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frequently scorching it. She had no evergreens of consequence, and very few trees from which decent boards could be sawed. Many prairies were ten to twenty miles widesome were thirty to forty. The deep, black muck which formed the soil was powdered into dust by drouth, or sodden into mire by rain. The moment the prairie sod was cut through, the wheels of each loaded vehicle sank, through half of each year, nearly to the hub; and thus not only building materials, salt and groceries, but fencing and fuel, were to be carted for long distances—a load of wheat being drawn to Chicago, and the proceeds converted into a load of boards for fencing—the journey out and back often consuming a week. Many a load of produce thus marketed, has seen nearly or quite its price absorbed in the inevitable expense of the journey out and in. This impelled the State to engage prematurely in the construction of canals, which involved her heavily in debt, without very materially improving her access to markets. Railroads followed in due season, and did her good service, while, being constructed mainly by private enterprise, whatever advantage accrued to the public was so much clear gain. Still, extensive areas of her soil must have remained unimproved, uninhabited for ages, but for the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad. That great work, munificently endowed with wild lands by Congress, starts from Chicago in the northeast, and Dunleith in the northwest of the State, and converging to a junction near the center, runs thence by a single line to Cairo in the extreme south, at the junction of the Ohio with the Mississippi, the work having thus a total length of over six hundred miles. And, though not run as the profit of the stockholders would have dictated, its course is precisely such as best conduced to the settlement and growth of the State. Millions of acres, else uninhabitable, are by it rendered among
the most inviting and valuable of any wild lands on our Continent; and though the Federal grant covered more than two and a half millions of acres, we believe the public domain was increased not merely in value, but in productiveness to the Treasury by this enlightened liberality.
Illinois, already the fourth, and probably soon to be the third State in the Union-for Virginia is already behind her in every element of consequence and power-is yet in her infancy. Of her soil, probably less than onefourth has yet been ploughed; and her last crop-immense as it was, especially of corn—is but a fraction of what she can and will produce. We believe her product of this staple already far exceeds that of any other State, while in wheat, beef, and pork, she is scarcely second to any. Her coal is hardly exceeded in abundance by that of any
other State ; nearly every foot of her surface is underlaid with lime; and her iron, though less abundant, is good. Her chief mart, though hardly thirty years old, ranks seventh among American cities; it promises ere long to be the fifth Illinois bids fair to have five millions of inhabitants in 1880, and to increase the number to ten millions early in the next century. Her career is hardly begun.”
Three years after the Central Railroad Company began their operations, their sales of land amounted to 1,312,373 acres, realizing a total sum of $16,663,823. The terms of sale are probably more liberal than are elsewhere to be found. Had they been otherwise, it would have been impossible to attract to a new and wholly unsettled country the largest body of settlers ever voluntarily collected on one spot within so short a period. The buyer has his choice among a million of acrés still unsold, and may take land at from $7 to $12 and upward per acre, according to location. He may pay for it in cash, if able to do so, and thus obtain a discount of twenty per cent.; or he may take land and be allowed four, five, six, and seven years in which to pay for it, but paying the interest yearly in advance. He may buy as small a tract as forty acres, or one as much larger as his means will justify.
The land grant to this Company was the first public gratuity in aid of railroads. When first made, the central portion of Illinois was an unoccupied prairie, as fertile as any soil in the world, but wholly unavailable. It now swarms with population, that along the railroad having trebled within ten years. Great towns have sprung up along its track, and the annual growth of population and wealth is enormous. Here the enterprising man will be sure to find a farm, and the Railroad Company will show him how to get it. Their road is 704 miles in length, and extends from Cairo, in the extreme southern part of the State, to Dunleith, in the northwest, with a branch from Centralia, in the centre, to Chicago, on the shore of Lake Michigan. For all the purposes of agriculture, these lands are equal to any in the world, producing wheat, barley and oats in the north; corn and wheat in the centre; and wheat, tobacco and cotton in the south. In all parts of the State vast numbers of live stock are produced. A healthy climate, a rich soil, and railroads to convey to market the fullness of the earth-all combine to place in the hands of the working man the means of independence. Nowhere can the farmer, the mechanic, the manufacturer, and the laboring man, find surer rewards of industry. With 12,000 common schools, 21 colleges, 48 academies, and a liberal fund for the support of learning, Illinois offers the means of education such as few States can boast. All the conditions favorable to prosperity are to be found here.
From publications made by the Company, most of the facts and descriptions contained in this chapter have been compiled; such, at least, as refer to their lands, and to the statistics of climate and productions. The climate of Illinois is healthy, and the mortality is less than in almost any other part of the country. The immigrant seeking a location regards the healthfulness of the district as a matter of primary consideration, and Illinois, so far as its sanitary condition is concerned, ranks with the most favored States of the Union. The vital statistics collected in 1860 show that in this State the deaths per cent. to the population were in that year only 1.14, while the average of the whole country was 1.27. Extending 380 miles from north to south, Illinois has all the varieties of climate to be found between Boston, in Massachusetts, and Norfolk, in Virginia: in the southern part, the genial climate of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and in the northern section more nearly resembling that of Pennsylvania, Southern New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The soil in the different parts of the State presents very marked characteristics. From the latitude of Chicago as far South as the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, the country for the most part is open prairie, with here and there groves of timber, and timbered on the banks of the various streams. The soil in this region consists of a rich black loam, and is remarkably adapted to the production of corn, sorghum and tame grasses. For stock-raising no better land can be found. South of this line the soil is lighter and of a greyish tinge--the country is also more broken, and the timber more plentiful. The small prairies in this region produce the best of winter wheat, tobacco, flax and hemp. From Centralia to Cairo, in the south, the country is heavily timbered. In this district, fruit, tobacco, cotton, and the different productions of the Border States, are largely cultivated and highly remunerative. A large number of saw-mills are erected near the line of the railroad, the lumber from which commands at all times a ready sale.
Indian corn is perhaps the most important crop in the country. It is applied to so great a variety of purposes, and is so indispensable an article for foreign consumption, that however abundantly it may be produced, the constantly increasing demand will press heavily upon the supply. In 1859 the United States yielded 827,694,528 bushels, of which Illinois contributed 115,296,779, about fifty millions of bushels more than any other State. Illinois stands pre-eminently first in the list of corn-producing States.
For the culture of wheat the lands of the Illinois Central Railroad are in all respects equal to any in the State. One great advantage which these