WILLIAM HORNBACK, eldest son of Solomon Hornback, Sr. and Sally Philips, settled his family near present El Dara in 1829, following a prospecting excursion into that region two years earlier. When the family came in 1829, there were only 80 voters in Pike county and only four families in what is now Derry township. They became members of that pioneer Derry group including the families of David W. Howard, Charles Martin, Isaiah Cooper and Robert McClintock. In 1880 William Hornback was the only survivor of those early settlers still living in the township.
Indians were rather numerous and had several camps along the streams when the Hornbacks came. Great numbers of them by this time had been driven westward across the Mississippi but hundreds still lingered on their ancient hunting grounds, loath to leave them to the white invaders. Sometimes these lingering bands became quite troublesome, stealing from the settlers and running off their stock. Finally they became such a menace that the settlers got together and laid plans to get rid of them.
An army was raised to march against the redskins. It was a small army, numbering only fifteen men, but it was a determined one. The army marched to the vicinity of the Indian camp and halting, notified the redskins to evacuate and leave the neighborhood. The Indians at first refused to comply with the demands of the whites. Hoping to avoid inflicting bodily injury if they could be rid of them without, the commander of the little army engraved an Indian's head on a tree, and then several of the "soldiers," among them William Hornback, discharged their guns at this image. The Indians took the hint, immediately evacuated camp, and, leaving the vicinity, never again intruded upon the settlers in that township.
William Hornback related that deer, wolf, coon and wild turkeys were numerous in the time of his early settlement. There were also some panthers, catamounts, wildcats and lynx found in the vicinity.
Wild honey and venison was the common everyday fare. The venison was preserved by drying. Mr. Hornback found a tree within 200 yards of his house, which he cut and took from it several buckets of honey on Christmas Day, 1829. He told of having shot many wild turkeys while standing in the door of his house southwest of present El Dara. During the big snow in the winter of 1830-31, wild turkeys congregated in such numbers in Mr. Howard's cornfield that he had to call upon his neighbors, among them Mr. Hornback, to assist him in killing them, in order to save his corn. As many as possible were preserved and used for food but large numbers of the wild fowl had to be thrown away.
Mr. Hornback was wont to recount an incident that befell him just before the big snow above referred to began to fall. This was the great snow so often mentioned in pioneer story, the deepest snow of record in Illinois.
Mr. Hornback carried the mail between Atlas and Rock Island. In the fall of 1830 he started one day on horseback to the northern town. By the time he reached Pope Creek (near present Aledo), the weather had turned so bitterly cold that he was in imminent danger of freezing to death. Realizing his peril in the wilderness, he turned his horse homeward. To add to his already critical situation, he was attacked by a severe illness of bilious colic. This, with the intense cold, almost cost him his life on the bleak trail.
It began to snow and sleet on the 23rd of December, which made traveling very difficult and slavish for his horse. He finally reached the pioneer town of Quincy, on his return, in the evening of December 24, 1830. It was Christmas Eve. Next morning, the ground was coated with jagged ice so that his unshod horse could hardly travel. There was only one blacksmith shop in Quincy, and the smith was obdurate. He was too religious to turn a hand on Christmas Day. To Mr. Hornback's pleadings he replied that he never had worked on Christmas Day and he would be damned if he ever would.
Mr. Hornback finally set out from Quincy on his unshod horse, pursuing with difficulty the old Fort Edwards road. The day was bitter. A solemn gloom pervaded the wilderness. All signs were portentous of impending storm. The gray day darkened into night and just at nightfall, after a hard and tedious journey. Mr. Hornback reached his home. That night the big snow, famed in pioneer annals, began to fall.
At William Hornback's log house in 1829, the first sermon in what is now Derry township was preached by the Reverend William Bogard, a Methodist minister. In 1830 the renowned Lorenzo Dow preached a sermon in the same house, remaining seated while he preached. At this same service, Dow baptized Mr. Hornback's son, William Landrum Hornback, first white child born in Derry, and also Mr. Hornback's daughter Patsy and his half-brother, James Hopeful Hornback.
William Hornback lived to a ripe old age, dying March 26, 1891 at the age of 83 years, two months and 23 days. He was born in Kentucky January 3, 1808. He is buried in Hornback cemetery, a mile and a half southwest of El Dara, in a place remote from the main-traveled roads and difficult of access in wet or thawing weather. A few old pines shade this ancient burial plot, one of the oldest within Pike county's borders.
These remote and overgrown burial grounds are repositories of vital records to be found nowhere else. Benjamin Franklin once said: "Show me first the graveyards of a country and I will tell you the true character of the people." So, in this old burial plot, where the graves, many of them, are difficult of approach because of the brambles and stubby sumac thickets that surround them, one may read on the weathered stones, some of them nearly buried, some broken, many of them flat on the ground, the story of a hardy race that once peopled this section, men and women who braved the hard life of a pioneer existence, turning their backs on the comforts of older communities to found new homes in a new land.
The stones in Hornback cemetery tell, too, a story of a community life such as is found nowhere else, to a like extent, in the county. It is a story of a people who remained together, when other communities were breaking up, of a community that was slow to change, its people continuing to comprise for the most part the early families and the descendants of the first settlers. Here in this old cemetery lie the perished forms of those of the early settlers who were buried there a century and more ago. Here is the grave of James Hopeful Hornback, who died March 17, 1832, his being the first white death in what is now Derry township. He had first looked upon this region in 1827, when he came out with his brother, Joseph Alfred Hornback, and his half-brother, William Hornback. He entered land in Section 20 and moved to it in 1829.
As one moves along in these old cemeteries, thrusting aside the clutching brambles for a glimpse of the dim legends on the worn and discolored stones, faithful sentinels that have stood more than a century to tell us who sleeps beneath, we seem to conjure up a pageant of our country's early days. Sometimes we hear the guns of the Revolution and the shriek of the bitter winds that stung the Continental troops, for at our feet is the grave of one who was with Washington at Valley Forge; again we hear the cannons roar in the second war with Britain, for here lies a soldier of the War of 1812. The elder Solomon hornback, buried in Hornback cemetery, is a soldier of that war.
Again these aged stones tell the story of plagues that swept the pioneer community, of the ravages of smallpox and diphtheria and Asiatic cholera and of that dread plague of earlier days, typhoid. Again they tell the story of the lack of comforts and medical care on the frontier, as we read on these stones the record of young mothers who died when their babies were born.
Says Mrs. Sara John English of Jacksonville, one of the directors of the Illinois State Historical Society, in a recent issue of the Society's Journal:
"There is only a short time in which to record and preserve the records in many of these cemeteries. Ere this year passes many old graveyards will have been plowed under. Genealogy or the history of families is not a service to the past generation nor a glorification of the dead. It is a service to the living and to coming generations."
Asserting that many persons know more of the Egyptians of 4000 years ago than of their own families. Mrs. English says: "When our Western pioneers left their homes in the East or the South, they left records behind them. Possibly a family Bible was brought, but in their crude homes, often by the elements or fires, the Bibles were destroyed and families lost all contact with their home folks.' Thus we see that gravestone inscriptions are in thousands of instances the only records we have of the birth date, place of residence, name of wife, husband or children of our pioneers; and persons in the East or South have no knowledge of their relatives who migrated to the land of promise toward the setting sun."
No death or birth records were kept in Illinois until 1870 and none in Pike county until 1877. Therefore, there is no record of persons buried in Pike county during its formative period, unless their birth or death dates appear in family Bibles, newspaper obituaries or on gravestones.
John C. Hornback, second child of Solomon Hornback and Sally Philips, and a brother of William Hornback, was born in Kentucky March 31, 1809. There he married Hannah Parrick and they had a son, James Robert Hornback, who in Pike county February 20, 1861, married Miss Lucy Graves, with Squire James H. Hornback, oldest son of Joseph A. Hornback, officiating. James Robert was born in Pike county November 10, 1837. He had one sister, Ellen Hornback. John C. Hornback died March 10, 1840, at the age of 31 and was buried in Hornback cemetery.
Solomon Hornback, Jr., third of Solomon and Sally Hornback's children, was born in Kentucky, July 3, 1810. In Kentucky in 1836 he married Emily Elizabeth Blackwell, who was born in Kentucky November 20, 1816. They came to Pike county, Illinois, in the same year, Emily Elizabeth riding all the way from Kentucky on a horse that was her wedding present.
Solomon Hornback and Emily Blackwell had ten children, namely, Nancy Jane, William, James, John, Sarah, Emily Ann, Mary C., Alice Belle and Alfred Solomon. One child died in infancy.
Nancy Jane Hornback, born in Derry township October 8, 1837, married Jesse McCartney of Barry, January 17, 1860. Alfred Grubb, the "Little Bay Horse" of early Pike county history, was the officiating justice. Nancy Jane died in Linn county, Missouri, March 17, 1888, and is buried there.
William Hornback, second child of Solomon Hornback, Jr. and Emily Blackwell, was born in Derry township July 17, 1839. He married Martha Eleanor Francis in the old Oregon House in Pittsfield, June 6, 1867, with Justice Thomas W. Jones officiating. The bride came of the famous Missouri family of Francis and was a cousin of David R. Francis, once governor of Missouri. She was born February 28, 1845 at Saverton in Ralls county, Missouri, a daughter of James Alexander Francis and Mary Foster Miller, the latter of Revolutionary descent.
William Hornback and Martha Eleanor Francis had three children, Alice Isabell Hornback, now Mrs. Alice Berry of Pittsfield; Nellie Francis Hornback, who resides with her sister Alice in Pittsfield; and Grace Hornback, born March 17, 1875, who died December 5 the same year and was buried in the Presbyterian cemetery at Middletown, Missouri. Nellie and Grace were both born in Audrain county, Missouri, the former on April 4, 1871. The daughter Alice was born at El Dara November 20, 1868. William Hornback died February 7, 1878 and is buried in Hornback cemetery. His widow, Martha Eleanor (Francis) Hornback, died in Pittsfield September 22, 1922 and is buried in the West cemetery at Pittsfield.
John Hornback, third child of Solomon, Jr., was born in Derry May 21, 1842. He married Anna Umphant and was father of four children, namely: William, who died in childhood; James, born February 9, 1871, and now a resident of Santa Monica, California; Mary, born July 24, 1874, who died in Quincy, Illinois, in 1890; and Rosa Lee, born March 15, 1877, who is Sister Mary Gisella of the Order of Notre Dame at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and who has achieved a reputation as a fine harpist. John Hornback died in California in 1914.
James Hornback, born March 5, 1844, married Mary Wassell in Pike county October 29, 1871, with Justice Jared F. Philips officiating. He died in Pittsfield January 28, 1917 and his wife followed him September 28, 1930. Both are buried in the West cemetery at Pittsfield.
Sarah Hornback, born March 29, 1845 (on her gravestone the date is 1846), married John B. Hill in Pike county September 13, 1888 with Justice S. t. Landrum officiating. She died April 23, 1892 and was buried in Hornback cemetery.
Emily Ann Hornback, born March 4, 1847, married John R. Newnham, January 28, 1864, with Squire J. L. Underwood officiating. She died in 1899 or 1900 in Carson City, Nevada, and is buried there. She left a large family of children.
Mary C. Hornback, born November 23, 1849, married Perry Commodore Triplett of Perry, August 25, 1868, with Justice T. W. Jones officiating. They lived at El Dara and Mr. Triplett carried the mail on the old Star Route between El Dara and Pittsfield. About 1896 the family moved to Tioga, Texas. One son, Iverson Triplett, was with Pershing in Mexico. Stationed at Camp Gordon, Alabama, at the outbreak of the World War, Iverson went overseas. He had three brothers James, John and Lewis Triplett.
Alice Belle Hornback, born May 23, 1853, died July 25, 1860 of diphtheria. Her younger brother, Alfred Solomon Hornback, born April 7, 1856, also died of diphtheria July 7, 1860. Their older sister, Mary C., had diphtheria at the same time and, death appearing certain, old Dr. A. C. Baker of Barry, with the consent of the child's parents, resorted to a desperate remedy, a concoction of blue vitriol. He explained to the alarmed parents that unless the child ejected the vitriol within fifteen minutes it would kill her, but she was going to die anyway, and there was this one chance. The vitriol was administered and within the prescribed time she threw it up and lived.
Solomon Hornback, Jr., lived at Hadley and while living there his son William (father of Alice Hornback Berry and Nellie Hornback of Pittsfield) and his daughter, Nancy Jane, went to school at Barry to Jon Shastid, Pike county's pioneer schoolmaster. Nancy Jane Hornback became one of the earliest school teachers in western Pike county.
Solomon Hornback, Jr., born in Kentucky July 3, 1810, died at El Dara August 26, 1890. His wife, Emily Elizabeth Blackwell, born in Kentucky November 20, 1816, died in Pike county December 3, 1878, aged 62 years and thirteen days. Both are buried in Hornback cemetery; plain substantial tablets, such as mark the numerous Hornback burial, now stand sentinels at their graves, replacing the original limestone markers that had been gathered from the land.