The Killing of a Compromise:
May 25, 1854
The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.
American westward settlement had mostly neglected the open prairies. Settlers preferred the forested lands where they could find more water, and trees provided lumber for building and for fuel. When they did settle the prairies, most emigrants chose the river bottoms where grew stands of cottonwood, hickory, and other trees.
This settlement pattern, however, began to change in the mid 1850s with the increased construction of railroads. Instead of relying on cumbersome, slow-moving wagon trains for supplies, settlers could receive what they needed, quickly, by rail. One such railroad, the Illinois Central, when completed, ran from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois, and thus opened up the Illinois prairie for settlement. (more…)