SPRING OF 1836
In the Spring of 1836, there was no one living in the towns of Fairfield, Manlius, Mineral, Neponset, Macon, Gold, Wheatland, Greenville, and Westfield; there was but one family in Milo, one in Walnut, one in Ohio, four in Berlin, five in Bureau, and about as many in Concord and Clarion. The houses were log cabins, built close by the side of timber. There was but one meeting-house in the County, and but two or three school houses; but two or three laid roads, and not a stream bridged. Indian trails were visible everywhere, and were traveled by the whites as well as the Indians. About this time, George Clark built a framed house in Berlin, where he now lives. This was the first house on the prairie, if we except the few built in Princeton and its vicinity. The large prairies in this County were in a state of nature, part of which were not surveyed, and belonged to the Government. The opinion of many people at that time was, that they would always remain vacant; that they could not be settled without timber, and could be used as grazing grounds for horses and cattle. A person traveling over them now, would be surprised to find one continuous lane for many miles, go which way he will, and dotted over with fine white houses, large barns, and orchards --in the wheat and corn fields he could scarcely recognize the beautiful rolling prairie, all covered with flowers, of thirty years ago.
During the Summer of 1836, there was a large emigration to this County. Provisions were brought up the river, to supply the demand. Emigrants that came by the river, mostly brought a supply with them. Flour was $16 a barrel; Corn was brought up the river in sacks, and sold for $1 per bushel; Wheat, for seed, sold from $2 to $3 per bushel. In 1837-8, there was a surplus in this County, but it found a ready sale to the Rock River people, who commenced settling there about this time. In 1839-40, wheat and pork were shipped down the river. Some of the farmers hauled to Chicago, and loaded back with goods and lumber. In 1842-3, wheat of the best quality was only worth 25 cents cash, or 31 1/4 cents in goods, delivered at the river; pork, net, $1.50 per 100 pounds, delivered at Lake Dupu or Hennepin.
The settlement of the County was very slow from 1837 to 1850. About this time, the subject of making railroads began to be agitated. People came here from all parts of the world and settled on the prairies. Some would commence improvements, take out a pre0emption, which was good for one year, and when that would expire, if not prepared to enter their land, they would get it entered on time, with a land warrant, and pay with grain raised off the land. Some of the most wealthy farmers commenced this way some years go.
About 1850, the old plan of fencing with rails was abandoned, and wire, board, and hedge fences were introduced. Many other improvements in farming were introduced about this time. Previous to 1836, the old-fashioned wooden mould-board plows weere in use; some years after, the cast mould-board was used; in 1840, the steel plow came into use. As late as 1837, the prairie was all broken with big plows on wheels, four-yoke of oxen being generally used. About this time, one Flavel Thurston, of Wyanet, introduced the small two-horse plows. While making his plow, the people laughed at his folly, to think of his breaking prairie with a span of horses, but were much surprised to see his old grays walk right off with it, breaking from one and a-half to two acres per day.