Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Weather was harsh!
For the handful of white settlers west of the Mississippi River during the fall and winter of 1831-1832, weather was a harsh reality that presented difficult obstacles almost impossible to surmount. 
This was during the first early settlement of the forest/prairie region, which obviously was not yet developed.  With crude conveyances, it was difficult to get around during the best weather conditions, and local governments were not equipped to improve roads or remove snow and ice.
Good roads did not exist!  People slowly moved about from place to place following muddy wagon routes, which had originally been old Indian trails.
Much like our "summer of 2009," which never fully materialized in Iowa, the summer of 1831 was remarkably cold and wet--so much so, that crops were a disaster.  Covering the sun that year were huge dark spots, clearly visible with the naked eye.  On top of a lack of summer, an early winter set in.
Snow began falling on October 4, but fortunately was followed by a short period of clear weather.  During this two-week window of opportunity called "Indian Summer," settlers were enabled to harvest corn or whatever crops they had been able to raise.  Winter began an earnest assault in late October.
Heavy rain came in torrents and covered the prairies.  This turned to snow and the water froze into a glare of ice that lasted six weeks.  Hampered by the frozen conditions, men scrambled as best they could to neighbors and towns that existed on the Illinois side to obtain horse shoes and nails, which they put on the horses themselves so that the animals had some mobility.  This allowed men to employ sleighs and wagons in obtaining enough food and fuel for those struggling to survive winter in the wilderness!
Early February, 1832, saw nine inches of snow fall, which lay on the ground until mid-March.  Those with sleighs could get around.  But without them, it was almost impossible to transport commodities from place to place.  The economy of the region suffered, as almost all commerce ceased.
The spring of 1832 arrived late and remained cold and wet.  Little corn that was planted came up that year, and another round of hardships began.  Fortunately for some settlers, they had procured a new type of Indian maize, which matured earlier and did well in Iowa soil. 
Thus, even during the earliest settlement of the region, farming practices were changing in order to adapt to the harsh weather that often gripped the prairies.
Horrible news soon spread across the region like wild fire.  Black Hawk and his Indians were on a rampage! 
Chief Black Hawk brought his band of warriors back across the Mississippi into Illinois where he attacked white villages and settlements.  In a show of patriotism, citizens abandoned their farming practices and joined the Illinois Militia, as they rose to the occasion to defend and resist the red-skinned invaders.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick