Sandburg's Hometown

May 15, 2017


Restored prairie in McLean County, Illinois.


Restored Prairie in northern Illinois

Restored prairie in McLean County, Illinois; photo by Tim (tlindenbaum) on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / no derivative works).


The Prairie

by Barbara Schock

In July, 1918, Carl Sandburg's poem “Prairie” was published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Having grown up in Galesburg on the tallgrass prairie, he had many observations and memories of the blue sky dome of the prairie; the undulating fields of grain; the variety of animals, birds and insects that inhabited the fields and the weather that could sustain as well as destroy the manmade farms and towns of the people.

 

The word prairie comes from the French language and means meadow. The prairie was formed in the Mississippi Valley after the retreat of the glaciers twelve thousand years ago. The northern two-thirds of the state was covered by the tall grass prairie.

 

This land supported a wide variety of animals, such as bison, as well as many kinds of burrowing critters. Many species of birds inhabited the prairies. It has been determined there are over 3,000 kinds on insects on the prairie.

 

Pioneers in the 1830s were awed by the vast expanse of the prairie lands. They first settled near waterways and close to the trees growing at the edges of the open land. The trees provided building materials as well as foodstuffs. The first land owners were afraid of the wildfires triggered by lightning. The Native Americans had already learned that the fires renewed the growth of the tall grasses.

 

Those grasses had contributed to a very rich soil suitable for farming. The first farmers were almost defeated by the deep roots and the centuries long growth of the prairie grasses. The ingenuity of a number of pioneer men created the self-scouring plow which could cut through the roots and turn the soil for planting. It was backbreaking labor, but the prairie was planted in row crops.

 

The Northwest Ordinance of 1784-1887 required the surveying of the lands on the prairie. Townships, six miles square, were marked off, then divided into thirty-six sections. Each section consisted of equal quarter sections of 160 acres—enough for a good sized farm. One section was reserved for educational purposes. The land could sold and the money used to build a school building and provide an education for the children.

 

Today, some call the prairie “flyover country,” but they are intrigued by the geometric pattern of the land. The regularity of the green, brown and yellow squares on the earth's surface are a testament to the hands of mankind as well as bounty of food the land produces.

 

On a sunny day the dome of blue sky above is like a cathedral to those who pay attention to such things. The seasons change the color of the sky and the fields. Dark, towering thunderclouds can change the sky to a threatening force that makes humans and animals go for cover. A drive on a country road in summer is like a canyon of green. The long green leaves of corn reaching for the sky as hot, humid weather encourages the most rapid growth.

 

There is a regularity to the seasons that affects individuals and famillies as well as the operations of towns, schools and businesses. There is a comfort to living on the prairie.

 

 

 

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
May 15, 2017 The Prairie
May 8, 2017 Henry Hitchcock
May 1, 2017 Callender and Rodine
April 24, 2017 The Mesmerist
April 10, 2017 Street Fair of 1898 (Part 3) - Florence Cooke, Queen of the Street Fair
April 3, 2017 Street Fair of 1898 (Part 2)
March 20, 2017 Street Fair of 1898 (Part 1)
March 13, 2017  Gingerbread 
February 27, 2017 Superstitions
February 6, 2017 Sergeant Edwin C. Reed
January 30, 2017 Corporal Andrew P. Tanning
January 23, 2017 The Ferris Wheel
January 16, 2017 The Gibson Girl
January 9, 2017 The Cookstove
January 2, 2017 Sergeant Charles J. Rose
December 19, 2016 Hazelnuts
December 12, 2016 Minstrel Shows
December 7, 2016 Memories of Pearl Harbor
December 5, 2016 The Coffee Mill
November 28, 2016 Robert J. Samuelson
November 21, 2016  The Chrysanthemum Rules
November 14, 2016 Newspapers
October 31, 2016 Frederick Dickinson
October 24, 2016 The Reverend Carl A. Nyblad
October 17, 2016 Talk Not Always Cheap
October 10, 2016 "It Will Live in Bronze"
September 19, 2016 J. Charles "Frenchy" Juneau
September 12, 2016

Oscar F. "Husky" Larson

September 5, 2016 Obituaries
August 29, 2016 Aaron Boyer, Broommaker
August 22, 2016 The Panic of 1873
August 15, 2016 The Swan Prize
August 8, 2016 Chautauqua
July 18, 2016 Street Lighting
July 11, 2016 Cedar Fork
July 4, 2016 Shelden W. Allen
June 20, 2016 Conrad Byloff
June 13, 2016 Edward W. Rosenberg
June 6, 2016 Lawrence Futhey
May 30, 2016 Memory
May 23, 2016 Decoration Day, 1881
May 16, 2016 William Cullen Bryant
May 9, 2016 College Days
May 2, 2016  A Military Career Thwarted 
April 25, 2016  How to Sweep a Room
April 18, 2016 The Marsh Horse and Mule Market
April 11, 2016 Horses Everywhere
April 4, 2016 Victor A. Thoureen
March 28, 2016 Nicknames
March 21, 2016 Corporal Edward P. Peckenpaugh
March 14, 2016 Hold Still!
March 7, 2016 Capt. T. L. McGirr
February 29, 2016 Sparrow Season
February 22, 2016 George W. Erickson
February 15, 2016 George Helgeson Fitch
February 8, 2016  Anna Charlotte Goldquist
February 1, 2016 "Little Boy Blue"
January 25, 2016 Always the Young Strangers
January 18, 2016 George R. Longbrake
January 11, 2016 Fred Cook
January 4, 2016 Domestic Help
December 14, 2015 Justice of the Peace B.F. Holcomb
November 30, 2015 Standardized Time
November 23, 2015 Joseph H. Knutson
November 16, 2015 Wells and Cisterns 
November 2, 2015 Willis E. Calkins
October 26, 2015 Galesburg Pottery
October 19, 2015 Private Lewis H. Kay
October 12, 2015 The Klondike Gold Rush
September 28, 2015 Charles L. Bloomgren
September 21, 2015 The Gilded Age
September 14, 2015 Oliver Optic
August 31, 2015 The "Spanish" Cannon
August 24, 2015 The Company C Men
August 17, 2015 Jacob A. Riis
August 10, 2015 Mason Jars
August 3, 2015  October 7, 1896
July 27, 2015 The Soldier's Monument
July 20, 2015 Ice
July 13, 2015 Moses O. Williamson
July 6, 2015 Sweet Little Alix
June 29, 2015 Sharlie's Shickens
June 22, 2015 Anna Held & John Drew
June 15, 2015 Hartel & Secker Meat Market
June 8, 2015 Girls
June 1, 2015 Old First Church - Part II
May 25, 2015 Old First Church - Part I
May 18, 2015 Marbles
May 11, 2015 Pawnee County, Kansas
May 4, 2015 Detective Stories and the Real Thing
April 27, 2015 Professor Isaac A. Parker
April 20, 2015 Celluloid Collars
April 13, 2015 Asparagus
April 6, 2015  Mayor John C. Stewart 
March 30, 2015 Basket Ball
March 23, 2015 The Courthouse of Knox County, IL
March 16, 2015

“Trifles make perfection...”

March 9, 2015 Uncle Tom's Cabin
March 2, 2015 Martha Sandburg Goldstone
February 23, 2015 Devotion
February 16, 2015  Gumbiner's Pawn Shop 
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013 Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013 Lace Curtains
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity
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