HOW THE TERMS SAVANNA, BARRENS, AND OAK OPENINGS WERE USED IN EARLY ILLINOIS
Colonel Croghan concluded, "It is surprising what False information we have respecting this Country some mention this Spacious and Beautiful Meadows as large and Barren Savannahs I apprehend it has been the Artifice of the French to Keep us ignorant of the Country These Meadows bear fine Wild Grass and wild Hemp 10 or 12 Feet High which if properly Manufactured would prove as good and answer the Same purposes of the Hemp we cultivate" (Alvord and Carter 1916). It appears that George Croghan used both savannah and meadow in reference to open grassland, which he distinguished from both dense forest ("thick Woods") and open woodland ("thin Woodland" or "clear Woods"). Croghan's descriptions are very general, so some of the land that he called "savannah" most likely had scattered trees rather than being completely treeless.
In the summer of 1773 Patrick Kennedy set out with an exploring party in search of a legendary copper mine along the Illinois River. Kennedy's journal repeatedly describes the "timber" and "meadows" along the route. At or near present-day Havana, he noted, "We encamped on the south-eastern side of the Illinois river, opposite to a very large savannah, belonging to, and called, the Demi-Quian swamp. The lands on the south-eastern side are high and thinly timbered; but at the place of our encampment are fine meadows, extending farther than the eye can reach, and affording a delightful prospect. The low lands on the western side of the Illinois River, extend so far back from it, that no high grounds can be seen. Here is plenty of Buffalo, Deer, Elk, Turkeys, &c." (Kennedy 1778).
In 1778 another Briton, Thomas Hutchins, wrote of Calhoun County, which forms the peninsula between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers: "At the distance of about nine miles from the Mississippi, up the Illinois River, are seen many large savannahs, or meadows abounding in Buffalo, Deer, &c." (Hutchins 1778).
The eighteenth-century British had adopted the term savanna from the Spanish, who spoke of la sabana in reference to tropical and subtropical areas dominated by grasses and other herbaceous vegetation, with or without widely spaced trees or shrubs (see Huber 1987). French colonists referred to grasslands that they encountered in eastern North America as les prairies, which means "meadows." The first French exploration of Illinois, conducted by Joliet and Marquette in 1673, reported that the land was equally divided into les prairies et les forests (Thwaites 1899).
Louis Hennepin, a member of the second French expedition to Illinois, stated, "There are Meadows Ten or Twenty Leagues broad, encompass'd with fine Forests; behind which are other Meadows, in which Grass grows six Foot high." In this quotation from Father Hennepin's book, A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, the Illinois grasslands are termed meadows rather than prairies because his book was translated to English before being published in London in 1698. If the early British usage had continued to be followed, we might be referring to Illinois prairies as either meadows or savannas.
Constantin François Chasseboeuf de Volney, a French geographer who visited the United States in 1796-97, noted that savannah and prairie were synonyms: "There are likewise considerable openings in the western regions especially between the Wabash and the Mississippi, on the banks of Lake Erie, and those of the St. Laurence, in Tennessee and Kentucky, where the nature of the soil, or, more frequently, the annual or ancient conflagrations of the Indians, have opened vast deserts, called savannahs by the Spaniards, and prairies by the Canadians. These bear no resemblance to the arid plains of Arabia and Syria, but remind us rather of the steps or grassy wastes of Tartary and Russia" (Volney and Brown 1804). A map in Volney's treatise labels south-central Illinois as "Desert Savannahs."
François André Michaux, a botanist of French descent, traveled in the Ohio River valley in 1802. His journal, which was translated to English and published in London in 1805, refers to meadows and savannas instead of prairies: "The custom of burning the meadows was formerly practiced by the natives, who came in this part of the country to hunt; in fact, they do it now in the other parts of North America, where there are savannas of an immense extent. Their aim in setting fire to it is to allure the stags, bisons, &c. into the parts which are burnt, where they can discern them at a greater distance" (Michaux 1805).
Although the savannas observed by early writers may have locally had some trees, the term savanna was generally used as a synonym for prairie. An excerpt from Benjamin Harding's 1819 description of Illinois demonstrates this use: "This country possesses large and extensive savannas or prairies, so called, resembling large flat plains here the traveler is struck with wonder and amazement here he may, in many places, travel from the rising of the sun to its going down, without once having a hillock or tree presented to his eye nothing but grass of a luxuriant growth, waving in the breeze. These places, it is supposed, were once covered with sturdy timber, but owing to their continual burning over by the aborigines, in order the better to take their game, makes them appear what they do now. . . . It will probably be some time before these vast prairies can be settled, owing to the inconvenience attending the want of timber."
J.E. Worcester wrote in an 1823 geography text, "A very remarkable feature of the western country consists in its extensive prairies or savannas, which prevail, to a great extent, in all the vast region between the Allegheny and the Rocky mountains, and also to the west of the Rocky mountains. More than half of the country included between the rivers Mississippi and Ohio and the great lakes, consists of prairies."
J.M. Peck's Gazetteer of Illinois (1837) states, "Prairie is a French word, signifying meadow, and is applied to any description of surface, that is destitute of timber and brushwood, and clothed with grass. . . . Probably one half of the earth's surface, in a state of nature, was prairies or barrens. Much of it, like our western prairies, was covered with a luxuriant coat of grass and herbage. The steppes of Tartary, the pampas of South America, the savannas of the southern, and the prairies of the western states, designate similar tracts of country.
Ellen Bigelow wrote of a journey across northern Illinois in 1835, "We were at times in the midst of this vast expanse of plain, where not a tree was visible. Far as the eye could reach, nothing could be seen but `Airy undulations' and smooth savannas" (Bigelow 1929). And when Catherine Stewart wrote of "uninterrupted savannas, so level, as to make a carriage seem almost self-propelled" on the west side of the Fox River in Kendall County in 1843, she was contrasting this open prairie with the dense woods on the east bank of the river (Stewart 1843).
In an article for the Illinois Farmer titled "Evergreen Trees on the Prairies," J.P. James (1857) wrote, "The belief is very common, almost universal, that evergreens cannot be made to live and thrive on the prairies. . . . But evergreens will grow, they do grow to perfection on these broad savannas . . . . If planted on the natural prairie sod, a large excavation should be made, and filled with fine surface soil . . . ."
In an 1866 essay "On Prairies," A. Fendler discussed grasslands in Venezuela as well as Illinois. He referred to the Illinois grasslands as prairies, and he referred to the Venezuelan grasslands as either savannahs or prairies: "Fire I consider by far the most powerful and the principal agency that gave prairies and savannahs their existence, extending them in the course of time and still busy in extending them. In the prairies of Illinois, . . . on the llanos of Venezuela and the high savannahs of the mountainous district of the same country, I have seen the forest-destroyer at work. . . . no instance ever came to my knowledge in which a high prairie (savannah) once firmly established was encroached on by the extension of a forest . . . ." And further discussing Venezuela: ". . . the forest can be changed into prairies or savannahs more readily than in other situations having the same degree of humidity . . . ."
William Cullen Bryant employed savanna and prairie interchangeably, as in "The Hunter of the Prairies":
For here the fair savannas know No barriers in the bloomy grass; Wherever breeze of heaven may blow, Or beam of heaven may glance, I pass.
After he took an excursion across central Illinois in 1832, Mr. Bryant penned "The Painted Cup," which reads in part . . .
The fresh savannas of the Sangamon, Here rise in gentle swells, and the long grass Is mixed with rustling hazels. Scarlet tufts Are glowing in the green, like flakes of fire; The wanderers of the prairie know them well, And call that brilliant flower the Painted Cup.
The above poems appear in Bryant (1896). In the opening lines of his classic "The Prairies," published in Chicago by the Prairie Farmer in 1841, Bryant acknowledged that the English language lacked its own word for our native grasslands:
These are the gardens of the Desert, these The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful, For which the speech of England has no name The Prairies.
The term savanna appears occasionally in reference to other places in early Illinois. For instance Samuel Brown's 1817 Western Gazetteer mentions a "beautiful savanna of 100 acres, 60 or 70 feet above the river" at Wilkinsonville, on the Ohio River in Pulaski County. According to H.F. Kett and Company (1878), the town of Savanna in Carroll County received its name "from the low, grassy character of the land upon which the village was commenced."
Savanna has gained wide acceptance among nature preservationists and natural area managers in the United States as a term for natural communities that are transitional between open grassland and closed forest. The term savanna appears in the first American treatise on the preservation of natural areas: the Naturalist's Guide to the Americas (Shelford 1926) discusses Illinois in a section headed "States Chiefly Oak Grove Savanna."
The following pages consist of excerpts from early writings that use the term barrens (or barren) in reference to Illinois. Each account begins with the source of the statement, a date, and the geographic area covered by the observation. If two dates are given, the first year is when the author made the observation, and the second year is when the statement was published. In some instances the observation is in a publication authored or edited by someone other than the person who made the statement; in such instances the name of the author or editor is in parentheses with the year of publication.
Some descriptions of Illinois barrens are in county history books published between 1876 and 1920. These county histories usually present descriptions of the landscape in the form of anecdotes and general reminiscences; they hardly ever cite a specific date for a description, but they usually refer to the era of white settlement (generally between 1820 and 1860 for most counties).
Following the source, date, and location are one or more words or phrases that show the terminology and the context in which the terms are used. If more than one such excerpt appears, they are separated by a slash ( / ). The balance of each entry consists of quotations that show how the author defined or described barrens or barren areas. The excerpts within each paragraph have been arranged under four headings: physiography, soil, vegetation, and fire.
Different excerpts from the same source are separated from each other by a slash or by a heading within the paragraph. Ellipsis marks ( . . . ) indicate where words have been omitted from the middle of an excerpt, for the sake of brevity, ellipsis marks have not been added to the beginning or end of excerpts. Other punctuation (including parentheses and brackets) is the same as in the original source. Wording, capitalization, and spelling are true to the original source. Writing in the 1700s and 1800s was not well standardized; the term sic has not been used to indicate passages that may appear to have mistakes.
Baldwin (1877), La Salle County. Barrens, as they were termed fire: It was the opinion of the early settlers, that at that time, the prairie was encroaching upon the timber; in fact, the bluff timber was all old, and a majority of the trees injured by the fire, and there was no young growth; an ox gad or a hoop pole could not be found except in some sheltered nook of the bluff, or on the sheltered alluvial bottoms, but as soon as the barrens . . . were protected from fire, they rapidly grew up with a thrifty crop of well-set timber, showing that the fire had been the only impediment to that result. / The prairie, although protected from fire, did not rapidly grow to timber, for the reason there were no roots or germs to start from, as there was in the barrens / After the lapse of more than forty years, the old timber has nearly all been removed, and the fires checked and finally effectually stopped by the improvements of the settlers; that which was then timber lands, or barrens, has grown a thrifty crop of young timber, not only of oak and hickory, but where the soil is deep and rich, a sprinkling of walnut, linden, and other varieties of what was termed bottom timber, being then confined to such localities. The rapidity with which timber spontaneously starts wherever the germs exist, and its rapid and thrifty growth, show that our soil is inherently a timber soil, and that in the not very distant future, our State will be better supplied with good timber than those States originally covered with a heavy growth.
Ballance (1831, in East 1937), Fulton County. Barrens vegetation: thinly timbered
Ballance (1870), Peoria County. What is characteristically termed the Barrens soil: not a poor soil, but . . . a firmer soil, containing less loam and more clay vegetation: is neither timber nor prairie, being covered with scattering trees, . . . and has quite a different flora
Battle (in Perrin 1883a), Clark County. What was termed in the vernacular of the frontier, a "barren" vegetation: In the vicinity of Mill and Big Creeks the timber early gained the ascendancy and clothed the somewhat broken land adjoining these streams with a heavy forest growth, but elsewhere the township was generally covered with an almost impenetrable undergrowth of willow, hazel, and blackjack, while here and there, towering above the underbrush, an occasional shag-bark hickory flaunted its lofty top. fire: debatable ground where the wild fires and timber met on somewhat equal terms and either might claim the mastery
Battle (in Perrin 1883a), Crawford County. The original character of the country included within these limits was part, "barrens" and part true prairie. fire: The whole surface, however, was such as to afford but little obstacle to the progress of the regular fall fires, and only here and there a good sized tree stood out upon the blackened plain as evidence that the whole land had not been vanquished by the fiery onslaught. But the first settlers found further evidence of the character of the land, in the roots or "grubs" which still remained in the ground, and it seemed an aggravation of the usual hardships of pioneer experience that the condition of the prairie land forced the new-comer to select the poorer land.
Bateman, Selby, and Carpenter (1909), Boone County. Large tracts . . . called `barrens' vegetation: scrub oaks and other small timber
Bateman, Selby, and Dyson (1908), Schuyler County. It was barrens vegetation: the grass was high. fire: The first settlers one spring left the grass unburnt. The grass extended for half a mile around a snake den, and when they had come out pretty thick, the grass around the edges was fired and the settlers followed the fire, armed with clubs, and, I think I am right in saying, that in one day they destroyed well on to a thousand. There were grooves worn in the sand rock there of truly serpentine courses, from a quarter to half an inch thick, showing this to be an ancient den, perhaps as old as the pyramids of Egypt.
Bateman, Selby, and Martin (1915), Cass County. what are called the "barrens," pronounced by the early settlers "barns." physiography: Between the prairies and the Illinois and Sangamon valleys are the timbered lands, beginning at the edge of the prairies and extending to within a short distance of the valleys where they end in high and sometimes very abrupt bluffs, having little or no vegetation upon them. Others of these bluffs slope more gently to the valleys beyond, and are covered with wild grasses that furnish grazing for stock a large portion of the year. soil: This name was given to these lands because their fertility was supposed to have been very much exhausted and nonproductive by reason of the variety of trees growing on them, and also on account of the fires running through them from the prairies, which it was believed cooked the soil. The very fact that these lands were covered with the excellent growth of timber found there, indicated the productiveness of the soil, and the settlers soon learned that the land known as the barrens when cleared and put under cultivation, produced magnificent crops of cereals, especially winter wheat. Indeed many of the so-called barren farms have become equally productive of as great a variety of vegetables, cereals and tame grasses as the prairie farms.
Birkbeck (1818), east of Vincennes, Indiana, opposite Lawrence County, Illinois. "Barrens" physiography: generally level soil: land of middling quality / dry vegetation: thinly set with timber, or covered with long grass and shrubby underwood / gaudy with marigolds, sunflowers, martagon lilies, and many other brilliant flowers
Bogardus (1850s, in Bogardus and Foster 1874), Menard County. Across barrens / in the oak barrens vegetation: barrens on the edge of the timber / brushy land of the oak barrens
Bourne (1820), "on the high plains in the west parts of Kentucky, in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri." The Barrens, so called from their sterile appearance / They have features in common with the prairies, but are essentially different in many respects. physiography: They occupy the highest part of the country, and are generally level; some of them uneven, but I have seen none hilly. soil: They are generally poorer than the timbered land in the vicinity, but in some spots they may be richer. / The soil is not a recent alluvion like the prairies; and if it is not primitive, it is at least as old as any other parts of the great western valley. vegetation: They are spotted with innumerable groves or clusters of stunted oak and hickory trees, of about half the size which the same kind are on the timbered land. / Small prairies are sometimes found in the barrens, and the prairies near the heads of creeks are so blended with the barrens in many placers, that it is difficult to determine where the one ends or the other begins.
Campbell (1856, in Campbell and Grant 1971), Cass County. What is called the Barrens soil: it yields first-rate crops of wheat (exceeding those on the prairies) but for corn the prairies beat it a little. vegetation: It is not as the name seems to indicate barren, but is covered with scrubby oaks and brush, and requires grubbing before it can be plowed.
Chas. C. Chapman and Company (1879), Tazewell County. Barrens vegetation: Barren Oak, or "black jack," is found mostly in sandy barrens. It seldom exceeds 25 feet in height. Leaves, wedge-shaped and three-lobed.
Dana (1819b), Jersey County. A space of about six miles square . . . which may be considered rather a barren than a prairie. physiography: more rolling . . . than on the other parts of the prairie / some springs of water are to be found; but not so frequently as on the prairie vegetation: thinly covered with small stinted oaks / the grass shorter, than on the other parts of the prairie.
Dana (1819a), Western Illinois. Another species of prairies may more properly be denominated barrens physiography: very rolling, and often much broken by what are denominated sink holes soil: productive of wheat, clover, timothy and fruit trees vegetation: timber scattering and of stinted growth, commonly small oak and hickory; the wild grass short.
Engelmann (1863), Jackson and Perry Counties. The character of vegetation known in that section as "barrens" / The "barrens," as the term is understood in the district to which I have reference / The "post-oak hills" resemble in most respects the barrens / within the region of the barren country physiography: Where there are extensive uplands not level enough to form prairies, but laid out in more or less broken waves / They occupy that portion of the upland the surface of which is too uneven for prairies and flats, partly gently undulating, partly sharply rolling or even moderately broken. soil: subsoil is . . . white sandy loam . . . their surface-configuration affords a complete drainage, and they have therefore sustained a better vegetation and have formed some inches of a good soil considerably charged with humus. vegetation: hills covered with a dense growth of tall grasses, without or with only scattering large trees / At some points we find in the barrens single large post oak, as we do on the flats; generally the young growth on the poorer ridges is post oak (Q. obtusiloba) and black oak (Q. tinctoria) with some blackjack (Q. nigra), in the hollows hazel and sumach, and on the finer rolling lands post oak, black oak, barren hickory (Carya tomentosa), hazel, &c. The growth varies considerably according to local circumstances. fire: The progressing cultivation has however changed their aspect considerably, and large portions of them now have a dense growth of young timber. / Other lands very similar to the barrens, in regard to soil and situation, are timbered with post-oak forest. The annual fires which swept over the country assisted in keeping down timber, and in giving the grass entire possession; and perhaps the latter was necessary to prepare the soil for the subsequent growth of timber. In some thinly settled neighborhoods we still find the barrens covered with rank coarse grass, but generally a dense growth of small oak is springing up spontaneously, and at many places very vigorously, especially in the more inhabited districts. / the prairie growth is undergoing a considerable spontaneous change with the progressing settlement and cultivation of the country. Since the prairie grass is no longer burnt off annually, as it used to be by the Indians and early settlers . . . and since the grass is continually cropped close and tramped down by cattle, the former vegetation of the prairies has gradually given way to softer and shorter grasses, and at somewhat broken points even shrubs and trees have begun to sprout up.
Engelmann (1865b; see also Engelmann 1865a, 1865c), extreme southern Illinois. Most characteristic are the oak barrens or the yellow loam regions. physiography: gently sloping, partly rolling or broken ridges soil: Their soil and subsoil are a yellow more or less arenaceous loam which reaches to a considerable depth. They are most characteristically developed where the loam is least arenaceous and in the finest state of comminution. vegetation: Their natural growth then consists principally of an abundance of small brushy barren oak, [an upland variety of the Spanish oak, which is confined to the southernmost end of the State,] together with hazel, sassafras, grape vines, and sumach, which are more or less interspersed with large bitter-oak, some post-oak, white-oak, black-oak, white hickory, pignut, black gum, and a few other species. Where the soil becomes more sandy the white-oak grows more numerous and larger, and then a growth of hickories and walnuts preponderates over the barren-oak growth. On the more level land, which has not quite as perfect a surface-drainage, the white and black oak grows less, and finally the post-oak prevails, and we then find post-oak flats similar to those farther north.
Engelmann (1865b; see also 1865a, 1865c), southwestern Illinois. Barrens / grass-barrens physiography: For those not familiar with the lands in Southern Illinois, I will have to give an explanation of the terms of post-oak flats and barrens. / The barrens occupy the slopes and hills between the prairies or flats and the creeks, and have a rolling or broken surface. soil: The barrens are principally distinguished from the flats by their surface configuration, which affords a perfect surface drainage. Their soil also varies more in its composition, in consequence of an admixture to it of materials from the strata which form the hills and crop out in the slopes which form the barrens. / The barrens are dry early in the season when the prairies and flats are still wet. / The line between the flats and barrens is by no means so sharply drawn as it might appear from the foregoing remarks. We find all gradations of surface configuration, soil and vegetation between the two types. vegetation: They were originally, and some are still, covered with a dense growth of tall grasses, without or with only scattering large trees. Many of them are now covered with a dense growth of scrubby young timber, and some have a good growth of black oak, post-oak, etc. / Before long the last of the grass-barrens will be naturally changed into forests, principally of black-oak and post-oak.
Engelmann (in Worthen et al. 1866), Massac and Pope Counties. The rolling yellow loam oak barrens / In this eastern extension of the oak barrens physiography: rolling soil: yellow loam vegetation: where the oak brush is generally quite small, and the tall barren grass, the original growth of the yellow loam lands, still prevails / the principal growth is still the barren oak and post oak, with some black oak, barren hickory, sassafras, hazel and sumac, interwoven with grape vines. Where the land is more broken, and sandy sub-strata happen to reach near the surface, the black oak becomes more numerous, and some white oak is found; at other points the laurel oak, and especially where the gravelly sub-strata approach the surface, and from this or other causes the soil is drier, the black-jack is found.
Engelmann (in Worthen et al. 1866), Pulaski County. The adjoining barren region / may be designated as oak barrens. / the oak barren growth / the barren growth / barren oak growth / yellow loam barren region physiography: alternations of gently sloping, more or less sharply rolling or broken ridges soil: yellow, finely-arenaceous loam, and reaches to a considerable depth / These oak barrens are sparingly cultivated at present, but are susceptible of a high state of cultivation. Their soil is strong and has all the elements of fertility in a considerable degree. / The oak barrens are most characteristically developed where the loam is least arenaceous and in the finest state of comminution; where it is more sandy, more white oak and then a hickory and walnut growth preponderate over the barren oak growth. / This yellow loam barren region is confined to and co-extensive with the district occupied by the Tertiary formation, and it seems as if the loam was mainly derived from the disintegration of the argillaceous shales and arenaceous silt of this formation. vegetation: characterized by an abundance of small, brushy bitter oak, an upland variety of the Spanish oak, a tree which is hardly found any where farther north, and replaces the black oak and black jack, which diminish in numbers and soon disappear, when the bitter oak begins to prevail. The bitter oak usually forms a dense under brush, together with an abundance of hazel, sassafras and sumac, and is more or less interspersed with large bitter oak, together with some post oak, white oak, black oak, barren hickory, pignut hickory, black gum, in some places small yellow poplar, in others a few winged elm; at some points, also, with the laurel oak and the scalybark hickory.
Engelmann (in Worthen et al. 1868), Jefferson County. More oak-barrens vegetation: a growth of black-oak, white-oak, post-oak, hickory, etc.
Engelmann (in Worthen et al. 1868), Marion County. The post-oak flats and barrens are still developed to a considerable extent / The barrens are most perfectly developed vegetation: the grasses are being gradually superseded by a growth of timber; and we find on them principally post-oak, and small black and white-oak, together with hazel and sumach / a growth of white-oak, black-oak, barren hickory (Carya tomentosa), and other trees
Engelmann (in Worthen et al. 1868), Washington County. The oak and grass barrens physiography: wherever the ridges are . . . more rolling and broken
Farnham (1839/1988), Lee County. Barrens physiography: The bank of the river is broken, and bold bluff of lime-rock rises abruptly to a considerable height above the lower level, the summit of which is wooded with open, beautiful barrens.
Ferrall (1830/1832), Edwards County. A wood of scrub-oak, or barren vegetation: We were driving along . . . when our carriage, coming in contact with a stump that lay concealed beneath high grass, was pitched into a rut it was upset and before we could recover ourselves, away went the horse dashing through the wood, leaving the hind wheels and body of the vehicle behind.
Flagg (1836/1838), south-central Illinois. The region through which, for most of the day, I journeyed was that, of very extensive application in the West, styled "Barrens" / barrens or "oak openings," as they are more appropriately styled physiography: usually . . . as well watered . . . as may be found / at intervals through the foliage flashes out the unruffled surface of a pellucid lake. soil: by no means implying unproductiveness of soil / usually . . . as fertile . . . as may be found vegetation: heterogeneous character, uniting prairie with timber or forest / Beneath the trees is spread out a mossy turf, free from thickets, but variegated by the gaudy petals of the heliotrope, and the bright crimson buds of the dwarf-sumach in the hollows. Indeed, some of the most lovely scenery of the West is beheld in the landscapes of these barrens or "oak openings," as they are more appropriately styled. For miles the traveler wanders on, through a magnificence of park scenery on every side, with all the diversity of the slope, and swell, and meadow of human taste and skill. Interminable avenues stretch away farther than the eye can reach fire: The rapidity with which a young forest springs forward, when the annual fires have once been stopped in this species of land, is said to be astonishing; and the first appearance of timber upon the prairies gives it the character, to some extent, of barrens.
Flint (1832), Mississippi River Valley. The country denominated `barrens,' has a very distinct and peculiar configuration. / the barren trees / the region of the barrens physiography: undulating with gentle hills / long and uniform ridges soil: for the most part of a clayey texture, of a reddish or grayish color / never exceeds second rate in quality, and is more generally third rate / favorable . . . to the growth of wheat and orchards vegetation: covered with a tall coarse grass / trees are generally very sparse, seldom large, or very small / chiefly of the different kinds of oaks
Gates (1916-18, in Kibbe 1952), Hancock County. Oak barrens vegetation: Lechea / L. tenuifolia Michx. (Narrow-leaved Pinweed.) Upland timber soil. Tops of limestone cliffs, Cedar Glen, in very dry soil; dry soil in the tops of high banks above Williams Creek, in oak barrens; "Dry wooded bluffs, Cedar Glen"
Gleason (1922), Midwest. The so-called barrens vegetation: areas characterized by a sparse growth of "scrub" oak (apparently Quercus velutina in most cases), hazel, and wild plum. The exact cause of the barrens is unknown, but descriptions from early literature and accounts of personal observers in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa agree that these three species of plants were the principal, if not the only, woody species present, and that they seldom exceeded four or five feet in height. fire: Another effect of prairie fires was the production of the so-called barrens / They seem to represent a late stage in the degeneration of the forest, where seedlings were established and the young plants burned to the ground frequently without completely destroying the root system. This developed further each year, reached a large size, and sent up sprouts annually which persisted a year or two longer before the next fire again killed them to the ground. / Large areas of barrens were converted into forest as if by magic, when the fires that had maintained them were stopped and the oak sprouts became trees.
Graff (1853), Edgar County Region. In many instances simulating what in the west is denominated "Barrens." physiography: the situation of the ground is elevated above that of the surrounding country, occupying what is denominated a ridge soil: the quality of the soil is in general of an inferior description. vegetation: The growth of timber is not observed to be so luxuriant as in situations otherwise similar, but is scrubby, and stunted in its perfect development
Green (in Worthen et al. 1870), Henderson County. The timber lands or "oak barrens" physiography: along the bluffs and on the uplands soil: a clay loam, frequently containing but a small percentage of humus, and partaking largely of the nature of the subsoil, which usually lies but a few inches below the surface. / Along the slopes, the soil is usually much richer and darker colored, except near the top, where it has been nearly or quite washed away, and the subsoil appears. / A few vineyards have been started . . . which appear to be doing well. The finest orchards in the county are found along these bluff lands, which are better adapted to fruit growing than those of the prairie. vegetation: The timber found upon these lands is principally red, black and white oak, and shell-bark and bitter-nut hickory.
Green (in Worthen et al. 1870), Mercer County. So-called "barrens" physiography: along the borders of the streams soil: similar to that of the prairie, only lighter colored and of less depth / In some portions of the barrens, there is but a thin covering of soil, and in these places it is quite light colored, showing that but little humus is present.
H.F. Kett and Company (1877b), Rock Island County. Timber barrens physiography: rough land soil: white, thin soil / the least valuable portion of the county for agricultural purposes.
H.F. Kett and Company (1877a), Winnebago County. A tract of barrens vegetation: covered with brushwood and a rather light growth of white oak and black jack timber
Hoffman (1906), La Salle County. Barren land fire: By a prairie we mean a comparatively level treeless region. People wonder why trees grew only along the bluffs and banks of streams, though we know trees will grow on the prairie. The most acceptable theory is that because of the washing of the soil on the hills near streams, the soil was not so rich and was subject to drought and grass did not flourish, so the seeds of trees readily took root. Farther back from the streams the land was wet and swampy. Here grass grew luxuriantly and every year was burnt off by prairie fires. The fires were stopped by the barren land near the streams and thus the young trees were not destroyed. But out on the prairie the fierce flames of the burning grass killed every tree that started.
J.L. McDonough and Company (1883), Edwards County. In the northern part were the "barrens," as they were called vegetation: covered with a low growth of brush, over which deer could be conveniently brought down by the hunter.
Johnson (in Perrin 1883b), Jefferson County. The eastern part of this township consisted of open barrens physiography: somewhat broken or rolling vegetation: open barrens, as if a few trees had been scattered over . . . prairie fire: The annual autumnal fires, sweeping over all, burned out and kept down the undergrowth; and the woods were so open, the trees so lofty, the branches so high, and the ground so bare of anything like a bush, that game could be descried in any direction at almost any reasonable distance. A deer could be seen a quarter of a mile in the woods, and a man on horseback nearly a mile, at any point where there were no intervening hills to stop the view.
Jones, A. (1838), Illinois. See the entry under Oak Openings.
Jones, G. (1831-32/1838), western Indiana, near the Grand Prairie of Illinois. My residence was on the border of what are there called "the barrens" physiography: The surface of the ground in the wooded portions is also quite unique. It is rolling, but the swells here instead of being long and regular as in the districts of the larger prairies, are short and abrupt. They are generally from twenty to forty feet in height soil: a district sufficiently fertile, but so called from its being less productive than the rich open prairie country adjoining. / the . . . "wet prairies" . . . soil, a black tenacious mud, is of unknown thickness. In some places they have reached to a depth of fifteen feet without penetrating it. / I have spoken of the soil in these small prairies: that of the wood land which is intermixed with them is entirely different. / while the soil of the prairies . . . is a thick black mud, that of the wooded portions is sandy. On the surface it is composed of a yellowish sand, mixed sufficiently with decayed grass and leaves to give it a kind of ash color. At the depth of three or four inches we come to a purer sand with a slight intermixture of clay. / I dug into the side of one of the hills of the "barrens" and was surprised to find at the depth of thirty inches sand almost entirely pure. Vegetation: This is the strip of land two or three miles wide which they call "the barrens." This consists also of an intermixture of prairie and wood land, but the prairies here are quite small, are lower by ten or twenty feet than their adjoining wooded borders and are what are termed "wet prairies." In winter they are usually covered to a depth of from one foot to three feet with water and are dry only in midsummer. They produce a rank grass that often grows to the height of nine or ten feet / These prairies vary in extent from two acres to three or four hundred acres; it is not often, however, that they attain the latter size, the average being about eighty acres. The trees in this district are almost uniformly white oaks: hickory occurs sometimes but in most cases of small size. You are, I suppose, aware that throughout the woods of the prairie country, there is seldom any undergrowth. The oak trees of the "barrens" often attain a height of forty feet without a branch and are perfectly straight. The little prairies are numerous, occupying about half of the land; their outline is waving and abounding in every variety of form, one prairie often leading by a narrow passage into another: the trees are frequently grouped in a manner that art would fail to imitate, presenting glades and other openings: being free from underwood we can see among them to a great distance, and the appearance of this region either in solitude or when the roads winding over it are enlivened by passengers, or the deer are seen feeding on its luxuriant grass or bounding over its hills, is very beautiful. I have not seen a gentleman's park any where in England that I thought could equal what nature has here spread out with a lavish hand.
Kennicott, J.A. (1853), Extreme Southern Illinois. See the entry under Oak Openings.
Kennicott, J.A. (1859), Illinois. What are called "dry clay barrens," in the West soil: dry clay / As a rule, . . . are best for fruit, other things being equal
Leeson (1887), Stark County. "Barrens" soil: The soil is a common dark-colored loam, and when properly drained and cultivated is everywhere productive, except the "barrens," a small tract of sandy soil.
Little (1861), Illinois. See the entry under Oak Openings.
Marsh (in Bateman, Selby, and Lorimer 1903), Mercer County. The barrens or brakes physiography: along the streams soil: The soil of the prairie is a deep black chocolate-colored subsoil; in the brakes or timbered portions, the soil is very much thinner and of a much lighter color. vegetation: mostly covered with timber
Matson (1867), Bureau County. Most of it was . . . called barrens vegetation: timber . . . of an inferior quality
Mead (1872, in Kibbe 1953), Illinois River Valley. Barrens vegetation: Phlox bifida Bk grows in sandy Barrens East side Illinois river from Beardstown North to opposite the mouth of Spoon river, where Dr. Beck wrote me he first found it.
Mead (1880, in Kibbe 1952), Hancock County. Barrens vegetation: Leptodea was abundant here last season, in dry barrens.
Miles (middle to late 1800s, in Farmington Shopper 1921), Knox County. The land . . . was called barrens soil: the word was a misnomer for the barrens is now the home of some of our most progressive and well to do citizens. vegetation: land where the scattered trees grew
Patterson (1874), Henderson County. Barrens vegetation: Delphinium azureum / Prairies and oak barrens throughout the county, near the Mississippi.
Peck (1836), Illinois and Kentucky. Barrens . . . in the western dialect / The term barren has since received a very extensive application throughout the West. physiography: In general . . . more uneven or rolling than the prairies, and sooner degenerates into ravines and sink-holes. / a greater abundance of pure springs soil: does not indicate poor land / This appearance led the first explorers to the inference that the soil itself must necessarily be poor, to produce so scanty a growth of timber, and they gave the name of barrens to the whole tract of country. Long since, it has been ascertained that this description of land is amongst the most productive soil in the State. / a considerable diversity of soil / the soil is better adapted for all kinds of produce, and all descriptions of seasons, wet and dry, than the deeper and richer mould of the bottoms and prairies. vegetation: a mixed character, uniting forest and prairie / The timber is generally scattering, of a rough and stunted appearance, interspersed with patches of hazel and brushwood / a dwarfish and stunted growth of timber, scattered over the surface, or collected in clumps, with hazle and shrubbery intermixed. / Dwarfish shrubs and small trees of oak and hickory are scattered over the surface fire: where the contest between the fire and timber is kept up, each striving for the mastery / When the fires are stopped, these barrens produce timber, at a rate of which no northern emigrant can have any just conception. Dwarfish shrubs and small trees of oak and hickory . . . for years . . . have contended with the fires for a precarious existence, while a mass of roots, sufficient for the support of large trees, have accumulated in the earth. / As soon as they are protected from the ravages of the annual fires, the more thrifty sprouts shoot forth, and in ten years are large enough for corn cribs and stables. As the fires on the prairies become stopped by the surrounding settlements, and the wild grass is eaten out and trodden down by the stock, they begin to assume the character of barrens; first, hazle and other shrubs, and finally, a thicket of young timber, covers the surface. / The rapidity with which the young growth pushes itself forward, without a single effort on the part of man to accelerate it, and the readiness with which the prairie becomes converted into thickets, and then into a forest of young timber, shows, that, in another generation, timber will not be wanting in any part of Illinois.
Peck (1821-57/1857; see also Peck 1859), St. Clair County. I settled on a tract of "barrens" physiography: The surface in barrens is more undulating than the prairies, and while it drains off the water from excessive rains rapidly, it also has its soil washed away where the surface slopes, or small ravines exist. soil: Then these barrens had a thinner and lighter soil at first than the soil of the prairies in this part of the State. vegetation: so called from the timber being stunted, shrubby and scattering; with patches of prairie, intermingled with patches of under brush, of oak and hickory, growing from grub roots. fire: On such tracts of new country, the autumnal fires contend with the annual growth, and partially or wholly kill the young timber, until new settlements are made and the prairie grass killed out.
Perrin (1883a), Crawford County. But the largest portion of Montgomery was called "Barrens" vegetation: called "Barrens," on account of its barren appearance, being almost entirely destitute of timber, except a few scattering, scrubby oaks and shelbark hickories. fire: The barrens were caused by the great fires which annually swept over the prairie districts. After the prairie grass burned, the fire died out, the barrens disappeared and the heavy timber began.
R.M.Y. (1836), Western Illinois. There is another description of lands denominated the barrens physiography: generally rolling, and often much broken, being intersected at very short intervals by numerous ravines, which connect themselves to some water course in the neighborhood soil: thin vegetation: neither timber land nor prairie, but partaking partly of each, and lying between them. / generally overgrown, first with hazel thickets, and afterwards with scattering trees of oak and hickory, generally of stinted growth / wild grass grows taller than upon the smooth prairies, but is generally of a course, rough quality, being much inferior to prairie grass, both for grazing and for hay fire: oak and hickory, generally of stinted growth, owing, no doubt, to the injury they receive when young from the frequent burnings of the prairies
Regan (circa 1842/1859), Fulton County Region. We, therefore, continued on through five or six miles of barrens vegetation: a thin and scattering growth of timber
Renick (1819, in Henlein 1956), Lawrence County. A wet land inclinable to Barrons / timbered land wet and Barrony vegetation: timber hiccory Blackoak and some white and Barron oak / timber hickory black white and Barron oak
Reynolds (1879), Illinois. Barren lands fire: I have witnessed the growth of the forest in these southern counties of Illinois, and know there is more timber in them now than there was forty or fifty years before. The obvious reason is, the fire is kept out. This is likewise the reason the prairies are generally the most fertile soil. The vegetation in them was the strongest, and the fires there burnt with the most power. The timber was destroyed more rapidly in the fertile soil than in the barren lands. It will be seen that the timber in the north of the State is found only on the margins of streams and other places where the prairie-fires could not reach it.
Rice (1912), Peoria County. On sandy barrens vegetation: we meet with Chrysopsis villosa.
Rich (1832, in Rich and Smith 1965), White County. I came upon the "barren plains" vegetation: "grown up to" small oaks from 4 to 8 inches in diameter
Ridgway (1873), lower Wabash River Valley. "Barrens" vegetation: sections covered with a scrubby wood of small but growing trees, their growth choked with a nearly impenetrable jungle of varied shrubbery. / Many former prairies of often ten miles or more in breadth are now entirely overgrown with a dense scrub of hazel (Corylus Americana), sumac (Rhus several species), blackberry (Rubus villosus), wild plum (Prunus Americana and P. chicasa?), crab apple (Pyrus coronaria) "queen of the prairie" (Spiraea lobata), wild roses (Rosa Carolina and R. setigera) and other kindred shrubs, or small trees, among which spring up a more scattered growth of forest-trees, chiefly oaks (as the Q. obtusiloba, Q. nigra, and a variety of Q. falcata) and hickories. For floral display, no sections of the country are so beautiful as the "barrens." The crimson cones of the sumacs; the showy climbing rose (Rosa setigera), which ascends through the trees to their very tops; numerous flowering vines, among which the Leguminosae and Caprifoliaceae contribute each a variety of species; and the host of gaudy-flowered plants belonging to the Compositae, which still linger as remnants of the prairie vegetation, produce not only a gaudy, but also a richly varied appearance, which is still further beautified by the lovely vine-canopies with which many of the trees are clothed. fire: Comparatively few years ago they were all open grassy prairie, but as soon as the country became settled the young trees began to sprout up, until gradually they have become entirely clothed with thick young forest. Twenty years from now, they will have lost their present character, and become transformed into the usual woods of the region. / It is asserted by all the old settlers of the country, that there is now a far greater area of timber in this section than there was twenty, thirty, or even forty years ago, notwithstanding the fact that the timber is constantly cut for fencing, building and other purposes to which civilization sacrifices the forests. The encroachment of the woods upon the prairies goes rapidly and steadily on, and seems to supply new timber faster than the old is destroyed.
Robinson (1834 & 1842, in Kellar 1936), Lake County, Indiana, Adjoining Will and Cook Counties, Illinois. "Barrens" soil: these tracts are called "barrens;" but why so called, when the soil is of the best quality, I cannot explain. vegetation: Large tracts of land in the prairie region are covered with a growth of scattering timber, void of undergrowth, and frequently not unlike an orchard or artificial park, the ground covered with grass fire: there is no decaying timber here (the great source of miasma) even in the timbered land. It is all burnt up annually, as the Indians make it a point to fire the Prairies every fall, and all of the timber here is so combustible that it burns so entirely as to leave no trace even of the stumps. Perhaps this is the way the Prairies are first made. / In some groves when the country is first settled, there is little or no under growth; but by keeping out the fires, it soon springs up very thick, so that it would be necessary to grub out the under growth. Generally speaking, however, the growth of timber should be constantly and carefully promoted, and then in fifty years there would be more timber in the prairie region than now.
Robinson (1839, in Kellar 1936), Lake County, Indiana, adjoining Will and Cook Counties, Illinois. "Barrens" soil: The bur oak. / The tree requires a very strong soil. / the soil being deep, the roots are situate so far below the surface that they offer no obstruction to the plough, and these barrens are often ploughed without removing the timber. vegetation: I shall send a box or bunch of the Bur oak acorns / it does not grow commonly in "thick timber;" but it is found covering very large tracts of land called "barrens," an inter-medium between prairie and timber; after growing so isolated as to have the appearance of a scattering orchard and having a strong resemblance to the work of man. You may travel miles before the country is settled, through these "barrens" with a carriage, without any obstruction. In these barrens the trees never grow large
Robinson (1841, in Kellar 1936), Lake County, Indiana, adjoining Will and Cook Counties, Illinois. "Barrens" Vegetation: The timber in the groves or islands that abound throughout this sea of grass, is most commonly short, and grows thin upon the ground, without underbrush, except at the edges, where the hazel bush seems to be encroaching upon the prairie. There are large tracts of timber land called "barrens," which are about half way between prairie and timber land the tree standing apart like an orchard, and the ground covered with grass, the sod of which is much less tough than that on the prairie.
Robinson (1842, in Kellar 1936), Lake County, Indiana, adjoining Will and Cook Counties, Illinois. Here the word "barren," suggests an idea. soil: the gravelly or sandy barren knoll
Robinson (1845, in Kellar 1936), Scott County, Missouri, opposite Alexander County, Illinois. Barrens Vegetation: This day in a 20 mile drive over mostly poor sandy black oak barrens, and across a small sandy level prairie, I passed through a couple miles of Cypress swamp
Ross (1899), Fulton County. What is now called "barrens" and underbrush fire: There is one thing that has altered the looks of the country very much since it was first settled, and that is the extensive growth of young timber and brush, unknown in pioneer times. Before the county was settled by white people, prairie fires were permitted to sweep through the country every year, and they destroyed what is now called "barrens" and underbrush. The smooth prairies came square up to the distinct groves of large timber. In those days a man traveling through Table Grove, and many of the other groves in the county, could see a deer 500 or 600 yards away in the prairie; but twenty-five or thirty years later a deer could not be seen a distance of fifty yards because of the growth of the brush and young timber. There was no such land in the county as that now called "barrens." The groves were very beautiful before any of the timber had been cut, and before there was any undergrowth.
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Boone County. These are margined with hills to some extent, and hilly barrens. physiography: hilly / Wide stretches . . . extend for miles along the streams and over the intervening highlands. vegetation: rather light timber and brushwood
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Henry County. The land almost approaches the character of barrens physiography: interspersed with ravines and elevated ridges vegetation: partially covered by a somewhat stunted growth of oak timber
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Lee County. Qak barrens physiography: A large part of the township of Viola, and parts of the townships of Reynolds, Bradford and Lee Center, are taken up by the Inlet or Upper Green river swamps. / Hills of almost indurated sand rise in chains and clusters and groups from the midst of some of the swamps. / Some of them are forty or fifty feet high / The sloughs and swamps wind through them in many places, dark bands of green vegetation and glancing patches of water amid sand deserts and oak barrens. vegetation: covered with scattering but stunted trees
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Ogle County. Barrens physiography: The rough, hilly part of the county, along the streams vegetation: covered with a fair growth of the usual white and black oak timber. None of it could be called heavy timber, and some of it is brushy barrens.
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Putnam County. A tract of rough or barren land / tracts of rough barrens physiography: rough / somewhat rough . . . intersected by numerous ravines / rough lands / rough soil: although not so well adapted to agriculture as the more level portions of the State, will produce fruits in perfection, and the cereals grown upon them have a plumper berry and more weight than those grown upon the flat prairies. vegetation: more or less covered with a scattered growth of oak timber
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Stephenson County. See the entry under Oak Openings.
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Whiteside County. Barrens physiography: Along the western bluffs, and through the township of Ustick, the surface is rough and covered with oak barrens.
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Winnebago County. The face of the country is . . . barreny physiography: rough, hilly vegetation: brushy, and covered with an occasional growth of fair timber.
Shepherd (1850), Illinois and Wisconsin. See the entry under Oak Openings.
Short (1845), Illinois. `The Barrens' / the `bushy barrens' and `oak openings,' soil: the poorest soils vegetation: tracts somewhat intermediate . . . being sparsely covered with oak trees of several different kinds, and of considerable size, with a dense undergrowth of various shrubs and annual plants. / tracts of country which seem to be in a state of transition from more open prairies to densely timbered forests. / occupied mostly with the different kinds of oak, among which the post-oak, (Quercus obtusiloba,) and black-jack, (Q. ferruginea,) are most prominent.
Thomas (1816/1819), east of the Wabash River in Indiana, opposite Lawrence and Crawford Counties, Illinois. We then passed through barrens (so called) physiography: an undulated plain / The low ground is wet prairie / Every little knoll of only two feet in height supports a grove. soil: produced corn of uncommon luxuriance. / dark fertile sand vegetation: To the left . . . thinly timbered by oaks without underbrush . . . and on our right the scene was variegated with lawns and groves.
Thurston (1836/1971), Tazewell County. What is called here "Barrens" soil: rather dry ground vegetation: This was covered with a variety of beautiful flowers which seemed like one continuous garden; I could gaze at nothing else.
Winchell (1864), Mississippi River valley. "Barrens" physiography, soil, and vegetation: Around the borders of the prairie were the ancient sand dunes, blown up while yet the prairie was a lake bottom. A peculiar vegetation would suit itself to so purely arenaceous a soil; and an occasional tree would be able to plant itself along the belt thus destined to become the "barrens."
Woods (1819/1822), Edwards County. We passed a small Prairie, and soon entered the woods again, and then some barrens. / I thought these barrens a poor sample of the country. / After passing these barrens for more than a mile vegetation: a barren island nearly destitute of timber, but much overrun with scrubby underwood
Worthen (in Worthen et al. 1868), Jackson County. At some points the country assumes the "barren" character more conspicuous farther north / This "barren" soil / post-oak flats, which gradually change into "barrens" physiography: At many points the prairies, without any change of surface level, are surrounded by post-oak flats, which gradually change into "barrens" and post-oak hills. soil: extremely fine, whitish, arenaceous loam vegetation: the characteristic timber is post-oak.
Worthen (in Worthen et al. 1868), Perry County. Passing locally into the broken grassy upland, known as "barrens." / The "barrens," as that term is understood in this region / within the barren region physiography: broken . . . upland / low hills and ridges soil: white sandy loam, but their surface-configuration affords a complete drainage, and they have therefore sustained a better growth of vegetation, which has formed a few inches of good soil, highly charged with humus. The "barrens" become dry early in the spring, from their better surface drainage, and resist the drought better than the "flats," because the soil is more porous, and absorbs more moisture from the atmosphere. vegetation: grassy / covered with a dense growth of tall grasses, and quite destitute of timber, or with only a few scattering trees. / The "barrens" merge into the post-oak hills, which are similar ridges, covered with a heavy growth of timber, consisting in part of post-oak, with the black-oak, black-jack, hickory, etc. fire: The absence of timber on them appears to be due to the annual fires that sweep over them, fed by the tall grasses that cover the surface, a conclusion that is sustained by the fact that as the country is settled, and the fires are kept out, a vigorous growth of young trees soon covers the surface.
Wright and Wight (1844), Illinois. What are called "barrens" fire: A traveler in passing through Kendall and Lasalle counties and those which lie south . . . till he arrives in Sangamon will have on his left a large prairie / we were gratified in noticing the progress which the young timber had made and is making wherever it has the necessary protection. So surely does a young growth spring up after settlement, that we could generally pretty nearly tell how long a particular section had been settled, by the size of this young growth. As we advanced southward, we found it to increase in size, till in Sangamon and Morgan counties it frequently constituted a forest of half grown trees. Sometimes this younger growth formed a piece of woodland by itself, and sometimes it has sprung up amid the scattering trees, which form what are called "barrens" the old trees of which now stand like patriarchs watching the thrift of their stalwart progeny. If those among us, who are so careless of their shrubby grounds as to suffer the fires to run through and kill the young shoots every season; while they mourn over our scantiness of timber, could but look at these young forests, they might calculate precisely how long it would take to balance timber and prairie on their farms. We have not a doubt, judging from observation on the ground, that by far the greater half of the timber in these two counties has grown there since the country was settled. In Woodford, which is a new county, we found this young growth about large enough for hoop poles. We traveled one day seven miles in this county through a grove of this sort, which consisted almost exclusively of hickory and which generally extended on one side but a little distance in width, but on the other as far as we could see. We are satisfied more and more, that one of the surest ways for a farmer to make money is to keep the fires out of every rod of his grounds on which there are any signs of a shrub starting.
Barren was sometimes used as an adjective to describe bare or very sparsely vegetated sand deposits; five examples illustrate this usage. In 1820 Henry Schoolcraft observed that the vicinity of the Grand Calumet River near Chicago was "very barren, and uninviting" (Quaife 1918). In 1836 John Thurston found the Lake Michigan shore in the vicinity of Chicago to be "a barren sand bank with high sand hills occasionally that have been drifted up in dry weather by the winds," and "a perfect barren waste till you get some miles from the lake" (Thurston 1971). E.W. Nelson (1876) described "the Pinery" along the Lake Michigan shore on the line between Indiana and Illinois as "a peculiar, sandy, barren tract of land partly covered by a sparse growth of pines and deciduous underbrush, with, near the lake, patches of juniper." In 1870 H.A. Warne wrote of the Chicago vicinity, "In the barren sandy soil along Lake Michigan we find plants suggestive of the sea shore." In 1870 F.H. Bradley wrote of Iroquois County sand areas, "They are in some places entirely barren; in others, they are covered by a thin growth of oaks and hickories" (Worthen et al. 1870).
The adjective barren was also applied to sparsely vegetated areas caused by locally high concentrations of sodium in the soil of southern Illinois. For example, Henry Engelmann wrote of Clinton County, "Where the soil becomes shallow, and the hard-pan reaches the surface, there we find the so-called `scalds,' or barren spots, in the fields" (Worthen et al. 1868). G.C. Broadhead wrote of Effingham County, "On the prairies in this county there are often found `scalds,' or spots of barren and almost entirely unproductive land; fresh plowings often disclose spots of light and dark soil" (Worthen, Broadhead, and Cox 1875). These barren areas are called "slick spots" today.
The following quotations have the same format as in the preceding section on barrens.
Babcock (1872-73), Chicago and vicinity. Oak openings vegetation: Aquilegia, Tourn. A. canadensis, L.; oak openings at Hyde Park, woods at Summit and Riverside. / Arabis, L. A. lyrata, L.; oak openings and gravelly banks, Hyde Park and S.E. / Silene, L. S. stellata, Ait.; oak openings, S. / Aster, L. . . . A. sericeus, Vent.; oak openings at Hyde park and S.; common.
Bateman, Selby, and Wilcox (1904), Kane County. Oak openings physiography: The surface of this township was far more broken into knolls and short ranges of hills some of them quite high, and with deep sloughs and water-holes between than any other portion of the county vegetation: Nearly all the dry land was covered with oak openings, but there was no real timber land in the township.
Bebb (1882), Winnebago County. Oak-opening vegetation: I remember well, for instance, how here in Rockford, Ill., say twenty years ago, the indigenous plants of the prairie and oak-opening sprang up on every side in close proximity to the beaten paths of busy men. / Now we must go miles out into the country for material and count ourselves fortunate, even then, if the little vestige of the native flora which last season afforded us a dozen desirable specimens has not since been swept away by the plow
Benton (1833, in Benton, Angle, and Getz 1957), Lake and McHenry Counties. Oak openings physiography: The lake was surrounded by oak openings vegetation: The oaks were straight and very handsome. I thought them the most beautiful that I ever saw.
Ellsworth (1880), Marshall County. Oak Openings Fire: The first settlers around the timbered sections of Richland Township could see over the tops of the undergrowth around the borders of the woods, then confined to the brows of the hills and ravines. Then, deer and cattle could be seen browsing in the thickets where are now trees from thirty to seventy-five feet in height. Scrubby oak openings have given way to bodies of tall timber, hazle brush thickets to groves of thrifty young walnut and hickory trees, and the boundaries of timber in places have extended far into what were then marshy prairies, covered with weeds, grass and clumps of willows. The improvement of the prairies put a stop to the yearly destruction of the woods by fire, young trees began to grow, and rapidly spread and matured into fine new forests; and now the general outlines of the timbered localities bear no resemblance to those of forty or even twenty-five years ago. Within the memory of Mr. Barnes, and probably many other of the pioneer settlers, the splendid oaks and other trees which constitute the grove south of Lacon were small bushes, many of them, in fact, just peeping through the surface.
Engelmann (in Worthen et al. 1868), Clinton County. An intermediate district occupied by oak-openings physiography: They often form a sort of a second bottom, only a very little elevated above the heavily timbered bottom. / These openings are by no means confined to low ground, but occur also on the highest prairies vegetation: where patches of prairie alternate with clumps of trees, mainly consisting of the water-oak. / Their principal growth appears to be the pin-oak or water-oak, while at other points we observe also much laurel-oak, especially where the ground is somewhat higher, and forms the margin of an upland prairie.
Ferguson (1855/1856), upper Midwest. In this region we begin to find the "oak-openings" physiography: undulating plains vegetation: forest-glades . . . covered with close, rich turf, and dotted all over with fine groups of well-grown oak-trees; the general appearance resembling a well-kept English park, though in extent seemingly boundless
Flagg (1836/1838), South-Central Illinois. See the entry under Barrens.
Gleason (1922), Midwest. Oak openings fire: Prairie fires were set annually by the Indians in the autumn months to drive game from the open prairies into the forest, where it was more easily stalked. Sweeping eastward before the prevailing westerly winds of that season, the fires destroyed seedling trees at the west margin of the forest, preventing further advance in that direction. It is doubtful if they penetrated far into the forest, but by destroying the undergrowth and killing the more susceptible species, they gradually reduced the forest to the open park-like condition known as oak openings. Here the herbaceous vegetation was composed largely of prairie grasses, which furnished additional material for fires and led to the annual extension of the prairie through the eventual death of the remaining trees.
Jones, A. (1838), Illinois. These are the "barrens," or "oak openings," as they are called physiography: The openings are all on unequal nay, broken ground high abrupt hills and gentle swells, alternated by deep precipitous ravines or most picturesque valleys soil: a fine silicious loam and not more than from eight inches to eighteen in depth, but rich, and well adapted to produce the lighter grains and corn, with a careful culture. vegetation: composed of large trees of the various kinds of oak, hickory, maple, elm, etc. These trees are quite sparsely scattered around, making a most beautiful park, entirely free from underbrush, and the ground is covered with a luxuriant growth of grass and flowers. / of perfectly easy access even with a carriage. Nothing can exceed the beauty of these unique forests no art or man's device could have accomplished on so grand a scale a work so perfectly splendid and enchanting. fire: The secret of the openings lies in the annual conflagrations which pass over all the prairies and barrens of the west. This yearly burning consumes all the new trees and shrubs, and leaves the ground entirely unencumbered. The old trees, likewise, are annually diminishing in number. Scarcely a tree but is marked with fire, and when once the bark is penetrated by the fire, and the wood of the tree seared, the fire takes a readier and deeper hold thereon, until at last it overpowers and destroys it, and the tree falls with a startling crash, and generally consumes before the fire dies out, unless a violent rain extinguishes it, and leaves it for food for the next annual passage of the devouring element. I beheld many a line of ashes, marking the spot where the entire trunk of a massy oak was consumed the previous autumn.
Kennicott, C. (1860), "in the North-West." In oak openings vegetation: Ceanothus americanus . . . New Jersey Tea. Wild Snowball. Redroot. / it is found growing abundantly in oak openings and thin woods. It is a shrub from one to three feet in height, with a thick reddish, exceedingly variable root, which it is difficult to dislodge with the plow.
Kennicott, J.A. (1853), Extreme Southern Illinois. There are, just above Cairo, on the route of the road, a succession of hilly oak openings / in the "barrens" physiography: hilly / knolls, ravines, and sloping hill sides soil: with a good compact soil, over a pervious subsoil of clay and gravel, or seam rock, affording natural, or susceptible of very ready artificial drainage / the proper home of the vine, and also of many stone-fruits, . . . will be great for the strawberry; while the stiff clay, so prevalent in the "barrens," will favor the apricot, nectarine and plum, and at the same time give little encouragement to their deadly enemy the curculio.
Latrobe (1832-1833/1835), Michigan and Illinois. Among the `oak-openings' / Michigan and Illinois abound with these `oak-openings.' physiography: ordinarily dry and rolling / Sometimes the openings are interspersed with numerous clear lakes, and with this addition become enchantingly beautiful. soil: a rich vegetable soil, generally adapted to . . . agriculture vegetation: so termed from their distinctive feature of the varieties of oak which are seen scattered over them, interspersed at times with pine, black walnut, and other forest trees / The trees are of medium growth, and rise from a grassy turf seldom encumbered with brush-wood, but not infrequently broken by jungles of rich and gaudy flowering plants, and of dwarf sumac. Among the `oak-openings' you find some of the most lovely landscapes of the West, and travel for miles and miles through varied park scenery of natural growth, with all the diversity of gently swelling hill and dale here, trees grouped, or standing single and there, arranged in long avenues as though by human hands, with slips of open meadow between. fire: Over this class of Prairie the fire commonly passes in the autumn, and to this cause alone the open state of the country is ascribed by many; as, whenever a few years elapse without the conflagration touching a district, the thick sown seeds of the slumbering forest, with which the rich vegetable mould seems to be laden, spring up from the green sod of the country. The surface is first covered with brushwood composed of sumac, hazel, wild cherry, and oak; and if the fire be still kept out, other forest trees follow.
Little (1861), Illinois. "Oak openings," "clay barrens" soil: A timber soil, . . . appears to be better adapted to the production of fruit, than our prairie soil. Trees fruit younger and seem to devote their energies to the production of fruit, rather than wood. Yet, on such a soil, trees grow fast enough.
Owen (1839/1840), Jo Daviess County and Adjacent Region. Called, in the west, "oak openings" vegetation: land covered with a small growth of oak, standing from ten to twenty feet apart
Rice (1912), Peoria County. Called by the settlers Oak Opening physiography: bluffs and points vegetation: a few white oaks, black oaks, bur oaks and red oak trees, also several varieties of hickory, were scattered
Ridgway (1873), lower Wabash River Valley. The "Oak Openings" are a beautiful modification of these woods, and form a feature strikingly characteristic of the prairie regions of the Mississippi Valley; and nowhere are they more attractive than in southern Illinois. vegetation: They are usually found in the region where the timber and prairie meet. Their most striking peculiarity is the symmetrical shape, uniform size and compact foliage, of the prairie oaks (different species, according to the locality, but usually the Quercus imbricaria, Q. nigra or, in damp situations, Q. palustris), which, almost exclusively, compose them, and especially the smoothness and fresh appearance of the clean, bright green sward beneath them. / when viewed from across a meadow, the groves present a symmetry in the trees, a uniformity in their size and shape, and a compactness and richness of foliage, never excelled, and seldom, if ever, equaled, in the best-kept artificial park. The lower branches of all the trees begin at a uniform level, and the space beneath is left perfectly free from brushwood or rubbish of any kind, so that under the straight line marking the lower limit of the foliage, there is seen only the well-shaped trunks, rising from a beautiful sward of the freshest green. The trees about the border are often beautifully canopied by a matted covering of wild grape
Shaw (in Worthen and Shaw 1873), Stephenson County. A small portion of the county is made up of barrens and oak orchards or openings / oak openings / barren physiography: a somewhat rough soil soil: The oak openings and other poorer portions of the county produce the best wheat and other cereal grains, the best potatoes raised in the State, very excellent apples, and pears of the hardier varieties, and with proper care and cultivation will nourish the vine and ripen its fruitage to a greater extent than is now dreamed of by the grape growers and wine makers of the West. vegetation: Yellow Creek is fringed, for a part of its course, with a scattering growth of white oak groves and clumps, spreading across from Mill Grove towards Eleroy and Sciota mills, into oak openings / Part of the town of Loran . . . is a regular white oak barren with scattering trees and some brush-wood.
Shepherd (1850), Illinois and Wisconsin. Oak openings, or "barrens" soil: The best wheat lands vegetation: the occupants of these lands seem to be precluded from the advantages of machinery in harvesting, by the stumps.
Short (1845), Illinois. See the entry under Barrens.
Steele (1840/1841), northeastern Illinois. Oak openings / The oasis, or `oak openings,' upon the prairies are very beautiful. vegetation: green groves, arranged with the regularity of art, making shady, alleys, for the heated traveler. / It presented the appearance of a lawn, or park around some gentleman's seat. The trees are generally oak, arranged in pretty clumps or clusters upon the smooth grass or in long avenues, as if planted thus by man. From their limbs hang pretty vines, as the pea vine lonicera flava, honey-suckle and white convolvulus. While our carriage wound among these clumps, or through the avenues, it was almost impossible to dispel the illusion that we were not driving through the domain of some rich proprietor, and we almost expected to draw up before the door of some lordly mansion.
Vasey (1859), Illinois. Oak openings vegetation: Ceanothus Americanus, known in some parts of the country as the New Jersey Tea, but best known in the West as Red root, is very abundant in oak openings and thin woods. It is a low bush, with a thick reddish root, which it is difficult to dislodge with a plow.
Wight and Kennicott (1854), Kane County. The openings vegetation: Can a hickory be successfully transplanted? People have often enough tried it, and generally said no. Being a few days ago in the garden of Augustus Adams, Esq., of Elgin, we saw a large number of hickories from three to seven feet high, which had been transplanted successfully from the woods, or rather the openings, and were growing vigorously in their second summer. Mr. Adams stated that he had lost no more of them than of any other tree. His plan is to dig down and down till he gets tired of it, and then cut off the tap root. He never stops till he gets four feet and from that to six, and yet he states that he never got so low as to find the tap root as small as the tree at the surface of the ground.
Worthen (in Worthen, Broadhead, and Cox 1875), Williamson County. What is known in the Western States as "oak openings" physiography: Some of the broken lands vegetation: were originally but thinly timbered, . . . through which one could travel with but little more difficulty than on the open prairie fire: now where these lands have not been brought under cultivation, they are densely covered with a heavy growth of young timber, which was previously kept down by the annual fires that swept over the county previous to its settlement by the dominant race.
Explorers and pioneers occasionally used the word savanna (or savannah) to describe the openness of land in Illinois. These writers used the term savanna interchangeably with prairie and meadow, but they did not necessarily limit the term savanna to areas that were completely treeless. When describing the Illinois landscape, early observers often wrote in general terms, and they did not always distinguish treeless prairies from grasslands that had trees standing far apart.
Plural or singular? Early authors usually considered the term barrens to be plural, as in "The barrens are dry early in the season." Roughly one in twenty authors considered barrens to be singular, as in "The barrens is now the home of some of our most progressive and well to do citizens." This usage is similar to the custom of using the singular form of a verb with the term woods, as in "The woods is here." The term barren (in contrast to barrens) is singular when used as a noun, as in "Part of the town of Loran . . . is a regular white-oak barren." When used as an adjective, the term appears to have almost always taken the singular form in pioneer days (barren rather than barrens), as in "The barren trees have an appearance and configuration, appropriate to the soil they inhabit."
What were they? Barrens were considered intermediate between prairie and timber because barrens were not densely wooded but they usually or typically had an intermingling of grasses, shrubs, and trees. Barrens often occurred between woodland and treeless grassland; this barren zone sometimes was a narrow band but it sometimes extended for miles. Some reports say that shrubbery was thin and low, but sometimes the impression is given of a dense, continuous thicket. The height of grasses was variously described as short or tall.
One characteristic often distinguished barrens from prairie: the barrens were shrubby, or they grew up quickly with shrubs and trees as soon as settlers suppressed wildfires. This generalization is not a hard-and-fast rule, for an occasional writer described barrens as being free from shrubs, and many shrubby areas were not called barrens. The ambiguity derives mainly from two sources: (1) barrens could vary in appearance from year to year and from place to place, and (2) people held divergent views about what constituted barrens.
Relatively little information is available about the species of herbaceous plants in barrens. The most detailed description of the herbaceous vegetation of barrens comes from observations by Eugene Hilgard in southern Illinois in the 1830s and 1840s, but Dr. Hilgard broadly referred to these areas as prairies with "islands of various trees and shrubby growths" rather than "barrens" (Hilgard, no date). Lewis C. Beck (1826-28) published a list of the flora of Illinois and Missouri, and he annotated several of the species as occurring in barrens. A list of Illinois plants issued by Samuel Mead in 1846 includes a number of species that were designated as denizens of barrens. Frederick Brendel's Flora Peoriana (1887) lists several species from "copses"; today these species are characteristic of open woodlands and borders of woods, so Dr. Brendel's copses appear to have comprised some of the habitat that others called barrens. See Packard (1988) and Vestal (1936) for discussions of old floristic lists.
Physiography. Barrens were most often described as being on strongly sloping topography (rolling, broken, or rough), especially along stream valleys. Sometimes writers emphasized that barrens occupied surfaces that were not as even as prairie lands (e.g. "not level enough to form prairies"), but barrens also occurred on flat bottomlands and on moderately sloping uplands (e.g. "an undulated plain").
Soil. Barrens occurred on a diversity of soils. In contrast to prairie, the soil of barrens sometimes was described as "firmer" (finer textured), "lighter" (not as dark colored or high in organic matter), or "thinner" (with less topsoil). People repeatedly emphasized that barrens did not have "barren" or unproductive soil: to the contrary, barrens often were promoted as superior to prairies for small grains, fruits, and vegetables. Yet an occasional report held that barrens made second rate farmland. Most barrens were naturally well drained, so they were better suited for pioneer farming than most prairie lands; but barrens often had shallow, eroded soil, and they generally lacked the deep, dark topsoil favored by corn growers.
Vegetation and fire dynamics. Early chroniclers often attributed the existence of barrens to recurrent ("annual autumnal") fires. Barrens often had few mature trees, if any, and the trees often were scrubby and fire-damaged. Repeated burning maintained some barrens as brushlands, but fire gave some barrens the superficial appearance of being free of woody plants.
Fires could kill the tops and trunks of trees in barrens, causing some trees to resprout from their roots. Oaks and hickories can survive as bushes if fires repeatedly kill their stems, so barrens often had thickets of oaks and hickories that repeatedly burned and resprouted from long-lived and well-developed root systems (known as "grubs"). Some barrens were characterized by hazel, sumac, and other shrub species in addition to shrubby oaks and hickories.
Not everyone reported that trees in barrens were small: one person said that the trees were "seldom large, or very small," and another related that barrens were "without or with only scattering large trees." Such vegetation with medium-sized or large trees but no small trees can be explained in terms of fire: trees were able to grow up only on rare occasions when fires did not occur for a series of years, long enough for the trees to grow sufficiently large to withstand fires. After these trees became established, there may have been many years or decades during which no more trees could grow up because fires were so frequent; this could result in a large gap in the size of trees, with many small sprouts, some large veterans, and no intermediate-sized trees.
Henry Engelmann, who wrote more about Illinois barrens than anyone else, emphasized that southern Illinois had both "oak barrens" and "grass barrens." The oak barrens had a scrubby growth of oaks that became dense woods as soon as settlers halted wildfires. Engelmann stressed that grass barrens were quickly transforming into forest during the mid-1800s. Perhaps the grass barrens had burned for so many years and so often that woody plants had been reduced to low sprouts hidden among the grass; this supposition is supported by early writers who asserted that "there was no such land" as brushy barrens before settlers arrived.
Several early Illinoisans underscored the fact that barrens were predominantly vegetated by grass at the time of settlement, and they stressed that the barrens became brushy soon after pioneer farmers arrived. One of the most widely noted natural phenomena of the settlement era was the rapidity with which barrens grew up into thickets and woods as soon as settlers suppressed wildfires to protect their farms. Most people who wrote of barrens saw them during a period of transition, after fires were being suppressed and while the barrens were growing up with brush and trees.
For barrens to have transformed so rapidly to denser thickets and woods, the trees and shrubs must have already been present as underground grubs that sent up sprouts. This trait --the presence of brush and sprouts of trees in a type of vegetation maintained by fire --is the single characteristic that unites many areas that were described as barrens. Some barrens must have burned so often that they appeared to be grasslands, but other barrens probably had been maintained for decades as dense brushlands, particularly on hilly terrain that did not burn as frequently or severely as plains. Level areas were more likely to be prairies instead of barrens because fires could sweep unimpeded across flat lands, and the dense grassy vegetation fueled frequent hot fires that either killed woody plants or prevented them from encroaching.
Plural, singular, or barren? Pioneers and early historians almost invariably used the plural form, oak openings, rather than oak opening. Some writers employed the terms oak openings and barrens as if they were synonyms.
What were they? As with barrens, oak openings were intermediate between open prairie and denser woods. Most often oak openings were described as grasslands, free of brush, with trees growing widely apart or in clumps. Oaks and hickories were the predominant woody plants. The term oak opening typically was applied to grassy areas with mature trees. These areas were likened to lawns, well-kept parks, and beautiful estates. Sometimes oak openings were characterized as being brushy or having stunted trees.
Physiography and soil. Oak openings occurred on the same kinds of land surfaces as barrens. Generally oak openings were on hilly or dissected topography, but they also could be found on level or gently sloping terrain. The soil of oak openings appears to have been the same as in barrens.
Vegetation and fire dynamics. The history of burning may have largely determined the abundance, size, and distribution of trees and shrubs. A few eye-witness accounts say that trees were small in oak openings, but trees usually were described as medium sized or large. These bigger trees had escaped burning when growing up, and they had grown large enough to survive fires that kept other trees and shrubs at bay. If a fire was severe enough to top-kill the oaks in an oak opening, it might have been characterized as a brushy oak opening, or it might have instead been called a barrens.
When deciding whether to accept an early descriptive statement as accurate, one approach is to see how often a particular observation or viewpoint was expressed. A statement made by several people may seem more credible than a statement that is encountered only once, yet the credibility of a report wanes if it is discovered to be based on earlier writing rather than on an independent observation.
Some descriptions of barrens and oak openings closely match others, but this correspondence does not necessarily indicate that authors came to the same conclusion independently. For instance, compare the discussions by Peck (1836), Flagg (1838), and Baldwin (1877) about the growth of trees after wildfires were suppressed, particularly the sentence by each author that begins with the words "The rapidity with which."
Amos Worthen's 1868 discussion of Perry County barrens is an example of appropriation of someone else's writing: Worthen's statement is obviously adapted from Engelmann's 1863 discussion of barrens in Jackson and Perry Counties. The wording of Worthen's 1875 description of oak openings in Williamson County appears to have been influenced by Engelmann's 1863 description of barrens in neighboring Jackson and Perry Counties.
Sometimes a writer loosely paraphrased the work of another author, borrowing enough expressions that the artifice is evident. This is illustrated by comparing books by Charles Latrobe and by Edmund Flagg. After a trip from Chicago to St. Louis, Mr. Latrobe described the "oak openings" with these phrases, among others: "a grassy turf seldom encumbered with brush-wood," with "gaudy flowering plants" and "dwarf sumac . . . some of the most lovely landscapes of the West . . . varied park scenery . . . with all the diversity of gently swelling hill and dale . . . long avenues," and "numerous clear lakes" (Latrobe 1835). Mr. Flagg rode between Carlinville and Hillsboro, then characterized the "barrens or `oak openings'" along the route in these terms: "a mossy turf, free from thickets," with "the gaudy petals of the heliotrope" and "dwarf-sumach . . . some of the most lovely scenery of the West . . . a magnificence of park scenery . . . with all the diversity of the slope, and swell, . . . interminable avenues," and "at intervals . . . a pellucid lake" (Flagg 1838).
An instance of copying is revealed by comparing the writings of Benjamin Harding and George Ogden. Mr. Harding was a surveyor who investigated Illinois and adjacent states in 1818 and 1819; he wrote of the relationship between fire suppression and afforestation:
But the great distance between the timbered land in many places, it being from twelve to twenty, thirty and forty miles, will leave it thinly settled in places, for some time. However, I have reason to believe, that, if the fire was kept out, they would grow up and timber again; for in one instance I observed, near the place called Goshen settlement, where the fire had not made such ravages, that small staddles of hickory was thriftily growing.
In 1823 four years after Benjamin Harding published his observations George Ogden published Letters from the West, based on a tour of Illinois and other Midwestern states. Mr. Ogden discussed the same phenomena as Harding:
But the great distance from the timbered land, in many places, it being from ten to twenty, thirty and forty miles, will leave it thinly inhabited for some time. However, I have reason to believe, if the fire was kept out, that these savannas would grow up and timber again; for in several places I observed where the fire had made such ravages, that small studdles of hickory were growing very thrifty.
The balance of the above paragraph by Ogden consists of 193 words, of which 166 words are identical to those written by Harding. Ogden wrote in the first person as if he were reporting his own observations and conclusions, while he was actually copying from Harding (or perhaps copying from some other source).
Nineteenth-century authors of travelogues, gazetteers, emigrant's guides, and the like commonly appropriated the writings of others without acknowledging their sources. Some of the most widely quoted books about early Illinois (for example, Mitchell 1838, and Gerhard 1857) contain extensive passages taken without credit from other publications. Latrobe's description of oak openings, which was closely paraphrased by Flagg, also was appropriated by Mitchell's Illinois in 1837 & 8. This practice was not condemned as plagiarism. As Callcott (1970) pointed out, "Before the Civil War . . . it appeared entirely proper to borrow literally as well as factually. . . . Critics were aware of having seen the same words before and frequently compared the later account with its source, remarking on the improvement that had been made over the earlier account but seldom considering it a matter of dishonesty in the use of phraseology."
The hickories variously called shag-bark, scalybark, shell-bark, and shelbark in the passages quoted here probably are shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), and are not likely to be C. laciniosa, which is often called shellbark hickory today. The white hickory listed by Engelmann probably is Carya tomentosa (now called mockernut hickory); Engelmann also gave Carya tomentosa as the binomial for barren hickory.
Careful study of Engelmann's writings leads to the conclusion that he most likely was referring to Quercus falcata (Spanish oak or southern red oak) when he wrote about the barren oak, bitter oak, or Spanish oak. The black oak (Q. tinctoria) of Engelmann is Q. velutina. The laurel oak of Engelmann is Q. imbricaria (shingle oak). The Q. obtusiloba of Engelmann, Ridgway, and Short is Q. stellata (post oak). The water-oak of Engelmann is Q. palustris (pin oak).
The black-jack (Q. ferruginea) of Short, the blackjack (Q. nigra) of Engelmann, and the Q. nigra of Ridgway are Q. marilandica (blackjack oak). The identity of Renick's "Barron oak" cannot be determined; however, the description of the "Barren Oak, or `black jack,'" in Chapman's history of Tazewell County clearly identifies it as Q. marilandica. Asa Gray (1867) gave the common name of Quercus nigra (Q. marilandica) as Black-Jack or Barren Oak, and he gave its habitat and range as "dry sandy barrens, New York to Illinois, and southward."
Sometimes pioneers appear to have referred to a shrubby growth of oaks as "blackjack" without regard to the exact species. For example, J.H. Battle (in Perrin 1883a) wrote that the barrens in Clark County were "generally covered with an almost impenetrable undergrowth of willow, hazel, and blackjack." Regarding Wabash County, J.L. McDonough and Company (1883) stated, "The country around Keensburg, some of which now supports a heavy growth of timber, was originally covered by `blackjacks.'" In these instances the "blackjack" probably consisted of sprouts of any of a number of oak species.
This supposition is supported by references to "blackjack" at localities where Quercus marilandica would not be expected. For instance H.F. Kett and Company's history of Winnebago County mentions "a rather light growth of white oak and black jack timber." As another example, John Stuart recalled his arrival at Springfield in 1837: "Reining in the horse, pausing on that eminence, to take a survey, the eye rested upon a dense grove of Black Jack, and undergrowth, east, and west, all along the town branch, covering the entire hill on which Mr. Lamb's house is situated" (Stuart, 1937). It is unlikely that Q. marilandica grew in Winnebago County or in Springfield, so "black jack" probably referred to Q. velutina (black oak) or some other species.
The indispensable reference for updating old botanical nomenclature in Illinois is Jones and Fuller (1955). Using this source, Ridgway's blackberry (Rubus villosus) is revealed as R. allegheniensis or R. flagellaris. Ridgway's queen of the prairie (Spiraea lobata) is Filipendula rubra. Mead's Leptodea is Helenium autumnale. Patterson's Delphinium azureum is Delphinium carolinianum.
When he wrote of the heliotrope in Illinois barrens, Edmund Flagg was referring loosely to any of a number of sunflower-like flowers, rather than a Heliotropium. The pea vine mentioned by Eliza Steele could be a member of any of several viny leguminous genera such as Apios, Amphicarpa, and Lathyrus. Mrs. Steele's lonicera flava most likely is Lonicera prolifera (grape honeysuckle), and her white convolvulus might be Ipomoea pandurata (Convolvulus panduratus, wild sweet potato vine) or Convolvulus sepium (American bindweed). Steele might have also espied the showy white flowers of Calystegia spithamea (Convolvulus spithamaeus, dwarf bindweed), which was listed from barrens by Mead (1846) and from "dry open woods" by Brendel (1887).
Lisa Bell and Beverly Miller of Ecological Services conducted research for this project. Work was aided tremendously by John Hoffmann and staff of the Illinois Historical Survey at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Brian Anderson suggested the undertaking. Mary Kay Solecki, Stephen Packard, Victoria Nuzzo, Beverly Miller, Max Hutchison, Connie Carroll, Marlin Bowles, Lisa Bell, and Roger Anderson reviewed a draft of this article. Gaylord and Dorothy R. Donnelley provided several rare books and a place to write this article.
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