Published in Green Magazine, November, 1987
HE GAVE TO THE WORLD
By Neil M. Clark
THE STEEL PLOW
AN ITEM OF MAY 18, 1886
In its issue of May 18, 1886, the Moline DAILY REPUBLICAN carried, on its front page, an item stating that John Deere "died at his home in this city at 8:00 last evening" - and it went on to give details of his life, work, death. The Vermont blacksmith, an old oak, had finally blown over. The pioneer had trekked to his last home. Toward the sunset still.
The city of Moline honored itself by honoring the man who had long been its foremost citizen. For the day of the funeral, mayor Schillinger recommended that "the people of this city suspend their usual business or employment." The City Council resolved: "We look with pride upon a grand and noble character, so successful in life, so complete in death ..." The funeral was held at 10:00 a.m, on Thursday, the 20th at the Congregational Church.
Flowers were banked deep around the plain casket. In middle life, his feet had trod often among purple liatris, physostegia, and the wild crimson phlox of the prairies. But on his casket, lay a bunch of calla lilies, crossed with a sheaf of ripened grain. Nearby, stood a floral plow with the inscription "John Deere" on the beam. The Reverend C.L. Morgan conducted the services, putting into words what all present knew:
"Nothing left his shop but spoke the truth, was just as represented ... He was not a theorizer, or one who dealt in impracticable things, but in solid facts."
The service closed with the hymn, "There Is a Land of Pure Delight."
John Deere, in life, had built his home on the brow of the bluff. In death, he was laid away an the brow of the bluff - in Riverside Cemetery, as they call it. He loved wide landscapes. And the place of his burial is where one may look out over the town, the smoke of factories, the great river. Where one may see many sunsets...