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Full text of "Western Illinois regional studies"

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WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

Published semiannually by 

the University Libraries 

and the College of Arts and Sciences 

at Western Illinois University 

Macomb, Illinois 61455 



BOARD OF EDITORS 

DONALD W. GRIFFIN VICTOR HICKEN 

JOHN E. HALLWAS DENNIS J. READER 

ROBERT P. SUTTON, Giainnan 



ADVISORY COMMITTEE 

DAVID D. ANDERSON. Mc/z/^fl/7 State University 
MICHAEL BECKES, Illinois State Museum 
RICHARD W. CROCKETT, Western Illinois University 
RICHARD CKO^DEK, Rirdue University 
JAMES E. DAVIS, Illinois College 
RODNEY DAVIS, Knox College 
ARLIN D. FENTEM, Western Illinois University' 
MYRON J. ¥OGDE, Augiistana College 
PEARCE S. GROVE, Western Illinois University 
THOMAS E. HELM, Western Illinois University' 
WALTER B. HENDRICKSON, MacMurrav College 
ROBERT JOHANNSEN, Universin' of Illinois 
FREDERICK G. JONES, Western 'Illinois Universif 
JERRY KLEIN, "Peoria Journal Star" 
CHARLES W. MAYER, Western Illinois UniversiW 
DENNIS Q. McINERNY, Bradlev University 
RONALD E. NELSON, District Historian, 

Illinois Department of Con sensation 
RONALD E. NELSON, Western Illinois University 
RICHARD D. POLL. Western Illinois Universin' 
STUART SIEO^EVER, Northwestern Universih 
ROALD D. TWEET, Augustana College 
WILLIAM L. VRB AN, Monmouth College 
ELLEN M. WHITNEY, Editor emeritus, 

"Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society " 
DOUG LAS WI LSON , Knox College 



Subscription rates are $2.00 a year for individuals and $3.00 for institutions. Single 
issues are Si. 50. 

Correspondence about subscriptions, contributions, and books for review should be 
sent to Chairman of the Board of Editors, Western Illinois University, Macomb, 
Illinois. 



WESTERN ILLINOIS 
REGIONAL STUDIES 

VOLUME n FALL 1979 NUMBER 2 

CONTENTS 



A Slave's Autobiography Retold 109 

Eileen Smith Cunningham 
Mabel Ambrose Schneider 

Quincy and Meredosia in 1842: 

Charles Carter Langdon's Travel Letters 1 27 

John E. Hallwas 

An Addition to the John Hay Canon: 

A New Castilian Letter 138 

George Monteiro 

Coming to Terms with County Histories 144 

Rodney O. Davis 

Lindsay's 1908 Walking Trip 156 

Owen Haw ley 

Imitations of Spoon River: An Overview 1 73 

Herb Russell 

Notes and Documents 183 

Reviews of Books 189 

Contributors 195 

Copyright 1979 by Western Illinois University 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 



Jensen, ILLINOIS: A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY 189 

By Donald F. Tingley 

Struever, KOSTER: AMERICANS IN SEARCH OF THEIR 

PREHISTORIC PAST 190 

By Michael R. Beckes 

Frank, PIONEER'S PROGRESS: ILLINOIS COLLEGE, 

1829-1979 192 

By Victor Hicken 

Baldwin, ECHOES OF THEIR VOICES: A SAGA 
OF THE PIONEERS WHO PUSHED WESTWARD 
TO THE MISSISSIPPI 193 

By Natalia M. Belting 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY RETOLD 

Eileen Smith Cunningham 
Mabel Ambrose Schneider 



The following narrative was the recollection of a Jacksonville 
resident, Willis McDonald (or Uncle Mac as he was called by 
friends), of his experiences as a slave on a Georgia plantation 
owned by a Philadelphia merchant, Pierce Butler. The account 
touches upon daily routine on the plantation, the slave trade, 
McDonald's freedom, his arrival in Jacksonville in 1869, and his last 
days in the "colored section" of that city. The narrative was 
transcribed by Mabel Ambrose Schneider, an influential citizen of 
Jacksonville who was active in local history and politics during the 
first half of the twentieth century. The manuscript was supplied by 
Mrs. Eileen Smith Cunningham of Carrollton, Illinois, who was also 
responsible for acquiring the accompanying illustrations. The story 
begins as Mrs. Schneider, in 1931 , approached the former slave on 
the porch of his home at 311 Anna Street. 



According to Uncle Mac there must have been much commotion 
in the cabin of his parents, Aaron and Clara, on July 1 , 1829. That 
was the day of his birth. No doubt, dusky hands slammed shut the 
crude door and window, and hastily and securely fastened a ragged 
old comforter over the fireplace opening. Salt and pepper were 
sprinkled generously over the hearth and over the surrounding wall 
as the wails of the newborn baby arose from a corner of the cabin. 
Why? Uncle Mac will tell you with a twinkle in his eye that every one 
of the several hundred blacks on the Butler plantation knew that 
these preparations were necessary to keep out the "Ole Black Man" 
who would reach through any unguarded door or windov^/ or, 
perchance, slide down the chimney, in order to slap and blind the 
newly arrived one. Of course he could not enter a barred door or 
window and, if he should choose the chimney route, he would be 
pretty well scratched in coming down. And plenty of salt and 
pepper coming in contact with these scratches was calculated to 

709 



^10 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




Courtesy of Mrs. Cordelia Trumbo, Jacksonville, Illinois. 
Willis McDonald 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 111 



put the old rascal's mind to something else than blinding the new 
baby. 

Evidently all went well in this particular case, for even at the 
great age of 107 years, Uncle Mac's bright old eyes twinkled with 
mirth or snapped with excitement as he relived in story the main 
events of his past life. 

Clara was a field hand and soon she was back at her accustomed 
place after the birth of Willis, her first child. (Willis is Uncle Mac's 
first name. Slaves had no surname. He acquired the name 
McDonald many years later.) Indeed, small loss of time away from 
their regular duties was occasioned by child bearing so far as these 
women were concerned. 

When an infant was two weeks old, its care was assumed by the 
older children and a woman whose task it was to oversee them, the 
mother having supplied her child each morning with the 
nourishment which nature provided before leaving for the field. 
Then at nine o'clock each morning, and at three each afternoon, the 
tiny charges were loaded into a wagon and, to the accompaniment 
of its squeaking wheels and their own lusty yells of hunger, an old 
mule would jog to the field. Here each child was given to its mother, 
for it was lunch time for the plantation babies. 

As soon as they were old enough to run about, their between- 
meal food was supplied in a novel manner which most surely tends 
to disprove all our present-day theories regarding germs and 
sanitation in general, since Uncle Mac assures us that the 
plantation children were healthily fat and happy and that sickness 
was practically unknown among them. His earliest memory is of the 
large log hollowed out to form a trough and filled with sour milk, 
butter milk— and all kinds of leftover milk. Into it was broken a 
generous quantity of corn bread and the small darkies would crowd 
around it eagerly, dipping up the milk-soaked bread with grimy little 
hands, filling themselves to the bursting point. 

Once a year a gala day occurred on the plantation. That was the 
day on which the master. Pace [sic] Butler, wealthy merchant of 
Philadelphia, arrived to pay them his annual visit. He was a man of 
most genial and kindly disposition and, upon his arrival, he was 
literally enveloped in a dusky cloud of welcoming, expectant 
pickaninnies who came running from every direction to greet him. 
He showered them with small coins and sweets, and was the idol of 
young and old. 

While walking over the plantation he had a habit, upon meeting 
an occasional darky, of inquiring, "Whose nigger are you; who is 
your master?" 



112 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



In case the master was not recognized the slave would answer, 
"I belongs to Massa Pace [sic] Butler, suh." 

Then Mr. Butler had a most captivating way of appearing to be 
overwhelmed with delight as he exclaimed, "Are you my nigger?" 

No doubt Pace [sic] Butler has been dead many years, but this 
whimsical bit of evidence of human understanding lives on to be 
told as a happy memory by his former slave of a century ago. The 
good men do is not always "interred with their bones." 

The overseer. Doc Wildon, who was inclined to be cruel, was 
roundly reproved whenever reports of his cruelty or injustice came 
to the ears of the master; but the master was rarely present and Doc 
Wilson had his own way of administering discipline. 

One day, when Willis was about seven years old, he engaged in 
a boyish prank and cut the bark from some newly planted trees. As 
punishment, Wilson had him tied to a post, just out of reach of a 
bear on a leash, who made every effort to get at him. Still vivid in his 
mind is the horror he experienced as his struggles to free himself 
from the post only served to enrage the bear and make it more 
menacing. 

No less vivid, however, is his memory of a nutting expedition; 
and most certainly it was no less terrifying. 

Between the Butler plantation and its neighboring one lay a 
cemetery which served as a burial place for colored dead from each 
plantation. In this place grew a hickory tree which bore, in great 
profusion, the largest and finest of nuts. No one ever dared to 
gather them. Only a necessary occasion ever compelled them to 
enter a cemetery. 

An ever-increasing desire for some of the nuts moved Willis to 
attempt a trip to the tree, not, however, until he had consulted old 
Frank who knew all there was to be known about ghosts and 
"haunts" and charms to protect against them. 

Old Frank warned him, if he valued his life, to keep away from a 
cemetery during early morning hours or any time after three o'clock 
in the afternoon. Accordingly, he set forth at high noon, armed as 
old Frank had directed with a bible in one arm and a hymn book in 
the other. He complied with requirements for placating the departed 
for trespassing on their domain by approaching and entering the 
cemetery backward. First he gave them a polite greeting, then he 
advanced backward toward the tree singing loudly as he had been 
told- 

When I can read my title clear 
To mansions in the skies 
I'll bid farewell to every fear 
And wipe my weeping eyes. 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 113 



Louder and faster he sang, but he could not drown a faint wail 
that seemed wafted about over the graves. 

"Willis, Willis," it kept repeating. Icy chills enveloped him and 
his throat was constricted by fear. Suddenly his voice was cut off. 
His heart pounded loudly in his ears which seemed now to hear 
shouts of "Willis, Willis." Dashing his basket from his head and 
scattering hymn book and Bible in opposite directions he fled for 
his life. So far as Uncle Mac knows, no one ever after that tried to 
gather those nuts. One such warning was enough to convince three 
hundred darkies that they didn't care for hickory nuts. 

But the little slave boy could not remain forever a child, and sad- 
der still, neither could he live out his days on the Butler plantation. 

Kindly Mr. Butler was a shrewd business man and a far-sighted 
one. Even though it was a number of years before the storm broke, 
the thunder of Northern disapproval of slavery was sounding in 
steadily increasing volume. Mr. Butler drew a very substantial 
income from his Southern property. He had thousands of dollars 
tied up in his plantations and in the slaves, whose work only could 
make profitable these investments. If he lost this rich source of 
revenue it might sweep with it all that he possessed in both the 
North and the South. After long deliberation he decided to start 
closing out his Southern holdings, and his first step was to begin 
selling off his slaves. No doubt, he convinced himself, being a true 
Northerner, that these black people would not long be the property 
of anyone as freedom would soon be theirs. 

So, reluctantly, the order was given to Wilson to select a group 
to be sent down the river to Savannah, Georgia, to the slave market. 
Aaron and Clara, together with Willis and his four younger brothers 
and sisters, were among those chosen. 

Still fresh in the mind of Uncle Mac is the journey to Savannah. 
For a day-and-a-half they jolted and jogged along by wagon, until 
they came to the Savannah River, where they were placed on board 
a boat and shipped down the river to the city. 

The marketing of slaves was a thriving business, and these 
markets advertised their sales extensively over the Southern states. 
Buyers came long distances to attend them. 

Rare indeed, was the chance that a family would remain intact, 
and so with sad and fearful hearts, Aaron and Clara disembarked 
with their five children to Savannah. They were hurried up the wharf 
to the place of auction. 

A long log chain was stretched in an open space, and to this 
were handcuffed two long lines of field hands— the men on one side 
of the chain and the women on the other. Aaron was placed among 
them, while Clara and the children were herded into a huge shed 



774 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



with dozens of other mothers and children. Here Willis, who was 
then about twelve years old, was taken from them. Most bitterly he 
wept when night came on and he was not allowed to join them. 
Never again was he to see his mother or any other member of the 
family. 

All the way across the state, from Columbus, Georgia, had 
come Joe Lee, wealthy cotton plantation owner, and (according to 
Uncle Mac's statements), trafficker in human souls and bodies. As 
the story is told, he was feared and hated, not only by his slaves, 
but by his wealthy, aristocratic neighbors, and his own family as 
well. The family lived in a big white mansion in a secluded spot on 
the plantation. It was darkly whispered that only timely intervention 
had kept him from setting fire to an outbuilding in which was his 
own son, incurably ill. He had been taken there upon Lee's order 
that he be removed from the big house. 

Misfortune attended Willis, for, when the auction closed he 
found himself among the lot purchased by Joe Lee. Willis was 
strong and able and would be well worth, in the cotton fields, the 
$500 paid for him. 

At first he was put to carrying water to the hands in the field. 
The lash was generously applied whenever he grew tired and 
loitered over his task. 

Here, no mercy was shown to anyone, and the only consoling 
thing was the abundant food which shrewd Joe Lee knew was a 
requisite if he were to realize the last penny of profit from his 
slaves. Each was rationed, the men receiving three-and-a-half 
pounds of bacon each, and the women each were rationed three 
pounds. With this they received generous quantities of meal, sweet 
potatoes, home-made molasses, and such seasonings as salt, 
pepper, and sugar which was made on the plantation. There was 
also a profusion of "greens" growing over the whole place which 
provided amply the "pot liquor" so dear to the Southern negro. 
Fruits abounded, the plums and fine peaches being one of Uncle 
Mac's happy memories. His intelligent old face beamed in retro- 
spection as he described some of the food and its preparation. 
Women field hands prepared their midday meal in advance. 
Practically the whole meal was prepared in a black iron pot with a 
cover. The bacon and greens were placed in the pot and its cover 
adjusted; then on top of the cover was poured the corn pone. This 
was carefully covered and the pot embedded in hot coals. More hot 
coals were put on top and the whole then covered with ashes. Uncle 
Mac declared this food was truly a feast, and that the bread was 
most delicious, being perfectly and evenly browned and very light in 
texture. This bread was second only to ash bread which was a 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 115 



delicacy for special occasions. It was baked right in the ashes, 
being covered with leaves on top of which more hot ashes were 
heaped. 

Of course the sweet potatoes and the green corn roasted in the 
same manner were a gastronomic delight. And as for the "coffee," 
made of parched grains and boiled in an open bucket hung over the 
fire— no real coffee, avows Uncle Mac, can approach its fine flavor. 

Willis was soon given a small bag and sent to the field in the 
charge of an older man to be taught to pick cotton. At first he was 
given a small "task," as they called an allotment. Then as his ability 
increased his task was increased. 

Like boys, regardless of race or time, Willis developed teen-age 
characteristics which ran true to form. It irked him that, as time 
went on, his sack was still smaller than that given the larger boys; it 
hurt his pride, and truly "Pride goeth before a fall." 

The "fall" came about in this manner. One day when Willis was 
in fine spirits he decided to show these older boys that he could 
pick as much cotton as any of them. He rushed along and did pick 
an astonishing quantity. He was puffed up with pride when his work 
was weighed in that evening. Imagine his deflation and dismay 
when he found next morning that his daily task had been increased 
to the excessive amount he had picked the day before. Sick at heart 
he donned his new larger bag and joined the hands moving toward 
the fields. Feverishly he worked, but the incentive which had lent 
speed to his fingers the day before was gone. Try as he did he could 
not reach the goal of the day before. A great fear gripped him when 
night came and his cotton was weighed in. However, he was only 
admonished that he must make up the deficiency on the following 
day. The second day he was again warned as the shortage was 
greater. 

The third day the task was a hopeless one for the deficiencies of 
the two preceding days added to the already excessive daily task 
was wholly beyond his ability. Frantically he wracked his brain for a 
solution. Passing the building where the picked cotton was placed 
a sudden idea flashed through his mind. He hesitated not one 
moment longer than to make sure he was not observed. Snatching 
up the picked cotton with all haste he crammed it into his sack, 
jumping on it and tramping it down as was the custom. That 
evening occasioned another sensation when his cotton was 
weighed. Truly here was a marvel. He had picked as much cotton as 
the strongest and most skilled picker on the plantation! 

The next day no opportunity offered to repeat the raid on the 
storage place. Apprehension weighed upon him as his very ordinary 
day's work was recorded in the list. They said nothing to him at the 
time, so he went on to his quarters to enjoy his evening meal. 



116 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



The slave quarters on Joe Lee's place were the crudest possible 
shelters, and at one side of the group of cabins was a large log 
house. High up through the length of this building ran a stout beam 
with many rings attached to it. Through each of these rings ran a 
rope to which a pair of handcuffs was attached in such a manner 
that the handcuffs could be pulled up toward the beam and the 
opposite end of the rope fastened to the floor. 

This was only a part of the equipment in this dread place, for 
here punishment in various forms was administered in devious 
ways to men and women impartially. Terrible indeed were the 
things which transpired within these walls. Men had been seen 
hanging by one thumb until the whole arm was swollen to 
unbelievable size. Here was kept the dreaded cat-o'nine-tails— a 
wheel to which many short leather whips loaded with buckshot 
were attached in such a way that each turn of the wheel would land 
its full quota of blood-drawing blows on the back of the helpless 
victim. Here also were the stocks of which we shall hear more later. 
This grim place was known to the slaves as the "whip house." 

Although Willis was more than familiar with the sting of the 
lash, he had never been sent to the whip house. The time had come 
for him to have this experience. It was the custom to punish those 
who had failed to pick their required amount of cotton by giving 
them a certain number of lashes, according to the degree of 
shortage. No one could be sure of his exemption until after supper 
when the driver made his rounds to collect those to be whipped. 

On this particular evening he stopped with his group of culprits 
before the cabin where Willis was housed. "Willis," he shouted. 
Willis hurried to the door to see what was wanted. 

"Fall in line," said the driver. "You have to go to the whip 
house." 

When they arrived at the whip house old Lee was there. While 
the other offenders were being handcuffed to the rings for their 
lashing, the master questioned him as to his extra-ordinary 
performance. He was compelled to confess, and was given ten 
lashes for lying and ten for failing to accomplish his task. Added to 
this punishment was the impossible task set for him for the next 
day. 

Early next morning Willis drew on his tattered shirt very gingerly 
for his back was so sore that the very touch of the course garment 
was painful. How dearly was the poor colored boy paying for his 
foolish vanity of a few days before! 

As mid-afternoon drew on he could see that he was falling far 
short of picking his required amount of cotton. The thought of the 
stinging lash falling again on his already sore back was more than 
he could bear. 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 117 



Fervently he prayed for escape, and opportunity came for him to 
slip unnoticed from the field several hours before quitting time. He 
concealed his cotton sack, and struck off in a westerly direction. 
Fear lent wings to his feet. He was young and very strong, and he 
hurried on until darkness came with still no pursuers within sight or 
hearing. Evidently he had not been missed until weighing-in time, 
and so gained several hours start. 

Overcome by weariness, he came to a group of plantation 
buildings and took refuge in a clump of bushes near the barn. 
Sinking down in utter exhaustion, he fell asleep. 

How long he slept he does not know, but he was awakened by a 
long drawn "Oo-oo-o-oo." With an effort he sat up to listen. What 
was it? — an owl, perhaps? 

"Oo-oo-o-oo." This time there was no doubt as to its origin. 

"Old Turner's blood hounds! God help me," he gasped as he 
sprang up and ran toward the buildings in terror. He hoped to reach 
the house before the blood hounds caught up with him. 

As he passed the barn he caught sight of a horse tied in the lot. 
He untied the horse and sprang up on it, galloping away before his 
pursuers caught sight of him. What they did he never knew, for he 
galloped with all possible speed until after several miles, he came 
to a foot-bridge spanning the river. Jumping off he struck the horse 
a blow, starting it back toward home and hoping fervently it would 
reach there before it was seen to give away the secret of his where- 
abouts. 

On the foot-bridge he crossed the Chattahoochee River into 
Alabama. For two or three weeks he hid in the vicinity, living on 
food secretly brought to him by colored people living in the 
neighborhood. 

He began to relax and to feel at peace with the world, for he felt 
sure he now possessed a charm potent enough to keep even Joe 
Lee away. The colored folks had sent him to an old man of their race 
who knew all the charms and could tell him how to protect himself 
against the white people. (Uncle Mac tells this part of the story with 
many a chuckle, for he has ceased, long ago, to place his trust in 
charms.) The old man of magic sent him three times to a pond to 
immerse himself completely in it, telling him that this would wash 
away all memory of the past and make him unable to tell the name 
of his master. Then he was sent down to the brook to pick up two 
small white stones, one for each pocket, to be tossed at any white 
molester to convey to him that his room was more acceptable than 
his company. And lastly there was the real charm— a bag of salt 
over which certain words had been spoken. This was worn on a 
string around the neck and guaranteed absolute protection from all 
evil. 



1 18 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



"One day," said Uncle Mac with a smile, "I went out and walked 
along the road and forgot to take my charm along. It was bad luck 
for me." And, as the story continues, no one can deny that it was. 

He decided to explore the countryside and ventured forth along 
the public highway. It seems that there were those who found the 
capturing of runaway slaves a very profitable business. Substantial 
rewards were offered for their return by their owners, and the laws 
of the Southern states were such as gave every possible assistance 
in apprehending the runaways. So it happened that Willis was 
stopped by two men on horseback and questioned. He declared he 
was free and they were certain that he was not. 

Taking him into custody, he was put into jail where he again 
refused to divulge the identity of his owner. He was placed with his 
bare back under the wheel and beaten with the cat-o'-nine tales, but 
he remained silent. The second day his bloody back was again 
beaten in the same manner. Still he would not name his owner, but 
when he was made ready for the same experience the third day, he 
yielded and Joe Lee was notified. He came to claim his property, 
and Willis was securely bound with ropes and thrown into a wagon 
for the journey back to the Lee plantation. 

Upon arriving he was placed in the stocks, feet handcuffed 
together and hands also in such a manner that the wrists were 
almost touching the ankles. This strain on the muscles temporarily 
paralyzed the whole body. He was left here for days until word of it 
came to the ears of enraged white neighbors who demanded his 
release. When he was removed he was placed on a crude pallet and 
fed only gruel for a time as he was too ill to be given other food. 

Having heard that he had been married during his slave days, I 
asked Uncle Mac if he were married during his stay on the Lee 
place. I was wholly unprepared for the change that swept over the 
old man's features. Never at any time, during all the previous recital 
of events in his life, had he expressed any ill feeling or desire for 
retaliation, but now he seemed aflame with wrath and hatred. 

"Married on Lee's place? Never! He was too mean." 

"Madam," said he, "If you were a man I could tell you things, but 
I cannot tell them to a woman." 

Legal marriage, he explained, was unknown for slaves, but Lee 
would select wives for the young men on the plantation and compel 
them to accept them. Most terrible punishments were meted out to 
those who refused to do so. In case of scarcity of women among his 
slaves, Lee would go out and buy wives for his men, Uncle Mac 
declared. Slaves were valuable property and an oversupply could 
always be marketed, so Joe Lee was pleased to see an ever 
increasing number of children among his slaves. 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 119 



Dark tales were whispered of his inhuman treatment of these 
unfortunate slave women. Instead of the comfortable beds provided 
for women approaching confinement on the plantations of many 
humane Southerners, it is said that Lee hastened difficult deliveries 
by applying the lash. This is hard to believe, but, if true, Simon 
Legree was not the mere creation of an overactive imagination. 

After his first brief taste of freedom, Willis was caught in several 
other attempts to escape. He was becoming quite a source of 
annoyance because of this, and was now of little value to Lee since 
his experience in the stocks had affected his hands so seriously 
that they never regained the agility necessary to the expert cotton 
picker. It was decided he should be sold. 

And so, once more, the son of Aaron found himself in a slave 
market. This time it was the market at Columbus, Georgia, similar 
in many respects to the one at Savannah, but much smaller. Here he 
was put through many tests to demonstrate his physical fitness to 
prospective buyers. He was required to hop a few paces— first on 
one foot, then on the other. His eyes were tested separately by 
moving some object menacingly before them, and then by requiring 
him to count the number of holes in a board at varying distances, 
and so on through a long list. When a slave was put up for auction 
he was much concerned and fearful of falling into the hands of a 
bad master. Young Willis was no exception, only that the prospect 
of leaving the brutal Lee was much to his liking. Imagine his joy 
when a distinguished looking, kindly man came forward when the 
bidding ceased to claim Willis. He led him off to join two other 
colored boys of about his own age, who had been bought that 
day. They were placed on board a train and taken to Montgomery, 
Alabama. After reaching there they were taken to the plantation of 
John McDonald, Sr., a few miles out from the city, for it was he who 
had bought them. 

The McDonalds were people of means and of prominent 
position. John McDonald, Jr. was in Montgomery at this time 
studying law, and Willis, after a very brief stay at the plantation, 
was sent in to him to be his special servant. Here was truly an 
earthly paradise for the long suffering black boy. Young McDonald 
was very kind to him and their close association extended over a 
period of years. He attended to all the young master's personal 
needs and even slept on a cot in his rooms. Between the two there 
sprang up an attachment that long years of separation could not 
erase, death only ending it. 
When the young master was admitted to the practice of law it 
became a part of Willis' duty, and much to his liking, to serve as 
office boy. The master had taught him something of figures and 



120 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



letters, but had done so secretly, for giving any education to a slave 
was regarded with strong disfavor in the South. He had not learned 
enough, however, to be able to read to any extent, so a series of 
bells was arranged to assist Willis in finding any book or other 
object that he was to bring fronn an outer room into the private 
office. 

The years flew by happily until the Civil War broke. Young John 
McDonald joined the army of the South, and Willis returned to the 
plantation. 

It was a time of confusion for the slaves. They could not 
understand why the white people were fighting. Many were the 
vague rumors drifting among the slaves concerning "Sonny," as 
Jefferson Davis was called, and "Linkum." Each, so the colored 
people thought, were fighting for possession of the slaves. 

The war ended and John McDonald returned to Montgomery and 
resumed his place as one of the city's leading citizens. Willis was 
again happy to be about his chores in his master's office. 

One day when Mr. McDonald was busy in court, a strange young 
man approached Willis. "Are you still with your master?" said the 
man. "Yes suh," said Willis, astonished at the question. "Don't you 
know you are free," said he. "You don't belong to your master any 
more— you don't belong to anyone." 

Thunderstruck, the colored man went about his usual tasks. He 
was dazed by such information, and he was also afraid to mention 
such a thing. Perhaps it was only a trick to trap them and get them 
into serious trouble. He overheard a man on the street talking of 
Lincoln and freedom of the slaves. He could not get the thought out 
of his mind. 

A few days later he was told to fill the tank in which drinking 
water was cooled. He pretended not to hear his master who spoke 
again sharply. 

"I won't do it," said Willis. "I's free an' I don't b'long to you no 
mo." "I dont belong to nobody." 

John McDonald was in a rage. He ordered his former slave to get 
his things and leave the place and warned him never to return. 

Hastily Willis gathered up his few belongings and started out. 
There was only one other place he knew to which he could go. He 
would go back to the plantation. 

Arriving at the plantation, he was accosted by old Uncle Bill, the 
driver. "How come you ain't in Montgomery," said he. "What you all 
doin' out heah?" 

"Ain't doin' nuthin," said Willis. "I's free, you's free, ev' body's 
free. Linkum done whipped Sonny." 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 121 



Swiftly the word was whispered over the place. It came to the 
ears of a housemaid who was outraged at what she considered 
disloyalty to her beloved "white folks." She rushed with the news to 
her mistress who relayed it to old Mr. McDonald. He ordered Willis 
apprehended and brought to him, but Willis had been warned and 
he fled back to Montgomery. 

Oh, how he did long to return to John McDonald! But fear kept 
him back— fear that he might again come under the stinging whip 
he had not felt since he left Joe Lee. He was ashamed, too, to face 
the master he had loved so many years— the master who had 
treated him with so much kindness. Why, he had never once been 
tempted to run away from him, and now, "Massa John" had told 
him to go and never come back. 

There was one thing only he could think of to do, and that was to 
find his way to the home of Abraham Lincoln. He stopped in 
Montgomery only long enough to stuff his pockets and even his 
shirt front with Confederate money which had been thrown out of 
the capitol building to be destroyed. He had no idea that it was 
worthless. 

He made his way over the country to Meridian, Mississippi, and 
here his money almost got him into trouble. He went into a 
restaurant and ordered food, which he ate, offering in payment one 
of the Confederate bills. The woman who owned the shop had not 
sufficient change for it, so she went across the street to get the 
change. Here she learned that the bill was worthless and soon 
returned with two officers who demanded an explanation. They took 
the useless money from him and destroyed it, warning him to not 
repeat the offense and nearly scaring the life out of Willis. 

Even to this day there is fear and distrust of Southern white 
folks in the heart of old Uncle Mac— a fear and distrust so deeply 
grounded that even the most potent reason in the whole world could 
not induce him to return. He now laughs at his early fears 
concerning "Ha'nts" and ghosts and witches for he no longer 
believes in them. But his early impressions of white masters of the 
South still remain with him. 

He made his way from Meridian across the state to Greenville 
where he secured work as a roustabout on a steamboat going up the 
Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis. On the way from 
Meridian to Greenville he had talked much to the colored people 
about the changed order of things and a new terror fell upon him. 
He tells how the Ku Klux Klan over-rode that part of the country and 
how severely they punished anyone who informed their slaves of 
their freedom. He relates how they stopped one night at the home 
of a colored woman where he had received food and had gone to 



122 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



sleep in the loft of the cabin. Hearing a commotion, he awoke and 
peered through a crack between the logs of the cabin wall. He saw 
several black-robed men, one of whom was carrying a rope. His 
benefactor was trying to convince them that there was no one 
hidden in her house but they insisted in searching the place. He 
jumped through a window in the rear of the loft and escaped 
through the brush which grew behind the cabin. 

The trip up the Mississippi was uneventful until they reached a 
point within a few hours travel of St. Louis. Here they were notified 
to report at the office for their pay. Uncle Mac was amazed for he 
had not expected pay. He only wanted transportation to the land of 
Lincoln, and the work he accepted as a matter of course. He 
received a ten dollar bill, the first of its kind he had ever seen. 

After leaving the boat at St. Louis he loitered about the levee for 
a long time, trying to decide whether or not to attempt to buy food 
with the money he had. He was thinking it too might cause him 
trouble as the Confederate bill had. Finally hunger drove him to 
present it in payment for food at a nearby restaurant. It was 
accepted and he was much pleased at the number of pieces of 
money he received in change as well as the kindly attitude of the 
Northern proprietor. 




Courtesy of Eileen Smith Cunningham, Carrollton, Illinois. 

Willis McDonald House, 311 Anna Street, Jacksonville, Illinois. 



A SLAVE'S A U TOBIOGRA PH Y 123 



Willis found work in St. Louis with a German butcher where he 
remained for some time. He finally reached the goal of his desire 
when opportunity came for him to go to Springfield where he lived 
for two years. 

In 1869 he came to Jacksonville with a party of colored people to 
celebrate Emancipation Day. He liked Jacksonville, and decided to 
stay after being assured that his freedom was as certain in 
Jacksonville as it was in Springfield. 

The years passed— comparatively uneventful years for Willis 
McDonald. He had married and settled down, adopting as a 
surname the name of his last master. He had employment in 
Jacksonville and his days were peacefully spent with his wife and 
foster daughter. 

It was not until one day in the autumn of 1904 that Willis was to 
experience the greatest happiness he has ever known. He was 
hurrying along the street on an errand, and he was stopped by a 
grayhaired man carrying a traveling bag. The stranger inquired the 
way to the Dunlap Hotel, and Uncle Mac very courteously directed 
him. But the man did not go on. He continued to regard the man 
before him with an oddly piercing look, then began to ask him one 
question after another in quick succession: — How long had he lived 
in Jacksonville? Had he ever lived anywhere else? Had he been a 
slave? When? Where? How long ago? Who were his masters? His 
own name? 

When Uncle Mac answered his last question by saying that he 
had taken the name "McDonald" as it was the name of his last 
master, the stranger asked him if he would know any of the 
McDonalds if he saw them. He answered that he would know young 
John McDonald anywhere! 

"I am he," said the questioner, "I am John McDonald." 

Transports of joy filled the old negro, and the former master was 
no less affected. They fell into each other's arms in an embrace so 
fervent that on-lookers cried out that a white man and a colored man 
were fighting, and an officer rushed up to investigate. 

Former slave and master spent an unforgettable day together. 
"Massa John" wasn't angry any more. He begged Willis to return 
home with him and he would see to it that he never wanted for 
anything. 

Long they talked of the years they had spent together, but Willis 
would not consent to return to the Southland. Something might 
happen to "Massa McDonald." In some way the things he had once 
undergone might again come back to him. Who could tell! He had 
known peace and freedom here in the North; why risk a change? The 
old fear which he can never dispel still warned him against the white 
masters of the South. 



124 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Next day John McDonald, who had come to Jacksonville as a 
nnennber of a group of politicians who were accompanying President 
Theodore Roosevelt on a speaking tour across the country, left the 
city with his party. 

He and Willis were never to meet again, but Mr. McDonald wrote 
occasionally to his old friend and never lost the hope that some day 
Willis would come back to him. He particularly wished for him 
during the last days of his life but Willis was then too old to attempt 
the long journey. John McDonald was almost one hundred years old 
at the time of his death, five years ago. He had never married, but a 
niece sent a telegram notifying Willis of his death. 

Uncle Mac is actively interested in all that goes on about him 
and takes real pleasure in talking to his visitors. He has recently 
applied for an old age pension, and nothing about him indicates 
that he might at times be aware that the time may be near for his 
passing. The following conversation, however, proves the contrary. 

"If it were possible to have any wish you might have gratified," 
he was asked, "What would you desire more?" 

"Just to be ready fo' de Lawd," said he. "He has been so good to 
let me stay here so long. I just want to do what he wants me to do, 
and to be ready for him when he comes." 



On page fourteen of the Jacksonville Daily Journal of February 
24, 1939, the former slave's obituary was published: "Willis 
McDonald, slave in youth, dies here at age of 109 years." The article 
follows. 



Willis McDonald, 109 years old, Jacksonville's oldest 
resident, who was believed by many to be the oldest person in 
Illinois, died yesterday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock at his home, 
311 Anna Street. 

Born in slavery, the aged colored man's age was verified 
from several sources and on several occasions. The son of one 
of McDonald's former masters in South Carolina once vouched 
for the date, July 29, 1829, when McDonald said he was born. 

The mild-mannered little colored man, who walked with a 
cane nearly as long as anyone here remembers had been a 
resident of Jacksonville 50 years. Older residents recalled that 
he was a man of middle age when he arrived here. 

He made his way north after the Civil War gave him freedom, 
stopping in St. Louis and Springfield before locating in this 
city. 



A SLAVE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 125 



McDonald, or Willis, as he was more familarly known, 
remained active long after he celebrated his 100th anniversary, 
and was able to be out and about the streets until a few months 
ago. 

It was not an uncommon sight to see the aged man climb 
the steps to the second floor of the court house, unassisted, 
when he was past the century mark. 

Wife Died in 1922 

His wife, who before marriage was Lulu Harris, preceded 
him in death Dec. 16, 1933. He is survived by one son, Leiand 
McDonald of Chicago, a foster daughter, Mrs. Mattie 
Carpenter, Jacksonville, and a niece, Mrs. Minnie Simpson, 
Hannibal, Mo. One son, Arthur, preceded him in death. 

The remains are at the Gillham Funeral Home, arrange- 
ments being incomplete. 

McDonald was born on a plantation owned by Pace (Pierce) 
Butler, near Charleston, S.C, July 29, 1829. Butler was a 
wealthy Philadelphia merchant who owned this plantation upon 
which 600 slaves labored. Most of the time the plantation was 
operated by Doc Wilson, a relative of the owner. 

McDonald was under Wilson for the first 12 years of his life, 
and he remembers Wilson as a cruel and exacting master. At 
the age of 13 he was taken to Savanna, Ga., to be sold. This 
was the last time he ever saw or heard of his m.other. At the 
auction in Savanna he was purchased by Joe Lee of Columbus. 
Ga. , for $500.00. He worked on Lee's plantation four years .... 
Sold For $1,000.00 

In Columbus, Ga., when 16 years old, McDonald was again 
sold, that time to John McDonald for $1 ,000.00. He was given a 
name, Willis McDonald, by his owner. Prior to this time he had 
gone only by the name of Willis. The plantation owner 
immediately gave the young colored boy to his son and this 
man was his master until he gained his freedom during the Civil 
War. 

John McDonald, Jr. was a visitor in Jacksonville in 1904. He 
talked with Willis at that time, and corroborated the figures 
concerning the former slave's age. 

During the Civil War, McDonald heard rumors that someone 
was fighting to free the slaves, but he did not learn the details 
until the Yanks bombarded Columbus, Ga., and three days later 
over-ran the plantation where he was, passing out food and 
clothing to the slaves. 

Came Herein 1869 

After being set free, McDonald walked to Montgomery, Ala., 
and then moved rather aimlessly about the South for a time. He 
spent some time in Mississippi, then went to St. Louis where 
he worked in a butcher shop two years for his board. 



726 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



He was in Springfield from 1864 to 1869, after which he 
came to Jacksonville. During the more active part of his life he 
was employed by a number of business firms and individuals. 

McDonald's mind was keen as to events in the days of 
slavery. While unschooled, he had a knack of remembering 
names and dates, and few ever doubted that his age was what 
he said it was. Then came the testimony of his former owner's 
son, and it was generally accepted that Willis McDonald was 
born on July 29, 1829. 



QUINCY AND MEREDOSIA IN 1842 

CHARLES CARTER LANGDON'S 

TRAVEL LETTERS 

John E. Hallwas 



Travel letters in newspapers constitute one of the largest bodies 
of material about the Midwest published before the Civil War. 
However, such letters are seldom reprinted and almost never 
discussed. This is unfortunate because they are often of historical 
value and are occasionally of literary interest as well. 

In Illinois, many newspapers carried descriptions of the state by 
travelers, but none was more devoted to this kind of material than 
the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. It was founded in 
April of 1837 by Samuel H. Davis, who mentioned in his prospectus 
that he was "aware of the great interest which prevails throughout 
the Atlantic states in regard to information from the west," and so 
he intended to feature "topographical and statistical descriptions of 
the country. "'' As the surviving issues of his newspaper indicate, he 
did so both by writing articles of his own and by printing letters 
written by regional residents and travelers. The Register and 
North-Western Gazetteer soon had a considerable circulation in the 
East as well as within Illinois. In September of 1842, Davis sold the 
newspaper to William H. and Samuel G. Butler, who continued to 
feature items of travel and description. 

From a literary standpoint, most of the newspaper's travel 
letters are undistinguished. One reason for this is vagueness. 
Frequently, an author gives little more than a general impression of 
the town, county, or region being described. Another shortcoming 
is the presentation of common notions: the prairies are like flower 
gardens, the land is incredibly fertile, the river bottoms are 
unhealthful places to settle, and so on. Related to both of these 
characteristics is the tendency to summarize rather than provide a 
specific, first-person account of experiences and observations. 

Fortunately, these qualities are not universal. Two letters which 
appeared in the Register and North-Western Gazetteer on November 
11, 1842 are especially vivid and deserve to have a modern reader- 
ship. They were written by Charles Carter Langdon— who was editor 
of the Mobile, Alabama Advertiser and Chronicle— as part of a 

127 



128 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



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An 1838 map showing travel routes in Illinois. From A. D. 
Illinois and the West. 



CHARLES LANGDON'S LETTERS 129 



series of letters based on his travels in the western Illinois region. 
Although he is identified in the newspaper only as "Mr. Langdon," 
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography gives his full 
name and additional information. 2 He was born at Southington, 
Connecticut on August 5, 1805, the son of a state legislator and the 
scion of a family line that came to America in 1646. After graduating 
from the Episcopal Academy at Cheshire, Connecticut in 1821 and 
teaching for four years, he moved to Alabama, eventually settling in 
Mobile in 1834. He was a Whig politician, and when his party 
purchased the Mobile /A cyver/Zser in 1838, he became the editor. He 
was associated with the newspaper until 1853. As his political 
career developed, he served as mayor of Mobile (1849-55), state 
legislator (1855-56, 1862, 1882-84), and Alabama Secretary of State 
(1885-88). He died on June 8, 1889. 

A headnote to the series— written by the Butler brothers- 
explains Langdon's motive for visiting Illinois: "We understand that 
the journey was undertaken at the solicitation of a number of 
gentlemen of Alabama, who stand ready to remove to our state with 
Mr. L. if he shall, after due examination of the country, recommend 
it. He seems to have commenced his written observations at 
Hannibal, Mo., to a description of which his first letter is devoted. 
We commence the publication with No. 2, written from 
Quincy. . . ."^ As this indicates, Letter No. 1 , concerning Hannibal, 
did not appear in the Register and North-Western Gazetteer. Copies 
of the Mobile Advertiser and Chronicle for 1842 are not available, 
and so the first letter has not been recovered. However, letters two, 
three, and four— written in Quincy, Springfield, and Peoria— are 
included in the November 11 issue, and a fifth letter— also written 
in Peoria— is found in the November 18 issue. No other letters in 
this series are found in the surviving issues of the Peoria 
newspaper. 

Langdon's fourth and fifth letters are not particularly 
interesting. The former offers a brief general description of 
Springfield, a discussion of the internal improvement program in 
Illinois, an assessment of the soil fertility in Sangamon County, 
and comments about the landscape in Logan and Tazewell 
counties. The latter includes a vague description of Peoria, a 
statement about the potential importance of the Illinois and 
Michigan Canal to that city, topographical comments about the 
Kickapoo and Charleston prairies, and remarks about the view from 
Peoria's Prospect Hill. 

On the other hand, letters two and three are very interesting, for 
they offer a vivid contrast between two river towns, Quincy and 
Meredosia. As the author points out, the one is a beautiful, thriving 



730 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



community on the Mississippi, while the other is a small, ugly 
landing place on the Illinois. Quincy has many businesses and has 
a vital relationship with its agricultural hinterland. Meredosia has 
almost no business development and derives its importance from 
simply being at the connecting point of the Illinois River and the 
state's first railroad, the Northern Cross. The hotels in which 
Langdon stays, the Quincy House and Long's "house of 
entertainment," epitomize the level of development in each 
community. 

The author's familiarity with the East Coast Influences his 
perception of western Illinois. The area around Quincy, which looks 
like an old settled region, reminds him of river valleys in the East, 
and in general, the more well developed a town or agricultural area 
appears to be, the better he likes it. Quincy itself, with its town 
square, brick buildings, and elegant hotel, has an air of 
substantiality and culture that greatly impresses him. On the other 
hand, he has nothing at all to say about Mount Sterling and is 
repulsed by Meredosia. Another way of saying the same thing is 
that Langdon is no lover of the frontier— and his letters clearly 
indicate that in 1842 frontier conditions existed in some areas of 
western Illinois but not in others. 

One other aspect of letters two and three which makes them 
interesting is that the author emerges as a distinctive personality. 
Along with his aesthetic appreciation of landscape, interest in 
business and agricultural development, knowledge of the East 
Coast, and dislike of frontier conditions, the reader is also made 
aware of his political prejudice, belief in temperance, and talent for 
ridicule. It is the last of these qualities which makes the description 
of his experience at Long's "house of entertainment" one of the 
most unique passages in early Illinois travel literature. 

The two letters are reprinted here just as they appeared in the 
Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. They should 
demonstrate to historians and literary scholars alike the value of 
including material of this kind in studies of the early Midwest. 



No. 2 

Quincy, (Illinois,) Sept. 3, 1842. 

This is without doubt one of the most pleasant and thriving 
towns in the west. I was prepared by descriptions I had heard, 
to find a very pretty and comfortable place, but had formed but 
a very imperfect conception of the size and business capacities 
of the city, the elegant refinements of its inhabitants, or the 



CHARLES LANGDON'S LETTERS 



131 




132 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



unrivaled beauty of the surrounding country. I found here some 
Mobile friends, who have spent the two last summers in this 
delightful place, to whom I am under many obligations for their 
kind attentions, and the facilities they have extended to me in 
forming acquaintances, and making me familiar with a section 
of country so full of interest, so rich in landscape beauty. I 
know not when I have spent time more pleasantly than the last 
three days in this city of Quincy, and I leave this evening with 
sincere regret, yielding to that stern necessity which compels 
me to prosecute my journey. 

The city of Quincy is handsomely situated on a high and 
commanding bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi, is the 
county seat of the county of Adams, and contains some 2800 or 
3000 inhabitants. In the center of town is a large public square, 
gently sloping to the west, neatly enclosed, and covered with 
nature's simplest and most beautiful carpet of green; fronting 
which on the east side is the large brick court house, on the 
south side the Quincy house, a splendid hotel which cost 
$100,000, and the remainder on the four sides filled up with 
substantial brick buildings, stores, &c. Around the city are 
many private dwellings of taste and beauty, and under the bluff 
on the bank of the river are numerous large warehouses, a flour 
mill, a steam saw mill, a paper mill, a castor oil factory, a lard 
oil factor, &c, &c. The city also contains no less than nine 
churches, which speaks well for the cause of religion. The 
population of the city is mostly from New England, and the 
society partakes much, of course, of the New England 
character. The city is remarkable for the good morals and the 
sobriety of its inhabitants. During my three days visit I have not 
only not seen a person intoxicated, but I have not seen even a 
drop of ardent spirits. The town is steadily improving, there 
being now some thirty or forty brick buildings in the course of 
erection. 

The county of Adams is one of the richest in the state, 
almost every foot of its land being not only fit for cultivation, 
but of remarkable fertility. The country directly back of Quincy, 
for miles in extent, as far as the eye can reach, is a continued 
prairie, agreeably diversified with gentle undulations of hill and 
dale, with a soil of unsurpassed fertility, a considerable portion 
of which is in a state of cultivation. The view is magnificent 
beyond description, and one which I shall not attempt to 
describe. But in truth I can say, 

"The sun in all his broad career. 
Ne'er looked upon a fairer land." 
From the fact that there are no trees in view, the country wears 
the appearance of an old settled region in a high state of 
cultivation. The rich natural meadows of prairie remind me of 
the beautiful meadows on the banks of the Connecticut, the 



CHARLES LANGDON'S LETTERS 133 



Hudson and the Schuylkill. The principal productions are 
wheat, corn and oats, though there are large fields of hennp, 
tobacco, buckwheat, castor oil bean, &c., while vegetables, 
and all the fruits comnnon to the eastern and middle states, are 
produced with ease in the greatest abundance. The prairies are 
covered with cattle and sheep roaming at large, and horses are 
raised in large numbers, at small expense, and sell remarkably 
low. There never was a country blessed with a greater 
abundance of the good things of the world than this, but all 
produce is selling low, and money is hard to get. The land 
produces astonishingly,— seventy-five bushels of corn, or forty 
bushels of wheat to the acre, being very common. Wheat is 
selling in this place at 30 to 31 cents, and extremely dull at that. 
A man here with a good farm and free from debt, can live like a 
lord; but if he is in debt, he must stay so for the present. The 
population of the county is composed mostly of Kentuckians. 

The manufacture of lamp oil from lard, I predict, will 
become immediately a business of great importance through- 
out this country. Both the oil and the candles are in constant 
use at the Quincy house, and the proprietor informs me that 
they are equal for light and durability, and in every other 
respect, to sperm. There is no loss by the process of 
manufacturing — 100 pounds of lard will produce the hundred 
pounds in oil and candles. Of course the candles and oil can be 
furnished very low. The latter is selling here now at 75 cents per 
gallon, but can be afforded much lower. Instead of paying 50 
cents a pound for sperm candles, these, equal to sperm, can be 
furnished at the price of lard. What an immense saving to the 
country; and what an important discovery for this "hog killing" 
region of the west! 

The public houses I have visited, so far, I have found very 
excellent. The Quincy house in this place is kept in a style that 
would do credit to any city in the union. The building (to which I 
have before alluded) is a noble edifice of brick, pleasantly 
situated on the south side of the public square, affording an 
agreeable view of the city from the front, while from the back 
part, on one wing you have the bed of the "Eternal river," with 
its steamboats, barges, and rafts; and on the other, the 
beautiful prairie, in full view. It is really a most comfortable 
house, and the gentlemanly proprietor, Mr. Monroe, spares no 
pains to make his guests feel "at home." 

I shall leave in a few minutes for Peoria, from which place I 
will write again. 



134 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



No. 3 

Springfield, Sept. 7, 1842. 

I left Quincy Saturday afternoon for Meredosia, on the 
Illinois river, intending to take a steamboat tfiere for Peoria; but 
finding no boat after waiting two tedious days, I took the stage 
for this place, where I arrived last evening. 

After leaving Quincy, the route for thirty miles is in the 
county of Adams, which, from the uniform fertility of its soil, 
and the density of its population, has already acquired the 
designation of the "empire county." It contains 3200 votes, and 
elects a senator and five representatives to the legislature; and 
what, in my estimation, is still higher recommendation, it is a 
decided whig county. The county is admirably diversified with 
prairie and timber land, which renders settlements convenient, 
and every foot of soil is susceptible of cultivation. It therefore 
possesses advantages over many other sections of the state, 
where the immense rich prairies are rendered valueless for the 
want of timber. The little village of Columbus is located near 
the center of the county, in the midst of a beautiful prairie, and 
in the eastern extremity is the town of Clayton. In the latter 
village I spent the night. 

The next morning I passed through the county of Brown, a 
nevv' county formed from Schuyler, the county seat of which is 
Mount Sterling, a place presenting no attractions. 

As you approach the Illinois river there are tracts of heavy 
timber, and the prairies are of smaller compass, though 
extremely fertile. Crossing the river, I arrived at Meredosia, 
situated on the eastern bank, on a small bluff of deep sand— as 
uncomfortable and disagreeable a place, I will venture to say, 
as can be found any where in this wide world. Its only 
importance is derived from its being the termination of the rail 
road from Springfield; consequently, all the goods, pas- 
sengers, &c. for Jacksonville, Springfield, and the surrounding 
country, and in return all the produce of that rich and fertile 
region, are compelled to land here. It is therefore a mere 
landing place, and the only buildings are two or three good 
warehouses, two sorry looking taverns, and a half dozen 
dilapidated dwellings stuck in the sand banks. 

The public house where I stopped is worthy of a special 
notice. The exterior, as I approached it, was not inviting. An 
old-fashioned signboard hung to a post proclaimed, "Enter- 
tainment by Wm. H. Long"; and a half dozen cross-eyed 
Dutchmen were standing in the door of the bar-room (which 
proved to be also the post office), who were not very attractive 
in their appearance. It was Sabbath morning, and the 
interesting group were luxuriating over a bottle of whiskey. I 



CHARLES LANGDON'S LETTERS 



135 




736 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



was ushered, fortunately, into another apartment, which I had 
the pleasure of occupying in solitude during the day. A boat, it 
was said, was imnnedlately expected, which would convey nne 
to Peoria. I waited with tolerable patience till dinner was 
announced. The dinner! — it was a great d/nner— though nnuch 
better than any of the subsequent meals of which I was 
compelled to partake. As it was Sunday, it appears they had 
killed a s/yeep— "extra doings" for Sunday! The table 
presented three large dishes of boiled mutton, three large 
plates of boiled cabbage, and as many of boiled potatoes— this 
constituted the bill of fare. Chickens were running around the 
table and under it, to catch a crumb that might fall; and it took 
one hand constantly employed to drive the hogs out of the 
/-00/77— attracted thither, I suppose, by the flavor of the 
smoking viands. 

Dinner being over, I strolled for an hour on the bank of the 
river in the hope of hearing the welcome sound of a boat; but in 
vain. I returned to my room, wrote a letter, smoked at least half 
a dozen cigars, and finally supper was announced; and still no 
boat. The supper was cold mutton, and cold cabbage, without 
the potatoes. This over, I indulged in another stroll on the river 
bank, with the same result as before. All was as silent there as 
the grave, not a ripple on the bosom of the river, and the 
sluggish stream seemed to mock at my anxiety. I went back 
despondingiy, and retired for the night— and such a night as I 
had! The reader who has traveled much knows what a peculiarly 
funky odor arises from a dirty old bed on which every body 
sleeps, and which never enjoys the benefit of an airing. But this 
was not half. No sooner was I stretched than I was beset by 
musketoes, fleas, bedbugs, and all sorts of vermin, and in such 
droves too— my stars! what a time! Sleep utterly refused to 
come to my relief, and the night seemed a week long. Well, still 
another day and another night passed in which I went through 
the same routine of misery (except in the way of eating, the 
mutton had given out, and salt pork was substituted in its 
place)— and still no boat. As the stage was to leave for Spring- 
field that morning, I was resolved to wait no longer for a boat, 
and accordingly took my departure. 

Now such taverns are a gross imposition, and should be 
exposed by travelers oftener than they are. Mine host may be a 
very clever man, in his way, and I have no doubt is, but he is not 
fit for a tavern keeper, and should be made to "haul down his 
sign." In a country like this, where there is such super- 
abundance of every thing that is good, there is no excuse for 
such fare. It is worse than any thing I have ever met with, even 
in Alabama. Mr. Long should know that in a dining room, 
chickens would appear better on the table than under the table, 
and a separate apartment should be given to the old sow and 



CHARLES LANGDON'S LETTERS 137 



her pigs. Mr. Long is postmaster of the village, says he was 
four years acting constable, and is now a justice of the peace. 
Of course, he is a man of consequence, but I still insist he is 
not fit for a tavern-l<eeper. Aside from this, I have no doubt 
Long is a very good fellow— and long may Long live— /ong may 
Long prosper in every thing but tavern-l<eeping; but long may it 
be before I am again caught in Long's "house of entertain- 
ment!" 

The distance from Meredosia to this place is fifty-five miles, 
through a most delightful country. The settlements on this side 
of the Illinois river are much older than those upon the other, 
the country presents a higher degree of cultivation, and the 
farms are exceedingly beautiful. Here there is constantly 
presented to the eye of the traveler the neat and comfortable 
dwelling of the farmer, with his large barn, the flourishing 
orchards, apple and peach, laden with fruit, and all other 
conveniences and comforts that the heart of man could 
desire.— denoting abundance, ease, and independence. 

Jacksonville is the county seat of Morgan county, and is a 
very pretty place, though possessing no other advantages for 
trade than are derived from the wealthy and densely populated 
county in which it is situated. This is the residence of 
ex-governor Duncan, and the county gives from two to three 
hundred whig majority, yet notwithstanding this, three out of 
the four members of the legislature are locos!* 



*Locofocos were members of a radical group in the 
Democratic Party, but Langdon uses the term to refer to all 
Democrats. 



NOTES 

"• "Prospectus of the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer," Peoria 
Register and North-Westerri Gazetteer, 13 May 1837, p. 4. 

2 The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, XVIII, 149-150. 

3 "From Another Quarter," Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 11 
Nov. 1842, p. 1 . The letters reprinted in this study appear on the same page. 



AN ADDITION TO 

THE JOHN HAY CANON: 

A NEW CASTILIAN LETTER 

George Monteiro 



After four years of White House duty on assignment from the 
Interior Department to serve in the office of the President of the 
United States, John Hay joined the American diplomatic corps. In 
March, 1865, he was appointed Secretary of Legation in Paris. 
Fifteen months later, in June, 1867, he was promoted to Charge 
d'Affaires in Vienna. In June, 1869, he was again reassigned, this 
time to Madrid as Secretary of Legation, a position he filled until 
June, 1870. 

In Hay's more than five years as a career diplomat in Europe, he 
was able to launch, in his spare time, a modestly successful literary 
career. He managed to write several essays and short stories that he 
would place in magazines such as Harper's and Lippincott's. His 
first large success of the period, however, came with the series of 
pieces he wrote at the end of his European stay on Spanish subjects 
and matters, seven of which appeared first in the Atlantic Monthly. 
These, along with ten others, were collected as a volume brought 
out by James R. Osgood of Boston in 1871 . Of the pieces that make 
up Castilian Days, five of them had first appeared in the Atlantic in 
1871 under Hay's name while two others had appeared in the 
Atlantic in 1870 under a pseudonym. Because Hay saw that his 
position as an American diplomat in Spain was compromised by the 
critical tone of his "Madrid letters," he had encouraged the 
Atlantic's editor, William Dean Howells, to come up with a 
pseudonym. Howells devised the name "Richard West," which, as 
Hay v^/ould later explain, seems to have been a sort of acknowledge- 
ment on Howells' part of Hay's origins.'' But not all of Hay's 
"Madrid letters," it turns out, appeared in the Atlantic. An 
additional letter, not collected in Castilian Days, appeared in The 
College Review in March, 1870. The author of the piece is identified 
only as "Viator," a tag that Hay had used a decade earlier. This 
"Letter from Spain" was prepared for William Leete Stone, an editor 
of The College Review and Hay's classmate at Brown University. On 
January 31, 1870, from Madrid, Hay had written to Stone: "I send 



138 



A NEW CASTILIAN LETTER 



139 




John Hay at age nineteen. From the John Hay Collection at Brown 
University Library. 



140 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



you a little letter on Spanish politics. I am forbidden by law to do 
this, so that you must publish it, if you think it worth publishing, 
without my name."^ Hay's Madrid letter, dated January 31, 1870, 
was published as "Foreign Correspondence," on pages 105-106 of 
the first volume of the periodical. Its recovery contributes to our 
knowledge of Hay's social and political thinking while in Spain and 
also adds a hitherto unknown item to the bibliography of Hay's 
published work. 



The revolution of September is now sixteen months old, and 
as yet there seems to be very little sign of the crowning of the 
edifice by the election of a monarch. In fact there are many of 
the coolest observers who say that the reason all efforts in this 
direction have failed, is that they are contrary to the spirit and 
purpose of the revolution, and that the only logical issue to the 
present situation is the republic. One after the other all the 
available candidates for the crown have been used up and set 
aside. The Duke of Montpensier alone remains, and his 
candidature has grown so stale by the mere lapse of time, that 
although he is unquestionably the most respectable of all who 
have been urged — being of suitable age, of great fortune, great 
administrative ability, and unblemished descent— it is not 
possible to deny that he is at present the most hopelessly 
unpopular man in Spain. And this for no reason except that his 
friends want him to be king. 

So that there appears to be a certain tact and forethought in 
the savage onslaughts which the Republicans periodically 
make on the luckless men who aspire to the uneasy couvre-chef 
which is known as the crown of St. Ferdinand. By attacking all 
the candidates in detail, and making them impossible, they 
gain valuable time for their propaganda, and will, if the game is 
continued long enough, put out of the field every available 
princeling in Europe. Their tactics have a two-edged influence. 
They are sure either to disgust the people with the candidate, 
or the candidate with the people. The incessant and irreverent 
discussion of the matter caused the Duke of Aosta to rip out a 
strong sailor oath and go off in his frigate in a fine rage, 
rejecting the Spanish crown with contempt. The Duchess of 
Genoa, also, read for a few weeks the daily press of Madrid, 
until the mere thought of her only child going among such a 
horde of radical savages threw her into hysterics. 

These maneuvres were not enough, however, to frighten the 
Duke of Montpensier. He was Spaniard enough to understand 
them. He manfully stood by his candidature, and to show that 
he was supported by the popular heart, he offered himself as a 
Deputy to the Cortes in two circumscriptions of the Asturias. It 
was thought he would be elected by a great majority, and that 



A NEW CASTILIAN LETTER 



141 




John Hay as Secretary of State, about 1898. From the John Hay 
Collection at Brown University Library. 



142 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



the prestige of this appeal to universal suffrage would greatly 
improve his chances for the crown. But the ungrateful public 
broke this cleverly arranged slate in the most cruel manner. The 
Duke is beaten in both circumscriptions by fair majorities. 

The Republicans have shown a most unexpected and 
remarkable strength in the late partial elections for Deputies, 
having carried, in the face of powerful government opposition, 
six additional seats in the Cortes, and casting, in the city of 
Madrid itself— the hot-bed of monarchy and militarism— the 
unprecedented vote of fifteen thousand five hundred in one 
congressional district. 

There is a singular apathy and likewarmness pervading the 
Spanish Chambers that very unfavorably impresses a foreigner, 
in a time of revolution like the present, when the fundamental 
laws are framing for the reconstruction of the whole political 
system. It is no uncommon thing for important laws to be 
defeated simply because there is no quorum voting. It must be 
confessed that the opposition seem more interested in public 
business than the government members. A few days ago, when 
the estimates for the Department of Statistics were under 
discussion, the Republicans moved an amendment economiz- 
ing some million reals, and, voting solidly for it, carried it by a 
large majority, until the party whips lashed in the lagging 
members of the Right, who reconsidered the vote and went 
back to their cigarettes again. 

The present generation of Spanish politicians have been too 
long accustomed to the rule of personal leaders to thoroughly 
comprehend the significance of a true democratic government. 
They take Prim or Serrano or San Luis as their representative, 
and follow him blindly through thick and thin, and regard any 
man as a traitor and a disturber of the public peace who 
presumes to dissent from the party autocrat. 

The best thing about the more advanced liberals is their 
attempt to abolish this man-worship. The Republican party has 
a distinct and positive platform of principles, to the realization 
of which they are exclusively devoted. Their ideal is a 
Republican Democratic Republic, like that of the United States. 

They do not lack men of high character and ability in their 
own ranks. The finest parliamentarian in Spain is Figueras; the 
greatest living orator on earth is Castelar. Although the 
Republicans are in a hopeless minority in the present Cortes, 
the days upon which any of their leading men are to speak are 
days of gala in the house. The galleries are crowded to their full 
extent. The usually vacant benches of the right are full of 
dilettante deputies who come to scoff and remain to applaud. 
Even the streets surrounding the legislative palace are filled 
with loungers who have been unable to get in, and who hope for 
scraps of news from those who are coming out. 



A NEW CASTILIAN LETTER 143 



It is especially in the academic world of Spain that the new 
political ideas have taken most rapid root. Castelar is a 
Professor of History in the Central University. Moret y 
Prendergast is a Professor of Law. It is not difficult to imagine 
the bent of mind they will give to the tender twigs in their 
nurseries. At the recent elections, the quarter of the city 
inhabited by the students gave a two-thirds majority to the 
Republican candidate. This was due, not so much to the 
student vote as to the academic influence— as the age of 
majority in Spain is twenty-five years, and therefore not many 
students are themselves voters. 

The difference between Northern and Southern nations is in 
nothing so marked as in the tone of their political discussions. 
In England and in Prussia, monarchy is defended on principle, 
as the best possible form of government. In France, Spain, and 
Italy, on the contrary, I have never heard a single argument 
based upon that ground. They all extol the republic as the 
highest ideal good, the impossible Utopia of abstract politics. 
But they say, with a humility that contrasts strangely with their 
natural tendency to boasting, that they are not ready for a 
republic— that they are not cool enough, not educated enough, 
in a word, not good enough for that form of government. 

The young men of Spain seem to think they are quite good 
enough for the republic, and they will have it, if they can. 



NOTES 

^ Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay, ed. Tyler 
Dennett (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1939), pp. 310-311. 
2 Lincoln, p. 308. 



COMING TO TERMS WITH 
COUNTY fflSTORIES 

Rodney O. Davis 

"Every historian who writes on the Trans-Appalachian frontier— 
or any frontier for that matter— has to come to terms with county 
histories," says Malcolm Rohrbough of the University of lowa.1 
Those words are equally true for the historian whose goals are more 
modest and have to do with Western Illinois. We have all looked at 
county histories; some of us have probably dismissed them as not 
very useful either as works of scholarship or even as sources of 
enlightenment, but some few of us, as Rohrbough says, have come 
to terms with them. I think that I belong within that number, and I 
propose to present a modest case for their respectability and 
continuing usefulness, though the favorable nature of the case may 
not be immediately apparent. 

Most Illinois county histories appeared in two waves of 
publication. The first wave followed the national centennial by a few 
years, and represented a local response in many counties to the 
anniversary. What better way to celebrate the nation's first 
hundredth birthday than to collect and preserve its local and 
regional history? The first wave was followed up at the turn of the 
century by the massive enterprise of Newton Bateman and Paul 
Selby, the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, which consisted of 
the promotion and sale in at least forty-six Illinois counties of a 
one-volume general Illinois historical encyclopedia and a com- 
panion history of each county involved. So profitable must some of 
these books have been that, in many counties, the first publication 
in one or the other of these two "waves" was followed very shortly 
by a second one whose promoters were obviously after what looked 
like a sound financial investment. McDonough County's centennial 
volume of 1878, for example, was followed by a second book by a 
different publisher in 1885.2 Knox County's 1899 Bateman and 
Selby history had an immediate successor in 1912.^ Very often the 
succeeding volumes cribbed disgracefully from the earlier ones, 
sometimes whole paragraphs or pages without attribution. The 
county history business must generally have been profitable, for 

144 



ILLINOIS COUNTY HISTORIES 



145 



Newton Bateman, co-author of the 1899 history of Knox County. 



only a few books, such as Mercer County's 1882 history/ seem to 
have been totally produced at home. Most were promoted by 
publishers and a number of companies were involved in the 
business. Many Military Tract centennial histories were produced 
by Charles C. Chapman and Co., of Chicago; a few were done by 
Wesley Raymond Brink and a series of partners of Edwardsviile and 
later of Philadelphia. Brink was more active in southern and eastern 
counties, but his career as a sort of historical hustler is rather well 
documented. He was involved in the production of thirty-six Illinois 
county histories and atlases between 1873 and 1884.^ 

The speed with which these volumes were put together is 
breathtaking to contemplate. Brink, for instance, announced his 
intention to begin a history of Madison County, Illinois, in 
December, 1881, and by January, 1883, the volume was finished 
and being delivered. ^ Such a schedule was probably not unusual in 
a business whose procedures became quite institutionalized. The 
compilation and writing were done either entirely by canvassers and 
scribes employed by the publisher— which functionaries also 
served as subscription agents— or, to some degree by committees 
of local people. At this distance it is now hard to say how many of 
the latter simply functioned as front men for the entrepreneurs. 
Brink is on record for using his own personnel exclusively, whereas 



146 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



the Chapman histories of the Military Tract, and the later Bateman 
and Selby volumes, tended at least to promote the illusion of 
noteworthy local participation in information gathering and 
compilation.^ 

The resulting volumes, of course, v^ere assembled almost 
according to a formula. In the early pages, much emphasis was 
given to an inventory of a county's natural resources. Pioneer life 
was described in long and loving detail, and the information that 
was gathered on it was important. Most of it was taken from other- 
wise soon-to-be-irretrievable reminiscences by surviving early 
settlers, either through what amounted to early oral history 
techniques or from detailed letters sent in response to the 
equivalent of standardized questionnaires. I have seen a letter fifty 
pages long that was sent to the Mercer County centennial history 
committee by a pioneer of the 1830's who had later moved to 
Oregon. s Pages and pages of original county documents were 
reprinted, depicting the early labors of county government 
officials— the county commissioners in the years before 1848, and 
the county supervisors thereafter. Church and school foundings 
were given close and significant attention, as were the individual 
histories of cities, towns, and townships. And a major source of 
profit for the promoters was to be found in the biographical 
sections of every volume, taking up as much as a third of the pages, 
and consisting of sketches of the lives of the major subscribers and 
sometimes their local ancestors, replete with engravings of the 
most affluent among them, sometimes line drawings of their 
homes, farms, and places of buiness. 

Usually it is in the case of the biographical sections that present 
day risibilities are aroused about these histories. Filiopietism and 
an almost intolerable smugness are invariably revealed there, along 
with important insights into values that were dominant among the 
subscribers at the time of compilation— such values as might be 
symbolized by devotion to the Republican party and the Union 
cause during the Civil War; the kind of self-sufficiency revealed by 
reliance on a "good, common school education," families with ten 
children; farming as a way of life; material progress, as shown in 
big houses (including in some rural cases imitation manor houses, 
depictions of which are somewhat disquieting in volumes in which 
Jeffersonian simplicity was elsewhere celebrated), and by 
implication at least a scorn for the unsuccessful. Some of the 
problems involved in putting together a biographical section with 
the speed that was required are suggested in the case of a Brink's 
volume. One of Brink's subscribers had refused to pay a sum he 
owed as he was not satisfied with the portrait that appeared in the 



ILLINOIS COUNTY HISTORIES 



147 




Courtesy of the Gordon-Vestal Collection, Western Illinois University Libraries. 
Thomas Gregg, author of the first history of Hancock County in 
1880. 



148 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



book. The likeness, he said, might be taken for almost anyone but 
himself. A local editor good-naturedly commented: 

Most of our readers in this county will remember Mr. Frazier, 
as the humorous gentleman who solicited biographical 
sketches, obituar.y notices, pictures, farm scenery, &c., for 
Brink, McCormick & Co. if the biographies were cast in the same 
mold; and the pig's tails were of the same length and all turned 
in the same direction; and if the same croquet party appeared 
simultaneously in all the front door yards of the country 
residences; if all the shrubbery and trees are as alike as two 
peas; and if the same little dog plays with the same little ball in 
all parts of the county at the same time; and if the portraits 
resemble Creoles and mullattoes, and if Old Joe cannot be 
distinguished from Thos Kennedy; and if the subscribers cannot 
find their own land; — if, we say, all these things occur; it is 
certainly no fault of Mr. Frazier's. His duty was to take contracts 
at the highest possible rate and retain his commission, and by a 
careful diagnosis of that smile of his we doubt not that he 
received his full per cent. 9 

Of course the biases that existed in a community at the time a 
history was compiled were not restricted to the biographical section 
of the book. They tended to permeate the entire volume, to the 
extent, peculiar to the genre, that much of importance was 
concealed as was revealed. This was particularly true in the 
treatment of religious and ethnic groups, though it is to the credit 
of later compilers that the ferocity, disdain or neglect of earlier 
generations was not always carried on. For example, in most 
centinnial histories of Western Illinois, the truly religious people 
were Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and perhaps Campbellite or 
Congregationalist. Mormonism, most people believed, was a 
heresy led by a madman who caused a lot of trouble in Hancock 
County. Yankees and Southerners might have been in conflict at 
one time but all was harmony now; other ethnic groups were not 
present or were barely mentioned. In 1835, for instance, we are told 
that McDonough County contained 2,862 souls and six Negroes. ""^ 
Yet Perry's 1912 history of Knox County contains an especially 
good sketch of Roman Catholicism in Galesburg, and notes more 
briefly the existence of congregations of Christian Scientists and 
members of at least the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of 
Latter-day Saints. Special chapters were devoted to the Irish and 
Swedes in the county, and in another chapter the author was able to 
allow that "In fact, when we come to consider the different races 
that have their homes here, the negro race is of scarcely less 
importance than any other races. "^^ 



ILLINOIS COUNTY HISTORIES 



149 



The smugness that permeates the biographical sections is 
especially visible throughout the centennial volumes. The reader is 
made aware that virtues once present in pioneer days were now 
gone; that pioneer life was characterized by "rough hospitality, 
hearty feeling, and brotherhood," but unfortunately "there was life 
and society then, which now is not to be found. ""^ In the Fulton 
County centennial volume, those who could not endure frontier 
conditions and left were savagely denominated "weaklings," 
whereas "The men who stayed, who were willing to endure 
privations, belonged to a different guild; they were heroes every 
one. . . ."''3 

Also lacking in almost all cases is any sense of development 
over time, or of process, between the earliest settlement and the 
compilation of a history. The compilers simply did not know how to 




First Jail, Knoxville. 



150 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



manage this, hence they tended to be anecdotal. They emphasized 
notable events, catastrophes, or firsts. The Black Hawk War was 
prominent, but so also were floods, lost children in the wilderness, 
the Big Snow if 1830, and public hangings, which probably received 
more attention than they deserved. Conversely, hardly any notice 
was given to factional conflicts among the respectables of a 
county, at least within the lifetimes of most of those involved. 
Robert Dykstra has noted this phenomenon and calls it the "taboo 
on divisiveness."^'^ In the Knox County centennial history, for 
instance, one must read carefully to find out that Galesburg had 
been wet for several years in 1877, to the obvious mortification of 
the compilers of that volume. ""^ We are told in the centennial 
McDonough County history only of a crisis in anti-Civil War draft 
activity, involving the shooting of a Federal provost marshal, and 
nothing of what went on before the crisis. ""^ And not until the 1908 
Bateman and Selby history of Fulton County was the wide-ranging 
anti-war opposition in that county detailed.'"'' 

Similarly, though reverent attention was given to founders and 
first settlers in these volumes and to the relics of the heroic age 
which had survived, this veneration was given to the point of 
obscuring the motives of some of them. Allan Bogue has revealed 
how much this was done in Iowa county history treatments of land 
claim associations, petty speculative enterprises devoted to 
protecting their members' extra-legal or illegal claims on public 
land, which were depicted by the historians as prime examples of 
the pioneer tendency to create self-governing institutions in the 
wilderness. ^^ One is surprised to find reference to claim clubs in 
the Military Tract only in the Mercer County centennial history. In 
Mercer County the authors were vague about what could be telling 
particulars. ""^ In a small way there is comparable concealment in 
treatments of the founding of Galesburg and Knox College. There 
was nothing illegal about the land deals of the founders, but that 
they were motivated by speculative as well as altruistic concerns 
got short shrift in the traditional treatments. 

How is it that I have come to terms with Western Illinois county 
histories if it is so easy to fault them? I believe that the greatest 
value lies in the earliest histories in the genre, the centennial 
histories. Almost all of the generation of histories that followed 
either plagiarized these works unmercifully or else were caricatures 
of them, possessing none or little of the inspiration or motivation 
that lay behind the early books. There is obvious value in the 
centennial volumes as source material for the historian in that if 
properly evaluated they contain details of the early settlement 
process that exist nowhere else. Such would not have been 



ILLINOIS COUNTY HISTORIES 



151 




First Courthouse, McDonough County. 




McDonough County Courthouse, completed in 1869. 



152 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



preserved had these volumes not been written. They also contain 
names in profusion. In many respects that was their purpose, to 
commemorate the founders, cind to advertise the spiritual 
descendents of the founders who had subscribed to the publication 
of the books. There is much questionable material here of course, 
but again, much information not found elsewhere. The quantita- 
tively-oriented historical researcher who seeks biographical data on 
individuals active before the Federal Census began to collect rather 
detailed personal information in 1850 has almost nowhere else to 
look. And the long, seemingly arid, verbatim reproductions of 
county documents, under such heads as "Important Labors of the 
County Commissioners Court," likewise contain material often 
available nowhere else— given the frequent proclivities of county 
clerks to pitch out the archives, or the occasional tragic inclinations 
of court houses to go up in smoke. 

But the discerning reader can be taught even more, too, for the 
centennial histories were celebrations to an optimistic generation 
that sincerely believed in progress, and of the bringing of order and 
stability to the Western Illinois woods and prairies. The frequent 
concern with violence shows this, but more importantly the 
reproduced early documents depict just that process, especially in 
their concern with the establishment of civilizing institutions as 
represented by courts, juries, county offices, peacekeeping 
machinery, and even the tax-collecting apparatus necessary to 
sustain it all. The crowning achievement, symbolizing not only the 
triumph of civilization and stability but also the permanence of a 
community, was the erection of a court house. The 1878 
McDonough County history contains a quite detailed account of the 
planning, construction and dedication of the restored building. ^° 

Equally important is the emphasis in these volumes on the 
establishment of churches and schools. Mere peacekeeping was 
understood to be inadequate in bringing order to the frontier. 
Churches and schools were recognized as agencies necessary to 
inculcate morality and orderly behavior. They were essentially 
voluntary associations which had to carry out this task in an era of 
relatively weak and minimal government. It is also partly in this 
sense that the later county histories fall short, for the symbolic 
special importance of schools and churches was somewhat lost on 
their compilers. To these aspiring writers the schools and churches 
tended to be merely the first institutions on lists containing such 
others as libraries, banks, hotels, waterworks, fraternal orders, 
agricultural societies and chambers of commerce, which together 
simply betokened development, material prosperity, and growth. It 
is possible to accuse the compilers of the centennial histories of a 



ILLINOIS COUNTY HISTORIES 153 



kind of normlessness in their inability to assign scales of 
significance, which seems to be present in what looks like 
disordered aggregations of unrelated material, but a closer look 
shows that the norms are there. They are categorical, and they may 
not be relevant to more contemporary scales of value. 

Furthermore, it may be that the appearance of the first round of 
county histories in time for the national centennial was coincidental 
with something else. Don Doyle, who has just pubished a model 
community study of Jacksonville, Illinois, and who has also come 
to terms with county histories, suggests that the centennial 
volumes might be statements of communities' reconciliations with 
themselves. It was reasonably clear by the years after the Civil War 
just what was to be the future measure of Western Illinois counties. 
It was clear which ones would contain burgeoning municipalities 
and which would not, clear which would be primarily agricultural 
and which would provide a wider variety of options for their 
inhabitants. Doyle suggests that this post-war acceptance by 
communities of their status was symbolized by a glorification of 
their past, which was especially important as the original settlers 
were conspicuously passing from the stage. ^'' By implication at 
least, an affirmation existed that a county had turned out to be 
exactly what its founders had wanted it to become. Only 
occasionally does one note acknowledgement in centennial 
histories of communities that had failed, usually for uncontrollable 
reasons— they were "missed by the railroad," or were located on 
land "still held by old speculators." 

To go beyond Doyle, however, it strikes me that this recognition 
of the typical community's rather qualified success was balanced 
by the tremendous emphasis on biography for which these volumes 
are famous if not notorious. The individuals who were mentioned 
and whose life stories were told, were quite often survivors of the 
pioneering process, both in the sense that they had lived a long 
time, and that they had stayed in the counties in question. We now 
know from many demographic studies of frontier communities that 
the survivors and persisting settlers were a very small minority of all 
settlers, that a high population turnover was the norm in new 
communities. What characterized the biographical sketches of the 
survivors was a repeated emphasis on material success derived 
from hard work, in spite of considerable initial adversity. In other 
words, a community's indifferent success was masked by tales of 
individual success. And perhaps even more significantly, the 
centennial histories are important nationalizing statements, for 
they affirmed that individuals could succeed in any sort of nurturing 
American community— successful or not. 



154 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



County histories made sense when the pioneers were still alive 
to congratulate themselves and be congratulated, and while the 
county remained a significant political entity or a viable human 
community. There were several efforts to reproduce the genre, 
indeed to start a third wave, in Western Illinois in 1968 and 1976, but 
as has been suggested, in most such instances the deep-rooted and 
culturally-defined enthusiasm of a century ago was diluted by time. 
Treatments of special topics in some of these recent volumes are 
commendable; the chapters on agriculture and education in the 
1976 Mercer County volume come to mind. Most of the resulting 
productions, however, possessed little more order and form than 
their predecessors.^^ The municipality now bulks much larger in 
the lives of most of us, and municipal or community history makes 
a good deal more contemporary sense as an enterprise for 
interested and talented amateurs. The same is true in respect to the 
pursuit of even more specialized topics such as the physical 
uniqueness every town or county possesses in its architecture- 
pursuits such as Knox County Historic Sites is now undertaking, 
and the Galesburg Historical Society is presently considering. 
Furthermore, local oral history archives can and ought to be 
established, and important information can be gained through the 
systematic pursuit of family history and the development of local 
family history collections. Much encouragement should be given to 
such activities as these and it is hoped that, through their 
expression, today's generation can preserve, build on, and 
perpetuate the local historiographical tradition first undertaken by 
the centennial county historians. 



NOTES 

^ Malcolm J. Rohrbough, The Trans-Appalachian Frontier (New York, 1978), 
p. 121. 

^ S.J. Clarke, History of McDonough County, Illinois (Springfield, 1878). 
Continental Historical Company, History of f^cDonough County, Illinois 
(Springfield, 1885). 

^ W. Selden Gale and George Candee Gale, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of 
Illinois and Knox County {Chicago, 1899). Albert J. Perry, History of Knox County, 
Illinois. 2 Vols. (Chicago, 1912). 

^ H.H. Hill and Company, History of fiercer County (Chicago, 1882). 

^ Betty and Raymond Saahn, "Wesley Raymond Brink, History Huckster," 
Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 58 (1965), p. 117. 

^ Ibid., pp. 124-126. 



ILLINOIS COUNTY HISTORIES 155 



° Abraham Miller letter, n.d. In 1972, a copy of this letter was in the possession 
of Mr. Stanley Andrews, Altona, Illinois. 

^ Spahn and Spahn, "Wesley Raymond Brink," pp. 123-124, quoting 
Edwardsville Intelligencer, October 27, 1875. 
^^ Clarke, History of McDonough County, p. 76. 

"'"' Perry, History of Knox County, !, 666-674, 714-747, 760-766. The quotation is 
on p. 760. 

^2 Continental Historical Co., History of f^cDonough County, p. 83. Charles C. 
Chapman and Company, History of Knox County, Illinois (Chicago, 1878), p. 245. 

^^ Charles C. Chapman and Company, History of Fulton County, Illinois 
(Peoria, 1879), p. 222. 

"""^ Robert R. Dykstra, The Cattle Towns (New York, 1968), p. 363. 

^^ Chapman, History of Knox County, Chap. XIX. 

"■^ Clarke, History of McDonough County, pp. 167-81. 



17 



Jesse Heylin, ed.. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Fulton 



County (Chicago, 1908), pp. 762y-762aa. 

"•^ Allan G. Bogue, Froiv Prairie to Corn Belt (Chicago, 1963), 29-39; Allan G. 
Bogue, "The Iowa Claim Clubs: Symbol and Substance," l^ississippi Valley 
Historical Review 45 (1958), 231-253. 

"•9 Hill, History of Mercer County, pp. 80, 279-281, 707, 747. 

2° Clarke, History of McDonough County, pp. 247-256. 

^^ Don H. Doyle, The Social Order of a Frontier Community (Urbana, 1978), 
pp. 255-259. 

22 Daniel T. Johnson, History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882-1976 (Aledo, 
1976). 



LINDSAY'S 1908 WALKING TRIP 

Owen Hawley 



Vachel Lindsay's three walking adventures, which he made as 
dream peddler and Franciscan troubadour, were at heart liberating 
crusades. Not concerned primarily with the world of nature, 
Lindsay was more interested in ideas: how he could offer his, 
absorb new ones, and exist through them. Safety valves which 
allowed him to deal with frustration and exhaustion, his trips on 
foot in 1906, 1908 and 1912, during which the wanderer exchanged 
his poetry for food and a night's lodging, also provided fulfillment 
of his pleasure in walking, an extension of his rhythmic sense. And 
they helped him toward that independence which comes from 
freedom. 

Although Lindsay's three principal biographers'" emphasize the 
significance of his tramping trips, all three devote more space to 
the one he made from his Springfield, Illinois, home to the Far West 
in 1912 than to those he took from Florida to Kentucky in 1906 and 
from New York City to Ohio in 1908. When Adventures While 
Preaching the Gospel of Beauty (which covers his 1912 journey) 
appeared in 1914, it was given twice as many review notices as A 
Handy Guide for Beggars (Lindsay's record of his 1906 and 1908 
tramps, published in November, 1916). In addition, the 1914 book 
went through three more Macmillan impressions in 1916, 1921 and 
1928, while the Handy Guide received only one more, a second in 
1923. And in 1968, Lindsay's account of his 1912 walking tour 
became the main item in Adventures, Rhymes & Designs.'^ 

Yet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (as he was known before 1915) 
might have wished somewhat more emphasis on his Handy Guide. 
Writing to Howard Willard Cook, he noted: 

I walked in the South in the spring of 1906, in the East in the 
spring of 1908 and the West in the spring of 1912. There is a 
definite progress of ideas in the accounts of the three regions. 
Please remember The Handy Guide for Beggars' begins the 
story. People get so very wide of the mark I am perhaps getting 
finicky on this matter of chronology. 3 

756 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 



157 




Vachel Lindsay in 1 91 2. From Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay: A 
Poet in America. 



758 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Further support to allow a tip of the scales toward the Handy 
Guide's favor appears in Theodore Maynard's 1924 essay "Vachel 
Lindsay: A Daniel in a Den of Buddhists." Although Maynard writes 
that both the Handy Guide and Adventures "should be carefully 
studied as an introduction to [Lindsay's] poetry," the excerpt he 
quotes, labeling it "an exquisite prose passage," is from "Death, 
the Devil and Human Kindness," the fourth sketch in the second 
half of the Handy Guide: 

I met the lady Life, once upon a time, long ago. She had 
innocent blue eyes. Alone in the field I felt free to kiss the palm 
of her little hand, under the shadow of the corn. 

Once, under that tassel, under those dangerous blades, I met 
Life, and for good reason, bade her good-by. After her solemn 
words of parting, she called me back, and mischievously fed 
me, from the pocket of her gingham apron, crab apples and 
cranberries. Ever since that time those fruits have been bitter 
delights to my superstitious fancy. 5 

And Maynard concludes; "the sense of elvish and elusive 
wonder contained there is the chief thing that Lindsay was put into 
this world to express."^ 

Perhaps, then, more attention should be paid to Lindsay's 
Handy Guide and specifically to its last ninety-four pages, those on 
which appear the record of his "mendicant pilgrimage in the East" 
from late April to mid-May, 1908. 

In the spring of 1908, Lindsay's five-year apprenticeship to New 
York City was ending. It had begun in the fall of 1903 when he 
enrolled as a student at the New York School of Art on West 
Fifty-Seventh Street. Money for his time in New York had come 
from home, from relatives, and from small jobs. Although he had 
submitted a dozen, Tlie Critic, in its issues for March, 1904 and 
April, 1905, had printed only two of his illustrated poems: "The 
Queen of Bubbles" and "At Noon on Easter-Day." He had also tried, 
in 1905, to peddle for pennies in the city's shops copies of his first 
two privately printed, illustrated poems, "We Who Are Playing 
Tonight" and "The Cup of Paint." On June 1 , 1907 Tfie Outlook had 
carried "The Man Under the Yoke," a prose narrative based on an 
episode in his 1906 hike. During the winter of 1907-08, in exchange 
for free meals, Lindsay and some friends had drawn wall paintings 
for George Becker's Pig and Goose Restaurant at 355 West 
Fifty-Eighth Street. 

In early April of 1908 Lindsay was concluding another winter 
lecture series on "Dominating Personalities in History" (which he 
illustrated with his historical character posters) at the West Side 
YMCA on West Fifty-Seventh Street, continuing to fill diaries with 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 159 



details of the visions he had been experiencing, and conducting 
groups through the Metropolitan Museum of art as an adjunct to his 
lectures. Out of his Y course had come a new poem, its concluding 
line at the end of some stanzas, "God Help Us To Be Brave," 
providing the working title for what later evolved into "The Heroes 
of Time" and "Litany of Heroes.""^ This poem's stanzas presented 
"twenty-six representative citizens of the world from Rameses II to 
Roosevelt." 

Using money earned from Y teaching and from running an ad 
from Becker's restaurant inside the back cover, Lindsay had 500 
copies of "God Help Us To Be Brave" printed within 9 1 /2 by 4 1 12 
inch decorative green wallpaper covers. The other privately printed 
poem he financed with these resources was "The Last Song of 
Lucifer," which he had started work on as a Hiram College student 
in the late 1890's. It was printed inside red and green wallpaper 
covers measuring 6 1 /2 by 4 3/4. ^ 

Worn by New York City's buffets, eager to build new friendships 
through which to share his ideas, Lindsay heard for the second time 
the whispering call of spring in the countrysie. Carrying copies of 
"God Help Us To Be Brave" and "The Last Song of Lucifer" (as well 
as some of "The Tree of Laughing Bells" left over from his 1906 
trip), to exchange for bed and board, a few necessary toilet articles 
and an automobile road map, Lindsay, age 28, left New York with 
less than two dollars in his pocket, about 3:30 on Tuesday 
afternoon, April 28, 1908, stepping due west. 

A disciple of St. Francis, Lindsay kept a road diary of his 
nineteen-day journey from New York City to Hiram, Ohio. 9 In it he 
put down his itinerary, names of people he met, and notes on his 
experiences— all grist for later prose sketches. Four years after the 
trip's end, he used his diary notes and his memory to construct the 
narratives which The Twentieth Century ran in the summer of 1912 
and which he in turn reworked in 1916 for the last half of the Handy 
Guide .^^ 

In the preface to the tiandy Guide, Lindsay stated his Rules of 
the Road, which he attempted to follow on all three of his walking 
adventures: 

1 . Keep away from the Cities; 

2. Keep away from the railroads; 

3. Have nothing to do with money and carry no baggage; 

4. Ask for dinner about quarter after eleven; 

5. Ask for supper, lodging and breakfast about quarter to five. 

6. Travel alone; 

7. Be neat, deliberate, chaste and civil; 

8. Preach the Gospel of Beauty. 11 



760 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



After a ride on the Twenty-Third Street ferry to Hoboken, 
Lindsay stayed at the Salvation Arnny in Newark his first night out, 
Tuesday, April 28. While he found accommodations there less than 
satisfactory, he reserved his strongest ire for the treatment he was 
subjected to the following night at the Presbyterian Mission in 
Morristown, New Jersey, "the richest village in the United 
States. "''2 This Christian hostelry larded out such religious 
righteousness that it came to stand for Lindsay as a symbol of 
sham. ^3 And hjs experience there became the subject of "A Temple 
Made With Hands," the first sketch in the last half of the Handy 
Guide.^^ 

Between his putting the happening down in his road diary and 
his transforming it into a narrative for publication, Lindsay wrote a 
four-page letter which he apparently never mailed. In it he reduced 
with Swiftian vengeance those who had perpetrated indignities 
upon him. Labeling it "The letter of the roaring lion," he wrote: 

June 2, 1908 

To the Holy Person or Persons 

In Charge of the Mission at Morristown: 

One night, two months ago, no— it was about May the 
first— I was a stranger, and ye took me in. According to 
regulations, I split kindling for my night's lodging. 1 listened to 
sermons on "Blessed are the Meek" (to establish my social 
standing). After those sermons the saints and respectables 
disappeared, and a vile stupid creature was given the whole job 
of applying your Christianity. The villian [sic] forced me to use 
another man's wash-rag, without even wringing it out. He 
would not give me time to bathe properly. He sneered when I 
did not want to use a towel that was black as the soul of a 
scavenger. He would not give me my clean underwear to sleep 
in. He insisted on fumigating that. For sleeping robe he gave 
me pajamas that would have made Cain ashamed of himself if 
he would have forced them upon Able [sic]. He gave me a bed 
that would have hurt the feelings of a dirt eater, and their beds 
were white. Nor was I sneered at for wanting to be clean, nor 
condemned as "too fancy" when I slept in my own undershirt. 

The hospitality on the Highway of my God was natural and 
human, where the last treasure is divided, where the kindliness 
of the hearth is opened, come what may. Neither were sermons 
preached on "Blessed are the Meek." Everything was given, the 
fat of the land was given, I say, with natural human grace. Your 
outrageous Charity was given with blasphemous prayers. 

Gentlemen, Gentlemen, is it enough to give a man Christ's 
white words; then give him a black trough to sleep in? Is it 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 161 



enough to say to him "Blessed are the Meek," and give him a 
bed that would shame the swine of Gadarea? Call a solemn 
assembly! Wash you, make you clean! Let there be less 
kindling split in the basement, and more sheets laundried in the 
top story! 

And now you are indignant. You say "Oh is this your 
gratitude for food and lodging?" I assure you sirs, your mission 
is socially superfluous. I went forth from your place into the 
highway of my God, who dwelleth not in Missions made by 
hypocrites. On that highway, gentlemen, I was a welcome 
guest, at thirty six homes at which I was an utter stranger. 
Some of these were so wealthy they could afford bath tubs and 
good books; in that case they gave me good eating, honest 
friendship, clean towels, and a white bed. Some of them were 
so poor that the baby could not afford trousers nor a substitute 
for trousers; yet in these I was led to tables full of good things. 
Is it enough to go home to your white pillows while a mongrel 
cur, that could not justly administer a refuge for lame cats, is 
given charge of the men to whom you have preached so 
sweetly? 

Shame! shame, shame! I was a stranger, and ye took me in. 
I was naked, and ye clothed me (in vile pajamas). And all this 
grotesque folly, this Devil's comedy was done in the Ineffable 
Name. I wish for you the worst— that some day you may be a 
penniless literary person, and that you may be forced to use the 
hospitality of your own Mission. 

Yours in the Name of the Devil, 
who is after all— a gentleman- 
Very sincerely 
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, 
Gentleman Adventurerl5 
223 South 6th St., Springfield, Illinois 



But such an experience as that at Morristown was the 
exception.''^ For the most part, Lindsay was treated with courtesy 
and generosity. Such was the case his third night on the road, 
which he spent near Glen Gardner at the home of Lutheran pastor 
John J. Hummer and his wife, the fourth night at the J. H. Slack 
house, Troutdale Farms near Bloomsbury, and the fifth (his first in 
Pennsylvania) at Lafayette College, Easton. The audience of 
Lafayette men, buoyed up with a session of college yells, gave 
Lindsay's recitation of parts of his "Last Song of Lucifer" and "The 
Tree of Laughing Bells" an enthusiastic reception, which brought 
back his days at Hiram. It was the kind of mutual exchange that 
most delighted Lindsay.'''' 



162 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




'^ 




¥ 



«r 



Courtesy of the author. 
William H. Rankin, proprietor of the hotel at Dents Run, 
Pennsylvania. 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 163 



Leaving Easton, he made his way across the Pocono Plateau 
where he enjoyed the hospitality of Pennsylvania-German farm 
families. Descending the far side of the Poconos, Lindsay reached 
the Wilkes-Barre coal mining country dominated by gray slag 
heaps. He spent his seventh night near Shickshinny at the last in a 
double row of uniformly drab company houses. Following supper at 
the kitchen table with the miner, his wife and two young sons, 
Lindsay provided his own explosion in the front room (backed by 
sounds of dynamite outside) with his recitation of "God Help Us To 
Be Brave." Again he found a responsive audience: there was good 
talk about the people of the region; they would remember Lindsay's 
heroes. ^^ 

For the next five, rain-filled days, Lindsay continued west 
across the Appalachians, following the Susquehannah, trading 
copies of his poems for meals, picking up mail awaiting him at 
Williamsport, and occasionally hopping into the caboose of a New 
York Central freight train to dry his clothes. Somewhat over half 
way between Williamsport and DuBois, Lindsay found lodging for 
his twelfth night at the hotel in Dents Run operated by William H. 
Rankin. That Lindsay hoped but was not allowed to include that 
evening as one of the sketches in his Handy Guide is clear from the 
existence of a three-page manuscript on the front page of which he 
wrote "omit," "thin," and "make rich & deep." 



Snared by the Susquehannah 

It was a tiny hotel in a Pennsylvania lumber town. Mine host 
was surly. Though I was adnnitted to the family table, he would 
not let me gather his flock together for a few moments afterward 
for a discourse on the Holiness of Beauty. He would not let me 
give him my little pamphlet-poem nor present it to his wife nor 
his son nor his daughter nor his son-in-law nor his grandson. If I 
had not been dead tired I would have sought the better 
hospitality of the thunder-storm. 

I had been walking in the rain for five days. This was the 
evening of the fifth. The first and second days were penetrating 
drizzle and mist. The third was a gentle rain with patches of sun. 
The fourth and fifth days it thundered and poured. This weather 
had cured a cough that had clung to me two months when I had 
been properly sheltered in the big city. But the healing of my 
body was not the only profit. The elements had ministered to my 
spirit as well. When one's heart is ready—the rain is a Baptism. 
Though ones [sic] coat is damp and his way is through the 
mire— yea though the torent [sic] pours over the breast as 
though that breast were bare— the chill body raises the soul to 
an unearthly elation. Then it is that the spirit steps firmly in the 
secret paths of power. 



764 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



But speaking after the manner of nnen— I had been snared by 
the Susquehannah— and in a curious way. I had set myself to 
walk west— and once started along that river I could not escape 
without returning. I could not climb those muddy hills on either 
bank. I could not break through to the hospitable agricultural 
folk among whom it had been my plan to forage, and I, and the 
railroad as well— clung to the river in order to progress. I walked 
the ties and put up at little lumber villages. 

And my heart had been leaping with delight and laughter over 
what seemed then a most romantic discovery. 

The first night I asked free accomodation [sic] at a private 
house as was my want. They informed me it was Pennsylvania 
Law that the traveller without money must be provided for by the 
hotel. I have never consulted a Pennsylvania legal light as to 
whether this is so. But for four evenings the landlords gave me 
free accomodation [sic] instantly: clean beds— good meals and 
no ugly looks and allowed me to recite for those who wanted to 
listen. 

But there was a worm in the soul of the fifth landlord. There 
was a mortgage or an old feud or a chronic indigestion or a 
family skeleton or a gnawing conscience to keep him from a 
moment's peace. He had many blessings. He was still middle 
aged, young for a grandfather. His wife was comely and serene. 
His son in law appeared to be a likely sort. His beautiful 
daughter and her dear baby would have cheered up the 
wretchedest household. But none of these things cheered him. 

He combined a village grocery with his hostelrie. In front of 
his counter— after supper— he was the evil genius of the scene. I 
had not made a speech for twenty four hours. I was eager to 
exhort — to quote the poets— to quote the scripture. You have 
had the feeling— dear reader— in Endeavor Society, in Y.M.C.A. 
prayer-meeting— at the free for all debating society. The 
loafers round the store were willing to be entertained — if not 
uplifted. But the Landlord, figeting [sic] with rage hurried me to 
my room. Once more he returned the Brochure I had thrust into 
his hand. He locked the door and went downstairs. 

The room had two beds. I took the one with the most 
covers— first stretching my wet clothes on a chair. 

When I was almost asleep the door was unlocked and a 
towering fellow I had never before seen came in with a lamp in 
one hand and a shot gun in the other. He was followed by a 
red-eyed huntingdog. The man locked the door and put the key 
into his trousers pocket. Then he took off his indispensables, 
threw them on the floor— and said to the dog "Watch them 
pants." The animal tangled himself up in the suspenders and 
went to sleep. The man put the gun within reach of his pillow, 
extinguished the lamp and piled into bed. Next morning the door 
was open. Dog, man and gun were gone. I had my fine Italian 
revenge. I pinned the rejected brochure upon my pillow. On the 
leaves thus exposed I wrote: Respectfully presented to my host 
J. K — , in gratitude for supper —lodging— a locked door and a 
sentinel. This book is at present worth 25 cents. In ten years it 
will be worth $25000. Still I do not hesitate to give it. Would I 
might do more. 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 



165 




Courtesy of the author. 



The Sayers Store at Cranberry, Pennsylvania. 




Courtesy of the author. 



William H. Sayers, the grocer-undertaker. 



766 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



I have no doubt breakfast was waiting for me down stairs. 
But I left without any nnore of their bread and salt. I felt on 
friendlier terms with rain and the railroad ties. 

In an hour the sun shone. The roads began to dry. By noon I 
had reached the water-shed, was over the divide, was crossing a 
wind-swept plateau. As a matter of fact my rainy season was 
ended. Behind me was the Susquehannah with its dark hills and 
its cindery railroad and its good and bad landlords. Around me 
was the farm country and every farmer in the United States is my 
dear and intimate friend. 

Thus it is always upon the road. Neither rain nor misfortune 
nor misunderstanding last too long. The road is a place of 
singing. "I^ 

As he walked on for the next two days through DuBois and 
Clarion, Lindsay was sometimes refused lodging and given either 
meager or ample meals. He captured his greeting at Cranberry, 
which he reached at noon on his sixteenth day, in the opening of 
the fourth sketch in the last half of the Handy Guide: "Death, the 
Devil, and Human Kindness." 

At noon your servant was on the front step of a store near a 
cross-roads called Cranberry, Pennsylvania. The store was on 
the south side of the way by which I had come. I sat looking 
along wagon tracks leading north, little suspecting I should take 
that route soon. 

On one side overhead was the sign: "Fred James, 
Undertaker." On the other: "Fred James, Grocer." 

"And so," I thought, "I am going to meet, face to face, one of 
the eternal powers. He may call himself Fred James all he 
pleases. His real name is Death. "20 



More interested in the essence of his adventures, Lindsay often 
took a story teller's license with names. ^i In actual life the grocer- 
undertaker was William Henry Sayers, who, with his wife Lizzie 
Barber, ran this establishment. Meditating on "the mystery of Life 
and Death and cranberries, "22 Lindsay shared with Sayers his 
"point of view as a religious mendicant, "23 gave him a copy of "The 
Tree of Laughing Bells," and in turn was given lunch and directions 
to his next destination. Oil City. 

About two that afternoon Lindsay reached the edge of a cliff that 
descended into the ugliness and confusion of the oil refining 
district near Oil City and Franklin. His description of the area's 
hideousness anticipated H. L. Mencken's 1927 essay on the horrors 
of the region between Pittsburgh and Greensburg.^'* As Lindsay 
looked at the belching coke ovens, he was almost convinced he 
could smell the odor of burning ghosts: 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 167 



Dying sinners snared and corrupted by Oil City are carried here 
when the city has done its worl<.... Body and soul they are 
disintegrated by the venonnous oil; they crunnble away in the 
town of oil, and here in the town of ovens, the fragnnents are 
burned with unquenchable fire. 25 

And he "wondered how many had lived and died there when they 
would have preferred some other place. "^^ 

Eager to leave the blighted area, Lindsay accepted a ride on an 
Italian fruit peddler's wagon. Its driver, who "looked like the social 
secretary of the Black Hand," soon made him wish he had not 
accepted the offer. First the peddler purposely drove over a lame cat 
who "died without a shriek," then he hurled baseball-sized rocks at 
a dog which was barking at his wagon. Moreover he actually drove 
Lindsay out of his way, though by the time the episode was over, 
Lindsay had reached him and the "Devil" gave him three oranges as 
they waved good-by.^^ 

Just what night the next encounter, third in the "Death, the 
Devil, and Human Kindness" section, occurred is unclear from 
either Lindsay's road diary or his Handy Guide. Earlier in the book 
he admitted, "Sometimes a considerable happening is introduced 
that came the day before, or two days after. In some cases the 
events of a week are told in reverse order. "^^ 

This sketch had its setting at the farmhouse of an elderly 
widower "on the edge of the second cornfield." At first Lindsay's 
host seemed listless and devoid of any element of dynamic 
personality, but his considerations were so great that Lindsay came 
to call him "Mr. Humankindness." Baked potatoes smothered in 
butter, the only food served, so delighted Lindsay that he wrote, 
"the first warm potato tasted like peacocks' tongues, the next like 
venison, and the next like ambrosia, and the next like a good warm 
potato with butter on it."^^ Though there was no bed in the house, 
each man slept in opposite corners on floors that were white with 
cleanliness and covered with a quantity of equally clean rag rugs. 
There was a clean blanket, and his host had rolled up his new 
overcoat to serve as his guest's pillow. Good fresh air came through 
an open window on a wind that "cried Life, life, life!"^^ Such 
hospitality echoed the generosity Lindsay had known one evening 
near the Florida-Georgia border on his 1906 walking adventure, 
about which he had written, "This man had nothing, and he gave me 
half of it, and we had abundance. "2"' 

Starting out another morning, Lindsay observed, "the road, 
almost dry after several days of rain . . . gay with butterfly-haunted 
puddles ... a complacent cat in a doorway, that should have been 
named 'scrambled eggs and milk,' so mongrel was his overcoat . . ." 



768 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




Courtesy of the author. 



Jessie Cecelia Sanford, age eleven. 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 



and "a philosophical grasshopper reading inscriptions in a lonely 
cemetery. "22 Absorbing it all, he concluded, "Splendor after 
splendor rolled in upon the highway from the four corners of 
heaven." 33 

Close to eight in the evening of his sixteenth day, he came to the 
turn-of-the-century farmhouse between Franklin and Polk of 
Courtney S. Sanford, his wife Mary Roenigk, their two children, and 
Sanford's elderly parents, William and Mary Ann Johnson Sanford. 
His overnight stay with them became the final chapter in the Handy 
Guide: "The Old Gentleman with the Lantern (and the People of his 
Household). "34 

With the exception of the grandmother (who later grew a bit 
more friendly), this family accorded Lindsay warm hospitality. In 
the course of the evening, Courtney Sanford, who went about the 
area drilling oil wells, returned home unexpectedly. The scene of 
joyous confusion was highlighted by his gift for his daughter of an 
extraordinary doll. 

Called "Gretchen-Cecelia" in the Handy Guide, the Sanford 
daughter was Jessie Cecelia, who would turn twelve on July 1, 
though Lindsay cast her as nine. The two became immediate 
friends: they told each other fairy tales, he gave her his "Tree of 
Laughing Bells," and when he left the next morning, she gave him 
"a tiny curl from the head of her doll that had truly, truly hair."3S 

Lindsay's walking diary contains the events which rounded out 
this adventure. Still averaging lifts of three miles a day, Lindsay 
was next given a ride in the rubber-tired buggy of a glove-drummer 
to the house of Clara Guilinger at Henderson where he had noon 
dinner. He stayed the seventeenth night (his last in Pennsylvania) at 
the house of English-born John Henry Rowe just west of 
Greenfield. After supper, though he had at first been assigned to 
sleep in the barn, when he read his poems the Rowes allowed him 
to spend the night in their home. 

The next morning Lindsay walked into Ohio, staying the night at 
the Warren home of Hiram College friends, Dr. and Mrs. Harlan M. 
Page, and ending his nineteen-day adventure by greeting his 
younger sister Joy on the Hiram campus at two in the afternoon of 
May 16, 1908. 

Brimming with ideas for writing and illustrating projects which 
were to make the years immediately ahead prolific, he caught a train 
home to Springfield. Drawing conclusions about the trip, he wrote 
in his diary on June 8: 

As long as I continue to do nny best to write I am producing my 
reasonable share of this world's goods. I should give everyone 



7 70 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



as free access to my work as possible. In return I can ask of 
society bread, shelter and clothes. I should take pains to ask of 
those who can part with thenn easily. Be it here highly resolved 
that I ann my own master henceforth. 36 

Lindsay's spiritual adventures on foot in the spring of 1908 had 
helped bring hinn to this plateau of liberation. 



NOTES 

^ Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay: A Poet in America (New York: Scribner's, 
1935), Mark Harris, City of Discontent: An Interpretive Biography of Vactiel Lindsay 
(Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1952) and Eleanor Ruggles, The West-Going Heart: A 
Life of Vachel Lindsay (New York: Norton, 1959). The earliest full-length biography 
of Lindsay was Albert Edmund Trombly, Vachel Lindsay: Adventurer (Columbia, 
Mo.: Lucas Brothers, 1929). 

2 Adventures, Rhymes & Designs . . . by Vachel Lindsay (New York: Eakins, 
1968) contains Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty, drawings from 
The Village Improvement Parade and Rhymes To Be Traded for Bread (both of 
which Lindsay distributed on his 1912 trip) and an essay on Lindsay by Robert F. 
Sayre. Selections from Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty also 
appeared in Walking in America, edited by Donald Zochert (New York: Knopf, 
1974), pp. 175-84. 

3 Quoted in Howard Wiilard Cook, Our Poets of Today (New York; Moffat, Yard, 
1919), p. 63. Writing to Harriet Monroe, 12 October 1916, Lindsay stressed the 
Handy Guide sketches as forerunners to those in Adventures, and added that as a 
result he considered them "a little bolder...." Poetry Magazine Papers, 1912-1936, 
University of Chicago Library. 

^ Theodore Maynard, Our Best Poets: English and American (London: 
Brentano's, 1924), p. 188. 

^ Vachel Lindsay, A Handy Guide for Beggars (New York: Macmillan, 1916), 
pp. 161-162. 

6 Maynard, p. 189. 

^ Ruggles, pp. 128-129. 

^ "God Help Us To Be Brave" and "The Last Song of Lucifer," both 1908, were 
Lindsay's fourth and fifth privately printed publications. Enclosed in wallpaper 
wrappers, they do not contain any of his original drawings. His first three ("We 
Who Are Playing Tonight," "The Cup of Paint" and "The Tree of Laughing Bells," 
all 1905) do contain his illustations and designs. 

^ "The Adventures of an Amateur Mendicant," 1908 road diary. Nicholas Vachel 
Lindsay Collection, Clifton Waller Barrett Library, University of Virginia Library. 

"•^ In its issues fori June 1907, 2 and 9 January and 6 and 13 February 1909, and 
7 Oct. 1911 The Outlook published six of the nine prose sketches based on 
Lindsay's 1906 walking trip which eventually made up the first half of the Handy 
Guide. Four early versions of the five prose sketches in the last half of the Handy 
Guide appeared in Twentieth Century Magazine, June through September, 1912, 
under the title "A Religious Mendicant." 



LINDSAY'S WALKING TRIP 171 



' ' Handy Guide, p. viii. Lindsay elaborated on thenn in "Rules of the Road," The 
American Magazine (May 1912), pp. 54-59. 

"•^ Handy Guide, p. 115. 

^2 Lindsay's "An Adventurer Gets Religion" (War Bulletin Number Two, 4 
August 1909) was the earliest printed version of his second night's experience as 
well as the first open indication of the actual site. 

"•^ Handy Guide, pp. 115-132. "A Temple Made with Hands" was preceded by 
Lindsay's poem "In Lost Jerusalem" (a slightly altered version of his "Christ" in 
"God Help Us To Be Brave"). The Handy Guide contains fourteen poetic interludes: 
of the seven in each half, three had appeared, in slightly different versions, in "God 
Help Us To Be Brave," making a total of six poems from "God Help Us To Be 
Brave." 

"•^This holograph letter, quoted completely for the first time with the 
permission of Nicholas Cave Lindsay, is in the author's collection. A similarly 
vitriolic, unsent letter (written from Spokane, 12 October 1927, to blast H. 
Augustine Smith of Boston University for wanting to set to music Lindsay's poem 
"Foreign Missions in Battle Array"), together with a copy of the three-line letter 
Lindsay sent instead, is in the Poetry Magazine papers, 1912-1936, University of 
Chicago Library. Writing to Anna Hempstead Branch from Easton, 1 May 1908, 
Lindsay gave a considerably subdued account of his overnight in Morristown; 
Anna Hempstead Branch Collection, William Allan Neilson Library, Smith College. 
The tone of the unsent letters of 1908 and 1927, together with that in parts of 
"Snared by the Susquehannah," indicates that Lindsay could indeed, when roused, 
shed his metaphorical Franciscan robes and deliver the stinging blow of a 
scorpion's tail. 

^° The sketches which open the two halves of the Handy Guide are total 
contrasts: "The Man Under the Yoke," in its warm compassion, is more like most 
of the Handy Guide narratives, while "A Temple Made with Hands" presents the 
exception. 

^ ' "On Being Entertained One Evening by College Boys," second sketch in the 
second half of the Handy Guide, pp. 135-136. 

""^ Ruggles, pp. 132-133. "Near Shickshinny," third sketch in the last half of the 
Handy Guide, pp. 138-158. 

^^This holograph manuscript, quoted completely for the first time with the 
permission of Nicholas Cave Lindsay, is in the author's collection. Lindsay's 1916 
letters to Harriet Brainard Moody indicate that this was possibly only one of 
several manuscripts Macmillan chose not to include in the Handy Guide. In letters 
written home while he was at Hiram College in May, 1908, Lindsay itemized ten 
possible stories from his just-completed trip. Nicholas Vachel Lindsay Collection, 
Clifton Waller Barrett Library, University of Virginia Library. 

20 Handy Guide, p. 161. 

Handy Guide, p. 96: "In the prose sketches in this book I have allowed myself 
a story-teller's license only a little." 

22 Handy Guide, p. 1 62. See also the passage from this section which Maynard 
praised: Notes 4-6 above. 

23 Handy Guide, p. 163. 

2^ H. L. Mencken, "The Libido for the Ugly," Prejudices: Sixth Series (New York: 
Knopf, 1927), pp. 187-193. 



172 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



25 Handy Guide, p. 172. 

26 Handy Guide, p. 168. 

27 Handy Guide, pp. 169-173. 

28 Handy Guide, p. 96. 

29 Handy Guide, p. 175. 

30 Handy Guide, p. 177. 

^I "The Man Under the Yoke," Handy Guide, p. 13. See Note 16 above. 

32 Handy Guide, pp. 182-183. 

33 Handy Gu/de, pp. 183-184. 

34 Handy Gu/de, pp. 185-204. 

35 Handy Guide, p. 204. In his Foreward to Springfield Town Is Butterfly Town 
by Vachel Lindsay (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University, 1969), Pierre Dussert wrote: 
"Just open the Handy Guide for Beggars, and read the Gretchen-Cecelia story. You 
will see how easily, how spontaneously Lindsay could strike up a friendship with a 
child." 

36 Masters, p. 190. 



IMITATIONS OF SPOON RIVER 
AN OVERVIEW 

Herb Russell 



When Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology first appeared 
on the American scene sixty-five years ago, it created ainnost 
overnight a literary sensation. There had never before been anything 
quite like these poems phrased in unadorned free verse except, 
perhaps, portions of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Like 
Whitman's, the poems of Masters also aroused disputes 
concerning morality and the arts. On the one hand, literary critics 
accused him of showing too little respect for poetic rules; on the 
other, critics of several cloths felt Masters had written far too 
realistically about aspects of life which were inappropriate for 
verse. 

The source of the problem was that Masters had viewed his 
Spoon River creations as people with no illusions left (for all his 
characters were dead and buried), and so he let them speak plainly 
in the "epitaphs" they seemed to fashion for themselves. Consider 
as example the simple honesty in this excerpt from one of the 
book's first epitaphs, that of a murderer named Hod Putt: 

Here I lie close to the grave 

Of Old Bill Piersol, 

Who grew rich trading with the Indians, and who 

Afterwards took the bankrupt law 

And emerged from it richer than ever. 

Myself grown tired of toil and poverty 

And beholding how Old Bill and others grew in wealth, 

Robbed a traveler one night near Proctor's Grove, 

Killing him unwittingly while doing so, 

For the which I was tried and hanged. 1 

A similar emphasis on plain truths rather than decorative ones 
also characterizes Spoon River's few collective assessments, as 
this example from the introductory poem shows. 

173 



174 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith, 

The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, 

the happy one?— 
All, all, are sleeping on the hill. 

One died in shameful child-birth. 
One of a thwarted love. 
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel, 
One of a broken pride, in the search for heart's desire, 
One after life in far-away London and Paris 
Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag- 
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill. 

Because Americans in the teens were not accustomed to 
reading about such topics in poetry, and because it was soon 
generally known that Masters' poems were based largely on real 
people he had known or had heard about in the days of his youth 
along Illinois' Sangamon and Spoon Rivers, it was only natural that 
controversy resulted. And because his technically simple poems 
seemed easy to copy, it was probably to be expected too that 
satires on Spoon River should follow. 

Masters himself was well aware of the clamor and imitative 
verses he had inspired, remarking in his interesting account of "The 
Genesis of Spoon River" that his epitaphs were "parodied all over 
America" shortly after they were serialized in Reedy's Mirror in 
1914-15.^ Just how many of these satiric verses were published is 
not known, but they began appearing in great abundance after 
Spoon R/Ver was published as a book in April, 1915, and by July 13, 
1917, Masters' St. Louis editor-friend, William Marion Reedy, had 
seen so many that he declared in his Mirror, "Everybody seems to 
be doing something in imitation of Spoon River Anthology.'' 

While it would be impossible in an article of this length to draw 
a comprehensive picture of the imitations, we can gain an idea of 
their variety by examining some of the very different sources in 
which they appeared: certain popular and learned journals; several 
books of poetry which show a particularly close reliance on 
Masters' Anthology; and one newspaper, the New York Tribune, 
which in 1915 offered the chief outlet for satires on Spoon River in 
its "Conning Tower" column edited by Franklin P. Adams. 

Like Masters, Adams was a native Midwesterner who had a 
talent for words and who was at his best when dealing with the 
unrestrained language of the twentieth century. No less important, 
he had a good sense of humor, and so, between June 17 and 
November 11 ,1915, he published (from a variety of hands) nineteen 
separate satires on Spoon River. They often began by "bowing to 
Edgar Lee Masters," or were said to be written "by our own Edgar 



IMITA TIONS OF SPOON RIVER 



175 




Masters in his sixties. 



7 76 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Lee Masters," or otherwise strove to make the appropriate hterary 
connection: "If I were Mr. Masters, / And Mr. Masters I" and so on. 
Several of these titles continued for two days to a week, with the 
result that for the first half-year after Spoon River had appeared as a 
book, Adams' nationally-read column was virtually awash with 
satiric "river anthologies" written, ostensibly, from the banks of the 
Hudson, the Thames, the Connecticut, the East River, and (it had to 
be) from "Loon River." There was also a "Schroon Lake Anthology," 
a "Fox Meadow Tennis Club Anthology," an "Anthracite 
Anthology," an "Illustrator's Anthology," a "Week-Ender's An- 
thology," a "Subfluminal Anthology," and others. 

Because all the parodies which appeared in Adams' column read 
about the same, their collective worth— that they exist, and that 
they were spawned by Spoon River— '\s probably more significant 
than any individual poem, with one notable exception, that being a 
satire called "Maurice Vernon" composed by the well-known 
eastern poet and critic, Louis Untermeyer. What chiefly distin- 
guishes it is that Masters, in a letter dated November 8, 1915, wrote 
Untermeyer to thank him for sending a copy of "Maurice Vernon" 
and to say too that he liked this poem better than any of the other 
(early) satires on Spoon River: 



I was just sixteen, 

In the queer twistings of a delayed adolescence, 
When I came to New York; 
To study the classics, as my mother said. 
And, according to my father, to become a man. 
I liked the prep school I attended- 
It was such a pleasant place to get away from. 
Often I neglected Terence for the tango; 
Or Livy for Lillian Lorraine. 
I was just learning to wear my dinner-jacket 
In that "carefully careless" manner indorsed by "Vogue," 
When my father died bankrupt, 
Throwing me upon my own resources. 
Then I found I hadn't any. 

So, knowing how to use neither my hands nor my brain, 
I remembered my feet, 
And became a chorus man. 
For years I was with Ziegfield and K. & E.; 
Then the dance-craze came along and swept me to the heights. 
I became a teacher to the most exclusive— 
My name was in electric lights six feet high. 
The clippings I collected, placed end to end. 
Would have reached from Dantzig to Walsingham and back. 
Then one night I turned my ankle. 
When I was able to get up again 
The public had flocked to another favorite. 



IMITATIONS OF SPOON RIVER 177 



So I entered an Endurance Dancing Carnival 
And waltzed nnyself to death. 

There is a great, saintly-looking fellow here 

Whom some call Vitus. 

And many dervishes; 

And a fine sultry-eyed girl 

By the curious name of Miriam. 

But most of all we dancers love to watch a certain princess; 

Her veils uncoil like seven serpents, 

And she carries a dark head on a silver platter. 

She dances to it forever. 3 



Of Masters' opinion about the longer satires— those comprising 
books or book sections— we know considerably less, which is 
unfortunate since several are noteworthy, if in different ways. The 
earliest of these (that I have seen) is the "Styx River Anthology," 
nine satiric poems written by the scholar-compiler Carolyn Wells 
and published in her massive 1920 Book of Humorous Verse. The 
first book-length satire on Spoon River is apparently Henry 
Savage's A Long Spoon and the Devil, a 1922 London-based parody 
of fifty-five epitaphs. But the most accomplished of these longer 
works published a half-century or so ago is that by the poet Paul 
Eldridge, whose "Our Dead Selves" appeared as the opening 
section to a 1930 volume of his, Cobwebs and Cosmos. 

"Our Dead Selves" is a beast fable— a Spoon River "animal 
farm"— in which fifty-two animals, four plants, and one timeless 
river tell their stories. From the grave, the animals candidly discuss 
their shortcomings, frustrations, and vanities, or set straight their 
own life record or that of another. The result is an entertaining and 
instructive collection which maintains a literary merit of its own 
while closely approximating the irony and inter-relatedness of the 
Spoon River poems, as these two do: 



Rooster 

The Sun was a balloon of red gold 

Which I blew high — high — 

Beyond the mountain peaks, 

And balanced on the sharp point 

Of my crowing. 

As the hatchet, lightning-edged, 

Struck my defiant throat. 

The sky collapsed. 

And the sun burst 

In a sea of turbulent flames. 



178 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Hen 



The Sun did not burst, 

When your head was chopped, 

Arrogant one— 

Our young Rooster balanced it, 

Lustily, 

Upon his haughty regal crest— 

And the number of eggs 

We laid for him, 

With merry cackling. 

Was double. 4 



Among later book-length collections are August Derleth's three 
dozen epitaphs for "Sac Prairie People" (available most readily in 
his 1967 book of Collected Poems), and Elegy in Manhattan, a 1961 
volume by George (or "Georgie") Jessel— "America's Toastmaster 
General." Jessell refers to Masters and Spoon River in his 
introduction and then presents what might be called "A Celebrity's 
Spoon River" about people he knew or knew of through a half 
century of show business, most of it spent in Manhattan. There are 
lengthy graveyard verses for such people as Fred Allen, Fanny 
Brice, Douglas Fairbanks, Al Jolson, Babe Ruth, Fiorello La 
Guardia and fifty others, all of them in some distinct way 
entertaining, although not always known primarily as "entertain- 
ers," as this excerpt from the introductory poem suggests: 



Nearly all are resting on 

the banks of Manhattan, 
Dreaming of how Lillian Russell 
looked that New Year's Eve at Delmonico's, 

of what Al Smith said 
to Murphy that morning in Tammany Hall, 

of what Teddy R. said 
at Union Square of young Cohan's "Waving the Flag," 

and of "dashing Jimmy" 

the Mayor. 5 



At nearly 200 pages, Jessel's is, I believe, the lengthiest of the 
Spoon River derivatives. 

In contrast, what appears to be the shortest separately 
published collection of imitative poems belongs to Margaret 
Secrist, whose 1976 pamphlet, Women of the Revolution, contains 
a mini-graveyard of nine epitaphs for women associated in some 
way with the American War for Independence. It is strange, though, 
how the lines in these "old" epitaphs seem so remarkably up to 
date— e.g., that of Deborah Franklin: 



IMITA TIONS OF SPOON RIVER 



179 




M 



Masters in his late seventies. 



180 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGION A L STUDIES 



History has more to say 

about Ben's bastard son 

and Ben's foreign loves 

than about his common-law wife. 

I kept the fires at home, 

the presses printing at the shop. 

I saw to the roasting of meats, 

the washing and mending of clothes. 

"Poor Richard" had to have time 

to write, invent, advise, 

to be ambassador 

for that Continental Congress. 6 

Of the third group of satires, those published in the popular and 
learned journals, it is difficult to speak precisely (due to the great 
number of such magazines), and therefore I would like to approach 
these by focusing on one which seems to be the first, and another 
which I believe is the most recent, and a third which is my personal 
choice as the most innovative. 

The first satire I know of is a poem called "Fudge" by an old 
friend of Masters from his pre-Spoo/? f?/Ver days in Chicago, Ernest 
McGaffey. Published in the July 3, 1914 issue of Reedy's Mirror 
(where the Spoon River poems were then being serialized), 
McGaffey's effort consists solely of the word "fudge" repeated four 
dozen times through fourteen irregularly spaced lines. When it was 
published, one of the Mirror's editors erected over it the legend, 
"He's Not from Spoon River," a lasting reminder that early writers of 
free verse were often accused, even by their friends, of "fudging" or 
cheating on the traditional rules of poetry. 

More typical is Robert L. Coard's eight-part poem, "The 
Schoolhouse Branch, a Tributary of Spoon River," published in 
Scliolia Satyrica in the fall of 1977. This recent imitation is 
representative of several of the satires in that its alleged reason for 
being is to correct certain omissions in the original Spoon River: 

When Edgar Lee Masters set down those confessions from 

the grave, 
In the time-resistant verse of the Spoon River Anthology 

and The New Spoon River [published in 1924], 
He let the poets and lawyers and crooked politicians and 

judges and clergymen and 
Folks who knew Lincoln 
Have plenty to say. 
But except for Miss Emily Sparks and a couple of college 

professors, 
He didn't record much coffin talk from teachers. ^ 

Thus Coard offers his "schoolhouse" verses, all of them bearing the 
unmistakable brand of the teachers' lounge. 



IMITATIONS OF SPOON RIVER 181 



Of all the imitative poems, however, the one which strikes me as 
the most novel is that by the British satirist, J. C. Squire. Published 
in his Tricks of the Trade in 1917 before being reprinted in the March 
29, 1918 edition of Reedy's Mirror, Squire's trans-Atlantic double 
parody successfully spoofs both Spoori River and the English 
language's best-known sentimental poem, Thomas Gray's "Elegy 
Written in a Country Churchyard." Squire relies on the form of 
Gray's eighteenth-century poem, as well as "echoes" of it, but his 
content flows straight from Spoon River, as the title indicates: "If 
Gray Had Had to Write His Elegy in the Cemetery of Spoon River 
Instead of in That of Stoke Poges." 

Needless to say, there is a pronounced difference between 
Gray's 1751 elegy and Squire's amended version, as can be seen 
through these two scene-setting stanzas, the first by Gray, the 
second by Squire: 

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree's shade, 
Where heaves the turf in many a moldering heap, 

Each in his narrow ceil forever laid, 

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. 



Here where the flattering and mendacious swarm 

Of lying epitaphs their secrets keep, 
At last incapable of further harm 

The lewd forefathers of the village sleep. 

Gray, moved by the plight of the unlearned or "rude" forefathers, 
philosophizes on the pathetic obscurity of those who live and die in 
tiny hamlets, their talents or "sweetness" wasted: 

Full many a gem of purest ray serene, 

The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear: 
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen 

And waste its sweetness on the desert air. 

This is all a matter of perspective, however, for as one of Squire's 
dead confesses, obscurity can be a useful and even necessary ally: 

Full many a vice is born to thrive unseen, 

Full many a crime the world does not discuss, 
Full many a pervert lives to reach a green 

Replete old age, and so it was with us. 

And SO on for an additional fifteen stanzas. 

What this and the other Spoon ft/Ver-in spired poems seem to 
offer, then, is a fresh and often lighthearted view of Masters' one 



182 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



enduring achievement. They remind us too of his book's 
international appeal and tend to reveal in miniature that diversity of 
opinion which has characterized reader reaction to Spoon River for 
over half a century. Moreover, it is accurate to say that the bulk of 
the derivative verses affirm that ancient corollary which states that 
"imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." 



NOTES 

^ Spoon River Anthology (Nevj York: Macmillan, 1915). All quotations from the 
Anthology are from this edition. 

2 The American Mercury, 28 (January, 1933), 49. 

^ Untermeyer's poem appeared in the New York Tribune on 11 October, 1915, p. 
7, and is here reprinted with the kind permission of Bryna Untermeyer. For 
Masters' favorable comments about this poem, see his letter of 8 November, 1915, 
in the "Edgar Lee Masters Portfolio" at Indiana University's Lilly Library. 

^ Copyright 1930 by Horace Liveright. Copyright renewed 1957 by Paul 
Eldridge. Fourteen of Eldridge's poems appeared under the title "Anthology of the 
Lowly" in The Double Dealer of March, 1921 (1:107) and March, 1922 (3:127). 

^ Elegy in Manhattan (New York: Holt, Rinehart, 1961), p. xiii. 

^ Reprinted with the kind permission of Margaret Secrist. 

^ Scholia Satyrica, 3 (1977), 17. 



NOTES AND DOCUMENTS 

On March 31, 1979, Western Illinois University hosted the first 
annual nneeting of the Western Illinois Regional Studies 
Association. The theme of the conference was "Preserving and 
Interpreting the Western Illinois Heritage." The day-long Saturday 
program included the following papers: 

"Western Illinois: The Towns, the Land, the People" 
Jerry Klein, Peoria Journal Star 

"Archaeological Preservation in Western Illinois: A Question of 
Balance" 

Michael Beckes, Illinois State Museum 

"Early Impressions of Western Illinois" 
James E. Davis, Illinois College 

"Primitivism and Paternalism: The Roots of Western Illinois 
Christianity" 

Myron Fogde, Augustana College 

"Working in Utopia: Bishop Hill Restoration" 

Ronald E. Nelson, Illinois Department of Conservation 

"Vachel Lindsay: New Discoveries" 

Dennis Camp, Sangamon State University 

"Western Illinois County Histories" 
Rodney Davis, Knox College 

"The Persistence of Style in Western Illinois Architecture, 
1830-1890" 

William B. Coney, AIA Restoration Architect 

Attendants were also treated to a tour of the newly restored 
McDonough County Courthouse. The new Western Illinois Library 
was the locale of most of the presentations and was likewise the 
site of various art, book, and photograph exhibits. The Western 
Illinois University Museum was also open to those who attended 
the conference. 

One of the members of the Advisory Committee of Western 
Illinois Regional Studies, Professor Stuart M. Struever of 
Northwestern University, was the subject of an extensive article in 
the April 26, 1979, issue of the Chicago Tribune. Written by Peter 

183 



184 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Corner, the article describes Struever as a "running, teaching, 
wheedling, hustling" sort of a nnan: the "doyen" of the famous 
archaeological dig known as the Koster Site. Uncovered about a 
decade ago on the farm of Theodore Koster, located near 
Kampsville some 270 miles southwest of Chicago, the Koster Site 
has been the center of considerable attention. Early in its 
development, about eighty-eight corporations and several thousand 
contributors poured money into the project and, because of the 
resultant publicity, approximately 30,000 visitors a year trudge 
through the area in order to touch the pre-literate history of Illinois. 
Now, according to Struever, the project is in difficulty. "We've 
found tons of artifacts at Koster," Struever argues, "but even this 
extraordinary site has only yielded a third of the cultures we know 
existed in that region." The problem is money. The eighty-eight 
original corporate contributors have shrunk to twenty-two. 
Individual contributors have likewise diminished in number. 
Struever is quoted as saying: 

The public must be brought into science. They've gotta 
participate. Scholars often feel they have some kind of divine 
right to do research. Hey, the name of the game is 
accountability. Public participation is the only way archeology 
can survive. People say I've had a lot of success. But I don't 
know, and I mean that. This is a curcial time for me. I may well 
be a flash in the pan. 

The Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1979, listed a number of places in 
western Illinois which were, as writer Howard Reich described 
them, "historic escapes to another time and place." Included in 
Reich's survey was Bishop Hill, with its Colony Church, original 
furniture, and Olaf Krans' paintings. Other spots of interest in 
western Illinois, according to the writer, were the Knox County 
Museum, the Wolf Covered Bridge some fifteen miles out of 
Galesburg on the Spoon River, and the various Sandburg landmarks 
in Galesburg. 

Although it is quite apparent to anyone who drives east on 
Route 136 that there is abundant coal in western Illinois (See the 
large scoops as they tear away the top soil!), it is not commonly 
known that coal mining as a part of the region's economy is nearly 
150 years old. In the 1840's, coal was being taken from McDonough 
County near Colchester by enterprising diggers. Much of the mined 
coal was purchased by Mormons from Nauvoo who carried the fuel 
back to that city in wagons. 

Some of the coal was found in the Argyle area, where a vein 
nearly two feet wide ran very close to the surface. Dogs and goats 
were used by miners to pull the coal in small drays from shallow 



NOTES AND DOCUMENTS 185 



pits. There were so many dogs in Colchester, it was said, that they 
outnumbered the human population by several times. In 1853, 
James Roberts of Colchester began to mine coal on a larger scale, 
sending the product to Quincy for shipment on the Mississippi. The 
Roberts Company eventually became the Quincy Coal Company 
and then, in 1855, the Colchester Coal Company. In many cases, 
the men who worked for Roberts mined the coal by lying on their 
sides while using pickaxes and shovels. 

During this era, from approximately 1845 to 1875. scores of 
British families moved to Colchester, drawn by the prospects of the 
coal industry. The pay seems infinitesimal by today's standards- 
five cents per bushel in 1879. There was no labor union, but the 
miners did organize a "friendly society" in order to take care of 
unforeseen expenses by members of the group. Friendly societies 
were the order of the day in England and Scotland, and were the 
predecessors of privately operated medical insurance groups such 
as Blue Cross. As anyone who knows British history will argue, 
they also were the predecessors to government-sponsored health 
protection and assistance. 

Another leading coal producing area over the years has been 
Macoupin County. Today, that same county is the center of frenzied 
activity on behalf of the local historical society. Led by Ms. Dorrell 
Kilduff and others, the Macoupin County Historical Society has 
established a museum, an artifact room, and a collection of medical 
instruments which might the envy of any museum collector. The 
success of the Macoupin Society is shown in its treasurer's 
balance: $2550.32, as of the July 1, 1979, meeting. 

Macoupin County has had an interesting and colorful past. Mary 
Harris "Mother" Jones is buried in the little town of Mt. Olive. 
"Mother" Jones and John L. Lewis, who worked at Panama a few 
miles away, were instrumental in making the county into the center 
of Illinois coal mining radicalism. General (and later Governor) John 
Palmer came from Carlinville and is buried there. The Macoupin 
County Courthouse was one of the wonders of nineteenth-century 
Illinois: it still is. Built in the 1860's and 1870's, it cost the taxpayers 
the enormous sum of a million-and-a-half dollars (though estimates 
vary on this amount). Its golden dome can be seen for miles, and it 
rivals the State Capitol in Springfield. 

Yet, it is not the past which brmgs Macoupin County into the 
headlines today. One of the younger settlements in the county is 
Wilsonville, a coal mining village established during World War I. 
Named after the President Wilson the town was the site of Superior 
Coal Mine No. 4. The Superior Coal Company then was a subsidiary 
of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company. The little 



186 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



village drew immigrants from every country in Europe excepting 
Spain, Norway, and Sweden. By 1928, the population was 1200. A 
year later the depression hit; the banks in the area closed, and Mine 
No. 4 was plagued with strikes. In 1937, the first below-the-surface, 
sit-down strike in labor history was held there; the miners staying 
below for over nine days. Eventually, after World War II, the 
Superior Coal Company closed its Macoupin County operations and 
Wilsonville was left to fend for itself. Still the village survived, 
becoming a kind of bedroom town to a laboring force which worked 
in Granite City and Alton. In 1975, a company known as the 
Earthline Corporation bought tracts of land near the village and 
began to bury hazardous wastes. The inhabitants took their case to 
court and, after a long siege of hearings, were awarded an order 
which restrained Earthline from burying further wastes. In fact, the 
company was even enjoined to remove those wastes which had 
already been interred. 

At the northern end of Macoupin County is the town of Virden. 
There, in April, 1898, the miners of the Chicago-Virden Coal 
Company went on strike because they objected to a reduction of 
wages to thirty cents per ton extracted. The Company countered by 
attempting to hire Chinese labor, but none could be found. The coal 
operators then decided to recruit black labor in Alabama. The first 
attempt to bring the black workers into Virden was turned back, but 
in October, the employers hired guards armed with Winchester 
rifles and ran the train back towards town. The miners met them 
with shotguns and hunting rifles. The result: seven miners killed, 
forty wounded, and five guards killed. None of the black miners 
were killed. It was hardly a racial issue at all, for among the miners 
opposing the importations of blacks from Alabama were a number 
of black miners who came down from Springfield. 

At the southern end of Macoupin County is the little town of 
Benld. Once known in the 1920's as the "most wicked little city in 
the United States" because of its open bootlegging and prostitu- 
tion, the town has the distinction of being the only place in the 
world with that name. It happened this way. An enterprising 
landowner by the name of Benjamin L. Dorsey decided to open a 
coal mine on a section of his holdings. He constructed the typple of 
the mine and then hired a painter to climb aboard a scaffold to paint 
the name of the owner. The sign painter finished only "Ben L. D" 
when the scaffold broke, causing him to be injured. The sign was 
never completed, and the people who built homes about the mine 
soon became accustomed to referring to their town as Benld! 

One last bit of information on Macoupin County. Just prior to 
1900 there was a small community near Girard by the name of Green 



NOTES AND DOCUMENTS 187 



Ridge. At the turn of the century it was the locale of a most bizarre 
incident. A luminous green object (which, incidentally, had been 
seen elsewhere throughout the midwest) was reported to have 
descended into a field nearby. When the people who occupied 
nearby farms rushed to see this peculiarity, it rose into the air and 
moved toward the north. Was it a UFO? The Carlinville Democrat 
thought it to be a hoax of some sort. "The majority of people will 
believe in air ships when they see them," it reported, "and not until 
then." 

I have just finished reading a book entitled The Landed Gentry, 
written by Sophy Burnham (G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1978). 
In general, it is a discussion of European investors who came to the 
United States in the nineteenth century and who bought up huge 
tracts of land. The author includes the name of William Scully 
(1820-1906), the son of an Irish landowner. Scully came to America 
in 1849 and bought thirteen square miles of land in Logan County, 
Illinois. Before his death, Scully had increased his holdings to 
220,000 acres in four states— Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and 
Illinois— and farming this land for him were some 1,200 different 
families. 

Burnham also includes material on the Oughton family which, 
as the author puts it, "pretty well own" Dwight County, Illinois. In 
1970, Diana Oughton, one of the descendants, was blown up in a 
Greenwich Village townhouse while presumably making bombs. 
She was a member of the Weatherman faction which gained so 
much notoriety in the 1960's and 1970's. Burnham also notes the 
existence of the Patee family which owned 8,000 to 10,000 acres 
near Monmouth, Illinois, and of the Drakes who owned 20,000 acres 
near Elkhart. Unfortunately, she gives little attention to the 
Sibleys and the Sullivans who owned huge tracts of land near 
Champaign. In the 1890's, Congress, along with some states, 
placed restrictions upon an alien's right to own land. The Scullys 
quickly became American citizens and, even today, approximately 
203,000 acres of land near the town of Emden and in Champaign 
County are under the Scully title. 

These episodes explain why local historical societies work so 
hard at preserving their past. What comes to mind, for example, is 
the work of the Quincy Historical Society, which set out to raise 
$300,000 in order to preserve the famous John Wood Mansion of 
that city. As of last report, the Society is within a fraction of 
achieving that goal. 

To illustrate the importance of the preservation and study of 
regional history, I am pleased to note the April/ May, 1979, issue of 



188 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



American Heritage. That publication contains a fascinating set of 
pictures both taken and collected by George Lawton in the 1890's. 
Lawton was a telegraph operator for Western Union in Denver. From 
time to time he wore a six shooter to work and, apparently to his 
great delight, was given the job of stringing line across hostile 
Indian country. Lawton loved to collect pictures of the old West and 
of the "bad men" who robbed and killed there. Upon his retirement, 
he was persuaded by his wife to move to a farm near Plymouth, 
Illinois. There he lived until 1931. Upon his death, his collection of 
pictures of the "law and order" West fell into the hands of Ron 
Keefer of Macomb. He submitted them recently to American 
Her/fage— hence, the article. 

On the weekend of July 21 and 22, 1979, an "Icarian Weekend in 
Nauvoo" was held in that Mississippi town. Although the Illinois 
Humanities Council gave substantial support to the meeting, the 
program was principally the result of the work of several organiza- 
tions and institutions: The Descendants of the Icarians, the 
Institute for Icarian Investigations (at the University of Nebraska- 
Omaha), and the Center for Icarian Studies (at Western Illinois 
University). The theme of the meeting was "Humanistic Values of 
the Icarian Movement for Today's World." 

A tour of Icarian buildings was conducted on the morning of 
July 21, followed by lunch at the Icarian Restaurant. Those who 
attended the meeting were treated to scholarly papers read by Dr. 
Lillian M. Snyder, Executive Director, Descendants of the Icarians; 
Professor Jacque C. Chicoineau, Webster College, St. Louis; Dr. 
Robert P. Sutton, Western Illinois University; Dr. Wayne Wheeler, 
University of Nebraska at Omaha; and Professor Del Stites, 
Bellevue College, Bellevue, Nebraska. The highlight of the meeting 
was a Saturday evening multi-media presentation entitled 
"America's Seven Icarians," written and produced by Dale Larson, 
and Douglas and Beth McMains. The University of Nebraska at 
Omaha sponsored the production. On the afternoon of July 22, the 
Descendants of the Icarians held their annual carry-in picnic at the 
Nauvoo State Park. Jules Renaud of Alexandria, Virginia, and 
Professor Rulon Smithson of Western Illinois University presented 
the program. For information about future Icarian activities, contact 
either Dr. Lillian Snyder or Dr. Robert Sutton at Western Illinois 
University. 

Victor Hicken 

Western Illinois University 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 

ILLINOIS: A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY. By Richard J. Jensen. New 
York: W. W. Norton, 1978. Pp. xix, 191. $9.95. 

One of the few promising projects for the ill-fated celebration of 
the bicentennial of the American Revolution was the decision to 
publish a one-volume history of each of the states and the District 
of Columbia. Professor Jensen provides the Illinois volume in this 
series. 

Professor Jensen describes one of his goals: ". . . to get 
beneath the familiar events and unusual personalities to provide a 
description of the way ordinary people of Illinois have lived and an 
interpretation of what they sought out of life." This is laudable but 
difficult. Virtually every generation of historians in the twentieth 
century has called for this kind of history. Mostly they have fallen 
short of the goal and Professor Jensen doesn't succeed very well 
either. There are glimpses of the "common man" but his account 
tends to get skewed to the upper and middle classes. Politics 
creeps into the account as does the culture and economics of the 
well-off. 

Professor Jensen has attempted an interpretative history of the 
behavior of the people, particularly the leadership. Admitting this is 
risky; he eschews familiar terms such as "liberal," "conservative," 
or "progressive," preferring the words "traditional," "modern," and 
"post-modern." There is nothing wrong with this but somehow the 
application grates on this reviewer's ears when John Peter Altgeld 
becomes a traditionalist and Everett McKinley Dirkson becomes a 
modernist, a label that surely would make the honey-voiced Senator 
twitch if he could hear it. 

There are other problems with the book, some of which are not 
Professor Jensen's fault. By the format set forth, there is no 
annotation. The bibliography is distressingly short. A photographic 
essay by Donald Getsug, handsome though it is, seems not to 
apply to much of anything. 

My judgement is that every Illinois history buff should read the 
book. Professor Jensen writes well. Many will find it interesting. 
Perhaps some of the problem with this book arises from the fact 
that it is simply impossible to deal with the history of a complex 

189 



190 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



State like Illinois in 179 pages of text. Without information the 
interpretation becomes sloppy. 



Donald F. Tingley 
Eastern Illinois University 



KOSTER: AMERICANS IN SEARCH OF THEIR PREHISTORIC 
PAST. By Stuart Struever and Felicia Antonelli Holton. Garden City, 
New York: Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1979. Pp. 273. $12.95. 

The long awaited popular summary of the enormous 
archaeological project at the Koster Site has finally appeared. This 
carefully written and profusely illustrated work is intended to 
introduce the lay public to the methodology, problems, and 
excitement which go along with major excavations at complex, 
deeply stratified prehistoric sites. It succeeds remarkably well at 
the task of making complicated research questions and convoluted 
archaeological jargon understandable, and it introduces the reader 
to the human side of field research projects. 

Chapters one through seven provide background information on 
the actual discovery of the Koster Site and on Dr. Struever's long 
term interest in the prehistory of the Lower Illinois Valley. Many 
readers will find these among the most enjoyable sections of the 
book since they highlight some of the most attractice aspects of 
archaeology. The thrill of discovering a major prehistoric site, the 
first few tentative probes and test pits where undisturbed artifacts 
are encountered, and the mounting excitement as the potential 
significance or unique nature of the site begins to dawn upon the 
exploratory field party, are the elements of archaeological fieldwork 
to which most people are drawn. Struever aptly conveys all this in 
an easy, unpretentious style. He also effectively deflates some of 
the romance of archaeology by describing the heat, dust, and 
tedium that are the lot of the usual field party. Struever's narrative 
describing the people and places around Kampsville, Mary and 
Teed Koster, and their collective reaction to a virtual invasion of 
archaeologists and students, is warm and entertaining. 

In chapter eight the authors attempt to define and summarize a 
complex intellectual ferment which began in American archaeology 
in the early 1960s and is still under way today. This introspective 
re-evaluation of the methods, goals, and philosophy of anthropo- 
logical archaeology has been termed the "New Archaeology." 
Koster can be legitimately regarded as the most extensive 
application of the approach thus far. Struever participated in much 
of the early development of the New Archaeology, is a self-defined 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 191 



New Archaeologist, and does a very complete job of describing the 
current, multidisciplinary, approach to field research. 

His discussion of the development of archaeology as a scientific 
discipline is accurate, concise, and well thought out. He clearly 
demarcates the difference between the earlier artifact-oriented, 
relic-hunting approach to archaeological fieldwork and the more 
rigorous problem-oriented research being conducted today. 
Contemporary archaeology, he points out. draws upon the physical 
sciences, computer studies, ecology, climatology, and a host of 
other ancillary studies in an attempt to understand the social pro- 
cesses of long-dead human societies. This section should help 
dispel the antiquarian or treasure-hunting notions of archaeology 
held by many readers, and is perhaps the most informative portion 
of the book. A more complete presentation of the role of quantified 
data and statistical analysis in the New Archaeology would have 
augmented his discussion, but might have stifled many readers. 

Chapters nine through seventeen present a series of detailed 
glimpses of the various specialized laboratories and sorts of 
analysis being carried out at the Kampsville facility. We are 
introduced to the people conducting the detailed studies in paleo- 
climatology, geomorphology, paleobotany, faunal analysis, lithic 
technology, and bioanthropology. Each section is well written and 
well integrated, and will provide fascinating reading for those who 
ask "How do you really know that? or How does it really work?" 
Again the authors have removed the scientific jargon and made 
clear some very complicated and esoteric branches of inquiry. 

The final two chapters summarize the implications of the Koster 
research for North American archaeology, and reconstruct an 
average day in the life of the Indians who inhabited Koster over 5000 
years ago. This last is a marked departure from the usual 
archaeological report with its emphasis on material artifacts or 
structures, and is an excellent attempt to put the American Indian 
back into American Archaeology. 

I would recommend Koster to anyone interested in modern 
archaeology in the Americas. It would be of equal use for beginning 
students as a guide to what current archaeology is really about. 
There are far more microscopes and computer printouts at Koster 
than pith helmets. Strueverand Holton have definitely succeeded in 
taking modern archaeology to the public with this one. 

Michael R. Beckes 
Illinois State Museum 



792 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



PIONEER'S PROGRESS: ILLINOIS COLLEGE, 1829-1979. By 
Charles E. Frank. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 
1979. Pp. xvi, 409. $17.50. 

Contrary to what one may think, there are numerous pitfalls 
awaiting the author of a history of any university or college. The 
researcher is faced with a paucity of impartial information, there are 
living alumni and faculty who see different versions of events than 
do the author, and one comes up against an insistent notion that he 
should not write anything which may be the least bit detrimental to 
any part of the institution in question. In this respect, Shakespeare 
was probably wrong when he had Marc Anthony tell his listeners 
that the good that men do is often interred with their bones, and 
that the evil associated with them lives long afterwards. The truth is 
that, when one writes an institutional history, the opposite is very 
likely the case. 

Charles E. Frank, the author of this account dealing with Illinois 
College of Jacksonville, is Pixley Professor of Humanities at that 
school. He has organized his book in a rather unusual manner, 
taking much of the early history of the college from Illinois College: 
A Centennial History, by Charles H. Remmelkamp, published in the 
1930's. The second half of the book deals with the school's history 
since the publication of Remmelkamp's work. Much of the newer 
material comes from Illinois College archives and from oral 
interviews. Frank disdains footnotes— "Latin abbreviations, in- 
dications of elision and emendation," he calls them— claiming that 
what he aims for is "readability and clarity." 

To some historians this would seem to verge upon the 
sacrilegious. To the logical scholar who has attempted writing of 
this kind, Frank's approach is the cleanest and neatest manner in 
which to achieve the purpose of institutional history. After all, the 
work is intended to be read by alumni and friends of the college. 
They usually care little about the niceties of scholarship and prefer, 
instead, a book which evokes old memories and associations. 

Beyond the division of the volume into two broad parts, Frank 
follows the usual format in tracing the history of the college. In 
decades past, and to a large extent in the present, colleges and 
universities are and have been dominated by the personalities of 
their presidents. Frank deals with them all: Beecher, Sturtevant, 
Crampton, Tanner, Bradley, Barnes, and all of the rest down to the 
more recent administrations of Hudson, Selden, Caine, and 
Mundinger. He details the financial struggles of these men, the 
hard times and the good, and even gets into the perilous times of 
the 1960's. 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 793 



The last chapter, "Illinois College, Where Are You Going?", is 
apparently an attempt to peer into the future of the institution. This 
segment of the book is exceedingly short — which gives one some 
idea of the difficulties of foresight— and it is, furthermore, hardly 
instructive to the reader about the role ahead for this oldest of 
lllinois's institutions of higher learning. He does conclude, 
however, that the future of the school looks "bright," though he 
hedges somewhat by adding that one "must practice caution" in 
making predictions. 

All in all, the alumni and supporters of Illinois College must be 
proud of the most recent addition to the historical materials dealing 
with the school. It is well written, nicely printed, properly 
illustrated, and an excellent candidate for any book award confined 
to state and local history. 

Victor Hicken 

Western Illinois University 



ECHOES OF THEIR VOICES: A SAGA OF THE PIONEERS WHO 
PUSHED WESTWARD TO THE MISSISSIPPI. By Carl R. Baldwin. 
St. Louis, Hawthorn 1978. Pp. 367. $10.95. 

"i wish I had known," Baldwin laments, prefacing his account of 
some of the 18th-century settlers of St. Clair, Madison and Monroe 
counties. But he did not know the fascination of local history until 
he retired after many years as an investigative reporter for the St. 
Louis Post-Dispatch. "I have been thrilled," he writes, "by 
discovering authentic stories about the first settlers . . ." (p. 12). He 
describes his book as "a powerful brew of almost equal parts 
extensive research and disciplined imagination" (p. 5). 

It is divided into three sections. In part one, "A Walk Through 
Cahokia," Pontiac, the Sauciers, the Jarrots, and all their relatives 
and friends share more than a hundred pages with the Cahokia 
courthouse from the day it was built to its destruction, its 
rebuilding in Chicago about 1901, and its return to Cahokia in 
1939. 

The remaining two hundred pages are peopled mainly by the 
Whitesides, their ancestors and their innumerable relatives by birth 
and marriage. They, or their acquaintances, are actors in tales spun 
of the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the 
movement West. Pages are filled with accounts of the almost 
incessant warfare waged by the Whitesides against the Indians 
whom they regarded as a race of butchers (p. 239). 



194 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Though the book jacket claims the author has corrected "many 
historical errors," what they are is not clearly evident. Baldwin 
himself occasionally errs. He explains that the narrow fields of the 
French villages "allowed the owners to work close together for 
mutual protection against Indian attacks." (p. 109). In fact, the 
French and Indians in that part of Illinois lived together, 
intermarried, even in a few cases had neighboring fields. The land 
division was only the ancient field system of France, brought to 
New France by the earliest colonial officials. 

He says that the Jesuits were banned "from the American 
Bottom by Great Britain in 1763" (p. 100). They were rather expelled 
from the nation and from all French possessions by the French 
government early in 1763. The British did not actually possess 
Illinois until October, 1765. 

Natalia M. Belting 
University of Illinois 



CONTRIBUTORS 



EILEEN SMITH CUNNINGHAM, an historian who lives near 
Carrollton, has published Lower Illinois Valley Sketches of Long 
Ago (1975), Lower Illinois Valley Limestone Houses (1976), and 
other works of local history. Mabel Ambrose Schneider is her aunt, 
now ninety-one years old, who lives in Carrollton. 

JOHN E. HALLWAS, Director of Regional Collections at Western 
Illinois University Library, has published articles on more than a 
dozen Illinois authors, as well as on folk lore, travel literature, and 
historical subjects related to the state. In 1976 he co-edited a book 
on Lindsay, Masters, and Sandburg entitled The Vision of This 
Land. 

GEORGE MONTEIRO, Professor of English at Brown University, 
has published articles on John Hay's short fiction and is the author 
of Henry James and John Hay: The Record of a Friendship (1965). 

RODNEY O. DAVIS is a professor in the History Department at Knox 
College, Galesburg. In 1967 he was the recipient of the Phillip 
Green Wright-Lombard College Prize. His publications include 
articles on the history of midwestern farm politics in Annals of 
Iowa, Journal of the West, Mid-America, and Kansas History. He is 
currently Director of the Midwest Studies Center and the American 
Studies Program. 

OWEN P. HAWLEY, Professor of English at Marietta College, Ohio, 
has been a scholar of Lindsay's work for over twenty years and is 
the author of numerous articles on Lindsay as poet-artist. He was 
granted a sabbatical in the 1977-78 academic year to continue his 
research at the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia and at 
Lindsay's alma mater, Hiram College. 

HERB RUSSELL, a member of the Department of English, Southern 
Illinois University, Carbondale, completed a doctoral dissertation 
on Edgar Lee Masters at that institution a few years ago. Since 
then, he has published articles on Masters in Essays in Literature, 
The Markham Review, Midwestern Miscellany, and other journals. 

795