"Well now, it's root, hog or die!" These were John Jacob Batdorf's words of advice to his daughter, Margaret, and young William Mills when he was told they had been married a few hours after they reached Fort Snelling on May 8, 1857. William had hired out to one of the pioneers on the wagon train just to be near "Maggie". That they "rooted" is evidenced by the flourishing family tree that remains in this area.
John Jacob Batdorf, usually known as Jacob, and his family left New Castle, Indiana, with a group of pioneers in April 1857 headed for Minnesota. They traveled by covered wagon to the Ohio River where they loaded their possessions on flatboats. They traveled down the Ohio to the Mississippi and from there up river to Fort Snelling. Most of the group went west from Fort Snelling and settled in what is now Independence. After being enroute for a month, supplies ran very low. The story is told that the family lived almost entirely on dandelion greens for three weeks.
Jacob's family were his wife, Lydia, sons John, William, Jacob and Barton and daughters Margaret and Maria. John married Margaret Bradford, William married Jane Styner and Barton married Jeanette Alger. Margaret married William Mills and Maria married his younger brother, Robert M. Mills. Jacob Jr. was killed before the Civil War when he was hit by a falling tree.
In 1862 the settlers were alarmed by rumors of an impending Indian uprising. The men of Rockford thought it wise to build a stockade. They hurriedly used whatever materials were available, part of which happened to be the planks which had recently been sawed at the mill for John Batdorf's barn. Holes were cut in the planks for the men's rifles. The Indians did not attack. After about two months the stockade was torn down and John built his barn. The rifle holes were reminders of early days as long as the barn stood.
When the call was given for volunteers for the Civil War, Jacob enlisted with his sons John and William and his son-in-law, William Mills. With most of the able bodied men off to war the women were sometimes called upon to perform rather unlady like tasks. The meat supply ran out. Margaret Batdorf Mills and Mrs. Styner bravely took it upon themselves to butcher a hog for their families.
After the war the men, except William Batdorf, who died of fever, returned to their farms and to the rearing of their families. John's children were William, Sarah, Albert, Eva, Melvin, John, Niles and Allen. Eva married Grant Beal. William's children were Dora, Norman, Stella, Bertha, Joseph, Roy and Henry.
The women occasionally visited in the afternoon. Margaret Batdorf chided her neighbor, Mrs. Williams, for not having visited her for so long. Mrs. Williams said, " I have so much work to do, I just can't get away." Margaret said, "Bring your work along."
One day Margaret called her daughter, Eva, to the window and asked, "What in time is that coming down the road?"
They couldn't decide what the big white thing was bobbing along the road. When it came very near, they discovered "the thing" was Mrs. Williams carrying her freshly filled straw tick. She would sew up the end of it as she visited. For Mrs. Williams, whose sense of humor was as big as her straw tick, the two-mile walk for ten minutes work was worth it for the merriment she created.
Three generations of Batdorfs attended the Evergreen Grove school in Independence on County Road 11. They were Niles and his daughters, Mildred (Mrs. Earnest Walker), Leona (Mrs. Eldon Anderson), Verna (Mrs. Philip Hamilton), his son B. Niles Batdorf M.D. and his grandchildren, the Andersons, Virginia (Mrs. Frank Ferrin), and Marie (Mrs. Albin J. Jacobson). Willis and Marilyn (Mrs. Robert Hamilton) Beal also attended Evergreen Grove school.