Monday, September 2, 2013

Roots..........The Garfield Farm Museum, LaFox, Illinois

Randy and I really do not know what each day is going to hold.  We aim and shoot. This was a wonderful day!

This morning we lingered in our lovely motel.  I used the fitness room, and he enjoyed the pool.  By the time we were in the car, it was 10:30.  A late start is better than no start at all, we think.

We did have a "destination," of sorts, and we called ahead even..............but we didn't get there yet.

Instead, we drove slowly, laughed at the "Watch Geese" sign, and giggled at a sign for a store named Little Denmark. What was funny was that it was in an Hispanic neighborhood.  I am sure there's a story there.

Thelma steered us towards Chicago.  It did not seem to matter what I asked her to do, we were pointed towards Chicago, and she was determined to get us there. Wrong! We are quite good at going in huge circular drives to avoid big cities.

Now, you have to know that Randy and I always drive the speed limit. We don't believe in adding five or ten miles to what the signs say.  It's not to prevent speeding tickets as much as it is for our own safety.  We loathe tailgaters and speeders, and an aggressive, tailgating speeder is our idea of a serial killer. 

We finally stuffed a rag in Thelma's mouth and got out the map.  We aimed north and west, and the next thing we knew, we were headed towards the Garfield Farm Museum in La Fox, Illinois. Perhaps I had a little to do with that........

 La Fox is a small area between Geneva and St. Charles, and the farm is the homestead of my great-great grandparents on my father's side, Timothy P. and Harriet Garfield. 

 It would have been hard  to drive by a place where my roots are so deeply planted, so like a homing pigeon, that's where we went.

The home was built by my great-great grandfather with bricks that he made right there on the farm. He and Harriet had come from Mount Holly, Vermont with their children, including my great-grandmother, Barbara Garfield, in 1841.  She married Montreville Pierce, and their son, Clarence Pierce, was my father, Norman's, father.

Randy and I had a picnic lunch at the grave of Harriet and Timothy Garfield this afternoon, with many other Garfield relatives nearby. Randy and I have visited the graves of some of Timothy and Harriet's children who are buried in Mount Holly, Vermont, as well as the graves of Barbara and Montreville Pierce in Manchester, Iowa. (I have a small family on the ground, but an enormous one in spirit, you see.)

After lunch, we walked down Garfield Road to the house, which also served as a tavern in the 1840s when it was built.  There is a barn, livestock, outbuildings and gardens. Unusual chickens are a specialty here.

 There is also a 20 acre prairie which has served as a pasture, but has never been plowed.  Virgin prairie is a rare thing, and I recall one time being at the farm for a reunion when it was explained to us that if a wildflower is blooming in those areas, they are truly wild flowers, since nothing has ever been actually planted on those acres. Ever.

When you finish reading this today, please go to  and read about my father's family's wonderful working farm museum.  If you live nearby, go and visit it.  There are events taking place there constantly: harvest days,  holiday celebrations, and wildflower walks. Timothy Garfield's journal (I came by this naturally, you see),  is repeatedly read, and the things that the family did on particular days are done again by volunteers and workers in period costume.

 I am so proud to be a supporter of this farm, and proud of my ancestors for their hard work to create a living legacy.

We allowed Thelma to direct us out of the farmlands and back to our "northwest" direction, and somewhere over the state line of Wisconsin, Randy slammed his foot on the brake. He  had found  the most amazing junk shop we've ever seen.  I will let my pictures tell this short story, but I tell you that Randy was beaming with glee as he walked all over this place.  Without buying a single thing, we continued our drive.

Tonight we are in a beautiful Days Inn in the outskirts of Madison, Wisconsin.  We had bought four ears of freshly-picked sweet corn from a dear old farmer on the way here, and we cooked them in a portable steamer that we carry along. They went with Arby's roast beef sandwiches perfectly.

The destination we had in mind for this morning is now the destination we have in mind for tomorrow.........that's how real ramblers ramble!

Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013