Back | About this image

Prairie View

Prairie View

The Lincoln's emigrated to the central portion of Illinois, a region characterized by broad, sweeping prairies. Early settlers of the state had avoided the prairies, in part because they arrived by way of water transportation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. As they worked their way up southern Illinois' rivers, the new arrivals concentrated their settlements in the low-lying, wooded reaches that often resembled their former homes in the Upper South. But as they approached central Illinois, the prairies proved stark and alien to the settlers. Many were afraid to make their homes without woodlands and water immediately at hand. The prairie grasses' deep mat of roots proved nearly impenetrable to conventional wooden plows. The Lincoln's struggled to farm in the seemingly harsh environment. But when in 1837 John Deere of Grand Detour, in the state's northern tier, developed a plow made of steel, the prairies revealed soils richer than most farmers could imagine. While Thomas Lincoln continued to practice subsistence farming, other Illinoisians moved to cultivate cash crops, like corn and wheat. Using flatboats, they sold these provisions down river to merchants in St. Louis or New Orleans. The lure of this market economy proved irresistible to the young Lincoln, who yearned for an alternative to the life of farm work.


©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project