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Our Wisconsin Family Farm History

Paul lived on a farm just north of Honey Creek for many years in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Two of his passions are history and genealogy.

The Kuehn family farm looking from the creek towards the homestead and land eastward.  Photo taken probably around 2005.

The Kuehn family farm looking from the creek towards the homestead and land eastward. Photo taken probably around 2005.

An Overview of Our Wisconsin Family Farm History —1839–1957

In 1839, Jesse and Simeon Heath received a land grant of 80 acres in eastern Walworth County of Wisconsin. The land was located around Honey Creek and one-half mile north of the small community of Honey Creek.

From 1839 until 1893, a homestead was built and the land changed ownership many times until George Blackburn bought it.

After the Blackburn years ended in 1940, The Thomas family bought the farm then with a barn raised in 1922. Thomas held the farm until 1957 when my folks Charles and Dorothy Kuehn secured ownership.

In this article, I touch on the history of the farm before Kuehn's ownership in 1957.

Aerial photo of our family farm barn, sheds, and house.  Taken in the 1970s.

Aerial photo of our family farm barn, sheds, and house. Taken in the 1970s.

Early Farm History—1839–1893

Before 1839, most of the land in Wisconsin was occupied by Native Americans, or Indians as they were known at that time. After the Indians were defeated in the Blackhawk War of 1832, the United States sold land grants to the hearty who wanted to settle the land.

Jesse and Simeon Heath were two of the first settlers of the land around the present community of Honey Creek. On July 29, 1839, the U.S. government granted the Heaths for an undisclosed amount of money 80 acres in Walworth County, bordering the Honey Creek waterway. This was recorded at the Land Office in Menasha, Wisconsin.

I have no record of the Heaths building a structure on the land. Undoubtedly, this is because they quickly sold the land to Moses Arms for $200 on June 15, 1840.

On August 31, 1846, George Smith, an Englishman identified from land records, sold the farm to James Warmington for $500. Based on information from one of his descendants, Warmington emigrated with his wife to the Honey Creek area probably from England. After living on the farm for almost nine years, Warmington and his wife Esther sold their farm to John Jacobs on May 26, 1855, for $1600.

After a few more exchanges in ownership, Charles and Alice Crites sold the land that now had a homestead to George Blackburn on May 9, 1893, for $7200. The farm had 120 total acres having added 40 acres in Racine County in the 1860s.

From 1840 until 1893, the area around the farm and creek witnessed the development of the community of Honey Creek. Honey Creek was quickly connected by roads to Rochester and Waterford and by the railroad to Burlington and Chicago. From 1840 until 1860 a Baptist Church and school were established. Businesses such as a lumber yard, creameries, general stores, a hotel, and a saloon then followed.

The Blackburn Years—1893–1940

The Blackburn years can be divided into two parts. Part one was from 1893 until 1924 when George Blackburn was alive and running the farm. Part two followed George Blackburn's death and lasted until 1940 when Harry, George's son, owned the farm.

George Blackburn most probably was a dairy farmer cultivating all of the farmland. Significant happenings on the farm, while George was alive, included the probable building of the present farmhouse and the raising of a barn still on the farm.

Although I have no records about the construction of the farmhouse, my sister feels that the original farmhouse was a log cabin built in the 1840s or 1850s. She bases this opinion on logs that she has seen in the basement under the present washroom and the location of the old kitchen. Likely, the Crites who owned the farm before the Blackburns or George Blackburn built the present house over the logs between 1880 and 1900. The farmhouse is a two-floor wooden structure with a basement. Before my dad added on a new kitchen in the late 1950s, the house had a living room, dining room, bedroom, and small kitchen on the first floor. There were four bedrooms on the second floor.

The barn that was raised on June 9, 1922, had room for 15-20 cows on the lower level and a big hayloft with grain bins on the upper level.

While George farmed the land from March 30, 1893, until his death, he built a road from the barn across his marsh in 1896 to reach most of his land on the other side of the creek extending from a wooded area to Bell School Road.

As a dairy farmer, George Blackburn was able to sell his milk to one of three different creameries in the nearby community of Honey Creek. Honey Creek also had a stockyard next to the train depot. This made it convenient for Blackburn to ship his cattle for slaughter to Chicago.

George Blackburn had two sons — Harry and Roy. He also had a daughter, Flora. Even though Blackburn's will stated that each child would receive one-third of the farm, a legal fight was not resolved until the Blackburn farm was sold at a public sale to Harry Blackburn on February 4, 1926.

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After George's death, his daughter and son-in-law, LG Marck bought the farmhouse on July 3, 1924. The other son, Roy, moved from the farm to Honey Creek.

Harry quit farming and had an auction in March 1925. He then moved to Honey Creek.

Unfortunately, I have no records of who lived in the farmhouse and worked the land from 1925 until 1940. However, neighbors' stories reveal that an occupant of the farmhouse shot himself in an upstairs bedroom during the 1930s.

Except for the farmhouse construction, all information about the farmland, barn, and homestead was taken from old Burlington news articles and the farm title abstract.

Our farm's barn, silo, and milkhouse.  Picture taken in 2010.

Our farm's barn, silo, and milkhouse. Picture taken in 2010.

Our Farmhouse.  Picture taken around 1970

Our Farmhouse. Picture taken around 1970

The Thomas Years—1940–1957

On December 17, 1940, Harry Blackburn and his wife Olive sold their farm of 120 acres to Carroll H. Thomas and his wife Vera. Although it is unknown who rented the farm and lived in the farmhouse from 1941 to 1942, a Burlington newspaper article of March 5, 1943, indicated that Paul Schultz rented the farmhouse and Vern VandeWalker worked the land during 1943.

On June 18, 1943, The Thomas family built a cottage on the farm next to the banks of the Honey Creek and lived there for the next 10 years.

A news article revealed that Vern VandeWalker was working the land again in 1944 but on March 2, 1945, Elisha Lewis and his son Gordon, neighboring farmers, signed a contract to rent the Thomas farm.

While Elisha and Gordon Lewis continued renting the farm, the Thomas family sold their creekside residence and four acres to Allen and Rose Anderson on August 11, 1953.

From March 1953 until March 1957, news articles revealed that Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lynch were renting the farmhouse. Mrs. Lynch was the sister of Mrs. Gordon Lewis.

The modern history of our farm begins on March 1, 1957, when we moved on to the old Blackburn farm after purchasing it from the Thomas family.

All facts in this article are based on old newspaper articles and farm title abstract entries.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 12, 2020:

Yes, it would be very interesting tracing the Yorkshire farm history. Good luck and thanks for commenting.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 12, 2020:

Yes, back in 1957, there were so many individually owned farms in our locale. It was really a lot of fun doing the research and writing this article. Thanks for commenting!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 12, 2020:

The Burlington Historical Society was of great assistance in finding old newspaper articles for me. The title abstract of the farm also gave me very much information. I am pleased you found this article interesting.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 12, 2020:

Thank you very much, Halemane. I am extremely happy that you liked this article.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 12, 2020:

This is a fascinating look back at the history of this farm. We have friends who have a farm in Yorkshire. I'm guessing that it would be interesting to trace its history.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 12, 2020:

There were many more individually owned farms back in the days you described in this post. It must be fun for you to know more of the background of the farmstead that your parents eventually owned.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 12, 2020:

It is amazing that you know so much of the interesting history of this farm. I imagine that took a bit of research, but it made for a very interesting article.

Halemane Muralikrishna from South India on January 12, 2020:

For many, farms and farm life are inspiring as the real national habitats are in the farms and forestlands. Since civilization is benefitted from basic needs sourced out of the farms, we must feel proud of it. Thank you for sharing your nice article, including historical accounts, Mr Paul Richard Kuehn.

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