Illinois Fifty Years Ago.
HAGERSTOWN, MD., MAY 24, 1832: We left New York on the steamboat New York early in the morning (May 22d), and, as there was nobody on board whom I knew, I passed the time downstairs in reading Camoens. When, however, we arrived at a short distance from New Brunswick, we were all landed and transferred to stage-coaches, which conveyed us through a flat, uninteresting country to Bordentown, on the Delaware, a little below Trenton, where a sight of Joseph Bonaparte's grounds, beautifully planted with trees of various kinds, with a spacious mansion and a towering observatory that overlooks the river, made some amends for the dulness of the previous journey. Embarking on a little boat, with a civil captain, we arrived at Philadelphia about four o'clock in the afternoon, which gave us a short opportunity for looking at the city by daylight. It is better built than ours, or, at least, it is more to my taste, the private dwellings being solid, comfortable-looking edifices, without that tawdriness which you see in New York houses. The streets are remarkably clean, looking as if just swept.
At six o'clock on Wednesday morning we went on board the William Penn for Newcastle, where we arrived about nine o'clock, and proceeded on the railroad to Frenchtown, a
4distance of sixteen miles and a half, which we travelled at the rate of ten miles an hour. At Frenchtown the passengers were put on board the Carrol, which likewise had a very civil captain, an old, fat, rosy-faced, respectable-looking man; so that I like what I have seen of the boats on the Delaware and Chesapeake better than of those on the Hudson. The commanders are, as such men ought to be, efficient, smiling, obliging men. We sailed down the Chesapeake, a wide expanse of water, with flat, low shores, very much indented, and offering scarcely anything to look at. We reached Baltimore at five o'clock. I went to Barnum's Hotel, where I found John Mumford, who insisted upon introducing me to Mr. Flagg, Secretary of State for New York, and one of the New York delegates to the Baltimore Convention, which had just finished its labors by renominating Old Hickory for the Presidency. Mr. Flagg took me to a room where he made me go through the ceremony of a particular introduction to about fifteen gentlemen and ten ladies, and before it was ended I began to feel, and I dare say to look, very foolish.
This morning I set out again at five o'clock on the Baltimore Railroad. There were in the cars with me three Virginia planters from the lower part of the State, who had come, as I judged from their conversation, to attend the Baltimore Convention. They were remarkably intelligent men--slovenly in their dress, but gentlemanly in their manners, expressing themselves with uncommon propriety and good sense, and noticing very particularly as they passed every object worthy of remark. They did not seem to be professed politicians, for they did not talk of politics at all, but well-informed country gentlemen, and were, take them all together, a specimen from which I am inclined to judge well of their class. Two of them exhibited somewhat of that tendency to metaphysical speculation which is mentioned as characteristic of the Virginians. The railroad is made, for the greater part of the
5way along the Patapsco, and, after it leaves that, along another little stream running westerly.
The work is expensive, being cut through hills, and carried by high causeways through valleys with stone bridges of solid masonry over the streams. This mode of travelling is agreeable and rapid. The vegetation in this latitude is scarcely more advanced than in the neighborhood of New York. The dog-wood flowers have not fallen and the azalea, which I saw in flower in New Jersey, is in flower here also. Hagerstown, twenty-five miles west of Fredericktown, is a dirty little town, built in imitation of a city. It stands in a limestone country of irregular surface, rather fertile and pleasant, which is more than I can say for the greater part of Maryland which I have seen.
CUMBERLAND, MD., MAY 25th: Here l am, in the midst of the spurs of the Alleghanies, at a little, ugly town rather pleasantly situated on the banks of the Potomac, near the foot of the Great Alleghany or Back Bone Ridge. Twelve miles beyond Hagerstown I came to Clear Spring, so called from a very large spring in the village, and three or four miles beyond I passed Indian Spring, which is also a large spring in an enclosure under a great tree. Near the spring an emigrating family had halted with their wagon, and had made a fire to cook their breakfast. All along the road I observed frequently fires in the woods or enclosures by the wayside, where women were washing clothes at some spring or brook. Just beyond Clear Spring we crossed the first ridge of the Alleghanies, and, descending on the other side, came to the Potomac, on the banks of which we had a pleasant drive of at least ten miles. After passing a little town called Hancock, we crossed a loftier and wilder ridge, and so on, ridge after ridge, each one giving a magnificent look at hill and dale, till we descended to the Potomac again at Cumberland, having travelled sixty-seven miles. A woman, living in the mountains, being in the stage with us, pointed out, in a lonely hollow on a stream, the spot where the Cottrels murdered an Englishman some years since for the sake of his money. "The Cottrels," said
6she, "were working hare on this pike, and they came on with the Englishman a little ways on pretence of chatting with him, and as if in friendship. They got him near whar yon driftwood lays, and thar they killed him in a thicket." The place where this woman lives, on the wildest part of the road, between two of the highest ridges I have passed, with a ragged forest on each side, is called Belgrove. The village consists of log-houses--that is, houses of hewn logs.
OFF MARIETTA: We breakfasted at Frostburg, on the Alleghanies, at a tavern where there was a grate as large as a kitchen-chimney, roaring with a great fire of bituminous coal, which is found in these parts in abundance. A severe frost had fallen the night previous, and the leaves of several kinds of trees had turned black, as if scorched. We dined at Smithfield, on the Youghiogheny, on corned beef roasted, pickled eggs, and boiled potatoes, with gravy poured over them on the dish. Saturday night brought us to Union, in Pennsylvania, situated in the midst of a most beautiful and rich country of undulating surface. The buildings are mostly mean and ugly, and the whole village, as all I have seen since I left home, is arranged without taste. The next day the weather was fine, though cold, and I rode to Wheeling, in Virginia. At eight o'clock I took the steamboat for Cincinnati, expecting to arrive in two days.
CINCINNATI, MAY 31st: The shores of the Ohio have nothing to distinguish them from those of a river of the Atlantic States except the continuity of the forests with which they are covered, and the richness and various forms of the foliage. The appearance of the woods is more like that of the Berkshire woods than those of any other part of the country I have seen. They consist of oak, sugar-maple, hickory, buckeye, which is a kind of horse-chestnut, the tulip-tree, the button-wood, and sometimes the cotton-wood, which appears to be a gigantic poplar, and other trees common at the eastward, except evergreens, of which there are none. Springing from a kindly soil, they grow to a colossal size, and, standing at a greater distance from each other than in our forests, and being covered
7with a dense foliage, the outline of each tree is perceptible to the eye, so that you may almost count them by the view you have of their summits. With us you know they appear blended into one mass. It is possible that somewhat of the effect I have mentioned may be occasioned by the atmosphere. At a little past sunset it was very striking; each tree-top and each projecting branch, with its load of foliage, stood forth in strong and distinct relief, surrounded by deep shadows. The aspect of the shore where I have seen it did not remind me at all of the Highlands. The round, wooded hills which overlook the greater part of the way, sometimes approaching close to the water, and at others receding so as to leave a border of rich alluvial land, resembled, to my eye, the hills of Stock-bridge, Lenox, and some other parts of Berkshire.
Cincinnati is surrounded by hills, and they are all covered with wood. They recede north from the river in a kind of semicircle, in which lies the town, and on the southern side of the river are hills also, so that it appears to be placed in a sylvan amphitheatre, through the most of which flows the Ohio, always quiet and placid, one of our noblest and longest streams, and justifying, in the placidity and evenness of its current and the beauty of its shores, the French appellation of La Belle Riviere. Cincinnati contains thirty thousand inhabitants. Some of the private houses are very handsome and costly, and the public edifices equal the average of those in New York. Many new buildings are going up, and among others a spacious theatre. The market is well supplied, especially with strawberries, of which I have seen tubsful. The inhabitants appear to be very industrious and busy, but they have a sallow look in comparison with the people of the mountains of Maryland, and the hills of Fayette County, in Pennsylvania.
STEAMER WATER WITCH, ON THE MISSISSIPPI, JUNE 3: As the boat in which I came to Louisville would not set out for St. Louis for a day or two, I transferred my luggage immediately to the Water Witch; but before she sailed I
8had time to look up several acquaintances. The town is built almost entirely of brick, and has the appearance of a place of much business--more than Cincinnati, although it contains but twelve or thirteen thousand inhabitants. Just below the town are the falls, the only rapids by which the smooth course of the Ohio is broken from Pittsburg to the Mississippi, a distance of nearly twelve hundred miles. They are avoided by means of a canal, though steamboats of the ordinary size which navigate the Ohio pass, but the large steamboats plying between Louisville and New Orleans stop below the falls.
We left Louisville at three o'clock P. M., and, the river being high, the captain announced his intention of going over the falls, the roaring of which we could hear from where we lay. The falls are divided by a little, low, narrow island, on the north side of which is what is called the Illinois shoot, and on the south side the Kentucky shoot, a corruption of the French word chute. We took the Illinois shoot, and, when we arrived among the broken waters, it was evident, from the circumspection of the captain, the frequent turns we were obliged to make, and the slackening of the speed of the boat, that the channel was very narrow. In one place the narrowness of the channel among the craggy rocks produced a great inequality in the surface of the stream, so that the waves were like those of the sea. In passing over it, the boat reeled and swung to and fro, turning up first one side of its keel and then the other, obliging the passengers to seize hold of something to keep them upright, and frightening the inmates of the ladies' cabin. It was over in a moment, however. A little below the falls the captain stopped the boat to let us look at the Homer, a magnificent steamboat intended for the New Orleans trade, just built at New Albany, on the Indiana side. It is as great a thing in its way as a seventy-four. On the lower deck is an immensely powerful engine, with, I think, eleven parallel boilers. Here also is the kitchen and other offices. Below this is a spacious hold, which appeared to be
9full of barrels of flour. On the second deck or story is the cabin, which had on each side twenty-five state-rooms, each as large as Fanny's bedroom in the new house, and each containing ten berths, with all the accommodations of a ship's apartment. The cabin is spacious and well carpeted, and each state-room has a good-sized window of two sashes. In one of them I saw a bedstead. The upper deck, or third story, is reached by a covered staircase directly from the lower deck, and is intended for what are called deck or steerage passengers. It contains berths for two hundred and twenty persons.
Last night a little before sunset we stopped on the Kentucky side to take in wood. I went into a Kentuckian's garden and gathered roses. His house was a large, ugly, unpainted frame house, with an underpinning like that of a New England barn--that is, consisting of here and there a log and a large stone, with wide spaces between. His peas were poled with dry young canes. About this time we passed the Wabash, which is the boundary between Indiana and Illinois. Its waters are more transparent than those of the Ohio, which are somewhat turbid, and the difference is distinguishable for some distance below their junction. We passed the mouths of the Cumberland and of the Tennessee in the night. This morning at half-past seven we came to where the Ohio empties into the Mississippi. The muddy current of the Father of Waters, covered with flakes of foam, rushes rapidly by the clearer stream of the Ohio, damming it up and causing it to spread into a broad expanse for a considerable distance above its mouth. Yet the Mississippi is not wider, apparently, than the Ohio. Its banks are low and covered with cotton-wood, and a peculiar species of willow, or with thick brakes of cane, the same of which fishing-poles are made. Its current is so rapid that we are obliged to creep along the shore at the rate of about four miles an hour.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER, SIXTY MILES BELOW ST. LOUIS, JUNE 4th: Yesterday the day was most beautiful--an agreeable change from the weather of the day previous, which was
10very hot and sultry. I took occasion to go on shore in the State of Missouri while the captain was taking in wood, and examined some of the plants and trees of the country. The shores for the whole distance were low and unhealthy. The banks are continually dropping into the river, which is full of large, wooded islands, and very irregular in its course. I have seen no prairies thus far, as the Mississippi everywhere rolls through stately woods, in the midst of which you see, once in five or ten miles, perhaps, a log-cabin.
Yet the whole scene appeared beautiful to me. The sunshine, whether it was fancy or reality, seemed richer and more golden than it is wont to be in our climate, and the magnificent forests, covered with huge vines of various kinds, seemed worthy to flourish under so glowing a sun. This morning we stopped to get wood at a little town called Chester, just below the mouth of the Kaskaskia, on the Illinois side, where we learned that all the State was in alarm about the Indians, who had made an incursion to the east of the Illinois River and murdered several families. You have probably seen that previous to this there had been an engagement between the Indians and a detachment of the whites, in which the latter were defeated with the loss of fifteen persons. I shall be obliged to relinquish my projected route to Chicago, which is said to be unsafe, in consequence of the neighborhood of the savages. In St. Louis, where the steamboat is carrying us as fast as it can, which is slowly enough, we also learn there has been a commotion of another nature. An inmate of a low house, called Indian Margaret, being part Indian, stabbed a white man about a fortnight since in a quarrel, and he died of the wound. The inhabitants were so exasperated that they rose en masse and attacked all the low houses in the place, tore down two, set fire to a third, and burned the beds and other furniture in all of them. A black man called Abraham, who was the owner of fourteen of these places, having made a fortune in this way, was seized, a barrel of tar was emptied upon him, and he was then slipped into a feather bed.
11The people, among whom were some of the most respectable inhabitants of the place, began the work early in the morning and kept it up until sunset, while the magistrates stook looking on. Abraham made his escape to Canada, and Indian Margaret is in prison.
ST. LOUIS, JUNE 5th: We arrived here this morning at three o'clock. St. Louis is beautifully situated on a hill overlooking the river. Two handsome houses a little out of town are erected on old Indian mounds, on which the forest-trees have been thinned out. On Saturday evening we passed Cape Girardeau, a rather neat-looking French settlement, fifty miles from the mouth of the Ohio, on a green bluff--and a little while since we came to the old settlement of St. Genevieve, where we stopped to take in freight. I went on shore and talked to the men and women, who are very dark complexioned--some as dark as Indians, but with a decided French physiognomy. Most of them could speak broken English, but preferred to converse in their own tongue. The shores of the Missouri side now begin to rise into precipices, some of which are highly picturesque. It is, however, a cold, gray day, and natural objects by no means have the beauty which they borrowed yesterday from the state of the atmosphere.
There is much talk in St. Louis concerning the Indians. The families lately murdered lived on Rock River, to the west of the Illinois River. There were three families, consisting of fifteen persons in all. Their bodies were left to be devoured by hogs and dogs. A man has been killed in Buffalo Grove, near Galena, and it is supposed that an Indian agent has been murdered by the savages.
JACKSONVILLE, JUNE 12th: I left St. Louis on the 6th inst. at eleven o'clock in the morning, and proceeded up the Mississippi. I think I omitted in my last to say anything of the scenery on the river between St. Genevieve and St. Louis. The eastern bank still continues to be low, but the western is steep and rocky. The rocks sometimes rise into lofty precipices which impend over the river and are worn by some
12cause into fantastic figures,presenting in some places the appearance of the arches, pillars, and cornices of a ruined city. Near a place called Selma I saw where one of these precipices was made into a tower, for the purpose of converting the lead of the neighboring mines into shot. A small wooden building projects over the verge of a very high perpendicular cliff, and the melted lead falls from the floor of this building into a vat at the foot of the precipice filled with water.
I saw nothing remarkable on the Mississippi until we arrived within a few miles of its junction with the Missouri. I then perceived that the steamboat had emerged from the thick, muddy water, in which it had been moving, into a clear, transparent current. We were near the eastern bank, and this was the current of the Mississippi. On the other side of us we could discern the line which separated it from the turbid waters of the Missouri. We at length arrived at the meeting of these two great streams. The Missouri comes in through several channels between islands covered with lofty trees, and where the two currents encounter each other there is a violent agitation of the waters, which rise into a ridge of short, chopping waves, as if they were contending with each other. The currents flow down side by side unmingled for the distance of twelve miles or more, until at length the Missouri prevails, and gives its own character and appearance to the whole body of water.
At a place called Lower Alton, a few miles above the mouth of the Missouri, we stopped to repair one of the boilers, and I climbed up a steep grassy eminence on the shore, which commanded a very extensive view of the river and surrounding country. Everything lay in deep forest. I could see the woods beyond the Missouri, but the course of that stream was hidden by the gigantic trees with which it is bordered. On every side was solitude, vast, dark, and impenetrable.
When I awoke the next morning we were in the Illinois, a gentle stream about as large as the Connecticut, with waters like the Ohio, somewhat turbid. The Mississippi has generally
13on one side a steep bank of soft earth ten or twelve feet in height which the current is continually wearing away, and which is constantly dropping in fragments into the water, while on the other side it has a sandy beach. But the Illinois has most commonly a shore which presents no appearance of being eaten by the current, but which slopes as regularly to the water as if it had been smoothed by the spade. As we proceeded up the river, bluffs began to make their appearance on the west side. They consisted of steep walls of rock, the tops of which were crowned with a succession of little round eminences covered with coarse grass and thinly scattered trees, having quite a pastoral aspect, though the country does not appear to be inhabited. We stopped to take in wood on the west shore, and I proceeded a few rods through the forest to take my first look at a natural prairie. It was one of the wet or alluvial prairies. The soil was black, and rather moist and soft, and as level as if the surface had been adjusted by some instrument of art. To the north and south along the river it stretches to an extent of which I can not judge, but to the east it was bounded at the distance of about five miles by a chain of rounded eminences, their sides principally covered with grass and their summits with wood, forming the commencement of the uplands on which the dry prairies are situated. The prairie itself was covered with coarse, rank grass four or five feet in height, intermingled with a few flowers. Here and there stood a tall and lonely tree in the midst of a wilderness of verdure.
We arrived at Jacksonville about eleven o'clock. I supped at the tavern at a long table covered with loads of meat, and standing in a room in which was a bed. I was afterward shown into an upper apartment in which were seven huge double beds, some holding two brawny, hard-breathing fellows, and some only one. I had a bed to myself, in which I contrived to pass the time until four o'clock in the morning, when I got up, and, having nothing else to do, took a look at Jacksonville. It is a horribly ugly village, composed of little shops and
14dwellings, stuck close together around a dirty square, in the middle of which stands the ugliest of possible brick courthouses, with a spire and weather-cock on its top. The surrounding country is a bare, green plain, with gentle undulations of surface, unenlivened by a single tree save what you see at a distance in the edge of the prairie, in the centre of which the village stands. This plain is partly enclosed and cultivated, and partly open and grazed by herds of cattle and horses. The vegetation of the unenclosed parts has a kind of wild aspect, being composed of the original prairie plants, which are of strong and rank growth, and some of which produce gaudy flowers. This is not, however, the flowering season. About a fortnight since they were red with the blossoms of the violet, wood-sorrel, and the phlox (Divaricata lychnidia) of our gardens. They will soon be yellow with syngenesious plants.
JUNE 12: I have been to look at my brother's farm. There is a log-cabin on it, built by a squatter, an ingenious fellow, I warrant him, and built without a single board or sawed material of any sort. The floors and doors are made of split oak, and the bedstead, which still remains, is composed of sticks framed into the wall in one corner of the room and bottomed with split oak, the pieces being about the size of staves. The chimney is built of sticks, plastered with mud inside. There are two apartments, the kitchen and the parlor, although most of the houses have but one room. The kitchen is without any floor but the bare ground, and between that and the parlor there is a passage on the ground, roofed over but open on the sides, large enough to drive a wagon through.
JUNE 13th: To-day I am to set out with brother John on horseback on a tour up the Illinois. I carry my "plunder" in a pair of saddle-bags, with an umbrella lashed to the crupper, and for my fare on the road I shall take what Providence pleases to send. I have told you little about the natural productions of the soil and other peculiarities of the country. The forests are of a very large growth, and contain a greater variety
15of trees than are common to the eastward. The soil of the open country is fat and fertile, and the growth of all the vegetable tribes is rapid and strong to a degree unknown in your country. There is not a stone, a pebble, or bit of gravel in all these prairies. A plough lasts a man his lifetime, a hoe never wears out, and the horses go unshod. Wild plums grow in large thickets, loaded with a profusion of fruit said to be of excellent flavor. The earth in the woods is covered with May-apples not yet ripe, and in the enclosed prairies with large, fine strawberries, now in their perfection. Wild gooseberries with smooth fruit are produced in abundance. The prairie and the forest have each a different set of animals. The prairie-hen, as you walk out, starts up and whirs away from under you, but the spotted prairie-squirrel hurries through the grass, and the prairie-hawk balances himself in the air for a long time over the same spot. While observing him we heard a kind of humming noise in the grass, which one of the company said proceeded from a rattlesnake. We dismounted, and found, in fact, that it was made by a prairie-rattlesnake, which lay coiled around a tuft of herbage, and which we soon despatched. The Indians call this small variety of the rattlesnake the Massasauger. Horses are frequently bitten by it, and come to the doors of their owners with their heads horribly swollen, but they are recovered by the application of hartshorn. A little farther on one of the party raised the cry of wolf, and, looking, we saw a prairie-wolf in the path before us, a prick-eared animal of a reddish-gray color, standing and gazing at us with great composure. As we approached, he trotted off into the grass, with his nose near the ground, not deigning to hasten his pace for our shouts, and shortly afterward we saw two others running in a different direction. The prairie-wolf is not so formidable an animal as the name of wolf would seem to denote; he is quite as great a coward as robber, but he is exceedingly mischievous. He never takes full-grown sheep unless he goes with a strong troop of his friends, but seizes young lambs, carries off sucking-pigs, robs the hen-roost, devours
16sweet corn in the gardens, and plunders the watermelon patch. A heard of prairie-wolves will enter a field of melons and quarrel about the division of the spoils as fiercely and noisily as so many politicians. It is their way to gnaw a hole immediately into the first melon they lay hold of. If it happens to be ripe, the inside is devoured at once; if not, it is dropped and another is sought out, and a quarrel is picked with the discoverer of a ripe one, and loud and shrill is the barking, and fierce the growling and snapping which is heard on these occasions. It is surprising, I am told, with what dexterity a wolf will make the most of a melon, absorbing every remnant of the pulp, and hollowing it out as clean as it could be scraped with a spoon. This is when the allowance of melons is scarce, but when they are abundant he is as careless and wasteful as a government agent.
I believe this to be the most salubrious, and I am sure it is the most fertile, country I ever saw; at the same time I do not think it beautiful. Some of the views, however, from the highest parts of the prairies are what, I have no doubt, some would call beautiful in the highest degree, the green heights and hollows and plains blend so softly and gently with one another.
JACKSONVILLE, JUNE 19th: I set out, as I wrote you I should do, from this place on Wednesday, the 13th of this month, on a little excursion toward the north. John accompanied me. The first day brought us to Springfield, the capital of Sangamon County, where the land office for this district is kept, and where I was desirous of making some inquiries as to the land in market. Springfield is thirty-five miles east of Jacksonville, situated just on the edge of a large prairie, on ground somewhat more uneven than Jacksonville, but the houses are not so good, a considerable proportion of them being log-cabins, and the whole town having an appearance of dirt and discomfort. The night we spent at a filthy tavern, and the next morning resumed our journey, turning toward the north. The general aspect of Sangamon County is like that of Morgan
17except that the prairies are more extensive and more level. We passed over large tracts covered with hazel bushes, among which grew the red lily and the painted cup, a large scarlet flower. We then crossed a region thickly scattered with large trees principally of black or white oak, at the extremity of which we descended to the bottom-lands of the Sangamon, covered with tall, coarse grass. About seven miles north of Springfield we forded the Sangamon, which rolls its transparent waters through a colonnade of huge button-wood trees and black maples, a variety of the sugar-maple. The immediate edge of the river was muddy, but the bottom was of solid rock, and the water was up to our saddle-skirts. We then mounted to the upland by a ravine, and, proceeding through another tract of scattered oaks, came out again on the open prairie. Having crossed a prairie of seven or eight miles in width, we came to a little patch of strawberries in the grass a little way from the edge of the woodland, where we alighted to gather them. My horse, in attempting to graze, twitched the bridle out of my hand, and, accidentally setting his foot on the rein, became very much frightened. I endeavored to catch him, but could not. He reared and plunged, shook off the saddle-bags which contained my clothing and some other articles, kicked the bags to pieces, and, getting into the wood by which we came, galloped furiously out of sight toward Springfield. I now thought my expedition at an end, and had the comfortable prospect of returning on foot or of adopting the method called "to ride and tie." I picked up the saddle-bags and their contents, and, giving them to John, I took charge of the umbrellas, which had also fallen off, and walked back for two miles under a hot sun, when I was met by a man riding a horse, which I was very glad to discover was the one that had escaped. A foot-passenger, who was coming on from Springfield, had stopped him after he had galloped about four miles, and had taken advantage of the circumstance to treat himself to a ride. I then went back to the strawberries and finished them.
As it was now three o'clock, we went to a neighboring house to get something to eat for ourselves and our horses. An old scarlet-faced Virginian gave our horses some corn, and his tall, prim-looking wife set a table for us with a rasher of bacon, a radish, bread and milk in pewter tumblers. They were Methodists, and appeared to live in a comfortable way, there being two rooms in their house, and in one of them only one bed. A little farther on we forded Salt Creek, a beautiful stream, perfectly clear, and flowing over pebbles and gravel--a rare sight in this country. A small prairie intervenes between this and Sugar Creek, which we also forded, but with better success than two travellers who came after us, who, attempting to cross it in another place, were obliged to swim their horses, and one of them was thrown into the water. At evening we stopped at a log-cabin on the edge of a prairie, the width of which we were told was fifteen miles, and on which there was not a house. The man had nothing for our horses but "a smart chance of pasture," as he called it, in a little spot of ground enclosed from the prairie, and which appeared, when we saw it the next morning, to be closely grazed to the very roots of the herbage. The dwelling was of the most wretched description. It consisted of but one room, about half of which was taken up with beds and cribs, on one of which lay a man sick with a fever, and on another sprawled two or three children, besides several who were asleep on the floor, and all of whom were brown with dirt. In a cavernous fireplace blazed a huge fire, built against an enormous backlog reduced to a glowing coal, and before it the hostess and her daughter were busy cooking a supper for several travellers, who were sitting under a kind of piazza or standing about in the yard. As it was a great deal too hot in the house, and a little too cool and damp in the night air, we endeavored to make the balance even by warming ourselves in the house and cooling ourselves out of doors alternately. About ten o'clock the sweaty hostess gave us our supper, consisting of warm cakes, bacon, coffee, and lettuce, with bacon-grease
19poured over it. About eleven, preparations were made for repose; the dirty children were picked up from the floor, and a feather bed was pulled out of a corner and spread before the great fire for John and myself, but on our intimating that we did not sleep on feathers, we had a place assigned to us near the door, where we stretched ourselves on our saddle-blankets for the night. The rest of the floor was taken up by the other travellers, with the exception of a small passage left for the sick man to get to the door. The floor of the piazza was also occupied with men wrapped in their blankets. The heat of the fire, the stifling atmosphere, the groans and tossings of the sick man, who got up once in fifteen minutes to take medicine or go to the door, the whimperings of the children, and the offensive odors of the place, prevented us from sleeping, and by four o'clock the next morning we had caught and saddled our horses and were on our journey.
We crossed the fifteen-mile prairie, and nearly three miles beyond came to the Mackinaw, a fine, clear stream (watering Tazewell County), which we forded, and about half a mile beyond came to a house where live a Quaker family of the name of Wilson. Here we got a nice breakfast, which we enjoyed with great relish, and some corn for our horses.
Seven or eight miles farther brought us to Pleasant Grove, a fine tract of country, and ten miles from Wilson's we came to a Mr. Shurtliff's, where we had been advised to stop for the purpose of making some inquiries about the country. Shurtliff lives near the north end of Pleasant Grove, and within four miles of the northern limit of the lands in market. The soil is fertile and well watered, the streams being rather more rapid than in Jacksonville, and the region more than usually healthy. It is within eight miles of Pekin, on the Illinois River, so that it is within convenient distance of a market; there is plenty of stone within a few miles, and saw-mills have been erected on some of the streams. I am strongly inclined to purchase a quarter-section in this place. We were now within two days'
20ride of Dixon's, where the American army is to be stationed; but, being already much fatigued with our journey, the weather being hot, and our horses, though young and strong, so very lazy and obstinate as to give us constant employment in whipping them to keep them on a gentle trot on the smoothest road, we concluded to proceed no farther. The next morning, therefore, we set out on our return. I should have mentioned that every few miles on our way we fell in with bodies of Illinois militia proceeding to the American camp, or saw where they had encamped for the night. They generally stationed themselves near a stream or a spring on the edge of a wood, and turned their horses to graze on the prairie. Their way was marked by trees barked or girdled, and the road through the uninhabited country was as much beaten and as dusty as the highways on New York Island. Some of the settlers complained that they made war upon the pigs and chickens. They were a hard-looking set of men, unkempt and unshaved, wearing shirts of dark calico, and sometimes calico capotes.
In returning, we crossed the large prairie, already mentioned, by a newer way and more direct road to Jacksonville. In this direction the prairie was at least twenty-five miles across. In all this distance we found but one inhabited house, and one place, about a quarter of a mile from it, at which to water our horses. This house was stationed on the edge of a small wood on an eminence in the midst of the prairie. An old woman was spinning at the door, and a young woman and boy had just left, with some fire, to do the family washing at the watering-place I have just mentioned. Two or three miles farther on we came to another house on the edge of another grove, which appeared to have been built about two years, and which, with the surrounding enclosures, had been abandoned, as I afterward learned, on account of