Pulaski County

1883 History

Part IV — The History of Pulaski County



In this day and age, any reasonably well educated man can readily tell by a slight examination of the geology of a country, no matter how new and wild it may be, what kind of a people it will someday contain, and almost exactly what degree of enlightenment and civilization it will eventually possess. When he knows its geological formation, he can forecast the future of its people with nearly as much accuracy as can the patient and laborious historian who plods along in the tracks of the generations that have passed away. A warm climate and bread growing upon the trees, or abundant and nutritious food springing spontaneously from the earth has always in the world's history held back civilization and produced a listless, prolific and inferior people. A continuously mild climate throughout the year and an abundance of food readily produced by nature has much the effect upon a people as the barren arctic regions, where the scarcity of food and the severity of climate stunts and dwarfs the people and holds them securely locked in primeval ignorance and barbarism. The tropics and the arctics — the one oppressed with the profusion of nature's bounties that appall mankind and produce enervation, is the antipodes and yokefellow of the bleak north and its long winter nights and storms and desolation. The richest country in the world in soil, perhaps, is Brazil, both in vegetable and animal life. So profusely are nature's bounties here spread, so immense the forests, so dense the undergrowth, all decked with the most exquisite flowers of rarest perfume, they so teem with animal life, from the swarming parasite up to the striped tiger, the yellow lion and snakes spotted with deadly beauty, and the woods vocal with the songs of countless species of birds, with the bird of paradise perched like a crowning jewel upon the very tops of the majestic trees, and yet this wonderful country, capable of supporting, if only it could be subjugated to the domination of man, ten times all people that now inhabit the globe, is an unexplored waste, defying the puny arm of man to subjugate or ever penetrate to the heart of its forbidden secrets. For hundreds of years civilized man has sailed in his ships along its shores, and in rapture beheld its natural wealth and profuse beauties, and colonies, and nations and peoples have determined to reap its treasures and unlock its inexhaustible stores. How futile are these efforts of man, how feeble the few scattering habitations has he been enabled to hold upon the very outer confines of all this great country! Brazil will, in all probability, remain as it is forever, and it is well that it is so. For could you by some powerful wand conquer all that country and place there 50,000,000 of the same kind of people that now constitute this nation, with all our present advantages of civilization, it is highly probable that in less than 200 years they would lapse into the meanest type of ignorant barbarians, and degenerate to that extent that in time they would become extinct. Thus an over -abundance of nature's bounties, both in food, dress and climate, brings its calamities upon man more swiftly than do the rigid severities of the arctics of northern Greenland or Siberia.

It is evident, therefore, that the two subjects of supreme importance in all countries are those of soil and climate. Any ordinarily bright child between the years of twelve and twenty could be taught these invaluable lessons of practical wisdom in a few weeks rambling over the country and examining the banks of streams and the exposures of the earth's surface along the highways. How much more valuable a few weeks of such an education would be than is much of the years now worse than wasted in the getting an education from the wretched text books and the ding-dong repetitions of the schoolroom! How easy to show them what the soil is, its varieties, and why and from whence they come, namely, the rocks; and how eagerly the young mind seizes upon such real education! How easy it is to show them (and such education they will never forget) that where the soil and subjacent rocks are profuse in the bestowal of wealth, and the air is deprived of that invigorating tonic that comes of the winters of the temperate climate, that there man is indolent and effeminate. Where effort is required to live, he becomes enlightened and virtuous; and where on the sands of the desert, or the jungles of Africa, or Brazil or Greenland's icy mountains, where he is unable to procure the necessities or comforts of life, he lives a savage. The civilization, then, of states or nations is but the reflection of physical conditions, and hence the importance of an understanding of these subjects by all people, but more especially the rising generation. Hence, too, the importance of understanding the geological history of the county.

Our concern in regard to this subject and our desire to impress its value upon the rising generation at least, must be our excuse for these extensive references to it in different chapters of this work. A painful realization of the defects in the education of our young farmers and of their great kisses, disappointments and even disasters in the pursuit of their occupation of tilling the earth, that come of this neglect in their early education and training prompts this seeming persistence that so many readers will at first flush consider a dry or uninteresting subject. The most important subject to all mankind at this time is how to get for the young people the best education; how to fit our youths for the life struggle that is before them. For 2,000 years, the schools have believed that Latin and Greek were the highest type of information and knowledge, and next to these dead languages, were metaphysical mathematics and the theories of so-called philosophy. It is time these long drawn-out mistakes were rectified, and the truths that are revealed in the investigation — the experimental facts of the natural laws that govern us — be made known and taught to those who soon will bear along the world's highway its splendid civilization. Here and there are to be found an intelligent machinist, or a farmer, who understand the simple scientific principles that govern their work or occupation. Their knowledge is power. In every turn of life they stand upon the vantage-ground, and their lives are successful in the broad sense of the term. They understand the soil they till, or the implement or industry they are called upon to make or use. They know where ignorance guesses, doubts and fears, and by not knowing so often fails and falls by the wayside. It is told that at one time Agassiz was appealed to by some horse-breeders of New England in reference to developing a certain strain of horses. He told them it was not a question of equestrianism, bitt one of rocks. To the most of men this reply would have been almost meaningless, yet it was full of wisdom. It signified that certain rock formations that underlay the soil would insure a certain growth of grasses and water, and the secret of the perfect horse lay here.

In order that the youths who read this may gather here the first lessons in the knowledge of the rocks that are spread over the earth, we give, in their order, the different ones and in the simplest form we can present them as gathered from the geologists. These explanations will, too, the better enable the reader to comprehend what is said in other chapters upon this subject. We only deem it necessary to explain that all rocks are either igneous (melted by fire) or stratified (sediment deposited in water). Their order, commencing with the lowest stratified rocks, and ascending, are as follows:

The Laurentian system is the lowest and oldest of the stratified rocks. From the great heat to which the lower portion of them were exposed, has resulted the beautiful crystals that are often found in the rock. The Laurentian system was formerly supposed to be destitute of organic remains, but recent investigations have led to the discovery of animals so low in the scale of organization as to be regarded as the first appearance upon the earth of sentient existence. This important discovery extends the origin of life backward through 30,000 feet of strata. This is an American discovery in geology, and for the first time renders the descending scale of life complete, and verifies the conjectures of physicists that in its earliest dawn it should and did commence with the most simple organisms.

The Huronian is the next system above the Laurentian. Here, too, are found the beautiful natural crystals. Then the Silurian, or the age of fire and water, earthquakes and volcanoes came to the world. Daring this age, nearly all North America was submarine except, perhaps, the elevation of the Alleghenies, which were subject to frequent elevations and depressions. During this age was added to the first dry land on our continent, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The St. Peter's sandstone, a rock found in Union, Alexander and Pulaski Counties, was formed. It is often almost a pure silica and nearly free from coloring matter, and is the very best material for the manufacture of glass.

The Devonian system next follows, and is distinguished for the introduction of vertebrates and the beginning of terrestrial vegetation. The vertebrates consisted of fishes, the forerunners of the reptiles so numerous and some of them of such gigantic size that it has sometimes been styled the age of fishes.

The Carboniferous age opens next with the deposition of widely extended marine formations. In this age, the whole earth was warm; the temperature near the poles was 66°. The prominent feature of this age was the formation of coal. The process of forming coal is exactly the same as practiced in the formation of charcoal by burning wood under a covering of earth. In addition to this age forming coal, it also formed the Burlington, Keokuk and St. Louis limestones, which, to this part of the country, are most important formations.

Then came the Reptilian age, the Mammalian age, and finally the age of man. These are the order of the earth's formation, in the fewest and simplest words, to the time of the coming of man. Though the absolute time of his coming cannot be determined, he was doubtless an inhabitant of the earth many hundreds of thousands of years before he was sufficiently intelligent to preserve the records of his own history.

The present age still retains, in a diminished degree of activity, the geological action briefly sketched above. The oscillations of the earth's crust are still going on, perhaps as rapidly as the}' ever have. As an evidence of this it is a well-known fact that the coast of Greenland, on the western side for a distance of 600 miles, has been slowly sinking during the past 400 years. Thus constantly have the bottoms of the oceans been lifted above the waters and the mountains sunk and became the beds of the sea. In the science of geology this "solid, too, too solid earth" and its fixed and eternal mountains are as unstable as the 'fleeting waves of the waters. They come and go like a breath, or

"Like the snow falls in the river, A moment white, then melt forever."

Pulaski County is bounded on the south by the Ohio River, on the west by Alexander County, on the north by Union and Johnson Counties and on the east by Massac County. It embraces an area of 192 square miles, of which nearly 115 are more or less elevated upland and the remainder low alluvial bottom and swamp land, mostly situated along Cache River. All the county is timbered, and the bottom lands very heavily.

The surface configuration and growth of timber are by no means uniform over the whole county, but they vary considerably with the geological formations and with the proximity of the main water-courses, the Ohio and Cache Rivers. A. feature in this county not found elsewhere is represented in the yellow loam region of the oak barrens in the central part of the county. These lands are underlaid with Tertiary strata. This peculiar soil is very deep,' and is just now beginning to be known for its rich deposits in plant food. It is a porous loam, and is but little affected by drought or excessive rains, and in many of the fruits and garden vegetables is not equaled in the State. But we have spoken at length of the surface geology of this county in Part II of this work, when all the region formed a part of Union County.

The people of Southern Illinois, and particularly those of Pulaski County, have not fully comprehended the natural advantages of their soil and its agricultural and horticultural advantages. Hence they have worked at cross purposes here for many years, and the development of the country has fallen behind what was its just due. Well may the farmers say " the fault, dear Brutus, is with ourselves and not our sires, that were underlings." The farmer will take his place among the earth's noblest and best only when he forces his way there by the superior intelligence, culture and elegance with which his mode of life is capable of surrounding itself. Understand your soil, your climate, and master the art of care and cultivation of those things for which it is best adapted, and at once your business will deservedly take rank with the most exalted of the professions. The trades called the professions in some degree cultivate the mind and train it to think and grow, and as heretofore the pursuits of agriculture were supposed to be the dull routine of physical exertion — the mere hewer of wood and drawer of water — only for slaves and menials; whereas the truth is that an intelligent farmer — one who investigates, studies and comes to know the beautiful laws of nature, that are for his advantage and glory when understood — has before him in his daily labors the great book of knowledge to contemplate and study, and which, when studied, will, beyond any other profession or pursuit in life, ennoble, exalt and expand the mind and soul, and ultimately produce that line type of culture and polite society that is the charm and glory of civilization. The plow handle and pruning hook, the golden fields of grain, the sweet apple blossoms and the beds of fragrant flowers, the trees, the rocks, the babbling brooks, singing the song of spring time, and the unchangeable laws of God that produce, govern and create all these things for the good and joy and greatness of man, are God's school, college and university, that excel man's poor devices for the education of men as the sunlight does the starlight.

Farmers and horticulturists who will comprehend these vital truths will soon come to your county, and their coming will produce a revolution that will bo an incalculable blessing. As an evidence that such men are here now, and that these things are beginning to be talked about, we extract the following from an address of Mr. Parker Earle, before the Mississippi Valley Horticultural Society, in New Orleans, February 21, 1883: " The system of trade in orchard and garden products, which is rapidly growing, with the expansion of our railway interests, has already assumed great proportions. Every day in the year the tides of horticultural commerce are ebbing or flowing over the great area of our country. Car loads and train loads of our various products begin to move northward every year with the opening spring, over our leading lines of railway, and this continues with the advancing seasons until the time arrives for the great current to set the other way. Hundreds of thousands of our people are directly engaged in producing or in the distribution of the great harvests of horticulture. And yet no man concerned in this vast production and traffic is guided in his operations by any such carefully compiled knowledge of the changing facts he is dealing with, as the merchant in cotton or the manufacturer of iron would consider of prime importance to an enlightened management. We have no system of collecting the statistics of our business, such as other industries employ. Are they not equally important? We should know the amount of annual planting of berries and vegetables, and the acreage of orchard and vineyard, and the condition and promise of all these crops, throughout our entire valley not only, but throughout the whole country. Without this knowledge, we constantly work in the dark. Every producer who has sought to plant with some reference to the probable demands of his available markets, and every merchant who has tried to follow intelligently the natural laws of trade in this season's transactions, has certainly felt a great want of knowledge of a wide circuit of facts upon which his success or failure must depend. In what way shall we meet this matter? We must in some way have a bureau of horticultural statistics. If we have no machinery ready made for accomplishing this result, then let us invent some. I venture the suggestion that if there is no more effective way, that this society can itself organize such a bureau with sufficient completeness to give us great relief from our ignorance. If our Secretary could have a salary sufficient to enable him to employ one or more assistants, he could, I think, make a beginning at least of this work, which would demonstrate its great value.

"The question of an annual exhibition of fruits, flowers and garden products by our society is one that some of you have given much thought to. You are aware that we held such an exhibition in St. Louis in September, 1880, at the time of our organization, which was more attractive and complete, I can say with confidence, than any other similar exhibition ever made on this continent. This magnificent collection was gotten together and managed by a provisional committee to fitly inaugurate the birth of an organization destined to wield a powerful influence, as we then hoped and do now hope and feel assured, in molding the industries and the finer culture of human society in the heart of this.

" Allow me in conclusion to call your attention to two or three considerations of a general nature. I desire to have it impressed upon every mind that horticulture is one of the most important agencies for the enhancement of human welfare. Each branch of this profession is useful, dignified and ennobling. It is altogether worthy of the devotion of the best men of the world. It offers a field for the finest powers of the best endowed of mankind. Its problems are sufficient for the best cultivated intellect; its arts will occupy the most cunning mind. We should seek to engage the noblest men and women in its interests. A great need of the , times is to make rural life so attractive and to make pecuniary profit in it so possible, as to hold our boys and young men on the farm and the garden. Very mistaken ideas of gentility, of ease of life, of opportunities for culture or for winning fame, draw a large percentage of our brightest boys into the so-called learned professions, or into trade. With proper surroundings of the home, with a proper education at school ,^ with a proper administration of the economies of the farm, with a sufficient understanding of the opportunities for a high order of intellectual and social accomplishment in the rural life of this country, this need not and would not be so. A bright, high-spirited boy is not afraid of labor, but he despises drudgery. He will work hard to accomplish a fine end when the mind and heart both work together with the muscles; but he will escape from dull, plodding toil. Let our boys learn that rural life is drudgery only when the mind is dull; that the spade and plow and pruning knife are the apparatus with which he manipulates the wonderful forces of the earth and the sky, and the boy will begin to rank himself with the professor in the laboratory or the master at the easel. There is, indeed, occasions that we should, many of us, feel more deeply the glory of our art; that there is no occupation in life that leads the educated man to more fruitful fields of contemplation and inquiry. The scientific mind finds every day in our orchards and fields new material to work upon, and the cultivated taste endless opportunities for its exercise.

"While I desire to see a taste for horticulture become universal in town and hamlet and country, and believe that every cottage and every palace in the land should have its flower garden and fruit garden, in the window or out of the window, and something of the shelter and ornamentation of trees, yet I would not encourage either amateur or commercial horticulturist to plant one vine, flower or tree more than he expects to take some intelligent care of. There has been too much planting in ignorance and reaping in disgust. Especially should the planter on a commercial scale have a better knowledge of the environment of his business. We all need to know more clearly the conditions of great successes, and to understand what difficulties and hindrances are avoidable and what unavoidable. We want more business mathod in this business. We want scientific knowledge and accuracy instead of empiricism.

"But this will come. American horticulture is only in its youthful years. Its splendid maturity shall see every home in this maginficent country sweetened and beautified by its blossoming and fruitful presence. Let us labor cheerfully, my friends, until not only

"The guests in prouder homes shall see Heaped with the orange and the grape, As fair as they in tint and shape, The fruit of the apple tree;'

but the table in every cottage in the land shall be daily filled with an abundance of refreshing fruits and enriching flowers. And let us not rest until we have checked the destruction of the great forests which God has planted, and have restored to the hills and to the plains some portion of that natural shelter without which no land can long be fruitful and no civilization be permanent.

"Nothing is more true than the old saying of the philosopher that our lives are what we make them. In the city, the village or the farm is this true, but it is' pre-eminently true of the farm. If farming is only given over to ignorant and unkempt boors, it will to that extent be forbidding to the growing young men. If the rural population inform themselves and pursue their business in the most ennobling way, their every movement guided by a type of intelligence that brings the best results of the best adaptation to the natural means surrounding them, it will become the most inviting pursuit for the best of our men and women.

"There is no foolish notion that more urgently needs to be exploded than the prevalent one which makes a country life below the ambition of a young man of education and spirit, and which regards towns and cities as the only places in which men rise to distinction and usefulness. Farming is called a tame and monotonous vocation; indeed! but can anything better be claimed for the plodding, exacting and exhaustive pursuits which nine-tenths of those who live in cities are compelled to follow? It is a great mistake to suppose that the population of a city is made up of great capitalists, proprietors, merchants, manufacturers, and eminent lawyers and surgeons, and that it is an easy thing for a young man endowed with the quality of "smartness" to achieve wealth and distinction, or even independence, in the fierce, pitiless whirl of city life. The wrecks to be encountered in city streets every day disprove it Comparatively few persons amass fortunes in cities, and fewer still retain them. So true is this that it is safe to predict, in five cases out of ten, of a wealthy business man in middle life, that he will die penniless.

“Farming is not subject to these rapid and ruinous chances. In this pursuit, industry, economy and good management, aided by the increase which time itself brings, will insure a competence in fifteen or twenty years; and it is a property of substance accumulated in farming, that, unlike fortunes acquired in mercantile pursuits, it lasts through life.

"Few thrifty, industrious farmers die poor; few prosperous merchants who continue in business die rich. The farmer's profits come in slow and small, it is true; and often he does not find himself in comfortable circumstances till middle age. But it is in middle and old age he most needs the comforts of independence; and if he is wise enough to keep out of debt the moderate competency which he has managed to accumulate through his better years will come unscathed through the storms and convulsions that sweep away towering fortunes in the business world."

We trust the reader will not understand us as saying, in the common cant of the flattering demagogue, when he prates about "the sturdy honest farmer," that it is of itself, intrinsically and inherently, the only one great avenue of goodness and true nobility. 0n the contrary it is not. Indeed, where ignorance rules, it is dull, hopeless drudgery, and there is nothing more ennobling about it than there is in the routine life of a galley slave. Stupidity and ignorance are punished here as well as in any and every other place in life. In the struggle for existence it is overmatched, and its superiors trample it most mercilessly under foot.

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