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Barry Schrader


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.


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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 several responses.

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.
(Barry Schrader 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 Roy’s five children, George (Eleanor’s 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 with me.

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.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115