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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3
Evolution of Urban Road Networks

Population is rapidly increasing, and trade fluctuating from point to point; the courses of roads are consequently often changed, before a permanent route is adopted. Few roads, therefore, have become so fixed, as to their location, as to have been beaten by travel, and improved by art; and the traveller who ventures out in the spring, may expect to be obliged to wade through mire and water-ancle deep, knee deep, and peradventure deeper than that. -- Hall 1831

An expanding continental nation engineered east-west movement corridors in the nineteenth century ( Vance 1990). Immigrant waves depended from the beginning on overcoming distance and improving spatial linkages ( Sauer 1976, 45). Illinois Country was not immune from settlers' predispositions for improved connecting land-and-water circulation routes. Geographical value of an Illinois and Michigan canal was a reiterated agenda for decades. "The construction of a canal, thus opening a communication between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic states, is a work so easy, and of such immense importance both to the welfare of this country, and the advantage of the United States in general, that it cannot fail to meet with a very speedy accomplishment" ( The Emigrant's Guide, or Pocket Geography 1818, 228-29). Early land routes were essential for settlement and economic growth. Corliss argues that "the secret of Illinois' remarkable progress is told in one word--transportation" ( 1937, foreword).

Immigrants followed fundamental movement laws. Frontier integrations shifted from isolation to accessible status, which spawned effective movements of people, goods, and communications. Circulation flows coalesce in networks of points and areas. Transport lines adapt to changing origins, destinations, costs, demands, technology, and settlement growth. Settlers' aspirations and activities transformed Illinois from local self-sufficiency to increasing marketplace- economic interdependence by the 1840s. Regional and national integrations were tied to navigable waterways. Improving road ties enhanced relationships between midcontinental Illinois, transAppalachia, and seaboard America. Expanding

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