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Part I-The Prairie Corn and Small Grain Belt 52

land, north, roads, ice, level, time and prairies

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PART I.-THE PRAIRIE CORN AND SMALL GRAIN BELT 52. The work of the glaciers.—Glaciers once covered most of the land north of the Ohio and Missouri rivers with great moun tains of ice (Fig. 53), which changed the surface and made some of the land better than it was before the glaciers came. The glaciers began to form long, long ago when the winters in North America became longer and colder for a time. North of the Great Lakes it was so cold for such a long time that the snow did not melt but lay on the ground, even in summer. Each year it piled higher and higher until the mass was many hundreds of feet high. The weight of the snow on top pressed the snow underneath into solid ice. Finally the pile began to move, somewhat as a pile of soft dough or putty slowly spreads out as it lies on a table. The huge mass, or glacier, pushed its way southward for hun dreds of miles, until it reached the place where the sun was warm enough to melt the ice as fast as it pushed down from the north. At the place where the glacier melted there ar2 piles of dirt and stones that have been carried along with the ice. These rough places are called terminal moraines.

As the glacier scraped over the basins of the Great Lakes, and out across the Prairie Corn and Small Grain Belt, it wore off the tops of the little hills and filled up the little valleys with the hilltop earth, thus making the country nearly level. This process made the land easier to cultivate, because it was not so hilly as it was before the ice came. The hilly region of the Ohio Valley begins where the glacier stopped.

53. When the white man came.—About the time of the Revolutionary War white men began to explore central Ohio, central Indiana, and eastern Illinois. The country was nearly level, and much of it was covered with thick forests of big trees—oak, hickory, elm, and many other kinds. Here and there were open, grassy meadows called prairies, where buffaloes pastured and deer ran wild.

For a hundred years the white man was busy cutting down these forests to make room for fields. To clear the ground, the splendid logs were often rolled into huge piles and burned. Ditches were dug to let the water drain away from the many swamps and marshes that covered the level parts of the land. Now the entire region is a land of

farms and small towns, and one may often go many miles without finding even ten trees of the vast forest that once was there.

To the westward, in central Illinois, Iowa,Nebraska,and Kansas, there were trees only along the streams. The rest of the land was level or gently rolling, and grass covered, called prairie. Since the pioneers from the east had always lived in a country naturally forested, they thought that treeless land was worthless; but after a time they found that it was the best land of all, being rich and ready for the plow, without requiring the hard labor of clearing off tree roots, stumps, and stones.

54. Making roads and railroads.—Be tween 1850 and 1860, railroads were built across the Mississippi and into this treeless, grassy, prairie region. The land, which be longed to the United States Government, was so level that surveyors from the Land Office at Washington often laid off roads in straight lines, running north and south, east and west, each road being one mile distant from the next. Thus the land was divided into blocks, each one mile square. Each of the square miles was then divided into four farms of 160 acres each, and a farm was given free of charge to any settler who would come and make his home upon it. Every year for many years, thousands and thousands of families left the hilly eastern country and moved out to these free farms on the fertile prairies. That is one of the reasons why there are so many abandoned farms in the eastern part of the United States.

55. Soil and surface.—The soil of the prairies is mostly deep clay, almost free from stone, and much richer than the sandy lands of the South. It is splendid for crops, but bad for roads, because clay makes mud when there is rain. There are often no stones in the prairies with which roads can be made, and it is too expensive to bring stone from long distances. Even to this day in neigh borhoods where land is worth as much as $200 to $300 an acre, the roads are much poorer than they are in the Appalachian Valley (Sec. 274), or in the North Atlantic Coast Plain where gravel banks make good road material.

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