Fall fes­ti­val cel­e­brates 19th-cen­tury farm life

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Sue Ellen Ross

His­tory lessons and hand-on ac­tiv­i­ties awaited at­ten­dees as they ar­rived for the re­cent Fall Fes­ti­val at Buck­ley Homestead in Low­ell.

The two-day sched­ule in­cluded food, en­ter­tain­ment, can­dle mak­ing, arts and crafts, re-en­act­ments, and a tour of the large farm, which was de­vel­oped in 1853.

The Kel­ley fam­ily of Mer­ril­lville be­gan their visit with a hayride that made stops at the old school­house and the orig­i­nal Buck­ley fam­ily’s log cabin.

“My kids took a field trip out here a few years ago and couldn’t stop talk­ing about it,” said Lynda Kel­ley, as she checked out the list of ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered. “We wanted to see for our­selves what early pi­o­neer life looked like.”

Dur­ing the two-day event, that’s ex­actly what hun­dreds of vis­i­tors did.

Although the school­house did not have a teacher in charge, chil­dren were al­lowed to sit at the old wooden desks and ob­serve the small build­ing where the pi­o­neer chil­dren re­ceived their ed­u­ca­tional lessons.

En­ter­tainer Buck El­liott worked his gui­tar, play­ing old songs for the school­house vis­i­tors. Par­ents com­mented on the sparse fur­nish­ings.

“I can’t be­lieve this old stove heated this whole room for the kids,” said Low­ell mom Donna Jack­son, as her son Gino, 8, tried a desk for size. “And these old wooden desks look real un­com­fort­able.”

Af­ter walk­ing a short dis­tance from the school, along a stone road, the Buck­ley fam­ily log cabin came into view. The Jack­son fam­ily took a peek in­side.

“It’s dark in here and the floors don’t look like ours at home,” Gino said. “I don’t think I could sleep here.”

En­ter­tain­ers Susie and Guy Brown, dressed in pi­o­neer garb, played their old-fash­ioned in­stru­ments to oc­cupy vis­i­tors com­ing to the log cabin, of­fer­ing bales of hay for seat­ing.

Also set up near the log cabin was an area with tents and ta­bles that ex­hib­ited items of the past, such as eat­ing uten­sils, cloth­ing items, and toys used by the young­sters.

Sharon Pemix, of Win­field, came to the fes­ti­val to sup­port her or­ga­ni­za­tion, the South­lake County Agri­cul­tural His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

“Our mem­bers not only brought old trac­tors to ex­hibit, they also brought a ma­chine that takes corn off the husks and they’re show­ing how corn­meal is made.” she said. “Also, we’re sell­ing home­made pies, which are go­ing fast.”

Re-en­act­ment shows of the old days also were on the sched­ule, as the Coles County Reg­u­la­tors from Illi­nois staged four jail­break shows dur­ing the two-day fest.

Alex and Bar­bara Zi­ady, of Scher­erville, brought their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren to last year’s fes­ti­val, and de­cided to re­peat the trip.

“They loved it so much that they wanted to come back,” Bar­bara said, as they waited for the re-en­act­ment show to be­gin. “We have all five of our chil­dren and 10 of our grand­chil­dren here to­day. There’s some­thing for ev­ery­one!”

The old homestead has a rich his­tory. The Buck­ley fam­ily em­i­grated from Ire­land and they even­tu­ally turned their In­di­ana prop­erty into a 150-head dairy farm. They sold their milk to mar­kets in Chicago dur­ing the early 20th cen­tury. Af­ter four gen­er­a­tions of op­er­a­tion, part of the farm was do­nated by Rose Buck­ley-Pearce to be­come part of the Lake County Parks (1977).

The Buck­ley Homestead in Low­ell was added to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 1984.

Sue Ellen Ross is a free­lance reporter for the Post-Tri­bune.

SUE ELLEN ROSS/POST-TRI­BUNE PHO­TOS

The hayride took vis­i­tors for a tour of the Buck­ley farm, with stops at the old school­house and the fam­ily’s orig­i­nal log cabin.

The orig­i­nal Buck­ley fam­ily log cabin was a pop­u­lar stop for vis­i­tors.

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