Fall festival celebrates 19th-century farm life
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.
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.