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

By Douglas K. Meyer | Go to book overview

7
New England Immigrant Regions

That portion of Illinois, situated in the northern part of the state . . . is known by the appellation of the Rock River Country. It is a fertile agricultural region, combining all the advantages of a rich and fruitful soil, a healthy and temperate climate, a fine navigable river, and clear perennial streams, affording excellent mill-seats.

-- Mitchell1837

Western boosterism perceived Illinois as a potential "garden spot" ( Mitchell 1837; Peck 1836, 1837). Numerous attractive destinations emerged in the expanding growth areas of northern and west-central Illinois. Rock River Country emerged as a key settlement area for New Englanders in northern Illinois ( Buckingham 1942). An early traveler romanticized the valley: "The country bordering on Rock River, in nearly its whole length, is one of the most beautiful that can be imagined" ( Farnham 1846, 284). The Illinois Valley corridor and Illinois and Michigan Canal formed a bridge corridor to west-central Illinois' Military Tract and Sangamon Country. According to Mathews, easterners' penetration southward extended as far as a line east-west above Springfield ( 1909, 215).

Arriving in northern Illinois, Yankees replicated a New England model landscape with its Congregational and Presbyterian village churches. Kofoid argues that New England missionary societies influenced the spread of Presbyterianism in southern Illinois in the early pioneer years and the later transplantings of Congregational churches in northern Illinois ( 1906). Congregationalism originated in Illinois in 1833 ( Savage 1910, 79). Heinl noted that Congregationalism and New England attitudes and values influenced the religious, educational, social, and cultural life of Jacksonville in Morgan County in west-central Illinois ( 1935).

Congregational ministers functioned as dominant personalities in fashioning covenant communities in the New England settlement scheme in northern Illinois ( Savage 1910). Twenty-two Yankee colonies were planted primarily in northern Illinois in the 1830s ( Mathews 1909, 214). Many Yankee groups out-migrated

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