Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Ely's Cabin was on the north side of the river

I recently discovered an article written by John Duffield, published in the Keosauqua Republican newspaper on May 27, 1880. It sheds important light on exactly where Mr. Ely's cabin was located.

John had accompanied his father to Van Buren County in the fall of 1836, to build a cabin on their claim, which had been taken in the summer. He was sixteen.

They were detained a week at the Mississippi River because the ice was running so thick they could not cross. They built a small flat boat and finally succeeded in crossing.

Near Utica, they made their acquaintance with two men named Growall and Hardin, where they stayed overnight. On the following day, they reached the cabin of Mr. Ely, above Keosauqua.

It was snowing hard all day. It snowed all night and became very deep by morning. John said, "Our claim was about 4 miles off, and the river to cross."

We started out with Mr. Ely as the pilot and crossed the river above Pittsburg and then prepared for camp. We took off our wagon bed and set it on the snow. It was one of those old-fashioned ones, with stirrups on the side boards. So we let one sideboard down and drove two forks in the ground, put a pole on them, and raised the wagon bows into the pole, which made a very good tent. Then we cut some large logs and rolled them in front for a fire, driving stakes into the ground and rolling the logs against it until we had a nice backwall.

Duffield said that Mrs. Ely knew how to make "corn dodgers" and made a delicious supper for them. I found a recipe for corn dodgers, which sounds a lot like the hush puppies they make in Tennessee and Alabama.

Ingredients: 2 cups corn meal, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 1/2 cups milk, onion powder and peanut or corn oil.

Instructions: Beat eggs, stir in milk. Combine dry ingredients, sift, and stir into egg-milk mixture. Beat one minute. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Drop small teaspoonfuls into deep fryer and turn once. Remove when golden brown.

It is obvious from the Duffield description, that Mr. Ely's cabin above Keosauqua was on the north side of the river across from the marker in Lacey-Keosauqua State Park that marks Ely's Ford.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick