« PreviousContinue »
We have in the preceding pages sketched such important facts in the rise and progress of the history of our country, our State and our county, and their institutions, as we believed would interest the reader. We have devoted more space to the early history of Illinois than would seem proper, did we not form a part, and a conspicuous illustration of that unprecedented progress that brought Illinois from an uninhabited wilderness, and unoccupied domain, to a condition of improvement and progress unprecedented in the world's history. For example: in 1823, Chicago contained ten houses and sixty inhabitants. In 1831, a Postoffice was there established. In 1832, it had two hundred and fifty inhabitants, and in 1837, it had 8,000. It then had three newspapers, fifty lawyers, and thirty physicians.
The city of Quincy, laid out in 1825, ten years later had 1,500 inhabitants, and now sustains a position of the second city in the State, exceeded in beauty by none.
In 1836. Peoria had twenty-five stores, and seven groceries and and two hotels, a brewery, and two steam sawmills. That now important railroad centre, had then four lines of stages, viz: one to Galena, tri-weekly; one to Chicago, tri-weekly; one to Springfield, and one to Knoxville.
The City of Ottawa was located in 1830, and seven years later had seventy-five families. See her now.
The city of Canton had only a population of 500, in 1836. Bloomington, in 1837, had a population of 600, and but two small churches, two hotels, two lawyers, and three physicians.
Beardstown was laid out in 1829, and at the time of the survey there was but one log cabin in its limits. The present status of these cities are but an index to the agricultural developments of the State. There is a moral sublimity in the life and character of the pio
In some arduous work or some great achievement, perhaps, as in the revolution, which was to cover with glory a great portion of the world, he stands in the front rank, or is the leader of the van, He encounters difficulties only to conquer them. Neither his motives nor his aims may be properly understood, but he fixes his eye on his work, and presses forward. His enemies
raise a storm of persecution to beat upon his head. The darkness that always besets an incipient day and the opening of his brilliant career may brood thickly along his path, but his confidence is not shaken. No clouds can completely cover his horizon. While othcrs are confounded with despair, beyond the thick gloom of his present, his faith and hope contemplates a clear sky, as his eye catches an occasional glimpse of the coming light. From the very nature of his work, being many years in advance of the age in which he lives, he advances with much toil. Poverty is almost uniformly his lot. While the rich and the gay are living in splendor in their eastern homes, he continues his arduous calling, and labors night and day, not so much for himself as those who succeed him. Why does he not curse his lot, lie down and die? Why labor and toil, and endure the hardships of a frontier life, the benefits of which will perhaps be enjoyed by those he may never see? The answer to these questions is very plain. He is in every sense a providential man. He comes to endure and to suffer for his
He feels within his heart the spirit of his calling. The fate of coming generations he sees in a great part committed to his single hands. He is willing to be offered for their weal. True, he has the natural feelings of his kind. . He would be glad to enjoy the quiet and serene pleasures of his home. The hearthstone of his little cottage, if he is not too poor to have one, he would love to see as blithe and cheerful as that of others in a less busy life. No man loves his wife, his children or his neighbors more than he. A condition that would give him leisure for all the amenities of social life—for high communion with nature and her works—for profound study of noble monuments, erected by art and genius, through the world, would cheer and gladden his soul, and gratify his tastes.
The fields are as green for him as for other men; the forest is as gay in autumn or as fresh in spring. He, as well as others, could take the partner of his life and his children, and walk out each sweet summer evening, to view the glories of the rural landscape, and his heart would beat a response to every joyful note of the warbling waters and the echoing woods. But no; he is denied this. He has work to do; he has dangers to encounter.
All these things he must forego-must resign to those—for whom? The coming settler. Though his own and his companions' hearts often yearn after them by reflection, they subdue their feelings, and reluctantly give them up. I repeat, there is a sublimity in the life and character of the pioneer. He once lived in the center of social life. His home was on his native hills, or in some rural valley, among his friends. His cottage stood in the shade of some venerable trees, planted by his ancestors a century ago. The vines that wound around his door posts, the shrubs that fringed his garden walks, and the grove waving in the wind in the rear of his peaceful dwelling, were all the work of a bygone age. There he had known and loved the mother that brought him into the world; there he had revered a father, who led him in youth and conducted him safely to manhood. There he first heard the voices of brothers and sisters, the memories of which now come like visions to his soul. There, in later years, he laid those kindred, his venerated father and his affectionate mother, in the silent grave. Long ago their mouldering bodies had passed away, and the earth above them had settled in to supply their places. The rank grass, the dilapidated tombstones, erected by surviving love, all now proclaim the old family burying-ground, a place for the heart to linger around, but not leave. And these little mounds, recently formed, where the violets and primroses have not yet had time to bloom, tell that death has been 'there lately. This cottager and the mother of his children not long since laid one, two or three of their own tender offspring beside the departed ones of former years. Here, then, let him linger; here let him spend the remainder of his days; here let him enjoy the wife of his youth and the dear children given him, and the competence saved for him by the frugality of his fathers. But it must not be so. He has a work to
a do. - His children are numerous. His patrimony is not enough for the all. More than that, the western country needs his services.
His example is destined for a new world. He seeks room for the energy of his children to expand itself, where his children's children can settle by his side. The intellectual and moral power of his descendants will there have a more commanding influence on the fortunes of the coming age. Perhaps, in the new country, he, surrounded by the thousand chances incident to frontier life, may live to see his offspring wielding for good the fate of a new republic, and the destinies of a State be committed to their hands.
These thoughts, and others like them, fill his mind in his eastern home. Gradually he submits to their influence, until he finds himself committed to their sway, and he becomes a convert to his new work. From this moment he is a pioneer. He breaks away from the ties that bind him to his native land. He disposes of a few articles of loose property, and these make a trial of his faith. He finds the same things, when sold, looks differently in the hands of another person than when it was his own.
The farther he proceeds in these sacrifices, the more strength he acquires for what remains to be done. His cottage where his father lived, how can he give it up? The old .well, with “its moss covered bucket,” must he never drink from its cool, sweet waters more? That neat front yard, where his children have skipped and played among the shrubbery and flowers; must these children never gambol there again. But then those green graves of his ancestors, and those other fresh, little hillocks where the violets had not yet bloomed; must all be left to the neglect of strangers, and the vicissitudes of coming years? In such a conflict, what memories come back to the soul.
Yes? He must go. He has undertaken the duties of a pioneer, and all personal feelings must be lost in the work.
There, reader, on that beautiful undulation, that prairie swell, beside the grove we see a cabin. The smoke from its rude chimney, the only mark of civilization on all that vast scene presented to the view from this eminence and grove. Let us go up and see what this pioneer has done. At the time of our visit he has resided in his new home twenty-five years.
Many a day had the deer in herds browsed the rich grass on the prairie, and laid down in the shade of the grove to rest. Many a dark night had the grim old wolf crouched in the grass or thicket watching for his prey. Perhaps the still wilder savage, with the
scalp of the white man upon his quiver, and the rifle of his victim on his arm, laid himself down to rest beneath the covert of the grove. But now all these things are numbered with the past. They are gone-gone forever, never to return.
In their place bright fields of ripening wheat and waving corn are glistening in the gentle breeze. This tall corn, that springs up annually, is memorial of its predecessor, that tall grass that once grew on this same prairie. The Osage hedge marks the long lines of darker green beside the waving corn and yellow wheatfield, and encloses two full sections of as rich rolling prairie as ever drank in the rays of the rising sun. When it was first entered it cost but a trifle. It is now a princely fortune. Everything on the premises indicates industry and thrift. This old gateway has been standing here from the first.
The private wagon road leading up past the house is skirted on both sides by cultivated trees. The house itself, with its substantial walls and snug rooms, its immense yard and large back garden, its spacious barns and numerous out-houses, stationed here and there in the rear, might be a suitable residence for a king, provided that king had the heart of our pioneer.
For a quarter of a century the man now aged has been toiling for generations yet to come. It was not for himself. This he knew all the time. Nor was he certain that his own children would enter upon his labors. They, like those he left behind, might be laid low by the hand of death. Would he therefore remit his toil? No! This was the mission on which he came. the heart of the true pioneer. In his early day he has seen the wild prairie become a garden. He has himself reared the log school-house upon his farm. He has invited teachers from the land of his birth. When there were few to help he paid them from his own purse, and fed them bountifully at his own board.
Here, too, within this cabin was that other pioneer welcomed, who, single-handed and alone, came here through many perils, to proclaim messages of divine love; and many of his successors have found a home and a resting place within these walls. Many sermons that burned with fervor, have been preached in the grove beyond the house. How many souls saved, or how much good done within the precincts of this lowly cottage, the angels themselves may never know. But we may look down the vista of time's river and see other pioneers who received their first impul