Kane County ILGenWeb
Kane County, Illinois Genealogy & History
Letter written by Daniel Pingree, Udina, Illinois,
to Samuel C. Rowell, Lower Blue Licks, Nicholas County, Kentucky
April 10th, 1840
Transcribed by Linda Nieman ([email protected])
My Respected Friend:
I had the pleasure of receiving your letter bearing date of the 7th ult. on the 8th inst. and with much pleasure impe??? this early opportunity to answer. I rejoice to hear that you and the rest of my old school-fellows who reside in Ky. are doing well; and I also rejoice to hear that you and your Relatives think of coming to Ills., for in my opinion you could not find a better County in all the world for farming. It is now about 6 weeks since I closed my school, and hard labor has put my hand in rather a bad condition to write: however I hope I shall be able to write so that you can read it. What you cannot read, please to guess at, and overlook poor penmanship. I will now proceed to answer your inquiries respecting this County, etc. As my limits on this sheet will not admit, I can give nothing more than a brief account of it. I will in the first place attempt to describe the Land. There are 3 kinds of Prairie,high rolling, medium, and wet. The first mentioned has a rich productive soil generally of a brown color consisting of loam with a mixture of light colored sand, and in many places are knolls, natural mounds, elevated from 10 to 30 or 40 feet with a regular oval shape, and sometimes contain an area of 1 or 2 acres but generally much smaller. These are composed principally of gravel and produce but little. This kind of Prairie is excellent for all kinds of grain, but not very good for grass. The natural grass does not grow very large and it is thought from the trials that have been made that the English grass will not do well; it is to dry. Another objection to them is a scarcity of water. It can however be obtained by digging from 15 to 40 feet. So you see that a farm composedwholy of this kind of Prairie would not be the place for keeping stock to advantage.
The soil of the Medium Prairie is much like the Rolling as to the material of which it is composed. It is of a darker color and as much richer as it is darker and is not interspersed with any of the above mentioned knolls. It is generally slightly oval so that the water which is not absorbed will run off sufficiently. It will produce abundantly anything that a farmer wishes to put into the ground. This kind of Prairie is generally interspersed with Creeks and small Sloughs which afford a plenty of water for cattle etc. These sloughs produce natural grass in any quantity almost; some of them I think produce 4 or 5 tons per acre! Water on medium Prairie can be obtained by digging from 10 to 25 feet.
The Wet Prairie consists of a very rich, black loam and is generally mixed with a light colored sand, and is particularly adapted to the growth of Corn, it being too rich for wheat and most of the other kinds of small grain, butt is great for grass both natural and English.
The Timbered land is generally Oak-Barrens, called by some Oak Openings. It may be divided into 2 classes; High rolling, and Medium. The first resembles the high rolling Prairie as to its surface, but is more clayey and has considerable lime amongst it and is excellent for wheat. It is thought to be much better for wheat than the prairie, and as good for Corn. The medium Openings are very much like the medium prairie as to soil and surface. The Openings are better for grass than the Prairie. The Timber of the openings consists of several kinds of Oak; viz: Black, Yellow, White, Pin, Red and Bull, and in many places there are a plenty of Hickory or walnut trees, occasionaly a small grove of Poplar. There are some groves of timber in this section of the County that contain almost all the kinds of timber that there are at the East with the exception of Spruce Hemlock and Pine. The timber of the openings is short, many of the trees will make but 1 rail cut, but some will make 2 or 3.
By taking a farm in the openings a person will generally have timber enough to fence his farm and to build etc., and have enough left for the use of the farm besides. This is one advantage that the openings have over the Prairie. You can take a piece of land large enough for a farm and the farm fences itself, but if you have a Prairie farm you must have a timber lot else where. It is difficult to make a claim at the present time where the Prairie and timber join. Therefoer I should make one in the openings and make myown Prairie by cutting off the timber. There are perhaps in the Openings upon an average of about from 20 to 30 trees per acre. The water of this County is generally very pure and healthy. To a person just from the East it has a singular taste that they do not exactly like, but it is on account of its being limy and is Physical at first. It creates an appetite that can scarcely be satisfied until a person has been here several months; it is commonly known amount "We Luckey" by the name of the "Illinois appetite," and the consequence of this appetite is an enormous coat of flesh. The water tastes as well to me now as any N.H. water and I believe it is so with others. I think the climate is as healthy as at the East. There are some diseases that people a liable to heir that they never have there viz: Fever and Ague, and Bilious Fever. But there are but few cases of these diseases except on some of the Rivers and Large creeks. This last year there has been but very little sickness of any kind. Mother had the Fever and ague about 2 years ago butt she soon got over it and now weighs over 200 lbs. this is nearly 30 lbs. moer than she ever weighed in N.H. I think that you and your folks would be highly pleased with the Country in all respect. You might think that the timber is short but we cannot have every thing to our liking in all respects in one place: not in this world.
There is an excellent opportunity in this section of country to claim Government Land, this you can have for $1.25 per acre, and pay for it immediately after you settle on it if you please, or you can have one years Pay Day if you choose. This is according to the last Pre-Emption Act. The above are the conditions for purchasing land that is already in market. Or you can settle on land not in market and Pre-Emption it any time befoer the day of Sale at Auction. There is a plenty of land in this vicinity both in market and not in market! Please get the last Pre-Emption Act and read it, it will give you a good deal of information. It was passed at the last extra session of Congress. You can find whole sections (640 acres) of land here together that are much better than any tract of land that you can find in N.H.!!! 160 acres will make a good farm and this will cost only $200. It is astonishing that people will toil and grab(?) among stones and thistles of N.H. ain't it Friend! You can keep a 100 head of cattle as well as not the first year if you have the money to buy them and pasture them on Uncle Sam's Land. You can keep 1000 as well as 100 head and cut your hay in the pasture!! What would a Yankee farmer say at that. You can buy claims of 160 acres where their is a log house and 10 or 15 acres plowed and fenced for from $200 to $1000 and perhaps upwards just according to location. People generally hold claims high but want of money sometimes compels them to sell cheap. I know of one man who has 160 acres of Deeded Land with a pretty good log house on it and 4 or 5 acres plowed that he offers to sell for $400 and perhaps there are chances equally good. There is no very general rule as the price of Claims you would have to buy just as you could light of Chaps (?). I think that the better way is to buy the land of Government and then a person can make improvements to suit himself. If a man has a large capital it would do to buy improved land. You wish to know the chances for school teaching. It is pretty good for a new County but there are not many chances for a man to teach the year around. Teachers get from 12 to 25 dollars per mo. for 3 or 4 months, in winter. I have taught 4 winters heir and one summer and got from $14 1/2 to $20 per mo. I do not know of any other business in particular besides farming that a young man could do well at. There might however be a chance to get into a store at Chicago or else where. We have a very forward Spring and wheat never looked better. There appears to be "A right smart chance" for a "Heap" of wheat this year. (Hoosier) Prairie flowers are putting forth and we shall soon be surrounded by nosegays. I could write a volume upon this subject if my sheet would admit but I must be brief if I want to touch upon various topics.
There are some Prairie volay beer about as large a decent sized dog. They do no harm with the exception of taking some pigs an sheep they never touch a man. There are Land-Hile-Cranes that Halloo so that they may be heard 2 or 3 miles. Prairie Hens about the size of common hen. Wild geese, and ducks, foxes, Badgers. There are no Wood-Chucks. You wish to know whether it would be best to come in the Spring or Fall. So far a health is concerned I think either would be a safe way. It is allowed to be healthy to go from a warm to a cooler country in Spring, and no doubt it would be healthy to come in the Fall. But I think it would be better to come from N.H. in the Fall it is commonly thought that is the best way. If I were going to journey to Ill. from N.H. I should prefer to set out about the last day of Aug. or first of Sept. It is better to be here in the Spring on account of commencing on a farm. The season for breaking Prairie and openings is from the 15th of May to first of Aug. You can sow and harrow in wheat on the ground they beskein about the last of Aug. and get as good wheat as ever grew. This we have done successfully. I think if I were coming from Ky. to Ill. to commence a farm that I should come in Spring. We are situated on the State Road leading from Chicago to Galena which is called the Great Western Mail Route from C. to G. We are only 43 miles from Chicago, and 7 West of Elgin on Fox River, and 3 west of Udina, our Post Office. The Stage on this route passes our door 6 times in a week and there is a great deal of Public Travel. I do not think that you or your Father can suit yourselves better than in this section of County. I hope at any rate that you will make this your place of destination. Make you calculations to come and stay with us and look around and see the County. We shall consider it a pleasure to look around with you, and we will try to help you look out a claim if you wish. The same invitation to your Father and family as to yourself. Please give all of our respects to your Father and family, reserving no small share for yourself. Tell your Father that he cannot be dissatisfied with the County, but he must not look at the land after he leaves Chicago till he gets out west about 16 or 20 miles. The ??? Roads leading from Elgin out west ??? the South road ??? the mail Stage runs on, anyone on the road can tell where we live. You will please give these directions to your Father so that he can find us and also to Mr. Reuben Moores of whoam you spoke, and to anyone else who is coming to Ills. You will have to tell what kind of Money is current here. It depends upon what you want to use it for. If you wish to buy land you had better get silver and gold or Treasury notes. This is the only safe way as the currency is in such a sad state. Eastern money is the most current of any kind we have. Ky. Money is not much in circulation here and if it is ever so good the generality of people don't know it. You will be likely to suffer some shame and you might as well do it there as heer. Eastern money demand aPremium here over the Western. Recollect that Southern money is not current. N. York City money is the best eastern money amongst us. Lebanon N.H. is good enough in any business. Our roads in a state of nature are better than in N.H. with all the work that they can put on them. There are no stones of any amount. We have plenty of mud in Spring and Fall but it is of such a nature that it soon dries. We all own 1480 acres of land have about 90 under fence 42 plowed. It is not uncommon for farmers to raise 2 thousand bushels of grain. Our neighbors came principally from N.H. and V.T. and are very intelligent. I close by wishing you a long prosperous and happy life and a safe journey to Ills.
I have written in haste therefoer please excuse mistakes.
This letter first appeared on June McDowall's independent
Kane County Genealogy site, and is shared with permission