Jacksonville y <\r<:
WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES
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BOARD OF EDITORS
JAY R. BALDERSON GORDANA REZAB
DONALD W. GRIFFIN ROBERT P. SUTTON
JOHN E. HALLWAS, Chairman
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
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VOLUME IV FALL 1981 NUMBER 2
The Naming of Spoon River
Hermann R. Muelder 105
Sarah Fenn Burton's Diary of a Journey
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
Illinois Grassroots Politics of the 1890's
in Brand Whitlock's Fiction
David D. Anderson
Louis William Rodenberg, an Illinois Poet
Walter B. Hendrickson
Notes and Documents
Reviews of Books
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,
By Robert P. Sutton 199
Cann, etal, HISTORY OF RARITAN, ILLINOIS
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
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:
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-
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
The Upper Spoon River. Photo by Jack Bradley, courtesy of the Peoria Journal
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Gardner map in the Library of Congress, from a copy in the Finley Collection
at Knox College.
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
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.
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),
Book 277 of the Illinois field notes.
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,
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.
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.
^^Ibid., pp. 74-75.
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES
The Burton family gravestone in the Round Prairie or Burton Cemetery, east
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
^Wilson, I, 116.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In fact, Mrs. Burton boarded the Camden and Amboy Railroad at Amboy and got
off at Bordentown.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was the third tunnel to be built in America and at the time the longest.
These are apparently corruptions of Covington and Newport.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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),
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.
"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.
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 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
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
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.^
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
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
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
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
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
WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES
TABLE 1. WESTERN ILLINOIS TORNADOES PRIOR TO 1875*
11. 1860 April 17
12. 1860 May 20
13. 1868 May 4
14. 1869 April 19
15. 1873 May 22
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
Carlinville (Macoupin County)
Cedar Rapids to Rock Island (Rock
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
•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
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.
Bruce Schechter, "The Killer Winds of Spring," Discover, May 1981 , p. 23.
William Braden, "Tornadoes!," Chicago Sun-Times, 8 March 1981, p. 62
■^Schechter, p. 23
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.
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.
"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., p. 44
"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
"Tornado— Houses Swept Away and Forests Uprooted," Mt. Vernon (Iowa) News
in The Macomb Eagle, 8 June 1860, p. 2
"Terrible Tornado," Galesburg Register in The Macomb Journal, 9 May 1868, p. 3
"Rain and Wind— Great Destruction of Property,' The Macomb Journal, 23 April
1869, p. 2
^^Ludlum, p. 213
"A Terrible Tornado— Immense Destruction of Property near Youngstown,
Monmouth Leader in The Macomb Journal, 29 May 1873, p. 2
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
WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL STUDIES
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. ^°
For a detailed discussion of Whitlock's background see David D. Anderson, Brand
Whitlock (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1968) pp. 20-24.
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,
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.
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),
The Thirteenth District, p. 8.
, p. 15.
, p. 17.
, p. 27.
, p. 35.
, p. 57.
, pp. 58-59.
, pp. 60-61.
, p. 62.
, p. 63.
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.
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
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
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
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
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"
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,
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Now, on this morning of mid-July, the fast-puffing engine
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
So near that the little boys scamper in and hide under the
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
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-
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
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).
Record Book, High School Classes and Grades, 1895—1921.
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.
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).
"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
^^L\NR, Selections, p. 4-5.
There is an extensive correspondence concerning the project in Rodenberg Papers
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.
LWR to French, Jacksonville, Aug. 13, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour).
French to LWR, July 16, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour)
LWR to French, Aug. 13, 1943. Rodenberg Papers (Seymour)
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.
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.
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.
The author has profited from conversations about Rodenberg's poetry with his wife,
Dorris Walsh Hendrickson, an English M.A. from Smith.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.