Imagine what the land around Bement looked like when the first settlers arrived here. There were thousands of acres of prairie, without a single tree. As lands were purchased and settled, roads gradually appeared, and slowly the grassland became farmland. Soon villages began appearing near the railroads.
The 1875 Atlas of Piatt County tells us that “first-comers to this region found the herds of buffalo and elk in large numbers, while their bleached bones fairly whitened the prairie/’ and "at that early day wolves roamed the prairie.” Most of those animals were no longer here when the pioneers arrived at Bement, but they did find an abundance of wildlife, much that could be used for food. When Luther Bodman first visited this area in March of 1854, he wrote back to his wife, “Flocks of wild geese, sand hill cranes (a bird larger than a goose), ducks on ponds of water and deer abound in great, abundance. I have eaten several, pieces of excellent venison and prairie chicken pie."
Almost every pioneer settler was also a part-time hunter, and his sons invariably engaged in that activity at an early age. When S. K. Bodman was teaching school in Goose Creek Township in 1859, he wrote back to his brother in Ohio on October 23, "There was a horse race on the prairie yesterday, but Abram (Piatt) and I preferred to go hunting. So we saddled each of us at horse and loaded both barrels of our shotguns with buckshot and
started for the prairie. I think we [were on the] road as much as 25 miles but didn’t see a single deer. Abe shot once from his horse at a prairie chicken on the wing. Abe later went to the river [to] try his hand at [shooting] ducks. He shot two ducks, a mink, a opossum, and shot 4 or 5 times at turkeys, but did not get any.”
Occasionally, fawns were captured for pets, but gradually there were fewer and fewer birds and animals left on the farmsteads. Rabbits and pheasants, once plentiful, were now scarce
From Bement Sesquicentennial book - used with permission