Putnam County

1860 History - Chapter XII


After outlining the history of the past in two of the most fertile and promising counties of the Prairie State, it would seem fitting that a view of their present development of population and resources, as exhibited in the results of the census of 1860, should conclude this work. We had hoped to have it in our power to present such an exhibit, which, it is confidently predicted, will be one of which the citizens of both counties may well be proud. But the unusual restrictions which the Government has seen proper to impose upon the officials engaged in the work of the census this year, forbidding the communication of facts or figures to the public, until they have gone the slow round of the "circumlocution office" at Washington, have debarred us from this privilege; and a few general statements relating to Putnam and Marshall as they appear in 1860 must suffice for the purposes of this publication.

Putnam County has been largely shorn of its former greatness of territory, having been reduced from 11,000 to 1,600 square miles, and at length, by successive abridgments, to about 160 square miles, which it now comprises. There is nearly the equivalent of four townships of land east of the river, and one on the western side. The country is quite equally divided into forest and prairie, but is all susceptible of cultivation—and, with rare exceptions, is under cultivation — save a few tracts of river bottom. The population numbers about 5,650, one person, a woman, having reached the advanced age of ninety-eight. The inhabitants will compare favorably with other communities in point of morality and intelligence; and several towns and settlements mentioned in the preceding pages comprise an unusual amount of intellectual and moral culture. The Illinois river passes through the county, and is navigable for several months of the year. The county is also interacted by Sandy and Clear Creeks, and other small streams, which furnish some water power to a number of mills upon their banks. The Illinois Central Railroad runs near the eastern border; the Peoria and Bureau Valley Road cuts the western part; and the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad passes within four miles of Hennepin. The Tonica & Petersburg Road, now in progress, will strike the county on the south-west, making Magnolia a point. With these facilities for transportation of surplus products, combined with the rare fertility of her soil and exemption from public debt, Putnam must become one of the wealthiest and most densely populated of the smaller counties of the State.

Marshall County, the youngest child of Putnam, save one, is unsurpassed in natural resources and capability of development by any county of Northern Illinois. It lies on both sides of the Illinois river, and contains nearly 400 square miles — eight full and six fractional townships. Its territory consists chiefly of prairie, with numerous groves and heavy belts of timber along the river and smaller streams, of which a number now through parts of the county. The Central Railroad taps it on the east, and the Peoria & Bureau Valley Road on the west, a little distance from the river. The Tonica & Petersburg Road, it is expected, will shortly be completed through the eastern half, and the American Central Railway (formerly the Western Airline) will intersect the entire county from east to west. Large amounts of work have been done on this important link in a national chain of railways, and hopeful arrangements are on foot for its speedy and entire completion. The machine-shops of the Road, by an order of the Directory, are to be located in Lacon and the project, if carried to a successful consummation, will add incalculably to the wealth of the county. The agricultural resources of Marshall are great, and have attracted immigrants from all parts of the country. Comparatively little of its territory is left unoccupied; and its population (now numbering nearly 14,000) is increasing from year to year.— Inexhaustible quantities of coal, limestone, and good varieties of building stone, are found in the river bluffs, and are believed to underlie great part of the county. The depression of the times removed, her resources fully developed and great public works constructed, it is fair to presume that Marshall will stand among the foremost counties of Illinois, in population, wealth, intelligence, and enterprise.

Source: History of Putnam and Marshall Counties authored by Henry Allen Ford, published in 1860

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