EACH year as it rolls its resistless way along the mighty pathway of time, is fast thinning the ranks of the hardy pioneers, who first broke the pathway of civilization on to what is now known as the prairies of Cass county. The icy hand of the grim King of Terrors, pursuing its remorseless and unceasing avocation, is cutting down, one by one, the hardy and brave men and women who first established the footmarks of progress and enlightenment in this, then, great wilderness, whose only inhabitants were the savage wild beast, and his hardly less wild congener, the cruel red man.

No tongue could tell, no pen prtray the hardships and vicissitudes of fortune endured in those early days by these hardy Argonants, who, thirty-five years ago bidding adieu to the home roof-tree, in the old homes, in the older lands of comfort and of convenience, turned their backs upon all, many of them forever, and wandered away in the broad domain of the mighty west, there to hew out for themselves homes in their vast solitudes.

The weather beaten form, the furrowed brow, the prematurely hoary locks, are sad, yet eloquent evidences that theirs was no holiday task, while weathering the storms and troubles of pioneer life. Penury, hardship and often absolute want were their lot, while trying to conquer Dame Nature, and establish homes for themselves and their families in this boundless wilderness.

Let us hasten then to put down the words, as they fall from their lips, of the grandly heroic deeds, done in those early days, for all heroism is not that surrounded with blood and smoke, that they may find the niche in history that they so richly deserve. Let their words and deeds form a monument that shall long outlast the stone or bronze which must ere long mark the place of their rest. Let their epitaph be: "They builded better than they knew."

But before we take up the annals of historic times, it is the duty of the compiler to go back into the dim and misty corridors of time, and detail the history of the earth upon which we stand, the scenes of these events about to be related. Not the history penned by the puny hands of man, but the grand epic writ by the hand of creation upon rock and field. The broad surface of the earth, spreads out before us, where those who wish to, can read its history prior to the advent of man, on its surface. The boundless prairie, stretching away in vanishing lines to meet the sky; the glad earth, robed in emerald green and dotted with a myriad of bright flowers, that for countless ages have lain in quiet and undisturbed repose, has its beauty, and its annals. Now, since the invading foot of the innovating white man has pressed its sod the grassy weed is replaced with fields of golden grain or nodding corn, and both pictures are lovely to the eye.

''These the gardens of the desert--these
The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful.
And fresh as the young earth ere man had sinned.

Lo! they stretch,
In airy undulations, far away,
As though the ocean, in the gentlest swell,
Stood still, with all its rounded billows fixed,
And motionless forever."

The prairies, indeed, were a grand sight--in the summer, "clothed in verdure green," in the fall, in that color that too well tells of the departing years. If a grand sight to see the prairies, as the tall grass waved to and fro, it was a magnificent sight, in the fall of the year, to see the annual prairie fire as it sweeps over all. A correspondent of an Eastern paper, in an early day, in traveling West, witnessed one of these fires, and thus describes it in a communication to his paper:

"Whilst enjoying the sublimity of the scene, night threw her mantle o'er the earth, and the sentinel stars set their watch in the skies, when suddenly the scene was lighted by a blaze of light illuminating every object around. It was the prairie on fire. Language cannot convey, words cannot express to you the faintest idea of the grandeur and splendor of that mighty conflagration. Methought that the pale Queen of Night, disclaiming to take her accustomed place in the heavens, had dispatched ten thousand messengers to light their torches at the altar of the setting sun, and that now they were speeding on the wings of the wind to their appointed stations. As I gazed on that mighty conflagration, my thoughts recurred to you, immured in the walls of a city, and I exclaimed in the fullness of my heart:

'O fly to the prairie in wonder and gaze,
As o'er the grass sweeps the magnificent blaze;
The world cannot boast so romantic a sight,
A continent flaming, 'mid oceans of light."

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, March, 2022 from: "History of Cass County, Together with Sketches of Its Towns, Villages and Townships, Educational, Civil, Military and Political History: Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Old Settlers and Representative Citizens", published in 1884, Springfield, Ill: Continental Historical Co., pp. 231-232.

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