Gray Herndon>UIS Collection H-I>UIS Collection H-I, Segment 4


duration 14:09
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Laying drainage tile. First thing farmers did if the land they bought was not tiled.
Granville Hatler, his grandfather, settled here as a boy in the 1830s. Early settlers chose land with timber on it because they needed wood for split-rail fences, log houses, and other uses. Old timber stands were magnificent, with tremendous straight trees. Good land along Horse Creek, Brush Creek, Clear Creek, and South Fork of Sangamon River was gone before his grandfather arrived, so had to choose flatter, swampier land. Herndon bought land in northern Sangamon County and had it surveyed by a Public Service Company employee. Found that for a half mile, no part of the land was more than eight inches higher than the lowest spot. Prairie his grandfather settled had been covered with coarse prairie grass, some higher than a man's head. It had to be broken before a regular plow could cut it.
Mosquitoes were bad and carried malaria. Great-grandfather, his wife and his sister had died of it within one year. The children were taken to Greene County to live with relatives.
Herndon had seen a bit of prairie along old fence rows. In grandfather's day, it was so broad and tall that people traveled through it on horseback and at night to avoid certain pests.
Deerfly was a prairie pest in the daytime. Tells the story about seeing deerflies when he was a kid plowing fields with some old mares, which the kids worked behind because they never shied. A deerfly, which was longer and slimmer than a housefly, and green, bit a mare on the hips and drew blood, making her squirm. He killed them as soon as he saw them. By the time his grandfather came back from Greene County, the prairie was settled enough that these pest had gone. Only rattlesnakes remained.