I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
Home | Columns |
Photos | Books
| Biography | Links
Finding the oldest one-family farm
By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................April 3, 2012
I recently posed the question about the oldest farmstead in
DeKalb County still being farmed by the same family, and received
There is no doubt about the oldest farmhouse in the county, as
the Miller-Ellwood log cabin originally located on the Pleasant
Hill Road farm, now being operated by the Rex Nelson family,
was built in 1835 when William Miller began farming there. His
daughter Harriett married into the Ellwood family and a descendant,
J. Ellwood Towle of St. Louis, still owns the land.
The log house was found well preserved inside the walls of a
farmhouse and has been re-assembled and moved down the road closer
to Route 72 on land belonging to the DeKalb County Forest Preserve
District. Log cabin expert Tim Kilby was hired to oversee the
reconstruction and it will be restored and opened to the public
by 2013, according to Forest Preserve District superintendent
Terry Hannan. Their efforts have been aided by donations from
several people and organizations, some of whom are shown in the
photo accompanying this column.
Shown in front of the partially restored 1835 Miller
log cabin are (from left) DeKalb County Forest Preserve superintendent
Terry Hannan and donors Dan Templin of the DeKalb County Community
Foundation, Arden Awe of the Ney Grange, Dr. John Ovitz and wife
Jane, Cheryl Nicholson, Forest Preserve committee chair Julia
Fauci, Steve Braser, Tonda Bruch and Jim MacMurdo from Kishwaukee
Sunrise Rotary. Another major contributor, J. Ellwood Towle,
was not present for the photo.
But the question of which family has operated the same farm
for the longest period is a more difficult one. I may have found
the answer, with the help of Esmond farmer Bob Hutcheson. His
ancestor began farming on the same piece of land in 1849, as
did others around the county like the Wessons in Victor Township.
Bob suggested I contact the Tindalls, who farm on Malta Road
in South Grove Township, just south of Baseline Road.
I was lucky to reach Eleanor Tindall, who provided a wealth of
information on their family history, beginning with 1843 when
their home place was established. She explained how
Jesse Tindall came from Michigan to begin farming the land. He
had eight children. One of those, George Monroe Tindall, next
took over the farm, then it was passed to Roy, one of his four
children, then to one of Roys five children, George (Eleanors
brother-in-law), and is now being farmed by Richard Tindall,
five generations later.
It continues, as Richard told me how his three daughters and
one son helped him work the land over the years. Next year, he
expects his son Tyler will take over the operation, so that makes
it six generations. Plus Tyler has sons, so this land may remain
in the family for many more generations. Richard added that they
have a prominent sign in front of the original homestead with
the date 1843 on it.
Being cautious about proclaiming this the oldest farm continually
operated by the same family in DeKalb County without more research,
I invite anyone who knows of an earlier date to share that information
I did receive other calls and letters, including one from Jerry
Red Friedlund, who farms near DeKalb. He took the
time to send me a handwritten letter (rare these days) to say
his ancestors arrived here in January 1863 to purchase land at
Lynch and Keslinger roads.
Interest in local history seems to be peaking with the 100th
anniversary of the founding of the Farm Bureau, the release of
the 1940 U.S. census records, and the new online genealogical
records service initiated by DeKalb County Clerk John Acardo
at www.dekalbgenealogy.com. On that site people can find birth
certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates of their
ancestors who came from this county.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115