Newton Bateman.

Historical encyclopedia of Illinois online

. (page 130 of 207)
Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 130 of 207)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

section. From these reports the patents were
made out. and great care was taken to give the
soldiers the lands which were well timbered
and watered. What was left of such desirable
pieces was open to pre-emption by the first set-
tlers. Aside from the manifest convenience
incident to the conjunction of prairie and wood-
land in close proximity, the Southerners found
the flat lands objectionable for many reasons.
Cold winter winds swept over the open ex-
panse, and these were, at times, unbroken, even
by the groves and thickets which furnished the
wood for their cabins and fences. These im-
migrants from the southland, moreover, brought
with them modes of building and styles adapted
to a warmer country. Before Eastern immigra-
tion had assumed considerable proportions, the
residents believed Knox County to be quite
thoroughly settled. There were few localities
left where both good wood and prairie land
could be found together. And they thought it


better for themselves that their long, broad
ranges for stock should not be disturbed. The
settlers who came from the Bast, however, were
accustomed to rigorous winters and severe out-
door labor in cold weather. They knew no
fear of prairie winters, whose winds were offset
by the refreshing breezes of summer. Their
modes of building and dress were suited to the
climate. They brought stoves, hitherto unknown
in this new section, which reduced the labor of
providing fuel. They were willing to take their
farms on the prairie and their wood lots in the
heart of the grove. Still, the distance from
wood was an element not to be ignored in fixing
the value of land. The greater the distance, the
greater the cost of improvement and main-
tenance, as well as of the indispensable fuel.
For many years, prairie land was practically
unsalable unless woodland was offered in con-
nection with it. Gradual changes took place
which made the prairie farms more and more
desirable. Coal mines were opened, and, to
some extent, coal began gradually to supplant
wood as fuel. Improved facilities for trans-
portation made lumber cheaper, and revised and
more stringent stock laws made less fencing
necessary. Hedges began to be planted, and
railroads established stations in the center of
the largest prairies. Still, in 1850, many of the
larger tracts of prairie land remained unin-
closed, and were for sale at low prices. Yet
so steady was the appreciation in the value of
these farms, that by 1S58, practically no open
prairie was left unoccupied.

The consumption of wood for improvements,
fuel, and repairs reduced the area of timber
land. Only a small proportion of the original
forest, or even of the second growth, remains.
Yet the wood famine, so long predicted, has
been averted. The importation of lumber and
the changes in the style of building and fencing,
together with the substitution of coal for wood
as fuel, have made the timber yet standing of
comparatively little value to the farmer. The
woodland, stripped of trees, was long left un-
occupied, except in small tracts by persons of
very limited means, who found partial occupa-
tion in teaming, mining, wood-cutting, and
casual labor for others. It was considered
inferior to the prairie, and, eflcumbered with
stumps, bushes, and worthless trees, it was not
easily ploughed. As the prairie range for cattle
disappeared, however, these lands were enclosed

for pasturage. As Western competition in cattle
made grazing land less valuable, these cleared
lands began to offer greater inducements for
cultivation. Decay of stumps, and destruction
of bushes and sprouts through grazing, removed
obstacles, and the turf of blue grass and white
clover, following the removal of the shade, pre-
pared the soil for the plough.


After the founding of Galesburg the county
grew rapidly. Its population steadily increased
until near 1870, when the census returns showed
a larger population than ever before or since.
The cultivation of the land has been more ex-
tensive and thorough; but the number employed
in agricultural work has decreased. The farms
are made and the labor that was needed in their
making is no longer required, while cheaper
methods of building and fencing have reduced
the labor necessary for maintenance. More
work is done, too, by casual help, living in
towns. Holdings are larger than they were,
and fewer hands, proportionally, are employed
on large than on small farms. Another reduc-
tion in the amount of manual labor needed has
resulted from the adoption of better methods of
planting, cultivating, and harvesting, three and
four horse teams and machinery having taken
the place of men. That class of small farmers
who occupied a portion of their time at other
work has disappeared. There is an increased
tendency, on the part of those not wholly de-
voted to agriculture, to seek homes and employ-
ment in the towns; and this statement holds
good even of those owners who prefer to lease
their lands or place them in the Tiands of hired
men, in order to give their families the con-
venience and comforts of a town residence.

Woodcutters and coal miners are less numer-
ous, consumption of wood for fuel having
decreased owing to the substitution of coal, oil,
and gas, while even the wood and soft coal of
this county are largely displaced by the output
of others.

With the construction of railroads, villages
sprang up and grew rapidly. Their growth was
checked and followed by a decline, a circum-
stance attributable to various causes, such as
the falling off in the surrounding population,
the competition of other stations on subse-
quently constructed railroads and the enlarged
facilities for reaching and trading in larger




From 1870 to 1890, the population outside of
Galesburg fell oft twenty-five per cent, although
considerable compensation for this loss was
found in the growth of the city itself. Since
1890, however, the falling off in the townships
has been checked, while the population of Gales-
burg has steadily increased. A table of the
population follows:

1830. Estimated 400

1840. United States Census 7,060

1850. United States Census 13,279

1860. United States Census 28,663

1870. United States Census 39.522

1880. United States Census 38,344

1890. United States Census 38,752

1896. Estimated 45,000

1896. 11,333 votes for President.

In 1S40, Henderson was the most populous
township, having eight hundred and fifty-six
residents. Knox ranked second with seven
hundred and thirty-three, and Cedar third, with
six hundred and sixteen. Since 1860, Galesburg
has been in the lead, with Knox second and
Cedar third.


Prior to 1S54. the most important events in
the history of Knox County, after the county
seat had been laid out and the county machinery
put in motion, were the coming of the Galesburg
Colony, in 1836-7, the building of a new court
house in 1839, and a new jail in 1841, and the
changes of government from County Commis-
sioners to County Judges in 1849, and to town-
ship organization in 18.53. During all this time,
the county was never in debt, although taxes
were very low, never exceeding fifty cents on
the hundred dollars.

In 1854, the railroad came, imparting a great
Impetus to the county's growth. From 1850 to
1860, the percentage of increase in population
was larger than in any other decade of its his-
tory, except the first. Galesburg profited more
from this than the rural districts, containing,
in 1860, more than one-half of the total popula-
tion; while in 1S30 it had but one-twelfth.
This led to the agitation of the question of
transferring the county seat to Galesburg,
which finally ended in its removal in 1873.

With a rising tide of immigration, pauperism
came to be a perplexing problem. An almshouse
■was first built in 1866. Additions were made
in 1876 and again in 1890. (See Alms House.)

In 1861, came the war, and Knox County's
duty was nobly done. She furnished three
thousand eight hundred and seventy-six troops,
only eighty-seven of whom were "hundred day
men"; a record exceeded by only seven counties
in Illinois. Of these, one hundred and twenty-
three were killed in action, one hundred and
sixty-eight were wounded, three hundred and
forty-tour died, and ninety-six were captured.
(For a list of Knox County soldiers see "Knox
County Roll of Honor," published in 1896 by the
Memorial Hall Committee of the G. A. R.) At
home, too, as well as in the field, the county
bore its part with cheerful zeal and patriotic
devotion. The people were most liberal, one
township vieing with another in striving to
lighten the burdens of the soldiers. What wag
privately contributed cannot even be estimated;
but Galesburg Township alone gave $62,340 in
addition to the aid rendered volunteers' fam-
ilies after the war had ended. The Board of
Supervisors was ever active and generous in
providing for these, and the records of that
body are full of resolutions and orders looking
to this end. Large sums were borrowed for
the payment of bounties, the amount reaching
$58,610 by January 12, 1863, and being subse-
quently materially augmented. The total out-
lay by Knox County on this account and for
aid to soldiers' families exceeded $400,000. Even
as late as May 1, 1866, the Board voted to con-
tinue to extend assistance to the latter when
actually needing and deserving relief.


The removal of the county seat rendered the
provision of suitable county buildings at Gales-
burg imperative. The city had already donated
to the county twenty thousand dollars toward
the erection of a jail, besides giving as a site for
the structure the ground on Cherry street on
which the "fire-proof building" now stands. In
addition, the municipality had agreed to provide
a court room for ten years.

The first consideration was the building of
the jail, and on January 15, 1874, the contract
therefor was given to* I. R. Stevens, the con-
sideration named being $34,900. It was occupied
October 3, following. The old Opera House, on
the sovithern side of the public square in Gales-
burg was secured and utilized for the purposes
of a court room, and no haste was shown in the
erection of a permanent edifice. In fact, it was
not until September, 1886, that such a building



was completed. It is one of the best arranged
and handsomest court houses in the State. (For
history of its construction, see Court Houses.)
The old offices, in the "flre-proof building" ou
Cherry street, had become utterly inadequate
to the needs of the county, and when the latter
vacated them, the city took possession of the
building, and at present, some of the municipal
offices are located there.


The chief industries of Knox County have
always been agriculture and stock raising.
Manufactures have never played an important
part in its economic history. There is no water
transportation, and the river counties naturally
had great advantages over it prior to the build-
ing of the railroads across its surface. The
lead thus obtained has been steadily kept.
Brick manufacture, however, has thrived since
steam gave better transportation facilities, and
some of the largest and best brick plants in the
United States are at present located here. The
machine shops of the Chicago, Burlington and
Quincy Company also employ a large force. manufacturing is done is mainly at Gales-
burg, Abingdon, and Knoxville, to which cap-
tions the reader is referred for more detailed

The county is everywhere underlaid with coal
of good quality, but the veins are too thin to be
profitably worked on a large scale. It has been
supposed that in Copley and Victoria coal ex-
isted in paying quantities, and to tap these coal
fields the Galesburg and Great Eastern Railroad
was built from Wataga to Etherley. (See Min-
ing and Railroads.)


The soil and climate are well adapted to the
growth of all cereals and grasses common to
this latitude, while for stock raising they are
unsurpassed. The attention given to each
branch of farming has varied, from time to
time, with the changes in conditions, reduction
in the cost of transportation, the opening of
new markets, changes in methods of cultiva-
tion due to the introduction of machinery, and
the lowering of profits through the competition
of newer settlements.

In the early history of the county, vegetables
and grain were raised for consumption by the
settlers themselves. As more and more land
was placed under cultivation, the unmerchant-
able surplus was utilized in the raising of stock.

Wheat was the first grain raised for trans-
portation, the acreage sown increasing year by
year for a considerable time. It was sold in
Peoria and Oquawka, and, before the opening of
the Illinois and Michigan Canal, was sometimes
hauled to Chicago, the farmers bringing back
salt and pine lumber.

The cost of transportation and of harvesting
determined the extent of the crop. It was cut
with cradles, bound by hand, and threshed by
tramping with horses. Extra hands in harvest
were not easily secured, and wages were
relatively high. The first threshing machines
were Introduced about 1842; the first reapers,
about 1847. Primitive and inefficient as they
were, compared with those at present in use,
they saved labor and rendered the extension of
cultivation possible, while the improvements,
made each year upon the crude patterns of the
early days, have increased their practical value
a hundred fold. The light snow falls left the
young plants exposed to the extreme cold of
winter, which sometimes destroyed them, espe-
cially on the bleak, unprotected prairie. On
newly broken ground, the fall growth was
usually vigorous enough to pass safely through
this danger; but on land which had been for
some time cultivated, the crop was a precarious
one, and its continued culture was due to the
introduction of improved varieties of spring
wheat. As competition from newer settlements
grew and the ravages of insects became more
fatal, less wheat was sown, until in the sixties,
wheat-culture was abandoned on most farms.

About 1883, press drills began to come into
use, and many farmers discovered that by em-
ploying this valuable agency, preparing the
ground more carefully, this cereal might be
raised with better chance of success. Its culti-
vation was therefore resumed, and continued for
twelve years with satisfactory results. The past
three or four years, however, have proved less

The principal crop of the county is, and
always has been, corn. On most farms, the
acreage is limited, by necessity of such diversi-
fication of crops as will give occupation to the
farmer and his men outside of the corn season,
proper rest to the soil, and pasturage and hay
for stock.

But little corn was reported from the county
before the coming of the railroads. In 1S44. the
first attempt was made. Prices were enhanced
at the seaboard by the excitement caused by
the Irish famine. Lorentus E. Conger, John L.

K N OX CO U N T y.

Clay, and Joel Graham, living southwest of
Galesburg. collected their surplus corn, pur-
chased a large crop on the neighboring Gale
farm, hauled it to Oquawka, and loaded it there
on a flat boat. They had no cornshellers. and
they shelled their corn by tramping with horses.
They carried it to New Orleans, where they sold
it. returning with its value in groceries and
silver dollars. Even since the construction of
railroads, the great bulk of Knox County corn
has been consumed at home. The acreage was
never greater than now, and the raising of live
stock has been greatly reduced; yet only a frac-
tion of the crop is exported.

Next to corn, the crop most extensively raised
is oats. A large proportion of this goes out
of the county. Its relative worth for shipment
as compared with its feeding value at home is
greater than that of corn. Although a less
valuable crop than the latter, its cultivation on
some portion of the farm permits a more con-
tinuous occupation of the working force, as
well as a change the following year to grass
or clover.

Rye and barley are good crops, but generally
regarded as less desirable than either wheat
or oats. Millet, in all its varieties, is often
profitably raised, especially on farms not well
supplied with meadow, or on ground that has
proved too wet for early planting.

Broom corn is also cultivated in some sections
with profit. The country around Galesburg and
Galva was among the first localities in the West
to make this crop a farm product, and for sev-
eral years was the chief Western growing dis-
trict for broom corn. Its cultivation has proved,
on the whole, very profitable, but owing to a
fall in prices and a distaste for the character
of the work which it requires it has greatly
fallen off.

A considerable amount of maple sugar was
formerly made, the maple growing extensively
in some parts of the county, notably along the
branches of Henderson Creek. The fine old
trees have nearly all disappeared, having been
felled to furnish fuel for the fires of the cities
and villages, while pastures and fields of grain
and grass occupy the places where they grew.

For some time, between 1S50 and a date sub-
sequent to the close of the Civil War, there
was an extensive cultivation of sorghum, for
the manufacture of molasses for domestic use
or for barter at the store. But as sugar grew
cheaper, and the demand for other farm pro-
ducts improved, the industry gradually de-

clined; so that at present very little of this
variety of sugar cane is raised.


From the beginning, cattle and hogs have
been among the county's staple products. Mast
furnished food for the hogs, and all surplus
corn could thus be easily used with profit. Until
the railroads provided easy means of transporta-
tion, live hogs were sometimes driven to the
packers. As a rule, however, the animals were
dressed at home, and sold in late autumn or
early winter. For many years, they were the
farmer's chief reliance for raising ready money.

The first purchasers of cattle were drovers
from Ohio, who bought for feeders. The next
were the packers at the river points and in
Chicago. To meet the demand, the cattle were
pastured on the prairie and wintered on prairie
hay and straw, and some corn. There was little
full feeding until the railroad reached Chicago
from Buffalo, furnishing a route thence to New
York by rail and water for live stock driven
to Lake Michigan. All rail transportation fol-
lowed afterwards. From that time nothing
but full fed cattle went from Knox County.
With the loss of open range, and the increase in
cultivation of farm products, feeding became
more and more the rule. But western competi-
tion, the requirements of a growing urban pop-
ulation for supplies, and the increased exporta-
tion of corn, oats and hay, have altered the
policy and practice of the farmers, and reduced
the number of cattle and hogs fattened for

Dairying has never been prominent among
the county's industries. Farmers keep cows to
supply the domestic requirements and often
export a surplus to the towns. There are a
few small dairies, however, whose products are
sold chiefly directly to consumers.

From 1S36 to 1840. some farmers immigrat-
ing from the dairy districts in Herkimer and
Oneida counties. New York, brought with them
their methods of cheesemaking. About ISSO,
there was begun the establishment of cheese
factories and creameries, after the pattern set by
Elgin. Several were started and very good work
was done; but the industry, as a whole, was
foreign to the habits of Knox County farmers
and laborers, and all but one or two have been
discontinued, notwithstanding the fact that the
country is well adapted to dairying. The sup-
plying of milk to the towns is now a business
of some importance and is growing.



The early settlers who made their own cloth-
ing kept sheep. About 1840, large flocks were
brought in, the inducements being the little
care needed for keeping, cheapness of feed, the
high price of wool in comparison with that of
other products and the ease of transportation.
Yet sheep have gradually given way to cattle
and hogs, and now only a few, small, scattered
flocks are to be found.

The methods employed in farming and the
habits of the people in both city and country
require a large supply of horses. The county
has always raised more than were needed for the
use of its own people. At all times, a great
deal of attention had been paid to the propaga-
tion and rearing of this variety of stock, and
Knox has never been without animals of high

Meadows and pastures occupy a large por-
tion of the entire area. Until after 1850, cattle
were kept on the open range, only cows kept
for milking or high bred stock being found
within fenced fields. With close feeding, the
old prairie grass soon disappeared, giving place
to weeds, which In time were followed by a
volunteer growth of red top, blue grass, and
white clover. Some timothy was sown as early
as 1835, but there seemed little inducement to
give up ground to the preparation of artificial
meadows and the increase of meadow land was
slow. Straw was too abundant to have any
value, and corn was cheap enough to feed to
stock in winter. Even down to 185S, the area
of meadow land, although gradually increasing,
was small. A large proportion of the farms
had none, relying, perhaps, on a small piece
of prairie, never ploughed or pastured. In
1840, Nathan O. Ferris began the saving and
shipping of timothy seed and soon had a large
part of his nine hundred acre farm devoted to
this crop. The seed brought considerable better
prices in New York than did eastern seed on
account of its quality and supposed freedom
from weeds. He was followed by G. W. G.
Ferris and W. S. Gale, on neighboring farms.
In 1859, there were five hundred acres of
meadow in timothy on the Gale farm. It was
kept for a seed crop, the cost of cutting it for
hay and the great difficulty in getting the work
done at all, together with the greater value of
the seed, preventing any other use. The seed
was saved with comparatively little labor. But
as mowing machines were improved, the saving
of the hay became possible. There was by this

time a large increase in the acreage of meadow
land in the county, and the crop a fine one, for
which there was a strong demand in the South-
ern markets. Watkins and Brothers, in Gales-
burg, and W. S. Gale, on his farm procured hay
presses, and were the first to introduce that
work into Knox County. Within two years the
war demand sprang up, while an improvement
in presses permitted the shipping of heavier
loads to the car; and an industry was estab-
lished that is still of importance in the county.

One of the most romantic episodes of Knox
County history was the journey hither by wa-
ter, undertaken by some of the Galesburg colon-
ists. In the spring of 1836, John C. Smith, of
Oneida, N. Y., who owned some boats on the
Erie Canal, proposed that some of the colonists
should journey to Illinois in a canal-boat. The
proposition was accepted, a canal-boat was pur-
chased on shares, and thirty-seven persons,
varying in age from three weeks to fifty years,
embarked for the long voyage, with Mr. Smith
as captain. The starting point was at Utica,
but the various families joined the party at
different places on the way to Buffalo, where the
passengers and baggage were transferred to a
steamer which towed the empty barge. A storm
arose, and the boat was abandoned by all ex-
cept the captain, who remained on board and
brought it safely into Cleveland, six days after
the steamer had landed the colonists there.

From Cleveland, the party went by canal to
Portsmouth and thence down the Ohio to Cin-
cinnati, where they had a sort of propeller made
to take them up the Mississippi, and part
way up the Illinois rivers. It was not a
first-class machine; but they made it answer
the purpose on the Mississippi and part way up
the Illinois, until finally they had to tie to
a steamer, which conveyed them to their
landing place at the mouth of Copperas
Creek. The hot weather had been very severe,
and upon their arrival, every one of the party
was ill. The man most capable of traveling,
at once started on horseback for Log City. The

Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 130 of 207)