Had such great naturalists as Humboldt or Agassiz visited the Northwest before it was settled, it is possible that their contemplative eyes might have discerned that the speedy settlement and comfortable habitation of the Iowan rolling prairies by civilized men, would depend upon the growth of industrial enterprises, fed by raw material from the pine forests of Wisconsin. But, it is not at all likely that even the most prophetic ken would have foreseen the complexity and extent of the commerce to which the unpromising prairies of Clinton would owe an unexcelled prosperity. Many were the croakers, on the other hand, who scoffed at the idea of treeless prairies ever being profitably or thickly settled. "With what do you intend to build?" said they, disdainfully regarding as insufficient the timber belts along the rivers. Few would have had the hardihood, even those then thought most sanguine, to have even imagined, much less prophesied the acres and square miles of log rafts, and leagues of lumber loaded cars, destined not only for the people of Clinton County, but of the illimitable prairies beyond. Still less did any one dip "into the future, far as human eye could see," and dream that those houses would be warmed by coal from other prairies in Iowa or Illinois, or that the surplus products, the beef, pork, eggs and butter of those prairies, would find a market in Europe. Still less did any one dream that the creaking emigrant wagon would be superseded by through trains from sea to sea, or that these prairies would, before half a century had passed, echo to the clattering thunder of a train traversing the continent in seventy hours.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's tale of the man who roamed over the world, in search of a treasure really at his very door, is recalled and paralleled by the trains of emigrants that, during the years from 1840 to 1847, streamed across the river at the Lyons ferry, and passed westward further into the wilderness, and away from water communication, disdainfully driving over, or overlooking what are now the fairest prairie farms of Clinton County. Having left timbered sections, they were in search of locations near, or in the belts along the interior rivers. Little did they dream of the advantages the Mississippi was destined to offer in supplying building material and fuel from the great northern pineries. But even those pioneers who located in the prairies of Clinton County thought it necessary to also take up a timber claim, if possible. Many laboriously hauled there from, a distance of from two to fifteen miles, the materials for the first hewn or frame. houses, and for fencing the first inclosures of land broken for seeding. But what was the result of these various surroundings and locations, in the view of an apparent acute and impartial observer, may be inferred from the letter of a tourist through the country, who, it is to be hoped, was not writing in the interest of any one who had prairie lands to sell. The letter appeared in 1855, in the Lyons Mirror:
Here is another conclusion that I have lately come to—that prairie farms look the best, and are the moat profitable. I have come to this conclusion after traveling through several States. * * * To illustrate this, and to compare the farmer of one part of the Union with another, will the reader accompany me to look at a farm in the New England States? There the soil will scarcely produce anything unless manured, and will not afford the farmer a living unless all work—the inmates of the house at the spinning-wheel or at some useful employment, as well as the father and sons in the field. This is so true, that the New England family has become noted for its industry and economy. It is not so with the farmers around me; they live in comparative luxury compared with the former. Let us look at Pennsylvania. The soil there is richer than in Maine, and withal they have plenty of timber, a thing so greedily hunted by some that they sometimes pose by a valuable soil for it. A respectable farmer from Pennsylvania remarked to me this morning that he had come here to get away from timber; and well he might, for in Pennsylvania it takes one man's life to make a farm, and then he is called to leave it for others to enjoy., It is not so hire. A man can make one in two or three years, and enjoy the benefits of it the remainder of his life.
This morning I started from Camanche, taking a westerly course toward De Witt. I came to one of the finest prairies I ever saw. It is spotted with groves, and plenty of springs of good water. The soil is a rich, black loam. The land is all bought, and mostly improved. In fact, the large fields and good frame buildings present the appearance of an old-settled country, although it is on1y three or four years Since the majority of the farmers settled there. Yet I see a number of 80 or 160 acre cultivated fields that have yielded thirty bushels of wheat per acre, without manure. That is truly rich. The houses are good, large frame buildings, and painted. The barns and sheds have a neat appearance. The farm-yard is well 'stocked with cattle, sheep, hogs and horses, all of which they raise. The whole—even the fields—have a neatness almost equal to a gentleman's country residence. I do not think I have seen, anywhere, a more prosperous community of farmers.
Let us compare the prairie farms with those in the timber or oak openings. Everything about the latter has a meager appearance. The houses, outbuildings and fences look generally as though a botch-workman had been the only person who had done anything. The soil is about half-cultivated. The owners are of the poorer class, and not the best-informed. How does this compare with the prairie farm I have described? The cause of the difference between these kinds of farms and their owners is, I think, easily accounted for. On the timbered farm, there is the material for making a house, outbuildings, fences, etc., so that, if the land is bought of Government, the purchaser gets, with the soil, the material for making a farm, at ten shillings per acre. Consequently, such is generally bought up by such of the first settlers as have little or no capital, but avail themselves of the pre-emption law, Such land requires almost 
endless labor to clear, but less capital to get along with, and, as labor is the poor man's only 
capital, perhaps such land is the best for him. If I have capital, give me prairie to make a 
farm out of, provided I get a grove sufficiently near to supply me with firewood. I am not 
the only one with these views. The moneyed farmer who comes West, by his actions says he 
is of the same opinion. I would advise such men, coming West to look for land, to travel 
through the country, as there is some fine prairie, which I presume can be bought at $4 or $5 per acre.
From the previous survey of the characteristics of the soil, climate and transportation facilities of Clinton and sister counties, it is readily perceived that they present an environment in the highest degree favorable to the evolution of an exalted type of humanity. Whether these natural advantages and bounties would have been equally improved had they remained within the grasp of the Frenchman or fallen into the hands of the Spaniard, may be greatly doubted. The great-souled La Salle and the iron-hearted DeSoto had but few kindred spirits among their followers. Had such been the decree of destiny the fair lands of Iowa would have been peopled by the Sluggish and stupid counterpart of the French-Canadian—too indolent to catch the spirit of modern enterprise; or, the prairies of the upper river might have been polluted by such a population as the degenerate Spanish of Cuba or Mexico. But a beneficent Providence ordained that the fruitful and well watered garden and granary of the West should be had and held by the Northern type of man, with whom individualism was the dominant sentiment, liberty and self-government his strongest passions, and toleration his broadest creed. As the Hindoo Koosh Mountains of Central Asia were the cradle' of the progressive white races, whence they set out on a westward course, to diverge into the various nationalities of Europe, so the Mississippi Valley seems inevitably destined to become the home of these nations' manhood, where they will again converge and unify, soberly applying, in peace and tranquillity, the lessons learned during their stormy youth in Europe.

SOURCE: Allen, L. P., History of Clinton County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, it's Cities, Towns, Etc. and Biographical Sketches of Citizens, War Record of it's Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Clinton County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c, &c., Illustrated. Chicago IL; Western Historical Company, 1879




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