NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


Previous section

Next section

Part I. Chapter I.

A GENERAL VIEW OF THE GREAT WEST. — ITS EARLY HISTORY AND SETTLEMENT. — ITS GENERAL RESOURCES AND CURIOSITIES.

A CENTURY ago all west of the Alleghany Mountains was a wild, untravelled and unknown by the white man, and the home of the Indian, then enjoying the wild independence incident to his mode of life, and uncontaminated by the vices of civilization.

In the month of July, 1755, a gallant army, under the command of a gallant general fresh from the Albion Isle, was marching through a dreary wilderness, with slow and toilsome progress, being compelled to cut its way through a forest which impeded its advance, and which for ages had formed a secure cover for the panther, the bear, the deer, and the wild sons of the forest, who sought in the chafe these animals for their subsistence.

-- 66 --

The army was commanded by General Braddock, and the object was the reduction of Fort Duquesne, then in the possession of the French, and on the site where the flourishing city of Pittsburgh now stands. How that gallant army was surprised in the narrow defiles of the mountains by a large force of the French and Indians, and their commander mortally wounded, and was buried in the unknown wilds, belongs not to the province of this work to depict. The fact has been merely touched upon to illustrate our design, and to strengthen by an historical allusion our subsequent narrative.

A century and four years have elapsed since that period. The tall forests have been felled; the howling of the wild beasts has long since ceased to be heard; the red men that owned these vast regions have all disappeared, and are only known to the present inhabitants from the pages of history and the wild memorials of uncertain tradition. Crops and gardens, fruits and flowers, thrifty villages and large cities now flourish on the land where then waved a primitive wilderness.

It was many years after the defeat of Braddock; and the country had been ceded by the French to England, and the latter country had also lost her rich provinces in her turn by the war of the Revolution, before Pittsburgh, now one of the most considerable manufacturing towns in the Union, was laid out. In 1784 the town was planned and named. Previous to that time it was Fort Duquesne. It now contains more than 150,000 inhabitants, and is noted for its iron manufactures and the extent of its coal exportations; in this last-named business there are more than five thousand hands employed.

Let us look from the Iron City a little farther west. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri spread over the vast area with their fertile territories; their inhabitants are marked for their enterprise and intelligence; vast cities adorn the shores of the lakes and the margins of the extensive rivers; flourishing villages everywhere dot the prairies; railroads run through every part; and all the rays of refined civilization radiate in every direction through their extensive domains.

Let us go farther back in the track of Time, when the wild buffalo roamed over the vast prairies, and the ploughshare of the white man had not torn the virgin turf. In the year 1673, at the farthest point on the Fox River ever visited by a white man, there were assembled in council the chiefs of the Miamies, the Macoutins, and other neighboring tribes; and among them were two Frenchmen, accompanied by five of their own nation and two Algonquin Indians. The two leaders were Father Marquette, a monk and missionary from France, and M. Joliet, a French trader of daring courage and enterprise. According to the wishes of the Governor of Canada they were then on their way to discover the great Mississippi, whose existence was vaguely known to the Indians in Canada; and from the reports of its magnitude, the whites thought to be identical with the great river discovered many hundred miles farther south, by De Soto, more than a century before; or, it may be, flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

Father Marquette and Joliet had stopped at that point to gather whatever information they could obtain regarding the perilous journey, and also, if possible, to get some assistance.

Father Marquette for many years had been a dweller among the Indians,

-- 68 --

and such was his meekness, his patience and his goodness, that he was more adored than loved by the untutored tribes with which he dwelt. In accordance with the wishes of the representative of his king in America, and to carry into still more remote wilds the name and history of his Redeemer, he undertook, with M. Joliet, the perilous adventure. When the chiefs met in their great council he fearlessly stood among them. "My companion," said he, "is an envoy from France to discover new countries, and I am an ambassador from God to enlighten them with the gospel." These distant Indians treated them with the most marked respect, but did all they could to deter them from a continuance of their voyage. They told them that the river was filled with strange monsters which would devour them, and that the tribes of Indians that inhabited its banks were cruel and hostile to strangers. Finding all of their dissuasions fruitless, they assisted them to carry their little canoes over the narrow portage which divides the Wisconsin from the Fox River,

-- 70 --

and left them on the banks of the first mentioned river, expecting never to look upon them again.

It was the tenth of June, 1673, that they glided down the stream of the Wisconsin, sometimes skirted with prairies stretching far in the distance like a vast sea, until blended with and lost in the horizon; and sometimes the thick forest waved over the margin, bounding and impeding the vision with its thickness. On the seventeenth, they saw the "Father of Waters," and chanted the Me Exaudiat and De Profundis on his eddying current; and in a few days afterward had a conference with the Illinois Indians. It was from this tribe that the flourishing state of Illinois takes its name, and the word is very suggestive — meaning, in the significant language of the Algonquins, "We are men."

It is not our purpose in this part of our narrative to dwell any farther on the voyage of the gentle Marquette, or disclose more of his history; in another portion of this work, when we will thoroughly treat of the Mississippi valley, we will give a full description of the life of this self-sacrificing missionary, and relate, in detail, all the incidents of his perilous undertaking. At present we are merely mentioning these first pioneers of the wilderness in our rapid and general view of the Great West, merely for the purpose of dating the era of the advent of the white man in this important part of our Union.

The next daring spirit who ventured in those unexplored wilds was Robert Cavalier de La Salle, of an illustrious family, formerly of the order of Jesus; but who, becoming moved by the spirit of chivalrous adventure, had forsaken the convent, and by his address had obtained from his sovereign, Louis XIV, of France, the right to discover, subdue and govern, in his name, a country stretching over an immense area, yet in a state of nature, and inhabited only by the Indian. We find him on the Illinois river in the autumn of the year 1679, accompanied by Father Hennepin and the chivalrous De Tonti. At this time the expedition had nearly all perished; and the star of La Salle, which had just arisen on the horizon of fame, had nearly disappeared as soon as seen. Famine and winter both assailed him; discontent, which had almost broken out in open mutiny, prevailed among his followers; and the maladies incident to a new and malarious climate had thinned their numbers and reduced their strength.

Assailed by such a combination of misfortunes, almost any other nature but the iron one of La Salle, had yielded to the force of circumstances, and submitted to what appeared a manifest destiny; but he, self-reliant and persevering, roused the drooping spirits of his followers, and built a fort just above where the flourishing city of Peoria now stands, with its twenty-five thousand inhabitants, and gave it the significant name of Crève-Coeur (Broken Heart). His fortunes were sombre at that time, and the name had a poetical allusion.

As we have before said, it is not now intended to give any other than a passing allusion to incidents at this place, and therefore we will not dwell any farther at the present on the explorations and voyages of this illustrious Frenchman. Let it suffice, that he established several French posts or fortifications in the state of Illinois, which formed the nuclei around which the hardy pioneers from Canada could settle with a prospect

-- 72 --

of safety, and commenced the first efforts to reclaim the wilderness, and advance the cause of civilization.

Attendant upon these early exhibitions were men burning with a pious zeal, and intent only to light the torch of faith in the wigwams of the savages, who dwelt in the darkness of a heathen creed. The Jesuit missionaries were often a thousand miles in advance of civilization, and, armed only with the crucifix and breviary, visited the most savage tribes, that they might turn them from a mistaken faith; teach them the hopes and blessings revealed in the Apocalypse; and by degrees curb their savage appetites by learning them the gentle amenities of life. Without a shudder, they sought a people who joyed in the gratification of these bloody instincts; fearlessly breathed the poisonous malaria arising from the rivers, ponds and watercourses; and without a murmur or a thought of regret, lived upon roots for their sustenance. They lived a holy life and devoted it to the enlightenment of their benighted brethren; and when they died, a prayer was on their lips, and their joyful spirits, uncorrupted by the impurities of earth, winged their victorious flight to their native skies. We could dwell with interest and admiration on the trials, sufferings and labors of these holy and undefiled men, but in this general sketch it would occupy more space than is consistent with our intention. The names of Fathers Mesnard, Allouez, Marquette, Rasles, Gravier, Marest, and many others, are interwoven with the early history of the Western wilds, and their goodness, rectitude and Christian virtues gleam brightly, when contrasted with the dark selfishness and cruelty which subsequently characterized the conduct of the white men in their intercourse with the savages.

The great states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, were first settled by the French, Ohio by emigrants chiefly from the Eastern and middle states, and Kentucky and Tennessee by natives from Virginia and the Carolinas. It has only been since the Revolutionary war that the Great West of the Union occupied to any extent the public mind, and that her great natural resources became known and partially developed. We will take a transient glance at some of her large cities, and see how many years they have been growing to their present magnitude and importance.

Cincinnati, now containing more than two hundred thousand inhabitants, was founded in 1789. Louisville, in 1788, contained but thirty inhabitants; Milwaukee, in 1834, contained only twenty houses; the first house was erected in St. Louis in 1764; and Chicago, with its 160,000 inhabitants, was laid out in 1830. In the fertile state of Illinois, now with her thousand miles of railroad in operation, and numbering now a million of souls, the population in 1812 was but little more than twelve thousand inhabitants; and all over the great West, the flourishing cities that adorn the banks, and pulsate with all the healthful elements of business prosperity, were but the growth of yesterday. Less than a century ago the elk and the buffalo roamed over the wide prairies, and the red men, in their wild independence, sounded their warwhoop and prayed to their Manitos. The whole country, stretching from the Alleghany to the Mississippi, has filled up in a shorter time than ever regions did before, and now the great West is the granary of the Union, and to it the enterprising of all classes, conditions and avocations, not only from

-- 74 --

our Atlantic cities, but from the European continent, flock in almost incredible numbers, to better their fortunes and increase the population of the favored regions.

The number of bushels of wheat, corn, oats, barley and rye, shipped from Chicago the last year, reached the astounding number of 18,032,076 bushels; and the number of surplus hogs, raised in the West at the same period, amounted to 1,818,468 — the value of which would exceed $30,000,000. The number of cattle sent from the rich prairies to the Eastern markets is almost incredible, and the trade in alcohol and whiskey is, unfortunately for the good of mankind, immense — Cincinnati alone distilling half a million of barrels annually.

The mineral resources until recently were comparatively unknown, and even now they are not fully developed. Coal, iron and lead exist in large deposits in almost every state of the West. Rich veins of copper are also found, and California, Oregon, and their contiguous regions, now furnish such annual yields of our most precious metal, that gold, which was formerly carefully garnered in the Eastern cities, and kept for commercial purposes, has almost become the natural currency in every portion of the Union, and has given an increased vitality to every branch of national industry.

A score of years past emigration rarely passed the Eastern bounds of the Mississippi River, but since the annexation of California, so as to promote a direct intercourse between that rich and important country and its sister states, an overland mail route has been established between St. Louis and San Francisco, a distance of 2,795 miles, which will attract attention to that extensive intervening country, and soon its resources will be developed by an enterprising emigration. Railroads are gradually extending toward the setting sun, and the whistles of the ponderous engines, with their rushing trains, will ere long be heard where the waves of the vast Pacific wash our Western borders. When that great connecting link, with its various branches, will have been finished, and not until then, will the wealth and resources of the "Great West" be fully unfolded, and its importance be fully displayed to the world. Even now, as we before observed, it is the granary of the Union, and principally feeds the crowded manufacturing and commercial cities of the East, and supplies the rich cotton and sugar plantations of the South with the stamina of subsistence.

The exports from the United States in the year 1857 amounted to the enormous sum of 338,987,065 dollars — the value of our domestic commerce. Of this the valuation of wheat was $22,240,857; in flour, $25,882,316, and in Indian corn, $5,184,666. This immense aggregate of the three great staples of the West, amounting to more than $53,000,000, that was exported in produce, must have all come from those fertile regions, left of the superabundance, after affording a supply to the East and South.

It is something surprising in the history of the West, that all of the first settlements should have never obtained, at a subsequent day, any respectable size, or business importance. Green Bay, Calokia, Kaskaskia, Crève-Coeur, Fort Chartres, and St. Vincent's, (now Vincennes) which were the earliest settlements in the West, have not only been far outstripped by cities of recent birth, but most of them have fallen into a state

-- 76 --

of decline, and some into ruins. Crève-Coeur is no more, and Fort de Chartres, which at the time it was built was more than a half mile from the river, is now wholly abandoned, and the rapid current of the Mississippi has changed its course and flows through the old fortifications. We give below in a tabular form the names of the principal cities of the West, with the periods of their being founded by the French, who laid claim to all of the western country, and commenced the early settlements:

Detroit was founded in 1700, and now contains 65,000 inhabitants.

Pittsburgh was founded in 1784, and now contains 150,000 inhabitants.

Louisville was founded in 1785, and now contains 75,000 inhabitants.

Cincinnati was founded in 1789, and now contains 220,000 inhabitants.

Milwaukee was founded in 1834, and now contains 50,000 inhabitants.

Chicago was founded in 1830, and now contains 160,000 inhabitants. [3]

In the body of the preceding pages a reference to the Mississippi Valley has been made on several occasions, stating at the time that it was a portion of this history. It was the intention of the author, at the commencement of the book, to let a history of the Mississippi Valley form a portion of it, and it was written with that intention. It has since been withdrawn, owing to the voluminous nature of the work, but will in a short time be published in a separate volume.

-- 79 --

Previous section

Next section


Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
Powered by PhiloLogic