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Richard, George (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 59, Number 2 (Oct. 1957)

The Arboretum,   pp. 18-22


Page 18


H    ENRY    MERRILL     took  a long
draught of lukewarm         water. His
horse seized the opportunity to reach
over and nip at the tasty tips of a clump
of big bluestem.
   As Merrill lowered his head, his gaze
swept on ahead, past scattered patches of
purple coneflowers, bobbing yellow sun-
flowers and spires of blue Liatris. Some
three or four miles away, he could see
what appeared to be a grove of oaks.
18
The shade looked     inviting, and  he
quietly urged his mount forward.
  It was summer, 1834. Merrill was
riding over a typical section of southern
Wisconsin Prairie, enroute from Mineral
Point to Fort Winnebago, built only
four years earlier at the portage of the
Fox and Wisconsin rivers.
  As he rode on, his knees were con-
stantly brushed by thick prairie vegeta-
tion which rose from a dark, rich soil
that had accumulated through countless
years. ...
   It was this primeval richness that soon
made prairie land a prize among early
Wisconsin settlers like Merrill, who at
first had found clearing trees some little
easier than forcing a wood plow through
the tough prairie turf.
  But when the steel plow did break
through the sod, the delicate balance of
nature was upset and native vegetation


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