Sunday, February 19, 2017

Three for the price of one!

Often in my travels I come across a two for one special. That is to say I go looking for one spot and end up finding two close together, thus doubling my pleasure. But Saturday I took a drive up and found not only an old Cemetery..And an abandoned church..But ALSO an abandoned country school, literally within a stones throw of each other. I'm referring of course to Searl Ridge.

Originally called Hoskins Prairie, The name was changed in the 1830's to reflect the efforts of five Searl brothers who settled in the area & held many public offices, even lending a hand when it came to breaking what would become Bureau county away from Putnam.  One of the oldest farm houses in the county was built by Brown Searl in 1856 and still stands today.

The cemetery is a quiet, restful spot with many interesting and unique headstones. A couple of above ground vaults, a fenced in plot in one corner and at least one tombstone that appears to be cast iron. It's fairly easy to find I had the whole place to myself that day. Next week I'll write up about the church and school.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Just a quick note

I have started a GoFund me campaign to help me travel farther afield and defray expenses.  Find my campaign page HERE:

Thanks in advance for your support!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Life on the Illinois prairie

When John Deere arrived in Grand Detour in 1836 one of the first things he did was to build a house for himself and his wife and family, who were still in Vermont waiting for him to get established in Illinois.  He built the house in stages, the original structure was the large portion with a formal dining room and wash room added later,  At the height of his business in Grand Detour, he had his wife Eight children, as well as live in apprentices all staying in a six room house!

When Deere moved to Moline in 1847 their home went thru several owners and was sought after by Charles Deere, John's son who tried unsuccessfully to purchase it. After Charles death the house finally did come back to the family courtesy of Charles daughter, Mrs. William Butterworth.  Recognizing the historical significance of the home, she filled it with traditional period furnishings from the 1840's as well as vintage wall paper and period correct paint scheme's.

Once inside it gives you a glimpse of what life on the 'Frontier' of Illinois was like. If you ever find yourself bored on a weekend and in need of something to do I highly recommend a visit to this fascinating slice of American history.  My thanks again to Ms. Kristen Veto, executive manager of the site for her permission to post this to my page.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Distant Ringing of the Anvil

Everyone knows the name John Deere. The green and yellow tractors and farm implements are as much a part of the landscape as trees or cars. There's one in just about every other farmers barn.  And in thinking of Deere & Co. one automatically turns to Moline Illinois, along the Mississippi river and an industrial powerhouse.  But the story didn't Start there.

In the early 1800's farming in Illinois was arduous because of the rich prairie soil and the wooden or rough iron plows in use at the time had to be cleaned constantly.  In 1836 John Deere moved to the tiny village of Grand Detour and a year later set himself up as a blacksmith, a trade he was already skilled at. It was here that Deere came up with the self scouring plow.  Made of Scottish steel, the smooth sided plow solved the problem of the clinging soil and allowed a field to be plowed in a fraction of the time.

The practice at the time was to produce one item at a time for a specific customer but Deere came up with the innovation of  manufacturing several at a time, thus allowing prospective buyers to see them in use and to order one right away without the need to wait. It didn't take long for word to spread of Deere's invention and his business prospered.

In 1842 he entered into a partnership with Leonard Andrus and they purchased land along the Rock River and built a two story factory which produced about 100 plows the first year and approximately 400 the following year. The partnership dissolved in 1848 and Deere relocated to Moline to be closer to the Mississippi and the railroads.  And the rest, as they say, is History.

The site in Grand Detour is located on the same ground as the original blacksmith shop and forge. The original smithy is gone but a replica building was erected using the same dimensions as the original. And it is a Working forge which was fired up the day we were there to a group of farmers from Argentina who were being given a tour.  We all crowded into the shop and watched the blacksmith demonstrate his craft, making a finely detailed Eagles feather right before our eyes.

The historic site, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and later added to the National Historic Register in 1966, is open seasonally from May through October. There's a $5.00 admission fee to help defray upkeep and maintain the exhibits.  Also want to give my heartfelt thanks to Ms. Kristen Veto, the manager of the John Deere historic site for permission to publish this story.