Gateway - The Three Rivers Country
Gateway – The Three Rivers Country (available at Amazon and Independently) is co-authored by the Westbrook Artists’ Site and Kevin S. Lair and published by Hog Press.
Breaking prairie was the most beautiful, the most epochal, and most hopeful, and as I look back at it, in one way the most pathetic thing man every did for in it, one of the loveliest things ever created began to come to its predestined end. - Herbert Quick (1921)
The Three Rivers Country refers to the North, Middle and South Rivers that run parallel to each other and empty into the Des Moines River. These rivers transverse Madison County located in south central Iowa. A promotional publication, The Three Rivers Country – Madison County Iowa, was produced in 1889 to help attract settlers to the area. Abundant water through widely distributed rivers, creeks and streams was an easily recognizable and valued resource for settlement. Similar publications were published in other counties. A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846 by John Newhall and Iowa as it is in 1855 by N. Howe Parker provide statewide information for potential immigrants to the area. These and other early publications provide a blend of appreciation for the native ecology as a natural wonder and as resources to be utilized.
The diversity of potential resources in Iowa and their value as commodities in the 19th century is striking. For instance, in 1889 Iowa was one of the top producers in the nation of coal. And in Madison County plums, cherries, and strawberries are featured crops. The title of “The Three Rivers Country” reveals distinctly different perspective from our current views. Few people today will have any idea what you are referring to or why if you present them with this name. Gateway – The Three Rivers Country reflects on both the continuity and disruption among the land and our history through settlement in the 19th century.
While the population of Iowa is not in decline fewer and fewer people dwell on the land. Scott Township in which Westbrook is located has barely half as many people living here as in 1869. However, I make the an additional distinction between the “living” on the land (maintaining a place of residence) and “dwelling” on the land (immersed in the environment.) A transition from industrial to post-industrial condition is continually evolving. The primary characteristic of a post-industrial condition is one that is forever altered by industrialization. Industrialization initially enabled greater production by the assistance of human labor and supported the expansion of the workforce on the land. Post-industrial also refers to the decline of human labor through advanced industrialization and effects of automation, manipulation and degradation. Gateway aspires to be a point of reflection and contemplation on the post-industrial condition. It draws on the pre-industrial and early views of native ecology and the commodification of the land as a way to seek creative insight and new potential.