembers of eating, was made from apples grown on these trees. It was mighty nice, too.
At one time before he had any white neighbors, Mr. Prince was bitten by a rattle snake. There was no one to do anything for him. He rapidly grew worse. The thought of dying alone where prowling wolves would come in and devour his body, leaving nothing to tell the story of his tragic fate, was not a pleasant one. He determined, while strength was still left him to do so, to climb up on the roof of his cabin, out of the reach of wolves and where some chance explorer or friendly Indian seeing his body would give him a decent burial. After climbing on top of the cabin, he found that elevating his foot relieved his pain, Thus he remained until some passing Indians, seeing their white friend in this peculiar position, stopped to make inquiries. On learning the facts they took him down, applied the remedies they used for snake bites and Mr. Prince soon recovered.
Mr. Prince raised large numbers of cattle and hogs on his farm. One day, at a time when he had about 100 yoke of oxen, a gentleman stopped at the cabin and wished to buy four yoke. Mr. Prince replied that he had none to sell. “I will give $500.00 for four yoke of oxen.” “I told you I had none to sell,” returned Mr. Prince, and the man was compelled to look elsewhere for cattle. Soon after Mr. Prince learned that a family in the neighborhood was short of provision. He immediately selected a good beef from his herd, butchered it and bountifully supplied the suffering family with food. It was his habit, say his early associates, to supply the poor in the vicinity with beef and pork. An old settler who was personally acquainted with, and a near neighbor of Daniel Prince, told me that he was as kind and good a neighbor as one could wish for, and that no man in early days had done more for the people of this place than did he.
While making no profession of religion himself, Mr. Prince always allowed his wife to throw out the latch string to any minister who came along, and open their cabin for religious services, Not long since I heard an account of one of these early meetings held at the Prince home, The house was at that time a double log with entry, a large fire place in one end, a bed in the other, In the open space at the foot of the bed, stood the preacher, the congregation occupying the remaining space between bed and fire.
In the midst of the discourse when the minister had waxed eloquent, the cloth drapery over the door was pushed aside and Mr. Prince, who had been detained looking after his stock which he never neglected, entered, clad in buckskin clothes, quietly warmed himself by the fire, for it was cold, then gently rose up. went to the bed, turned the covers back and jumped in. buckskins and all, and covered himself up. The minister, unheeding the interruption, went on with his sermon, When he had closed the meeting the neighbors returned to their homes, glad to have had the privilege of listening to a gospel sermon, and thanking Mr. Prince for his hospitality, if he did think he could enjoy the sermon better resting in bed. Much more of interest might be told concerning this kind and brave man for whom our grove, village and township have been named, but enough has been said to prove that the founder of the early settlement here was no mean character, but one who justly deserves our profound respect and one who should be held in grateful remembrance by all our younger citizens as well as the early settlers.