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Full text of "Western Illinois regional studies"

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VOLljMEi:^ 
NUMBER 2^ 





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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 

JAY R. BALDERSON GORDANA REZAB 

DONALD W. GRIFFIN ROBERT P. SUTTON 

JOHN E. HALLWAS, Chairman 

ADVISORY COMMITTEE 

DAVID D. ANDERSON, Michigan State University 
MICHAEL BECKES, United States Forest Service 
RICHARD W. CROCKETT, Western Illinois University 
RICHARD QKO'^XyEK, Purdue University 
JAMES E. DAVIS, Illinois College 
RODNEY DAVIS, A'/2o;c College 
ARLIN D. FENTEM, Western Illinois University 
MYRON J. FOGDE, Augustana College 
FRANK W. GOUDY, Western Illinois University 
PEARCE S. GROVE, Western Illinois University 
THOMAS E. HELM, Western Illinois University 
WALTER B. HENDRICKSON, MacMurray College 
ROBERT JOHANNSEN, University of Illinois 
FREDERICK G. JONES, Western Illinois University 
JERRY KLEIN, "Peoria Journal Star" 
CHARLES W. MAYER, Western Illinois University 
DENNIS Q. McINERY, Bradley University 
RONALD E. NELSON, District Historian, 

Illinois Department of Conservation 
RONALD E. NELSON, Western Illinois University 
RICHARD D. POLL, Western Illinois University 
FRED SOADY, Illinois Central College 
STUART STKliEVEK, Northwestern University 
ROALD D. TWEET, Augustana College 
WILLIAM L. URBAN, Monmouth College 
ELLEN M. WHITNEY, Editor emeritus, 

"Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society " 
DOUGLAS WILSON, Knox College 



Subscription rates are $4.00 a year for individuals and $6.00 for institutions. 
Single issues are $2.00. Articles published in WIRS are listed in the MLA 
Bibliography, America: History and Life, and other appropriate bibliographies. 

Correspondence about subscriptions, contributions, and books for review should 
be sent to the Chairman of the Board of Editors, Western Illinois Regional 
Studies, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois 61455. Bibliographic and 
other information for the Notes and Documents section should be sent to 
Professor Gordana Rezab at the same address. 



WESTERN ILLINOIS 
REGIONAL STUDIES 

VOLUME IV FALL 1981 NUMBER 2 

CONTENTS 



The Naming of Spoon River 

Hermann R. Muelder 105 

Sarah Fenn Burton's Diary of a Journey 
to Illinois 

James K. Bracken 1 1 5 

The Memoir of William T. Brooking, 
McDonough County Pioneer (Part 2) 

Gordana Rezab 136 



Tornadoes of Western Illinois 




Prior to 1875 




Daniel L. Wise 


152 


Illinois Grassroots Politics of the 1890's 




in Brand Whitlock's Fiction 




David D. Anderson 


163 


Louis William Rodenberg, an Illinois Poet 




Walter B. Hendrickson 


176 


Notes and Documents 


192 


Reviews of Books 


195 


Contributors 


200 


Copyright 1981 by Western Illinois University 





REVIEWS OF BOOKS 



Boritt, LINCOLN AND THE ECONOMICS OF 
THE AMERICAN DREAM 

By William L Burton 195 

Fleming, THE LIVING LAND OF LINCOLN 

By Floyd S. Bar ringer 196 

Cain, et al, TALES FROM TWO RIVERS I 

By James K. Bracken 197 

Rankin, BORN OF THE PRAIRIE: MONMOUTH, 
ILLINOIS 1831-1981 

By Robert P. Sutton 199 

Cann, etal, HISTORY OF RARITAN, ILLINOIS 
AND COMMUNITY 

By Robert P. Sutton 199 



THE NAMING OF SPOON RIVER 



Hermann R. Muelder 



The "Spoon" may look like an over-sized creek during most of 
the year, but it has, by the poetry of Edgar Lee Masters, become 
one of the most widely known rivers in the Middle West. A pamphlet 
published by the Illinois State Historical Society in 1963 gives a kind 
of official sanction to the idea that "Spoon River" is a translation 
of the aboriginal name of the stream, "which survives in Maquon, 
a village and township in Knox County."^ The author of that mono- 
graph, Virgil J. Vogel, makes a very strong case for "Maquon" 
meaning "mussel" or "mussel shell," but evidence that this was 
translated into "Spoon" is not given. There have, moreover, been 
other meanings attributed to the name "Maquon" and other explana- 
tions given for the name "Spoon River." "Maquon" has been said 
merely to mean "Big," hence "Big River" in contrast to a "Little 
River" that was one of its tributaries.^ One who settled on the 
Spoon River as early as 1823, while Indians were still there, said 
that the Indians called the stream "Ma-quon-sip-pi," which meant 
"Hickory River."^ 

Certainly it is true that the river at one time abounded in 
mussels,"* and accumulations of mussel shells may be found in 
ancient Indian village sites throughout the valley. Indians used these 
shells as "spoons."^ Also, it is true that a word like "Maquon" was 
used to name the river on maps made long before English speaking 
settlers displaced the Indians and the French pioneers.^ But the 
question about the meaning of Maquon will have to be settled by 
someone who knows something about the languages of the I Mini, the 
Kickapoo, the Sauk and Fox, and the Potawatomie, all of whom in 
historic times had some kind of claim to the river valley before it 
was named "Spoon." 

However, there may be another explanation for the origin of 
the name "Spoon." It may have come from an incident described 
in an Elmwood Messenger article, which was reprinted in the Gales- 
burg Republican Register on June 30, 1877: 



105 



106 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



The Elmwood Messenger is publishing a series of "Pioneer 
Sketches," the last of which is entitled "Spoon River." Mr. Levi Ellis, 
founder of Ellisville, Fulton County, a cooper by trade, and a very early 
settler in that part of the country and w/ho contrived to establish the 
most friendly relations with the Indians who still numerously dwelt 
about him, is represented as thus accounting for the manner in which 
Spoon River derived its name: "The Indians," said he, "called it Ma- 
quon-sip-pi — that means the Hickory River, but it was called Spoon 
River by a party of surveyors, who camped one night below at Babylon, 
six miles from here. They took turns at cooking and washing the 
dishes, and one of them named Gage, after washing the dishes, threw 
the water from the steep bank where they camped, into the river, which 
was high at the time, and with it the half dozen spoons, all they had, 
forgetting that they were in the bottom of the dishpan. He saw his 
error when it was too late — spoons and dish-water both pitched away. 
The stream was deep, and the current strong, therefore there was no 
use trying to recover them, and so the Ma-quon-sip-pi got the name 
of Spoon River, which it is likely to hold for the future."'' 

Levi Ellis came to Fulton County in 1823 and stayed at the 
home of the first settler in the northern part of that county.^ Indians 
were still in the area when he built his first home and when he laid 
out the village of Ellisville, where he erected in 1829 the first mill on 
the Spoon River. He was very familiar with the river, especially with 
that segment of it where he said the incident of the losing of the 
spoons occurred.^ To support his story there is impressive docu- 
mentation. 

To begin with, before 1816, when the United States land office 
surveyors first reached the river, the name "Spoon" was not used on 
any map of Illinois or of the Northwest Territory or of North 

America. Words like "Mequen" were used.^° 

Immediately after the completion of the surveys of the Military 
Tract in 1817, the name "Spoon River" appeared on maps. Further- 
more, cartographers that first used this name gave special credit to 
the notes of surveyors, implying that these were new maps based on 
information newly derived from the surveyors' records. More specific 
note should be taken of the first three maps to use the name "Spoon." 

The first is Map of lllinoise [sic] Constructed from ttie Surveys 
in ttie General Land Office and Other Documents. By John Me/ish. 
1818. Melish labels the river: "Micouenne or Spoon River." This 
new name is particularly significant because in 1816 Melish had 
published a IVIap of the United States that used the words "Semi 
Quan" and "Demi Quan" (note the sound of the last two syllables 
in each case), and on that map he had labeled the area between the 
Mississippi River and the Illinois River "Army Lands 3,500,000 
acres." This 1816 map was published while the survey of the "Army 
Lands" was under way; his 1818 map was published after the surveys 
were completed. "Spoon" does not appear on the map of 1816; it 
does appear on the map of 1818.^^ 



THE NAMING OF SPOON RIVER 



107 




The Upper Spoon River. Photo by Jack Bradley, courtesy of the Peoria Journal 
Star. 



Next is Map of the Bounty Lands in Illinois Territory, by John 
Gardner, Chief Clerk, General Land Office. C. Schwarz, sc. Dist. of 
Columbia. There is no date on this map, though bibliographers 
have dated it 1817. This is possible. The surveys of the Military 
Tract were completed in June of 1817. Gardner had access to the 
surveyors' notes. His office would have had immediate use for such 
a map. This map names the River "Spoon" and in no other way.^^ 
It is true that Vogel cited this map as authority for his statement 
that the "English translation" of "Spoon" was in "use by 1812," 
and he dated the map "1812-1818." In this he erred. The informa- 
tion on the map about the completed surveys was not fully available 
until June of 1817 at the earliest. Information about the surveys 
in the area of the Spoon River could not have been reported until 
after April of 1816. The map could not have been made in 1812; 
the earliest it could have been made was 1817. 

Also, there is A General Plat of Military Lands between the 
Mississippi and Illinois Rivers from the Official Surveys . . . by 
Nicholas Biddle Van Zandt, late a clerk in the General Land Office 
of the United States. There is no date on this map, but it was prob- 
ably issued to accompany his book on the Illinois military bounty 



108 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

lands which was published in 1818. He named the river "Spoon" 
and used no alternate names such as "Mequen."^^ 

In fact, the first use of the word "Spoon" to designate that 
river is to be found in the field notes of a land office surveyor, 
recorded in the Spring of 1816. The first surveyors to reach what was 
to be called the Spoon River Valley were the parties headed by 
Enoch Moore and his brother John Milton Moore. In March and 
April of 1816 they extended the Fourth Principal Meridian north 
from the base line for forty miles to the north boundary of these 
Townships: North 7; Ranges: West One and East One. They also 
surveyed the exterior or boundary lines for the townships immedi- 
ately joining this segment of the Fourth Prime Meridian. ""^ Toward 
the end of this surveying expedition John Milton Moore and his 
Crew reached the general area where Levi Ellis was later to locate 
the episode of the loss of the spoons. On April 8 and 9, 1816, Moore 
made these entries in his field book: 

North between T 7&7 N, R 1&2 E along East boundary of Sect 36, 
T 7 N, R 1 E. This mile . . . chiefly Lake in Prairie 

April 8, 1816 

North along the East Boundary of Sec. 13, T7, R 1 E 

12.38 [chains and links] set a post on the Bank of the river 340 Iks 

[224 feet] w. r. S.E 

47.00 entered a Ik 
55.00 quit lake^^ 

The notes readily suggest that this surveying party camped on the 
night of April 8, along the banks of the river, when the stream was 
flooded and hence running strongly. The conditions fit the descrip- 
tion by Levi Ellis. 

John Milton Moore and his brother Enoch had good reason to 
be doubtful about any existing maps of the Illinois River Valley. 
Only the preceding autumn they had lost out on a surveying assign- 
ment because the contract had been based on false assumptions 
regarding the course of the Illinois River.^^ Even if J. Milton Moore 
had carried one of the available maps with him on this trip in 1816, 
he could not be sure which of the streams vaguely located on those 
maps might be the river that he had seen on April 8, that he had 
measured and that he had precisely described with the surveyors' 
coordinates, for the first time ever. In his notes Moore did not give 
a name to the river. 

A name would be given to the river by another surveying crew 
that was also in that area about the same time. The second party 
took over where Moore left off, filling in the details for the town- 
ships that Moore had laid out, such as marking the interior section 
lines, tracing the "meanders" of the Illinois River, and observing also 
the "meanders" of this tributary stream that they encountered as 



THE NAMING OF SPOON Rl VER 109 

they imposed their rectangles on the landscapeJ^ 

The leader or "Deputy Surveyor" of this second party was 
William H. Bradsby,^^ who started surveying on March 23, 1816, 
two days behind the Moores, but remained in the field more than a 
month longer than the Moores, until after the middle of MayJ^ 
About three weeks after he started surveying, Bradsby came into the 
township where J. Milton Moore's party had located the "river" 
that was left unnamed in Moore's notes. On April 17, 1816 Bradsby 
made this entry in his field book: 

East On Random Line Between sect 12; 13 T5N R1E 

35.50 [chains and links] a lake 300 Iks wide 

40.00 set Temp. 1/2 mile post 

72.50 a river 4.69 wide bears from N.W. 

80.20 intersect Range line 

Then the surveyors returned west: "On true line Between sections 

12:13 T5N R1E at 2.90 a river * 4.69 Iks wide at 42.50 a lake 

300 Iks wide." The asterisk in the second quote was in the original 
and referred to this further note at the bottom of the page: "this 
river from the best information I can get must be (River La Quen) 
or [these parentheses are in the original] Spoon river is a beautiful 
stream and appears to be navigable for crafts of considerable burthen 
— the water appears to be clear & beautiful." 

This is the first time the name "Spoon" was given to the river.^° 
A week later there was in Bradsby's record a second use of the words 
"Spoon River," followed this time by the letters "L Q" which were 
crossed out thus: "y-Qr."^'^ At this time he was tracing the meanders 
of the river. Thereafter he sometimes used only "Spoon" as the name, 
but on May 3, 1816 he used "The River La Quen" as the preferred 
nomenclature, as in this note: "North Between sect 13;14, T7N, 
R1E, at 49.50 * River La Quen (or Spoon River) 402 links wide." 
The asterisk in the original referred to this note at the bottom of 
the page: "This river though it is a beautiful stream will not admit 
the navigation of crafts of any size further up than Section 24 Town 
7N. Above that it is full of falls and rapids. It appears to be a very 
fine river for fish and its bank lined with huge rocks of a most 
superior quality for grindstones and coal beds appear plenty on the 
banks.""^^ This entry was made very near the site recorded by Moore 
and also near the location of the loss of the spoons as reported by 
Ellis. 

One may interpret Bradsby's use of the name "Spoon" as a 
translation of "La Quen," but the use of that word to identify 
this stream may well have referred to the incident of throwing 
spoons into the river as related by Levi Ellis. 

If Ellis' story is to be accepted, then sometime in late March or 
April of 1816 a member of the crew of either John Milton Moore or 



110 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




The Spoon River, showing the Bernadotte Mill in the late nineteenth century. 



of William H. Bradsby emptied the dishwater with half a dozen 
spoons into the river. Thereafter, "Spoon" was the word used to 
identify a river about whose name they were otherwise unsure. If 
the episode occurred with Moore's crew, then it could readily have 
been told to Bradsby's party during the days when both groups were 
in the same vicinity. 

In any event, the name first used in Bradsby's notes persisted. 
At least three of the surveying parties that advanced further into the 
valley of the Spoon River in the late summer and autumn of 1816 
used this name for the river. Two of these crews were those given 
the important responsibility of enlarging the grid for further surveys 
by lengthening the Fourth Principal Meridian to the north and by 
establishing from it at right angles four standard parallels, two west 
to the Mississippi River, two east to the Illinois River. These latter 
two lines had to cross over the Spoon River. 

One of these standard parallels, thrust east from the meridian 
to the Illinois River, came out on September 1, 1816 "on the side 
of the Bluff in plain view of Fort Clark, "■^^ which had been built 
during the War of 1812 at Lake Peoria. The leader of this party was 
Deputy Surveyor Amos Wheeler. On August 27, 1816 his crew had 



THE NAMING OF SPOON Rl VER 1 1 1 

crossed (and measured) a stream 132 feet wide, "Current rapid. Bed 
Rocky, Sandy banks. High on the E side."^"* He did not name it, 
but two days and fifteen miles farther east he came to a high prairie 
with a fine view, and he made this entry in his field book: "North 
is a fine picturesque country beautifully diversified with timber and 
Pr. agreeably uneven .... This Pr. suppose to be the dividing ridge 
between the waters of Spoon River and Kickapoo Creek. "^^ 

A second standard parallel was marked east to the Illinois River 
six townships or thirty-six miles farther north by Isaac E. Robert- 
son^ and his party. On September 23, 1816 he put down a post at 
the corner of Sections 34 and 35, T 15 N, R 6 East and made this 
note: "S. of this corner is a point of timber 1/4 mile distant 20 Iks 
wide runs S-W. Supposed to be the headwater Spoon River. "•^^ 
Robertson remained in the field to divide the area between the 
two parallels into townships, generally at the latitude of Townships 
10-11-12 North. Here in November of 1816 he made note of the 
"Mequon or Spoon River."^^ 

Meanwhile, farther south, where Moore and Bradsby had started 
the survey, the crew of Jonathan Dimick expanded the rectangular 
lines toward the Illinois River, and as the meanders of the tributary 
river were encountered they were given the name "Spoon" often, 
and no other name.^ Hence, it is quite evident that between March 
of 1816 and the end of that same year the river became "Spoon 
River." 

There are impressive circumstantial details in Ellis' narrative, 
unlike the more vague "legend" reported by Josephine Craven 
Chandler a century after Ellis settled in Fulton County. "^^ The 
"half dozen" spoons corresponds nicely to the number of men 
likely to comprise a surveying crew: Deputy Surveyor, two chain 
carriers, two axe men, and a camp keeper. Ellis even named the man 
who threw the spoons into the river. Though this man, "Gage," is 
not named in the field notes, neither are the other crewmen, except 
for the chain carriers, who had to be sworn to their duties.^^ 

As this demonstrates, the historical documents are consistent 
with the story of Levi Ellis about the naming of Spoon River. More- 
over, he was at the place in time to know what he was talking about 
and had contact with an even earilier witness. Other sources are also 
consistent in chronology and geography with the event he described. 
Thus, the founder of Ellisville provided a plausible explanation as 
to how "Spoon" was substituted for "Mequon" as the name for 
the river. 

NOTES 

Virgil J. Vogel, Indian Place Names in Illinois, Pamphlet Series No. 4. (Springfield: 
Illinois State Historical Society, 1963), pp. 62-63. 



7 12 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



9 

Josephine Craven Chandler, "The Spoon River Country," Journal of the Illinois 
State Historical Society, 14 (October 1921 -January 1922), 255—329. This reference is 
to pp. 273-76. 

Galesburg Republican Register, June 30, 1877, p. 1. 

See the excellent essays on the natural history of Fulton County by W. S. Strode, 
M.D., particularly in the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Fulton County, 
II, edited by Jesse Heylen (Chicago; Munrell, 1908), pp. 627-31. 

Whenever shells were available they were used in their natural form as dippers and 
were wrought into spoons." "Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico," edWed by 
Frederick W. Hodge (Washington: 1910), Part II, p. 626. 

c 

A river corresponding to the present Spoon River, as related to other features such as 
Lake Peoria, the Mississippi River and the Rock River, appeared on nnaps late in the seven- 
teenth century. It can be traced throughout the eighteenth century on the nnaps in the John 
Finley Collection on the History and Romance of the Northwest in the Knox College 
Library, Galesburg, Illinois. 

Galesburg Republican Register, June 10, 1877, p. 1. 
p 
Captain David Barnes, a veteran of the War of 1812, came up the Illinois River in 

the spring of 1819 to Fort Clark (Peoria). In 1821 he settled temporarily near the mouth of 
the Spoon River and then at Lewiston and then near Canton. Thus this host of Levi Ellis 
was in that part of Illinois within two years of the time it was being surveyed by the federal 
government. For the pioneer career of Barnes see History of Fulton County (Peoria: Charles 
Chapman and Co., 1879), pp. 197—202. In the same work see the biographical information 

on Levi Ellis; particularly for this reference, p. 724. 
q 
History of Fulton County pp. 615—725. Babylon was located on the southwest quar- 
ter of the southeast quarter and the east half of the northeast quarter, and part of the north- 
east quarter of Section 14, of Lee Township. Historical Encyclopedia and History of Fulton 
County, p. 689. Lee Township was Township 7 N, Range 1 E. 

A New Map of Part of the United States of North America Exhibiting the Western 
Territory, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, etc. Also, the Lakes Superior, Michi- 
gan, Huron, Ontario & Erie, from the Latest Authorities. By John Cary, Engineer, 1805. 
Published London, June 1, 1805. 

On this map there are three rivers that could by general location and relation to other 
geographical features be regarded as the present "Spoon River." They are labeled: "Saga- 
mond R.," "Mine R.," and "Se Seme Quan." 

A new publication of this Cary map in 1811 made no change in this area. Still another 
edition, in 1819, added another stream, parallel to the Se Seme Quan; the new stream was 
named "Demi Quan." Notice that the last three syllables in both these names approximate 
the sound: "Mequen." 

Another interesting map is that of John Melish: Map of the United States (Philadelphia, 
1816). This map has the "Semi Quan" and "Demi Quan" where the names "Mequin" or 
"Spoon" would later be located. 

John Melish, Map of the United States (1816). The Finley Collection has a photo- 
static copy of the map in the New York Public Library. 

1 2 

The Gardner map in the Library of Congress, from a copy in the Finley Collection 

at Knox College. 

1 o 

Map in the Finley Collection, Knox College Library. An alternate name persisted 
on some maps. The river was labeled "Mequin or Spoon R." on the map Illinois by A. 
Finley (Philadelphia, 1824), and repeated by the same cartographer in 1831. The name 
"Mequin or Spoon River" was used on Map of the States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois 
with the Settled Part of Michigan by S. Augustus Mitchell (Philadelphia, 1834). 



THE NAMING OF SPOON RIVER 1 13 



14 

This prime meridian is an important feature of the American landscape. It would 

reach to the northern boundary of Illinois, be lengthened to become the north-south axis 

of all surveys in Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota, even leap the western part of Lake 

Superior and stretch to the border with Canada. 

In western Illinois, in the old Military Tract, this surveyors' line is a kind of spine along 

which eight of the counties have boundary lines. 

Box 268 of the field notes of the federal surveys in Illinois, pp. 119—22. These 
manuscripts are in the Illinois State Archives, Springfield, Illinois. 

1 fi 

In November of 1815 John Milton Moore, Enoch Moore, and John Messinger 

initiated the surveys of the military bounty lands. To do this they were instructed to estab- 
lish the Fourth Principal Meridian and the point where the base line would run at right 
angles to that meridian. This being done the Moores were to start surveying township lines 
in the area east of the meridian as far as the Illinois River and south of the base line. This 
proved to be impossible. 

As instructed, Messinger and the Moores ran a line from the juncture of the Illinois and 
Mississippi Rivers north for seventy-two miles. The assumption that this line would cross the 
Illinois River proved to be wrong. The surveyors found that the point was in the Illinois 
River, where the Fourth Meridian and its base line accordingly began. 

This meant that there was no land east of the meridian and south ofvthe base line for 
the Moores to survey, and they set out on a long trip back home, frustrated by the false 
geographical information about the Illinois River Valley. Other crews did start to survey 
lands west of the meridian and south of the base line. John Messinger to Edward Tiffin, 
Clinton Hill, Illinois Territory, November 20, 1815, and Enoch Moore to Edward Tiffin, 
St. Clair County, on the same date in Territorial Papers of the United States, compiled and 
edited by Clarence Edwin Carter (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1948), 
XVI, 248-51. 

Book 277 of the Illinois field notes. 

18 

Bradsby was a protege of the master surveyor and mentor of surveyors John Mes- 
singer. He recommended two men at this time, when surveyors were in great need, and 
indicated he would proceed to employ them: "They (William H. Bradsby and Isaac E. 
Robertson) have each of them spent some considerable time with me in the theory of 
surveying, and they have likewise been with me in the field. The former is about 30 years 
old — the latter about 23 — and in reputable standing in point of morals." (John Messinger 
to Edward Tiffin, Jan. 12, 1816 in The Territorial Papers of the United States, XVII, 
283-84. 

19 

With his departure, surveying in this area was interrupted until the following autumn. 

Because full foliage obscured vision, surveying was not feasible during the summer season, 

even if the surveyors had been able to endure the insects in the humid heat. 

20 

Field Notes Book 277, pp. 116—18. Four chains and 69 links approximate 310 

feet. The river was obviously swollen to flood size, 
^^bid., p. 148. 
^^Ibid., p. 196. 
"^•^Ibid., Book 274, p. 94. 
^'*lbid.,p. 58. 

^^Ibid., pp. 74-75. 

26 

Robertson, like Bradsby, was a student and protege of John Messinger; see note 18. 

■^^Field Notes, Book 274, p. 163. 

•^^Ibid., p. 188. 



114 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



"^^Ibid., Book 278, pp. 129-71. 

^°Chandler, p. 276. 

Thus J. Milton Moore had administered this oath: "We James Moore and William 
Stallings do solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God that in all measurements and 
surveys in which we may be employed as chain carriers that we failthfully and impartially 
execute the trust in us. So help us God" (follows title page of Book 268). The need for 
fidelity is suggested by the words of an oath administered to the "fore chainman" and "hind 
chainman" by James Campbell (Book 267, p. 334): ". . . we will level the chain and plumb 
the pins so as to obtain the true horizontal distance." 

There is an unusually full listing of the members of a surveying party in Book 135, pp. 
47-48 ("Field Notes of the Continuation of the Fourth Principal Meridian in the State of 
Illinois" (November, 1831). In addition to the Deputy Surveyor, there were two chainmen, 
one "axes Man," one "flag man," one "camp keeper," and one "packman or baggage 
master." Only the chainmen were sworn. Given the special importance of their survey, this 
seven-man crew may have been somewhat larger than ordinary. 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S 
DIARY OF A JOURNEY TO ILLINOIS 



James K. Bracken 



In 1835 Nathan Burton, his wife Sarah Fenn Burton, and their 
children emigrated from Connecticut to Illinois along a well-traveled 
2,200 mile route which featured the most modern transportation 
facilities at the time— steamboats and railroads to Philadelphia, the 
canals and railroads of the Pennsylvania Main Line system to Pitts- 
burgh, and finally steamboats to St. Louis and QuincyJ The Burtons 
covered the distance in twenty-five days, half the time required for 
comparable journeys by keelboat and wagon in 1817 and a third of 
the time needed for trips by wagon alone. ^ Yet despite the modern 
transportation, particularly of the Main Line route, the journey was 
difficult for the Burtons. In her diary Mrs. Burton describes travel 
conditions which must have been shared by many families going 
west at the time. 

The Main Line system of canals and railroads, linking Phila- 
delphia with Pittsburgh in 1834, was an inadequate engineering 
response to the transportation problems caused by Pennsylvania's 
mountains. Its 395 miles included four sections: a railroad from 
Philadelphia to Columbia on the Susquehanna River; the Middle 
Division Canal, following the Susquehanna to Harrisburg and then 
the Juniata River to Hollidaysburg; the Alleghany Portage Railroad 
from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown; and the Western Division Canal, 
following the Conemaugh and Alleghany rivers to Pittsburg. The 
complete length of the Main Line officially opened on October 6, 
1834, only months before the Burtons traveled it."^ 

Mrs. Burton's descriptions show the basic shortcomings of the 
Main Line in its early operation. The repeated transfer of passengers 
and freight from railroad cars to canal boats caused delays and in- 
conveniences. In their first hours on the Main Line (April 11), the 
Burtons were separated from their baggage and only resecured part 
of it by the time they reached Pittsburgh. The remainder finally 
turned up a month later (May 19) after the family was temporarily 
settled in Fairfield (Mendon), Illinois. Further logistical problems 
stemming from the varying speeds and passenger capacities of the 



115 



7 16 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

canals and railroads bottlenecked traffic, especially at the junction 
of the Middle Division Canal and the Alleghany Portage Railroad. 
Only a few families from their party and the Burtons' older sons 
found space on the April 15 cars. The rest of the Burtons were 
forced to "spend one day at least to wait for the Transportation 
cars" to carry them over the mountains. While fifty cars served 
the Alleghany Portage in its first year, this number was insufficient 
for the route's increasing volume of passengers and freight.'* 

Traveling conditions along the entire route were generally 
crowded. The Burtons, without their baggage after the first day, 
could not have been comfortable for their remaining days and nights 
on the Main Line. Even without it, however, Mrs. Burton noted that 
they were so crowded on the canal boat that the passengers could 
"scarcely stir, all lay in heaps in the Cabin" (April 12). Conditions 
later for deck passengers on the Ohio River steamboat Iowa were 
little better. "When we go to rest," remarked Mrs. Burton, "the Deck 
is covered" (April 22).^ 

Besides its inconveniences and difficult traveling accommoda- 
tions, Mrs. Burton reveals that the Main Line was considered by some 
to be more dangerous than other routes. Charles Dickens, who 
traveled the Main Line in 1842, said that the Alleghany Portage was 
"not to be dreaded for its dangers" and, in fact, his journey was 
without incident.^ Mrs. Burton, on the other hand, witnessed cars 
on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad "run off the track" 
and passengers thrown "headlong among the Iron Rails" (April 11). 
On April 24 she reported that they heard "that many and distressing 
accidents have occurred on the [Alleghany Portage] Rail Road since 
we crossed"— men crushed to death in collisions and cars coming 
within inches of disaster. Aboard the Iowa Mrs. Burton reflected on 
the choice of the Main Line route to Illinois. "Some who have 
travelled the Erie Canal Route and this," she wrote, "give this the 
prefference, but I think that route has fewer, what we call, dangerous 
places, than this, therefore I should certainly choose that route, 
were I to come again" (April 25). 

As can be expected, Mrs. Burton and a seasoned traveler like 
Dickens disagreed about traveling conditions on the Main Line. It 
is likely that the feelings and thoughts of many of the emigrants 
during the period resembled Mrs. Burton's. Dickens was confident 
that, his American journey completed, London and publication of 
his notes awaited him. Mrs. Burton, however, embarked for Illinois 
knowing only that behind her were "many acquaintances and friends 
that I had not expected ever to meet again in this world" (April 1) 
and that all security ahead depended on the physical and spiritual 
strength of her family and community. 

Sustaining the Burtons and their party through the trials of the 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 1 17 



journey was a determination to survive, shown in the general ob- 
servance of domestic rules and customs. Mrs. Burton forbids her 
children to attend a New York "Museum" and a Philadelphia 
"Theatre" (April 9) and separates her family from "a world of sin" 
(April 19) where people labor, swear, and drink on the Sabbath. 
More significant, however, are the group's prayer meetings, which 
were organized as often as conditions permitted, with the head of 
each family taking a turn as leader. Throughout the journey the 
Burtons' party tried to remain a New England community, if not 
in fact, at least in spirit. Perhaps like many of Illinois' New England 
colonists of the 1850's, the Burtons had been urged by earlier 
settlers— their former Yankee neighbors— and western Congrega- 
tionalist pastors "to come and help to save the West for God."^ 
In any case, they brought with them Yankee ideas of morality and 
culture and endeavored to cultivate them on the prairie. 

In a very real sense, the Burtons' community arrived intact in 
Illinois and there discovered other communities which were nearly 
identical to the ones left in Connecticut. The Burtons were tempo- 
rarily taken in by Connecticut Congregational ists who had come to 
Adams County in 1831 and established the town of Fairfield in 1833. 
Fairfield was, according to Mrs. Burton, a New England village of ten 
or twelve families transplanted and thriving on the Illinois prairie. 
The settlers had organized a Sabbath school and weekly prayer meet- 
ings in April of 1832, nearly a year before founding the Guilford 
Church— the first Congregationalist church to be formed in Illinois. 
Prior to this no church in Illinois was organized initially as Congre- 
gationalist.^ 

By the fall of 1835 the Burtons and some of the other families 
which had made the journey with them— the Cooks, Terrels, and 
Adkinses— settled near the boundary of Hancock and Schuyler 
counties. In 1836 they established the town of Plymouth and organ- 
ized a Congregationalist church, meeting at the homes of the Burtons 
and the Terrels until the church building was completed in 1837. 
Their Fairfield friends supplied a minister once a month to preach 
to them. A Sabbath school, organized in the spring of 1835, fell 
under the management of Nathan Fenn Burton who expanded its 
services by establishing missions in the surrounding area.^ 

When Nathan Burton died in 1849, his family was firmly estab- 
lished. Nathan Fenn Burton inherited his father's land outside Round 
Prairie. One of the first acknowledged abolitionists in the area, he 
operated an underground railroad station at his home. Slaves escap- 
ing from Missouri were hidden in a basement beneath his kitchen. ^° 
Another son, Daniel W. Burton, served for twenty-four years as 
secular agent at the American Missionary Association's Mendi Mis- 
sion on Sherbro Island off Sierra Leone. Among his many accomp- 



118 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




The home of Nathan and Sarah Burton was just east of present-day Plymouth. 
This photograph shows the summer kitchen, which had a basement where 
slaves were hidden. 



lishments was the raising of the boy later baptized Barnabas Walker 
Root, who was taken to the United States and in 1864 enrolled at 
Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Daniel W. Burton and also 
Nathan Fenn Burton, whose own sons were one year junior to Root 
at Knox, acted as Root's guardians and intermediaries with the 
American Missionary Association. Root graduated from Knox in 
1870— the first black to graduate from an Illinois college— and 
from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1873.^^ 

Sarah Fenn Burton's diary was passed to her daughter, Nancy A. 
Burton Whipple, the wife of Edward Whipple, whose farm was 
adjacent to that of Nathan Burton. It remained in the hands of the 
Whipple family until 1957 when Margaret Burton Edmunds, great 
granddaughter of Sarah Fenn Burton, gave it to the Knox College 
Library. 

The diary consists of fifteen stabbed conjugate and disjunct 
leaves, measuring 17 by 19 centimeters. All manuscript spellings have 
been preserved in this edition. Obvious omissions, however, have 
been corrected in brackets. Errors of addition have been identified 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 119 



with [sic] . The manuscript's punctuation has been retained for the 
most part. IVIrs. Burton consistently omitted punctuation, particu- 
larly at the edges of the leaves. Punctuation has been added silently 
where an accurate reading demanded it. 

Wednesday April 1st. 1835. Started from home about 3 Ock. 
afternoon. Arrived at my Mother's in Plymouth in the evening. 
Stayed with her until Tuesday the 7th. On Sabbath eve a meeting 
was held at the Schoolhouse in Terry Ville professedly on our 
account, when prayers were offered up to God on our behalf, and I 
trust we parted with our Plymouth friends in friendship and good 
feelings. Tuesday morning at 7 Ock. took my final leave of my dear 
Mother. Parted with my dear Sisters the day previous. Arrived in 
New Haven towards evening. Saw many acquaintances and friends 
that I had not expected ever to meet again in this world. 

Wednesday 8th. At 7 in the morning embarked on board the 
Steam Boat Superior, Capt. Stone. Our company consisting of 42 
souls are now sailing down the Sound all in good health (colds 
excepted). ^^ Have just passed Milford and Stratford. Eleven Ock. 
Have passed Bridge Port & Norwalk. What a day this. My dear 
Brother who brought me and my family to New-Haven, came on 
board and bade me farewell. With what sorrow I parted with him, 
a kind and loving brother. May a kind Providence ever provide for 
him and his and I sincerely hope the time may come that we shall 
yet meet on earth [and] spend many happy days of joy to gether, 
but if not may we at last meet in heaven. 

Thursday 9th. A beautiful morning. Last night lodged on board 
the boat we came to New York in. This morning walked through a 
number of streets a mile or more and went on board the Steam-Boat 
Swan, Capt. [blank] for Philadelphia at 7 Ock.^^ A beautiful Boat 
but crowded with passengers. At ten left the Steam Boat. Took a 
seat in a Car, and for the first time in life went on a Rail Road. 
Beautiful riding, but it seemed to me hazardous. We went at the rate 
of one mile in 3/4 minutes. Went this thirty-six miles to Amboy, 
then took the Steam Boat Trenton, Capt. Jenkins, for Philadelphia 
and arrived there at [blank]. ^"^ Waited on board till night in order 
that our husbands might make arrangement to proceed on our 
journey as speedily as possible. God has been thus far very merciful 
to us and prospered us on our way beyond what we could have 
anticipated, and let our hearts be warm with gratitude to him for 
every expression of his goodness to us as well as for this. Thursday 
night lodged at [blank]. Left there at eleven on the morning of 
Friday and marched through several streets to Broad Street. Stopped 
at Mathew's Hotel. Mathews being the name of my dear Mother I 
derive a sort of pleasure from the circumstance of embarking from 



120 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



this house. The children in our connpany are very noisy but not 
quarrelsome. While on board at N. York an acquaintance Mr. [blank] 
came on Deck to see us, warmly solicited me to allow my children 
to go with him to walk and to the Museum. Yesterday a new ac- 
quaintance, a person of gentteel appearance asked me to permit my 
daughters to go with him to the Theatre here in Philadelphia.^^ I 
refused in both cases and I pray God in mercy to give me and my 
children resolution and above all, grace, to withstand every tempta- 
tion to evil. 

Saturday 11th. Was awaked by the cry of fire. The fire was in 
the same street with us and but a little distance from us. I had a full 
view of it while lying on my pillow. It was the first view of the kind 
I ever witnessed. The alarm of the bells ringing, men hallowing, 
engines playing, dogs barking, the flames ascending, and all display- 
ing a most terrific appearance. How it reminded me of that day when 
the trumpet shall sound. Will the Lord in mercy prepare me for that 
day, and may every day be spent as tho it were the last. let me 
never forget the horrors of the past night, but let me improve every 
passing event in a manner that will benefit me and my family, and 
glorify my God. We are to start on Rail Road at 8 for Columbia. 
The Company all well. Have paid our passage to Pittsburg. Started 
at 8. Every [thing] went smoothly for upwards of 40 miles when a 
number of the cars run off the track. The car the Emigrants were in 
and on fell and precipitated a number of persons that were on the 
top headlong among the Iron Rails. No essential injury was done to 
any person. Two of the cars were broken. One was left. The one we 
were in was able to pass on and we arrived just at sunset at Columbia 
and found to our great surprise that the two Cars which contained 
our baggage had been left almost back to Philadelphia, contrary to 
our expectations and contrary to the firm contract of the Agent 
whose recipt we took when we paid him between 5 & 6 hundred 
dollars for the safe conveyance of ourselves and our baggage to 
Pittsburg. ^^ I think it the duty of Individuals and Companies thus 
imposed upon to bring these men to an account for their conduct, 
or else publish them their proceedings to the world that other 
emmigrants and tra[ve]llers may understand with whom they have 
to deal and act accordingly. I think we erred in paying before hand. 

Sabbath morning, 12th.^^ So much crowded that we can scarcely 
stir, all lay in heaps in the Cabin. The children say 3 or 4 cry inces- 
santly. How shall we spend this Sabbath acceptable to God. The 
boat continues to move. We have just passed Harrisburg. Have no 
opportunity to view the country, and I find I have not much in- 
clination. The safety of ourselves and our children together with 
the anxiety we feel on account of our baggage being left behind 
occupies all our attention. May the God of all the families of the 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 121 



earth protect us from harm and especially from sin the greatest of 
all evils. May he in mercy help us to keep this sabbath holy. 

Monday 13th. Kept the sabbath in a most unholy manner. Made 
up our minds to have religious exercises on board partly owing to 
the absence of the Capt. in the forepart of the day whose permission 
we thought it proper to ask, and partly I fear from indifference. He 
was present in the afternoon and gave us permission to hold a meet- 
ing. We were about to commence and had invited a Mr. Lawrence, 
a Methodist Minister who is journeying on to Illinois, to preach to 
us, when we were deterred by hearing that the boat was soon to 
cross the Susquehanna River, and we were aware that it must of 
course very much interrupt our meeting and indeed spoil it.^^ Of 
course we had no meeting, a circumstance to be lamented. May the 
Lord in mercy pardon our indifference, and incline us to be more 
zealous in his cause. In the afternoon we had a great fright. A knock 
of the boat was so hard that [it] broke the gate to a Lock through, 
and by the splashing of the water and the screeches of passengers 
we in the Cabin feared that many of our children on deck must have 
been knocked overboard. Indeed we almost knew they were. It was 
soon however ascertained that no one was hurt. When in great danger 
and sudden alarm, we fear and tremble, but how soon forgotten. 
Grant Lord we may have thy fear ever before us that we sin not 
against thee. This morning rainy, the first rain we have had since 
we started. 12 Oclock. It has cleared off very pleasant. Today have 
passed Lewistown. This is a very romantic country. I have viewed 
but a little. We are on the Alleghany Mountain. What a world of sin. 
People appear to follow their usual occupations on God's holy day. 
We have heard less profanity than I expected, but yesterday several 
large decanters and bottles were filled by the waiter from this Cabin's 
Closet and carried in to the gentlemen's Cabin. I was sorry to witness 
it and feared the consequences. This Canal Boat is called Doctor 
Lehman, Capt. Morgan, a very pleasant and accommodating man 
(eighty passengers on board, fifty of whom are for Illinois). This 
morning found some yarn in my basket and began to knit a little, 
and clothing all left behind. Know not when it will arrive. Perhaps 
never. 

Tuesday 14th. Last night had our families collected in the Ladies' 
Cabin. Had a chapter read, and singing. Then a prayer was offered up 
by Mr. Hart who with his family is going to Jacksonville as steward 
of the College. ^^ This morning we were at a place called Huntington. 
We did not see much of the place. The buildings we saw were of 
brick and stone four stories high. They appear singular, the buildings 
generally, except in the large towns, being the most miserable look- 
ing things for dwellings that I ever saw. This morning assembled our 
households in the Cabin. Read the scriptures, and a prayer was made 



122 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



by Mr. Lawrence our Methodist friend. All are well except Daniel. 
He canne into the Cabin early in the morning quite sick with the 
headache, and connplains greatly of pain in his eyes. The weather is 
quite cold to day here on the mountain. Considerable ice, and it 
snows. Indeed a good fire is necessary to make us comfortable here 
in our tight little Cabin. Thirty two lodge in this little room and 
there is not room scarcely to stand when we are all in. Daniel groans 
and I fear he is going to be very sick. 

Wednesday 15th. Last night had evening devotions in the Cabin, 
led by Mr. Lawrence. Arrived at Hollidiesburg about 10. Slept on 
board. Tedious night. Cold weather. The Harbour or basin frozen 
over in part. Breakfasted on board, standing. Soon after left the 
boat, bade the Capt. farewell and walked to the Hotel to spend one 
day at least to wait for the Transportation cars to carry us on Rail 
Road over the mountain thirty six miles, to the other part of the 
Canal that is to land us at Pittsburg. Daniel quite sick and I very 
much fear a bit of sickness will be the consequence. I suppose his 
sickness was occasioned by his bad lodging, exposure to the cold 
night air &c. 1 Oclock. Daniel better. We have dined at the Hotel on 
tough Old hens. We can stay here 24 hours for one dollar each. 
Part of our company have gone on. Mr. Raynolds' family, Mr. 
Lawrence's family, and Nathan, Henry, Charles, and Andrew have 
gone along with them in the Cars, to remain at John's Town for us. 
I have a thousand anxieties on their account lest they should be hurt 
while we are separated from them. I think it a wrong step for parents 
and Children to separate while journeying. The cares and anxieties 
and [sic] great enough while we keep to gether, but how infinitely 
are they increased when we are parted and our inexperienced boys 
sent on among strangers. Whether we shall ever meet again is known 
only [by] him who directs all things. I wish to be resigned at all 
times but find it hard. Took tea at the Hotel and had comfortable 
lodging for a part of us. The remainder fared as they could. 

Thursday 16th. All well this morning. Breakfasted at the Hotel 
(good breakfasted). Started at 9 to cross the Mountain. Carried over 
in a wonderful manner, part of the way by stationary steam Engines, 
called Locomotives, part of the way by horse power, and part of the 
way, by nothing at all, where the level as it [is] called, is a little 
descending. At half past eleven we reached the top of the Allegany 
Mountain. At half past two came to the Conemaugh River, the first 
we have seen of the western waters. Passed a village called Guinea. 
A great many log huts. I was told by the Capt. that this place had 
grown up with the Rail Road within the last two years, and was 
called Guinea in consequence of the proprietor being a coulered man. 
This Rail Road is a most surprising work. The first Car was run 
through thirteen months ago, and now it is filled with Cars loaded 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 



123 




A Norris locomotive of about 1840, which was famous for surmounting the 
Belmont incline on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. 




^ :J^s^fiEt-it ■*<*«^ KTJ —r i 



An Ohio River steamboat of 1837. 



124 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

with passengers, or luggage. ^° Some carry fifty passengers, as was 
the case with the one our sons came on yesterday. No accident 
occurred. At twenty minutes past five arrived at what is called the 
Tunnel. The Rail Road runs through the mountain 320 yards, solid 
rock. The mountain over the each is more than nine hundred feet 
in depth (a dark place in the middle, 3 minutes in passing). ^^ 

Friday morning 17th. Last night stept out of the Car into the 
boat. Met with our sons all well. Found the boat so crowded with 
passengers that three of our families, Mr. Adkins, Mr. Hatch, the 
Engineer and ourselves went on shore to wait for another boat and 
our baggage. We traveled through the street, mud and snow more 
than ancle deep, to the public house where we were comfortably 
lodged. The weather this (Saturday) morning is somewhat pleasant, 
tho cold. The mud frozen up and the ground covered with snow. 
Yesterday it snowed hard a considerable part of the way over the 
mountain. This place in John's Town, a place of considerable note, 
being the head of navigation on the west side of the Allegany Moun- 
tains. Breakfasted at the public house. Went on board the Canal 
boat Belvidere, Capt. Orcutt, at about 2 Oclock in the afternoon. 
Found a very comfortable place. 

Saturday 18th. Came near to the dam, a dangerous place, about a 
week since a boat went over the dam and the Capt. was drowned. 
12 Oclock. An accident has just happened. We had passed the dam 
and just about to enter the Tunnel when the horses attached to this 
boat, by some means or other fell into the Canal. They struggled 
hard and finally by the help of the passengers, one was saved. The 
other was drowned. The boat was then drawn by hand about two 
miles. We went through The Tunnel, that is, the Canal goes through 
the mountain eight hundred feet. We passed under a man's house, 
barn and well of water, and good farm. The Canal then crossed over 
the Conemaugh River, which having received the Indian Creek, is 
now as large as the Housatonic. We pass smoothly along. Very little 
noise. No crying of children, and not very much crowded. Pleasant 
company, and on the whole we pass our time as pleasantly as could 
well be imagined. Abiah complains of the headache and is quite 
drooping. Sarah and myself cough badly. Our baggage behind yet. 
Of course we have no clean clothes yet. Icicles on the sides of the 
mountains. Indeed we passed one place where the side of the moun- 
tain was literally covered with ice. 

Sunday 19th. Passed over the Allegany River in the Aqueduct 
and landed this morning at Pittsburg. Had prayers this morning on 
board the boat, offered by Husband. Have very still house kept by 
Mr. Fluck. This place seems more like New England than any we 
have yet been at. The bells ringing for Church, and Sunday School. 
Twenty 7 Churches, all well filled and it is said that there isuncom- 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 125 



mon attention at this time paid to Religion. We have passed only one 
house that we thought the house of God, in coming through the 
whole state of Pennsylvania except in the large towns as Philadelphia, 
Lancaster &c. 

Monday 20th. Last night had prayers in our room, offered by 
Mr. Hatch. After we had gone to rest, in the night had a hard thunder 
shower. To day is pleasant, and we expect to go on board a Steam 
Boat for St. Louis. We stay in this house for STA cents per day, 
each one. Abiah is better having had a severe sickness of about two 
days and nights. I have been very unwell myself but this morning am 
better. Went out today some. Purchased six Bibles for our children. 
Showery weather. 

Tuesday 21st. Part of our goods arrived. Eight boxes back. 
Every family has a part of their goods back. Great imposition prac- 
tised upon travellers. Good house where we are, and kind people. 
Last night had prayers in our room, offered by Mr. Adkins. One of 
their children sick, such as ours were. Have been out to day and saw 
wonders. The Nail factory is a surprising piece of machinery, pro- 
pelled by steam. Have paid one dollar and 1272 cents at the silver- 
smith's. Have just heard that the next day after we crossed the 
mountain, the rope broke and a Car of baggage went back down the 
mountain and was dashed to pieces, and the wheels to a Car of 
passengers were broken. So we find that accidents do occur on the 
Rail Road. (At noon) Have seen an old scholar, Mr. Leverith Kasson, 
also a Mr. Root of Woodbury. Have seen some cheese made by Mrs. 
Martin Lewis of Ohio, and brought here a few days since by Mr. 
Elmathin Galpin. 

Wednesday 22nd, at sunset. Have spent this day and last night 
on board the Steam Boat Iowa, Capt. Belmont. A very crowded 
Boat. When we go to rest, the Deck is covered. The bell has rung. 
We expect soon to sail. Our goods have just arrived. Where we shall 
next land we know not. It may be in Eternity. 

Thursday 23rd. Held a Temperance meeting on board the boat. 
Appointed Officers. Sung a hymn. Husband President. Mr. Hatch 
Secretary. 28 members. Past Wheeling. 

Friday 24th. All well and going forward fast. This morning 
passed Galliopolis and Point Pleasant which lies at the mouth of the 
Great Kanahwa River. Appletrees in full bloom. Forests green. A 
merciful God has so far carried us safely on our journey. We have 
heard by passengers that came in the Cars and after us, that many 
and distressing accidents have occured on the Rail Road since we 
crossed. In one instance the cars took five and seventy trunks only, 
out of three hundred were saved. Some families lost all the property 
they possessed. We have heard of two being killed in consequence of 
having their legs crushed, and one man was instantly crushed to 



126 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



death, just as the Car was entering the Tunnel. Men were at work in 
the Tunnel when we passed and appeared to be pounding at the rock 
at the bottom. When these passed they were doing the same and 
it seems that a little stone flew and lodged on the rail. It instantly 
turned the Car off the track and crushed the man, and the Car came 
within 3 or 4 inches of being precipitated down the precipice. 

Saturday 25th. This morning at Cincinnati. A grand place. On 
the opposite shore lie Coventry and Freeport, divided by the Licking 
River. ^^ A gentleman came on board this morning and found us out. 
He said he would try to persuade the Capt. to stay till he could send 
a man or go himself on his own horse and let Doctor Beecher know 
that we were here, and he would surely be here shortly, but nothing 
would induce the Capt. to stay a moment.^ Indeed our husbands 
think him the most savage man they ever saw, and he possesses no 
disposition to accommodate his passengers in any respect whatever. 
What a great undertaking to move to Illinois. Some who have trav- 
elled the Erie Canal Route and this, give this the prefference, but I 
must think that route has fewer, what we call, dangerous places, 
than this, therefore I should certainly choose that route, were I to 
come again. In every boat we find people who are moving on to 
Illinois. Some very pleasant. Here is a family on board going there. 
Ten in number. Quakers. One Lady in her eightieth year. We have 
become acquainted with them and find them very intelligent and 
interesting. They are going to Rushville where they have three sons 
settled. We have just passed the mouth of the Great Miami River. 
On course. We are now against Indiana. A great part of our way has 
been through a very mountainous, country. The mountains are high 
and steep, and in many places, the Coalmines are almost at the top, 
and the inhabitants, live in log cabins on the banks of the rivers, 
at the foot of the mountains. They have narrow railroads, just for 
their little black Cars, to bring their coal down the mountain. 
These Rail Roads appear to be some what steeper than a pair of 
Connecticut stairs, and extend in a straight line almost to the clouds. 
It makes me dizzy to gaze at them. Every thing here goes by steam. 

Sunday 26th. This morning found ourselves at Louisville. A great 
and growing city. Large, elegant brick buildings. Seven front doors 
in each story, to the one opposite the place where the boat lay. 
Every one we see is pursuing his usual occupation on this holy day. 
This morning the boat entered the Canal to get round the Rapids in 
the Ohio. It is a most surprising work. The walls of hewn stone, at 
the locks exceed any thing of the kind I ever saw.^"* We passed safe, 
guarded by that Almighty arm that alone can save. After we were on 
the River again, it was thought proper to assemble our families and 
have some religious exercises. A chapter was read, and some other 
reading. A prayer was offered by Mr. Hatch, and several hymns were 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 127 



sung, I must just mention an incident that tool< place last night to 
show how many things there are to distract us on our journey. 
When collecting our family for supper Daniel was missing. One place 
and an other searched but nothing could be found of him. The 
alarm was great. Every place but one searched, and we supposed he 
must be in the River, but how far back we knew not for we sailed 
very fast, and knew not how long he had been gone. Finally a little 
place was thought of where the boy goes to scour the knives, and 
there Daniel was found helping the little boy. In one case Henry 
was missing. It was at John's Town after we had got on board the 
Canal Boat. We supposed he must have fallen into the Canal, and 
our alarm was very great. I think I may say that I have heard more 
profanity on this boat, than all I ever heard in my life before. 

Monday 27th. All well this morning. Daniel had a severe cholic 
last night, but is now over it and well. How thankful ought we to 
be for every mercy and yet how unthankful. We get along pretty 
fast and so far safely. We expect to reach St. Louis Wednesday 
morning, nothing happening to prevent. Our passage from Pittsburg 
to St. Louis costs us sixty-five dollars. 2 oclock in the afternoon. 
Have now passed the mouth of the Wabash River. Of course we are 
now sailing along the bank of Illinois. The country looks promising. 
The foliage of the trees is thick and in blossom. Grass up, what in 
Connecticut we call good full bite for cattle. The Captain has 
stopped to take in wood. The male passengers have about all gone 
on shore, the first time of setting foot on Illinois. There is great joy 
on all hands. Some come to the boat loaded with flowers. Six kinds. 
Some come with corn stalks of last years growth. Very brown. 
The tops are broken off where the stalks are as large as a yankee 
cornstalk, and still they are eight feet high. Husband says it is the 
richest soil he ever beheld in his life. 

Tuesday 28th. Three weeks since we left Plymouth, and we have 
now entered the Mississippi River. Stopped again for wood. Men 
went on shore again to make more discoveries. Brought more flowers, 
particularly the Papua, the branch of a kind of tree I never saw 
before. ^^ It hung quite full of blossoms, and it bears fruit that some 
people are very fond of. They brought Spicebush, violets and beauti- 
ful Licheadies, or nichniddys, much large[r] than the common ones, 
of a light lilac color, and very fragrant. They grow wild. Our men 
measured a tree. It is twenty eight feet in circumference. We are 
all well. 

Wednesday 29th. All well. Weather yesterday and today extreme- 
ly warm. Weather I should think as warm as July in Connecticut. 
We are getting up the Missisippi slowly. We are now detained for a 
few hours to have the engine repaired. The Ladies have gone on 
shore to make new discoveries. They find a new plant with pods 



128 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



as large as mustard or turnip. This year's growth and filled with 
seed. Full growth. They find a plant resembling mint in looks but 
smelling like penerial. 

Thursday 30th. All well and going slowly up the river. Money 
stolen last night. A search on board. No discovery, altho the minds 
of all concerned appear to be satisfied who is the rogue. The money 
found, the one suspected proven to be the rogue. Arrived at St. 
Louis about ten this evening. A splendid place, built principally of 
stone. Many boats lying at the bank of the River. 

Friday May 1st. This morning prepared to leave the boat and go 
on board one bound for Quincy. Found two Cousin Tharps here who 
had come early from Marine Settlement, to market.^ They were 
urgent in their request that we should go home with them twenty- 
five miles and spend the summer with them. They offered to carry 
us home, and provide for us and our things. On account of our 
things which would have to be moved again, it was thought best to 
go first to Quincy as we expect to settle in that region, and visit 
our Cousins afterward. Consequently we came on board this boat 
and here we find our former friends Mr. Lawrence and family from 
whom we parted at Johnstown. They tell us of a sad accident that 
happened on their boat. A man fell overboard and was lost at Louis- 
ville. He had a mother and family on board. His body could not 
be found. We have been oblidged to part with most of the company 
we started with. Mr. Hatch, Cook, Adkins and Raynolds have gone 
up the Illinois. ^^ 

Saturday 2nd. All well this morning. Going up the Missisippi, 
pretty fast, for us. A sick child on board, from Kentucky. I fear the 
child must die. It is eight months old. The parents appear pious. It 
is their only child. Afternoon. Mrs. Terrel is quite unwell. Another 
sabbath is at hand, and will the God of mercy help me to keep this 
Sabbath holy. Have interesting conversation on various subjects. 

Sabbath 3rd. Mrs. Terrel better. I breakfasted as well as usual. In 
the forenoon felt something unwell. Could eat no dinner. Grew 
alarming ill towards evening. Arrived at Quincy just at evening. 
I could not walk or stand alone, but was got on shore and into a 
waggon, and supported by husband I rode half a mile to a temper- 
ance tavern and was laid in bed for the night. •^^ I think I can say 
that I very little expected to see the light of another day. Henry too 
was taken very sick. Our disorder was a diareah which seemed to 
prostrate us at once. The inhabitants at the Inn were very kind to us 
and showed us every kindness possible. They told us that almost 
everyone that, underwent the same affliction, that it was owing to 
the bad water we had taken on board the boat. 

Monday 4th. Spent at Mr. Brown's the Temperance inn. Was 
unable to sit up at all. Thought I probably should never move from 



SA RAH FENN BUR TON'S DIA R Y 129 

there. No appetite, loathed everything; Henry on a mattress at nny 
feet, no better, and Abiah very sick of the same disorder, on another 
bed in the same room. All the family disheartened. Mrs. Terrel 
homesick as possible according to her own words. Our prospects 
were truly dismal, but the Lord reigns. This I know, and that my 
Redeemer lives, and he alone can send deliverance. 

Tuesday 5th. A little better. Able to sit up. Henry a little better. 
Abiah better. Afternoon rode with a Mr. Burton to Fairfield to Mr. 
Piatt's, sixteen miles.^ Felt better, till I had rode about ten miles. 
After that grew tired. Rode too far. Could eat no supper. Had a bad 
night. Very faint. Thought I should not get up again to be as com- 
fortable as I had been. The family kind. The rest of our family and 
Mr. Terrel's excepting Maria safely arrived. Mr. Terrel doctors us and 
is very kind.'^^ Henry better. 

Wednesday 6th. (Thunder) Better. Went on horseback more than 
a mile to Mr. Bradley's where we were to take up lodgings for the 
present.'^^ Found it very snug. Neat Cabins, and what is more, kind, 
agreeable people. We are comfortably situated, and will the Lord, 
add to these mercies. Thankful hearts, in each of us. 

Thursday 7th. (Thunder) One month since I left my dear 
Mother's. We are all better but Abiah. She seems not quite so well. 

Friday 8th. (Rainy) I am still better. Rebecca and I have washed 
our dirty clothes. Henry pretty well again. Abiah much the same. 
Nathan taken very sick of the headache and a high fever. Sarah un- 
able to sit up. People extremely kind. Col. Baldwin, has made us a 
visit. To day Dr. Brown and Lady have both visited us, and invited 
us to go to their house.^"^ 

Saturday 9th. (Pleasant) Children about the same. Sent for Mrs. 
Terrel to come and see them. Husband gone with Mr. Bradley's son, 
to Quincy to get some of our baggage. Young Mrs. Bradley has called 
to see us. A very pretty woman. 

Sabbath 10th. (Pleasant) The first sabbath spent in Illinois. 
Family better. Husband, Self, Sarah, Henry, Daniel, and Rebecca 
went to meeting in a great waggon which carried thirteen persons. 
The meetinghouse is of logs and it was pretty well filled with an 
attentive, and apparently devout audiance.^"^ I should think the 
people manifest much more engagedness in Religion here than the 
generality of Christians do at the east. Mr. Clark the Baptist minister 
preached in the afternoon from Ephesians 2nd. 8th. "By grace are ye 
saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of 
God." The forenoon was spent in prayer, that is a prayermeeting in 
the meetinghouse. In the evening. Dr. Brown called on us and took 
Daniel home with him to stay a while. 

Monday 11th. (Clear) Went with husband across the Prairie five 
miles, to Mr. Hardy's the minister of the town."^ He has gone to 



130 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




1 



The Burton family gravestone in the Round Prairie or Burton Cemetery, east 
of Plymouth. 



SARAH FENN BURTON'S DIARY 131 



attend the assembly of Ministers at Pittsburg and from thence to 
New Hampshire to visit his parents, and regain his health which is 
poor. Engaged to live in Mr. Hardy's cabin for the present. Mrs. will 
stay with us two or three weeks, then she expects to go to Jackson- 
ville to spend the summer with her mother. She has a babe three 
weeks old. To day Charles, Maria and May Terrel visited our children 
at Mr. Bradley's. Family all better. 

Tuesday 12th. (Cloudy) Pretty well. Put up all our things, and 
left our kind friends Mr. Bradley's family, to cross the Prairie for our 
new home. Arrived there about noon. Find it a pleasant home and 
Mrs. Hardy a fine woman. Our nearest neighbor and but a few rods 
off, is the good Baptist Minister Mr. Clark, with whom I hope we 
shall take sweet counsel and live in brotherly love. The inhabitants 
in this town are remarkably civil and decorous in their behaviour. 
Nay more. They are some of the best bred people I ever lived among. 
They are the best of New Englanders, twenty four families in number. 
They have their Sabbath school, their Bible Class and their weekly 
prayer meetings, their weekly female prayermeeting, and their Ladies 
Sewing Society, and what more I have not yet had opportunity to 
learn. All these seem to be entered into with uncommon interest 
and zeal. 

Wednesday 13th. (Pleasant) Nothing uncommon occurred. 

Thursday 14th. (Showery) Husband went to Quincy to get some 
of our things. Boys worked in garden some. Mrs. Clark visited us, 
and we had a very pleasant interview. 

Friday 15th. (Clear) All well. Our things or some of them arrived 
very safe. Find nothing injured except a few things broken. One 
plate, two wine glasses, two teacups, and one vial. 

Saturday 16th. (Clear) More of our things arrived. Some damaged 
a little. Our summer bonnets injured by mildew. 

Sabbath 17th. (Pleasant) Went to meeting. Heard a Mr. Hurlburt 
from Luke 15th. 8th. Likewise also I say unto you that there is joy 
in in [sic] heaven over one sinner that repenteteth, and from these 
words, he that hath not the spirit of Christ is none of his. 

Monday 18th. (Pleasant) Washed for Mrs. Hardy and myself. 
Mr. Terrel and wife came to see us. 

Tuesday 19th. (Showery thunder) Husband and Mr. Terrel set 
out to view the country, particularly their lots. The last of our goods 
arrived safely. No essential damage done to them. 

Wednesday 20th. (Showery) All well. Tired of looking over our 
things. 

Thursday 21st. (Pleasant) All well. Mrs. Hardy went visiting and 
we were left alone for the first time. Daniel came home to see us. 

Friday 22nd. (Pleasant) All well. Dr. Brown called to see us. 

Saturday 23rd. All well. 



132 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

Sabbath 24th. Rainy. All stayed at home from meeting. 

Monday 25th. Pleasant. Washed. Mrs. Hardy came home. 

Tuesday, 26th. Rain and thunder. 

Wednesday 27th. Rain and thunder. 

Thursday 28th. Pleasant and a little cooler but some lightning in 
the evening. It has thundered and lightened almost incessantly, at all 
hours of the twenty four for more than a week, one day excepted. 
Four children have died in this town since we came here, three in one 
family. Their death it is supposed was owing to fatigue in coming on 
the journey, and contagion taken on the River and Boat, likewise 
want of suitable care care[sic] and necessary comforts of life. While 
others have suffered, God who is rich in mercy has supplied our 
wants, and restored those of us that were sick to good health, and 
may a sense of daily mercies lead us to daily repentance for our sins, 
and renewed gratitude to the Author of all our mercies. 

Friday 29th. A pleasant morning. All the children but Abiah 
gone to Quincy to attend a protracted meeting, and that their 
souls may be benefitted by this meeting. Husband returned home at 
evening with Mr. Adkins. Brought a very favorable report of his lots 
of land. 

Saturday 30th. Pleasant morning. Cloudy afternoon. Husband 
went with Mr. Adkins viewing the country. 

Sabbath 31st. At home. Mr. Adkins spent the day with us. 

Monday June 1st. Heard blessed news from the meeting. Hope 
it may be true. Mr. Terrel and Cook came here after viewing the 
country. Have found no place that suits. 

Tuesday June 2nd. Children all returned from the meeting, and 
hope they have met with a blessing. They think they have given their 
hearts to their Saviour. 

Wednesday 3rd. Sent letters home to Connecticut by Miss Fowler 
who is now married to a Mr. Fuller and gone to Connecticut for a 
visit. 



NOTES 

Nathan Burton (1781 — 1849) was born in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Sarah Fenn 
Burton (1783—1838) was born in Plymouth, Connecticut. Both are buried in Round Prairie 
(Illinois) Cemetery. Their children were Nathan Fenn Burton (1819—1886), Henry Ludlow 
Burton (1821-1838), Daniel W. Burton, Rebecca B. Burton, and Nancy A. Burton. 

2 

The men of the Fairfield (renamed Mendon in 1839), Illinois colony, driving five 

wagons, required eighty-seven days in 1831 to travel from Guilford, Connecticut, to Quincy. 
John H. Baldwin, Mendon's First 100 Years. 1834-1934 (1934; rpt. Mendon, III.; Baldwin, 
1975), pp. 1—3. For further details on speed of transportation during the period see George 
Rogers Taylor, The Transportation Revolution, 1815—1860 in The Economic History of the 
United States, ed. Henry David et al., IV (New York: Rinehart, 1951), 132-52, 443. 



SA RAH FENN BUR TON'S DIA R Y 133 



Baldwin's is the most compreiiensive history of the Fairfield colony and is cited freely 
throughout this article. 

For contemporary descriptions of the Main Line see Joel E. Tarr, Philo E. Thomp- 
son's Diary of a Journey on the Main Line Canal," Pennsylvania History, 32 (July 1965), 
295—304; Charles Dickens, American Notes, introd. Christopher Lasch (Gloucester, Mass.: 
Peter Smith, 1968), pp. 170—80; and H. S. Tanner, A Description of the Canals and Rail 
Roads of the United States (New York: Tanner & Disturnell, 1840), pp. 97-98, 113-29. 
For other descriptions see William Bender Wilson, The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad 
Company (Philadelphia: Coates, 1899), I, 6-51, 95-152; Alvin F. Harlow, Old Towpaths: 
The Story of the American Canal Era (New York: Appleton, 1926), pp. 92—103; and 
Seymour Dunbar, A History of Travel in America (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1915), III, 
770-802. 

^Wilson, I, 116. 
5 
By purchasing deck passage and camping in the Iowa's midship, the Burtons were 

allowed to ride at a reduced rate. Deck passengers could reduce their fares even further by 
assisting in the work of the deck crew. For descriptions of deck passage see J. M. Peck, 
A New Guide for Emmigrants to the West (Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, 1836), pp. 
372—373; and Louis C. Hunter, Steamboats on the Western Rivers (New York: Octagon, 
1969), pp. 419-41. 

^Dickens, p. 179. 

Stewart H. Holbrook, The Yankee Exodus: An Account of Migration from New 
England (New York: Macmillan, 1950), p. 74. 
g 
For the settlement of Fairfield see Baldwin, pp. 1—8; The History of Adams County, 

Illinois (Chicago: Murray, Williamson & Phelps, 1879), pp. 537-40; and Atlas Map of 
Adams County, Illinois (Davenport: Andreas, Lyter, 1872), pp. 7, 127. For early Congrega- 
tionalism in Fairfield and Adams County see First Congregational Church, Mendon, Illinois. 
125th Anniversary. 1833-1958 (Mendon: The Church, 1958), pp. 1-7; "History of 
Churches in Adams County," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 3 (1910/1911), 
71—76; and "Presbyterians and Congregationalists," Journal of the Illinois State Historical 

Society, 12 (1919/1920), 11-19. 
g 
For the settlement of Plymouth and Round Prairie see E. H. Young, A History of 

Round Prairie and Plymouth (Chicago: The Author, 1876), pp. 1—35; Thomas Gregg, 

History of Hancock County, Illinois (Chicago: Chapman, 1880), pp. 578— 80;/4a7 Illustrated 

Historical Atlas of Hancock County, Illinois (Chicago: Andreas, 1874), p. 12; and Atlas Map 

of Schuyler County, Illinois (Davenport: Andreas, Lyter, 1872), p. 24. Young's is the most 

comprehensive history of the colonies and is cited freely throughout this article. 

"Underground Railroad," The Schuylerite, 5 (Spring 1976), 17-18. Also see D. N. 
Blazer, "The History of the Underground Railroad in McDonough County, \\\\t\o\%," Journal 
of the Illinois State Historical Society, 15 (1922/1923), 579-91. 

1 1 

Born Fahma Yahni, Root was the son of a chief of one of Sherbro Island's tribes, 

though his maternal grandfather was American born and one of the first blacks to be re- 
turned to Africa by the American Colonization Society. Dr. Hermann Muelder, Knox Col- 
lege Historian, is now examining the lives of Root and the Burtons and provided the infor- 
mation about them for this article. 

12 

No records exist for the organization which Mrs. Burton calls "Our company. It 

does not appear that the entire group intended to settle in a single colony. The membership 

roll of the Congregational Church of Round Prairie identifies the members of the company 

who settled near Plymouth and Round Prairie with the Burtons: "Mr. David Adkins and his 

wife Asenath; Mr. Benjamin Terrell and his wife Electa, with their daughters Marie and Mary 

M.; Mr. Samuel Kasson and his wife Almira; Mr. Lamarcus Cook and his wife Marietta. . . 



134 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Charles Terrell, A. C. Adkins, Norman Hart, Miss Martha Cook, Rosetta Cook, and Lydia 

B. Adkins." With the Burtons the membership totaled twenty-three. Only the Kassons and 

Norman Hart are not mentioned in the diary. See Young, pp. 33—34. 

13 

Sarah Fenn Burton left four blanks in her account of April 9, perhaps hoping to 

supply the needed details at a later moment. The omission of the name of her New York 

acquaintance, however, was probably intentional. 

14 

In fact, Mrs. Burton boarded the Camden and Amboy Railroad at Amboy and got 

off at Bordentown. 

15 

Only two theaters in Philadelphia were open on April 9, 1835. The Walnut featured 

The Gamester and Lady of the Lake while the Chesnut presented Soldier's Daughter and 

Gustavius III. Arthur Herman Wilson, A History of the Philadelphia Theatre, 1835—1855 

(New York: Greenwood, 1968), pp. 5, 135. 

1 f^ 

The amount likely included transportation for the Burtons' entire party, the "42 

souls" noted on April 8. Prices for traveling the Main Line varied with each agent. The 
Pioneer passenger line charged $10 per person in 1836. Leech's line charged $7. For details 
on the expenses of travel see Peck, pp. 364—74; and Taylor, pp. 141—44. 

On the Middle Division Canal. 

18 

The Susquehanna was bridged by a two-storied towpath. Extending 2,231 feet 

across the dammed river, its design allowed traffic to proceed in opposite directions. 

19 

This was Abram Hart, who became the keeper of the Commons at Illinois College. 

Harold E. Gibson, Sigma Pi Society of Illinois College, 1843-1971 (Jacksonville, III.: 

Sigma PI, 1972), p. 2. 

20 

The first single track was opened on March 28, 1834. A second track was not in serv- 
ice until May 10, 1835, after the Burtons had passed. The Alleghany Portage Railroad's 
only reliabile locomotive, the Boston, saw brief service at the end of 1834 and did not 
resume regular service until May. For a description of the line's locomotives and stationary 
engines see Wilson, I, 108-112, 121-25. 

21 

This was the third tunnel to be built in America and at the time the longest. 

22 

These are apparently corruptions of Covington and Newport. 

23 

This was Lyman Beecher (1775—1863), who had removed to Cincinnati in 1832 

to become the president and professor of theology of the Lane Theological Seminary. 

24 

This was the Louisville and Portland Canal, open to traffic in 1830 but not officially 

completed until 1831. More than a thousand steamboats passed through its locks in 1835 
alone. For a description of the Canal see Hunter, pp. 181 — 186, 233—234, 370—373. 

25 

Probably the papaw. 

This was probably the town of Marine (Madison County), Illinois, not any of the 

Marine, or English, Settlements established by Morris Birbeck mainly in Edwards County 

and southeastern Illinois. The town's name, however, likely derived from that of the Birbeck 

colonies whose inhabitants included former British sailors. 

27 

These members of the Burtons' party and their families traveled by steamboat up 

the Illinois River to Peoria and thence to Farmington. This division of the company was 

merely for convenience in obtaining temporary accommodations for the families, as they 

had decided to locate in the same area. Cook is Lamarcus Cook, born in 1794 in Plymouth, 

Connecticut. A farmer by trade. Cook was partly responsible for laying out the town of 

Plymouth in January 1836. 

28 

Rufus and Nancy Brown owned a half-log, half-frame tavern, "the brag hotel of the 

place," which stood at the corner of Fourth and Maine Streets in Quincy. For the lot Brown 



SA RA H FENN BUR TON 'S DIARY 135 



paid $7, the highest price paid for any of the lots around the Square. He received his tavern 
license — the town's first — in 1826 and renewed it annually for $10. A meal at the Browns 
cost 25i. a night's lodging ^2V2(i. The Browns were members of Reverend Asa Turner's 
Presbyterian Church, which became the First Congregational Church of Quincy in 1833, 
and services were often held in the Browns' home next to the tavern. The Browns, like the 
Burtons, were strong abolitionists. See William H. Collins and Cicero F. Perry, Past and 
Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois (Chicago: Clarke, 1905), pp. 
23—40; and David F. Wilcox, Quincy and Adams County History and Representative Men 
(Chicago: Lewis, 1919), I, 612-16. 

Mr. Piatt was Jirah Piatt, better known as Deacon Piatt of the First Congregational 
Church of Mendon. Piatt was born in Plymouth, Connecticut, and was one of the original 
Fairfield colonists. In the 1850's Piatt's home outside Mendon was an underground railroad 
station. Escaping slaves were conducted from the Reverend Asa Turner's homestead north 
of Quincy to the Piatt farm and from there carried by wagon to the next station, perhaps 
the Burtons' farm in Round Prairie. 

on 

Mr. Terrel was Benjamin Terrel (1793-1868), born in Watertown, Connecticut. A 
machinist and clockmaker by trade, he was unable to adapt to farming as a livelihood and 
consequently moved to Quincy in 1839. 

Samuel and Elizabeth Bradley were original Fairfield colonists. The First Congrega- 
tional Church of Mendon was organized at a meeting held in the Bradley home on February 
7, 1833. 

Colonel Benjamin Baldwin was an original Fairfield colonist. He helped survey and 
lay out the town in 1833. Dr. Calvin Brown was one of the first physicians in Mendon. 

33 

It is likely that this is Mendon's first church building, called the Union Meeting- 
Hall, erected earlier in 1835. Prior to it all services were held in settlers' homes. The building 
was a crude structure of round logs, with a split log floor and a great sod chimney. All 
denominations met together here on the Sabbath with a preacher from either denomination 
if practicable and often with none at all. The structure also served as a schoolhouse and 
public hall. 

This was the Reverend Solomon Hardy, organizer of the First Congregational 
Church of Mendon. It was founded with eighteen members. Hardy came to Fairfield in the 
spring of 1832 as a missionary, half of his time at the expense of the Home Missionary 
Society. See First Congregational Church, pp. 2—3. 



the memoir of 

william t. brooking, 

Mcdonough county pioneer 

Gordana Rezab 
Part 2 



The second part of the memoir of William T. Brooking covers 
the years 1844 to 1854. While in the first half he described his arrival 
in Macomb and removal to an isolated farm on an open prairie, the 
second half highlights his participation in the Mormon War, and his 
courtship and marriage. Throughout the entire period covered by 
the memoir. Brooking does not mention schooling, travelling, or 
entertainment other than hunting. Indeed, incidents related to 
hunting constitute a full half of his entire memoir, underscoring the 
importance of that occupation: as a source of food, a means of 
defense and survival, and a social and recreational activity. To the 
old man that William Brooking was when he dictated his memoir 
in 1906, the passing of the deer in 1860 meant an end to a way of 
life. 

In 1844 the militia was ordered out by Governor Ford to go to 
Carthage on account of trouble with the Mormons.^ I belonged to 
Capt. Creels company of Militia. It was the law in those days to 
muster twice every year, and Regimental Muster once a year. Every 
man eighteen years and over, was compelled to attend muster. 
Militia from all over the County went to Carthage and marched on 
foot. Marching in regular marching order we reached Carthage at 
night. We were ordered out for a period of ten days. The time of 
year was about the twentieth of June. Nothing of special note hap- 
pened on the march. Picketts were posted at night as they were 
expecting an attack. One of the men knew one of the men on picket 
duty, and in fun tried to take away his gun, and in the scuffle the 
gun was accidently discharged and one of the men was shot in the 
leg. It was at the court house fence and I never heard a man yell so 
in my life. 

One night we were ordered to lie with our guns, as an attack was 
expected. There came a hard rain, and as the tents would not turn 
water, many of the guns became wet. They were a motley collection. 
Some were flintlocks. The attack did not materialize, and next 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 137 



morning we were marched out on the commons and ordered to 
fire our guns. Only one gun in my entire company went off. What 
would have happened if the Mormans^ had attacked us? 

On the twenty-seventh of June"^ the whole army was drawn up 
in line. Governor Ford came along with Joseph Smith on his right 
arm, and Hyrum Smith on his left arm. He introduced them to the 
assembled army thus: "This is General Joseph Smith on my right, 
and General Hyrum Smith on my left." As they marched along many 
hisses were heard. Finally the Captain of the Carthage Greys mounted 
a wagon that was standing close by, and called for volunteers to 
take the Smiths out and hang them. A thousand hats went up in the 
air, with loud calls of "hang them, hang them." It was a great uproar. 
Governor Ford hurried them back to the jail and put a strong guard 
around the building. 

On the morning of the twenty-seventh of June 1844 the Smiths 
came and surrendered themselves, and they were taken to the jail. 
The troops were disbanded at eleven o'clock, and Bill McCartney and 
I started home at that time, and walked the twenty-five miles by 
sundown. Quite a squad of nightguards were put on duty to guard 
the jail. It is believed that they purposely loaded their guns with 
blank charges, for when they fired on the mob no one was hurt. 
The mob came a little after dark with blackened faces. The Smiths 
were ordered out but they refused to come. Joseph Smith leaped 
from a window and was killed. Hyrum was killed in the jail. This 
happened the night after I started home at eleven o'clock a.m. I 
always considered it a cowardly piece of work, the killing of the 
Smiths. The troops from this county were orderly, and in nowise a 
mob. It is not true that the militia went as a mob. The mob that 
killed the Smiths was made up of people from or near Carthage and 
Warsaw. Those people believed that Governor Ford was carrying 
water on both shoulders, favoring the Mormons when with them, but 
opposing them at other times. He was called a "Jack Mormon.'"^ 

In 1845 I went deer hunting and rode a little bay mare owned 
by Parker Hawkins. We started northeast and went along the creek's 
about five miles N.E. of home. I saw a deer in a hazel thicket, or I 
saw the eyes of one. I shot from off the horse and broke its neck. 
When I approached the deer a little spotted fawn ran out. I took 
after it, and ran it half a mile, and it could outrun the horse. It 
jumped in the creek and swam across, and I did not follow. I would 
have liked to have caught it and taken it home. I always regretted 
that I shot the doe. I did not know that she had a fawn. I went back 
to the doe and took it home. I made it a practice of never hunting 
on Sunday. 

In 1846 I went hunting over on the west side and fell in with 
an old man by the name Jacobi, who lived on the McLeod Farm. 



138 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

We went west through the woods and out at the north. The brush 
and saplings were so thick that it was hard to get thru on horseback. 
We dismounted and followed a cowpath when a big buck came up 
the path about fifty yards away. He stopped and we both fired at 
once and both hit the deer. He did not fall but was unable to run. 
He seemed very angry, as all his hair bristled up and stood the wrong 
way. We thought of looking for a tree to climb and get out of his 
way, but instead of attacking us he went into a little clump of small 
saplings, and began to horn and fight them. He soon fell over dead. 
This deer had very large horns and was the largest deer I ever saw. His 
horns were in what they called "velvet."^ This deer was killed about 
one hundred rods N.E. of the old McLeod house. We divided the deer 
and went home. 

In 1847 I had the hardest day's hunt I ever had. The men of 
Macomb made up a hunt. They selected twelve men on a side, and 
these twenty-four men were to put in the day hunting, and the 
twelve that got the least number of points were to pay for the supper 
and dance. The supper and dance to be at Ben Head's in Macomb, on 
West Jackson St.^ A deer counted forty scalps, a turkey twenty, a 
rabbit one, a prairie chicken one, quail one, and squirrel one. Ben 
Head was a noted deer hunter and I knew it and was determined to 
get a deer if possible. I started from home four and one half miles 
north of Macomb about sunrise. It was a pretty cold day with six 
inches of snow. I hunted alone all day.^ About the place where 
Jacobi and I had killed the deer, a wild turkey run out in front of 
me but I soon lost sight of him. I was after bigger game. My hands 
and feet getting very cold, I went to the Widow Miller's and warmed 
up, and of her I bought a pair of woolen mittens. I started from 
there and went down s.w. toward our old timber land, and there 
were plenty of deer signs. I could see where the deer had pawed up 
the snow under the trees, hunting acorns I supposed. On the ridge 
south of the Calahan place I saw three or four deer. I got down and 
hitched my horse. The deer were a quarter of a mile or more from 
me in the open woods. I got on my knees and crawled, trying to keep 
a big tree between me and the deer. I crawled thru the snow up 
within one hundred yards of them. I rested my gun up against a tree 
and took deliberate aim and fired. I missed and he ran away. I always 
thought that crawling so far in the snow was the cause of my miss. 

I went back and got my horse and followed the deer for two 
hours or more. At times I would lose the trail, and then again find it. 
The deer crossed Wigwam hollow^ probably about a hundred yards 
above the mouth of it. I had not seen them for the last mile or two 
but I followed their trail across the Wigwam. I followed the slope 
that runs up towards the present site of the McKee house. By this 
time it was about four p.m. and no meat yet. A big buck — not the 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 



139 

















Farm Residence of W. T. Brooking, fronn the 1871 Atlas of IVIcDonough County. 



one I had been following — jumped up about fifty yards ahead of 
me, but on account of the thickness of the brush I failed to get a 
shot at him. He ran very fast in the same direction the others had 
gone. When I got up on top of the hill south of the big hollow, I 
could see nothing of the old buck, but saw the three deer going up 
the hill on the other side of the hollow, but too far to shoot. I got 
down the hill and up the other side as quick as possible, and still on 
horseback. When I got up on the level I saw the three deer two 
hundred yards away. They were standing still and looking back. 
The horse I was riding was trained to stand fire, and he stood per- 
fectly still. I fired and hit one of the deer behind the shoulder He 
ran about a hundred yards. He dropped his tail down between his 
legs, a sure sign he was hit. Following, I found the deer had fallen 
against a hickory sapling and was dead. I cut his throat and let out 
the blood. It was now near about sundown, and I took out his 
entrails. I put the deer on the horse and he jumped from under it. 
This was repeated a half dozen times, and I almost exhausted myself 
trying to get the deer on the horse. I at last had to give it up and I 
hung him up on a tree high enough that the wolves could not get at 



140 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



it. This deer was killed about a mile west of where Thomas Brooking 
now lives, up on the level after crossing the hollow that runs North 
of the Marks house. 

I got on my horse and started for my brother-in-law, J. P. 
Updegraf's. Had my supper there and then went to Macomb to the 
supper and dance at Ben Head's. I had no dinner all day, and there- 
fore was equal to two suppers. The rest of the hunters had all arrived 
and when the scalps had all been counted our side won, and I was 
the only hunter that killed a deer. Ben Head tried to bring in two 
deer scalps that he had covered with rabbit blood, but he was de- 
tected and they were not counted. I went back the next morning 
and got my deer. Mike Martin went with me and the same horse 
stood perfectly still while I loaded him with the deer. I never could 
account for it. 

In 1848 I was up north of the present site of Good Hope about 
two miles, threshing with the old chaff piler machine.^ One night 
it rained so we could not work, and I went up to Old Quintus Walker. 
He was the most noted deer hunter in the country. He lived on the 
sixteenth section. ^° He had killed more deer than any man in the 
county at that time. He had a park with a high fence in which he 
had about fifteen deer. The fence was made of rails, set on end. He 
would frequently let his tame deer out in the cornfield, and they 
would return to the enclosure. Sometimes a wild buck would follow 
the does in, and he would kill them. 

While there I was talking to the old man about hunting, and he 
said he would get his dog and gun and show me how to kill deer 
on the prairie. We went out about two miles s.w. of his house on the 
open prairie. We saw half dozen deer a half mile away. We went up 
a ravine within eighty rods of them. We crawled in the grass until 
we got some closer. Walker put prairie grass in his and my hat when 
we commenced crawling. Finally he stopped and placing his cap on 
the end of the ramrod of his gun, he would raise it up and then 
lower it. He kept repeating this until it was noticed by the deer, and 
they, out of curiosity would keep coming closer. He would occa- 
sionally raise his cap and let it drop. All this time the deer were 
coming closer and closer. At last they were within one hundred 
yards and he fired and wounded one, which the dog was able to 
catch in a run of a half mile. This dog was well trained, and would 
creep along in the grass like his master. Quintus Walker said that if 
he had known as much about hunting deer, when he first came to 
the country, as he knew now, he could have killed a great many 
more than he did. 

In 1842 Alexander Hamilton Brooking, who was a second cousin, 
and I were making rails in the timber down the hollow that runs s.w. 
from Raridon's House. They were a half mile down this hollow. 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 14 1 



It was a winter day, but not extremely cold. We were using a yoke 
of oxen to haul the rails out. We had worked until noon chopping 
and splitting. We then built a fire and cooked our dinner of fried 
meat. After the meal we commenced chopping down a white oak 
tree that leaned up the hill. The tree was a foot and a half thru. When 
it began to fall we stepped down the hill about thirty feet. As the 
tree fell it struck another tree and a large limb from one or the 
other tree, was torn loose. It was four or five inches thru and fifteen 
feet long. I did not see it in time and it struck me just above the 
temple. My skull was fractured and I was unconscious, but recovered 
and was able to walk to the fire about twenty yards. At the fire I 
became very sick and vomited, and Alex said I would never be 
whiter when I was dead. I was pretty limber. In the meantime Alex 
had put some rails on the wagon for me to lie on, and I rode on these 
rails a half mile to the old Eyres place. A Mr. Long lived there and 
they got a sled and took me home. A doctor came soon after I 
arrived home. He bandaged up my head, and I was in the house for 
six weeks before I could get around. 

In the fall of 1848 camp meetings were very common in the fall 
of the year, and had been for several years. These camp meetings 
would attract people for twenty or thirty miles. William Stickle and 
I drove a little bay mare to an open buggy, and went to a camp 
meeting near Table Grove, Fulton County. It was mostly open prairie 
and just a few houses between Macomb and Table Grove. We were 
driving along very leisurely, when Walt Scott and Sarah Jane Stickle 
— he afterwards married her — drove up behind and undertook to 
pass, giving my horse a cut with a whip. We raced him a half mile, 
and finally passed him, but in turning into the road the hind wheel 
of the buggy brushed his horse's collar. It was a narrow escape from 
a wreck. It cured us from racing on the road. We arrived at the camp 
meeting ground about ten o'clock on Saturday. The camp was in the 
timber. 

On Sunday there was a big crowd, two or three thousand people. 
It was customary to feed strangers from a distance free of charge. 
This was done at all the camp meetings in those days. On Sunday 
a young man went into a trance. They carried him out and laid him 
on the grass in the shade, and he attracted a great deal of attention. 
He would raise himself about half up and then fall back and slap 
his arms on the ground. He remained in that condition until in the 
night some time before he came out of it. It was reported that 
he was in the habit of having these spells at all the meetings he 
attended." 

In August or Sept. 1849 there was a great camp meeting a mile 
and a half east of Industry in the timber. It was a beautiful place 
in a natural grove of hickory trees from six inches to a foot thru. 



742 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

The camp ground occupied about an acre of ground, something 
near a hundred yards square. The preacher's stand was situated on 
the north side of the seats. The seats were made out of slabs and 
boards. The preacher's stand was covered and the tents were arranged 
on the east, west and north in straight rows about forty to fifty 
feet from the seats. The space around the altar was covered with 
straw. There were a great many tents, and they had a shed covered 
with boughs and limbs of trees. The same kind of a shed [was] over 
the altar and mourner's bench. The horses were hitched to trees 
around in the timber. Some came in covered wagons and slept in the 
wagons. At night the ground was lit with torches. John Berry, a 
Cumberland Presbyterian preacher, and Tom Roach also a Cumber- 
land, was the principal Preachers. The meeting commenced on 
Tuesday and continued a week. 

George Walker of Greenbush, a friend of mine, was acquainted 
down in that country, having relatives there. I was a stranger, so we 
arranged to go to the camp meeting together, and I was to furnish 
the conveyance, a horse and buggy. We arrived at the camp ground 
at ten o'clock a.m. Saturday. I hitched my horse to a tree, and 
walked around on the north side of the seats. Preaching had begun, 
and we stood there looking over the great crowd of people. After a 
survey of the crowd, I leaned over and whispered to George: "Do 
you see that girl over there leaning against the hickory tree?" "Yes," 
said George. "Do you know her?" "Yes, I am acquainted with her." 
I said, "George, I am going to get acquainted with her before I leave 
this camp ground." I had never seen her before. George said, "I 
know her and after the meeting I will give you an introduction, and 
perhaps we can get our dinner with her folks." 

After the session was over, we started to discover them. Hun- 
dreds of people were eating and preparing their dinner. Finally we 
found her and her sister and others of the family. They had their 
tablecloth spread on the ground, and were preparing their dinner. 
When we approached, George introduced them as Louisiana and 
Mellisse Walker, his cousins. I was astonished that the girl I had 
noticed and pointed out was his cousin, but such was the fact. He 
had said nothing about the relationship, when I first referred to her. 
After dinner I contrived to have a stroll and a chat with her. 

We were at the camp ground until night, and then went to 
Sanders Campbell, about two miles distant, where George's mother 
was stopping. That was the farm upon which John McGaughy after- 
wards lived. We stopped over this Saturday night at Campbells, and 
next morning about nine o'clock we hitched up the horse to go to 
the camp ground. I was getting to like camp meetings pretty well. 
I tied the horse to the fence, and went in and informed George 
that I was going over to get the Walker girl, and take her to the 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 143 



camp meeting, and that he would have to go in the wagon with 
Campbells. About this time the Walker girl came up the lane carrying 
her dead sister's child, and bringing it over for Mrs. Campbell to 
care for while she went to the meeting. I asked her to go with me, 
in the buggy, to the camp ground, and so it was arranged. We were at 
the camp ground all day together, until four o'clock, and then I took 
her home. On the way home we met her brother, Orrin Walker, 
on his way to the meeting. We were at the Walker home until the rest 
of the folks came. We cracked walnuts. When the rest of the family 
arrived I was made acquainted with them. Next day, Monday, I 
again took her to the camp ground in the buggy. On the way over 
my horse, a sorrel mare that I had run down a deer with, balked. I 
got out of the buggy, took her by the head, and when she started, 
I jumped in the buggy on the go. 

When we arrived at the camp ground we found a large crowd 
there, and John Berry preached in the forenoon. He offers some 
books on baptism for sale and I purchased one. When it was time 
for me to depart for home, I told the Walker girl that I wanted to 
see her again, to which she consented, but no time was designated. 
However, in two weeks I was there again to see her, and from this 
time I was a regular visitor every two weeks. We took produce to 
Beardstown, on the Illinois river, sixty miles, and as the Walker farm 
was on the route, I made it convenient to stop, on my frequent trips 
to the river. On one occasion I took my father to Frederick, ^^ to 
take a boat on his trip to Virginia, and I stopped over night at the 
Walkers. About the first of November I informed the Walker girl 
of my intentions, and why I was coming there so much, and that I 
wanted her to marry me. She said she would let me know in two 
weeks. I was pretty sure of the outcome, and in two weeks I got a 
favorable answer. The next thing was to ascertain what the old 
gentleman, her father, thought about it.^^ When I asked him, he 
said "it is alright." 

The Walker girl wanted to put off the marriage for a year, and 
at the time I did not urge a nearer date. This was some time in 
November. On the Saturday before Christmas I went down on 
horseback to the Walkers. It was about fourteen miles from our 
home. I stayed until Tuesday night. At this time I urged her to 
shorten the time and suggested in the spring as the time. My Father 
was going to Macomb to go into the hotel. In the meantime I had 
hewed timbers for a house. The time for our marriage was set for the 
seventh of March, 1850, and we were married on that date, at her 
home on Camp Creek. The officiating clergyman was Billy K. Stuart, 
a Presbyterian. A large crowd of relatives and friends were present. 
The day was warm and pleasant. The next day we went to my 
Father's, four miles north of Macomb, where a large party and 



144 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




Mrs. W. T. Brooking 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 145 



supper was given, attended by a large number of young people. 
Those days it was called an "infair"^^ The next night Joseph P. 
Updegraph, who was the husband of my sister Elizabeth, and who 
was keeping a hotel in Macomb, gave a party and a very fine supper 
at the hotel. At the time of our marriage, I had completed my house, 
all but the lath and plastering, but did not move in. My father 
moved to Macomb, and wanted us to stay on the old place, so we 
went to housekeeping on the old farm, and was there until fall, and 
we then moved into our own house. 

In 1851, I was on horseback going to the election, which was 
held at what is now called the Copeland place, Macomb, Tp.^^ A 
man by the name of Elliot lived there. When I arrived at the place, 
one of the Elliot boys asked me if I had a dog, as he had wounded 
a deer and wanted a hound to run it down. The dog took the trail 
and run it about a half mile and jumped it up, and after a chase of 
two miles, caught it. 

By cutting across, on my horse, I was within a hundred yards 
when it was caught. A neighbor of mine, Parker Hawkins was there, 
and we put the deer on his horse and took it to Elliot's, and told 
them to dress it and we would take dinner with them. They were 
hoggish enough to keep the deer, altho it was not wounded, but one 
front leg was missing, below the knee, but was healed over smooth. 
It run very fast for a while on its three legs, but soon tired. The boy 
thought he had wounded it because it ran on three legs. 

My father and I were judges at the election, and had to stay until 
after dark. It was the darkest night I ever was out, and we could not 
even see our hands before our eyes. On the way home we became 
lost. I was riding the sorrel mare previously mentioned, and she 
would not keep the road. Out on the open prairie we were hopeless- 
ly lost, as far as knowing directions were concerned. The creek was 
north, and the open prairie on the south, and in that direction was 
our place. The mare bore off to the north and I found myself on the 
banks of the creek. I was completely turned around. I got off the 
horse to see which way the water was flowing, but could not get 
down to it. I got on the mare and aimed to take a s.w. course. 
We got too far south by a mile. I saw a light southeast, and surmised 
it was Old John Crabb's, two miles too far east. I then went due 
west. It was dark as pitch and tremendous foggy. I ran into a fence. 
I dismounted and hitched the horse to the fence, got over in the 
field and felt around to see if it was fall wheat. I pulled some of it 
up and tasted it to see if it was wheat. I decided I was just a mile 
east of home, as the wheat was ours. I started again, but was so 
confused I followed the fence in the wrong direction, and found 
myself away south in the brakes of the George Upp farm. I then 
turned back, and by following the fence in the opposite direction 



146 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



of what I thought was the right way, finally reached home. When I 
turned back from the brakes, the mare became frightened at a wolf 
or something, and ran away. I finally got the mare checked. When I 
arrived home my father and brother Edward were there. One of them 
walked ahead and kept track of the road. 

In 1852, I had an attack of chills and fever, and was unfit for 
work. I went horseback up about eight miles n.e. after some grey- 
hound pups, I had spoken for of a man by the name of Crawford. 
I got two pups, male and female, and both perfectly white. I brought 
these full blooded greyhound pups home in a basket. When they 
were about two years old they were perfect beauties, and I took 
them out for a chase, out west of the present site of Good Hope. I 
saw a deer about half mile away, and managed to get up quite near, 
when it leaped out of a slough where [it] had laid down. The dogs 
got a close start, and it took a circle, and I watched the case for 
three miles. I was on high ground and could see the chase for a long 
time. The last I saw, the dog "Bob" was about ten feet behind the 
deer, and "Miss" was about the same distance behind Bob. After 
losing sight of them I started home. Before reaching home the dogs 
came but I never knew whether they had caught a deer in their 
first chase or not. When I got near home, I saw a deer jump a stake 
and ridered fence a short distance from the house. The dogs saw it 
and made chase. After jumping into the road from the west, it 
jumped over the fence in the field on the east. They ran it s.e. until 
they struck the ridge, and kept down the ridge for a half mile. It 
then turned and came back and jumped the fence almost in the same 
place it started from. Just as it jumped or started to jump, one of 
the dogs caught her and cut the hamstring. Being unable to run the 
dogs soon killed it. I took it home and skinned it, and used the 
best cuts for meat. 

Soon after this Old Man Hayhurst asked me to bring the hounds 
over west, and go hunting with him. I went. I left my horse at 
Hayhurst's and we went afoot. We took the first hollow running s.w. 
from Hayhurst's. We were walking leisurely along when I saw a deer 
lying down on a hillside in some hazel bushes. I leveled my gun and 
fired. The deer jumped and staggered around, and Hayhurst said, 
"you have got him," but I will shoot at it and see if I can make a hit. 
So he fired and succeeded in hitting the deer. I was starting to the 
house after my horse, to load the deer on, and Hayhurst said, "he 
would stay and perhaps he would kill another." When I had gotten 
the deer to the house, Hayhurst came and said, "he had wounded 
another deer and to get the dogs after it." The dogs took the trail in 
the west part of Miller's timber, but caught it on our timber land. 
This hunt was in 1854 or 55. 

In 1850 some of my folks caught and raised a fawn. When it was 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 147 



about a year old, I was building a small two roomed house. It was all 
completed but lathing and plastering. The pet deer came into the 
house, and the hounds coming to the door, scared the fawn, and it 
jumped thru the window, carrying the sash and all with it. Later one 
of the boys set the dogs on the fawn and run it out of the neighbor- 
hood and doubtless killed it. Deer were very plentiful here in 1850. 
By 1860 one was rarely seen. 



The following postscript was written by Lucian Threshley Brook- 
ing, William's son. It was probably added in 1926 at the time the 
memoir was retyped. 

I can remember my mother as she looked at thirty years of age. 
A handsome woman, and it is easy to imagine how the Walker girl 
captivated my father on first sight. I have distinct recollection of 
the John McGaughy place, where my father lodged after meeting 
my mother at the camp ground, a long, low, old fashioned house 
with an enormous chimney built up on the outside of the house, as 
an outlet for the big fireplace on the inside. More than sixty years 
have passed, but I can remember the big mound made by the accu- 
mulation of chips from the woodchopping. 

In June 1925 my brother, William Alwin, and I visited the 
neighborhood of which I speak. ^^ The old McGaughy house, where 
my mother brought her sister's child, to leave so she could go to the 
camp ground with my Father, was gone, and the site only a corn- 
field. On the field on the opposite side of the road, we walked thru 
the small growing corn a few hundred yards west to locate the site 
of the log cabin of my grandfather where my mother was born. 
The very face of nature seemed changed, and it was hard for me to 
conjure up in my imagination that this was the place where my 
grandfather lived in 1864. We located the site by finding broken 
pieces of colored queensware, probably pieces of the very dishes my 
grandmother had in her cupboard. The same draw was there, but 
seemed insignificant to the one that lingered in my memory. 

While these reminiscences may have small value in a literary 
sense, they are a valuable collection to the one who, for the moment, 
can forget the present and live and revel in the past, and in the 
recollections of the splendid men and women who were our ances- 
tors. In presenting them to you this Christmas day, 1926, I can 
think of nothing more appropriate or more valuable. The life of our 
father, part of which is here given in his own words, is a heritage 
more precious than gold or treasure. 



148 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

NOTES 

The "Mormon trouble" or "Mormon War" was a conflict between followers of the 
self-proclaimed prophet, Joseph Smith, and the sect's non-Mormon neighbors. The conflict, 
which ultimately led to the murder of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, was caused by 
a clash in political, social, economic, and religious views held by the two groups. The Mor- 
mons, centered in Nauvoo, were a closed, elitist, and autocratic society. The non-Mormons, 
whom the Mormons called "gentiles," were rugged individualists who resented authority and 
mistrusted institutions. The resulting disturbances are considered one of the greatest histori- 
cal events in nineteenth-century Illinois. Open hostility subsided only after the main body 
of the Mormon population left Nauvoo in order to settle in Utah. 

The calling of the Illinois Militia in June of 1844 was in response to unrest in Hancock 
and the neighboring counties. The immediate cause of excitement on the part of non- 
Mormons was the destruction of a newspaper press located in Nauvoo which published a 
paper called The Expositor that was critical of Joseph Smith and the Mormon society in 
general. The underlying cause, however, was gentile mistrust of Smith's political motives 
and fear of the heavily armed Nauvoo Legion controlled by Smith. Contrived and real 
grievances regarding the plundering and harrassment of non-Mormons by the Mormons, and 
the envy of neighboring towns because of the remarkable growth of Nauvoo during the brief 
Mormon occupancy, also contributed to the hostility. 

9 

The variant spelling of "Mormon" is frequent in writings of Western Illinois layman 
historians and nineteenth-century residents. The word "Mormon" derives from the name of 
a prophet, who according to Joseph Smith, wrote a history of one of the lost tribes of 
Israel which found its way into the Americas. Joseph Smith's discovery and translation of 
this history is known today as the Book of Mormon. The name "Mormon" was, however, 
totally foreign to gentiles. Not knowing the origin of the word nor its spelling, the non- 
Mormons transcribed it the way it sounded, thus resulting in the form "Morman" which was 
phonetically close and more meaningful to the uninitiated. 

June 27, 1844, the day on which William Brooking mentions that the parade took 
place, is an incorrect date. There is great confusion in the McDonough and Hancock County 
histories regarding the sequence of events preceding Joseph Smith's death on June 27, at 
approximately 5:00 p.m. The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day 
Saints contains what appears the most precise chronology of events. According to this 
history the parade of Joseph and Hyrum Smith took place on June 25th at the express 
request of the McDonough troops who were curious to see the two men. A hollow square 
was formed by a company of Carthage Grays, acting as guards, and within that square the 
Smith brothers were introduced to the troops by Governor Ford. There are varying accounts 
as to what actually happened. While Brooking is quite explicit as to how the troops reacted, 
the church history does not mention any hisses, and attributes hostility only to "some" 
officers of the Carthage Grays. In his letter to Emma, his wife, dated June 25, 1844, Joseph 
Smith wrote; "This morning Governor Ford introduced myself and Hyrum to the militia 
.... There was a little mutiny among the Carthage Greys, but I think the Governor has and 
will succeed in enforcing the law." i-listory of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day 
Saints: Period I. History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 
1975), VI, 565. After this display of hostility on part of the troops, the Smith brothers 
were returned to Hotel Hamilton in Carthage where they had stayed since the night of June 
24. In the evening of June 26 they were forced to go to Carthage Jail where they were killed 
the next day. 

Brooking's recollection of the disbanding of the militia is basically correct. According 
to Governor Ford's History of Illinois he had "at first intended to select a guard [to protect 
the Smiths] from the county of McDonough, but the militia of that county were much 
dissatisfied to remain; their crops were suffering (due to an extremely wet spring); they were 
in perfect fever to be discharged; and I was destitute of provisions to supply them for more 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 149 



than a few days." Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois from its Commencement as a State 
in 1818 to 1847 (Chicago: S.C. Griggs, 1854), p. 344. 

Jack Mormon" was a derogatory term applied to non-Mormons who for pohtical 
or personal gain supported the Mormons. It was a term which was also applied to those 
non-Mormons who counseled lawful settlement of disputes. Thomas Gregg, History of 
Hancock County, Illinois (Chicago; Charles C. Chapman, 1880), p. 320. 

The soft covering of the newly developing antlers of deer and related animals. This 
annual renewal of antlers takes place in spring and early summer. 

The hotel and restaurant that W. T. Brooking refers to seems to have been the old 
St. Elmo, located on the southwest corner of Lafayette and West Jackson streets in Macomb. 
County histories are vague as to exact dates when this hotel changed owners and managers, 
but George Head was known to have managed the hotel some time prior to 1850 when the 
hotel was leased by Thomas A. Brooking. Since both George Head and B. B. Head are listed 
as heads of households in the 1840 Census, B. B. Head could have been Ben Head. The 1850 
Census lists Benjamin B. Head, age 39, a farmer. Assessor's books for the same year list his 
property in Scotland and Chalmers townships. The 1840 Census lists him, however, with 
families known to have resided in Macomb. There is no known confirmation, however, 
that Benjamin B. Head was in effect a hotel manager or owner. 

This hunt took place primarily in the southeastern part of Emmet Township. Martha 
W. Miller owned in 1850 the northeast quarter of section 14, while the Atlas Map of Mc- 
Donough County, Illinois, 1871 lists part of the southeast quarter of section 22 as Thomas 
A. Brooking estate. The Callahan and McKee properties were also in this general area. 

o 
The "Wigwam hollow" is not the creek along the Macomb street called Wigwam 

Hollow Road but rather the Wig Warn Branch which empties into the Lamoine River from 

the north, the mouth of the stream being situated in section 26, just northwest of Macomb. 

The threshing of grain initially consisted of two separate operations: removal of 
grain from the rest of the plant, and separation of kernels from impurities such as small 
pieces of stems and husks, called chaff. The latter operation was first done by hand. Gram 
was tossed into the air and the wind would be allowed to blow chaff and light-weight seeds 
away. Later this process, which was very time-consuming, was incorporated into threshing 
machines. Beaters would first separate the grain from the straw and husks and a fan would 
blow the chaff away while the kernels were shaken down a sloping tray. The power for 
these machines was first provided by men (a Ransom's hand threshing machine of about 
1840 was operated by four men), then by horses and finally by static steam engines. It is 
not clear what kind of power was used to operate the chaff piler machine mentioned by 
Brooking. Steam was used to drive machines already from 1840 on, but horse power was 
also used at least until mid 1860's. Percy W. Blandford, Old Farm Tools and Machinery: 
an Illustrated History (Fort Lauderdale: Gale Research, 1976), pp. 128-30. 

The chaff pilers were first brought to McDonough Dounty in 1841 by John Wiley, a 
mechanic by trade. They were produced in Ohio. Soon after his arrival Wiley embarked 
upon their manufacture in the county. The threshing machines he produced were known as 
Rolston's patent and were considered a great innovation. S. J. Clarke, History of McDon- 
ough County, Illinois (Springfield, III.: D. W. Lusk, 1878), pp. 508-10. 

Quintus Walker was one of the numerous Walker brothers and their relations who 
settled in McDonough County in the 1830's. Most Walkers came from Virginia via Adair 
County, Kentucky, where they grew up prior to their arrival in Camp Creek Settlement, 
McDonough County. Although two of the Walkers, Cyrus and Pinkney H., attained great 
fame as lawyers, and Pinkney as a judge of the Illinois Supreme Court, other members of 
the family were content to be farmers. Quintus, who was the youngest of the brothers, 
seemed also to be most affected by the hunting tradition of the Kentucky and Tennessee 
settlers. He was not as old as William Brooking intimated. Born in 1814, he was only ten 



ISO WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



years older than William. He lived, however, a long life and William probably referred to him 
in terms of how Quintus would have appeared to William's children and grandchildren. 
These inconsistencies in how places and people were perceived by the narrator make it 
sometimes exceedingly difficult to verify the facts of the memoir. 

1 1 

Camp meetings were an important part of the social and religious life on the frontier. 

Originated by a segment of the Presbyterian Church which later split from the main body to 
form the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, and most fully developed by Baptists and 
Methodists, camp meetings were adaptations by churches to frontier conditions. Thin 
settlements, scarcity of preachers, and unavailability of buildings to house worshipers 
made it necessary to hold large but infrequent meetings outdoors. Sermons which aroused 
intense feelings of guilt and fostered conversion to righteous conduct had as their ultimate 
goal the stabilization of the unsettled, violent, and physically abusive pioneer conditions. 
In addition, respite from hard work during the relatively quiet time of the year, invited 
socializing, festivities, and courting. Camp meetings thus also served to alleviate the intense 
isolation of early pioneer settlements. By 1848 and 1849 the popularity of these meetings 
was already waning due to the establishment of permanent church communities. In fact, 
both preachers mentioned by Brooking already had their congregations. John Berry was the 
first preacher of the Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church built 1845 one and one-half 
mile east of Industry. The location of the camp meeting thus seems to have been in the close 
vicinity of this church. The second preacher, Tom Roach, was one of the ministers of the 
Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in Macomb. 

The layout of the camp as described by Brooking, followed an established pattern. 
Tree groves were usually cleared of brush and undergrowth, so that only large trees re- 
mained, resulting in shade and free movement of air. The other elements of the camp 
ground, such as the speaker's stand, the altar or mourners' bench where converts confessed 
their sins, the seats of the congregation at large, and the tents enclosing the space, were all 
common features of campgrounds. See Dickson D. Bruce, And They All Sang Hallelujah 
(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1974). 

1 2 

Fredericksville or Frederick, located in Schuyler County approximately three miles 

north of Burlington, was laid out in 1836. The town owed its existence to a point on the 
Illinois River called Erie. The point was considered one of the best shipping locations be- 
tween St. Louis and Peoria. Trade in general merchandise and export of agricultural prod- 
ucts contributed to the importance of the town. By 1850 the town had a boat yard, a stave 
factory, and a large pork-packing house. It also was a regular stop for steam boats that plied 
the river. With the advent of the railroads Frederick's importance declined rapidly. Con)- 
bined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois (Philadelphia; W. R. Brink, 1882), 
p. 282. 

1 3 

John Walker, Louisiana Walker's father, was a cousin to Cyrus and Quintus Walker. 

He came to McDonough County in 1834 and was indeed an old man when William asked 
for his daughter's hand. His permission was necessary because Louisiana was only 17 years 
old when she married William, age 26. John died in 1870 at the age of 80 years. 

14 

"Infare" is a term which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is used in 

Scotland, in the northern dialects of England and in the western United States. It denotes 
a feast or entertainment given on entering a new house, especially at the reception of a 
bride in her new home. The infare usually takes place a day after the wedding. The Walker 
family traces its heritage to Scotland, and it is therefore interesting that this old Scottish 
custom survived on the frontier. The ancestry of the Brooking Family is not known, but it 
would be safe to assume that they also originated from Scotland. 

The Copeland place must have been the L. H. Copeland farm in section 3 of Ma- 
comb Township as listed m the Atlas Map of McDonough County, published m 1871. The 
place was only four miles away from the Brooking farm which was located on the western 



THE MEMOIR OF WILLIAM T. BROOKING 151 



edge of section 7. The creeks mentioned are today known as the Farmers Fork and the 

Town Fork, the latter a tributary of the LaMoine River. 

1 fi 

The location of John Walker's residence was not on Camp Creek as William Brooking 

indicated. The McDonough County Assessor's Book for 1850 lists his property on southeast 

quarter of section 9 in Industry Township, and Sanders Campbell's on the northeast quarter 

of the same section. The latter land was listed as belonging to John G. McGaughy according 

to the Atlas Map of McDonough County for 1871. Both locations are today situated on 

the west side of Highway 67, and there is still a road which bisects the section into the 

northern and southern half. The draw which Lucian mentions is also indicated on both the 

Atlas Map and on contemporary maps issued by the Division of Highways, Illinois Bureau 

of Research and Planning. 



TORNADOES OF WESTERN ILLINOIS 
PRIOR TO 1875 



Daniel L. Wise 

Of all natural phenomena, tornadoes have the capacity to be the 
most violent. Fortunately, tornadoes are fairly localized, averaging 
only one-fourth of a mile in width and having paths of destruction 
averaging ten to fifteen miles. The probability is quite low, therefore, 
that a given tornado will touch down in an inhabited area. On those 
occasions when inhabited areas are affected, however, a tornado's 
rotating column of air can wreak havoc with an entire city in a 
matter of minutes, leaving death and destruction behind. 

After a brief discussion of the general characteristics of tornadoes, 
this paper will focus upon tornado activity in western Illinois prior 
to 1875. After 1875, systematic governmental documentation of 
tornadoes became standard procedure. Accounts of tornadoes prior 
to 1875, however, must be tracked down through a variety of 
sources— usually local newspapers. Those accounts, while more 
difficult to locate than the later governmental reports, offer interest- 
ing and informative insights into our forebearers' perceptions of his- 
torical tornadoes in western Illinois. 

General Characteristics of Tornadoes 

Approximately seventy-five percent of the world's most violent 
tornadoes occur in the United States. The majority of U.S. tornadoes 
develop in the vast flatlands between the Rocky and Appalachian 
mountains, from Texas northeast to the Great Lakes— the so-called 
"Tornado Alley." 

Tornado formation requires the meeting of two air masses with 
distinctly different temperature, humidity, and wind flow character- 
istics. Illinois is an ideal location for tornado formation, especially 
during the spring and early summer. During these seasons, low pres- 
sure systems are constantly moving from west to east across Illinois. 
Warm, humid air masses originating over the Gulf of Mexico rush 
towards the center of the low pressure system from the south or 
southwest. If, simultaneously, cold, dry Canadian air masses, advanc- 
ing from the west or northwest, intercept and override the warm 



TORNADOESOF WESTERN ILLINOIS 153 



air, the contrasting temperatures and hunnidities, as well as the 
contrasting direction of flow of these two air masses can create a 
whirling motion, or vortex, at the top of the warm air mass. If 
conditions are favorable, the vortex will intensify and extend down- 
ward, resulting in the funnel cloud so characteristic of tornadoes. 
At the same time, thunderclouds (cumulonimbus clouds) develop 
along this upper air boundary between the cold and warm air masses. 
It is from the base of these thunderclouds that the tornado descends. 

Once formed, the path a tornado follows represents the com- 
posite flow of the overriding cold air mass from a westerly direction 
and the flow of the warm air mass from a southerly direction. As a 
result, Illinois' tornadoes usually move from the southwest towards 
the northeast. Exceptions do occur and are believed to result from 
variations in the orientation of the flow of the overriding cold air 
mass. Almost all of the tornadoes with observed paths, or tracks, 
in western Illinois prior to 1875, had the typical southwest to 
northeast movement. While tornadoes may "hug the ground" for a 
long distance as they follow their particular path, they often travel 
in erratic, skipping motions, sparing some locations only to swoop 
down and destroy others. 

The vortex of a tornado becomes visible as the water vapor 
within that rapidly rising column of warm moist air undergoes con- 
densation. Therefore, the vortex, much like a cloud, initially appears 
bright or light in color. As the tornado passes over bare soil, however, 
it draws the soil, as well as the debris created by its own high winds, 
into its vortex, thus giving the tornado a very dark, menacing 
appearance. 

Since a tornado usually occurs in conjunction with a thunder- 
cloud, it is not uncommon for heavy rain and hail to be reported 
during a tornado. Lightning and other luminous features also tend 
to occur in and around the vortex of a tornado. At one time it was 
assumed that the "eerie glow" often accompanying a tornado was 
the result of large electrical charges generated by the high-speed, 
rotating winds of the tornado — like a huge dynamo in the sky. 
Many experts now assume, however, that such a glow is nothing 
more than static electricity produced by dust particles rubbing 
together as they are tossed about in the high speed winds of the 
vortex.^ 

The damage resulting from a tornado is often awesome— in the 
completeness as well as the speed of the destruction. Consequently, 
many accounts of tornado damage seem more likely to have resulted 
from war-related bombings rather than a natural phenomenon. 
Much of the damage caused by tornadoes results from the destructive 
power of the extremely high wind speed of the whirling vortex (up 
to 300 miles per hour). 



754 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

Another source of damage is the explosive action of a tornado. 
The centrifugal force resulting from the rotating motion of the 
vortex creates a partial vacuum in the center of the tornado. The 
lower pressure in the tornado often causes considerable damage as 
the air within a building, which is under normal pressure, rushes 
towards the lower pressure within the tornado. The result is that the 
building will literally explode. This characteristic of tornadoes was 
no doubt the cause of much consternation among church-goers of 
the early nineteenth century who were bewildered as their churches 
were destroyed while nearby saloons went unscathed by tornadoes. 
Apparently the saloons' swinging doors allowed for quick pressure 
equalization, while the sealed churches, unable to adjust to the 
pressure differences, would explode.'^ 

While considerable damage is done by the strong horizontal 
winds on the edge of the vortex and by the explosions of buildings 
resulting from the low pressure within the vortex, other damage is 
caused by the strong, vertical winds of a tornado. A tornado is 
capable of lifting extremely heavy objects and transporting them far 
distances. The most spectacular reports concerning the lifting of 
objects by tornadoes are the accounts of people being carried aloft 
by the updrafts and then living to tell the stories of their ordeals. 

A more recent theory attributes the damage associated with 
tornadoes to the high-speed air-flow across the roofs of structures. 
Much like an airplane being lifted by the flow of air over the curved 
upper surface of its wings, the flow of air over the roof of a structure 
can literally "lift" the structure off of its foundation.^ 

Historical Accounts 

Presented below are historical accounts of tornadoes occurring 
in western Illinois prior to 1875. The particular accounts were 
chosen either because they are representative of the accounts of that 
period or because they provide an unusual insight into the tornadoes 
of that period. 

Systematic governmental documentation of tornadoes did not 
exist prior to 1875. Most accounts of these early tornadoes, there- 
fore, had to be researched through other sources — usually local 
newspapers. The newspaper accounts vary greatly, from single- 
sentence references to elaborate descriptions. In addition, early 
newspaper accounts of tornadoes are often unverifiable and vague. 

The shortcomings of many of the early accounts of tornadoes 
are compensated for by the picturesque phrases. The similes, meta- 
phors, and generally "unscientific" writing style characterizing the 
accounts offer interesting observations of the tornadoes. Despite 
the fact that early observers did not understand the dynamics of 



TORNADOES OF WESTERN ILLINOIS 155 



tornadoes, many of these early impressionistic descriptions were 
actually quite accurate. 

The task of researching accounts of historical tornadoes was 
further complicated by varying terminology. The general terms 
"storm" or "windstorm" were often employed. Likewise, the term 
"whirlwind" was used to describe storms with rotating vortices. 
Early tornadoes were also frequently called "hurricanes" even 
though they have vastly different origins and properties than their 
water-borne cousins. The term "cyclone," which today is used 
almost exclusively to describe common, large-scale storm systems, 
was applied to tornadoes from about 1870 well into the twentieth 
century. 

All tornadoes which occurred in western Illinois prior to 1875 
and which were verifiable by at least two sources are detailed in 
Figure 1 and Table 1. The information presented in the table and 
figure reflect the settlement patterns of western Illinois during the 
period covered by this study. As indicated, tornado sightings were 
rare before 1850. Not only did the number of observed tornadoes 
increase after 1850, but tornadoes with discernible paths — as 
opposed to tornadoes observed at a single location — also became 
increasingly common over time. Such a change probably reflects the 
rapid population growth in western Illinois during the mid-1 800's, 
and consequently, the greater chance of individuals observing and 
tracking a tornado. The concentration of tornadoes with discernible 
paths within the northern portion of western Illinois parallels the 
spatial variation of settlements during the period of review. During 
the mid-1800's, the northern and southern portions of western 
Illinois had similar numbers of cities and towns. These population 
centers in the northern portion, however, were fairly evenly dis- 
tributed throughout the counties, while those in the southern por- 
tion were concentrated in relatively few counties.'* The tracking of 
a tornado was more likely, therefore, in the northern part of western 
Illinois. 

For the United States as a whole, during the period of time 
under investigation in this paper, photographs of tornadoes them- 
selves do not exist, and photographs of tornado-related damage are 
rare. Although photographs of tornado damage in western Illinois 
for this period were not located, an artist's rendition of the damage 
done to the former Mormon Temple in Nauvoo (Hancock County), 
was found. The temple, which had been completed only a short 
time before the Mormons fled to Utah, caught fire in October, 
1848, and only the walls were left standing. "On the afternoon of 
May 27, 1980 ... a terrific storm tore into Nauvoo, and, seeming to 
single out the temple, filled the walls with a roar that was heard three 
miles away."^ 



156 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 





TOP: photograph of completed Nauvoo Temple. BOTTOM: sketch by artist 
Frederick Piercy in 1853 of the ruins of the Nauvoo Temple. Courtesy of Illinois 
State Historical Library. 



TORNADOES OF WESTERN ILLINOIS 157 

Littleton, Illinois (Schuyler County), was struck by a tornado on 
October 23, 1856. The newspaper of a neighboring community gave 
the following account: "It will be recollected that . . . this town was 
sadly visited by a windstorm, which in its course, entirely laid waste 
the east side of the street running north. Some twenty buildings 
were entirely swept away. . . . The destruction was truly great, and 
it seems a miraculous intervention, that amidst such a wreck, but few 
comparatively, of the citizens were injured. Mr. Crawford . . . (was) 
the only person who was so seriously injured as to die."^ 

Because of the great likelihood that a tornado will never strike a 
given location, the probability of a community being struck more 
than once is astoundingly low— but it does happen. The town of 
Littleton is an example. Not only was Littleton struck by a tornado 
again, on June 21, 1981, but the devastating results were astound- 
ingly similar to the 1856 tornado— extensive damage rendered, 
several persons injured, and one person killed. 

The newspaper account of a tornado which killed nineteen 
people in Ellison (Warren County) on May 31, 1858, illustrates the 
awesome strength of a tornado: "The trees . . . were pulled up by 
the roots, twisted, turned about, simply, and in places ... it seemed 
as if they had been torn up by groups, as a child would wantonly 
twist the tops of adjacent weeds and tear them from the ground. 
Trees a foot in diameter were thus made the sport of the tornado, 
and were dashed, crushed and broken to the ground."^ The short 
and narrow, albeit devastating, path of this tornado was also de- 
scribed: "The track of the whirlwind seems not to have been very 
wide, nor was its course a long one. Scattered farm houses about 
the village in various directions still stand . . ., but of the village 
proper only three small cabins or shanties which were to the south- 
ward of the line of desolating destruction, were spared, and they 
alone remain of the ill-fated village of Ellison."^ 

A tornado which killed several people as it swept across the 
southern portion of western Illinois (Calhoun, Greene, Scott and 
Morgan counties) on May 26, 1859, was reported as "a violent 
storm or hurricane (which) did immense damage to houses, barns, 
fences, and also caused some destruction of life."^ It was described 
as having a "frightful, . . . balloon or funnel shape, and appeared . . . 
peculiarly bright and luminous, not at all black or dark in any of 
its parts, except its base or bottom. "^° 

A vivid account of what surely must be related to the output of 
static electricity associated with a tornado is given in this account 
of the same tornado as it swept across Morgan county: "Mr. Cowell 
was plowing his field. ... He saw the frightful cloud approaching 
. . . and at once attempted to drive his horses and plow to the house 
.... The horses suddenly took fright . . . their manes and tails and 



158 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

all their hair 'stood right out straight' as he expressed it, and .... the 
iron in the harness .... and plow, in his language 'seemed all covered 
with fire.' He felt a violent pulling of his own hair which left 'his 
head sore for some days' and the hair itself rigid and inflexible."" 

In addition, although unconfirmed by others, Mr. Cowell was 
one of the few individuals to have a tornado pass directly over him 
and live to tell about it. He described the light in the center of the 
tornado as being "so brilliant that he could not endure it with his 
eyes open, and for the most part kept them shut .... Yet (inside 
the tornado) there was no wind, no thunder and no noise whatever 
. . . ."^^ Another interesting feature of this same tornado can be 
attributed to the low pressure of the vortex: "When the terrific whirl 
struck .... (it) stripped all of the feathers off from the hens and 
turkeys, as perfectly clean as if picked for the table. Some, though 
badly plucked, and made entirely blind, still lived. "^^ Such a bizarre 
occurrence probably resulted when the hollow quills of the feathers 
expanded so suddenly— as the low pressure vortex moved over the 
area— that the birds' feathers "exploded." 

A report regarding a tornado which struck Carlinville (Macoupin 
County) on April 17, 1860, is one of the few historical accounts of a 
tornado describing its formation: "There seemed to be two distinct 
currents of air, both of which came in contact when above this 
village creating a most terrific and appalling scene . . . The wind, at 
intervals, formed whirlwinds, and wherever they struck destruction 
was the result."^^ The Carlinville tornado had winds of sufficient 
force that "small out-houses went tumbling about as if their weight 
did not exceed that of a feather."^^ A more unique feature of this 
tornado was that "a small child was carried at two different times 
quite a distance in the air, but not seriously injured. "^^ 

A tornado which followed a path from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to 
Rock Island, Illinois (Rock Island County) on June 3, 1860, was 
described as having "the appearance of a large black shaft or column, 
shaped like an upright hour-glass extending from a tremendous 
threatening cloud. "^^ The fury of the Cedar Rapids-Rock Island 
tornado was noted in the following description of its devastating 
effect: "Houses gone, utterly gone, and nothing but foundations 
told where they had been: trees one and two feet in diameter, and 
even larger, uprooted and hurled many rods (1 rod = 16.5 feet) . . . 
The power and force of this demon of the elements must have been 
immense. "^^ The often erratic, skipping motion of a tornado, sparing 
some locations only to swoop down and destroy others, was cap- 
tured in the following description of the Cedar Rapids-Rock Island 
tornado: "We were told by Dr. Hammer this morning, that when he 
observed it (the tornado), it would sometimes spring up and for a 
space do nothing, then in an instant it would swoop down, destroy- 



TORNADOES OF WESTERN ILLINOIS 159 



ing everything before it .... We noticed nothing of the kind, it al- 
ways hugged the earth with the embrace of a fiend." ^^ The people 
were awed by this localized display of energy: "The track of the 
whirling dennon was not more than 20 rods in width— we speak of the 
central force which worked the destruction: outside of that there 
was a mighty wind, but no such traces of power were left."'^'^ 

A tornado that traveled from Shanghai City (Warren County) 
to Henderson (Knox County) on May 4, 1868, was accompanied 
by a deluge of rain and hail with hailstones weighing up to 3 pounds. 
In Shanghai City "sixteen buildings were torn to atoms and many 
others moved out of their places, and more or less damaged. Nearly 
the whole town was destroyed. "^^ 

As a result of the inconsistent terminology and frequently 
inadequate descriptions given in local newspaper accounts, it is often 
difficult to ascertain precisely whether or not a tornado actually did 
occur. A newspaper account of a "storm" in Macomb, Illinois 
(McDonough County) on April 19, 1869, serves as an example: 
"Our city was visited with a heavy rain storm .... The storm .... 
unroofed the wash houses connected with the Randolph Hotel 
which had withstood the storms of many years. This leads ... to 
the conclusion that the wind must have taken a peculiar freak just 
in that locality, no other part of the city having been in the least 
damaged by the storm. "^^ Such severe localized damage to struc- 
turally sound buildings implies that the "peculiar freak" may have 
been a tornado. This contention is supported by the fact that a 
tornado was observed on that same date in Peoria (Peoria County), 
sixty miles east- northeast of Macomb. ^-^ 

On May 22, 1873, a tornado followed a path from Keokuk, Iowa 
to Peoria, Illinois. "Huge trees were twisted into slivers and blown 
about like feathers. A forty acre tract of heavily timbered land .... 
(had) large trees .... torn up by their roots and others .... entirely 
stripped of bark and leaves. One large tree was carried in mid-air the 
distance of an eighth of a mile."^"^ As this same tornado passed over 
a house in Youngstown (Warren County), "the top of the house was 
blown off, and a woman and child were carried out of the house by 
the wind and lodged in the top of a tree about fifty feet from the 
ground. "^^ 

The following passage, describing the Youngstown tornado, prob- 
ably summarizes the feelings of most people who, for the first time, 
witness the destructive force of a tornado: "We have not the ability 
to describe the scenes and utter desolation caused by this terrible 
storm .... It would take a large volume to come anywhere near 
giving a full account of this most terrible storm. We trust that we will 
never be called on to chronical such a scene of disaster as we saw last 
Saturday. "2^ 



160 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



TABLE 1. WESTERN ILLINOIS TORNADOES PRIOR TO 1875* 



Date 



Location 



1. 


1825 


April 


2. 


1835 


August 17 


3. 


1850 


May 27 


4. 


1855 


May 


5. 


1856 


October 23 


6. 


1856 


November 17 


7. 


1858 


May 14 


8. 


1858 


May 20 


9. 


1858 


May 31 


10. 


1859 


May 26 



11. 1860 April 17 

12. 1860 May 20 

13. 1868 May 4 

14. 1869 April 19 

15. 1873 May 22 



Morgan County 

New Salenn (Pike County) 

Nauvoo (Hancock County) 

Jacksonville (Morgan County) 

Littleton (Schuyler County) 

Quincy (Adams County) 

Williamsville (Sangamon County) 

Oquawka to Galesburg, (Henderson, 
Warren, and Knox Counties) 

Ellison (Warren County) 

Calhoun, Greene, Scott, and 
Morgan Counties 

Carlinville (Macoupin County) 

Cedar Rapids to Rock Island (Rock 
Island County) 

Shanghai City to Henderson 
(Warren and Knox Counties) 

Macomb to Peoria (McDonough, 
Fulton, and Peoria Counties) 

Keokuk, Iowa to Peoria (Hancock, 
McDonough, Fulton, and Peoria 
Counties) 



•Tornadoes verifiable by at least two sources. 
Source: The various sources employed appear in the Notes section of this paper. 



TORNADOES OF WESTERN ILLINOIS 161 

Concluding Remarks 

Although there were several tornadoes described in newspapers, 
and other sources, it is unlikely that these were the only tornadoes 
to occur in western Illinois prior to 1875. Several factors may con- 
tribute to the limited accounts of tornadoes. First, the small and 
sparse population in western Illinois decreased the likelihood of 
someone spotting a tornado. Thus, unless there was damage to a 
major city or village, a tornado usually went unreported. Also, 
because of the lack of any systematic method of reporting and 
recording tornadoes during those early years, most accounts of 
tornadoes must be researched through local editions of small-town 
newspapers. These early accounts are often difficult to locate and 
their authenticity and accuracy are sometimes questionable. 

What the early newspaper accounts lack in accuracy, however, 
they more than make up for in their descriptive prose. While reading 
such accounts, one cannot help but recapture the fear, the awe, and 
the feeling of powerlessness that tornadoes must have inflicted upon 
the early settlers of western Illinois. 

NOTES 

Bruce Schechter, "The Killer Winds of Spring," Discover, May 1981 , p. 23. 

2 
William Braden, "Tornadoes!," Chicago Sun-Times, 8 March 1981, p. 62 

■^Schechter, p. 23 

4 
The median number of cities or towns per county in the northern portion of Western 

Illinois— north of and including Hancock, McDonough, Fulton, and Tazewell counties — 
was nineteen. For the southern portion, the median number was nine. Source: Population 
of the United States in 1860, Table No. 3 — Population of Cities and Towns (Washington: 
Government Printing Office, 1864) pp. 88-101. 
5 
Federal Writers' Project of Illinois, Nauvoo Guide (Chicago: A. C. McCiurg & Co., 

1939) p. 38 

"Littleton," The McDonough Democrat (Macomb), 20 Nov. 1856, p. 2 

"A Terrible Tornado," New York Daily Tribune, 5 June 1858, as quoted in David 
M. Ludlum, Early American Tornadoes, 1586—1870 (Boston: American Meteorological 
Society, 1970) p. 118. 

^Ibid. 

9 
"The News," The Macomb Eagle, 4 June 1859, p. 2 

Transactions of the Illinois Natural History Society (Springfield, Illinois: Phillips 
Bros., 1861) I, 1, p. 42. 

^^bid., p. 43 

Ibid. 

^^Ibid., p. 44 

14 

"Terrific Storm and Great Destruction of Property," The St. Louis Republican in 

The Macomb Eagle, 28 April 1860, p. 1. 



162 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



l^lbid. 

"Tornado— Houses Swept Away and Forests Uprooted," Mt. Vernon (Iowa) News 
in The Macomb Eagle, 8 June 1860, p. 2 

Ibid. 

19,bid. 

20,bid. 

21 

"Terrible Tornado," Galesburg Register in The Macomb Journal, 9 May 1868, p. 3 

22 

"Rain and Wind— Great Destruction of Property,' The Macomb Journal, 23 April 

1869, p. 2 

^^Ludlum, p. 213 

24 

"A Terrible Tornado— Immense Destruction of Property near Youngstown, 

Monmouth Leader in The Macomb Journal, 29 May 1873, p. 2 
25|bid. 
26,bid. 



ILLINOIS GRASSROOTS 

POLITICS OF THE 1890's 

IN BRAND WHITLOCK'S FICTION 



David D. Anderson 

In July, 1898, Ainlee's Magazine published the first short story 
by a twenty-nine-year-old Toledo lawyer who aspired to careers as 
a realistic novelist and as a reform political activist. The young 
writer-lawyer was Brand Whitlock, a veteran police and political 
reporter in Toledo, Chicago, and Springfield, Illinois,^ and the story, 
"The Pardon of Thomas Whalen," was based on his experience as a 
member of the Altgeld administration in Springfield. 

"The Pardon of Thomas Whalen" was, however, more than the 
typical sentimental story preferred by popular magazines during 
what Thomas Beer has described as the "mauve decade." It was 
based upon perhaps the most celebrated judicial act of the decade, 
the pardoning of the remaining imprisoned Haymarket anarchists 
by Whitlock's friend and mentor, John Peter Altgeld, to the subse- 
quent ruin of Altgeld's political career. The story defines the 
concerns that had dominated Altgeld's governorship and were to 
dominate Whitlock's future careers as writer and political activist: 
a preoccupation with the elusive nature of justice and a conviction 
that truth, equally elusive, must be the ultimate test of the worth 
of all human activity. 

The story itself is both an idealized portrait of Altgeld and a 
thinly-disguised account of his act. Set in Springfield, it concerns 
a politically ambitious governor who is nevertheless dedicated to an 
ideal of justice rarely found among successful, ambitious politicians. 
Under intense public pressure, a man has been convicted of a notori- 
ous political murder, and public opinion is satisfied. However, as the 
governor is preparing to run for reelection, a woman secretly con- 
fesses to him that she is the murderer, and the governor, against the 
advice of his supporters and knowing its inevitable effect, determines 
to keep the confession secret and pardon the man. His secretary 
pleads that the confession be made public, insisting that then justice 
will be served and his career saved, but the governor refuses. Then, 
his secretary insists, he is saying, "to hell with justice." "No, 
William," the governor replies, "leave that to heaven." In his later 



164 



WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 




Brand Whitlock. 



BRAND WHITLOCK'S FICTION 165 

collection of stories, Whitlock revised the last phrase as "Well, then, 
what do you say to a little mercy now and then?" 

The plot is slight, and the story borders on the sentimental, but 
it is intensely human, and it includes sharply etched vignettes of the 
political arguments and debates that surround the incident. It makes 
clear, too, the political ideal which Whitlock shared with Altgeld 
and which he was determined to pursue. Equally clear are the 
political reality with which he had become familiar in Springfield 
and the path that his writing as well as his political career was to 
take. 

Whitlock followed "The Pardon of Thomas Whalen" with other 
political stories set in Springfield and Chicago, including "The 
Vindication of Henderson of Greene"-^ and "The Has-Been,"'* both 
attempts to define the elusive line between pragmatic politics and 
political principle, as well as "An Affair of State, "^ another portrayal 
of Altgeld's essential humanity as governor. But Whitlock's prime 
interests were his legal practice, increasingly devoted to the poor 
and the unfortunate who were caught up in a legal system more 
oppressive than just, and his determination to be a realistic novelist 
in the Howells tradition. At the same time he became an advisor and 
campaign manager for Samuel L. "Golden Rule" Jones, reform 
mayor of Toledo, who, like Altgeld, pursued the justice that lies 
beyond legality.^ 

In March, 1902, Whitlock published his first novel. The Thirteenth 
District.^ Like the stories, it was the product of his Illinois experi- 
ence and his philosophic convictions, but in contrast to them, it is 
neither slight nor does it border on the sentimental. Like Howells, 
he had come to believe that the novelist who would be true must 
construct literary art out of "a fidelity to experience and probability 
of motive,"^ both of which Whitlock drew from his experience and 
observations in Illinois. For Whitlock, as for Howells, "The novel 
can teach, and for shame's sake it must teach, but only by painting 
life truly." "This," Howells said, "is what it must above all things 
strive to do,"^ and this Whitlock determined to do. The result was 
and remains the most vividly real portrait of Midwestern American 
grassroots politics yet written, and at the same time, it teaches a 
lesson unfortunately unlearned by the American electorate in the 
days of whistlestops and stump-speaking, and still unlearned when 
candidates speak electronically in every home in the country. 

In The Thirteenth District, set in the Thirteenth Congressional 
District of Illinois, a rural and small-town constituency, Whitlock 
focuses upon an element that he had observed all too often in 
Toledo, Chicago, and Springfield: the peculiar nature of the demo- 
cratic system as it permits the inept and unworthy to attain elected 
office. In the novel he also focuses on the peculiar character of 



766 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

Jerome Garwood, a politically ambitious young lawyer and state 
legislator from the central Illinois town of Grand Prairie, for whom 
the system seems designed. 

The novel focuses, too, in human terms, upon the life of the 
district, upon the Illinois countryside, and upon the men who make 
the system what it is. (Whitlock reserves his comments on women 
in politics and women's suffrage for his next novel. Her Infinite 
Variety.) In realistic fashion, the interaction of countryside, people, 
and social structure emerges as a complex unit reminiscent of a 
novel by Thomas Hardy or by Whitlock's literary mentor, Howells. 

The novel opens with a vivid political scene: Garwood is return- 
ing by train to Grand Prairie from the district convention in Clinton, 
at which, as the result of skillful management by the local political 
boss, Jim Rankin, Garwood has been nominated for Congress. As 
the train nears the station full of supporters, Rankin slaps Garwood 
on the shoulder, remarking that "There's nothing like it, is there?". ^° 
And then they step down to a civic ovation: flags waving, a band 
playing, the crowd cheering, hands thrust forward. In the back- 
ground, Rankin remarks again, "Well, if we'd been skinned, they 
wouldn't 'a' been here when you needed sympathy. "^^ 

The crowd, led by the town band playing "See, the Conquering 
Hero Comes," and Garwood and Rankin in a carriage, swings up 
Kaskaskia Street, down Main to the Square, and stops in front of the 
Cassell House. There the crowd calls, "Speech! Speech!" and Rankin 
turns to Garwood: "You'll have to give it to 'em, Jerry, 'fore they'll 
let you go."^^ Whitlock sketches the incident on three vivid levels 
simultaneously: 

And he led the way up the stairs toward the parlor. Garwood went 
after him, with the mayor and a self-appointed committee follow- 
ing, and in another minute he had stepped out on the balcony and 
bared his head to the breeze that was blowing warm off the prairie. 
As he stood there, erect and calm, with the little wind loosening the 
locks over his forehead, his lips compressed and white, his right hand 
in the breast of his coat, after the fashion of our orators, many in the 
crowd for the first time were conscious of how like a congressman 
this young fellow really looked. They began to celebrate the discovery 
with another cheer, but Garwood drew his hand from the bosom of 
his coat and raised it toward them. Instantly a warning "Sh!" ran 
through the whole concourse, the few wagons rattling by halted sud- 
denly, and a hush fell. Garwood's eye swept the old familiar square, 
his face flushed, his heart beat high, but outwardly he was calm, as he 
affected the impressive pause that adds so much to oratory. And then 
he began with studied simplicity. ^^ 

As Garwood speaks, modestly and sincerely, about his memories 
of his youth in the town and his desire for love, for respect, for the 
opportunity to serve, Rankin, in the background, places his hand 
on the mayor's shoulder. "John," he said, "he'll do."^"* 

Indeed, Garwood demonstrates that he will. In the first part of 



BRAND WHIT LOCK'S FICTION 167 

the novel, "Of the People/'subtitled "On the Stump," Garwood 
stumps the seven counties that make up the district, and he is re- 
vealed for what he is: a young man of no particular convictions but 
great self-confidence who, in a quiet moment, cries to himself, "I 
will win, win it all— Congress, Governor, the Senate. "^^ 

In this section of the novel Whitlock recreates the petty deals, 
the vague attempts at blackmail, the ambiguous morality of Gar- 
wood's service in the legislature, but he also constructs two superb 
characters, each at an opposite end of the spectrum of political 
morality, and perhaps the best sketch ever written of a campaign 
whistlestop as the party's presidential campaign visits the district. 
The characters are Emily Harkness, daughter of the town banker 
and Garwood's fiancee, who becomes his wife upon his election 
to Congress, and Jim Rankin, the party boss of Polk County. The 
whistlestop visit is of the unnamed presidential candidate, apparently 
that of William Jennings Bryan aboard his private car, misnamed 
"The Idler," in the campaign of 1896. 

Emily, apparently modeled on Whitlock's second wife, Ella 
Brainerd Whitlock of Springfield, whom he had married in 1895 
(his first wife, Susan Brainerd Whitlock, sister of Ella, had died in 
1892, four months after their marriage), is the author's portrayal 
of the only Jeffersonian idealist in the novel. She is also his portrayal 
of the woman who finds her own liberation within the confines of 
a small I llinois town in the 1890's. 

Emily is neither a feminist nor a social revolutionary, but she 
is determined to seek her fulfillment not in a conventional marriage 
but in social service. She reads widely, she works with the poor of 
the community, and she dreams of meeting a young doctor who 
shares her ideal, with whom she can work, and whom she can love. 
Instead she meets Garwood, who is, she is convinced, on the side of 
humanity in a law case. But his "first victory," Whitlock comments, 
"was for himself," and he was elected to the legislature.^^ 

But Emily, naively romantic, looks beyond Garwood's facade 
and sees something that isn't there. Convinced that he went to 
the legislature as a crusader for justice and would do the same in 
Congress, she falls in love with what she is convinced that he is, and 
through him, she believes, she can serve her ideal. But, like the 
electorate, from which as a woman she is excluded, she mistakes 
Garwood's magnificent facade for the substance he lacks. At the 
end of "On the Stump," when the people have spoken and Garwood 
is elected, they marry, and she is convinced that her ideal is about 
to become real. 

Rankin, conversely, is no idealist, and he knows exactly what 
lies beyond Garwood's facade: a man who has a price. Rankin is the 
cynical political realist who takes advantage of the inherent weak- 



168 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

nesses of the democratic system, and he is delighted with Garwood. 
For the first time he owns a congressman, and political patronage 
and pork-barrel legislation for the district will be his. But Rankin's 
most valued political asset and his concept of the greatest good is 
political loyalty; once he gives it, it is irrevocable, and he expects 
no less from the new young Congressman from the Thirteenth 
District. He fakes a tear at the wedding as he winks in jovial con- 
spiracy at the bridegroom. 

Just as Emily Harkness and Jim Rankin define the opposite ends 
of the political spectrum, the visit of the presidential candidate and 
Garwood's— and Rankin's— role in it represent the reality that 
occupies the muted but spectacular middle bands: 

The crowd began its cheering as the engine slid on past the 
weather-beaten station and stopped, puffing importantly as if it knew 
how big a load it had hauled. And then the candidate appeared, and 
midway in a cheer the crowd ceased, stricken into silence by the sight 
of him. He stood for an instant, pale and distinguished, a smile on his 
cleanly chiseled face, an impersonal smile, almost the smile of a child . . 
Looking carefully to his right and left, still with that impersonal smile 
on his lips, the candidate set his patent leather boots to the splintered 
platform, and then sighing "Ah!" looked around over the crowd. T' 

In the ensuing confusion the chairman of the Logan County 
committee forgets the order of the procession to the square, and 
Rankin steps quickly into the breech: 

"This way, Mr. President!" 

The candidate had been standing there smiling and giving both his 
hands to men and women and children that closed upon him, and as 
the chairman looked toward him he saw Garwood standing by his side. 
The chairman had forgotten Garwood. In fact he had not expected him 
until evening, and he had no place for him in his scheme. Rankin . . . 
promptly assuming an official relation to the affair, gently urged their 
presidential candidate toward the waiting carriage . . . 

They all helped him into the carriage, and he smiled his gratitude. 
The colonel climbed into the front seat facing his chief. Then another 
traveling companion of the candidate, a man who was slated for a 
cabinet position, followed him. Garwood seemed about to withdraw, 
and had raised his hand to lift his hat, when Rankin said: 

"Get right in, Mr. Garwood, there's plenty of room!" 

Garwood felt called upon to demur . . . , but Rankin began to 
shove from behind, and Garwood found himself sitting in the same 
carriage with the presidential candidate . . . .'° 

The procession moves through the streets like an Elizabethan 
progress: 

Amid a crash of brass, the throb of drums, and a great roar from 
human throats the procession wound up the crowded street. All the 
way the sidewalks were lined with people, and all the way the candidate 
lifted his high hat with that distinguished gesture. 

The whole county had come in from the country, and farmers' 
muddy wagons were hitched to every rack, their owners clinging to 
the bridles of horses that reared and plunged as the bands went by 
.... The procession did not go directly to the court house, for that 



BRAND WHITLOCK'S FICTION 169 



was only two blocks away, but made a slow and jolting progress along 
those streets that were decorated for the occasion. There were flags 
and bunting everywhere, and numerous pictures of the candidate him- 
self, of varying degrees of likeness to him .... Some of the house- 
holders, galled by the bitterness of partisanship, flaunted in their 
windows pictures of the candidate's rival, but the great man lifted his 
hat and bowed to them, clustered in silence before their residences, 
as impartially as he did to those of his own party. ^9 

As the band plays "The Union Forever, Hurrah, Boys, Hurrah," 
the candidate climbs the platform, shakes hands, and begins to 
speak. Whitlock departs from reportorial realism: 

The candidate began his speech immediately. It was the same 
speech he had delivered all along his itinerary, though his allusions to 
the splendid agricultural community in which he found himself, the 
good crops that had been yielded to the hands of the husbandman, 
gave a fictitious local color, and his touching reference to his old 
friend. General Bancroft, by whose side he had sat at Washington 
through so many stirring years . . . and his glowing tribute to the 
Bloody Ninety-third, brought the applause rolling up to him in great 
waves. He spoke for nearly an hour, standing at the railing with the 
big flag hanging down before him, and a big, white water pitcher stand- 
ing close beside . . . .^O 

In the background, the old courthouse frowns majestically, the 
white clouds pile high against the sky, the crowd is silent, "treasuring 
his words for future repetition, treasuring perhaps the sight of him, 
the sensation of being in his actual presence, for the tale of future 
years."^^ And suddenly it is over; the candidate bounds into his 
carriage and is off, the ubiquitous small boys "swarming like out- 
runners at his glistening wheels."^^ 

The whistlestop is as empty as the candidate himself or as Gar- 
wood, standing in his reflected glow, perhaps reflecting Altgeld's — 
and Whitlock's— distrust of Bryan, his party's candidate in 1896. 
The candidate is, like Garwood, a magnificent facade, orotund, 
eloquent, empty. But Book One ends in victory— for Garwood, who 
is elected to Congress and wins Emily, for Emily, who has found 
her cause, for Rankin, who owns a Congressman. As Garwood goes 
off to serve the people, leaving Emily behind, pregnant and nursing 
a sick father, he comes into clear focus. He leaves behind, too, 
unpaid personal and political debts: he is not a bad man but a weak 
one. Like Dreiser's Sister Carrie en route to her success, he does not 
seek control or attempt to make things happen, as Emily and Rankin 
are determined to do; rather, he is eager to let success happen to him. 

Book Two, "By the People," subtitled "In Convention Assem- 
bled," is set a year and a half later, when Garwood returns to the 
district to seek reelection. His degeneracy is already evident: 

He was really a fine looking man, was Garwood, as he threw his 
shoulders back, and gave his head that old determined toss, finer 



170 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



looking then as a congressman than he had been as a mere candidate 
for Congress a year and a half before. Perhaps it was because he had 
grown stouter, perhaps it was the finer manner of a man of the world 
he had learned in Washington .... But more than all, it was the atmos- 
phere of official position which enveloped him — and of which he was 
thoroughly conscious. No one would ever call him Jerry now .... 
[His] mouth, clean shaven, had taken on new lines, but they were 
hardly as pleasing as the old ones had been . . . .23 

Garwood's moral degeneracy is even more advanced. His wife 
and young son have become mere conveniences, at home in his 
district, and his only regret in Washington is that his district is not 
safe and he must return to campaign for renomination and reelection. 
But he is a nonentity in Congress: his vote and his loyalties are 
known to be available, and he travels in sophisticated circles. General 
dissatisfaction with him as well as intra-party rivalries and the ma- 
chinations of an unscrupulous editor place his reelection in doubt, 
but he promises a postmastership to the editor— a position he had 
pledged to Rankin— and so the editor supports him, and he is re- 
elected and returns to Washington. But his duplicity is revealed to 
both Emily and Rankin; the latter determines to destroy his career, 
while Emily begins to doubt, not her ideals, but Garwood's role in 
realizing them. 

His second term is his last; the district convention system, with 
its ease of manipulation, is replaced by the direct primary system, 
and his continued degeneration in Washington, his lack of principle 
in dealing with the postmastership, and his incompetence become 
common knowledge, and he is defeated. In the end, there is no 
evidence that Garwood has learned anything, but he determines to 
start over, and Emily, her loyalty greater than her good sense, 
determines to help him build a career on principles. But it is evident 
that his corruption will continue and Emily's disillusionment will be 
permanent. 

Whitlock parallels the central scene of the presidential candi- 
date's visit in Book One with that of the district convention at Pekin 
in Book Two. In it, Garwood makes his secret deal, the chairman 
exerts his complete control over a seemingly democratic process, 
poker-playing cronies make other deals, tension heightens during 
roll calls, the bandwagon psychology rolls, the heat of an Illinois 
July is omnipresent in the room as forces fall into place, and the 
nomination is made. In fact, so graphic is this part of the novel 
that the convention dominates the second part as the presidential 
whistlestop dominates the first. 

In the novel Whitlock shows machine politics for what it is, 
a mockery of the democratic process, but more serious is his indict- 
ment of the weak men who corrupt both the political machine and 
the men who operate it. Whitlock does not suggest that substitution 



BRAND WHITLOCK'S FICTION 171 



of direct primaries for party conventions will eliminate abuse- 
indeed, he comments that Garwood's successor is no improvement— 
but it is evident that he is concerned with the appearance that so 
often substitutes for worth in the political process. But he has no 
cure in the novel; it is not a tract or a philosophical treatise but a 
portrayal of reality, and the ideal society, to the realist, is an ideal 
and no more. 

Whitlock's second and last novel dealing with Illinois politics in 
the nineties is Her Infinite Variety. ^^ In it, he departs from the 
realistic-critical emphasis in Ttie Ttiirteentti District and turns instead 
to ironic but realistic social commentary. It is a short novel or 
novella, and there is some inconclusive evidence to suggest that it 
was written prior to The Ttiirteentti District and revised extensively 
for publication, but whether written before or after the first pub- 
lished novel, the relationships are clear. 

hier Infinite Variety focuses upon the introduction of a bill in 
the Illinois State Senate to legalize woman's suffrage in all elections. 
Illinois already permitted women to vote in issues concerning schools 
—in the context of the times the only suitable female political role— 
and the bill under consideration, already passed by the House, 
actually as a rider attached to a reapportionment bill, was the work 
of perhaps the last old-time reformer in the legislature. Whitlock 
comments that "at the time it had been adopted in the House, every 
one had laughed; no one, with the exception of its author, Doctor 
Ames, had taken it seriously. "^^ But Ames had, in the legislative 
eye, gone the way of all reformers, and its chances were considered 
slight: 

Ames was known to be a crank; he was referred to as "Old Doc" 
Ames. He had introduced more strange bills and resolutions than any 
member at that session; bills to curb the homeopathists, bills to anni- 
hilate English sparrows, bills to prohibit cigarettes, bills to curtail the 
liquor traffic, and now this resolution providing for the submission of 
an amendment to the Constitution that would extend the electoral 
franchise to women. 26 

The bill's passage in the House had been a matter of political 
infighting rather than political principle: 

... on the female suffrage resolution he [Ames] had been obdurate, 
and when— with a majority so bare that sick men had to be borne on 
cots into the House now and then to pass its measures— the party had 
succeeded, after weeks of agony, in framing an apportionment bill 
that satisfied everyone. Doctor Ames had seen his chance. He had 
flatly refused to vote for the reapportionment act unless his woman- 
suffrage resolution were adopted first. 

It was useless for the party managers to urge upon him the im- 
possibility of getting the necessary two-thirds vote; Ames said he could 
get the remaining votes from the other side. And so the steering com- 
mittee had given the word to put it through for him. Then on the other 



172 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



side, seeing a chance to place the majority in an embarrassing attitude 
before the people, either as the proponents or the opponents of such a 
radical measure— whichever way it went in the end— had been glad to 
furnish the additional votes. The members of the steering committee 
had afterward whispered it about that the resolution was to die in the 
Senate . . . .27 

But the bill was not to die in the Senate, largely because of the 
work of a remarkable young woman from Chicago, Maria Burley 
Greene, attorney at law and counselor, who is, in the novel, the 
liberated woman that Emily of The Thirteenth District could not be 
in her rural Illinois town. The bill eventually fails, but it very nearly 
becomes law through her capable lobbying and her conversion of a 
young senator, also from Chicago, Morley Vernon; that it did not 
was largely the work of a group of Chicago club women who, seeing 
the bill as an attack upon their femininity, lobby more effectively 
and out-trick the opposition. 

Vernon, who is young, ambitious, honest, conscientious, con- 
ventional, and of a good^ Chicago family, is in love with Amelia 
Ansley, a proper fin-de-siecle young lady who despises politics, hates 
the demands the Senate makes on Vernon, and deprecates Spring- 
field society. Vernon is determined to secure her interest in his work, 
and, fascinated by the contrasts between Amelia and Attorney 
Greene as well as by Greene's attractiveness and efficiency, he de- 
cides that supporting the bill will bring Amelia into politics, as a 
voter, he hopes, and perhaps something more. 

When the bill comes up for debate, Vernon makes a logical but 
impassioned speech, citing the evolutionary progress of laws and legal 
decisions advancing the status of women in Illinois— the decision of 
1869 permitting them to practice law, the Employment Act of 1872, 
the Sanitary District Act of 1890, and others pending in the legisla- 
ture and courts. The bill is continued, and Vernon takes the oppor- 
tunity to learn more about Attorney Greene: 

"You love the country?" he asked, feeling the need of speech. 

"Yes," she said, but she went no farther. 

"And you once lived there?" 

"Yes," she said again, but she vouchsafed no more. Vernon found 
a deep curiosity, springing within him; he longed to know more about 
this young woman who in all outward ways seemed to be just like the 
women he knew, and yet was so essentially different from them. But 
though he tried, he could not move her to speak of her own life or its 
affairs. At the last he said boldly: 

"Tell me, how did you come to be a lawyer?" 

Miss Green turned to meet his inquisitive gaze. 

"How did you?" she asked .... 

"Well — " he stammered. "I don't know. I had to do something." 

"So did I," she replied .... 

"I did not care to lead a useless life," he said. "I wanted to do 
something — to have some part in the world's work .... And then, 
I'd like to make my own living." 

"I have to make mine," said Maria Greene. 



BRAND WHITLOCK'S FICTION 173 

"But you never thought of teaching, or nursing, or— well— painting 
or music, or that sort of thing, did you?" 
"No," she replied. "Did you?"28 

Vernon naively insists that the women of his acquaintance will 
profit from knowing her; she demurs. He insists that together they 
will educate them; she is silent. He suggests that they will come to 
Springfield to support the bill; and she is silent. 

The women, Amelia among them, led by Mrs. Overman Hodge- 
Lathrop, do come to Springfield, but as Maria Greene anticipated, 
they come to do battle with those, Vernon included, who would 
despoil American womanhood by making them voters. The climax 
of the novel sees Mrs. Hodge-Lathrop lobbying effectively and as 
skillfully as an old-line political boss, in the process marshalling the 
forces of opposition. Attorney Greene charms "Bull" Burns, the 
boss from Chicago, traditionally opposed to woman's suffrage, into 
fighting for it, and the result is a stalemate in the vote. Amelia 
distracts Vernon into missing the crucial vote, and the cause is lost. 
Mrs. Hodge-Lathrop smiles in calm satisfaction, as Vernon and 
Amelia together look on. Amelia comments in triumph, " 'Why, 
Morely, would you want to see your mother or your sister or me, 
or even Mrs. Hodge-Lathrop in Politics?' 'Well,' he said, with a sud- 
den and serious emphasis, 'not Mrs. Hodge-Lathrop exactly. She'd 
be chairman of the state central committee from the start, and well 
—the machine would be a corker, that's all.' "^ His tone is 
prophetic. 

Unlike The Thirteenth District, l-ier Infinite Variety does not use 
political incidents as focal points, nor is it concerned with the effects 
of political processes on people and on government; rather, it ex- 
amines character and social conditioning as they affect the political 
process, and in it Whitlock examines the varieties of people— male 
as well as the female of his title— who, for better or worse, enact 
or influence legislation. His characters are paired: Vernon and 
Amelia, youthfully naive, who find themselves actively involved on 
opposite sides of the issue; "Doc" Ames, the crank, and Maria Burley 
Greene, the feminist, as opposites who join their radical forces; 
"Bull" Burns and Mrs. Hodge-Lathrop, whose manipulative skills 
bring about the stalemate. At the end of the novel, as Whitlock 
brings Mrs. Hodge-Lathrop and Maria Greene together for the first 
time, victor and vanquished, leader of the old guard and pioneer of 
the new, it is evident that eventually, if not now, the new will prevail. 

l-ler Infinite Variety is successful as a social commentary, but it 
is even more successful as a comment upon an important political 
and social issue that Whitlock saw as essential to the further develop- 
ment of a just and effective democratic society. It is successful, too, 
in its portrayal of women as human beings, depicting a variety of 



174 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

women who display the same characteristics, talents, and idiosyn- 
crasies as their male counterparts and who are as jealous of their 
prerogatives as men. In these portrayals, Whitlock makes clear, too, 
that their ultimate destiny will be determined by themselves, for 
better or worse. 

In the background, as the ironic comedy is played, is the central 
Illinois countryside, less obtrusive than in The Thirteenth District, 
but no less evident: the rolling prairie, punctuated by the blasts 
set off by men digging for coal beneath its surface, the heat of an 
Illinois summer, the two faces of Lincoln, that which made Spring- 
field a tourist attraction and the brooding presence that dominates 
the town and permeates the process carried out under the capitol 
dome. 

With the conclusion of Her Infinite Variety, Whitlock drew upon 
his Illinois political experience for the last time, but both the experi- 
ence and its use in his future careers were to have their effects until 
his death thirty years later. As Her infinite Variety came from the 
presses he was moving directly into reform politics in Toledo, result- 
ing in his four terms as reform mayor, with much of his energy de- 
voted to police reform, utility regulation, penal reform, and home 
rule for cities. His career culminated in his appointment by Woodrow 
Wilson as Minister to Belgium in 1914 and the ensuing drama of the 
war. His Illinois literature led to the grimness of The Turn of the 
Balance, set in Toledo and published in 1907; it led to the magnifi- 
cent two-volume memoir Belgium! (1919), to 7. Hardin & Son, set 
in the Urbana, Ohio of his youth and published in 1923, and it led 
to the decline of Whitlock's two careers in an age that denied the 
values of his literary mentors, Howells and James, as surely as it 
denied those of his political mentor, Altgeld. But his works, political 
and literary, provide the record of a man who learned his lessons well, 
who determined to write and to act, who did both effectively and 
impressively, and who deserves much more than the obscurity into 
which he has passed. ^° 

NOTES 

For a detailed discussion of Whitlock's background see David D. Anderson, Brand 
Whitlock (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1968) pp. 20-24. 
2 

The revised version is standard. It appears in Brand Whitlock, The Gold Brick (Indian- 
apolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1910), pp. 302-32. 

^Published in Ibid., pp. 89-118. 

Published in Ibid., pp. 35-64. 
^Published in Ibid., pp. 165-200. 

See Anderson, pp. 25—26. 



BRAND WHITL OCK'S FICTION 1 75 



Brand Whitlock, The Thirteenth District (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 
1902). 

Q 

William Dean Howells, "On Truth in Fiction," in Great Short Works of American 
Realism, ed. William Thorp (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), p. 708. 
g 
William Dean Howells, "Novel-Writing and Novel Reading," in The Norton Anthology 

of American Literature, ed. Ronald Gottesman, et al. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), 
p. 305. 

The Thirteenth District, p. 8. 
11, 



"Ibid. 


,p. 11. 


12,bid. 


, p. 15. 


^3,bid. 




^^Ibid., 


, p. 17. 


15,bid., 


, p. 27. 


^6,bid., 


, p. 35. 


l^lbid., 


, p. 57. 


IS.bid., 


, pp. 58-59. 


^9|bid., 


, pp. 60-61. 


20,bid., 


, p. 62. 


21 Ibid., 


, p. 63. 


22,bid. 




23,bid.. 


pp. 198-99. 



24 

Brand Whitlock, Her Infinite Variety (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1904). 

2^lbid., pp. 20-21. 

2^lbid., p. 21. 

2^lbid., pp. 21-23. -. 

2^lbid., pp. 75-77. 

•^^Ibid., pp. 166-67. 

30 

For details of Whitlock's later career and works, see Anderson, Brand Whitlock. 



LOUIS WILLIAM RODENBERG, 
AN ILLINOIS POET 



Walter B. Hendrickson 

Louis William Rodenberg was a blind poet who was born in 
western Illinois and lived there all of his life. He was associated with 
the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville and 
became an internationally known authority on the printing of 
braille music and literary works. He made little attempt to publish 
his poetry but left money in his will so that a collection of them 
might appear posthumously. Some of his most interesting lyrics are 
based on his early life on a farm near Chester, Illinois. They reveal 
his remarkable ability to evoke a sense of place by working with his 
memories of early childhood, before the unfortunate accident 
occurred which left him sightless for the rest of his life. In particular, 
"Pieces in the Quilt" offers a vivid depiction of rural life decades 
ago, and provides a sensitive portrayal of the poet's mother as an 
active, devoted and joyful farm wife. 

Rodenberg was born on May 1 1, 1891, on a small farm near the 
village of Ellis Grove in southwestern Illinois. Later in life he was 
conscious of his family origins, for he wrote a genealogical memoir, 
"Frederika and Her Family," and distributed it in typescript to his 
brothers and sisters.^ There were three parts to the account: (1) 
Frederika and Her Family," a gracefully written history of his 
parents' families, the Rodenbergs and Von Behrens, beginning with 
their European origins and continuing with their immigration to the 
United States; (2) "Pieces in the Quilt," a poetic description of life 
on the Illinois farm, written as though his mother was speaking; 
and (3) the Rodenberg-Von Behren Family Chart. 

Louis was the eldest son of Phillip and Frederika— or Rika— 
(Von Behren) Rodenberg. Phillip was a widower, and came to 
Frederika with a family of three small boys. She was American- 
born, and Phillip was born in Europe, coming to the United States 
when he was twenty years old. Their son Louis was born in a four- 
room log cabin, and until the age of ten he lived a life of familiarity 
with the outdoors— the open fields and wooded areas— and daily 
contact with the animals of the farm and countryside. 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG, AN ILLINOIS POET 177 



The typical and contented farm life of young Louis ended after 
Christmas vacation in 1901. On the first January school day, as he 
walked over the frozen fields, a lunch pail in one hand and a pen- 
holder in the other, he stumbled, and in falling, pierced an eye with 
his pen. It became infected, the infection spread into the other eye, 
and in a few days, he was totally blind. ^ 

Nothing could be done to restore his sight, although he received 
the best medical attention, and he was kept out of school until the 
fall of 1901. Then, he was given a seat near the front of the room 
where he could easily hear the teacher and pupils as class recitations 
went on. Thus, he endured the humiliating experience of many blind 
people— being regarded as someone who is also deaf and who should 
be spoken to in a loud voice. This, and other problems in school, 
made him a very unhappy boy, although he was loved and cared for 
by his family. 

After two miserable years in the country school, there came a 
new and understanding teacher who knew about the school for the 
blind at Jacksonville, and he wrote for and received a braille alphabet 
chart and reading materials prepared for prospective pupils. With 
the devoted assistance of a sister, Louis learned the braille alphabet 
and read the short exercises. He said later that at first he would not 
touch the sheets of braille because they were repulsive to him— 
"like something from the regions of death, but when I heard my 
older sister make out words with the help of the alphabet chart my 
rebellion turned suddenly to jealousy, and I demanded to take over. 
After about an hour, with much excited help, I was able to make out 
word after word without the chart."^ This childhood joy at the dis- 
covery of braille influenced his whole life, and he often spoke of the 
benefits that a full knowledge of braille could bring to blind people. 

In September, 1903, with his father accompanying him, Louis 
made the long train trip from Randolph County to Jacksonville, to 
enroll in the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Blind.'* 
He found a tree-shaded campus of ten acres or so, with a large garden 
plot and a dairy barn. The main building was a three-story brick 
structure in which seventy-five pupils, boys and girls, had their 
dormitories and classrooms. In the building there was also an audi- 
torium and a dining hall. Another seventy-five pupils lived in separate 
girls' and boys' cottages. When the boys' cottage was demolished 
several years after Louis graduated, he wrote a poem about it, in 
which he declared. 

Not fate with all its mauls 

May batter down the old familiar walls 

That in my memory standi 

Now oft I seek the refuge of your halls .... 

They welcome me, the laughter and the tears 

Of those within, the comrades of my youth. 5 



178 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



Louis flourished at the school. He was a tall, sandy- haired boy, 
physically tough and mentally alert. One of his teachers said of him, 
"He was a hard worker, determined to overcome his handicap by 
intense study, and by doing things better than was expected of him, 
and by the thoroughness and adeptness that won the admiration and 
the respect of teachers and student alike. "^ 

The high school provided a four-year curriculum that included 
large amounts of history, civics and political economy, English and 
American literature, and intensive work in spelling and rhetoric, 
as well as science and mathematics. He also had a year of German 
and one term of Latin. ^ It was the usual academic curriculum found 
in all four-year high schools of the time, and followed guidelines 
established by the Illinois Department of Public Instruction.^ Young 
Louis had no difficulties with any course and his teachers gave him 
high grades— many E's (Excellent) and Vg's (Very good), and only 
a few G's (Good).^ He was a self-starting student, and he brought his 
bright mind and quick intelligence to bear on a personal education 
program that he followed all of his life. He read widely on many 
subjects, partly by means of material in braille, in the use of which 
he was expert, and partly by being read to, first by his teachers, 
and later by paid readers. Even in high school he spent hours poring 
over the braille dictionary. ^° 

Rodenberg also received an excellent education in music, study- 
ing theory and harmony, and public school methods, as well as 
performing on the clarinet, cello, piano and organ. He was the 
inventor and developer of the form of braille music for the keyboard 
which he named "bar over bar." It is in general use today. 

Finally, he was skillful at the operation of mechanical devices, 
and was the inventor of several machines for the printing of braille. 
He also created such devices as conversation boards for deaf-blind 
persons and a check writing attachment for use on a typewriter. 

Rodenberg became the head of the braille printing department 
of the Illinois School for the Blind in 1913. This was a particularly 
important position, not so much for the mechanical aspect of print- 
ing braille, but rather because the school was deeply involved in the 
promotion of braille as a means of communication and education. It 
was here that the machines for making braille dots on paper and 
metal plates quickly and legibly were invented by Frank H. Hall, 
the superintendent of the school in the 1890's and later. And it was 
Hall and his assistants that led the fight to establish the use of the 
code devised by the Frenchman, Louis Braille, early in the nine- 
teenth century, as the standard over less efficient and more difficult 
codes that were proposed. It was here, also, under Hall that the 
school printing shop entered early into the publication of braille 
music. It was widely held then, and until recent times, that music 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG, AN ILLINOIS POET 



179 




Louis Rodenberg, accepting the Migel Medal from Helen Keller, 1943. 



was especially important in the education of the blind as an esthetic 
stinnulant and a means of providing vocational opportunities. 

So it was that the position of braille printer was much more 
than that of an artisan or craftsman. Rodenberg found it an outlet 
for intellectual interests in developing an international code for 
braille music, and for the standardization of literary braille. In these 
endeavors he became a national leader and an international expert, 
attending conferences in Paris in 1929 and 1954, and he was a 
member of the 1932 committee that standardized literary braille 
for Great Britain and the rest of the English speaking world, includ- 
ing the United States. For his services he received the Migel Medal 
of the American Foundation for the Blind from the hands of Helen 
Keller in 1943. He was also the recipient of the McCann Award for 
services to the blind people of Illinois in 1963, and he was given the 
honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by MacMurray College 
in 1959. 

Rodenberg had an insatiable desire to search for all kinds of in- 
formation. He always employed readers, but in his lifetime there was 
an ever-increasing number of books and periodicals available to him 
in braille. He set himself to learn as much as possible about particular 
subjects, two of which, his friends remember, were medicine and 
architecture.^^ He was also well-read in history, music history, and 
literature. Moreover, he was well-traveled, not only in England and 
Europe, but in the United States, where he was a regular attendant 
at the meetings of professional organizations. 



180 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

He was the editor or author of books on braille music and the 
author of many articles on the use of braille and other subjects in 
leading periodicals for the blind. He edited the Illinois Braille Mes- 
senger until his retirement in 1963J^ He was as expert at the type- 
writer as with the braille writer. 

While the writing of poetry was continually a part of his life, he 
wrote much less as he grew older, "Pieces in the Quilt" being his 
last important work. He does not seem to have shared his poetry 
with his friends or family, except for "Pieces in the Quilt," and his 
only publicly distributed work was "Triptych for a Sunken City." 
When the author of this study had conversations with people who 
knew Rodenberg, very little was said about his poetry, and when 
some of the verses were read to them, they were surprised, even a 
little embarrassed. Their memories of him were of a man always 
busy at the typewriter or the braille writer, or working at the press 
or stereotype machine, a man of few words who demanded a high 
standard of performance from his associates. People sometimes said 
that he was so smart and efficient that he was intolerant of others 
less capable than he. (It was this insistence on perfection that led 
him to rewrite and improve his poetry.) Yet he was also kind and 
patient with learners, and his assistants stayed with him for years. 
His habit of exploding when faced with what he thought was sloppy 
work or slow understanding was not carried over into his numerous 
encounters with other braille experts, either at home or abroad. 
There were even occasions when he compromised on what he con- 
sidered to be lesser matters in order to gain larger objectives, using 
politeness and soft words. In many ways he kept his professional 
life separate from his personal life, especially his interest in poetry 
and esthetics. 

Rodenberg died in 1966 and was buried in Ellis Grove. In Jack- 
sonville he is remembered as an educated, cultured, and sensitive 
man, reserved and suave in public, who was exacting in his demands 
on fellow workers but who also set high standards for himself. 

While he was still in high school, Rodenberg began to write 
poetry; he collected these early verses under the title "Baby Warb- 
lings."^-^ He apparently did not consider them very important 
because he did not transcribe them into typescript as he did all 
of his later works. His serious interest in poetry began in 1913. He 
said, 

While hearing a Schumann composition played by the Kneisel 
String Quartet in 1913, I began suddenly to wonder if there could 
really be verbal expression of the joys that drive genius to advance- 
ment, that when fashioned for us make the world more beautiful, 
and that, in short, prove that we are finite sparks of divinity. If Whittier 
in his "Song of Labor" could sing the songs of artisans? . . . Shortly 
thereafter thoughts began to shape themselves into lines and stanzas. 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG, AN ILLINOIS POET 181 



Music of course was the first theme; just prior to this I had been in- 
spired to do this by the efficiency of the inventive power such as Edi- 
son was manifesting and I had written a few stanzas of "Invention." '^ 

But during the same time when he was thinking such lofty 
thoughts about art and creativity, he composed a simple poem that 
grew out of attachment to the area where he lived as a boy: "Lines 
to the Ruin of a Water Mill" (1914). It was inspired by his memory 
of a tumbled down grist mill erected by Frenchmen in the eighteenth 
century. The poem is a nostalgic, meditative work of sixteen stanzas. 
At the outset, he describes the ruins of the "mould'ring Water Mill" 
and stresses the conventional theme of time's destructive force, but 
memory soon gives place to vision as he pictures children playing 
about the ruins and imagines the mill is still in operation: 

Awhile he sits. So fancy turns to dream: 

Again the mill wheel runs and, dark and tall. 

With measured stroke the millwright swings his maul 

Upon the dam across the foaming stream. 

Again the waiting wagons keep their lane 

And to the mill in turn are driven past. 

Where shouting drivers to the miller cast. 

With brawny arms the bulging bags of grain. 

Clearly, the young Rodenberg was drawing on recollections of his 
trips to a country mill with his father. He concludes the poem with a 
request, directed to the Mill, which perhaps reveals his desire for an 
achievement of lasting value: 

Teach me. Old Mill, that when my toil is spent. 
The good I wrought, tho' homely and obscure. 
May somehow on the breast of time endure. 
Itself its own sufficient monument. ^^ 

Forty of Rodenberg's poems were published in Poetical Writings 
but there are more that remain in manuscripts— braille or typescript. 
He rewrote and rearranged them numerous times, and since few of 
them are dated, it is difficult, and would probably not be useful, to 
make a chronological study. He wrote little in his later life; "Pieces 
in the Quilt" (1946) was perhaps his last lyric. 

Rodenberg at one time considered offering his poems for publica- 
tion, as a result of a three-sonnet composition that was cast in bronze. 
That was "Triptych to a Sunken City." He wrote it to commemorate 
the lost village of Kaskaskia, which was near his home and is today 
Kaskaskia State Park. Rodenberg, who acquired the family home- 
stead at Ellis Grove, became fascinated with the history of that area 
in Randolph County. Kaskaskia was one of the centers of French 
settlement in Illinois, and the territorial government of Illinois was 
seated there for a short time. Old Fort Kaskaskia stood on a high 
bluff, with the village down below on the bank of the Mississippi 
River. In 1881, during the season of flood, the river carved a new 



182 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



channel and completely destroyed the village. Present day Kaskaskia 
is on an island in the river. 

Rodenberg thought that the village should be commennorated 
by a memorial located on the overlook on top of the bluff, where 
the river and the island could be seen. For two years (1940—1942) 
he corresponded with the Division of State Parks in the Illinois De- 
partment of Public Works, and with citizens' groups in Chester, the 
largest town near Kaskaskia, concerning the creation of what was 
later called Kaskaskia State Park. He sent his poem and his sugges- 
tions at a propitious time, because the state, with the aid of WPA 
labor, was expanding and improving the state park system. The 
authorities, however, were doubtful about using Rodenberg's poem, 
and they suggested that he gather expert opinions from teachers of 
English in Illinois colleges and universities. Rodenberg prepared an 
elaborate brochure, setting forth his reasons for writing the poem, 
and the poem itself, and asked for teachers' opinions. Sixteen of 
them gave their approval, some less enthusiastically than others, but 
on the basis of the favorable ones, the state accepted the poem. 
Another fortuitous development came from the Illinois state organi- 
zation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which had a 
policy of supporting the establishment of historical markers and 
memorials, and they received permission from the state authorities 
to provide the three bronze tablets. 

All of these events culminated in the dedication of the memorial 
on Sunday, October 18, 1942, with Rodenberg present to hear his 
poem recited by the choruses of two local high schools from a script 
which he provided. ^^ It was a moment of much satisfaction for 
Rodenberg, and he took great pride in his accomplishment. However, 
the "Triptych" is not one of his better compositions, characterized 
as it is by inflated and conventional language. It is written as an 
apostrophe to the Mississippi River, the "monarch of the plains," 
which displayed its "ruthless fury" by destroying the city.^^ 

On the basis of the acclaim he received from many persons, who 
were not poetry critics, he decided to present his other poems to the 
public. It was suggested by some person in Jacksonville that Roden- 
berg contact W. H. French of the English Department of Cornell 
University. We do not know the details, but French was an lllinoisan 
who had Jacksonville connections and had lived in Griggsviiie and 
Decatur. ^^ Rodenberg went to New York City in the summer of 
1943, where he received the Migel Medal, and after that ceremony 
he made a side trip to Ithaca, but French was not at home. When he 
returned to Jacksonville, Rodenberg wrote to French, sending some 
of his lyrics. ^^ 

Professor French replied that Rodenberg should "publish at least 
a good many of the poems; and that you must by all means complete 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG, AN ILLINOIS POET 183 

the odes at the end." In general, French approved of Rodenberg's 
work, but he said that "Triptych to a Sunken City" was not as good 
as most because it was stilted, and contained "mixed metaphors." 
French also offered to help prepare the poems for submission to a 
publisher, if Rodenberg decided to go in that direction. ^° In answer, 
Rodenberg said that he would like to explore the possibility of 
publication and would be grateful if he could have French's help 
in pruning and revising poems. ^^ But the poet did not follow through, 
being satisfied to circulate his work to friends and family in typed 
form. Among the Rodenberg papers are several different collections 
of these typed poems. 

But the desire to find a wider audience was not abandoned, and 
when Rodenberg died, he provided in his will that forty percent of 
his estate, excluding his house and furniture— about $4,000— was 
to be used by his executor to publish the poems. He named his 
nephew, Lyie E. Seymour, as the person to be asked to carry out 
this provision. ^^ The latter used as a vehicle the Wayne State Founda- 
tion of the State College in Wayne, Nebraska. Mr. Seymour is now 
the president of Wayne State College. The volume, printed by an 
offset process on 8y2 by 1 1 inch sheets, contains seventy pages, and 
includes thirty-eight poems. It is not copyrighted, is not dated, and 
was circulated privately. ^"^ 

Rodenberg's work falls into three broad categories: (1) poems 
about art and creativity, (2) shorter poems inspired by his reading or 
his observations of life, and (3) poems associated with the farm and 
the countryside around Ellis Grove. His most elaborate verses are 
three long "Odes to Creation," which focus on Science, Art, and 
Music, These poems are heavy going for the reader because they are 
so flamboyant and obscure. For example, the "Ode to Music" 
begins. 

While God's dream divine 
Bore on the coming glory of the plan. 

Ere in the chaotic void 
The infant stars their trackless orbits run 

Vying to be the first in heaven to shine, 
Ere dreadful power its levin wings employed 

Or Beauty shapes began, 
The awful silence of the vast design 
God's dream annoyed .... 

The lyric concludes ten pages later, after an extravagant allegorical 
description of an orchestral performance.'^'* 

Dr. Patricia Burnette, a specialist In English, and a former college 
teacher, has remarked that Rodenberg's poetry is mainly " 'nature 
Imitating art,' not 'art imitating nature,' " and that he was apparently 
"influenced by the popular textbook poets of his day, the English 
and American Romantics that were usually included in anthologies 



184 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

used in the public schools." She has also suggested that Rodenberg 
wrote poetry in the way that he thought a poet ought to do it and 
that the result was often stilted and derivative. ■^^ This is certainly 
true of his poems about art and creativity. 

Rodenberg also wrote a few short, light poems. Perhaps the best 
of them is "Up in the Nursery," which must have been inspired by 
boyhood memories of the still, bright country nights: 

The stars are children, the moon is a nurse. 
And they hide in the funniest places 
When she comes with the wet cloth of a cloud 
To wash their pretty faces. 

When her patience wanes, she hangs her cloth 
Of cloud on a mountain chain; 
Then she goes away, and the naughty stars 
Come blinking out again. 

There are so many for her to watch 
That never a nurse you'll find 
Who wouldn't be angry just a bit 
If they all refused to mind. 

The other day when 'twas oh so dark 
And no stars shown over head, 
I knew the moon, like a proper nurse, 
Had sent them all to bed. 

I thought I saw one little star 

Peep out with a tearful eye; 

Then raindrops fell, and I knew full well 

That even stars can cry. 

Tomorrow night they will forget 

And will twinkle as they play; 

The moon will smile, as a good nurse should, 

When children all obey. 26 

The childlike imagination of the speaker, the simple language, and 
the extended moon metaphor make the lyric very similar to the 
moon poems of Rodenberg's famous Springfield contemporary, 
Vachel Lindsay. 

The third group of Rodenberg's poems is based on his personal 
experience— the everyday happenings of his early life, his relations 
with his family, and the round of events in the countryside, where 
men, animals, plants, rain and sunshine were a part of life. Of these 
things Rodenberg wrote directly and sensitively, and so he makes a 
contribution to our appreciation of rural life in western Illinois in 
the last decade of the nineteenth century, the period before he 
experienced his blindness. One of the notable works in this category 
is the long poem, "Harvest Phantasy," in which he describes the 
sounds and smells of the day the harvesters came to cut the wheat. 
He begins with his dreams of the night before, and then he depicts 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG, AN ILLINOIS POET 185 

the activities of the day, starting with the rooster crowing at day- 
break: 

From chanticleer to chanticleer 
The tidings of the morning fly. 

Soon Chanticleer comes fluttering 

From off his watch on noisy wing 

And leads his gaudy tribe to feed 

In the democracy of greed. 

Now by the chickens' cross-slatted pen. 

Who is that barefoot boy of ten 

Who to the brood is calling stands 

Scattering grain from his glad young hands? 

I envy him his morning chore. 

Envy him his boyish heart and grace; 

Young is the morn on his face; 

Ah, where have I seen him there before? 

Hark to the breakfast bell that rings 
High on its post by the maple tree; 
Here how it rings and swings and flings 
Welcome access to the field of gold. 



To chanticleer the boy concedes 
The last full dole of the grain he feeds. 
So now he drops his big red pail, 
Climbs o'er the fence's topmost rail. 
Runs to the cistern's strong place 
To dash cold water on his face. 



The speaker then projects himself into the scene, juxtaposing his 
childhood self with the man he has become— or the joyful unself- 
consciousness of youth with the somber awareness of time that 
comes with maturity: 

On the rough log wall of the house hard by 

In the old brown mirror, hung so high 

He can barely reach its faded rim; 

So he mounts to the bench that stands below: 

If I am stealthy and slyly go 

Behind him there and peek at him, 

Perhaps he will never guess or know 

The strange demeanor of my whim. 

He is combing his curly auburn hair. 
And his bright blue eyes are happy there; 
His smooth young brow has no line or mark; 
But whose is the face reflected bark. 
Framed with his in the mirror's rim. 
Peering so, that resembles him. 
The same perhaps save in point of years. 
The one more marred like the mirror's brim? 

The boy later begins his task of taking water to the threshers. 
Off he goes to the harvest field, stopping along the way to join his 
sister, Annie, in her play and swinging with her on the rope swing. 



186 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

Later he continues his task, but not so intently that he cannot stop 
to hear the "lyric thrush" and watch as the hawk "pursues his 
cerulean track." He dreams that he would like to run a race with 
the "vagrant cloud," and he imagines other adventures by the stream, 
in the woods, and in the meadows. ^^ In spite of its sometimes awk- 
ward verses and occasional Christian moralizing, "Harvest Phantasy" 
is a good evocation of rural sights and sounds as experienced by a 
farm boy of nine or ten. 

But a much finer poem is "Pieces in the Quilt," written in the 
1940's when Rodenberg was at the height of his powers. After the 
death of his father, his mother came to live with him in Jacksonville, 
and he spent many hours with her, learning about his family and 
listening to her stories of her life. From these stories and from his 
memories that were stimulated by them, he composed "Pieces in 
the Quilt," in which his mother is the speaker. The poem provides 
an authentic description of rural experience in the Middle West dur- 
ing the late nineteenth century, a period when the rural way of life 
reached its fullest development. In this poem Rodenberg's concern 
for the techniques of poetry writing was minimized, and he wrote 
freely, naturally, and specifically. But at the same time, the essential 
sensitivity of the artist-craftsman touches every line.^ 

"Pieces in the Quilt" has more than 300 lines and is divided 
into twenty-four free verse stanzas of irregular length. It focuses on 
the life of Rodenberg's mother, from the time of her marriage 
until she is very old. The poem not only celebrates the goodness of 
rural life but emphasizes the value of memory as the preserver of 
those moments which have deep meaning for the individual. 

In the opening section, Rika Rodenberg introduces both the 
memory theme and the quilt metaphor, speaking as she sits working 
at her quilting frame: 

To live and to remember — are they not much the same? 

That which we live we remember and, remembering, we live again. 

Life is a crazy-quilt of dreams, of living and remembering, 

Stitches of days, color patches of years. 

Uneven pieces of light and dark . . . .29 

As she works, she recalls moments in her adult life which had— and 
still have— meaning for her, beginning with the first week of her 
marriage: 

Again I stand at the farmhouse window, absently, not weeping. 
Looking westward towards the far-away hills of my childhood home. 
Till the boyish voices of my three dear stepsons at play 

in the yard 
And the sound of a clanking and lumbering wagon brings me back 

from a hundred miles away. 
Now the sorrel team rounds the bend of the browning autumn orchard 
And I see my man of last week's marriage standing erect in the 

fore of the wagon holding the guide-lines, 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG. AN ILLINOIS POET 



187 





The poet's mother, Frederika Rodenberg. Louis Rodenberg, in about 1930. 



So I must hurry with the supper to please him, ; 

And he must not find me idle, looking west toward the hills ',, , . 

of home. (p. 39) 

As this indicates, the moments of lasting value for Mrs. Rodenberg 
are not important ceremonies— such as her wedding— but everyday 
scenes and events. Hence the poem reveals her deep appreciation for 
the simple realities of life: husband and family, farm and friends, and 
the natural world. 

Her descriptions of the rural seasons are always filled with human 
activity, especially the rituals of farm life, as illustrated by the fol- 
lowing account of woodcutting in the winter: 

After the snowfall, the woods! 

Who can tell how pretty they stand in the first morning sun? 
It is stinging cold; and today Phillip and the men crunch away 
In their heavy boots and gloves, with caps let down and over 

their ears. 
Shouting at each other, muffled, as they go. 

Carrying on their shoulders the sharpened axes and long cross-cut saw. 
Soon they are chopping and sawing at the innocent white hushed trees 
He driving them hard all day to clear new areas for spring corn. 
The countryside is all crisp and still; so I in the house, 

half a mile away. 
Hear with a pang of pity how the great tree crashes down. 
And after a while another, (p. 40) 

Rika Rodenberg's descriptions are vivid because the poet makes 
extensive use of verbs, as in this passage. Also, her sensitivity is 
continually revealed because Rodenberg often conveys her emotional 
response to what she recalls— even the cutting of trees. 

Indeed, the poet very subtly displays a kinship between his 
mother and the living landscape that surrounds her. Like the country- 



188 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



side, she is fertile, productive, full of goodness: 

Everything I see of summer through the window there is 

wonderful — 
The orchards with their fruits growing ripe, now this, 

now that, through the summer. 
The fields with their grain ripening, now this, now that, 

through the summer. 
The animals on the pasture, hearing their young, now these, 

now those, through the summer. 
The birds feeding their young, the bees gathering honey, 

the clouds gathering rain. 
In the spring-house the crocks of milk from the patient cows, 

the cream and the butter. 
In the kitchen stove the fire that crackles quietly as 

if alive. 
In the bread-pan under the white cover, the dough rising 

in the yeast. 
The unborn child I shall bear in the winter, growing within 

me through the summer. 
And he shall be rich with goodness like the things all about us; 

The world is full of wonder and goodness, (p. 41 ) 

Even the continual household chores that kept her busy through 
the long days do not diminish her love for the life that she leads: 

How endless are the things to do, how busy are my hands. 
Baking the bread and the cakes and pies. 
Washing the clothes and hanging them in the sun and wind. 
Caring for the babies, sewing the dresses and waists 
Making the heavy shirts and pants for the men to work in. 
Giving the children their baths in the biggest washtub. 
Skimming the crocks, churning the butter, canning the 

drying fruit. 
Tending the garden, with the little boys helping me. 
Glad for the endless things to be done. 
And glad for the welcome rest of sleep, (p. 42) 

This self-description of Mrs. Rodenberg as a capable, active woman 
who is very cheerful and satisfied with her hard life recalls Edgar Lee 
Masters' Spoon River Anthology poem, "Lucinda Matlock," based 
on his beloved grandmother. Like that famous lyric, "Pieces in the 
Quilt" is a celebration of the character and spirit of the midwestern 
farm wife of the late nineteenth century. 

Stanza twenty-three is the climactic part of the poem. It is the 
longest section, and it offers a detailed account of the most exciting 
annual farm event of decades ago, threshing. In spite of his blind- 
ness, Rodenberg was able to vividly re-create not only the sounds 
but the sights of the threshing activity. Especially noteworthy is 
his account of the steam engine as it approaches the farm and begins 
operation: 

Now, on this morning of mid-July, the fast-puffing engine 

approaches. 
And we, at the kitchen window, looking, can see it come 

along the lane from the'neighbor's. 



LOUIS W. RODE NB ERG, AN ILLINOIS POET 189 



Drawing behind it the big red thrashing-machine with its 

blow-pipe laid on its back like a tail; 
Nearer it comes, and louder and louder sound its puffings 

and steam escaping; 
Now it rounds the garden bend and comes roaring close by 

the house. 
So near that the little boys scamper in and hide under the 

bed; 
It rounds the barn out of sight and, with fits of puffing 

as if out of breath. 
It pushes the heavy thrasher in place by the rail-raftered 

cowshed. 

Now, behind the barn, the engine lets out its shrill whistle, 

the whirr of the thrasher begins. 
The drone and song of it rises and falls, and it rises and 

falls all the day. 
And the engine pants as the whirling teeth of the hopper 

snarl through the sheaves, (p. 44) 

In spite of being mechanical, the engine is not depicted as an intru- 
sion upon the natural scene, but as a living part of the harvest, an 
effect which is largely acconnplished through personification. 

All of the activity on threshing day is deeply related to the 
rhythms of the living earth, and so in this section Rika Rodenberg 
explicitly associates herself with the productive landscape: 

All the while I think within me how good to live on the land. 
How in a week or two I shall bear another child. 
Perhaps another girl, making two, and my own boys are two — 
How blest we are with children and harvests and home! (p. 45) 

Nowhere else in the poem is the goodness of rural life so thoroughly 
and effectively conveyed. 

The concluding section returns to the quilt metaphor, as Mrs. 
Rodenberg muses over the "patches and patterns" that appear 
while she works "in reverie at the quilting frame." Very rapidly, 
she recalls her later years, when the children grew up and left, 
her husband died, the farm was lost due to debt, and she was forced 
to live successively in the homes of her children. But she triumphs 
over these adversities by giving of herself: 

And soon I am quite at home in the house of each, knowing and 

helping with everything. 
Caring for their babies as if they were mine, loving them. 
Keeping my heart young with the going about and the caring 

for all (p. 46) 

As the poem ends, she is determined to make quilts for each of 
her children, thus revealing metaphorically her interest in contribut- 
ing to their lives, by providing them with memories that will be for- 
ever meaningful to them. The success of her effort is indicated by the 
poem itself, "Pieces in the Quilt," for it is Louis Rodenberg's quilt, 
given to him by his mother. In other words, the poem is full of 



190 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

meaningful moments that his mother provided for him, through her 
recounting of early family events and his later recollections of her 
as he was growing up. 

"Pieces in the Quilt" raises the old question of how a blind 
person can write about things which he cannot see. In this instance, 
Rodenberg created vivid midwestern scenes by relying on an advan- 
tage which persons blind from birth do not have, recollections of 
what he had seen as a boy— which were reinforced by what his 
mother had told him. The result is a poem which evokes a powerful 
sense of place as it also delineates a speaker who is deeply connected 
with the world she describes. In the process of demonstrating the 
way in which memories provide meaning for his mother's life, 
Rodenberg displayed the importance that very early visual memories 
had for him as a poet. 

Although "Pieces in the Quilt" is not significant enough to give 
Louis Rodenberg a posthumous reputation as a poet, it offers a fine 
reading experience for anyone interested in midwestern rural life 
in the late nineteenth century. It is one of the most remarkable 
achievements by the sensitive, hard working man who did not allow 
the tragedy of blindness to prevent him from contributing to Ameri- 
can culture. 

NOTES 

I wish to thank Professor John Hallwas for his encouragement to undertake this 
study and his assistance in putting it together, as well as my friends at the Illinois School 
for the Visually Impaired for sharing their recollections of Rodenberg with me. I am also 
grateful to Superintendent Richard Umsted, who acquired for the school's Historical Room 
much important material which he and I located. 

There is a copy in the Rodenberg Papers (ISVI). All materials cited in this study are 
in the Historical Room of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. 

Don O. Nold, "A Little Light for a Dark World," Panorama Magazine (of the Chicago 
Daily News), Apr. 18, 1964, n. p. Nold, himself partially sighted, won the confidence of 
Rodenberg, and this is the only place in public print where Rodenberg told about his boy- 
hood accident; even his colleagues at the Illinois School for the Blind did not know the 
details. Rodenberg did, however, tell the whole story in a five-page typed "Chronology of 
the Life Events and Undertakings of Louis W. Rodenberg." (Cited hereafter as LWR, Life 
Events) which he prepared for Lyie E. Seymour, the nephew who printed Rosenberg's 
poems under the title Selections from the Poetical Writings of Louis W. Rodenberg. Cited 
hereafter as LWR, Selections. 

"^Nold; LWR, Life Events. 

Pupils' Register. Through the course of its history, the school at Jacksonville has been 
named the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Blind, the Illinois School for the 
Blind, the Illinois Braille and Sight Saving School, and the Illinois School for the Visually 
Impaired. In this paper the appropriate name at the time of the events discussed will be used. 

To an Old Cottage Replaced on Campus," LWR, Selections, p. 26. 

^Leo J. Flood to Homer Nowatski, Sept. 12, 1952, Rodenberg Papers (ISVI). 

^Record Book, High School Classes and Grades, 1895-1924. 



LOUIS W. RODENBERG. AN ILLINOIS POET 191 



Q 

Walter B. Hendrickson, From Shelter to Self- Reliance: A History of the Illinois 
Braille and Sight Saving School (Jacksonville, III.: Illinois Braille and Sight Saving School, 

Jacksonville, III. 1972). 
g 
Record Book, High School Classes and Grades, 1895—1921. 

10 

Flood to Nowatski, loc. cit. 

The author knew Rodenberg and talked with him about braille printing. He also 

talked frequently, but often in only brief conversations, to persons who knew and worked 

with him, and it is not possible to pin these down in footnotes. 

1 2 

See Hendrickson, p. 162—67. The author is writing a full-length biography of 

Rodenberg. Rodenberg prepared a brief account of the invention and development of 
braille in The Story of Books for the Blind , Educational Series, No. 2 (New York; Ameri- 
can Foundation for the Blind, 1952). For a recent study of blindness, see Berthold Lowen- 
feld. The Changing Status of the Blind: From Separation to Integration. (Springfield, III.: 
Charles C. Thomas, 1975). 

13 

"Baby Warblings" is in Rodenberg Papers (ISU). The ISU division of Rodenberg 

Papers is a collection of material that in some manner was deposited with Southern Illinois 

University, and later given to ISVI. 

^^LWR to W. R. French (Cornell University), Jacksonville, July 28, 1943. Rodenberg 
Papers (Seymour). 

^^L\NR, Selections, p. 4-5. 

1 6 

There is an extensive correspondence concerning the project in Rodenberg Papers 

(ISU). 

The text of the poem was included in a small printed brochure that was provided 
for visitors to Kaskaskia State Park. The author has quoted from the version in LWR, 
Selections, p. 1. 

^^W. R. French to LWR, Ithaca, N.Y., July 16, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour). 

The Seymour division of Rodenberg's papers at ISVI refers to items received from his 

nephew, Lyle E. Seymour. 

19 

LWR to French, Jacksonville, Aug. 13, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour). 

9(1 

French to LWR, July 16, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour) 

21 

LWR to French, Aug. 13, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour) 

22 

Will of Louis W. Rodenberg, in Farmers State Bank and Trust Company of Jackson- 
ville. Joined with Lyle Seymour was another nephew, Melvin Seymour, but it was Lyle who 
carried out LWR's wishes. 

23 

The ISVI Historical Room has a copy of this book obtained from the Farmers State 

Bank and Trust Company, which also retained a copy in the Rodenberg Estate File. Another 

copy is in the Rodenberg Papers (Seymour). 

^^LWR Selections, pp. 60-70. 

25 

Dr. Burnette read all of Rodenberg's poems and wrote a critique which has been 

helpful to the author. Her typescript is in the Rodenberg Papers (ISVI). 
^^LWR,Se/ecf/OA7s, p. 36. 

^^ LWR , Selections, p. 6- 1 7. 

28 

The author has profited from conversations about Rodenberg's poetry with his wife, 

Dorris Walsh Hendrickson, an English M.A. from Smith. 

29 

LWR, Selections, pp. 39-47. 



NOTES AND DOCUMENTS 



Because the "Notes and Documents" section of the spring issue 
featured a bibliography pertaining to the history of Fulton County, 
there was no space for comments about recent meetings, events, 
and publications. Those matters are, then, the subject of this 
commentary. 

The Western Illinois Regional Studies Association held its third 
annual conference on March 28, 1981, at Knox College and Carl 
Sandburg College in Galesburg. Entitled "Land and Ethnic Heritage 
in Western Illinois," the conference included talks on photographic 
images of nineteenth-century towns, perception of the region by 
early travelers, environmental consequences of strip mining, Swedish 
Lutherans in western Illinois, and Carl Sandburg. Field trips to 
Bishop Hill and Carl Sandburg's Galesburg were also part of the 
program. Both were preceded by illustrated lectures. The attendance 
at this whole-day event was very good, attesting again to the public's 
interest in western Illinois history and culture. 

The 1982 conference will be held on April 17 at MacMurray 
College and I llinois College in Jacksonville. The theme of this confer- 
ence will be the settlement of Illinois. Proposed sessions will deal 
with religion, blacks, security, linguistics, newspapers, architecture, 
and the natural environment of the frontier. A featured speaker. 
Dr. Glenda Riley of the University of Northern Iowa, will talk on 
the role of women on the frontier. An historical tour is also planned. 
The conference director is Professor James Davis, who can be con- 
tacted at the History and Political Science Department, Illinois 
College, Jacksonville, 62650. Brochures about the conference will be 
distributed in late winter. 

A different kind of meeting, one which combined fellowship and 
study, was the thirteenth annual reunion of The Descendants of 
Icaria. Held on July 18-19, 1981, in Nauvoo, the meeting featured 
Icarian art and photographs. The speakers lectured on the Icaria- 
Speranza settlement in California, on Icarian art and architecture, 
and on Cambre family history. Also, reports were given by Dr. 



192 



NOTES AND DOCUMENTS 193 



Robert Sutton, Director of the Center for Icarian Studies at Western 
Illinois University, and Dr. Mark Rousseau, who represented the 
Institute for Icarian Investigations at the University of Nebraska in 
Omaha. Dr. Sutton announced that the first complete English 
translation of Etienne Cabet's Voyage en /car/a is forthcoming. 
Inquiries about that translation should be made to Dr. Sutton at the 
History Department, Western Illinois University, Macomb, 61455. 

Humanistic Values of ttie Icarian IVIovement, a forty-eight-page 
booklet containing the proceedings of the 1979 symposium on the 
relevance of the Icarian movement to today's world, was published 
in the fall of 1980. Inquiries as to price and availability should be 
made to the editor: Dr. Lillian M. Snyder, Sociology and Anthro- 
pology Department, Western Illinois University, Macomb, 61455. 

On September 12, 1981, Western Illinois University Library 
offered an adult-education program entitled "The Legacy of Virginia 
S. Eifert." Mrs. Eifert, who died in 1966, was a Springfield author 
who wrote eighteen books about nature and midwestern culture, in- 
cluding River World, Mississippi Calling, Land of the Snowshoe Hare, 
and a five-volume biography of Lincoln for young readers. The 
featured speaker for the program was Dr. Frank Bellrose, a wildlife 
specialist from the Illinois Natural History Survey in Havana, who 
spoke on "Conservation in the 1980's: Central Illinois." Dr. John 
E. Hallwas of the WIU Library also gave a slide program on "The 
World of Virginia S. Eifert." Books, manuscripts, photographs, and 
art works from the Library's Virginia S. Eifert Collection were on 
display, and various nature art exhibits were coordinated with the 
program. 

Within the past year, several western Illinois community histories 
have appeared. Reviews of two of them can be found in the book 
review section of this issue. In addition to those, some other region- 
oriented publications that our readers may wish to know about are 
Eileen Smith Cunningham's booklets on Jersey and Greene counties, 
and related areas — such as Lower Illinois Valley Sketches of Long 
Ago, Lower Illinois Valley Limestone Houses, and Lower Illinois 
Valley: White Hall. These and other titles are available from Mrs. 
Cunningham, whose address is Rural Route 2, Carrollton, 62016. 

Two publications related to prehistoric occupancy of Western 
Illinois appeared recently. Kampsville is a newsletter of Northwestern 
University teaching and research activities. It appears quarterly and 
focuses on the teaching aspect of Kampsville archaeological site 
explorations. Kampsville is published by Northwestern Archeology, 
P.O. Box 1499, Evanston, IL 60204. Dickson Mounds: the Dickson 
Excavation by Alan D. Harn was published by the Illinois State 
Museum in 1980. This volume is a revision of the 1971 edition by 
the same author. The 1980 edition includes a wealth of newly- 



194 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

discovered information not used in the 1971 edition. Foremost 
among these are photographs showing the original Dixon excavation 
in progress, as well as views of the external burial area. Original, 
handwritten excavation field notes by Don F. Dixon make this 
volume a valuable work on the early Dixon Mounds explorations. 

Illinois Libraries, a monthly journal of the Illinois State Library, 
published in its March and April, 1981 issues a listing of archival 
repositories in Illinois. Each repository— state, historical, university, 
or hospital-medical— is described in terms of its holdings and collec- 
tion focus. In addition to these individual descriptions, there is also 
a selective bibliography of archival literature relating to Illinois 
repositories and their holdings. This long-overdue reference guide to 
unique holdings in Illinois institutions should be of help to both 
academic and lay researchers of Illinois history and culture. 

Next spring "Notes and Documents" will again be devoted to a 
list of publications useful in regional historical research. The bibliog- 
raphy will feature Mercer and Henderson counties. 

Gordana Rezab 

Western Illinois University 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 



LINCOLN AND THE ECONOMICS OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. 
By Gabor S. Boritt. Memphis, Tenn.: Memphis State University 
Press, 1978. Pp. xxiv, 420. $15.00 

This is a revisionist interpretation of Abraham Lincoln, but the 
author writes to praise Lincoln, not to bury him. Gabor S. Boritt, 
an Hungarian immigrant educated as an American historian, offers 
American readers a fresh perspective on our sixteenth president. 
Boritt asserts that his prime goal "is the examination of his economic 
persuasion, of how it broadly manifested itself in his political life, 
and how in time it affected American history." (p. xi). 

According to Boritt, previous Lincoln scholars have failed to find 
the key to the real Lincoln. That key, he argues, was Lincoln's in- 
tense commitment to the ideal that all men should receive a "full, 
good, and ever increasing reward" for their labors, and that all men 
should have the opportunity to rise in life. This was the American 
Dream, and Lincoln both articulated it in his political rhetoric and 
lived it in his own life. Until 1854, asserts Boritt, Lincoln consistent- 
ly and persistently promoted this version of the American Dream. 
After 1854, Lincoln dropped this overt support for an economic 
version of the American Dream and turned to a moral crusade against 
slavery. Even then, insists Boritt, Lincoln's opposition to slavery was 
grounded in his economic philosophy. He saw the continued exist- 
ence of slavery as a threat to the realization of the Dream on the part 
of free white workers as well as the slaves themselves. Boritt's thesis 
includes an exhaustive survey of Lincoln literature (his bibliography 
alone covers thirty-six pages), and an appendix includes a valuable 
twenty-page historiographical essay that should be a boon to stu- 
dents and a handy reference to mature scholars. 

There are serious problems. About the third or fourth time the 
reader is told that Lincoln favored a protective tariff, wanted internal 
improvements, and worked for a national bank, he begins to tire of 
the repetition and realizes that the book might have been more 
worthy a contribution as a journal article. There are internal contra- 



196 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 



dictions, with Lincoln's Dream described on the one hand in pure 
economic terms and on the other hand as a love of democracy and 
the American way of life — a very traditional Lincoln indeed. The 
Whigs are described both as the party of economic development 
(p. xiii) and as a party favoring eastern interests more than economic 
development (p. 84). Boritt's prose is often that of the undigested 
and unedited dissertation, with a fondness for the passive voice, 
convoluted sentences, sweeping and misleading generalizations about 
Western civilization, and the use of archaic words (eg., "estray"). 
The most serious reservation, in the mind of this reader, is his zeal to 
prove the centrality of an economic dream for Lincoln. A fresh 
perspective is one thing, but Boritt comes close to a monocausal 
explanation of a complex man. 

Still, it is refreshing to read the work of an historian with an 
unabashed admiration for a genuine American hero. Does it take a 
new American to remind us that our past should be a source of 
pride, that it is more than a record of villainy and greed? 

William L. Burton 
Western Illinois University 



THE LIVING LAND OF LINCOLN. By Thomas Fleming. Readers 
Digest Press: McGraw-Hill 1980. Pp. 128. $20.00 

If I were visiting America for the first time and planning a 
Lincoln pilgrimage, this would be my handbook. Before beginning 
my pilgrimage, I would read it through, unable to put it down, and 
would refer to it at each site visited. And, I am sure I would want 
an extra copy for some good friend back home. 

The Living Land of Lincoln is a sturdy yet artistic book with 
twenty-four pages of excellent full color photographs. The author 
supplies the matrix of the story, the main body of which consists 
of extensive quotes from Lincoln biographies and reminiscences as 
well as the words of Lincoln himself. The bibliography at the end of 
the book lists 191 varied sources. The story flows smoothly and 
is most readable. 

If in the course of the pilgrimage I should become a convert to 
the study of Lincoln, I would obtain a copy of A Shelf of Lincoln 
Books by Paul M. Angle (Rutgers University Press, 1946) and 
Portrait For Posterity by Benjamin P. Thomas (Rutgers University 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 197 

Press, 1947). With the bibliography of my handbook open before 
me, I would refer to Angle and to Thomas for a better understanding 
of and confidence in the sources of the quotations that tell the 
Lincoln story. 

To tell the story of Lincoln fully, there must be freedom of 
selection of information sources, with the consequent mixture of 
fact and myth. This is necessary because Abraham Lincoln has 
become a legendary American folk hero since his assassination. 
To limit the story of Lincoln to just the incontrovertibly proven 
facts of his words and deeds would be almost unpatriotic. 

In the words of H. L. Mencken, in his critique of Carl Sandburg's 
The Prairie Years, "Are the facts all respected? Is the narrative 
satisfactory to the professors of Lincology? To hell with the profes- 
sors of Lincology!" 

This book serves a very real need and Mr. Fleming should feel 
much satisfaction with the end product of his work. 

Floyd S. Barringer 

Abraham Lincoln Association 

Springfield, Illinois 



TALES FROM TWO RIVERS I. Edited by Jerrilee Cain, John E. 
Hallwas, and Victor Hicken. Macomb, III.: Two Rivers Arts Council, 
1981. Pp. 187. $7.95. 

Most Americans have little difficulty recognizing those school- 
book catchwords used to describe the last few years of the nine- 
teenth century and the first four decades of the twentieth, those 
eras when western lllinoisans found themselves in automobiles and 
airplanes, on European battlefields, in "Coolidge Prosperity," and, 
finally, at the ends of breadlines. A comparative few alive today, 
however, can say that they have known all those times through 
experience and recall their lessons as readily as they can their own 
names. 

These 121 tales, written by senior citizens of twenty-nine Illinois 
counties and submitted to the 1980 Tales from Two Rivers writing 
contest, are just such a faithful rendering of those times for a social 
history of western Illinois in the forty or fifty years before World 
War II. Their authors tell of distances which were longer then: to- 
day's one and a half hour's drive from Hardin in Calhoun County 
to Quincy could require "a boat trip, two rail journeys, five meals. 



198 WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES 

a hotel room, forty-five hours, and the loss of a day at Gem City." 
Days and weeks were longer, too. Before World War I, work filled 
twelve-hour days and six-day weeks. A nine-hour day and a fifty- 
hour week (with the treat of Saturday afternoon off) marked pros- 
perity, but in 1929 it took a seven-day workweek to keep you off 
the dole. 

Experiences seem farther removed than a half century when 
described in a language which includes expressions like "scrapple," 
"shoe buttons," "tumble bug," "store bought," "soft soap," "service 
flag," "lard sandwich," and "jerk coffee." Ta/es from Two Rivers I 
is like a healthful restorative— a dose of onion syrup— which pro- 
duces a clearer sense of those earlier times. 

The tales are grouped around broad subjects, like community 
life, work, families, education, transportation ("Tin Lizzies, Etc."), 
hard times, and farm life. The editors balance an expected emphasis 
on the period's many significant developments (such as the advent 
of the automobile and highways and the increasing mechanization 
in farming and mining) by including memoirs of events which Ameri- 
cans both then and now would hope to be unthinkable: that in 1918 
western Illinois high schools and colleges eliminated German lan- 
guage courses and night riders shotgunned the homes and businesses 
of German-Americans. Editorial intervention was restricted to 
instances where meaning was unclear and, consequently, simple 
narratives on common subjects, like picnicking on the Fourth of 
July, playing games on winter evenings, and butchering hogs, show a 
natural variety. 

The book's design is consistent with its contents and purpose. 
Wider than it is tall and paperbound, it fits the reader's lap comfort- 
ably and makes paging through it all the more enjoyable. One wishes 
for more than ten photographs, but the tales, to use another one of 
those phrases which today has lost most of its original sense, "get 
by" on their own. Let us hope that the second volume, to contain 
stories from the 1981 and 1982 Tales from Two Rivers writing 
contests, and others following it get by with equal success. 

James K. Bracken 
Knox College 



BORN OF THE PRAIRIE: MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS 1831-1981. 
By Jeff Rankin, Editor. Monmouth, Illinois: Sesquicentennial Com- 



REVIEWS OF BOOKS 199 

mittee, 1981. Pp. 140. Hardback: $25.00 Paperback: $3.00 

HISTORY OF RARITAN, ILLINOIS AND COMMUNITY. By 
Allene Cann et al. Aledo, Illinois: Historical Committee of the 
Henderson County Historical Society, 1981. Pp. 103. 

Beginning with the first generation of local histories published 
during the years after the celebration of the nation's centennial, 
community histories all shared a remarkably similar characteristic: 
they were written by amateurs. That is to say, the authors were 
not professional historians trained in a rigorous PhD program to be 
sensitive to the subtleties of cause-and-effect change through time. 
This being the case, their end products were episodic, based upon 
uncritical use of information, overloaded with photographs, heavily 
biographical, and void of footnotes. To date this tradition still 
remains largely intact, as can be seen in the two histories of Mon- 
mouth and Raritan published this spring. 

Both works provide brief sketches of the community churches, 
schools, fire departments, opera houses, banks, businesses, and, 
of course, prominent homes and their distinguished owners. The 
Monmouth study is essentially a collection of essays edited by 
banker Jeff Rankin with notable contributions by Ralph Eckley, 
feature writer of the Monmouth Review Atlas, Dr. William A. Urban, 
Mrs. Mary B. Crow of Monmouth College, and Marilyn Kloeppel 
(herself a holder of a master's degree in history from Western Illinois 
University). It features valuable accounts of Monmouth College and 
urban transportation and overall will live up to the expectations of 
the Sesquicentennial Committee which sponsored it. The Raritan 
history, by comparison, is a more modest undertaking in both scope 
and format. Indeed, about one-half of it is a verbatim reprinting of 
excerpts from local newspapers. Still, like Born of the Prairie, the 
Raritan book will be well-received by the numerous readers who will 
be exposed, many for the first time, to the story of their own past. 

Such qualities, however, stand as the shortcomings and the 
strongpoints of histories of this genre. While they basically fail the 
historical challenge to answer wtiy the community as a whole devel- 
oped and changed in the way that it did, they at the same time 
provided scholars with sources of information available in no other 
place. As such, these two recent works, like their predecessors, serve 
as invaluable resources for the further understanding of western 
Illinois. One might question whether they are really "histories" 
of their respective localities, but there can be no doubt that they are 
indispensable to professional historians of the region and the state. 

Robert P. Sutton 
Western Illinois University 



CONTRIBUTORS 



DAVID D. ANDERSON, Professor of American Thought and Lan- 
guage at Michigan State University, is the editor o^ Mid America and 
Midwestern Miscellany. He has written books on Lincoln, Sherwood 
Anderson, Robert G. Ingersoll, Brand Whitlock, and other fannous 
Americans, as well as scores of articles on midwestern literature and 
culture. 

JAMES K. BRACKEN, Reader Services Librarian at Knox College 
Library, has graduate degrees in both Library Science and English, 
and his primary interest as a librarian is special collections. 

WALTER B. HENDRICKSON is Professor Emeritus of History at 
MacMurray College and volunteer archivist and curator at the His- 
torical Room of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in 
Jacksonville. He is the author of a book and various articles about 
that institution, as well as publications on American intellectual 
and cultural history. 

HERMANN R. MUELDER is Professor Emeritus of History at Knox 
College, as well as College Historian. He is the author of Fighters 
for Freedom (1959) and a number of articles on American history. 

GORDANA REZAB, an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois 
University, is the university's Archives and Special Collections 
Librarian. She is the author of articles on land speculation in Fulton 
County and the history of WIU. 

DANIEL L. WISE is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Western 
I llinois University, and he specializes in climatology and meteorology. 
In recent years, he has developed climatic models for the Environ- 
mental Protection Agency. 



200