Illinois in 1837: a sketch descriptive of the situation, boundaries, face of the country, prominent districts, prairies, rivers, minerals, animals, agricultural productions, public lands, plans of internal improvement, manufacturers, &c., of the state of Illinois ; also, suggestions to emigrants, sketches of the counties, cities, and principal towns in the state ; together with a letter on the cultivation of the prairies, by the Hon. H. L. Ellsworth ; to which are annexed the letters from a rambler in the West (Google eBook) By Samuel Augustus Mitchell
LAWRENCE County, erected in 1821 from a part of Edwards and Crawford, is situated in the eastern part of the state, and adjoining Indiana, from which it is separated by the Wabash river. It has on the north Crawford and Jasper, on the south Wabash and Edwards counties, on the cast the Wabash river, and on the west Clay county. From east to west its greatest extent is 31, and from north to south 19 miles; containing an area of about 560 square miles. This county is watered by the Embarras river and its tributaries, as well as by the head waters on the Bon Pas, and the Fox river of the Little Wabash. The banks of all these streams are low and subject to inundations. This is the case particularly with respect to the Embarras and the branches of the Little Wabash. It not infrequently occurs, that the bottoms of those streams, which are more than two miles in width, are covered with from four to eight feet of water, so as to render them entirely impassable; of course, travelling during these seasons is rendered difficult and unpleasant. In the low prairies near the Wabash, there are quagmires, called by the common people purgatory swamps, or devil's holes; the surface of these appears dry and level, but it generally rests on quicksands. Over some of these, bridges and levees are now constructed. In a dry season, the water evaporates, and the ground becomes firm. A great proportion of the land in the interior, and at a short distance from the stream, is prairie, most of which is fertile. The inhabitants of this county, in 1835, amounted to 4450.
Lawrenceville, the county seat, is situated on the west bank of the Embarras river, about ten miles west of Vincennes, on the direct road to Vandalia, from which place it is distant eighty-four miles. It is on an elevated ridge, in the centre of a fertile and well-settled country, and contains three stores, two groceries, two taverns, and sixty or seventy families; the court-house is of brick, and is a respectable building. A saw and grist mill is in operation on the Embarras, adjoining the town. Lawrenceville exports annually to the value of about 50,000 dollars, and imports 130,000 dollars.
The other towns in the county are Stringtown on the Embarras river, above Lawrenceville; Russellville, on the Wabash, in the north-east corner of the county; and Smallsburg, a few miles below Lawrenceville, on the Embarras. There are several populous settlements in different parts of the county; such as, Allison's Prairie, French, Lukens' Prairie, and River Precinct settlements.
Allison's Prairie, five miles north-east from Lawrenceville, is ten miles long, and five broad. The eastern part, towards the Wabash, contains some wet land and purgatory swamps, but the principal part is a dry, sandy, and very rich soil, covered with well-cultivated farms. Few tracts in Illinois are better adapted for the culture of corn than this. The population is about 200 families. This prairie was settled in 1816 and 1817, by emigrants from Ohio and Kentucky, and mostly of the religious sect known in the west by the name of Christians; and the settlement is sometimes called by that name. In a few years, death had thinned their numbers. The purgatory swamps, as they are called, around the prairie, had a deleterious influence, and retarded the progress of population. In later years, but little sickness has existed; and this settlement furnishes one of many evidences that upon the subjugation of the luxuriant vegetation with which our rich prairies are clothed, and the cultivation of the soil, sickly places will be changed to healthy ones.
French settlement, in the south-east part of the county, is ten miles from Lawrenceville. It is a timbered tract, and rather broken. Of the population, which consists of about sixty families, one-half are French.
The Indian Creek settlement is on Indian creek, a branch of the Embarras river, which rises in the prairies west, runs south-east, and enters that stream five miles below Lawrenceville. It has much good land in its vicinity, both timber and prairie, and a population of one hundred and fitly families.
Lukens' Prairie Settlement is in the south-western part of the county, from twenty to twenty-five miles from Lawrenceville. It has a population of from seventy to eighty families.
The River Precinct Settlement extends along the Wabash river, opposite Vincennes. It is on a rich bottom heavily timbered, and contains sixty or seventy families.