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Entries : Encountering the Prairie
Encountering the Prairie

Encountering the Prairie

Thousands of settlers entered the region after the 1832 Black Hawk War. Many came from eastern states in search of good farmland and other business opportunities. Morris Sleight came to Chicago from Hyde Park, New York, in the summer of 1834, on a journey to Michigan and Illinois in search of land on which to settle. Sleight wrote to his wife to recount his travels and to convince her that a westward trip was worthwhile. On July 9, 1834, Sleight wrote to his wife from Chicago about a trip west to Naperville:

I am highly pleased with Michigan, but I am delighted with Illinois.... The first view of a Michigan Prairie is delightful after passing the oak openings and thick forest, but the first view of an Illinois prairie is sublime.... A person needs a compass to keep their course, but the more I travel over them the more I like them. There is a great variety of flowers now on the prairies, but they tell me in a month from this time they will be prettier. I have sent you a few of them with Mr. Douglas which will be all faded by the time you get them, but they will be interesting to you as you will be sure they were picked from the prairies of Illinois. There is a number of other kinds on the dry prairies, some resemble sweet william, some pinks, sunflowers and almost every variety that grow in our gardens.... This is the best country I have ever seen for a poor man or a rich one, an industrious man or a lazy one.... It has the advantage of grist mills and saw mills, within half a mile, also a store and tavern and a thick settled neighborhood. As people build in the groves you cannot see many of your neighbors—I will not say houses yet, but cabins. In a few years I think I can say mansions.