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Our Ancestors and the Start of Sangamon County, IL (Part 1)

April 29, 2012

I have been enjoying some of the great old history books found on Google’s eBooks. My interests, of course, tend toward histories of some of the locations where our ancestors lived. It is fun to imagine them living in those times and places. Today’s blog includes an excerpt from History of Sangamon County, Illinois: together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships . . . (published 1881 by Inter-state Publishing Co., found on Google eBooks).

The writing below is from an oration given by Hon. Milton Hay at the 12th annual reunion of the Sangamon County “Old Settlers.” He described the lifestyle of the first pioneers and the early settlers.

Let’s first consider the lifestyle of the pioneers:

In this comparatively early history of the society, however, we had the advantage of having amongst us as yet, so that we meet them, face to face, a few of the very earliest pioneers; men and women who had stood, as it were, upon Mount Pisgah [the mountain top from which Moses viewed the Promised Land], and gazed upon the trackless prairies and forests of these regions; men who saw that the land was fair and who were the first to enter upon it and take possession. The experience of these old settlers was an experience that no other generation of settlers could possibly have. At that early day these regions were not considered so inviting as to cause any rush or haste in their settlement. A few located doubtingly and cautiously, and these at considerable intervals of time. It was no part of the expectation of these pioneers that they would realize suddenly great wealth or great success of any kind by being the first upon the ground. But little information had been disseminated as to the character of the country, but there was a general impression that its characteristics were those of a desert.

There was doubt and question then as to whether a prairie country was inhabitable. The means and modes of access to the country were slow and difficult, and only those were tempted to come who were already frontier men, or who for some exceptional reason preferred the free life of a wilderness to the comforts of the older settled parts of the country. There was at that day no rushing tide of emigration from all parts of the world. There were no speculators, land grant railroad companies, and newspapers engaged in ‘whooping up’ the country. There were many discomforts and deprivations which the early settler had to undergo; but there were compensations also. The early settler was almost ‘monarch of all he surveyed.’ He could enjoy the great natural beauty of the primitive scenery of the country, before it was broken and profaned by roads, buildings and fences. He had no disagreeable neighbors to fret or annoy him. With his gun and faithful dog for company, and the wild game all around him, he cared nothing for the society of men. Of course only a class of men who had long habituated themselves to a life on the outer borders of civilization could enjoy such a life in its full perfection.

From → Aderman/Bates

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