In thinking about the old cabin that we all are so proud of, we always marvel at the fact that those pioneers managed to land here in the 1820’s. Why this part of Illinois? Why section 22 in the Mackinaw Timber? The following maps may give us some clues and make us more aware of the circumstances of those times.
Notice on the map of Illinois below how the counties in the south and up the western side of Illinois are smaller and more tightly placed together. Those were the places that were settled first. Way back in the 1600’s the French, British, and Indians had used the Mississippi River as a main route on their hunting, trading, and warring expeditions. Remember that the first state capitol was on the Mississippi at Kaskaskia. Notice how the southeastern part of Illinois is also bounded by rivers, too. The Ohio and Wabash Rivers were magnets for settlement, too. That left nearly the upper third of Illinois as the last frontier to be settled in this state. When the pioneers arrived from mainly Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky in the 1820’s to 1830’s, the best land to stake a claim on was in that northeastern uninhabited part of Illinois. This sometimes surprises people because now our most inhabited part of the state is to the northeast around Chicago, exactly the opposite of what it was then.
Most of the Indians of Illinois had found refuge in the north part of the state at that time also. Those who were left around this part of the state were supposedly docile and friendly for the most part so that fact was another point that made the Mackinaw Timber a good settling place.
One article we read noted that the feared malaria diseases, that were so prevalent in the more heavily timbered woods of the east of those days, were lessened when the timbers were accompanied by the open fields of the prairies. Those combinations of woods and open prairies were found in this part of the state, too, so that was another desirable feature.
Have you ever wondered exactly where the old Patton Cabin was built and what the immediate area around it was like? The following map shows in a yellow box the area of section 22 (NE corner of the SW quarter) of Lexington Township where the Patton’s raised their cabin. Note that the Patton Creek winds through that part of the section, too, so John Patton picked a good place to try to build his mill.
On the map we have marked section 20 in light green. It was supposed to have been the center of the Indian grounds in the Mackinaw Timber. The small green square is the location of the old Indian Field Cemetery where some Indian remains were eventually buried.
The red dot is the site of the old Rainbow bridge, the common crossing spot on the Mackinaw in that area and so popularly used that it was one of the first bridges built.
So if you are traveling by web, be sure to check out the new Patton Cabin site noted above, and if you are out looking at historical sites in the Lexington area, check out the original landscape where the first settlers stopped as they made new homes in the Mackinaw Timber.