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