top of page

The Families

Each little cross hatched box on this map represents a family or a business that contributed to the history of Bloomington, Illinois. The families came from New York, Kentucky and Ohio and other eastern places. Not a single family came from the "Old Country." Getting to Illinois in the 1830s took resources. Resources that would have been exhausted making the trip from Europe.  


The National Road was begun in 1811 and finished only in 1837 and would have been only a small advantage to the 1838 pioneers. It stretched over the route many pioneers followed to Ohio and then to Vandalia, Illinois. The 1838 pioneers reported traveling on corduroy roads and through sloughs that sucked the wagon wheels deep into the mud. They travelled on riverboats down the Ohio, then up the Illinois or through the Great Lakes and walked from Pekin or Chicago. When they arrived they were lucky to find a one-room cabin with a dirt floor to live in for the first year. 

In 1838 men didn't live alone in town. Two men might "batch" it on the prairie, but conditions would have terribly primitive without the skills of a woman. If a spouse died, it was not long before the widow or widower remarried, if only to have the support a wife or husband gave. Young men boarded with a married couple, which gave the married couple some income and gave the young men the services of a woman who would cook, clean and otherwise earn that money. John Dawson recalled at least 33 young men who had boarded with his family. Those young men only left to move West or after finding a wife to keep house for them. Single women needed a father or brother to give them shelter, or if they had grown sons they would live with them. When Ceatta Larrick Simmons lost her husband in Springfield, her brother Asaph  brought her to Bloomington to live with him. 


"Hotels" were not glamorous palaces, but simple log cabins with an extra room or two for travelers and boarders. Sarah Withers told stories of helping her husband run a boarding house for young men. Sarah did her part: cooking the meals, making the beds and otherwise caring for the boarders. Later, she was a wealthy woman providing homes for aged women and a library for readers all over Bloomington. 


bottom of page