This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
WHEN we reflect on the prairies of the West, and remember the activity of the inhabitants of that great Empire, we are lost in pleasing anticipations of the future, no less than with gratification at the aspects they already present. In reading, as we have done, the volume of "Transactions of the Illinois State Agricultural Society, with the proceedings of the County Societies and kindred associations," as prepared by Dr. John A. Kennicott, we come almost into the presence of a race of mental pioneers, such, as we verily believe, the world never saw before. The spirit that actuates and moves that region and its neighborhood is surprising, gratifying, and unique. The volume is the "first," no doubt the predecessor of a long series which will record the advance of our race through a career of unexampled prosperity, upon plains formed by Nature - "Where man hath no part in all this glorious work: The hand that built the firmament hath heaved And smoothed these verdant swells, and sown their slopes With herbage, planted them with island groves, And hedged them round with forests.
Fitting floor For this magnificent temple of the sky - With flowers whose glory and whose multitude Rival the constellations! The great heavens Seem to stoop down upon the scene in love - A nearer vault, and of a tenderer blue, Than that which bends above our eastern hills." - Bryant.
Dr. Kennicott has executed a task which deserves the gratitude of every citizen of the State. It was no small labor to consign to print all the manuscripts of various merit which compose this goodly volume. Most ably has it been accomplished, and though we could wish that paper a little thicker, and ink a little blacker had been employed, the contents are so suggestive and full of information, that we pardon the slight defect for the knowledge it imparts, and more especially for introducing us to the mind of the State, of which, as an American, we cannot but be proud.
A young State, by comparison, in wisdom Illinois is old. With a wonderful soil to depend upon, she has found a bold and active people to cultivate it, with capacities for turning its blessings to the best account; her future it needs no prophet to foretell; unnumbered millions will enjoy the light of happiness upon her plains; man, here, is destined to fulfil all the objects for which he was created; the ample means are all around him; he has only to be true to himself and his mission, to garner and gather the fruits which are nearly spontaneous. To use a phrase in vogue among the people, this State is just what was wanted - "it was made to order."*
The book is of great value not only to Illinois, but to the entire western settlements; its facts are of a practical kind, and come from practical men; having said this, and advised all who can to read the book, we proceed to a short and rambling examination of the contents that relate to our own subjects.
The Hon. M. L. Dunlap, at page 524, has some remarks on the "air currents'9 of that region to prove that they have the winters naturally belonging to their latitude, while the summers are two or three degrees of latitude warmer than their neighbors on the same parallels; thus, plants are grown in one climate, and wintered, to all intents and purposes, in another; this fully explains why so many varieties of fruit-trees and shrubs, which appear to flourish so thoroughly, are ruined by the severity of the winters; the fruit-grower will have to learn how to take advantage of the warmth and guard against the cold, and it will undoubtedly be found that shelter is the true remedy. The warm-air current, too, meets the cold of the north, and floods of rain result, or droughts, without this taking place, occur. Trees are wanted, not only for shelter from the wind, but a more equal distribution of timber through the State would, doubtless, produce more equal distribution of moisture.
After a hasty visit through the prairies, which are yet mainly unsettled, we were greatly exercised to know what we could do to assist the "new-comers" to good trees that would afford shelter; several letters passed between us and influential men of the State on this subject. Timber or mountain ridges are essential to check the powerful winds which sweep the prairies so unmercifully. We found the topic, as was to have been expected, had engaged the thoughts of others. In this volume there is an essay by Charles Downing, which it were well to call attention to. In a single page it contains the wisdom of an extensive treatise, and we, therefore, shall present it on a future page.
"Banish the winter winds from the prairie," says Samuel Edwards, of Bureau County, "and the climate of Illinois is, without doubt, one of the finest on earth, rivalling Italy in its cloudless sky and serenity of atmosphere. A, belt, several rods in width, of forest trees should be planted near buildings, on west, north, and northeast sides. For those who would have the very best, I would recommend evergreen-trees, of which the Norway spruce, hemlock, and American arbor vita are the most durable for screens. Plant seedlings; by the time they are of a proper size there will be a demand for all in the market" - and fifty times more, we add. He recommends, also, Austrian pine, black spruce, Scotch pine, red spruce, Cembran pine, Norway pine, white pine, European silver fir, and Siberian arbor vitae. Of these, we should give the preference to the Austrian pine and the silver fir. Mr. Edwards thinks that cedar of Lebanon, Deodar cedar, Arau-carian pine, Excelsa, Douglass spruce, Menzie's spruce, and English yew, are too tender; with the protection of hedges this can hardly be the case; they should not be given up without many efforts.
Evergreens are what are most wanted.
* Dr. E. R. Roe, at page 507, remarks: "The whole prairie region of Illinois, so far as have examined it, consists of materials which have been transported from the North - even from the regions of Lake Superior. It matters little in what the transporting agency consisted; the fact is clear to the geologist, and to all intelligent observers that the soil and earth consist of the broken, crushed, and pulverized rocks of the formations many miles to the northward." It would be injustice to omit the mention of Robert Kennicott's contributions to the Natural History of the State; he is a very young mail, a son of Dr. Kennicott, and promises to be one of the best naturalists of our country.
If arguments thoroughly enforced are ever wanted for the necessity of educating the industrial classes in useful things, Professor J. B. Turner's writings and speeches in tins volume will be found to be sound and unanswerable.
One of the best essays in the volume on tree culture is by Edson Harkness. He considers that all the elements of nutrition for growing timber seem to be abundant in the soil of the prairies, and success has attended his experiments in deep black soil, with a nearly level Surface. His list includes the above trees, and embraces American larch (tamarac), tulip and chestnut, black and white walnut, black locust, and Lombardy poplar. Of these, we should select the black walnut, the wood of which has already an increasing commercial value, and is second to mahogany; and for early use the American larch, which would very soon make valuable poles, and when thinned, the remainder would become highly useful timber. An acre - says another writer, Adnah Williams, of Galesburg - of locust would give a result of $480 in seventeen years, or nearly $30 per year as the product. Here is inducement enough to grow timber on land that could be bought much below a few months! return, and locust posts will always be wanted in that country of railroads. But the great idea combined is shelter, protection, and consequent comfort and happiness to man, beast, and bird, which cannot be measured in gold and silver, nor enumerated in dollars and cents.
In the instances where shelter was provided, Mr. Williams says that, during the past (1853) severe season, both apple and peach-trees were loaded with fruit. He alludes, as do many of the writers, to the Horticulturist, and says, an article which appeared in it by the late editor, was "not only worth the price of a volume, but a dozen, to any man who has an acre of land".
There is an important suggestion in a former number of this journal regarding the planting of trees on the sides of railroads, which, where the land owned by the companies is not of sufficient breadth, might be difficult in practice, but on the central Illinois routes the space set apart for the company's use is fully one hundred feet wide, offering the best possible site for the growth of timber where it is wanted, and offering a prospect of wood for repairs of the route, as well as timber for the wants of settlers; thereby increasing the freight of the road, to say nothing of the profits, which may be set down at an interest on a thousand times the cost of the planting.
The vine is strongly recommended as a fruit for prairie land, as in the strawberry, pears, and especially apples; the summer Bergamot pear, perhaps a local variety, but a common one, is hardy and productive.
The Bartlett pear is said to be short-lived. Among apples recommended are Early Harvest, Sweet June, Early Scarlet Bough, Red Astrachan, Rambo, Fail Pippin, Fallen Walder, Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russet, White and Yellow Belleflower, Wine Sap, Willow Twig, and Newtown Pippin.
Incidentally, we learn here and there much regarding the State; for instance. Dr. Le Barron says: "Birds are much less numerous than in the Eastern States, from the scarcity of mature orchards and timbered lands in a newly-settled and prairie country." Among the most interesting facts are those regarding the culture of flax; a tnovement for the manufacture of linen is now going on in this country, that threatens, ere long, to supply an article for which we have annually paid millions to foreigners. This movement is connected with the newly-invented machinery for spinning flax; respecting this, and the raising of the raw material in the West, the volume gives an account that we would ask the agricultural journals of the country to disseminate. The culture is, perhaps, the most profitable yet attempted, and the demand is unlimited.
In conclusion, we wish every State in the Union, including our own, had a Dr. Kennicott.