SAMUEL LONG BLAIR &
MERCY CHIDESTER

The Tales of a Blair Family    

Samuel Long Blair was born February 13, 1783 on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.  He was the youngest son born to Samuel Blair and Mrs. Ann Young.  When a young man he moved, with his parents, to Crawford County in far western Pennsylvania.  On October 24, 1811 he was joined in marriage to Mercy Chidester at Lake Conneaut, PA.

Mercy Chidester was born December 2, 1791 in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  She was the daughter of Silas and Jane (Stuart) Chidester.  Her family had originally come from New Jersey and most of her ancestors were early (mid 1600's) emigrants to America.  Mercy's family had come to Crawford County, PA about 1803 and settled on the shores of Lake Conneaut.

Soon after their marriage, Sam fought as a Captain in the War of 1812.  Following the war Sam and Mercy settled on their own farm in Crawford County and started a family.  Eight children were born to them, starting with Nancy Hammond Blair who was born in 1814.  Next came, William Stuart, Jane Chidester, Samuel Long Jr. (1825-1827), Sarah Ann, Samuel Wilson, Silas Jackson and finally John Franklin who was born in 1835.

In 1837 the economy of the country was entering a deep depression and Sam probably feared for his sons future livelihood in Pennsylvania so he sold out and headed West to the new and unsettled lands of Illinois.  The land in Northern Illinois was opening up to settlement following the end of the Black Hawk war there.  Land was selling for $1.25 an acre and with a lot of hard work and a few years of hardship the possibilities were limitless for the next generation of Blairs.

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Sam, Mercy, their four sons, three daughters and their son-in-law, William McClure, set out for Illinois in the middle of April 1837.  They came overland with two four-horse teams and one two-horse carriage.  The journey took the family 40 days.  On the first day of June they occupied section 30 of Maryland township in Ogle County, Illinois.  They simply camped out in the vehicles, under a large burr oak tree and set out to immediately construct a rough one room log cabin.  The studding was made of burr oak trees, scored and hewed to six inches square and set sixteen inches apart.  The logs were rough, not hewn.  It was described as a "homely affair with no conveniences, but covered and slightly sheltered a healthy happy family." 

The land they settled on was wild prairie, with thick tough sod and grass 2 to 3 feet high.  The soil was a black loam with almost no rocks.   Between the stretches of open prairie were stands of timber, an invaluable resource to the pioneer.  Large droves of deer would roam past the cabin daily and one of the favorite pastimes of the little ones was trapping prairie chickens.  For several years prior to the railroad coming, the crops produced by the family had to be hauled to Chicago a hundred miles away, a journey of several days in an ox drawn wagon.   On several occasions the family had the opportunity to trade a load of produce for State street lots, now in the heart of the Chicago loop district, but they declined the propositions.

Mercy died on the 19th of June in 1861 and Samuel followed her to the grave a couple of months later on September 5th, 1861, two days before his son and grandson marched off to fight in the Civil War.  Sam and Mercy are both buried in the Adeline Cemetery in Adeline, Ogle County, Illinois.

See the newspaper article on Old-timer's reunion for a stirring description of pioneer life in Ogle County.

 

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