Madison County History and Genealogy

History and Genealogy

History of Madison County

Pike Township Surface, Soil, etc.

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

The surface of this township is level, except along the streams and small creeks, much of it being prairie and oak openings. All that portion between Little Darby and Barron Run extending to the north line of the township, is very level and a beautiful country; also, all west of Barron Run and between that stream and Spring Fork is the same. On the Little Darby and along Barron Run and Spring Fork, the surface is quite uneven, and in a few places to some degree hilly. The soil of the level and prairie portions of the township consist principally of a black loam, whith here and there a locality of clay and loam. It is very deep and rich, naturally producing an exuberant growth of grass and vegetation. Along the creeks and streams the soil is principally clay, but very strong and productive, so that throughout the township we may say the soil is very rich and fertile. The subsoil is clay and gravel, with usually a third stratum of blue clay and disintegrated limestone. The township from its first settlement has been peculiarly adapted to stock-raising, and that business has always received a large share of attention from its most wealthy citizens, and they have given considerable attention to the improving and raising of fine blooded stock. But as the lands become divided up into smaller farms, as the tendency is from year to year, and the soil better ditched, tiled and drained, so it becomes better adapted to the cultivation of all the grains. Tile factories are now becoming very numerous throughout this county and State, and, in fact, all over the country wherever the soil needs underdraining; the abundant use of tile is producing remarkable results. Much of the low, flat prairie lands, which a few years ago was almost useless from the great surplus of water in them, and in which stock would almost mire, and which were never attempted to be plowed or cultivated in grain, are now by this process of tiling becoming some of the best wheat and corn-growing lands in the county. This township and this county, which, but a few years ago scarcely produced grain enough for the home consumption, is now exporting vast quantities of both wheat and corn, and the time is not far distant when the county will rank among the first grain-producing counties of the State. The forests and timber of this township are similar to those of the other townships and the county generally. On the creeks and small streams it was generally heavily timbered. On the creek bottoms were a considerable quantity of walnut, and back from the creeks and on the rolling lands were white, black, red and burr oak, hickory, elm, ash and some beech and cherry. On the level lands were the oak openings, of which the leading timber was burr oak, with some considerable hickory and a less amount of white oak, elm and a few other varieties. One noticeable and peculiar feature of the timber of this township, which appears to be a common condition of most of the country composed largely of prairie and timer, where the general course of the streams is south, southeast, is, that for a short distance on the east side of the creeks, the timber was of a much heavier and denser growth than it was westward from the creeks. And on the east side of the Darby, in particular, was where the beech and a few other varieties were found and not much in other localities. It is quite probable the principal reason of the timber being less heavy and dense on the west side of the creeks, was in consequence of the yearly fires which swept over the prairies, which destroyed the undergrowth and more or less checked the growth of the large timber; and as these fires usually reged from west to east, these streams or creeks served as a barrier which the fire could not overleap; or, if it did, was so checked in its power that it would burn with much less violence and destructive power until ti would get some distance again from the creek, when, from being fanned by the breezes and increased combustible matter, it would again sweep forward with great velocity and violence until again checked by another stream, or the want of combustible matter to keep up the flame.

Although this township was not settled quite as early as some other portions of the county, yet we find them quite early taking possession of the lands along the streams where the more elevated and drier lands were tenable. But many of these were mere squatters; being possessed of no means, they never purchased any land in this locaility, but remained here a short time and enjoyed the pleasures of hunting where there was an abundance of deer, turkeys and other game, made some improvements and quietly enjoyed their possessions without any great amount of investment. Finally, as other settlers came in and purchased the lands, or as they became dissatisfied, they moved away to enjoy other homes and hunting-grounds. Some of these, though not owners of their homes, or possessed of wealth, yet were good, moral and religious men and women and good citizens, and exerted quite an influence in forming and molding the general character of the community. Many of these having resided here but a short time and the older of the pioneers who at that time knew them well, having passed to "that bourne whence no traveler returns," leaves but little source for us at this late day to gain any special or exact knowledge of them, especially as to positive date of their settling here; but believing some of this class of persons to have been among the first settlers of this township, we shall give their names with what little we could learn concerning them, without giving the date of settlement, and will call them pioneers.

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