Drinnin Family Website


About Me
Photo Gallery
First 3 Generations

  Email Me

contributors Welcome!

Email for details

John Drinnin & Christina Acker Drinnin

(Below from Document recieved from Louise Drinnin from Blending of the Soil Prepared by Grace Drinnin Gerrard of the Joseph Drinnin line of the family.)

John Drinnin

John Drinnin was born June 24, 1812, in Ireland. One source states the location as Queen's County (now called Laois County); another source says he lived near the seacoast town of Queenstown (now called Cabh). Possibly that was where he left from to venture to America, not where he was born. His parents were John Drinnin and Margaret Murphy Drinnin.

In 1828, when John was 16 years old, he and his mother, and a brother and sister, were living with an older brother who was married and had a baby just old enough to crawl.

Life in Ireland then was not easy and many times the families lived together, all in small thatch-roofed cottages, with maybe two rooms and a loft. They possibly had a small plot of land where they planted the main crop, potatoes. They probably had a cow for milk, some pigs, and a few chickens. Many times the pigs and chickens were kept in the cottage during the night. The home was heated by an open peat fire in the hearth. The peat was cut in strips from the bogs on their land and dried in the sun before it could be burned. They did all of their cooking on this same fire.

England had taken over much of the farmland in Ireland then and rented it back to the farmers for a high cost. Families were fortunate if they could pay their rent and have enough left to get them though the winter and plant the next year's crop.

Grandpa loved his little nephew, and the little boy loved him. He always played with the baby when he had any spare time. One day when Grandpa came in from working in the field to eat dinner, and was on the front porch washing in the basin, the baby heard his voice. Thinking that his uncle was going to play with him, the baby crawled out the door without anyone seeing or hearing him.

John stepped backward with his heavy work boots and stepped on the baby's hand. The baby began crying and John felt terrible and was going to pick the baby up and try to comfort it. The father came out to see what happened and, thinking that is was John's fault, became very mad and belligerent, called John a clumsy clod, and struck him, knocking him off the porch onto the ground in the front yard.

The family were all gathered around the baby, concerned how bad he was hurt, and did not notice John, as he picked himself up, walked down the lane, and kept walking to the nearest sea coast town.
Left for America
There he made friends with some sailors, who took a liking to him and hid him on their ship that was bound for New York.

He remained hidden until they were out to sea, then bargained with the captain to work for his passage across the ocean. When they arrived in New York the sailors helped him so when they left Grandpa had a place to stay and a job. He was sixteen years old, and couldn't read or write.

Just three years earlier, in 1825, the Erie Canal had been built. John soon moved upstate to Buffalo, New York, where he purchased boats and teams of mules and began his own freight hauling business. The canalboat held several wagon loads of freight and was towed by the mules walking on the canal bank or towpath.

The Erie Canal
The original canal was 363 miles long, running from Buffalo to Albany, New York. It was 28 feet wide at the bottom, 42 feet wide at the top, and 4 feet deep. It could carry boats that were 80 feet long and 15 feet wide, with a draft of 3.5 feet. A series of locks raised or lowered the canal boats about 600 feet.

A larger canal was soon needed, and in 1835 the New York legislature passed a law providing for improvement of the canal. There were toll charges on the new canal, and freight charges for carrying goods were $22 a ton when the canal opened, but fell to $4 a ton in ten years.

Travel on the canal was slow in the early days. Someone once wrote that passengers traveled a mile and a half an hour on the Erie Canal for a cent and a half a mile.

Married in 1840
In 1840, while living in Buffalo, John met and married Christina Acker. Grandma had immigrated to the United States from Germany with her family.


Moved west to Illinois
Still a farmer at heart, in 1844 John was lured west, taking his young wife and growing family with him. Grandpa sold his mules and boats and prepared to move to Illinois, to purchase land and begin a new opportunity.

The man who bought the mules and boats paid Grandpa one half of the price, with a promise to pay the remainder the next day. The purchaser turned out to be a swindler, and moved the mules and boats across the border into Canada during the night without paying. Grandpa couldn't do a thing about it since they were out of the USA. He had his wagon and oxen bought, but the extra money would have come in handy.

The wagon train went to Chicago, where Grandpa left Grandma and two little girls, Margaret, age two; and Christina, one year old, at a hotel while he went on in the wagon.

John and a few other men drove their teams of oxen across the wilderness of the new land from Chicago to Stark County, probably following the Illinois River part of the way. After establishing a claim on land and building a log cabin, he went back to Chicago to bring his wife and daughters. They traveled overland in a covered wagon drawn by two oxen.

Bad luck again!
The price of the land was 75 cents per acre. The round trip from Chicago and back took six weeks, and when the farmers went to make the last payment on the land they found out that the agent was a crook and they couldn't get the land until they paid another 75 cents per acre. The poor boys didn't get a receipt I guess, and therefore Grandpa began farming with a cash flow of four cents.

They moved into the log cabin somewhere on a hill north of the land grandpa bought. Grandpa worked for 50 cents a day cradling wheat and grubbing timber. He was the first to clear the spot where the Toulon Cemetery lies. When he got enough money he built a two room house on their farm, and they lived in this home until they died. As time went on, they built on to the house, bricking one add-on. They also acquired a total of 640 acres of farm land.

Joseph Henry Drinnin born
The same year that they moved to Illinois, their next child, Joseph Henry, was born August 5, 1844, in the log cabin that John had built. Joseph Henry is your 2nd great grandfather.

Other children were: William, March 9, 1847; Mary Ann, May 14, 1849; Sarah, July 23, 1851; John III, October 19, 1853; and Martin Andrew, February 5, 1856.

Helped establish Toulon, Illinois
This was raw land, and the new inhabitants were many times bothered by Indians of the area. John and Christina helped to establish the new settlement, and soon towns began to grow. The closest town to their farm was Toulon, of which they took an active part in helping to grow and prosper. John and Christina were both Catholics and supported the Democratic political party.

Progressive crop marketing methods
In 1848, work was completed on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. This canal ran from Peoria to Chicago, and allowed farmers in the Illinois river valley to ship grain and other products to eastern markets by way of the Great Lakes. During the 1850's, railroads were built to carry farm products to market.

Considerable sized estate
The 1870 US. Federal Census shows that John, 57 years old at the time, owned real estate worth $7,800 and personal property worth $5,720. He was a United States citizen, but still could not read or write. This information reveals that John Drinnin possessed a considerable sized estate when compared to other land owners in Stark county in that census.

John and Christina loved living and farming in the rolling hills of north central Illinois, and they spent the rest of their lives on the farm that they had laboriously created out of the wilderness.

John died September 16, 1880, at the age of 68; Christina died September 27, 1903, at the age of 81. They are buried in the Toulon, Illinois Cemetery.

"Thousands are sailing
Across the Western Ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the Western Ocean
Their bellies full
And their spirits free
They'll break the chains of poverty
And they'll dance"
---Phil Chevron, The Pogues, 1988


Photo Album

Drinnin Community Login

Look at my photo album filled with pictures of the Drinnin Family. The link below will lead to registration for a user name and password.


Home | About Me | Interests | Favorites | Photo Gallery | First 3 Generations

This site was last updated 01/11/08