John Lybrook

John Lybrook was born in Giles County, Virginia, in October, 1798. In 1811 his parents moved to Preble County, Ohio, where John remained until 1823, when he came to Michigan, arriving in December. He came to assist Squire Thompson in moving, and, when first starting, only intended to go fifty or sixty miles, or until he was fairly on the way, but as circumstances seemed to demand his assistance the entire distance, he came along, and then assisted in putting up a house and getting things in shape for the winter, then fairly upon them.

At the time of starting he had but a single suit of clothes, and that of rather light material, as the season was not yet far enough advanced to require heavy clothing. Before his return to civilization his clothes had been torn, and patched, in every conceivable manner.

On the last day of December he started back to Ohio on foot, accompanied by a young man named Eaton. The first night they encamped near where Mishawaka now stands, the snow was falling very fast and continued until it was knee deep. On the next night they encamped on the Elkhart and on the next they fell in with some Indians with whom they traveled until reaching Blue River. In the meantime Eaton had frozen his feet so badly that he had to be left with the Indians, while Lybrook pushed on to Fort Wayne and procured assistance to go back after him. After enduring many hardships from hunger and exposere he reached home.

At this time wages were from five to seven dollars per month, but Mr. Lybrook being an expert hewer could by hard work earn fifty cents a day. Previous to his leaving with Thompson he had taken quite a heavy contract for getting out timber with the expectation of being gone but a few days and much to his surprise, after so long an absence, found that the job was still open.

In the fall of 1824 he came out with quite a stock of cattle, having made an arrangement with Thompson, the previous summer, to prepare feed for them.

In the spring of 1825 he planted eleven acres in corn on what was known as the Indian fields, below Niles. This land had to be grubbed and fenced, as the Indian system of improvement was very imperfect, they preferring to cultivate around grubs to digging them out and guarding the growing crops from stock, to making rails and fencing.

After the corn was planted he returned to Ohio with a yoke of oxen hitched to the back wheels of a lumber wagon, and among other things brought back was a barrel of wheat, which he sowed that fall and which was probably the first sown in Southwestern Michigan. The grain was harvested the next 4th of July and yielded between thirty-five and forty bushels per acre.

In passing through Fort Wayne Mr. Lybrook had noticed a pair of hand burr stones thrown one side, and after raising a crop it was found necessary to procure some way of grinding it. In December he went back and bought them for seven dollars. They were afterward owned by Squire Thompson and quite generally known and used throughout the country for many miles around.

In the spring of 1825 he bought a grindstone in Detroit for one dollar, which was shipped around the lakes, and the scarcity of this important article may be imagined when, we are informed that men came a distance of forty miles to grind on this stone

His broad ax was also lent frequently to men twenty miles away and in one instance to a man on Pigeon Prairie where, it not being returned, he had to go after it himself.

In the spring of 1828 Mr. Lybrook moved on to his present farm, on La Grange Prairie, where he has resided ever since. He had the previous year, in looking over the country, selected this land and set some stakes to mark the location, but when coming on in the spring found it occupied by a man named Kavanaugh, who had already made some improvements, and it took one hundred dollars to liquidate his claim.

Mr. Lybrook has for many years been a hopeless cripple but otherwise is in the enjoyment of all his faculties.

Howard S. Rogers, History of Cass County: from 1825 to 1875 (Cassopolis, MI: W.H. Mansfield, Vigilant Book and Job Print., 1875), pp.299-302.

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