Now that my great grand-uncle Sherman has passed away we are in a race against time. We are looking from someone in our family who might keep the Timms place in the family. It is hard because we are scattered to the winds across the US; times are tough economically; if you buy it then what.
This land was first homestead by James Timms, my 4th great-grandfather July 1, 1845. There were two land patents filed each for 80 acres. James Timms was the first person of record to own this land. There were others before him who hunted, fished, and camped in the area, but he was the first name on a deed.
This land was at that time on the edge of the great wilderness, and the prior residents were not so glad to see white settlers come to live amongst them. It was considered by many to be a Blackhawk battleground location. I can not imagine what this fertile area must have looked like before man tamed the wilderness and took up farming in this corner of NW Illinois. I have a hard time imagining why you would leave your safe, civilized world to head out into the new wilderness, but our family did it.
James would die at the age of 61 and the family farm would then belong to his son James who had worked with his father developing this prime land. James B the son had already purchased 40 acres next to the home place in 1853. With the land from his father, his farm was now 200 acres. He would purchase additional acreage in the area.
James B was the one in our family who helped to establish the Blackhawk War Monument that sits today next to the home place. It is one of those memorials to the history and settlement of the US that resides in rural area largely unacknowledged and has depended on our family to be caretakers of this piece of history. They have been good caretakers.
The next member of the family to own the family place was Abe Keeler, who married Olive Timms, daughter of James B. I am not sure why it did not go to any of the sons, or daughters who were older. It is as of yet an unsolved mystery.
Abe and Olive had only two children both daughters. The youngest of them would be struck down as a 17-year-old young woman in the Great Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918. The other daughter Wilna was my great-grandmother would be the next owner of this property. She and her husband David Virtue had started farming the home place, while Abe and Olive left the farm to make their living in other ways than off the land.
It is here that my grandfather Don, and four other children would be born. My Great Uncle Sherm would eventually come to own the family place. Uncle Sherm lived in Sterling and raised his family and built a business in Sterling, Illinois. Yet in retirement go to live on the family place in rural NW Illinois. He was the 6th generation if you are keeping track. Now he is gone. The rush is on, can we find someone in our family who could and would own the family place. There is something about a legacy that 166 years of your family always living someplace that is hard to let go.
BIG CORRECTION: We have a “Map Guy” in the family and he has laid this original homestead on top of maps and discovered that this land is not the same land that the home that Uncle Sherm lived on. The original homestead was south and west of the “farm” as we all affectionately call it is. Thanks to cousin Steve, the “Map Guy,” I am now accurately reporting history.