From: The Fairfield (Iowa) Daily Ledger, September 24, 1946
IOWA CENTENNIAL EDITION, Section C, Page 6, Cols. 1-2
JOHN HUFF PIONEER BEE EXPERT.
Second actual settler in Jefferson County, locating in Section 1 of what is now Cedar Township. He was the first Jefferson County taxpayer to pay his taxes.
Every new country blessed with thickly wooded sections, had plenty of what was then termed “wild honey.” The wild bees gathered and stored the same kind of honey we take today from our artificial hives, but it was called “wild honey,” because it was stored in places—generally hollow trees, selected by the wild bees.
When primitive sections were settled by pioneers, there was always a scientific “bee-tree locator.” Pioneer Jefferson County was no exception to the rule. Its “bee-tree locator” was a master of the science. His name was JOHN HUFF. He was a native of the densely wooded county of Floyd in the lower Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. He knew his bees and how to find their deposits of the pioneers’ substitute for sugar.
Bee Tree Locator.
We speak of bee-tree locating as a science, and we mean all of that. One not versed in the science could not locate a bee-tree in the proverbial “thousand years.” Then, too, he had to be a mathematician.
He would visit the fringes of a forest where there were many wild flowers. Of course, there would be hundreds of wild bees gathering honey from these flowers. When one secured its “load” it would fly away on a “bee-line” to its tree in the forest.
The bee-tree locator would pace the distance to another bunch of flowers and note the direction the bees flew when loaded. While he may never have studied trigonometry, he knew how to use the line he paced from one bunch of flowers to the other as the base.
No matter whether the triangle was an isosceles, equilateral, right angled or obtuse, he could very accurately estimate where the two “bee-lines” would converge. At that point he would find the bee-tree with very little trouble.
Tradition has it that JOHN HUFF had become so expert in his science that he could locate the tree long before he reached it.
He was born near what is now Huffville, Virginia, probably named after some of his relatives. The date of his birth was May 11, 1811. When JOHN was six years old, his parents moved to Floyd County, Kentucky, on the western slopes of the Cumberland Mountains. There he grew to young manhood.
After spending some time in Illinois, he and several other men set out in 1835 for the trading post of JOHN MCPHERSON on the Skunk river, “somewhere in Iowa.” They were looking for land on which to make their homes. JOHN especially wanted land on which there would be a number of bee-trees. They found both in the section that was afterwards called “round prairie” in what is now Jefferson County. They all staked claims. On returning to MCPHERSON’S trading post, HUFF made three 40-gallon barrels of lindenwood and filled them with honey. These he transported in a dug-out canoe to Carthage, Illinois, where he sold their contents for 50 cents a gallon.
He returned to “round prairie” in January 1836. He visited his claim, but failed to make any improvements on it as required by law, spending practically all of his time locating other bee-trees. In March of that year, he returned to Carthage and married SARAH WOODARD. The young couple set out on horse back for their new home. When they reached “round prairie” they found that someone had “jumped,” or taken possession of their claim. He accepted the result of his neglect by not making improvements on the land when he visited it a few months before and took another claim in what is now Cedar Township.
There he built a wigwam of tree branches and bark for a shelter till he could cut the logs and build a log house. This new home was ready for occupancy before “snow flew” the following winter. He and his wife missed by only a few weeks being the first actual settlers in Jefferson County. Later he sold the farm in Cedar Township and bought 240 acres in Buchanan Township, on which he resided until 1874, when he moved to Fairfield to spend his remaining days. He is buried in the Bethesda Cemetery.
The Fairfield (Iowa) Daily Legdger, Centennial Edition,
Monday, October 2, 1939, Section C, Page Seven
HUFF was born in Floyd County, Virginia, on May 11, 1811, the son of JOHN and ELIZABETH PRATT HUFF. His father had been born in Greenbrier County, Virginia, in 1770, and married a MISS THOMPSON, by whom he had four daughters …..second marriage was to MISS PRATT, a native of Bedford County, Virginia, and unto them were born seven children, four sons and three daughters…. JOHN and SARAH (WOODARD) HUFF were the parents of eight children: JAMES D., WILLIAM, NANCY, HENRY, REBECCA, JEFFERSON, SARAH, and LOUISA. The living descendants of JOHN HUFF are five in number, EDWIN HUFF of Fairfield, ELMER HUFF of Missouri, HENRY HUFF and PEARL HUFF of Illinois, and MRS. NELLIE G. (HUFF) LEWIS (granddaughter) of Atlanta, Georgia.
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