Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thoughts from a Wayne County Farmer

Well known Wayne county resident Harold Barnard was at the resturaunt today in Geff and it reminded me of this interview...
The following was taped and written by a volunteer at Meadows Mennonite Home and Retirement Center for their Winter Issue 1982 shortly after Henry Barnard retired there. While this is not really a family post - I thought it sheds some insight on life in Wayne County for one man 100 years ago:

I was born in 1893 in Wayne City, Illinois, a town in Wayne County. My father was blind, and had been blind since he was 12 years old. In spite of his blindness he earned a good living and was a father to 8 of us children. I had two brothers and 5 sisters, 3 of whom are still living. He was a broom maker and earned 12 ½ cents for each broom.
Our home farm was a 40-acre farm on which we raised everything possible, including many animals and poultry. In those days very few farms were specialized, and most people had a bit of just about everything. I remember going to the wood in winter and cutting trees for fence posts, rails, pickets and firewood. Mother made pumpkin pies for ten cents, and sold many. My father, in spite of his blindness, was able to pitch wheat bundles into the wagon with a pitch fork, so he certainly had a good sense of direction. I remember my father saying, "If you get paddled at school, you'll get another paddling when you come home." Such promises were kept in those days. I also remember my father saying to me, "Henry, from now on YOU are my farmer," so I had to quit school in the third grade when I was eight years old. From then on I did all kinds of farm work as the years rolled on and as I grew with them. I knew I had the job of being my father's farmer.
Not only was my father blind, but my mother became blind when she was 39 years old, so for 30 years of her lifetime she also lived without sight. I recall that when I was about 12 years old a doctor examined my eyes and predicted that I, too, would become blind, but God's will was otherwise.
On October 21, 1915, I married, and farmed on the 80-acre farm of Henry Gurley. I also rented twenty acres besides. Young farmers were lucky to start out on 80-acre farms at that time. I farmed there for two years and then went on to the Fred Manahan place at Sims, also in Wayne County. From there we moved to the Josh Barnard place-my grandfather's brother's farm. Changes in his family life made it necessary to move to the L. Murphy farm north of Fairfield. In those days it was common for tenant farmers to move more often than they do now. Contracts were written from the first of March of one year to the first of March for the following year. The crops were shared equally, or "Half and half." Moving days were the end of February and the first part of March, and usually during the worst of weather. It was a slower process when horses were your main source of "Horse power."
After World War 1 was over, we moved to the Warren Krippen (Crippen) farm where I stayed over eleven years. Knowing Warren Krippen (Crippen) was a great experience! He was an outstanding person-a teacher, preacher, life insurance agent and undertaker. With many of his funerals, he was not only the funeral director, but the preacher, too. This combination was quite rare. I remember that during the flu epidemic after World War 1, he was the preacher and undertaker for four of five funerals in one week. We became the parents of two daughters, but lost one of them when she was a small child. I remember how she would stand on a chair to help her mother do the dishes. After we lost this little girl, we adopted another daughter.
My two daughters now live in Pontiac; they are Alberta Turk and Lucille Koehler.
The Krippen (Crippen) farm was near Cisne, south of Flora. This area is directly s outh of Effingham. I left the farm during the depression when prices were so low it simply was not profitable to tenant farm. For example, corn was 13 cents a bushel, oats about a dime or less, hogs were selling at $3.90 per hundredweight, milk was about 5 cents a gallon, and eggs were 8 cents a dozen. I sold out and came to the Chenoa area and hired myself out by the month as a hired man for one dollar a day. That was the usual wage for a married hired man, his house and $36 a month in summer, and a dollar a day in winter. This was on Bill Stuckemeyer's farm three miles north of Chenoa. It was a 160-acre farm and I stayed there five years. In 1937 times were a little better, so I returned to Cisne to farm again, but in 1938 I returned to Chenoa to farm for John Klein four miles northwest of Chenoa where I stayed five years. Later I farmed the Elsie Wahls farm southwest of Weston for two years and then went back to the Stuckemeyer farm for five years. In 1952 I had a sale and moved into a house in town. I worked for the City of Chenoa for a time, and also as a carpenter. I worked in a hardware store, and also at Hart-Carter in Gridley for about fifteen years in all.
My wife died on the last day of May, 1970, and I kept house alone for about ten years. Now Meadows is my home, and I enjoy the beautiful view out of my north window, which is so peaceful.
As I look back over the years, I am sure I liked farm work best of all. I often think of my eighth year of life when my father told me to be "his farmer." I've done a lot of other things, too, and I like to call the Chenoa area my home-well, my second home, for the first one was several hundred miles south of here.
All the farming, milking, and other kinds of work done in my day were done before TV, shopping malls, interstate highways, credit cards and Star Wars games.
Peg's Notes: The interviewer said she enjoyed visiting with Mr. Barnard very much, and marveled at all he had been able to accomplish without the benefit of very much education.
She said that he admired his parents very much, particularly because of the fact that they did not let their handicaps stand in the way of getting things done and raising such a large family.
Henry's mother, Alice Dazy Barnard, born September 9, 1864, was quite creative. At one point in her life she wrote a poem and dedicated it to him. She could not write it down herself as she was blind, but asked a friend to put it down for her. He is especially fond of and close to this poem and refers to it often. We don't have room for the poem in its entirety, but do quote two verses:
While you can see to go and come And be happy in your own dear home. Just come once in awhile, My Dear, It will your mother so much cheer.
Long ago when you were a boy, You filled your mother's heart with joy, As your little arms went 'round her neck so tight, She kissed you as she said "Good Night."
June 21, 1999 Copyright © Jan 1999. D. Williams; All rights reserved

1 comment:

Jerry said...

Thank you for posting this. Henry Barnard was my great-grandfather, and I have very fond memories of him.