The New Bradley Homestead
A galvanized steel tool shed was Dad's ticket to the new Bradley Homestead.
Dad paid for the shed himself because the Snyders didn't have the cash.
The Snyders did have 80 acres of virgin land and it became ours by
default as a way to cancel the debt.


Howard S. (Dad) Bradley

The new Bradley acquisition had never been settled and farmed for good reason. It consisted of a swamp that had oak covered sand dunes running crossways Southeast to Northwest. No farmer had ever been able to make a living on that particular piece of land because there has never been a market for cattail reeds, snapping turtles, mud hens and squirrels. There were tiger mosquitoes with half inch long hypodermic needle snouts capable of draining one dry guarding that property as well.

But that low-land was fertile. The prairie grass was so high it hid a man on a tractor and the swamp was capable of swallowing both. The sod was too thick to plow with an ordinary plow -- Dad bought a special "brush plow" that turned a furrow eighteen inches wide and more than a foot thick. Trees the size of my wrist would disappear under the furrow when that plow passed their way.

Acres of Fertile Ground

Pioneers we were. We made a clearing on one of the oak covered sand dunes and built a house. We chopped down and burned quaking aspens and willows and dug ditches and little lakes to make fields out of swamp and planted corn around stumps that were too big to easily remove. One big boulder had to be blown to bits with dynamite. Today the new Bradley Homestead is a paradise of shaded lawns, fishing lakes and fertile cropland.

Building in the woods was an adventure as well. The Kankakee River Valley is referred to as "Tornado Alley" for good reason. The killer tornado of 1968, that murdered many people as it roared Northeast across Illinois and Indiana, first touched the earth less than 1/2 mile North of the new Bradley Homestead.


Jerry Spaulding and I cowered in the basement of his house
one Spring, just one mile South of our home, when Jerry's
house was narrowly missed by a tornado. When we emerged
the Spaulding's barn had been blown to bits and a tree from
his front yard had been deposited almost a quarter of a mile
on the other side of the house in the middle of a field. There
was no damage to the Spaulding's house but that left Dad
unimpressed. Dad built a house that is supposed to be
"tornado proof."

The 'Tornado-Proof' House

We still don't know if the Bradley Homestead house is tornado
proof. Its never been tested but its going to take a lot of huffing
and puffing to blow that house down. It's framed with creosote
soaked poles that are set deep in the ground in concrete, the roof
is bolted on and the roof beams are 2" X 10s" on 16" centers --
twice as strong a roof as most people build. In fact we built the
roof first and got real strange stares from people who had never
seen a house built from the top down.

Pioneers are so far in the past we know very few of their names
and almost nothing about them or their lives. We pioneered
virgin land in the 1950s more than 100 years after most of the

land in Illinois had been tamed and built upon. It was more
than 30 years later -- the 1980s -- that I began to appreciate the
uniqueness of our endeavor.

Civilization to the Left,
Virgin land to the Right

Few who follow me will know what its like to move to
where people have not lived and to build a home in the
woods. My skill with an ax and appreciation of nature
come from having been

last of the pioneers.