Grand Detour, Illinois, and the Self-Scouring Plow

Historic Waterways, by Reuben Gold Thwaites (1853–1913)

Grand Detour, Illinois, is where John Deere invented the self-scouring steel plow. Today, it is a sleepy village, much as it was when Ruben Gold Thwaites visited it on a canoeing trip down the Rock River in 1887.  The settlement, Thwaites wrote, “is on a bit of prairie at the base of the preliminary flourish of the “big bend” of the Rock, hence the name Grand Detour. . .  The place presented many evidences of former prosperity, and we were told that a dozen years before it had boasted of a plough factory . . . But the railroad that it was expected would come to Grand Detour had touched Dixon instead, with the result that the village industries had been removed to Dixon, the dam had fallen in, and now there were less than three hundred inhabitants.” 

Historic Waterways, Six Hundred Miles of Canoeing down the Rock, Fox, and Wisconsin Rivers is a collaborative LibriVox reading.  It’s an enjoyable listen. Thwaites was the secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society and an avid boating and canoeing enthusiastic during his summer vacations. He is a good story-teller.  I chose to read the chapter on Grand Detour to get some historical perspective on John Deere, in preparation for a visit to the John Deere Historic Site, which is open to visitors during the summer months.


Another one of Thwaites’ boating adventures was on the Ohio River.  He, his wife, and his 10 year-old son made “an historical pilgrimage of a thousand miles in a skiff, from Redstone to Cairo “ in the  1880’s.  Talk about a wild vacation!  Afloat on the Ohio was also a collaborative LibriVox read, to which I contributed a chapter.


You might enjoy  Driving the Lincoln Highway (1915)