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sible to conceive of better butter than is made while the grass is in this stage. On the lower, humid prairies, where the clayey stratum lies close to the surface, the middle or principal stalk of the grass, bearing the seed, grows very thick, having long and coarse leaves, and attaining a height of nine feet, so that the traveller on horseback will frequently find it higher than his head. Although the plants are very numerous, and stand alone by each other, they seem to grow up each one by itself, the whole effort of vegetation tending upward. On the undulating prairies the grass is finer, and exhibits more leaves, its roots are interlaced so as to form a compact mass, and its leaves spread in a dense sod, which rarely exceeds the height of 18 inches, until late in the season, when the seed-stalk shoots up.
In the earliest stages of its growth, the grass is interspersed with little flowers, the violet, the strawberry-blossom, and others of the most delicate structure. When the grass grows higher, these disappear, and taller flowers, displaying more lively colors, take their place; and still later a series of still higher but less delicately formed flowers appears on the surface. While the
these beautiful plains are adorned with every imaginable variety of color. It is impossible to conceive of a greater diversity, or discover a predominating color, save the green, which forms a beautiful dead color, relieving the splendor of the others. In the summer, the plants grow taller, and the colors more lively; in the autumn another generation of flowers arises, which possesses less clearness and variety of color, and less fragrancy. In the winter, the prairie presents a melancholy aspect. Often the fire, which the hunters annually send over the prairies, in order to dislodge the game, will destroy the entire vegetation, giving to the soil a uniform black appearance, like that of a vast plain of charcoal; then the wind sweeping over the prairie, will find nothing which it might put in motion, no leaves which it might disperse, no halms which it might shake. No sooner does the snow commence to fall, than the animals, unless already before frightened away by the fire, retire into the forests, when the most dreary, oppressive solitude, will reign on the burnt prairies, which often occupy many square miles of territory.
In the southern part of the State, the prairies are comparatively small, varying in size from those of several miles in width and length to tliose which contain only a few acres. Here many flowery prairies
may be found, presenting a spectacle of unrivalled splendor. A rich soil is covered with innumerable turnsols (Helianthus tuberosus), great euphorbias, and purple lupines, intertwined with the rosy blossoms of the wild mallow, and the brilliant orange-tawny vermilion poppy, while the ground is literally crowded with beautiful violets. The traveller on horseback then looks down upon a sea of flowers, over which float thousands of the most sumptuously colored papilios and scarabees, with the many variegated buzzing insects, while he is nearly overpowered by the penetrating, delicious perfume, with which the immense multitude of blossoms impregnate the air.
In the north the prairies widen, and frequently extend from six to twelve miles in width, intersected in every direction by groups of forests and woods, alternately advancing into and receding from the prairie towards the water courses, the banks of which are usually to be found lined with timber, principally of magnificent growth. Between these rivers, in many instances, are groves of timber containing from 100 to 2000 acres, in the midst of the prairie, like islands in the sea, this being a common feature of the country between Lake Michigan and the Sangamon River, and the northern parts of the State.
As to the origin of the prairie-lands, various speculations have been indulged, giving rise to a diversity of opinions, the least tenable of which is that, according to which stately forests once covered these plains, afterwards being destroyed by fire; for nothing is better established than the fact, that the travellers who first entered upon
these plains, 200 years ago, and gave them their present name, found them destitute of woods and forests; and, moreover, evidence may be adduced to the effect of showing, that wherever those dangerous enemies of the forests, the Indians and buffaloes, were expelled, and the settlers commenced planting trees, as well as in the vicinity of extensive inliabited tracts, the grass will at once recede, giving free scope for the forest to develope itself. In proof of our position, that these prairies were not formerly covered by forests, we may also refer to the immense sarannahs and Llaños of South America and Middle Africa, where traces of former forests have yet to be discovered. Thus the late distinguished English traveller, Mungo Park, speaks of the plains of Mandingo, in Western Africa, as having probably existed there since the earliest times; he also describes their annual burning in the same manner in
which that of the prairies in the Western States would be described now; the practice there, according to his account, being attended with the same results as here, the country there being also within a short time covered with a luxuriant growth of young and tender
grass, on which the cattle feed with avidity.
According to another opinion, the truth of which is highly probable, the level surface of the State of Illinois was formed by inundations. The whole of the State, from a few miles north of the Ohio, where the prairies commence, affords tolerably conclusive evidence of having been once covered with water, which, having forced itself a passage, whereby it was drained off, the ground was left with a rich, soft, muddy, level surface, much of which was afterwards successively worn off by waters formed from the effect of rain; whence it will not be difficult to account for the greater dryness of the more elevated undulating prairie lands.
From whatever cause the prairies took their origin, they are no doubt perpetuated by the annual fires that have swept over them, from an era probably long anterior to the earliest records of history, and still often continue, lit by the hunters, in order to frighten and bewilder the game that bounds over these prairies, and thus render them an casy prey, or to replace the old grass by a luxuriant growth of tender herbage, which might serve as nourishment for the deer. Where the soil is too wet to produce a heavy annual growth of grass sufficient to sustain a strong fire, there is no prairie. Forests prevail along the streams, and in other places where vegetation does not suffer from the drought of the latter part of summer and early autumn, and, therefore, is less combustible than in the open plains. And the prairies themselves, wherever they do predominate, as will be found invariably the case on dry level regions, exposed to the heat of the sun, may be easily converted into wooded land, by destroying with the plough the tough sward which has formed itself on them. There are large tracts of country, where a number of years ago the farmers mowed their hay, that are now covered with a forest of young, rapidly-growing timber.
As soon as the prairies are ploughed, and the heavy grass kept un. der, timber or orchard trees, when planted in them, will grow with unexampled luxuriance. A resident of Adams County testifies to the
effect, that locust trees planted, or rather sown, on prairie land near Quincy, attained in four years a height of twenty-five feet, and their trunk a diameter of from four to five inches; these grew in closely crowded rows, affording a dense shade. In a few instances, where the same kind of trees had been planted in a more open manner, they grew in the same period to a thickness of six inches, and in from seven to ten years from their planting, have been known to attain sufficient bulk to make posts and rails. In a like manner, the uplands of St. Louis, which were, in 1823, principally prairie lands, are now covered with a young growth of fine and thrifty timber, so that it would be difficult to find an acre of prairie in the county.
The first efforts to convert prairies into forest land, were usually made on the part of the prairie adjoining to the timber. A range of farms, which girded the entire prairie along its circumference, having been established, three furrows were ploughed all round the settlements, in order to stop the burning of the prairies, for the whole distance of the circuit in the neighborhood of these farms, and prevent injury to the fences and other improvements; whereupon the timber quickly grows up spontaneously on all the parts not burnt, the groves and forests commencing a gradual encroachment on the adjoining prairies, so that one after another concentric circle springs up inside of the preceding, and thus the entire prairie is steadily narrowed from all sides, until it is finally occupied, forming a vast region covered with timber and farms.
Suck a prairie-farm is always conducted on a maguificent scale. The fences, if
are, do not cut it up in little acre patches, but divide it into large squares. The sight of such a farm on a rolling prairie, partly in grass, partly in corn, partly in grain and garden vegetables, as the sun chases over it the cloudy shadows, and the light breeze waves the distant grove, to a lover of the beautiful is perfectly enchanting
Early in the morning, when a mist is on the ground, the fog appears all around the edge of the timber in the prairies, rendering at times the residence on the circuit of the prairie less healthy than that on the middle or highest part, which latter is also connected with another advantage, to wit: the facility with which excellent water is pro
cured, at a depth of 15 feet, whereas, along the borders of the timber, the common depth of the wells is 40 feet.
Let it not be supposed, that life on these boundless regions is monotonous and dreary, for nowhere does nature sit more majestically enthroned, overawing man by the terrible grandeur of her phenomena, than on these immense prairies. What can be more beautiful and charming than a summer's day—what more sublime and terrific than a thunder-storm, on these plains ?—what language can convey the faintest idea of the splendor of their conflagration? And even when stern winter has thrown her snow-white mantle over the earth, and the silence of death seems to reign over the far-reaching waste, the apparent illimitation of which deeply impresses the mind of the spectator with the idea of the infinite Being ruling the universe, then the prairie presents a truly magnificent aspect, amply compensating for the hardships of an icy journey. Yielding to our entreaties, an experienced traveller, several spirited letters regarding his journey, written by whom, appeared under the title “ A Rambler in the West,” in the columns of the Pennsylvania Inquirer and Daily Courier, thus depicts in lively colors, the events of his seemingly rather dangerous journey :
66. Now sharp Boreas blows abroad, and brings
The dreary winter on his frozen wings;
Descend, and whiten all the fields below.' “Such was the burden of my song, when I awoke from a most refreshing slumber, and saw large white flakes descending, and the whole country covered with the snowy garb of winter. It is oft-times a very pleasant employment to watch the progress of a snow-storm, but then you must be sheltered from its violence; for I assure you you cannot at all sentimentalize when you are breasting its fury, and have a long and dreary journey before you. However, this morning I was in a pecu liarly good humor, and disregarding the solicitations of my friends, who begged me to remain until the storm had abated, I determined to resume my journey. Soon the merry jingle of the sleigh-bells announced to me that my vehicle was at the door of my friend's hospitable mansion-into it I sprung with joyous gayety, and away we flew over the broad and boundless prairies. My noble steed seemed to feel