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and desert prairie-lands have been transformed into well-cultivated farms, which are now annually contributing many millions of bushels of excellent grain to the general produce of the State, and still present the prospect of much larger crops in future; and, moreover, the population of the State has been increased by the addition of thousands of industrious and enterprising citizens, who are mostly farmers. The State of Illinois has thus came to be ranked among the most important States of the Union.
The lands of the company extend themselves on both sides of the road, in a breadth of thirty miles, so that it mostly runs through the middle of them. The greater part of these lands are well-watered and intersected by creeks, and where such are wanting, good water may be obtained by digging to the depth of a few feet below the surface.
A kind of loam, well suited for the manufacture of bricks, is frequently found near the surface; and bituminous coal, which, as has been already mentioned, underlies almost the entire State of Illinois, is found at several points of the railroad, furnishing a very excellent and cheap fuel. The soil, to a depth of about five feet, is of a rich black substance, with a surface partly undulating or rolling, and partly level, and well adapted to all the various branches of agriculture and cattle-breeding. In some parts, there is a fine growth of oak and other trees.
Besides all the above advantages, the farmers who settle on these lands have still another great benefit, in their immediate, or at least very near, connexion with the State's mighty artery of intercommunication, by which they are enabled, without the slightest difficulty, to forward their products to the markets, and there to realize good prices for them.
Of the 2,595,000 acres which were granted to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, 528,863.11 acres were sold, in the short space of seventeen months, namely, from August, 1854, up to the 31st day of December, 1855, and brought the sum of $5,598,577.83.
Since the 1st of January, 1856, there have been sold, in each month respectively, as follows:
In January.. 11,481.36 acres, for
$175,057.46 February. 4,959.04
662,014.23 October..... 56,421.76
906,800.58 November. 54,004.76
859,290.47 So that on the 1st of December, 1856, 819,138.60 acres were already sold for $10,033,486.54; leaving only 1,775,861.40 for future purchasers.
These extraordinarily rapid sales, - this unexampled sudden transformation of such a large territory, hitherto lying in a wild and uncultivated state, into luxuriant cornfields, inviting farms and fruitful orchards, must not be attributed solely to the location and fertility of the land, but also, in as great a measure, to the unequalled and ready facilities that are afforded to the owner and cultivator by the Illinois Central Railroad Company. The same advantages are still offered, and persons, even with limited means, may yet acquire valuable property, and thus come to enjoy wealth and independence within a comparatively short time.
Influenced by these reasons, hundreds of people are weekly coming from the Eastern States to Chicago, because they have become discouraged with the hard and unepriching labour bestowed on eastern land, and now choose rather to apply their energies and industry to the productive virgin soil of Illinois. In the morning, long before the hour of opening, the doors of the Illinois Central Railroad Company's Land Office, at Chicago, are thronged with people; and when opened, the office is soon densely filled with eager purchasers. It is not a trifling business of everyday life, such as a stranger to these scenes might suppose, that is here daily transacted, but lands to the value of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their monthly aggregate are disposed of.
The settlement of these lands, which has been accelerated as if by a stroke of magic, is made on the following conditions : - The Company requires no payment of purchase-money during the first two years from the day of purchase; and further, a long credit is given to the purchaser, while the interest on the purchase-money does not exceed three per cent. per annum.
The prices vary from $5 to $25 per acre, according to the quality and location of the lands, — whether they lie rext to, or more distant from, the railroad, towns, or town-sites.
The first instalment of the purchase-money, being one-fifth, becomes due at the expiration of two years from the time when the contract was made; another fifth at the close of each subsequent year, with three per cent. interest : so that the last instalment will become due at the end of six years.
The interest for each ensuing year is paid in advance, upon making the first, second, third, and fourth payments. The interest for the first two years is to be paid upon making the contract.
The purchaser is obligated to cultivate at least one-tenth of his land every year; and upon making the last payment of instalments he will be entitled to a deed in fee simple.
Purchasers who are willing to pay six per cent. interest may enjoy a longer credit. An allowance or deduction of twenty per cent will be made on cash-payments; and the construction-bonds of the company will be taken, and considered as equivalent to cash.
Now, let us suppose a purchase of 80 acres, at $10 per acre, to be made on the 1st .of May, 1857, the payments on the same would then run as follows": May 1, 1857. Received contract for a deed for 80 acres of land,
at $10 per acre ($800), and paid two year's in
terest, at 3 per cent. per annum, in advance, $48 00
164 80 1863. Paid fifth instalment, being one-fifth, as above, and received deed,
Making the full payment, principal and interest,
$896 00 If the purchaser of these 80 acres brings only 20 of them into cultivation each year, by raising Indian corn on the one half and wheat on the other, according to the average yield, as stated on page 291, viz., 56 bushels of Indian corn, and 24 bushels of wheat, per acre, the average price of the former, as mentioned on page 292, being 33 cents per bushel, and that of the latter $1.27 per bushel, his yearly returns will be as follows :
From the sum thus obtained, deduct the entire purchase-money, amounting to $896, with interest included, and there will remain an average annual income of $1000 to be used for alimony and the
defraying of farming expenditures, which will be found more than sufficient to cover such expenses. The farmer will, then, not only be free from debts, and possess an unencumbered farm of 80 acres, but the value of his farm will in the mean time have increased to two or threefold its original cost.
Considering the ease with which prairie-soil can be put under cultivation, it is hardly probable that an enterprising farmer will be satisfied with making only 20 acres arable in each year. As stated on page 317, one man, with a team of horses, can farm about 40 acres, needing hired help only in harvest time; and hence we may suppose that the owner of 80 acres will make thenı all arable within two years, or 40 acres in each year, and in this case his returns will be as follows:
And he will thus, at the expiration of such a very short term, be enabled to hold his property entirely free from debt.
These figures, although they are merely assumed as an approximation to what may be realized, nevertheless furnish an irrefutable
proof that the credit system, as established by the Illinois Central | Railroad Company, affords the greatest and most favourable facilities
to persons, even of very limited means, to become possessed of valuable real estate, independence, and wealth.
While on this subject, let us regard the testimony of one who, in the year 1853, himself purchased, from the Illinois Central Railroad Company, forty acres of land, situate in the neighborhood of Bloomington, and who therefore speaks from his own experience. In a letter to Mr. Chas. M. Du Puy, Mr. John Lindley says: