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Prairie Albion

Prairie Albion

An English Settlement in Pioneer Illinois

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Charles Boewe


Paperback (Other formats: NLEB)
360 pages, 6 x 9, 14 illustrations

Shawnee Classics


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About the Book

Originally published in 1962, this story of the English Settlement in pioneer Illinois is compiled from the eyewitness accounts of the participants. The founders, Morris Birkbeck and George Flower, as well as their associates and the many visitors to their prairie settlement, wrote mainly for immediate and sometimes controversial ends. Charles Boewe has selected excerpts from letters, descriptions, diaries, histories, and periodicals within a chronological framework to emphasize the implicit drama of the settlers' deeds as they searched for a suitable site, founded their colony, and augmented their forces with new arrivals from England. No less dramatic is the subsequent estrangement of the two founders, the disillusionment of many of the English settlers, the untimely death of Birkbeck, and the financial ruin of Flower.


A native of Edwards County, Illinois, Charles Boewe taught at Syracuse University, the University of Wisconsin, Lehigh University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Later, during the course of sixteen years, he administered Fulbright exchange programs in Iran, Pakistan, and India. Now retired, he lives and writes in North Carolina.


"'No man, since Columbus, has done so much toward peopling America as Mr. Birkbeck, whose publications, and the authority of whose name, had effects truly prodigious,' was the exaggerated estimate of William Faux, an English traveler and recorder of impressions gained from an American journey in 1819. This is but one of the many sprightly observations with which the commentator-editor-collector, Charles Boewe, enlivens his account as he describes the ambitious attempt by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower, themselves successful English farmers, to establish a settlement of farmers and artisans in a kind of 'Prairie Albion' on the Illinois frontier after 1817. In a series of nine chapters Birkbeck and Flower speak for themselves to the accompaniment of a supporting cast of family members, neighbors, and western travelers. The selections from quite variant sources are skillfully woven into a delightful narrative by the editor. . . . The presence of those who made up the settlement in southeastern Illinois exerted an influence on the early history of the state far out of proportion to their number, and their experiences constitute a significant and revealing account of pioneering in perhaps its first encounter with a midwestern prairie environment."—American Historical Review