1830 to 1861 for the story of a town, which, first a handful of people on the Illinois prairie, develops from a pioneer settlement to a complex entity of bigger business, of complicated politics, of the vanguard of immigrants, etc., etc. Here is the original warp and woof of a community with the growing -- pattern of interwoven threads -- with the shuttle racing from characters to historical figures, from individual incidents to those affecting the town as a whole. It's satisfying reading, making, as it does, the life of a town, through the lives of its many inhabitants, vividly real, re-creating American history, as it is mirrored in the town in an amazingly human way. It recalls, somewhat, Preaton lively 1770 and seems to parallel Donald Culross Peattie's Prairie Grove save that here the town, rather than the land, is the central theme, and characters are of more importance. You may be confused at first by the constant introduction of new characters, but ones you get into the swing of it you'll find it absorbing reading.