Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • 202 Early Farming on the Prairie

    Alvin & Robert's Uncle Burt spreading fertilizer.

    Robert tells about Blodgett Road.

    As you walk along the mowed path near the field to the north, consider some of the challenges to the early settlers as they attempted to farm the land. Sod busting, plowing through the deep rooted native plants, was nearly impossible until the advent of the self-scouring steel plow. Although John Deere is credited with this invention in 1837, a local man from Lockport, John Lane, had developed a similar plow in 1834. Mr. Deere obtained a patent on his invention. Mr. Lane did not.  


    The retreating glaciers of the last Ice Age, some 18,000 years ago, left a landscape of marshes, ponds and lowlands that often stayed wet well into the planting season. Farmers spent much time and effort digging ditches and laying field tile to drain their land to make it suitable for farming.


    Getting farm produced commodities to market in the early days was limited to what could be carried in a horse drawn wagon, until the completion of the I & M Canal in 1848 and the construction of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad through the area in the summer of 1854. The rail bed of that line is still in use today.


    It lies on the opposite side of Illinois Route 53, which you can see by looking northwest across the field. Illinois Route 53 was previously the famous Route 66, but when it was constructed in this area in 1922, it was just called “the concrete road”. It provided even more transportation options. The section of the road between Joliet and Wilmington is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    Continue on the path to sign #3. You are on old Blodgett Road, which was a main east/west road separating Florence Township to the south from Jackson Township to the north.