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1938 Farming a Century Ago


By Hubert Schmidt

[This is an abridged version (pages 139-159 of 239) of Schmidt's master's thesis at the University of Chicago; he was later a professor at Rutgers, and wrote a history of 300 years of farming in New Jersey. The article is about much more than farming, though; since most of the county's residents in the 1820-1850 period were farmers, it really deals with life in general at that time.] - Full copies of that dissertation may be found in the University of Chicago Library and the Illinois State Historical Library.


A VERY fertile field for historical research, the surface of which investigators have as yet barely scratched, is to be found in the archives of our county courthouses. Some of these records have been burned or otherwise destroyed, but fortunately most counties have rather complete files going back to the time of their original organization.

The records in the offices of every county clerk and county recorder, in particular, are virgin soil for economic and social historians. The various reports of county officials and the transactions of county governing bodies provide essential source materials for anyone interested in the theory and actual functioning of local government. The transcripts of the field notes of government surveyors, the records of original entry, the school commissioners' land sales accounts, and the huge tomes filled with thousands of deed records are grist for the mill of any student of land values, land ownership, or other land problems. The probate records, which include wills, inventories, appraisals of estates, sale bills, receipts, claims against estates, administrators' accounts, etc., are filled with invaluable data for those who are studying price levels, economic relationships, agricultural techniques, or modes of life. The proceedings of the circuit courts supply an abundance of in formation for research workers making studies of crime, law enforcement, divorce, or other social problems.

The musty and dimming pages in county vaults contain many a tale of forgotten tragedy or farce, of human aspirations and activities crowned with success or failure, of shame and sorrow and disappointment, of justice triumphant or of justice foiled. The writer searching for a true picture of life can make no mistake in going to these old records which reflect so clearly the day by day activities of a whole people.

The letters, diaries, memoirs, account books and other personal records of average citizens are also very worthy of attention by the historian. Unfortunately, this rich source of information is continually disappearing as time passes. The same is true of the records of early churches, schools, and social groups, including old settlers' associations already disbanded by death or other causes. Valiant efforts are now being made by historical societies and other groups to collect such materials. But every year sees thousands of these manuscripts irretrievably lost. It is regrettable that source materials, from which the writers of social history might with accuracy portray the life of the past as it was lived, disappear in this way. The locating, collecting, and preserving of these documents is more difficult than is generally realized. Though the guardians of these treasures seldom attach much importance to them and often make little effort to preserve them, the historical investigator or collector very often finds himself defeated by family pride, inertia, avarice, or sheer obstinacy. Any effort made to educate people as to the importance of preserving and making available such source materials is to be highly commended.

This article is concerned with the agricultural development of Bond County, Illinois, before 1850. Like the longer work from which it is for the most part taken, it was written mainly from the various kinds of records above mentioned, supplemented by narratives of the Old Settlers' Association of Bond County in the possession of John Nowlan, Greenville, Illinois. Because of the nature of the sources used, footnote references have been omitted. The writer would feel that his labors were amply rewarded if he stirred other students into greater use of these sources while they are still available.


The first permanent settlers came to Bond County about 1808. They found there a region of alternating prairie and forest, characteristic of much of Illinois. The soils varied from thin clays to deep dark loams. Though some parts were swampy, most of the prairies were slightly rolling and well-drained, covered with prairie grass and other prairie plants. The forests of the county were for the most part along the larger streams. Those along Shoal Creek and East Fork in the western part of the country reached a width of several miles in some places. Surveyors' entries often mention trees as large as three feet in diameter. The great number of springs and the ease of digging shallow wells made water supply a minor problem. The indigenous animal life was of a kind which would provide many of the necessities of life. Predatory animals and insects, with the exception of the mosquito, were neither numerous nor dangerous. It was a land from which hardy pioneers could wrest a good living.

The early groups coming to the county were typical pioneers of the Middle West. With them on their journeys they brought the requisites for life in the new land. Their oxcarts were loaded with tools, seed, poultry, utensils, and simple furniture. The livestock were driven along near the carts, usually by the children. At the new home site the animals lived off the land while rude cabins were constructed, "patches" cleared, and crops planted and tended. Naturally, a hand-to-mouth existence during the first years was the common rule. Wild game played an important role in the diet, so much so that "burning the woods" and firing the prairie in the fall in order to make winter hunting easier were co-operative ventures. Buckskin and other pelts tanned with forest products supplemented the homespun wool, cotton, and linen, which were dyed at home with "blue dye" made from home-grown indigo. Domestic animals and the cleared fields supplied an increasing portion of the food. One could live if one had "hog and hominy." Candles, rough shoes, and other simple needs could be made from animal products. It was a simple, hard life, and one could not depend upon much surplus. A Kentucky youth who came to Bond County in 1830 later wrote: "We were married and came here to live. We didn't move, for we had nothing to move. I had an old horse, cow, plow, and some home made tools and wife had some household goods she had made. We had little money but did not need much as we raised or made all we used."

However, conditions changed with the times. The growing town of St. Louis with its New Orleans and Pittsburgh river trade was only fifty miles from the center of the county. It provided a ready market for surplus wheat, whisky, hogs, and cattle. The round trip by wagon required at least five days when the roads were good and far longer when they were not. Cattle and hogs were usually "driven through." Prices in St. Louis were naturally low because of its distance from the ultimate market. Yet farmers were able to forge ahead. Land was cheap and operating expenses negligible. The prairie furnished free pasture and the forest provided food for hogs and poultry. The cleared fields grew larger and the prairie was gradually broken into cultivation. Having an expanding market for his products, the farmer could increase the size of his operations, put to work the family labor force, and take up the newer and improved farming methods then coming into use.

The slow-moving oxen were employed for the heavy job of breaking prairie. The "bull tongue" or prairie plow, was in use in some places as late as 1850, and oxen were still used then by a few farmers for heavy hauling. The census of 1850 reported 857 "working oxen" in the county. One rather large farm in 1838 had three yokes of oxen and an oxcart. But it also had nine head of horses and five "Cary plows" for employment during corn time. For most farm work the horse was coming more and more into favor, though it was comparatively expensive to keep. The census of 1840 reported 2,437 horses and mules for the county; that of 1850 gave 3,087 horses and 113 mules. Oxen had required only yokes and chain tugs. To use horses, farmers must provide collars of plaited corn shucks, heavy wooden hames, leather backbands, and tugs of chain or rope. "Blind bridles," "plowing lines," and "check lines" were used to control the less tractable beasts.

Better implements for work were coming into use. By 1850 the "bar-shear plow" was largely replaced by a plow with an iron moldboard. Early pioneers had dragged brush over plowed ground to prepare a seedbed, or had used harrows with wooden pegs. In or before the thirties harrows with iron teeth came into general use.

The Cary or "diamond plow" was in common use in the thirties for planting corn, the only handwork required being the dropping of corn by the children. The Gary plow was also very practical for cultivation of the growing crop. It had two small shovels or "diamonds," the pitch of which could be regulated according to the height of the stalks. A small boy could operate the plow and the single horse required to pull it. Another cultivator was the "double-shovel" or shovel plow, used for "laying by" the crop.

The early pioneers, coming mostly from beyond the Ohio, brought with them the crops of the South. An attempt was made to establish cotton as a staple crop and a number of planters brought in negroes for their "plantations." Because of the handicaps due to weather and soil their efforts did not prove sufficiently remunerative. However, cotton was grown for domestic use until the late forties. Such items as "1 lot of cotton in the patch," "one lot of seed cotton," and "1 cotton spinning wheel," were common at country sales. Flax, also, was grown for home spinning and weaving. Inventories of the property of estates all through the period mention flax wheels, cards, "hackels," and "unbroken flax." Nearly every family had its patch of indigo, and the "kittle of blue dye" was often underfoot in the cabin. Still more necessary in providing the comforts of life was the tobacco crop. Even a widow who died in 1847 had a patch of tobacco. Time proved that none of these crops could be produced commercially with profit. The census of 1840 listed for the county six and one-half tons of hemp and flax and 3,665 pounds of "tobacco gathered." The amount of cotton was not listed, probably because it was negligible in quantity. On the other hand, certain "truck patch" crops, as sweet potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, and melons were grown in increasing amounts, as were the field crops corn, wheat, and oats. Diversified farming with considerable stock raising, characteristic of the Middle South, was the general rule in the new land. The pioneers tried the various crops of their old homes and in the end retained those adapted to the soil and climate of the new.

The grain crops gradually became the money crops in Bond County. The corn yield of the average family was rather small in the early days but increased greatly as stock raising increased. One typical estate in 1840 sold at auction "18 acres of corn in the field," and another in 1847 had 450 bushels of corn cribbed. The census of 1840 estimated the corn crop of the county for that year as 209,130 bushels and that of 1850 reported 460,985 bushels. The lack of a satisfactory market for this grain is reflected by its generally low price during the period, ranging between a high of twenty-five cents per bushel in 1842 and a low of half that in 1847. Since the bulk of the crop was used for the feeding of cattle and hogs, its value depended on their market price.

Oats was another cereal used almost entirely for feeding purposes. There is no mention of the crop in the earliest records, but during the thirties it gradually came into favor. The estimated oat yield of 1840 was 23,450 bushels, and by 1850 the census report had increased it to 84,771 bushels. Sometimes the crop may have been cut as hay when the grain was "in the milk," but the usual custom seems to have been to reap it with hook and cradle and to bind it into bundles. These sheaves were then shocked and were often later put into stacks or ricks. An estate in 1840 had for sale "a stack of oats and seventy-five dozen sheaves." How much of the crop was threshed and how much fed "in the sheaf" it is impossible to say, but the occasional stacks of oat straw for sale prove that at least part of the crop was threshed in the days before the power thresher came into use. Due to the fact that both mills and markets were far distant from the farms in early days, not a great deal of wheat was raised. However, mills were soon built within reasonable driving distance of all parts of the county, and roads to the St. Louis market were opened. Wheat then became a staple. As one settler put it, "Wheat on Prairie sod was a sure crop." Reaping hook and cradle soon took the place of the sickle, and the harvest was often a neighborhood affair.

Threshing by the threshing floor method was arduous work. Part of the threshing job was made easier when the wheat fan appeared and took the place of homemade devices for removing the chaff. This new implement was to be found on nearly every farm by the late thirties. The "ground hog" thresher, which first appeared in Bond County in 1844, eliminated the "tramping" and flail work. The wheat fan was not attached to the thresher until much later. The reaper with its revolutionary changes in harvesting belongs outside of our period as far as Bond County is concerned.

Winter wheat was a common crop, though some spring wheat was also raised. Both wheat and rye were usually hauled to market as soon as threshed, probably as much to take advantage of summer roads as to avoid storage. Few estates when settled had any wheat on hand except a few bushels kept for seed. The wheat crop of 1840 was estimated at 25,722 bushels, seemingly not very large when compared with the corn yield. The estimate for the rye crop for that year was a mere 1,540 bushels.

The cutting and stacking of prairie grass for hay was practiced from the earliest days. This hay was probably used largely for outside feeding. The increasing mention of "stacks of hay" in probate records reflects the growing numbers of farm stock. But as more and more of the prairie came under cultivation it became important to provide other kinds of roughage. Oat straw and even wheat straw had a market value. A portion of the corn crop was usually cut as fodder, used both as provender and bedding in the winter. A cryptic country remark described such coarse feed as "better than a snow bank." The first indication of the growing of timothy is an item of "2 bbls. of timothy seed" in an inventory of 1839. The census of 1840 reports 1,079 tons of hay, but it does not indicate the kind. Most estates of the forties mention in their inventories small quantities of timothy seed; so it is probable that this crop, which did well on the prairie, was coming into general use.

The natural advantages for stock raising in Bond County were many. The St. Louis market was not far, natural range was plentiful, and winters were not usually severe. Corn, oats, and forage were easily grown, but of little value unless fed to stock. Cattle, sheep, and the long-legged swine of the day could be marketed cheaply by driving them to market. In 1819, the ferry near Vandalia, then within Bond County, charged three cents for each cow and two for each hog or sheep. By the fifties hogs and sheep were usually crated and hauled to St. Louis in market wagons. Cheap food supplies and natural forage led to the keeping of much poultry. The low prices of poultry at public sales suggest that the cost of transport to market prevented much profit in poultry raising. Though fowls were raised largely for home use, crates filled with them were often taken along on trips to St. Louis. Local merchants also accepted poultry and poultry products "in trade." Geese provided feathers for both domestic use and for sale on the market. Because of the profusion of wild flowers, bee-keeping was also general. In 1831 a farm not far from average in size had 2 horses, 10 head of beef cattle, 1 yoke of oxen, 26 head of other cattle, 50 hogs, 26 sheep, and 37 beehives. An estate in 1845 sold 5 horses, 32 cattle, 14 sheep, and 70 geese.

Many hogs and quite a few cattle were killed for home consumption. The chief winter meat was salt pork, cured in the family smoke house. There was always a fair market for pork products. At auction sales during the period, pork and lard each usually brought from five to ten cents a pound. If a sale was held not too long after butchering time, the meat sold was a sizable item, as much as 1,000 pounds of bacon being not unusual. Sheep seem to have been raised chiefly for their wool and for the market, as mutton was not a locally popular food. The farmer of the period relied upon stock raising both as a means of producing a cash product and as a source of domestic food supply. The 1840 census reported 7,725 neat cattle, 5,397 sheep, and 15,998 swine within the county. The value of poultry was listed as only $3,201. The census returns of 1850 estimated over nine thousand each of cattle and sheep and over eighteen thousand swine.

There was no stock law in Illinois at this time. Beginning in 1834, the county administration each year appointed fence viewers to see that growing crops were sufficiently well enclosed by their owners. Unfenced lands, both private holdings and "Congress land," were treated as commons. One pioneer record states that in the early forties the prairies were covered with horses and cattle. Each farmer had a stock mark or brand which was registered at the county seat. By 1830 fifteen brands and over one hundred stock marks were in use. The law of estrays regulated the advertising for lost and found stock. A stray pen forty feet square was built at the county seat in 1822 to care for such stock.

The fact that there were large unfenced areas explains in part the large number of animals kept by farmers. Cattle and sheep could range for miles. Hogs were taken in the early fall to the heavy timber of the bottoms and there turned loose to fatten on the "mast." When butchering time came, the neighborhood held a "round up" and divided the hogs according to their marks. Such items at public sale as "hogs in the woods," "out geese," "public improvement on Congress Land," and "one acre of corn on public land" reflect the free use of the open lands. In 1820, the government stopped selling land on credit. Henceforth for several years, there were almost no government sales. Newcomers undoubtedly built their houses on public lands. Stringer Potts, who owned forty-two horses and cattle, forty-five geese, over one hundred hogs and five "lots of sheep" certainly used more land than the eighty acres to which he held title. The general idea of the time seems to have been that government land was there to be exploited.

Orchards were planted as early as the twenties. One John Smith brought budded seedlings from Ohio by horseback and later ran a nursery which supplied the countryside with apple trees. The average farmer wanted only a small home supply of apples, a barrel or two of cider from the windfalls, and some dried fruit. Later, however, markets developed and apples were hauled to Springfield, St. Louis, and other places. An orchard in the western part of the county in the fifties had three varieties of peaches and ten of apples, besides pears, peaches, quinces, and cherries. Family orchards could be successfully grown in that day when fruit-tree pests were few.

Typical pioneer log cabins with clapboard roofs and puncheon or board floors were still used in a few places in 1850. But the usual fate of the old cabin, when the family once became relatively prosperous, was to be relegated to other uses. One pioneer, speaking of his father's cabin, built in 1817, says: "We later moved it. It lasted 71 years as house and stable." Some old cabins are still in use as corncribs today. A mark of progress in that day was to leave the old cabin behind and move into the new frame house. In the year 1839, forty-three frame houses were constructed in the county. The distinction between a "house" and a "cabin" is very marked in probate records. Sometimes instead of building a new house, the farmer weather-boarded the cabin and built on a frame addition. It was natural that the same pride in progress which changed the dwelling should cause a desire for newer and better home furnishings. In the thirties stoves began to appear, though the fireplace was in common use at the end of our period. "Dressers" were in use in the twenties, and "bureaus" in the early thirties. "Turned post bedsteads" are indicative of the changing style in furniture.

But the greatest alteration in the farmer's way of living was his increased purchase of manufactured goods. The farms became less and less self-sufficing and farm labor was released for increased specialization. Woolen homespun was used for work clothes until after 1850, but the spinning wheels were more and more neglected as manufactured cloth became cheaper. The same thing was true as to many other supplies. In the thirties, tinware was already driving out the old family standby, the gourd. Nails, rope, pocket knives, brooms, etc., bad become cheap. Apparently a great deal of sewing was still done, but many other home tasks were eliminated. A list of the items bought by a farmer from a Greenville store in 1838 and 1839 will illustrate the change which had taken place:


All during the period under consideration the gaining of at least a meager livelihood was possible to all. Land was cheap and industry well-rewarded. A large family was an asset rather than a burden. To acquire large wealth was difficult, but for a family to gain an estate and make a comfortable living was not beyond reasonable expectation. A man when starting out might have to "squat" on government land for a time, or rent a small farm, or even hire out as a farm hand, but with reasonable luck he could eventually become a land owner. There might be lean years because of poor prices, bad weather, or poor health, but expenses were not great and, in general, good crops on the new land were rather certain. Stock were not expensive to keep and multiplied rapidly. When prices were reasonable the farmer could add to his landed possessions, make new improvements, or increase the gradually accumulating working equipment of his farm. A lifetime of work usually built up an estate of some size and several hundred dollars" worth of "goods and gear" in addition to the land itself. The appraisal of the personal property of one James Nance who died in 1831 was $609.25. He had owned 160 acres of land and had been about an average farmer. Estates such as his, starting from small beginnings, resulted from saving and gradual accumulation.

A rather general distribution of wealth and little actual poverty were characteristics of the whole period. The overseers of the poor who were appointed in each township seem to have had few charges under their care. Court records do not show very many cases of bankruptcy or insolvency. Occasionally, the proceeds of the sale of a man's goods at his death proved to be insufficient to pay his debts, and quite often a man owed nearly as much as his personal estate was worth. Yet, despite their lack of worldly goods, such men were self- sufficing and independent, not burdens upon society. Most farmers, however, were not so near the border line of poverty. The paying off of all debts usually left a comfortable sum for division among the heirs, who also benefited by the division of the land. An example not far from average is an estate settled in 1850. The wife of the deceased was allowed to keep goods worth $288.87 at appraisers' estimates as her 'widow's third" of the estate. The sale of the remainder of the stock and equipment brought $292.43, of which $193.16 was left after all debts were paid. The most important possession, the land, was divided among the heirs.

On the other hand there were very few personal estates amounting to as much as a thousand dollars. By far the largest during the whole period was an estate in 1839, on paper worth over seven thousand dollars not including 1,100 acres of land. The owner of this property had had a good library, several suits of clothes, and considerable money "out at interest." But he too was a farmer, and his pinnacle was not so high as to be above the aspirations of his poorer neighbors. The gap between richest and poorest was not very wide even by the standards of that day.

Occasionally a person came into the county with considerable money, bought a large amount of land, and went in for stock raising. Many others, like Henry File, were able by dogged persistence and hard work to amass considerable landed estates during their lives. But experience proved that land had to be cultivated to bring good returns. Besides this, fattening of stock required much grain. The hiring of a large labor force, to add to that of the family group, was not very feasible, since any farm hand worth his salt soon became a landowner in his own right. Large landowners sometimes leased out part of their land, as shown by such inventory items as "300 bu. of rent corn." But there is little to indicate that renting was common. The very cheapness of land militated against much tenantry. It is probable that most of the larger landholders were land poor. For instance, Charles Gilham, who had owned much real estate in the northeast part of the county since early days, sacrificed 80 acres at $1.25 per acre in 1834. One of the largest land owners in the county, Benjamin Johnson, sold 160 acres for $300 in 1845. These and many other sales, often at sacrifice prices, show that mere ownership of land was not considered sufficient in itself.

A chief factor preventing the perpetuation of large estates was the application of the rule of equal inheritance. The property of Henry File when divided among seven sons, two unmarried daughters, and a son-in-law, in 1836, gave each heir only 100 acres of land or the equivalent in other property. Stringer Potts's personal estate in 1840 amounted to over twelve hundred dollars; rather large for the time, but there were twelve heirs to share it. The rearing of large families thus prevented rather effectively the building up of either a permanent landed class or an aristocracy of wealth. Actual money, never very plentiful, was at times very scarce. One pioneer wrote: "Sometimes for months we were without a dollar." In order to carry on commercial transactions devices were used which ranged from actual barter to extension of long-time credit. Horse trading was a common form of barter and in a way almost a sport. In a circuit court case in 1820, the plaintiff accused the defendant of "falsely and fraudulently, craftily and subtly" deceiving him in a trade. The jury found for the defendant. However, it is probable that most exchanges made, in stock, grain, fruit, meat, etc., were upon the basis of benefit to both parties. The farmer hauling produce to St. Louis traded part of his load for merchandise to take back with him. Farmers purchased goods from the local merchants on account, and reduced their debts from time to time by cash payments or by bringing in farm produce. The store at Pocahontas, for instance, received eggs, butter, lard, wool, bacon, hides, etc., in return for goods sold. Farmers were thus able to market their products in small quantities and to purchase their needs even in slack times. Doctors, lawyers, and blacksmiths also extended credit to those who used their services.

Farmers quite generally used credit in their dealings with one another. Sometimes accounts ran over a great length of time. An example is that of a purchase of apples for fifteen dollars in 1824. They were not paid for until the death of the creditor in 1839. An estate in 1839 contained a number of interest-bearing notes stating in some cases that they were for apples, bacon, etc. One note specified that it was "to be paid in work at the customary cash price." A farmer who died in 1847 had five "open accounts," four of which were respectively for beef, bacon, coal, and "boarding." An estate of the next year had twenty such accounts, ranging from less than a dollar to nearly twenty and bearing various dates between 1839 and 1847. Of these twenty accounts, the appraisers of the estate classified nineteen as "indifferent." In a day when money was scarce, credit permitted commercial transactions to be carried on without its use. That such credit was often abused was natural.

Many farmers carried on their operations largely with borrowed capital. One large-scale farmer who died in 1832 had outstanding debts of $1,239.09; yet the settlement of the estate proved him to be solvent. Another in 1840 owed more than nine hundred dollars, most of it in the form of promissory notes. His credit was apparently not hurt by his large borrowing. He had accounts with eight merchants and two doctors. Smaller farmers, too, usually owed money on a few outstanding notes, besides the usual debts to merchants and doctors. A farmer who died in 1847 had fifteen small notes unsettled, the payment of which swallowed up the bulk of the proceeds from the ensuing vendue.

The use of borrowed capital in increasing amounts resulted in considerable litigation to enforce payment of notes. Two cases of October 12, 1841, are rather typical. In one instance, in an action of debt, the creditor sued the debtor and cosignatories for $275 principal and $50.14 interest. The other was an action of assumpsit for $165.15, "notes and interest." Most of the notes of any size had two or more endorsers, so that the gaining of a judgment usually meant payment by someone. Quite a few loans were secured by mortgages on land, especially during the latter half of the period. From 1836 to 1850 the average of mortgages registered in the county was about one a month, and doubtless a great many others were not recorded. The usual court action to secure payment was "on scire facias, to foreclose mortgage." There were never a great many of these foreclosures, though their number increased somewhat during the forties.

The lending of money seems to have become a rather lucrative sideline for prosperous farmers, especially during the latter part of the period. Ten and twelve per cent a year were the usual rates of interest charged, and the fact that many notes mention no rate hints of usury. Many notes were for small amounts, some of them no doubt to pay for produce. Others were due to advances made to friends and relatives as personal favors. Most, however, were investments of surplus cash in order to receive the interest. A small estate in 1828 had five outstanding notes for respectively $10.00, $13.00, $9.50, $5.00 and $22.50. A rich farmer who died in 1839 held over fifty promissory notes. The smaller ones specified no interest, while a few bore twelve per cent. As to the majority of them, the appraisers commented: "Many of the foregoing notes which bear 25 pr ct Interest and carry the proof of usury on the face of them are doubtful, to the amount, it is believed, of $2,000." The interest due on some of the notes amounted to more than the principal. However, within a little over two months, the administrator had collected all but $1,100. By compromising with remaining debtors as to the interest rate, he was able, although losing one lawsuit, to collect $470 more. The actual loss of a little over $600, largely interest, might well have been chalked down as being the result of greed. Settled as it was in hard times, it is remarkable that the estate suffered no larger loss. Another estate, that of a farmer who died in 1848, had forty-six outstanding notes, most of them bearing ten per cent interest. Twenty-one of these, ranging from $4.00 to $300 and constituting a large majority of the total sum, were considered "good." The rest, some dated as early as 1840, were rated as "indifferent" or "desperate." Money lending brought large profits when all went well, but there was always the constant danger of losing the principal.


As compared with private lending, bank loans seem to have been very insignificant in amount. During its brief and troubled existence, the Bank of Edwardsville in Madison County advanced money to Bond County speculators, besides buying directly at least three quarter-sections within the county. The bank failed in 1821, but litigation in connection with its speculations cropped out in Bond County as late as 1837. The Bank of Illinois, also at Edwardsville, does not appear in Bond County records until the latter part of the period. Its loans usually seem to have been on mortgages and were rather cautiously made. One loan on forty acres of land amounted, with interest, to $113.33 by 1844, when the mortgage was foreclosed. An occasional small loan was made without collateral. The place of banking in Bond County's financial structure was a small one during this period. The farmers depended on banks neither as places to invest money nor as places to borrow operating capital.

Bond County went through many remarkable changes during its first forty years. The year 1850 does not mark the completion of the evolution, but most of the pioneer's battles had been successfully fought. Nearly all of the land had passed into private hands, improved methods of agriculture had come into use, and transportation and trade had been developed. Law and order prevailed, a democratic local government functioned efficiently, and social relationships had evolved to fit the time and place. Religion played an important role in the lives of the people, an adequate school system was gradually being developed, cultural growth was taking place, and there were evidences of the coming of broader and more human views. The future held many problems, the solutions of which were not indicated by frontier experience. Nevertheless, a solid foundation had been laid for subsequent development.

Extracted by Bob Kamman and Bob McCollum from the Journal of the Illinois Historical Society, June 1938, Volume XXXI Number 2, Published by The Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield, Illinois

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