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Frontier — Frontier Settlement

John L. Hendryx and John W. Dawson arrived in 1822. They were the first to stake claims for federal land in what is now McLean County. Like those who followed, they were lured to the area by land described as better, cheaper, and with abundant game for hunting.

Dawson and Hendryx purchased fresh land, which unlike eastern land had not been exhausted from constant planting.

Once Dawson and Hendryx had built crude log cabins, their families followed. The Dawsons arrived in a covered wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen.

McLean County was the end of a trip with many stops along the way. The Dawsons left Kentucky for Ohio, before moving on to Illinois. Others stopped in McLean County, but after a few years sold or traded their land and moved on. This may have been because of sickness, financial hardship, or simply a belief that something better lay just beyond.

Portrait of a middle-aged frowning white man in a three-piece suit looking down at the camera.

John W. Dawson

Portrait of a middle-aged frowning white man in a three-piece suit looking down at the camera.
Portrait of a gaunt-faced man with a full beard & sideburns along with a receding hairline wearing a suit and tie.

John Lewis Hendryx

Portrait of a gaunt-faced man with a full beard & sideburns along with a receding hairline wearing a suit and tie.
A grayscale photograph of a prairie, with a pathway in the middle.

The Land Act of 1820 reduced the price of federal land in Illinois to $1.25 per acre. With a minimum purchase of 80 acres, settlers like Hendryx and Dawson found their ideal location, then marked the claim with stakes or stones. A ride to Springfield was also required. There they recorded their claim and made the required $100 down payment.

A grayscale photograph of a prairie, with a pathway in the middle.
Black and white photo of a rectangular log cabin with a door and window on the longer side and chimney on the shorter side. There is a large tree in the foreground next to the cabin and snow on the ground.

The John Patton Cabin still stands in Lexington, Illinois. It is typical of the cabins built by McLean County’s earliest settlers.

Black and white photo of a rectangular log cabin with a door and window on the longer side and chimney on the shorter side. There is a large tree in the foreground next to the cabin and snow on the ground.

Covered Wagon Flip Book

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