Making the Heartland Quilt: A Geographical History of Settlement and Migration in Early-Nineteenth-Century Illinois

By Douglas K. Meyer | Go to book overview
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Historical and Geographical Settlement Conditions

The bulk of the population is settled upon the Mississippi, Kaskaskia and its branches. There are a few detached settlements on the Wabash, and some of the streams entering the west bank; and detached ones on the Ohio. Those on the Illinois are small, insulated, and sometimes 50 miles apart.

-- Brown1817

Historical and geographical processes operating at local, regional, national, and international scales shaped Illinois' settlement structure. Numerous factors--geographical, cultural, political, settlement, and economic--integrated population infillings linked with boom-and-bust economic cycles during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Regional shifts in population and economic growth occurred between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. In an expanding continental America, the Old Northwest transformed into the Midwest ( Parker 1975). Large amounts of fertile land, steamboat riverine movement- settlement corridors, and central location in the interior perpetuated "Illinois fever." Illinois metamorphosed from an insular, subsistent frontier to riparian, commercial-settlement corridors tied to regional, national, and world economic systems.


Late-Eighteenth-Century Settlement Conditions

Settlers slowly penetrated peripheral frontiers in the interior. Returning soldiers from George Rogers Clark's foray against the French at Kaskaskia and Vincennes in 1778-79 spread the word of the fertile lands of Illinois Country. Veterans of Clark's campaign who settled the American Bottom primarily emigrated from Virginia and Maryland ( Moses 1889, 1:227). A few opted to reside within the remnant French villages. The vast majority of the woodland frontiersmen established dispersed farmsteads. Other veterans established in d the first nucleated

-19-

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Making the Heartland Quilt: A Geographical History of Settlement and Migration in Early-Nineteenth-Century Illinois
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