Monthly Archives: April 2021

The Fox Valley’s fresh water springs were valued by pioneers and their descendants, too

Although most of the Fox Valley’s wetlands were drained long ago, the region’s fresh water springs still pop up, especially after heavy rains. While the water seeping from the ground along the county’s watercourses and hillsides looks clear, these days most of that water has been badly polluted by everything from farm and lawn fertilizer to private septic systems.

When I was a youngster, I spent a lot of time on and around the Fox River. Most summers back in the 1950s, those days when small towns were safe places for kids to roam to their hearts’ content, we’d leave home in the morning and not get back until suppertime, except to grab some food at one time or another during the day. Food, we needed, but water to drink was pretty plentiful from the many springs along the riverbank.

There was a particularly good one that exited the riverbank under a tree and for which we cleared out a small, shallow rock-lined pool to drink from. That spring ran all year long. Last year, I took a walk along the riverbank there and found it’s still flowing, though not as strongly as when we were kids.

The Fox River Creamery in Oswego started out life as a brewery making use of the spring that ran through its basement. It was later enlarged and turned into a creamery that processed farmers’ milk and cream into butter and cheese using the spring to cool the dairy products. (Aurora Historical Society collection)

Just to the south of our house was a large spring that once provided cool water for, first, thirsty settlers, then Oswego’s first (and, for well over a century, it’s last) brewery, and later a creamery. The spring water had, at sometime in the past, been piped under what then passed for North Adams Street and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad’s right-of-way in a large iron pipe tile through which the cold water gushed. It was a handy place to stop for a drink on the way home from school or from bicycling. Folks used to come from all over to fill milk cans and large jugs with the clear, cold water, and since it was right next to the railroad tracks, the section gangs that put-putted up and down the CB&Q’s Fox River Branch Line stopped there to fill their water jugs, too.

And, as it turns out, springs were major assets during Kendall County’s settlement era, and not just for drinking purposes, either.

There were at least two springs in the county famed for their medicinal value. The most famous were at Plattville, originally called The Springs by the first settlers. According to E.W. Hicks’ 1877 history of Kendall County, there were a dozen mineral springs at Plattville that not only fed a fairly large marsh rich in fish, but whose water was also prized for its medicinal value by the pioneers. Daniel Platt bought The Springs claim when he arrived in 1833 for $80. It proved to be an excellent investment, providing water, both for drinking and for medicinal purposes, for many years to come.

The water table is very close to the surface in the Plattville area. Hicks reported in 1877 that some settlers in that area were lucky enough to strike artesian wells from which water didn’t need to be pumped: “Obadiah Naden one mile south, and George Mason, six miles south-east, each have flowing wells. The latter was sinking a tubular well, and when fifty-five feet below the surface water was struck, which flowed over the top, and it has continued to flow ever since.”

Daniel Platt’s stone tavern at Plattville replaced his log tavern in 1842. Plattville was originally known as The Springs for the fresh water and mineral springs that bubbled to the surface there. (Little White School Museum collection)

Meanwhile over in House’s Grove, now the site of a Kendall County Forest Preserve in Seward Township, settler Chester House prized the large sulfur spring that flowed in the grove. Sulfur waters were prized as popular cures for various conditions, including skin maladies. A second spring in the grove, located closer to House’s cabin, ran clear and pure without the added smell of sulfur, and, Hicks noted, was considered of less value than the sulfur spring. The House claim was a lonely one out on the prairie, but it provided some welcome security for weary travelers. According to Hicks, “Mrs. House kept a candle burning in the west window, and so level was the prairie, and so clear from underbrush and trees, that the feeble ‘light in the window’ could be seen for six or eight miles.”

The county’s biggest freshwater spring was located in modern Oswego Township along what’s now Ill. Route 31 north of Oswego near the old Wormley School. Called simply “The Great Spring,” it was located close to the old Wormley homestead and was notable enough that when U.S. Government surveyors measured the township in 1838, they noted it. It subsequently appeared on the official government 1842 survey map of the township.

U.S. Government surveyors marked two major springs near Oswego when they mapped the area in 1838, one north of Oswego that settlers called The Great Spring, and another one south of town that was still flowing strongly in the 1960s.

Down in Little Rock Township, there was the Griswold Spring and just a bit to the south over the line in Fox Township was the Greenfield Spring. The Griswold Spring was prominent enough to have a road named after it that still exists. The Native American village of Maramech on and around modern Maramech Hill near Plano was also supplied with water from a good spring.

And along the south bank of the Fox River in Fox Township, we can’t forget the Silver Springs that provide the name for Kendall County’s only Illinois State Fish and Wildlife area. The springs reportedly got their name from the way their water reflects sunlight, seeming to make their surface shine like silver. Those springs are still running strong to this day.

Down just outside of Millington, a 50-foot thick deposit of sparkling white St. Peter’s Sandstone was quarried for several years. At least two springs issued from the strata of the stone and ran west into the Fox River. Today, the old silica sand quarry is filled with water, marking the spot where so much sand was mined and sent down to Ottawa’s glass factories.

And the grounds of Riverview—later Fox River—Park just south of Montgomery featured an artesian spring that ran the year-around to refresh visitors at the amusement park, which was open from 1899-1925.

To the immediate south of Kendall County along the Illinois River, a major mineral spring, whose water was filtered through the St. Peter Sandstone that also underlays that entire area, was well known and valued by area pioneers.

When my great-grandparents moved into town in 1908, they dug a well 14 feet deep that was spring-fed. No matter how much water was pumped from it, a foot and a half of water remained in the well.

But that well, like all those crystal-clear springs along the Fox River near Oswego, was eventually polluted when subdivisions were built east of Route 25. Many of the houses in new unincorporated subdivisions had their own wells and septic systems, and the effluent from those systems found its way down to the bedrock that directs surface water towards the Fox River. The old brewery/creamery spring, my parent’s spring-fed well, and the springs along the river all now register as extremely close to raw sewage due to their heavy loads of coliform bacteria.

While water from streams was often suspect from a health perspective, the pioneers of  180 years ago knew they didn’t have to worry about whether the clear, cold water they drank from the Fox Valley’s many natural springs would sicken them. Unfortunately, these days we do.


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How European hat fashions of the past nearly wiped out dozens of animal species

The February edition of BBC History Magazine had an interesting piece on how the use of feathers and bird skins and body parts in women’s hat fashions during the late 1800s and early 1900s drove some bird species to the brink of extinction—and sometimes over it.

Fashionable women’s headgear of the era was often custom manufactured by local milliners in small towns and big cities alike. When the big catalog companies and their accompanying department stores were developed, women in even the smallest hamlets or in isolated farms and ranches could buy the most fashionable and elaborate befeathered hats.

Elaborate women’s hats of the Victorian era were decorated with feathers and other parts of bird bodies, from wings to whole skins.

But while women’s hat fashions were indeed responsible for depredations on the world’s bird species, we shouldn’t forget that men’s hat fashions also drove some animal species—this time fur-bearing animals— to near or total extinction hundreds of years earlier.

Using wool to manufacture felt was common from Roman times on, but it wasn’t until the 13th Century or so that it was found that superior felt could be made from the fur of beavers. Each individual beaver fur hair, it turns out, has microscopic barbs on it that allow it to tightly cling to its fellows.

The Russians were the first to really capitalize on beaver fur for felting, fortuitously just at the time that elaborate men’s felt hats were becoming all the rage in Europe. It didn’t take long for the idea of using beaver fur felt to manufacture the finest hats to spread all over the continent. And that spelled doom for the beaver populations in Europe as well as in western Russia.

It was just at this hat mania was accelerating that it was found that beavers were plentiful in the North American colonial possessions of France, England, and the Netherlands—not to mention all sorts of other furbearing animals as well as deer and other ruminants whose skins were valuable for manufacturing everything from riding britches to wealthy people’s gloves.

The broad-brimmed floppy hats worn by Swedish soldiers during the destructive Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) set the fashion for the next century and a half. And all those hats required a lot of beaver skins to manufacture the felt to satisfy the need.

Beginning in the 1600s, the competition for control of the fur trade led to conflict among the European colonial powers in their North American possessions, as well as with and between the continent’s Native People.

From 1652 to 1674, the British and Dutch fought a series of maritime conflicts that resulted in the loss of New Netherlands to the British, and its renaming as New York. The British and Spanish, too, fought with each other over their North American colonies, the two major ones being the War of Jenkins’ Ear, 1739 to 1748, was largely inconclusive although it led to a Spanish invasion of Georgia that was repulsed.

The unique qualities of beaver fur made it ideal to manufacture felt for 18th and early 19th Century men’s hats. The wild popularity of beaver felt hats and the resulting trade in beaver furs prompted everything from international wars to the destruction of Native American cultures.

However, the major wars over North American colonial possessions—and control of the fur trade—were fought between the French and the British as sidelights to larger European (and even worldwide) wars. King William’s War (1688–1697), Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713), King George’s War (1744–1748), and the final conflict in the series, the French and Indian War (1754-1763) eventually resulted in the expulsion of France from most of its former North American possessions.

During all of these conflicts, North America’s Native People were involved in a series of changing alliances between tribes as well as with the colonial powers. Due to a major error on the part of French explorer, governor and military leader Samuel de Champlain, the powerful Iroquois Confederacy, which controlled the area lying between the Atlantic Coast and the rich fur-producing areas of the Great Lakes generally allied itself with British interests, while the Algonquian-speaking people of the Great Lakes area generally allied with the British and Dutch.

Furs, particularly those of the beaver, were so eagerly sought early in the colonial era that beavers were soon driven to near extinction in Atlantic coastal areas, requiring traders to range farther and farther inland.

The Iroquois Confederacy was an unusual (and innovative) political alliance of five tribes based in what is now upper New York State that all spoke related Iroquoian languages, the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca. By 1600, the original five-member confederacy had been formed, committing all members to an organized system of choosing leaders and defending the confederacy against other tribes, particularly neighboring Alqonquian-speaking people. In 1722, the Tuscaroras joined the confederacy, which then became known as “The Six Nations.”

The Iroquois quickly grasped the importance of their location to control of the fur trade, and they determined to control access to the western Great Lakes where the richest supplies of fur-bearing animals was to be found. In order to cement their control, the Iroquois apparently independently developed the concept of total war to either subjugate or totally destroy other tribes. Historians call the succession of conflicts waged over fur trade control the Beaver Wars. At least one large tribe, known as the Neutrals, was completely eradicated while the powerful Hurons were forced ever farther west. The conflicts even struck here in Illinois as a series of Iroquois military strikes from the 1650s to the 1680s temporarily drove the populous Illinois Confederacy west of the Mississippi River and ended up forcing the Illinois to rely on French protection for survival.

The Iroquois closed the western Great Lakes to French trade for many years, but by the 1680s, the French were building settlements all over the region including here in Illinois, first at Fort St. Louis atop Starved Rock and then at Peoria and along the Mississippi River at Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and the imposing Fort de Chartres. Throughout the late 17th Century and through the mid-18th Century, the French extracted millions of furs and hides from everything from beavers, martens, and mink to deer and buffalo for shipment either north and east to Montreal on the Great Lakes’ “Voyageurs’ Highway,” or down the Mississippi to New Orleans.

By the early 1800s, both the American and British the fur trade in the lower Great Lakes relied in Mackinac boats rather than birch bark freight canoes.

With the French defeated in the last of the great North American fur trade wars in 1763, the British occupied the interior of the continent and their traders enjoyed a monopoly in the trade in furs. But not for long. The British North American colonies revolted in 1776, throwing the interior back into almost constant warfare with tribes of Native People mostly supporting the British. American military forays into what was by then known as The Illinois Country, as well as the western Great Lakes secured the area to the south of the lakes’ shores for the new United States.

John Jacob Astor established the American Fur Company to take over the former British fur trade infrastructure—a plan that was set back by the War of 1812 as the British and their Native American allies who pushed Americans out of the richest areas before the Treaty of Ghent formalized the border between the U.S. and Canada.

Fort Mackinac at the strait between lakes Huron and Michigan was the western hub of the fur trade where brigades of birch bark canoes and Mackinac boats were sent to the interior each spring to collect furs trapped during the previous winter.

Native People traded furs and hides—the thick prime winter beaver pelt was the standard by which the trades were made—that had driven beavers extinct in the East soon did the same in the Western Great Lakes, and the trade gradually moved on to the Great West and the Rocky Mountains, conducted by the famed Mountain Men.

In recent decades, furbearing animals driven to near-extinction by the fur trade have made a dramatic comeback in the lower Great Lakes.

Astor sold the American Fur Company operations in 1834. By that time, furbearers had largely disappeared from northern Illinois and in any case, the U.S. Government was ready to forcibly remove the region’s Native People west of the Mississippi. While the fur trade continued for several more years in Canada and the Rocky Mountain west, it was only a shadow of it’s former extent.

When the first American settlers began arriving here in northern Illinois in the late 1820s, the area had been largely stripped of animals whose furs and hides could be sold. It wasn’t until the passage of environmental laws in the 1970s that the region’s furbearers and other animals valued for their hides such as white-tailed deer began showing up in larger numbers.

The same sensitivity to the environment has also led to the recovery of many of the bird species that were so hard-hit during the Victorian women’s mania for befeathered hats.

Looking back at those bits of history, it is interesting, not to mention appalling, to contemplate that entire species of birds and mammals were nearly driven to extinction by human fashions in, of all things, hats as we celebrate another Earth Day.

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The Union won the Civil War but lost the peace

Today marks the 156th anniversary of the surrender of the rebellious “Army of Northern Virginia,” under the command of a renegade U.S. Army colonel, Robert E. Lee, to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the U.S. armies fighting to preserve the Union and end slavery.

It had been a long, bloody conflict, by far the deadliest in U.S. history, but with Lee’s surrender, the few remaining rebellious Southern forces likewise surrendered and the war was over.

But while the military phase of the war was over, the political phase was far from finished. Indeed, the previously rebellious Southern states immediately began organizing against the reconstruction plans of the victorious North.

U.S. Grant, 1868 GOP candidate for President

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by Southerners just days after the end of the war, and his vice-president, Andrew Johnson, took over the reins of government. Johnson proved an ineffective replacement for Lincoln. In the election of 1868, Johnson didn’t succeed in gaining the Democratic nomination. Instead, it went to Horatio Seymour, former Democratic governor of New York. The Republican nomination went, by acclamation, to Ulysses Grant, the victor of the Civil War.

The Democrats based their campaign on outright racism, and violence across the South was widespread and vicious. By the summer of 1868, in fact, Union veterans were beginning to wonder if the war, despite all of the death and privation, had ended too soon. While the South’s armies had been vanquished, Southern citizenry had not and the rise of armed White racist terrorists was creating chaos across the region.

John Redman Marshall was born in 1837 at Skipton, Maryland. He enlisted in the Sturgess Rifles at Chicago in 1861 and fought in many of the major battles in the Eastern Theatre before he was mustered out in 1863. In 1864, he established the Kendall County Record, at Yorkville, Illinois, publishing the first issue on May 1. Marshall died 18 April 1927 in Yorkville, Kendall, Illinois. (Little White School Museum collection)

It is with that backdrop that John Redmon Marshall, editor and publisher of the Kendall County Record, decided to write an editorial wondering whether more organized violence against the South might be warranted. A Civil War veteran himself, Marshall was alarmed at the viciously racist attitude of Southerners and their growing reliance on violence as the campaign continued. In the Record’s Aug. 13, 1868 edition, Marshall laid out his thinking to his readers—including his former comrades-in-arms—here in our little corner of northern Illinois:

“Many Union men assert that the war of the rebellion ended two years too soon. That the rebels were overpowered but not conquered. It is becoming public opinion that the assertion is true and that the aim of the Democratic party is to revolutionize the country if it gets into power. The South threatens to appeal to the bayonet at any rate, whether it is successful at the polls or not

“The Democratic platform is revolutionary. The leaders of the party desire the success of the South to overthrow the reconstructed States, and they are revolutionary. Shall we have another war? Do the people of this Country wish to engage in another deadly strife? If not, let them give no countenance to the Copperheads or to their plans. Harper’s Weekly says: ‘The Democratic party proposes to reverse all the national legislation of three last years, to subvert the reconstruction which the country has approved, to disperse organized State governments by the bayonet; by the same means to reinstate those who, for the highest crime against the Commonwealth, have been temporarily disfranchised; to deprive hundreds of thousands of new citizens of the ballot, and thrust them back into a semi-enslaved condition—a project which can not be accomplished but by the most sanguinary measures. Proclaiming a wholly arbitrary test of citizenship in color—a test involving caste and inconceivable injustice, which embraces the entire disaffected class, and excludes a large body of the loyal people—it announces that if its claim is disregarded, it will appeal to physical force,’ and pass its candidate in the White House at the point of a bayonet.

“‘It will not be forgotten that the party which thus enters into a political campaign with a loud threat of civil war is the one that has previously made the same threat and fulfilled it to the letter. In 1860 the Democratic orators said that ‘the South could not be expected to submit to the election of Mr. Lincoln.’ In 1856, Mr. Filmore, absurdly called Conservative, had said the same thing in view of the election of Mr. Freemont. It was not bravado merely. Whatever the Northern portion of the party may have thought or intended, the Southern portion was sincere and resolved; and it was that portion which had entirely controlled the party and dictated its policy, because it was the positive element.’

“Mr. John Forsythe, of the Mobile Register, thus candidly states the propose of the South, and gives a fair warning to the Northern people:

“’If by any species of chicanery or fraud the legitimate voices of the majority of the whole people of the United States are condemned, and the Radical candidates are pronounced elected by the Radical Congress, the Democracy of the country will not submit to it, and will take arms to sustain the decrees of the ballot box.

Horatio Seymour, the Democratic candidate for President in 1868.

Now, if civil war comes out of this conflict of political forces, the white men of the South cannot be worsted; for war and its terrors, in their deadliest form, are not comparable to the evils they will have to endure under a perpetuation of scalawag and carpet-bag rule. And here we may as well say that the people of the South do not intend to submit to that permanent rule, result as the Presidential election may. And they have only submitted to its indignities and insults so far because they have been waiting for the good sense and justice of the American people to relieve them from it, and restore them to their civil rights in the November elections.’

“Did not the war end too soon? Is the cursed spirit of rebellion crushed? Are we to be threatened with the bayonet at every Presidential election? If the Democrats are defeated in November they threaten the bayonet. If they are successful, they will overthrow the acts of Congress passed during and since the war. Slavery or serfdom will be re-established and the country will be placed back to where it was in the days of Pierce and Buchanan. Then the five years’ war will have been a failure and this progressive people will have once more to contend with the devils of treason and slavery.

“Then defeat Seymour and Blair, the devil and his angel, and let the South, backed by the Copperheads of the North, endeavor to revolutionize the country. But they will not do it. They dare not do it. Southern braggadocio and copperhead threats are too well know by the loyal millions to frighten them.”

Given the violence of last year’s Presidential election, as well as the violence of the post-election period that was instigated and encouraged by the former President, it may be useful to contemplate that there were misgivings about the end of the Civil War at the time. That the racist attitudes of that era are coming to the fore once again suggests that Marshall and the “Union men” he referenced were not being overly alarmist.

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Farmers’ annual ritual of moving from farm to farm a thing of the past

By this time in the farming calendar of Fox Valley residents from the early 1900s through the later years of the 20th Century, tenant farmers were settled on the land they planned to work for the coming year. The moves from former rental farms to their new homes had been accomplished in February and March so that by early April families were pretty much settled in and ready to go to work.

But speaking of the second month of the year, if you’ve lived in Illinois for any time at all, you know that February is not the nicest month around these parts. Despite all the love expressed on Valentine’s Day, the fact is, Illinois weather in February is just about the worst the region can offer. Cold, snow, sometimes rain and mud, followed by ice and frozen mud are all things February throws at us every year—sometimes all at once.

Which is why it might puzzle you a bit that February was the month my parents chose to get married.

Until she was 10 years-old, my mom’s family lived on the East Side of Aurora in what was then called “Dutch Town” because of the majority population of Germans that lived there. My grandfather worked in the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy shops downtown while my grandmother kept house. But in 1920, my grandmother—a country girl—persuaded my grandfather to move out of town to a farm. She promised to actually do all the farming to start, including milking cows, if they’d only move out of the city (and away from fractious in-laws) and back to her beloved country.

My grandparents moved from the east side of Aurora to this decrepit farmhouse in Wheatland Township in June 1920, where they joined the rural community.

So out to Wheatland Township they went, moving from their nice big Queen Anne two-story home on Hinman Street into a dumpy little one-story house on one of the Lewis McLaren farms. The farm they rented was less than a half-mile from the Tamarack School, but that was about place’s only positive attribute.

My grandfather continued in his job in Aurora for a couple years, walking the mile and a half down what’s today 127th Street to the interurban line where he caught a trolley into town, worked his 10 hours, and commuted home again. Meanwhile my grandmother milked cows to sell the butter, milk, and cream; raised chickens; tended a huge garden and large orchard; took care of the kids; and kept house.

It was about the same time my father, figuring the frequent drifts of dust blocking the back door of his family’s Kansas farmhouse were bad omens, decided to go with his buddy and a cousin to California to join the Navy. They stayed overnight at another cousin’s place in western Kansas, who talked them out of joining the peace-time Navy. The cousin added he heard there were jobs to be had in Illinois, so the trio turned their Model-T Ford around and headed back east, winding up in Ottawa. There they worked as steeplejacks at the glass factories for a couple years before my dad decided he wanted to get back into farming. He took the interurban trolley from Ottawa to Joliet and from there to downtown Aurora, making sure to arrive on a Saturday night when farm families came to town for their weekly shopping.

My dad (back row in black hat and white shirt and tie) poses with his parents and siblings(and little niece and nephew) as he says good-bye to Kansas.

He walked down Broadway, asking the first person he saw that looked like a farmer if he was hiring. No, the man said, but he knew who was. And so, with a few detours, my father found himself working for Jim and Bess McMicken out in the same Scots neighborhood my mother’s parents had moved to. My grandfather and my dad met during a volunteer project at the Wheatland United Presbyterian “Scotch” Church. Grandpa was impressed by how hard a worker my dad was, and so invited him home for a meal. Where he met my mom, and where, nature taking its course, after their marriage in February 1930, my two older sisters and I eventually showed up.

But why did they pick February for their wedding date? Well back then, many if not most farmers rented and did not own their own land. Farms were rented every spring, generally at the end of February or the first of March. And so if you were a young couple looking to rent a farm, it was smart to get chores—like your marriage, for instance—out of the way so you’d be ready to jump on the first available farm that came up for rent.

Throughout the region, families moved from farm to farm, leaving old neighborhoods, churches, and one-room schools behind to take up another farm elsewhere. Keeping everyone abreast of the area’s moves, the Kendall County Record’s Oswego correspondent reported on Feb. 28, 1930: “Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kuhns have moved to the L.D. Judd farm near Sugar Grove. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Meyer and family have moved into the place vacated by the Kuhns.”

My folks, dating the year before they got married.

In 1939, so many farm families were moving that the correspondent ran a special story on it each week during the spring season. “’The time has come, the Walrus said’ for many farmers to pack up their household and farm equipment and move to another farm,” she wrote on March 1, before listing several family moves, and adding, “Other moves in this annual checker game will be given next week.”

In 1930, my newly married parents found a farm over on what’s now Ill. Route 126 between Plainfield and Yorkville. An old house even then, it needed fixing up, which my grandfather, who by then had left the Burlington shops and was farming and doing carpenter work on the side, did. Establishing a precedent, he went into town and bought whatever wallpaper was the cheapest and everyone pitched in to paper the walls and paint the woodwork.

From there, my folks moved to another one of the McLaren farms. With the farm came old Mrs. McLaren, who my mother was expected to care for and who was then well into dementia, her paranoia dictating that she never turned her back on my father, even when climbing the stairs to go to bed, which she did by walking backwards. Mr. McLaren (who was an engineer and inventor) and his wife came to stay on the farm on a regular basis, but his penchant for year round nude bathing in the farm stock tank persuaded my parents (especially my outraged mother) it was perhaps not the best environment to raise their two small daughters.

The Butcher Place, where my parents’ farming career ended and where I lived until I was eight years old.

From the McLaren Place, they moved to Minkler Road and the infamous Gates’ Place. The Gates’ Place forever after was the low point by which all other rented farmhouses were gauged. It was the place where snow drifted through the closed bedroom windows and the teakettle froze on the back burner of the cookstove at night.

But then as the 1930s were drawing to a close, a farm with relatively new house and buildings came up for rent. From the McLaren Place they’d previously rented, the new farm was a short trip down 127th Street to Tamarack Corners and then a couple miles north to the Butcher Place for the final farm my folks rented. It’s where I spent my first eight years. In December 1954, my parents and my sisters and I moved to town and left the farm rental lottery for good.

Today, that once-common late winter-early spring ritual of families moving from farm to farm is almost entirely a thing of the past—as is farming itself in much of the Fox Valley. But at one time, there was a whole lot of movin’ going on around these parts early in every year.

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