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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

No More John. . . .

I wanted to use the following newspaper on the blog but I thought it would be more interesting if I had additional information so I asked John King to help me. (I thought he would find the land prices interesting because this is in his neighborhood.)

"Vincennes Commercial August 15, 1918 St. Francisville The well-known D. S. Rayvatt farm in upper Wabash and southern Lawrence County was sold at public sale last Thursday. The farm was composed of a large part of the old Hershey estate, one of the oldest farms in southern Illinois, on which is still standing and in use, the first frame barn erected in Wabash County. On the farm is also one of the largest bodies of timber in the two counties. The land was sold in several separate farms, some of which went very low considering the surrounding values.


"John G. Trimble secured first choice at $1.25 per acre with I. W. Beckes paying the lowest price of $.50 per acre for the West 110 acres. Joe and C.E. Jordan secured the part in Lawrence County, Carlton and Andrew Hershey the part known as the Dan Hershey farm, on which is located the old barn. This land formed a large part of an area 2 ½ miles long and 1 ½ miles wide, through which no roads were ever permitted to be constructed, throwing the traffic to the roads east and west, adding much distance to travel. Perhaps the separate holdings will result in a much-needed road being built."


I was surprised by John’s response. Even though this article was about people in his neighborhood, albeit one hundred years ago, (True, John isn’t that old) the Ravatt name was one he had never heard before. So immediately he began researching Daniel S. Ravatt/ Rayvatt, and learned that he was born in 1852 in NJ and died on his Wabash Co. farm NW of Allendale in 1915.


In a 1920 American Lumberman magazine (Where DOES he find these things?) John unearthed an article about the Rayvatt farm. Apparently, the farm was proof that commercial timber could be grown on cut-over swamp lands. When Rayvatt purchased 1200 acres of what was then thought to be practically worthless swamp lands, some people smiled and shook their heads. All the first-class trees had been cut and sold, and at the time of the purchase, the land was covered with small saplings of hickory, gum, ash, and other native woods. The farm was immediately converted into a stock range, with care being given to the growing trees. Saplings were thinned, and culls and injured trees were removed. As a result, all the posts and timber needed for farm use were secured from trees grown on the land. The swamp land was very rich and moist and as a result trees grew rapidly. Trees, as big as two feet in diameter, soon grew there. About sixty acres were covered with hickory, extremely valuable as wagon material. Another section of the swamp was covered with oak trees that yielded many thousands of railroad ties.

So that was interesting if you like trees, but then John’s research got better. Well, not for poor Daniel though. On April 25, 1907 the Vincennes Sun Commercial ran an article about a ‘salacious divorce’ between Alice Ravatt vs Dan S. Ravatt. (Now this is what I am talking about, John! One hundred year gossip!)

Attorney S. J. Gee of Lawrenceville offered proof that the husband, Daniel Ravatt was worth $100,000 to $200,000, and was one of the richest farmers in the county. Mrs. Ravatt wanted her share. The evidence she offered was that of her husband had caused her almost every imaginable kind of brutality and meanness. Daniel attempted to blacken his wife’s character by accusing her of unchastity with the hired man. About 150 witnesses were subpoenaed.


Alice Ravatt was granted the divorce but only $300 as a year as alimony. Evidently Judge Creighton was not a big believer in alimony. The former Mrs. Ravatt, apparently having had time to reflect, .. . .perhaps upon the salary that hired hands make,. . . . refiled an application for a change in allowance asking for $3000 a year or $25,000 lump sum settlement. The facts appeared to be that they had married on March 4, 1889 when Alice was only 24 years of age. Daniel had been a widower, having been married twice before.


Alice, further stated that when she married Daniel, he was the owner of about 1700 hundred acres of land and as a result of their joint efforts during the eighteen years they had lived together, their livestock and personal property had more than doubled. He had purchased 300 more acres at $100 an acre since their marriage, too.


Alice said that she had not only done the housework and cared for the help upon the large farm, but did a lot of outdoor work as well, such as feeding the stock, caring for the cattle, hogs, and horses, and milking cows in all kinds of weather frequently having to wade in mud, shoe-top deep, and all of this work destroyed her health and made her an old woman before her time. (She was forty-four.)


Since the divorce she claimed that Daniel paid the alimony begrudgingly and in a manner to harass and anger her. (I hate to tell you this, Alice, but this is usually what happens with alimony payments.) However, when oil was discovered on her ex- husband’s property, she decided she had had enough of poverty. She needed more alimony.


However, this didn’t exactly turn out the way she anticipated. Her alimony was increased to $50 a month or $12,000 a year, and she retained her dower right in the real estate her former husband had purchased while they were married which would add a value of $28,000 to her total. (I am guessing that wasn’t the parcel of land where oil was discovered.)


John King continued sending me comments about the Hershey family, and how John’s Grandfather Ramsey had owned the land before he died in 1918 from the Spanish flu, and so on and so on, ending with something about a Waterloo Boy tractor that he had confused with a Hart-Parr tractor owned by Rose Robeson’s father-in-law 100 years ago. By this time my will to live was slowly being extinguished and I have to end this blog now......

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Just the Facts

Lawrence County is comprised of 371.98 sq. miles of land. There are 6,272,640 square inches in every acre. 1860 there were 931 farms. 2007 Census Lawrence county o Number of farms - 421 o Land in acre


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