“Perhaps the first map showing a considerable part of Illinois with ‘Illinois’ in the title”—Streeter

Land Speculator’s Working Copy with Original Color Coding

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382. [MAP]. UNITED STATES. GENERAL LAND OFFICE. GARDINER, John. Map of the Bounty Lands in Illinois Territory by John Gardiner Chief Clerk Genl. Land Office Entered according to Act of Congress by John Gardiner. District of Columbia [above lower right neat line] C Schwarz sc: Washn. [detail map of fractional township at lower left, four squares with original hand coloring] Township of Range [below plat] Description of the [blank] of Section in Township [blank] Range from the Surveyors Returns. N.p., n.d. [Washington, D.C.: General Land Office, ca. 1818 (per Newberry)]. Copper-engraved map of part of Western Illinois between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, original hand coloring in grey, yellow, red, light green, and blue on map proper which matches the coloring on the printed grid at lower left (colors indicate ranges to be sold, according to manuscript key with colors on upper part of map identifying owners and the type of land); neat line to neat line: 47 x 36.7 cm. With ink rubric of John Gardiner at lower left and numerous contemporary pencil and ink notes. At top: “Description of the [illegible]—Level, Prairie Good Soil, Timbers: Oak and Hickory | S.T.R. [section, tract, and range] | [blue box] Andrew John Walker—SW 35—1S—4W Sold [fist] see former map | [yellow box] Henry Johnson—NW 15—8N—2W—Rolling rich soil—NW near a grove of timber on the North—No Timber on South part—but level rich soil | [red box] Francis McCabe—NW 24—13N—8E—Rolling Prairie Rich Soil adjacent soil good | [green box] Joshua Clark—NE 33—8N—4E—Rolling rich prairie—very good soil |[grey box] David Brooks NE 1 9N—3W.” At upper left is contemporary pencil check mark followed by “Bot. by a friend of Timothy Condit” signed A. Louis, indicating in the ink list at top that the tracts owned by Henry Johnson and Joshua C. Clark have been sold. Pencil key at middle right indicating sales status of certain tracts, which is keyed to the engraved map. Map has numerous pencil additions noting tracts owned by various individuals and companies. Light contemporary pencil notes at lower right: “...David H. Nevins” and “Morgan Co.” Contemporary ink note on verso: “Map of Bounty Lands” and contemporary pencil note: “M.B. Denny, Quincy Ill Land Agent.” At lower left is a contemporary newspaper clipping with headline “Land Agency in Illinois” advertising the services of James M. Duncan. Overall a fascinating copy of a well-used working land speculation map. Split at folds with minor losses, significant loss at lower center, edges chipped with minor losses, map separated into several sections with old tape stains along folds.

     First edition, second issue, with the added printed grid at lower left. The first issue was blank at lower left, and Gardiner had to write in the description of the land being granted. American Imprints (1812) 27202 (dating 1812?). Graff 1505. Phillips, America, p. 326 (suggesting date of 1812-1818). Streeter 1430: “This is the first map that Phillips lists under Illinois, and it is perhaps the first map showing a considerable part of Illinois with ‘Illinois’ in the title. Here Lake Peoria is called Lake Peoire, and the creek flowing into the Illinois at the lower end of the lake is called ‘Kickapoo or Red Bud Cr.—TWS.” This map with its detailed surveys is in keeping with the type of documentation ordered by Congress originally in the Northwest Ordinance to reduce conflicting land claims, a goal that was only partially successful.

     Bounty lands were tracts set aside in unsettled areas that could be claimed by soldiers in various wars, in this case the War of 1812. As with other military bounty lands, those in Illinois had a mixed history. Many soldiers or claimants merely took the lands and promptly resold them with no intentions of ever settling there. After all, Western Illinois was a long way from civilization. In general, the only people who were successful in profiting from these lands were speculators who were financially able to hold the lands for a long time until the prices had risen to the point that they could be sold for a profit. The present map is a classic example of speculators and land jobbers in action, rather than the usual individual map issued to an actual claimant. See Siyoung Park, “Land Speculation in Western Illinois Pike County, 1821-1835” in Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 77, No. 2, Summer, 1984, pp. 115-128, wherein is illustrated a copy of this map that was issued to a potential settler. Park comments:

In the early nineteenth century, pioneers in the newly opened Military Tract of western Illinois had great speculative hopes and intentions for the future. For most settlers and investors, however, those hopes were not fulfilled. The Illinois Military Tract formed an irregular triangle of about 5,360,000 acres between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Of that, about 3,500,000 acres deemed suitable for cultivation were reserved for veterans of the War of 1812....

In the writings of Paul Gates (“The Role of the Land Speculator in Western Development” Carstensen,Public Lands, pp. 364-365 & “Frontier Landlords and Pioneer Tenants” in Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 38, 1945, 144-145) may be found a more optimistic evaluation of the profitability of land speculation. He referred to the “first families” in the Midwestern communities whose financial strength grew from “shrewd selection of lands and the subsequent sale or rental to later comers.” He noted that successful land dealers became bankers, local businessmen, or public officials. “It is true,” he wrote, “that most holders of western land at one time or another complained about being land poor but it is also true that in practically every town, large or small, the local squire, the bank president, the owner of numerous mortgages, the resident of the ‘big house,’ the man whose wife was the leader of ‘society,’ got his start—and a substantial start—as a result of land values in the nineteenth century.

     John Gardiner was the Chief Clerk of the General Land Office and issued several maps similar to this one under his own name, including ones for Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri. During the 1814 British invasion of Maryland, Gardiner, who was working as a clerk at the General Land Office, worked from twilight to past midnight loading wagons with the records of the Land Office and hastened to the interior of Virginia. The next night Gardiner and other decamped personnel of the Land Office watched the burning of the government buildings in D.C. with the federal land documents safely in their possession.


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