Murals, art in unexpected places.

Downtown Springfield has an art program that I am loving. They are adding murals like this of Lincoln the Surveyor at various buildings adding a touch of art to the downtown capital. The Artification project began in 2013 as a cultural endeavor. The city used local artists to create the murals that hopefully attract tourists to stop and visit Springfield sites.

My first real notice was of the Vachel Lindsay flower that accompanied a poem he wrote for the commemoration of the Panama Canal. While this has nothing to do with the mural project, the flower high on the wall on a recent cold, snowy, windy day in downtown lifted my spirits. It was then that I noticed the cool Surveyor picture and wondered how many others I have missed along the way. Art has a way of lifting the spirits and making you think creative thoughts.

For details on the project and its roots, log onto I just wanted to pass along the beauty of the downtown murals and pass along the thought of keeping your eyes open to beauty like that and raise a glass to local artists bringing beauty in unexpected places.

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Traveling Companions, Laying it all on the line

A traveling companion can add so much to a trip. Whether you are going on a grand adventure or an afternoon jaunt memories can be made, memories that you have no idea on that day that they may have to last a life time. This last week we said goodbye to my father. He was a homebody to the max, but during this last year, we had some grand jaunts my dad and I. He traveled with me to visit a museum in Lincoln, Illinois straight there and straight back of course as was his way, but the Lincoln Heritage Museum will always be special to me because we went together. Unlike his usual self he a former teacher, albeit only for a short time, that day was quite vocal on his opinions of Lincoln and what the man was like during our visit. He said quite a bit to the Director as we traveled from exhibit to exhibit. He had written a paper about Lincoln and his religion and through his thoughts on Lincoln I gained insight into my father, a quiet man’s, thoughts as well.

My favorite grand jaunt with him this past year was to Salisbury, Illinois where my mom and dad and I visited my friend Rose who lives in the town where my dad was born and lived the first eight years of his life. It was a happy place for my father and we drove all over town and he pointed out where he was born, where he tore through the streets being a boy and making the paths his own. Living a youth that sadly no child can have today, a freedom that no eight year old is allowed anymore. He also shared the hard work, the lawns mowed, the gardens grown and the love he had of his great-grandmother that shaped the man I so loved.

Yes, a traveling companion whether your dad, your lover or your friend can add so much to a trip. While you have the chance take the time to tell them how you feel and how wonderful they really are. One morning early this week, Garth Brooks song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” came on the radio and tears ran down my eyes as he crooned the words “would she know how much I loved her”. Thankfully I know how much he loved me, more than words can say, more than phrases I can write and today I am living on his kind words, his gestures, his smiles and remembering those short cherished afternoon trips. In answer to Brooks words,”Is the love I gave her in the past, Gonna be enough to last, If tomorrow never comes” and the answer is yes, it is enough to last until my last breath.

Tell your traveling companion how special they are, lay it all on the line.


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Avery History lives on at Knox College – Photo by Rex Cherrington


This lovely picture was taken by historian Rex Cherrington of Galesburg, Illinois. For the past few weeks I have been researching Avery history for one of my columns in Farm World and Mr. Cherrington has offered insight into this amazing family that changed the face of both Galesburg and Peoria, Illinois. If you, like me, love the agricultural stories of places you visit you too would enjoy a gander at this lovely building that was built in 1903 as the home of Cyrus Avery and now serves as the home of the President of Galesburg’s Knox College.

Robert Avery was a Union solider that was captured and sent to the horrific Confederate prision Andersonville. 13,000 Union prisoners died in this place from starvation, disease and exposure. My husband Keith and I visited Andersonville a couple of years ago, (in fact you can search through the archives and read about the prison) and we were amazed that anyone could survive this small piece of ground enclosed by a fence where men were shoved with little but what they had with them when they were caught to survive.

To keep his mental state while in prison Avery developed a cultivator that would launch the Avery Manufacturing story on down the line. The Knox County Illinois Genealogy site states, “It was while confined there, however, that Mr. Avery from sheer lack of mental occupation, first directed his thought to those improvements in the implements of farm work, the perfecting of which have made his name famous.”

After the war, Robert joined up with his brother Cyrus and together they developed the cultivator and later a spiral stalk chopper that Robert developed. While these machines would start and stop the company as they tried to make a name for themselves and survive the financial panic of 1883 it was the corn planter they developed that set them on the agricultural map. The original planter is at the Edison Institute Museum at Ford’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

The Avery Company manufactured equipment from 1872-1882 in Galesburg Mr. Cherrington said was through the partial purchase of the already established Frost Manufacturing Co a foundry owned by Joseph Frost. The original buildings are gone today, but Mr. Cherrington said, “A few buildings in the south end of Galesburg are the former site of Frost but they are of a later period.”

As the company grew, during the summer of 1882 they made the move from Galesburg to where they produced corn planters, check rowers, stalk cutters, cultivators and hand tools and the company was renamed the Avery Planter Company. At one time they were the largest employer in Peoria. Robert Avery died in 1891 while touring the Western US with his family in California of a heart attack. Cyrus Avery then took over as President of the Company and retired in 1902 building the lovely home shown above in 1903. Forty-five year’s later it would become the home of the President of Knox College.

Cyrus Avery died in 1905, but the company still thrived well into the 1920’s then suffered setbacks during the Depression and finally closed when World War II. Watch for my two columns in Farm World which delve deeply into the history of this fascinating family and agricultural history. When driving past Knox College think about the Avery connection.

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The Champaign County Historical Museum called my name

What is not to love about a building named the Cattle Bank? The Champaign County Historical Museum is housed in a building called the Cattle bank because it was once a bank and our guide shared that the building that was built in the late 1850s began as a branch of the Grand Prairie Bank, which was Urban, Champaign’s sister city. At the time Champaign was the southern terminus of a railroad line to Chicago and this was where cattle raisers from the surrounding area drove their cattle to ship to the Chicago market.

The brochure about the bank shares, “The Cattle bank building was built in the spring of 1857 by Messrs Color and Hubbard. Only one block from the new Illinois Central Railroad, it was formed to meet the anticipated needs of the local cattle producers as they prepared for shipment of cattle to Chicago. Cattle grazing was a major business in this are in the mid-1850’s, before the prairies were drained and plowed. the bank failed in 1861, and by 1865 had opened as a grocery store. It remained as such until the 1930’s when it was converted to a drug store.”

After a fire in 1971 the building was almost torn down, but thankfully deemed worth saving and was placed on the Natioal Register of Historic Places. In addition, they also added the adjacent building and together they both serve as the museum.

We were in Champaign to go to a toy show and I wrangled a visit to the museum with my husband Keith first when I learned the amazing history of the 1919 popcorn truck that they own. Sadly this amazing truck that they take out and pop corn in at local events is moth balled during the winter season, but the rest of the museum offered up some neat history so the visit was worthwhile.

The first room we saw during our tour was the replica of the 20th century grocery store that was recreated to represent the one located in the building after the bank closed. The store has a lot of lovely wood and is filled with neat items like an original typewriter and a turn-of-the-century stove. The store also includes a very neat old scales and a beautiful wooden ice box. Shelves are stacked with items that might have been found on early 20th century shelves.

Lovely clothing is on display in the room next door but my favorite piece of clothing to see was an outfit belonging to one of my favorite musical artists of all time, Alison Krauss, a famous blue grass singer that hails from Champaign. The outfit denotes an early award that Krauss won.

Like many historical museums, they have military history with some special items. For me as a mother of a son, the one that really hit home was the World War II Airforce uniform on display. This leather jacket and pants with the wool collar and cuffs were to keep the young men from freezing at high altitudes. The owner of the uniform never made it back from a mission and his family donated his extra.

There was also a cool machine, the Millionaire Calculator which was the first machine capable of making direct multiplication. They were built between 1899 and 1935. Only 4,655 handmade machines were built and the machine was donated by the University of Illinois.

The museum also had some interesting early toys and I had fun seeing the displays put on by local high school students and their idea of “really old” items. I am afraid they would think I am rather ancient, but if I recall back then anyone or anything 30 or more is quite elderly!







img_1158For more information about this charming museum, log onto

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A little education at the Specialty Crop conference

The Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference was held January 7-9, 2015 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Springfield, Illinois. Since I am married to a grain farmer I always enjoy this conference that touches on crops I know little about. We have a garden and grow some of the regular sweet corn, potatoes etc., but this conference for me is like receiving the seed catalogs in the mail, a hint of spring. There is usually some herbs on display in the exhibition area, popcorn is popping, seed growers are there and farmers from specialty growers are mulling about comparing notes.

This year I interviewed a man that sells bees to enhance pollination and listened to a workshop all about root crops harvest and storage. My favorite stop though may have been to Papa’s Midwest Kettle Corn that is located in nearby Chatham, Illinois. Perhaps this was my favorite because he offered treats at his stop and I walked away with some tasty kettle corn.

While winter has its hold and the weather is somewhat questionable check out a workshop or conference and travel somewhere to enhance your brain power. I learned several things at this event, one, bees are shipped all over the world for pollination, there is a market for fall broccoli and don’t wash vegetables until you are ready to use them or they may rot. The most interesting things I learned though came from R. Allen Straw’s presentation about farming by the moon. “Root crops need to be dug in a waning moon, a 3rd quarter moon,” he said.

The reason he added is that the waxing moon has a pull on the Earth. “There is moisture with the waxing moon. The ground will be wet pulling moisture to the surface overnight”

Who knew? I am going to a community event today as a volunteer, maybe I will learn a lot of new health issues while handing out heart health brochures! Get out, stay warm, and expand your knowledge, you will be glad you did!

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The Harkey House brings out my own family memories

My mom and I took a trip back in time to the two-story Solomon Harkey House, a lovely Federal style structure that stands on the corner of Broad & Water in Hillsboro, Illinois. The home is the oldest in Montgomery County and was built in 1834 by Solomon Harkey.

Harkey came from North Carolina with his family, established a tannery then farmed and flourished in what was then a pioneer village. He built a house of brace construction that used bricks to line the interior walls. During our visit, we saw many wonderful items within the house, furnishings, paintings, quilts and even a pair of scissors belonging to Abraham Lincoln’s mother, but what hit home for me was the story that my mother told when she saw the bread raiser in the kitchen.

I had never seen a bread raiser before so that in itself was revelation. The bread raiser brought out a family story about my grandmother I had never heard. She said her mom loved to make bread and her mother told her one day they had enough bread and not to make any. Later when she got home she said, “Ena, I told you not to make any bread.”

When my grandmother (Ena) asked her how she knew she had made bread, she said she could see the soil rising in the back yard where grandma had buried it! It is neat to hear your own family stories when touring a historic home.

My grandmother has been gone for many years now, but hearing this story I can picture my quiet grandmother who loved cooking and cooked for her six children and anyone else that happened to stop by kneading bread and enjoying the rhythmic movements this would have taken. Ena Pearcy was not one who needed a lot. She really didn’t need much at all but a good book (primarily Harlequins), a comfortable chair and a bit of quiet.

Thank you Harkey House for bringing a bit of my grandmother back to me through my mother’s eyes.

. bread raiser

The Harkey House is a lovely home with a lot of history and worth a visit. The Harkey House is open on special occasions and by appointment. For tours call Betty Darden at 217-532-3691 or Janet Carlyle at 217-532-5642

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Toy Season has arrived

So, this past weekend we went to the small farm toy show at Carlyle, Illinois. The show is sponsored by the International Harvester Southern Illinois Club and is held at Mariner’s Village near Lake Carlyle. We have been attending this event that we think of as the kick off of the farm toy season. We met our friends the Elliotts who hail from Godfrey, Illinois, it was their first time at the Carlyle show.

Jane Elliott had three things on her list to find, suspenders, a bright orange jacket for her grandson and a Half Century Calendar. She left with one, a calendar, and a new enjoyment of this before undiscovered show.

There were several toy vendors set up, but for me the highlight of the show was a very cool display with a lot of history. David Thompson from Pinckneyville, Illinois had his farm layout of the Pinckneyville Equipment dealership. Dave’s grandson, Grant Thompson, helped him set up one last time.

This show while the kick off of what Keith and I think of as the farm toy season was the last hurrah for this farm layout before it was installed at the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum, a very cool museum in Pinckneyville, Illinois. The dealership that has so many memories for Dave fits right into that mission. “I worked at the dealership in 1952. I started at 17,” Dave said.

The Pinckneyville dealership was a block building that was built in the mid 30’s and was open through the mid 1970’s. “It was owned by J.O. Schemacher,” Dave said.

The dealership is no longer there, it burned down so it remains only in this layout and perhaps in picture archives. Dave took his memories and built this display about 20 years ago adding touches as recently as this past Thanksgiving. An avid collector, Dave owns about 150 toys and has set up for years at the Thresherman’s show and at the Carlinville Toy Show.

These days Dave would rather be driving his Cub Cadet around and letting visitors at the museum view the display.

It was cold, but attendance was good and many of the toy folks were out and about sharing what they love the most a bit of chatter about their favorite hobby!


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Farm Layouts at the National Farm Toy Show – Dave Nieuwsma’s Farm Replica

This year’s farm toy show was a doozey with tons of layouts with competition like I have never seen before. Some of the best of the best were those that first showed their displays at the Gateway Farm Toy Show in St. Louis like the grain elevator or cotton gin. There was much to be admired by several experienced layout artists as well as those showing for the first time. One though that struck my heart chord was Dave Nieuwsma’s Farm layout based on the farm where he grew up as a kid until the age of 15.

This layout while not one of the top winners was tops in many hearts because of the detailed memories he has associated with each and every building. About his shed/garage he said, “This building brings back fond memories. Here, my younger sister and I had our own “repair” shop, where we oiled bicycle chains, pounded on anvils, turned wrenches and did anything else that looked like we were “fixin’ stuff.” And, when Dad retired from farming, this building served as a place for auction goers to step in from the cold and get a hamburger or a piece of pie.”

It was stories like this that he typed up and included in his book that made his display a heart winner along with the lovely buildings themselves. This is one of the best things about the antique tractor/toy hobby the memories and stories that people share along the way. For Dave and his wife Sandy, this is truly a constructed family memory album they can see.

Take the time to share your own stories in an artistic way whether in a story, a display, artwork, or just taking the grandkids on hour knee and saying I remember. My dad recently has been telling my sister and I stories of his time in the Navy or some memories from growing up visiting his great-grandmother in Salisbury. These memories can live on to the next generation when they are shared.

The farm layouts are perhaps my favorite part of the toy shows, watching the amazing talents that I do not possess come to life






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Getting ready for the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln funeral procession

The City of Springfield is truly the Land of Lincoln and they would be remiss without remembering their favorite son. The city will honor our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln with the accurate reenactment of the historic anniversary of his funeral procession. While several events that kick off in April are leading up to this somber occasion, it is May 1st and 2nd that the actual procession will take place.

The train will arrive at the Amtrak station. The train carrying the replicated coffin covered with an American flag that has been created by the original manufacturer of the flag that covered Lincoln’s body. The accurate to the time period train will arrive at the very same station that Lincoln’s body arrived 150 years ago. The coffin will be carried in a horse drawn specially built replica of the original Lincoln hearse following much of the historic route from the station to Washington and 6th Street where the opening ceremonies will commence. The coffin will be guarded over by Civil War re-enactor during a candle light vigil. On May 2nd the recreated Lincoln hearse will transport the coffin to Oak Ridge Cemetery our 16th President’s final resting place. The procession will go through the recently replicated First Street entrance and proceed to the old receiving vault.

The First Street entrance was just recently completed with the funeral procession a reason to make the $200,000 project a priority. On December 3rd Oak Ridge Cemetery held a dedication of the gate that is now an updated version of the one back in Lincoln’s time.

While the original gate was wooden, the brushed aluminum appears to be wooden. The dirt entrance is now a concrete walkway with a gate and bollards it can be opened and closed for foot traffic. There is an interpretive plaque (written by historian Ian Patrick Hunt) explaining the historical significance of the gate. “This presents the city with one more historical site,” Mike Lelys Executive Director said.

For more details about the event, log onto


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Prairie Gold Treasure, the unearthing of an MM mystery piece

This year at the National Farm Toy Show I had a chance to interview veteran Minneapolis Moline Collectors Jerry Erickson and Loren Book about a corn sheller the two located and bought that is a one of a kind. The two found the corn sheller at auction and this piece had once graced the cover of a January 1942 MM calendar with the Grussing children and a paid model. The children belonged to Bon Grussing Sr. the photographer that took the photographs for the calendar. Jerry identified Grussing Sr. as responsible for many of the advertising successes Minneapolis Moline accomplished.

Long story short, they bought the model which was one of 11 toys that was on the calendar at an auction and the two have been sharing the model and displaying it at their respective tractor museums. The model and what happened to the other toys is quite a mystery. The last they were known to be seen was back at an MM branch house in Twin Cities. Where they are now and where they were before the toy showed up on the auction website remains a mystery. Jerry said the only thing the auctioneer would tell him was that a guy got it from his neighbor and that it had sat on his shelf since the 1970’s.

Loren brought the beautiful model to the National Farm Toy Show where Jerry was set up as a vendor. They displayed it under one of Jerry’s original 1942 calendar so that collectors could view the toy and the calendar at the same time. The cool part comes next, the two loaned the corn sheller to the National Farm Toy Museum for a year so collectors can visit the museum and see this iconic piece of MM history on display.

More details about this story will appear in an upcoming issue of Toy Farmer and in the MM Collector Magazine PGR, but it is an amazing story that came about through my travels. It is wonderful to talk to people about the history of companies and artifacts that have changed America over the years. This corn sheller is a miniature of the B-2 corn sheller built by a company that over the years merged and AGCO of today has roots in MM’s past.

The MM history site, website supplies a bit of the history of how MM became part of AGCO. “Minneapolis Moline Power Implement Company was formed in 1929 by the merger of Moline Implement Company, Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company, and Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company. White Motor Company purchased Minneapolis Moline in 1963. AGCO purchased White Tractors in 1991.”

Take the time to learn more about your agricultural history when heading out, you never know what mystery you may uncover!


For those that want to see this iconic piece of advertising history can visit National Farm Toy Museum. For details about the museum, log onto the National Toy Museum website at If you would like to make an appointment to visit Jerry’s museum, call 641-390-1045. To schedule a visit to Loren’s museum, call 515-231-6334.

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