A Van Matre Picnic - 1893
A Van Matre Picnic was held in Northern Illinois in 1893. The following is what was written and published in a local newspaper at the time.1
A Newspaper Report of a Van Matre Picnic Held in Northern Illinois in 1895
The crowd began to gather early in the day, and all were met by noon. They came from all this section of the country, Janesville, Blanchardville, Beloit and Monroe, Wis., Chicago, Elgin, Rockford, Freeport, Lena and other towns in Illinois, and from farms in northern, Illinois and southern, Wisconsin. All got fairly well acquainted during the forenoon and at dinner time luncheon hampers were unpacked, cloths were spread on the grass and family groups were made up for the meal. There were too many for them to table dinner in one long table, as they did last year.
After dinner Abner Howe called the crowd to order and the afternoon’s program was begun by Joseph Werts, of Oneco, who gave an exhibition of snare drumming. W. N. Cronkrite, who was one of the invited guests, followed with a short speech.
“When I look upon this assembly,” he began, “I think that if my name was not Cronkrite I would be very glad to have it Van Matre. I have heard of these reunions, but have never before had the pleasure of attending one. But, if I continue in good health, and if I can work my friend, Mr. Gibler, for an invitation the coming years, I will be glad to attend.
“There is an inspiring side to such a reunion as this, for when one thinks of the pioneers of this family, of the men and women who came here in the early days, when this section was a wilderness, of the hardships they endured, and considers the efforts they put forth to make this land fertile and profitable, it is little wonder that the hearts of the descendants swell with pride. While they used oxen, you drive horses, and to the Van Matre family may be attributed the credit for introducing the best breed of horses in this section. The family had an influence in this county, and in the adjoining counties in Wisconsin more than others we can name.”
Mr. Cronkrite, in conclusion, hoped that the prosperity of the Van Matres would continue, and that they would assemble together year after year.
Little Flo Jennings, of Janesville, next gave a very pretty recitation.
When Judge Andrew Hinds, of Lena, was introduced there was a ripple of applause, for no man stands higher in the estimation of the Van Matres than the gentleman, who forty-nine years ago taught the first school in Oneco township, going there from Wisconsin, at the instance of L. D. Van Matre. His address was an eloquent tribute to the early pioneers.
The Van Matres who settled in this part of the country in the very early days were the six sons and two daughters of Morgan Van Matre, of Clinton county, Ohio. They were A.P., L.D, John J, Thomas Jefferson, James and Joseph Van Matre; Melissa, afterwards Mrs. Jesse Shull, who’s husband settled in Galena in 1818, and afterwards founded Shullsburg, Wis., and Margaret, the wife of Lewis Gibler. A. P. Van Matre was the first of the family to see western Illinois. It is not known exactly when he did come here, but there is a tradition in the family that he was one of the two white men who discovered the Galena lead mines. L.D., John J., Thomas Jefferson and Melissa reached the mines in 1827 and the men took part in the Indian wars of ’31 and ’32. The other members followed them in 1839, but, mining being practically played out at that time, took up land and became pioneer farmers. A good share of the land in this section, was entered and developed by them and much is owned by the family yet, but the descendants of the old timers are now pretty widely scattered and are to be found in almost every trade, occupations and profession.
Among those on the grounds yesterday was Morgan J. Van Matre, of Wiota, Wis. He is the son of James, and was the oldest living member of the family present, the day being his eightieth birth anniversary. He came west from Ohio in 1845. Others of the older representatives were Joseph Van Matre, of Fayette, Wis., a son of John J. Van Matre; Judge Andrew Hinds, who married a daughter of Margaret Gibler; Mrs. Priscilla Howe, in her 76th year; L. W. Shull, of Woodford, Wis., a son of Melissa Shull. He was born at Shullsburg in 1831, being the first white child born in Lafayette county; Mrs. J. G. Baker, of Blanchardville, a daughter of John J. Van Matre, and J. W., as son of L. D. Van matre. He is the oldest resident of Oneco, where he was born in 1838.
The oldest person on the grounds ws Carey Noble, a collateral relative, who is in his 83rd year.
An attempt was made to secure a list of all the descendants of the family present, but it was impossible, under the circumstances, but next year it will probably be done. Numerous pictures of family groups were taken, as well as a big one of all the kin.
One of those who is taking much interest in the family reunions is Isaac C. Booth, who was elected secretary. He will try to trace every one of the family and have all the members present next year. Mrs. Booth was a daughter of L. D. Van Matre.
- A Van Matre Picnic in Illinois 1893-Van Matre, Joseph M., A Story of a Van Matre Family, 1985, p. 67.