Sandburg's Hometown

Aug 12, 2013

Breaking the Prairie 

Breaking The Prairie, from a drawing by Theodore R. Davis, Harper’s Weekly, 1868

Gaddial Scott

By Barbara Schock

When Carl Sandburg was growing up in Galesburg, he knew a number of early pioneers who had settled in Knox County in the 1830s.

The custom of having a picnic and get-together of the old setters every summer occurred in many Illinois communities. Prizes were awarded for the eldest person present, the individual who had traveled the longest distance to attend the picnic or the man or woman who had arrived earliest in the vicinity. The newspapers usually printed long articles about the event, the names of those present and the deaths of pioneers during the preceding year.

Gaddial Scott was one of the Knox County pioneers. He had been born in Jackson County, Tennessee, on August 9, 1809. His father had been born in North Carolina and his mother in Kentucky. By 1833, Gaddial had settled in Sangamon County, Illinois, where he married Susan Sexton. They had thirteen children, of which only two survived to adulthood.

The family settled on a farm four miles north of Knoxville in October, 1834. It is said Scott broke the first sod in Knox Township. As a young man in 1827, Gaddial had traveled through the area with several other men looking for honey. They found two trees filled with the sweet substance. On their journey, they never saw another human being.

In those early days, farmers had a difficult time selling the grain they had harvested. Scott and several other men decided to haul their wheat to Chicago. They hoped to get a better price there. The market price locally was 20 to 40 cents less per bushel. Their wagon held only thirty bushels of wheat. They slept in the wagons at night and prepared their own meals. A coffee pot and skillet were the only utensils used. The men made coffee and cooked bacon to be eaten with bread.

Chicago was a large mud-hole with sailing ships anchored on the banks of the Chicago River. Mr. Scott was so interested in all the sights that he ran into the back of another wagon. He unloaded his grain and received 47 cents a bushel (equal to $11.03 in today’s money). The men spent more than eleven days traveling to and from Chicago. For all the effort of planting, harvesting, cleaning and hauling the wheat, the Knox County men didn’t profit very much.

Wisely, Scott bought three barrels of salt which cost $1.50 each. There was a shortage of salt in the area around Peoria because the Illinois River was too low for navigation. The price of a bushel of salt in Peoria was $3.00.

The Knox County Republican printed the obituary of Gaddial Scott on June 23, 1880. He had lived a life of seventy years, eight months and nine days. This quotation from the obituary sums up the life of Gaddial Scott and many other pioneers. “To a few such stout hearts and willing hands as his, the Great West is indebted for the prosperity which it enjoys today.” He is buried in the Knoxville Cemetery.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
vJuly 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity