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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8
Midland-Midwest Immigrant Regions

Taking all the Bounty Tract together . . . there is no region of country in the west more eligibly situated for all the purposes of agriculture and commerce. The lands everywhere, with but few exceptions, are of the best quality, and in a manner surrounded by a sheet of navigable waters; and the country exhibits a climate of great variety.

-- Mitchell 1837

Expanding navigable waterways and regional road networks improved immigrants' opportunities to participate in marketplace-agrarian economies. A rush of Pennsylvanians, Ohioans, and Indianans employed trunk line routes: the National Road, the Ohio-Mississippi River system, and the Great Lakes-Erie Canal system. Terre Haute on the Wabash River in Indiana and Marshall in Clark County, Illinois, some fifteen miles west on the National Road, served as points of entry for Midland-Midwest immigrants. Road networks connected east-central and west-central Illinois. Water movement corridors formed alternative trunk routes to western Illinois. Midlanders and Midwesterners configured complex migration patterns north of the National Road.

Midland-Midwest immigrant regions exhibited a propensity for widespread dispersion and segmentation in Illinois by 1850. Structural patterns reveal dispersion northward and southward from a midstate base. Midlanders and Midwesterners dispersed westward across the Middle West within an American diffusion system (fig. 3.8). I argue the formation of a cultural core in a Midland-Midwest culture region. As a fundamental segment of a new regional way station, it linked with enlarging four-tier urban-transport and culture region systems.

In a recent reappraisal of the Pennsylvania culture area, Pillsbury postulated a secondary American regional culture hearth (landscape formation zone) in central and western Pennsylvania ( 1987, 51). Earlier, Mitchell argued that replicated Midland regional way stations formed in southwest Pennsylvania in the late 1700s and in southwest Ohio and southeast Indiana in the early 1800s ( 1978). Adaptive

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