Madison County History and Genealogy

History and Genealogy

Fairfield Township History

Surface, Soil, Etc.

From History of Madison County, W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1883

Fairfield Township is much like Deer Creek Township and in fact much like the greater portion of Madison County in its surface and soil—very level, with slight undulations, especially along the creeks, as it has no large stream within its territory. In its original state, as the first settlers found it, there were quite large tracts of prairie scattered here and there over its surface, which was covered with a heavy sedge, which constituted quite a sustenance and helped to support the stock of the early settlers. The soil is principally deep, rich and composed mainly of loam and clay, with a limestone gravel as a subsoil, and being very flat and level and of a nature to hold water, was originally very wet and much of it, in wet seasons, covered with water; but which in later years is being ditched and drained, so that it constitutes excellent farms equally adapted for grass or grain. The timber portion of the township was never what could be called heavily timbered, consisting principally of white and burr oak and hickory. Like a great portion of Madison County, this township has never held great attractions in the line of heavy or valuable timber; hence, we would not expect to find any extensive business carried on here in the way of saw-mills or dealing in lumber, as is the case in some counties. One great attraction to the first settlers of this township and county was the prevalence of vast numbers of deer and other game, especially of the former, which were often seen in large herds, and it is said that probably no section of the State contained in an early day such vast numbers of deer, and held out such attractions to the hunter as did this couuty. Hence we find many of the first settlers here were "squatters," sportsmen, who located temporarily for the purpose of hunting and killing deer and other game, and they located along the creeks and streams and localities most frequented by these herds of deer, and there erected their rough and temporary cabins, and for a time gave their great attention to hunting. Finally, as game became scarce, they removed to other and fresher hunting grounds in the West, their places being filled here by the permanent settler, who located to make a home and a farm.

Not a hundred years ago this section of country was occupied by savages in their paint and wigwams. Next came the hunters and trappers following in their trail, with just a degree more of civilization and comfort. Then the pioneer settler appeared in his rude pole and log cabin, and these supplanted by substantial and comfortable hewed-log houses; and these again by good, attractive frame and brick houses. And finally, here and there, scattered over the now thickly populated country, and in the wealthy cities and their suburbs, appear the palatial mansions. What wonderful changes and progress in so brief a period! And not only is this progress and comfort exhibited in the dwellings and habitations of our people, but even a greater advance and progress has been made in all the arts and sciences. The invention of machinery, by which to expedite and carry on the work of agriculture with ease; the wonderful application of machinery to spinning, weaving and the manufacture of clothing and wearing apparel, and the astonishing result of application of steam power for manufacturing purposes, and in the transportation of the people and products of one section of the country to another. And Madison County and Fairfield Township have experienced and exhibited in their history these vast changes and progress. The log cabin of the pioneer, with its clapboard roof, greased paper windows and latch-string door are things of the past. The old wooden mold-board plow has been supplanted by the improved cast-steel and sulky plows. The sickle and the cradle—those implements so slow and tedious, and back-ache and side-straining tools, are now supplanted with the easy and rapid-working reaper and self-binder—the acme of genius.

The pioneer sold his corn at 6¼ to 12 cents per bushel; wheat at 25 to 40 cents, and often hauled it many miles to market over almost impassable mud roads, to get even those prices. Now, a short distance from his door, and that mostly over a good piked road, is the railroad station, where he can sell his grain, and it is shipped to distant markets in any part of the country, and he obtains a good price for all he has to sell: and not only his grain, but for all his stock and products of his farm.

The first settlers spun, wove and made all their fabrics and clothing. The buckskin pants of the hunter, the tow shirt of the pioneer and the linsey-woolsey for the women, all had their day and were succeeded by the finer and more attractive cloth and dress goods of the present generation. All this is well and shows the inventive genius and progress of our people. And as we view in retrospect this wonderful progress and development of our country and its people, it is to be regretted that society is rapidly being formed into castes, each of which, possessing different degrees of intellect or financial ability, is becoming socially isolated one from the other, tending to produce an aristocracy, a mediocrity and a commonalty, which in their extremes tend to weaken our usefulness and progress, and produce unhappiness by back bitings and efforts to pull down the one and build up the other. In the days of the good old pioneers, when neighbors were few and far between, how warm and friendly were their greetings! They would then go miles through the woods to assist one another to erect their log cabins. They would exchange help in manual labor, or in the necessary provisions and commodities of life, and cheer and encourage each other in the arduous duties of opening out and subduing this then wilderness.

Then the tow shirt and linsey dress were ample habiliments in which to mingle in worship in the house of God. The heart was satisfied; they loved God, and they loved each other. The eye had not learned to long for the gaudiness of dress, and when they met together to worship, the heart worshiped and not the eye. All were sociable and friendly; all were traveling the same road, with the same object in view—a home, comfort, happiness, peace and heaven. In the present age of wonderful progress, in all that pertains to the prosecution of the various branches of business in life, to acquire wealth and the comfort it brings, let the people nor forget the social and moral obligations they owe each to the other. And while man seems to be approaching Deity in inventive genius, may he advance and progress in a like ratio in his social, moral and religious obligations to his fellow-man, and let more of that true love and friendship of the worthy old pioneer be cultivated to the great comfort, prosperity and happiness of the people.

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