Sunday, January 17, 2010

Books of the West - 7

They Broke the Prairie, Being some account of the settlement of the Upper Mississippi Valley by religious and educational pioneers, told in terms of one city, Galesburg, and of one college, Knox, by Earnest Elmo Calkins, Charles Scribne'rs Sons, l939, is a non-fiction book.

I've never considered Illinois as being part of the West since it's back East, but it took awhile for white pioneers to reach there, and nowadays they call it the mid-West. That's another term that I've never really understood, but maybe I'll get into that some other time.

Galesburg, Illinois, is (or was at that time, 1937) the mule capital of the country, the book states in its opening chapter, but the volume covers the history and founding of the city from the time of the first turn of the olde sod up to the Twentieth Century, which is the title of the last chapter. The town is named after George Washington Gale, born in 1789, who became a man of religion and went west with a plan to build a college on the prairies. In Chapter 3 entitled Log City, there is an explanation of the Hoosiers, Suckers, and Pukes that I found interesting. In the chapter entitled Schism, Edward Beecher, son of Lyman, brother of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe became a preacher in Galesburg and was "a favorite topic of conversation" because of his eccentricities. Abraham Lincoln came to Galesburg, too, for one of the debates with Douglas.

For a volume on history, being true and all, I found it to be interesting throughout, easy to read and understand, and adds a perspective on religion, slavery (Galesburg was anti-slavery), and politics that I enjoyed digging into.

(No money or gifts were received for this book description.)

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