Samuel Mansker, who was the oldest son of John Mansker and Peggy Robinson, was born near Beargrass Creek, Kentucky, on 16 December 1795; he was twelve years old when his family moved to Illinois. He died on 9 January 1884, less than a month after his 89th birthday.
Samuel, who was almost 17 when the War of 1812 broke out, enlisted in the 1st Regiment of the Illinois Militia under the command of Captain Absalom Cox at Kaskaskia, Illinois. A muster roll of 3 September 1812 states that he was the drummer boy of the unit (following in his father's footsteps: John Mansker had been a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War — see Manskers at War Page).
About 1816, he married the first of his four wives, Nancy Crawford, who was born in South Carolina on 1 August 1802. Nancy was the mother of twelve of his children; she died on 27 November 1844.
Not entirely coincidentally, the family "hired girl", Elizabeth Bartel, was also bearing children for Samuel at the same time as Nancy. Elizabeth was the mother of five children born between 1836 and 1844; after Nancy's death, Samuel and Elizabeth were married, and two additional children were born before she died on 19 September 1853. All in all, it must have made for an interesting household...
Samuel's third marriage on 26 February 1854, to Elizabeth Mason, was brief. According to one of his granddaughters, he "run Miss Mason off" after a few brief but strife-filled months.
Two and a half years later, on 6 November 1856, he married his fourth wife, Nancy Nelson, and fathered another four children. Nancy outlived her husband by thirteen years: she died on 3 September 1902 at the age of 77 years and 2 months.
Samuel fathered a total of 23 children. He was obviously a very "active" man, but he also had some other interests. A family story has it that during the day he cleared his land of timber, cutting some of the wood into lengths that would burn in steamboat boilers, and at night he and his wife (presumably Nancy Crawford) and some hired hands would saw the remainder of the wood into boards until he had a supply sufficient to build a house.
Because steamboats started landing near his place to take on wood, or to load and unload passengers, the place soon became known up and down the Mississippi as Mansker's Landing.
Every autumn, he and his sons, along with their hired hands, would haul their produce and lumber down the Mississippi on flatboats (i.e., barges), which they built themselves, to New Orleans, where they could sell everything, including the boats, at a better profit. Then they would come home by steamboat, or they would walk the entire distance. On one of his trips downriver, Samuel bought an iron cookstove which he would proudly display to visitors. Apparently it stirred up quite a bit of interest, since it was the first iron cookstove that many people had ever seen. Mrs. Mansker (it isn't clear which one, but it was probably Nancy Crawford) ended up giving cooking demonstrations to the neighborhood women.
Samuel eventually owned 2,000 acres in the county, and became one of the most prosperous men in the area. Two of his sons were sent to New Orleans for education, and he helped organize the first school in Rockwood Township when a Mr. Garrett was hired to teach elementary education in the Mansker home.
An old family story has been handed down in the Mansker family for five generations. It seems that Samuel was at the dinner table with his hired hands when one of them said that he couldn't stand turnips. Samuel then gave him his detailed instructions on how to fix them: "Build a fire outdoors. Then get a smooth board about three feet high and wash it clean. Take six turnips and slice each one into three slices. With a hammer and nails, nail each slice to the board. Brush with salt and butter. After this, set the board upright about a foot from the fire and cook 'til turnips are done."
After the explanation, the man asked Samuel if they were good. Without looking up, Samuel said, "I don't know, son. I threw away the turnips and ate the board."
Samuel Mansker died in Rockwood Township at the age of 89 on 9 January 1884. He is buried along with some of his wives and many of his children in the Old Mansker Cemetery near Chester, Illinois. Click here to read his will written in 1873.