Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Unearthing Buried Secrets about Our Local History

Kate recently spent an afternoon at Garfield Farm in LaFox near Geneva helping with the archeological dig that was held for two weeks during June. After taking part in the Joseph Naper Homestead dig in Naperville, Kate was excited to find yet another project where she could help and learn more about Illinois in the early 1800's.

If you go out to Garfield Farm today, the main feature is the brick inn that stood off the Chicago-St. Charles road. Timothy and Harriet Garfield bought an already-existing farm and built the inn in 1846. They dug the clay from the banks of the river, molded and fired the bricks, and then built the handsome structure that you can visit today.

The inn offered meals, lodging and stabling for travelers horses as they traveled up to or down from Chicago. A separate ladies parlour added elegant privacy to this still-rustic frontier landscape. Gentlemen could buy whiskey and tobacco to enjoy in the taproom which was less refined.

The farm stayed in the family for generations until the last of the family, Elva Ruth Garfield turned it into a museum on early farming life in 1977. It is rare among living history museums in that all of the buildings belong to the site where they are currently found instead of being moved from their original sites.

While the Garfields started the innkeeping business, they purchased the land from the Culverson family who lived in a log house that they built in 1836. No doubt the Garfields also lived in the log house until the brick inn was built.

Many other buildings have been built on the grounds, including a hay and grain barn, a horse barn and several other structures. In the last twenty years the 1840's Atwell Burr house was also moved onto the grounds. But the original log house disappeared long ago.

Locating the foundation for this cabin was one of the goals of the archeological program, as well as finding artifacts from the era. A dig in 2006 revealed the cellar and a five-year investigation is planned.

The day that Kate went, the archeologist was continuing from the previously revealed cellar. Most of the land around there had been cultivated through the years, so artifacts have been churned into the ground, mixing beer tabs with old pottery, but there were a few interesting finds.

Glass, both old and new, and ceramic shards were found, as well as brick, worked flint chips and nails.

Although the first session has passed, volunteers will be needed for the second session in September. If you are interested in helping with the dig, you can register by contacting the farm at

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