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Prairie Breaking
Prairie Breaking

Many new immigrants to Illinois found themselves challenged by the task of converting the open prairie to agriculture. Although the prairie's soils proved very rich, farmers using traditional wooden plows struggled to prepare them for planting by breaking the tall grasses' dense, deep root systems. Many times wooden blades did not prove sharp enough to break the dense root mat. Often the lush black soil clung to a wooden blade, obliging the farmer to stop often to clean it. In 1837 John Deere of Grand Detour, Illinois devised a steel plow that proved much more adept at breaking the prairie soil. This invention enabled succeeding generations of agriculturalists to turn the prairie, in Illinois and beyond, into a thriving agricultural region.

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©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project