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Our homestead was established in 1864 by John Wesley Berkshire and Armilda James Berkshire through a land grant offered to veterans of the Civil War. It initially consisted of 600 acres which, through time, had been sold off for various reasons with the final 20 acres that remains to this day including the original homestead.
In 2017 we started our application to become recognized as a sesquicentennial farm by the state of Illinois. This will confirm that our family has consistently owned this property for over 150 years. We are proud of this distinction and the family history it recognizes.
In January 2016, Helen Maxine Weston, widow of Tony Earl Weston, who passed in 1967, and daughter of William Berkshire and Molly Keplinger Berkshire, passed away at 101 years of age. She lived in this same house for 78 years. In order to maintain the tradition and heritage of this plot of land and its associated family, Maxine’s granddaughter, Cindy Weston-Seabrook, and I opted to transplant our farm from a 110 year old farm house built in 1906 located just south of Bridgeport, Illinois to Chauncey, Illinois. 2017 marks the first year this land has had farm activity on it in 40+ years. In fact, Cindy remembers there being chickens in the coop when she was a little girl.
Originally, the property hosted dairy cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. These were staples for the old days when people were self sufficient. Life back then was simple; Maxine [gram] reflected on the fact when she was young, they would sell the eggs from the chickens for money to purchase supplies for the house. They would process the roosters for meat, and keep the hens for egg production. The sheep would produce wool for clothes and the cows and pigs milk and meat. The house still retains the smoke house where pork and other meats could be smoked for preserving over the winter. Bill Weston, Maxine’s son and Cindy’s father, reflects that he used to go in the smoke house and cut off a chunk of pork and eat it right out of the smoke house.
The original part of the house was built from local wood obtained by the two lumber mills owned and operated by John Wesley about two miles from the farm. During Tony Weston’s tenure, he hand built the kitchen, second bedroom, bathroom, front porch, living room extension and utility room as well as dug out the basement and installed running water for the first time. Electricity was added sometime in the mid 1950’s which Cindys father William “Bill” Weston still remembers. Tony Weston also built the kitchen cabinetry still in the house today as well as the wood paneling and stair case to the second floor. He also built the barn still standing today as well as a few other barns located within a couple of miles. He was an accomplished carpenter and builder.
In 2016 I upgraded and replaced the plumbing to include a filtration system to filter the water from the original well still in use. Because water wasn’t frequently cycled through the well and copper pipe and lead solder comprised the system, Gram wouldn’t allow people to drink from the tap. As a result, drinking water had to be brought in whenever events were held at the house. Now the water is as good as “city water”.
I continue with projects rebuilding the utility room floor which decayed from decades of drier venting underneath the floor. In the future we intend to refurbish the smoke house and possibly make it workable again, as well as investigate the cellar which has been closed up since the 60’s. The barn/garage will be refurbished as well in an attempt to preserve its historical value.
It is unique to be connected to such history, even as simple as it was, as it is a direct link to the foundation of life that started this country. Being able to revive a bit of that history again, in some way, touches back to the historical foundation and is something amazing of which to be a part.
We welcome our visitors and hope they too share in some small way this historical link to our past.