Page images


[ocr errors]

by digging or boring, pure water can be had, or what might be still better for family use, cisterns can be sunk in the earth at a trifling expense, to save all of the rain-water from buildings. When the new settlers get the conveniences of life around them, the prairies will be regarded as more healthy than the Eastern States.

“ The fevers of the West will never be a match for the consumption of the East."

In a letter written by Joseph C. Orth, Esq., of McCleary's Bluff, Wabash County, we find the following:

“ As to health, I honestly believe Southern Illinois will compare favorably with any portion of the West. That scourge of the north, consumption, is almost unknown here. On the rich lowlands, bordering the streams, bilious disorders prevail to some extent, in the fall, but on the upland, good health may be enjoyed, with ordinary prudence. Diseases, the result of miasma, prevail in every new country south of the 11th parallel of latitude, when the virgin soil is first turned over and exposed to the atmosphere. It was so in the Genesce Valley, in New York, and in the Valley of the Miami, in Ohio; and it has been so in Illinois; but the country becomes more healthful as it grows older. A great deal of ague and fever is attributable to errors in diet, to imprudent exposures, to uncomfortable dwellings, and to the use of well-water where it leaks through the soil, instead of flowing through veins in the rock. By occupying comfortable tenements, avoiding needless exposure, eating suitable food, and using only sweet, pure, cistern water, for drinking and culinary purposes, as good health may be enjoyed in Southern Illinois as any where in the Union."

Lastly, Edward Harkness, Esq., of Southport, a resident in Peoria County, for twenty years, communicates the following:

“ Those who have been induced to believe that Illinois is a very unhealthy country, would do well to examine the census-tables of 1850, and compare the bills of mortality with those in the States reputed to be healthy. I have not now those tables at hand, but well remember that the deaths for one year previous to June, 1850, was a less ratio in Illinois than in Massachusetts, and was considerably below the general average in the United States. The facts and figures of the cen. sus ought forever to stop the babblings of interested parties, who wish


to divert western immigration to some other quarter. But they have repeated the falsehood so often, that many of them, no doubt, now believe it themselves. What, it may be asked, is there in the soil, elimate, or habits of the people, to make Illinois an unhealthy country? The land is well drained—we have few pools of stagnant waters. The table lands, which comprise at least nine-tenths of the country, are high, dry, and fully exposed to the sweep of the wind. Our springs break out of the mountain limestone, and above the universal layer of stone there is no coal or other mineral deposit. The wells are sunk into clay, sand, or gravel, and very seldom reach down to the limestone. IIence the water from our wells and springs is very pure and good. With plenty of pure air, pure water, and wholesome food, is there any good reason why we may not live as long as other people? The only native of mature age, whom I know, is now 14 years old, 6 feet 1 inch high, and weighs 220 lbs.-is not overburdened with flesh, but is lithe, active, and strong. His oldest son is 15 years old, 5 feet 8 inches in height, weighs 140 lbs., and is a man at most kinds of business. Neither the father, the son, nor the still younger members of the family, have ever been seriously ill in their lives. The generation which has sprung up in the last twenty years, in this region, bears every mark of vigorous health.

“It is common among persons not very well informed, to think that where they happen to live, is a very healthy place, but off somewhere else, it is terribly sickly. And here I must be permitted to relate an anecdote, by way of illustration : While travelling along the national road in Indiana, many years ago, I met a moving family; an old man with bis wife, two married daughters with their husbande, and some younger scions of the same stock, making twelve souls in all. They had a light wagon, which contained all their worldly goods—this had sunk into a deep mud-hole. Their two lean hories had been down in the mire, but bad just been unharnessed and got out. One of the young men was absent in search of a team to Laul out the wagon. The women had kindled a fire, were smoking their pipes, and at the same time bestowing upon their husbands all the terms of reproach they could muster, for bringing them from a nice, beautiful country, into such a horrible place. During my stay to help them out of the difficulty, my conversation with the old woman was about as follows :




“You speak of having come from a beautiful country. May I ask where you are from ?'

Old woman. “'Way down below Norfolk, in old Virginny.' “Very fine country, that, I am told. Do you have the ague there?'

Old woman. “* Wall, we do have the ager proper bad sometimes, and the fever too.'

“6 Are you ever troubled there with musquitoes ?'
Old woman. «Yes ! they are bad most all the year.'
"It is a fine place to raise corn, is it not ?'

Old woman. ««Wall, when I was young we used to raise pretty good corn, but the land is so worn out, we can't get much now.'

“ « llave you and your family generally enjoyed good health ?' Old woman. "La me, no! we've been sick most half our lives.'

“The appearance of the whole family testified to the truth of the old woman's remark; for they all looked more like shadowy ghosts, than veritable men and women with flesh upon their bones, and blood in their veius. Merely because they had encountered a slight difficulty in the way, these poor women were abusing their husbands for bringing them from the most miserable, forsaken spot on the American continent. I the poor woman and her family all the words of encouragement I could muster—the wagon was got out of the mudthey went on their way, and I have not since heard from them. But from what I know of the history of the class to wbich they belonged, it is fair to presume that these poor creatures have gained their health, have gradually surrounded themselves with the comforts of civilized life — that their frugal mode of living and habitual industry have enabled them, without the exercise of much intellect, gradually to accumulate property—that with this accumulation has come a greater self-respect, and a disposition to so educate their children as to fit them for a higher sphere of usefulness than their fathers were able to occupy. Thus it often happens that the grand-children of the poor, degraded sand-billers, when subjected to the vivifying influence of the Free West, become men, bigh-minded, honorable, useful men!"

Mr. Harkness, in the above passage of bis letter, refers, with regard to the respective mortality of Illinois and of other States, to the census of 1850. Page 105 of De Bow's Compendium of the seventh census, contains a review of the deaths which occurred in the single States,


and of the ratio they bear to the entire population; according to which Compendium there died of the population

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Thus, of the above enumerated 12 States, in which many of those Eastern States are included that are habitually considered far more healthy than the West, as for instance, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, Illinois at once assumes the first rank in point of salubrity; for wherever fewest people die in proportion to the entire population, there human life must undoubtedly be considered safest from the insidious assaults of disease.

We cannot conclude this chapter without once more directing the attention of the settler to the fact, that pure wholesome water is a most important item in the bill of health. Ile who is no friend of disease, should particularly avoid drinking stagnant water. This can be easily done, for everywhere throughout the State, at a depth of from twelve to twenty-four feet, a large supply of excellent water can be had, and, moreover, the digging of a well is neither a very difficult nor expensive affair. Proper care should be taken to make the well deep enough, walling up its inner side with bricks, or blue clay, to the depth of several feet below the surface, lest the water on the surface of the ground might trickle down in the well, thus wholly frustrating your endeavor to obtain a supply of pure fresh water. Cisterns, if possible, should also be sunk to save all of the rain water from the roofs of the buildings; this, if properly filtered, is not noxious, and is readily drunk by those accustomed to it. The water of springs, which in many parts of the State are very numerous, is of course to be preferred to all others, provided, however, the springs, from which a supply of water is to be obtained, do not proceed from sloughs, since the water of such springs or rivulets is exceedingly unwholesome.

« PreviousContinue »