Daniel Harmon Brush came to southern Illinois from Vermont with his parents in the 1820s and found a frontier region radically different from his native New England. In this memoir, Brush, the eventual founder of Carbondale, Illinois, describes his early life in the northeast, his pioneer family’s move west, and their settlement near the Illinois River in Greene County, Illinois. Beginning as a store clerk, Brush worked hard and became very successful, serving in a number of public offices before founding the town of Carbondale in the 1850s, commanding a regiment in the Civil War, and practicing law, among other pursuits. Brush never let go of his pious New England roots, which often put him at odds with most other citizens in the region, many of whose families emigrated from the southern states and thus had different cultural and religious values. The memoir ends in 1861, as the Civil War starts, and Brush describes the growing unrest of Southern sympathizers in southern Illinois. Brush’s story shows how an outsider achieved success through hard work and perseverance and provides a valuable look at life on the western frontier.
"Davis writes with an authority derived from his own perceptive
studies of Illinois during the Jackson period. His account is balanced
and critical while at the same time recognizing the value of Ford's book."
-- Robert W. Johannsen, J. G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Both cynical and self-serving, Illinois's seventh governor Thomas Ford
also possessed an unrivaled sensitivity to the dynamics of frontier life.
He reveals these and other qualities in his classic A History of Illinois,
which covers the state's first thirty years.
Ford writes with candor of the lengthy "Hancock County difficulties"
and the ouster of Mormons from the state. His treatment of the Black Hawk
War and his writings on the slavery controversy in the state, the murder
of Elijah Lovejoy, and the larger issues of violence and vigilantism help
show why this volume has been called the outstanding early survey of Illinois
history. This reissue of Ford's book includes an introduction by Rodney
O. Davis and a publication history by Terence Tanner.
Life in Prairie Land
Eliza W. Farnham University of Illinois Press, 1988 Library of Congress F545.F23 1988 | Dewey Decimal 977.3030924
Combining descriptive travel writing, autobiography, and the depth of the extended essay, Life in Prairie Land--back in print in this new edition--is a classic account of everyday life in early Illinois. Eliza Farnham, a New Yorker who would become one of the leading feminists of her time, describes the nearly five years she spent living in the prairie land of Tazewell County.
Life in Prairie Land is a complex portrait of the midwestern wilderness during the 1830s--beautiful and ugly, beneficent and threatening. Farnham's vivid recreation of her experiences on the Illinois frontier offers a realistic depiction of the harsh pioneer lifestyle as well as a romantic view of an Edenic landscape.
Life in Prairie Land includes descriptions of Farnham's encounters with early settlers and Native Americans, her eye-opening experiences with birth and death, the flora and fauna that surrounded her, and the developing towns she passed through in her travels. Farnham's years on the Illinois frontier showed her the possibilities of a less restrictive society and planted the seeds that would later grow into firmly held and eloquently expressed views on women's equality.
In Making the Heartland Quilt, Douglas K. Meyer reconstructs the settlement patterns of thirty-three immigrant groups and confirms the emergence of discrete culture regions and regional way stations. Meyer argues that midcontinental Illinois symbolizes a historic test strip of the diverse population origins that unfolded during the Great Migration. Basing his research on the 1850 U.S. manuscript schedules, Meyer dissects the geographical configurations of twenty-three native and ten foreign-born adult male immigrant groups who peopled Illinois. His historical geographical approach leads to the comprehension of a new and clearer map of settlement and migration history in the state.
Meyer finds that both cohesive and mixed immigrant settlements were established. Balkan-like immigrant enclaves or islands were interwoven into evolving local, regional, and national settlement networks. The midcontinental location of Illinois, its water and land linkages, and its lengthy north-south axis enhanced cultural diversity. The barrier effect of Lake Michigan contributed to the convergence and mixing of immigrants. Thus, Meyer demonstrates, Illinois epitomizes midwestern dichotomies: northern versus southern; native-born versus foreign-born; rural versus urban; and agricultural versus manufacturing.
Christiana and John Tillson moved from Massachusetts to central Illinois in 1822. Upon arriving in Montgomery County near what would soon be Hillsboro, they set up a general store and real estate business and began to raise a family.
A half century later, Christiana Tillson wrote about her early days in Illinois in a memoir published by R. R. Donnelley in 1919. In it she describes her husband’s rise to wealth through the speculative land boom during the 1820s and 1830s and his loss of fortune when the land business went bust after the Specie Circular was issued in 1836.
The Tillsons lived quite ordinary lives in extraordinary times, notes Kay J. Carr, introducing this edition. Their views and sensibilities, Carr says, might seem strange to us, but they were entirely normal to people in the early nineteenth century. Thus Tillson’s memoir provides vignettes of ordinary nineteenth-century American life.