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HINTS TO IMMIGRANTS.
As this book is designed to be read and used, not only by those who already enjoy the happiness of being citizens of the Prairie State, but also by those who may hereafter seek to establish homes for themselves within its borders, it will doubtless be quite acceptable to the latter class, to receive, in addition to the information contained in the preceding chapters, a few hints, dictated by experience, in respect to what is in the first place most expedient and necessary to be done by them, and next as to what they may expect, in their efforts to secure a fortunate settlement.
In the first place, then, no immigrant should neglect to make a tour of the State, and carefully examine for himself into the diversified nature and quality of its soil, as found in the various districts; and until he has done so, he should not purchase any land. Time and means, it is true, are both required for this purpose, but certainly, neither will be lost or spent in vain. The advantages that may thus be gained, will amply repay the investment; and it will be found far better, than to purchase in haste, and repent at leisure, as is too often the case with inconsiderate settlers. Besides, since the opening of the railroads, travelling in Illinois is so much facilitated, that one may visit almost every place at a trifling cost.
Persons who have large means at command, will undoubtedly do well to purchase their land in the immediate vicinity of some railroad or large town; while those whose means are limited, will find it more advantageous to make their choice of land in districts lying farther removed from such centres, but where the soil is equally notable for its excellent qualities, and the price a great deal lower.
A person with small means, having found from forty to eighty
acres, situated in a neighborhood which he likes, and but five or six miles from a place where building and fencing materials, as well as fuel, can be bought at reasonable prices, should endeavor to effect a purchase, under an arrangement for a credit on three-fourths of the purchase-money for a sufficiently long term; and, after succeeding in this, he should then immediately set to work and lay the foundation of his new family hearth.
A pair of good horses, a wagon, one cow, a couple of pigs, several domestic fowls, two ploughs (one for breaking up the prairie, and the other for tillage), together with a few other tools and implements, are all that is necessary for a beginning. A log house can soon be erected. Thus provided for in the outset, and working with a joyful heart and honest perseverance, the confiding farmer will, surely, under the blessing of heaven, soon be enabled to replace his log hut with a cheerful dwelling-house, and to meet the payments of purchase-money as they become due, and still have a handsome surplus. In the course of a few years, therefore, one whose means in the start are rather stinted, may become an independent farmer, and enjoy his own farm and homstead free of debts. Of such success, innumerable instances may be found in the State of Illinois.
In the chapter on "Agriculture," we have shown, by several accounts of the yield of crops, how easy it is for a farmer to rise in this State. We will here cite but one instance, to show that a mechanic may also, with equal ease, secure wealth and independence. It is found in an extract from a letter of Mr. J. H. Atkinson, of Pekin, dated December the 5th, 1855. This gentleman, speaking of Pekin, writes thus:
This town has about two thousand inhabitants, and contains two houses engaged in the manufacture of wagons; four, of ploughs; two, of carriages and buggies; two places for horse-shoeing, exclusively; two gunsmiths; two cabinet-makers; one chair-maker; three coopers' shops; one foundry and machine shop; one large manufactory of reaping and mowing machines, and one pottery; —all of which may be said to be doing a first rate business, in proportion to the amount of capital invested, which is, in some instances, very small, and in others proportionately large.
All composing said manufacturing firms (making no exceptions) came here, or were raised here (poor men), mechanics or artisans, and have pretty much the same circumstances marking the history of their rise, All, by steady in
dustry, have commenced small shops on their own hook, and work on repairs or job work, filling in their spare time on new work, which gradually grew into a business, only varied in the amount of its prosperity by the difference in energy of its proprietors, or its own susceptibilities of extension or enlargement. In a few instances, this rapidity of growth is truly astonishing. I will give you one instance: - The firm of T. and H. Smith & Co. now works on a capital of probably fifty thousand dollars, and employs, regularly, from fiftyfive to sixty men, mechanics and artisans of all descriptions, at prices varying from $1.50 to $3 per day; turn out one wagon per day, at a price varying from $90 to $130, according to quality; a great many buggies and carriages, at prices from $115 to $700 each; together with a plough business, amounting to near one thousand ploughs a year of all descriptions. Said firm, five years ago, consisted of T. and Henry Smith, two poor Hanoverians, the one a wagonmaker, the other a blacksmith, who rented a small shop, and went to work on repairing wagons, shoeing horses, &c., and were soon enabled to buy the old shop and lot on which it stood; after which, they began by filling in spare time on new work, to be able to make a business of it, which has gradually increased up to its present limits, and instead of the old shop first rented, only large enough to contain one work-bench and one smith's fire, the lot first mentioned and five adjacent ones are occupied by large and commodious workshops, each branch of the business being headed by one of the firm, all of whom are mechanics (brothers), and all work.
This is the history of every shop in town and the adjacent country. All were, only a few years ago, poor men, and now many of them are wealthy; and we have no instances of men who have commenced, even in the smallest way at first, who have attended to their business, and lived within their means, not meeting with the same success. Our business men, merchants and storekeepers, millers, pork packers, bankers-in fact, every man who now figures in this town, as being above the condition of laboring men, are men who came here poor-most of them very, poor.
Let the immigrant consider this. Such advantages as those here stated are still everywhere open to the honest, industrious, and economical settler. What is said of Pekin is but the oft-repeated story of many other places, and will be as frequently verified in the future history of the State.
In the preparation of this work, whenever it became necessary to state our opinions on any particular subject, we have always fortified them by the authority of reliable persons who have for many years resided in Illinois we have frequently even made use of their own words; and now, in giving these hints to new settlers, we will again avail ourselves of the information communicated to us by practical
men, whose actual observations for many years past enable them to speak familiarly and authoritatively "on matters and things in general," as they exist in the State of which they are citizens. We will, therefore, here introduce to our readers an old settler, Mr. John Williams, of Albany, Coles county, who, in a letter dated December the 23d, 1855, says:
I have lived in Illinois about thirty years, and have seen some ups and downs in that time. I moved from Kentucky, and settled first in Vermillion county; after living there thirteen years, I moved into Champaign county, lived there three years, and then went over into Platt county, Missouri; but not having seen the land there before moving out, and finding it did not equal my expectations, I returned to Illinois, and settled in Coles county, where I have remained ever since. You can, therefore, see that I have been over some of the West, in search of the best place to make the " almighty dollar;" and, as I think I have found it, I will here say, that, after a man has lived in the State of Illinois, and farmed its rich soil for a few years, he will find it hard work to hunt up a better country.
When I first settled in Vermillion county, the representation of our district comprised all the State lying up along the Lake, including Chicago, which then consisted only of the old block fort on the lake shore. At that time, we, in the centre of the State, had no market for any of our produce; we had no railroads, and were forced to kill our hogs at home, team them to Terre Haute, sixty miles, and then get $1.50 to $2 per hundred weight, taking half the amount in store goods at a very high figure.
So farmers had to work along, in those days. I have known corn to sell for five to eight cents per bushel; and yet, even then, they did well, from the fact that they could raise everything they wanted to eat, and in abundance too.
My advice to farmers in the East is, to leave their rocks and hills, where they are just grubbing out a living, and come on to these splendid prairies, as they lie all ready for the plough, and where everything which the farmer plants yields such an abundant return.
Mr. James N. Brown, of Island Grove, formerly President of the State Agricultural Society, in a letter dated November the 28th, 1855, says
Let the industrious poor man know, that all he has to do, is, to become the holder of forty or eighty acres of land, build his cabin, and go to work with his team, and turn over the sod, and commence tilling the soil, and that the laws of the land protect him against the depredations of stock
and, my word for it, we shall see, in a very short time, all our prairies brought into cultivation, and teeming with an industrious and happy population, adding millions to the wealth of the State.
Rev. J. S. Barger, of Clinton, De Witt county, in his letter of the 22d of January, 1855, says:
Let them come by thousands and tens of thousands
there is room enough
This is not a wilderness.
- and examine the country. They will find rich lands, and good water, and general health, almost everywhere. schools and churches springing up in almost every settlement made, and now being made, throughout the State. Illinois is not a moral desolation. It literally and spiritually "blossoms as the rose." Let them come to Chicago, and go to Galena, and visit Cairo. But let them not remain at either place, unless they choose. The Illinois Central Railroad and its branches traverse the finest portion of the globe. Let them glide through our State, on these and other roads, now checkering the entire of this "Garden of the Lord," and stop where they will, to "examine the land, of what sort it is," and they will no longer consent to dig among the rocks, and plough the sterile land of their forefathers. But they will long bless the day, when they found, for themselves and their children, such comfortable homes, as they still may obtain in this rich and beautiful Prairie State, destined soon to compare with-nay, to surpass, in all the most desirable respects the most prosperous State in the Union.
We think we cannot conclude this last chapter of our book in a better manner than with the words of one of the worthiest citizens of Illinois, and who, having been one of its earliest settlers, now looks back through a long life of toil and experience. This gentleman is Mr. Edson Harkness, of Southport, Peoria county, to whom we are also indebted for valuable contributions to this work, as well as for the kindness 'through which we are privileged to place before our readers the following extract from his excellent "Volunteer Advice to Immigrants":
A few suggestions, to those who are desirous of building up a home in the rich and rapidly improving West, may not be out of place, from an old man, who has seen much of pioneer life. It can hardly be expected, that you will be entirely free from those amiable prejudices, which spread a sort of sanctity over the manners, customs, language, and habits of the home you have left. You will find yourself constantly instituting comparisons between the old state of things to which you have been accustomed, and the changed condition of affairs which you find in the West. If the old and the new are alike, you will 38 * 2D