Readers who travel through the state of Illinois may be interested to know about the John Deere Historic Site, a museum located in Grand Detour, near Dixon, about. Deere was born in 1904 in Rutland, Vermont and began his career as a blacksmith in Middlebury, Vermont. In the mid-1830's, Vermont's business conditions became depressed and Deere moved to Grand Detour, and immediately began work there.
Deere studied the inadequacies of the cast iron plows used at that time in Illinois, and designed a new kind of plow in 1837, using the steel from a broken saw blade.
Initially Deere plows were made from available steel, and marketed after production. As demand increased, he began importing steel from England and in 1847 he moved to Moline, Illinois. By 1850, production had reached 1,600 plows a year and the steel was coming from Pittsburgh. The success of Deere's plow, of course was a key factor in opening the West for agricultural development and settlement.
The John Deere Foundation maintains buildings of the original Deere property in Grand Detour to interpret the historical importance of the 'plow that unlocked the prairie' and the life of the blacksmith who built it.
The complex includes an archaeological exhibition on the exact site of the original blacksmith shop, the Deere house authentically furnished to the 1830's, a visitor's center and a reconstructed blacksmith's shop with working forge.
The John Deere Historic Site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 1 to November 30 and admission is free. The location is R.R. #3, Grand Detour, Dixon, Illinois 61021 and telephone is 815-652-4551.