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May 12 - 40th Anniversary Celebration of Garfield Heritage Society Founding

CAMPTON HILLS, IL: On Friday, May 12 at 6:30 pm, Garfield Farm Museum will hold a celebration of the chartering of Garfield Heritage Society forty years ago on May 12. Refreshments and brief remarks by museum officials will be accompanied by a continuous slideshow featuring the function of the Society and its leadership over time.

     It took nearly 80 years but a womanís vision of telling the story of northern Illinois settlement came to fruition on May 12, 1977 when her daughter and local individuals acted to establish Garfield Heritage Farm by incorporating the nonprofit organization, Garfield Heritage Society.

     Hannah Mighell Garfield whose parents Nathan and Julia Carter Mighell settled Little Rock Township in what was then Kane County in 1836, later split off in 1841 to become Kendall County, married Robert M. Garfield in 1874 of Campton Township. They moved into Robertís family home, his father Timothy Garfield had built in 1846.

     It may have been the changing face of America that by the 1890s, Hannah was suggesting to her daughters that someday her late father-in-lawís home, the 1846 brick Garfield Inn become a museum to honor the settlers of Illinois. By the 1890s, groups like the Mayflower Descendants, Daughters of the American Revolution, etc. formed to preserve the English heritage of their ancestors who colonized America as the influx of new citizens from around the world was making America a multi-cultural country. This may have been a factor in Hannahís vision to preserve this New England Vermont Yankee culture that settled the northern Illinois prairies. Regardless, the family started saving artifacts, documents, and minimally changed the family home and farm buildings over the next 70 years.

      In 1975, Elva Garfield, Hannahís youngest surviving daughter, then 82 years old, contacted Eve S. Johnson, a Campton township resident who had started Restorations of Kane County (now named Preservation Partners) and who had volunteered in both nonprofit and private historic preservation efforts. Together they sought public agencies that might preserve not just the house but also the entire farm.

      When none of these agencies expressed interest, Johnson gathered fellow preservationists, Jane Sindt, George Keyser, and Linda Chapin (then Damiani) to form Garfield Heritage Society. Sindt had saved a number of buildings by founding Naper Settlement in Naperville, IL.  Keyser of St. Charles, IL had worked with Johnson on the restoration of the Bryant Durant House of Kane Countyís LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve, and Chapin was a Campton resident whose photography skills helped document the buildings at the farm. Additionally, though not a board member, Martin E. Johnson notarized the incorporation papers and was a significant support of his wifeís efforts. All this was just in time as Elva Garfield died in December of 1977. Today only Chapin and Martin Johnson survive.

     Garfield Heritage Society (GHS) is largely responsible for the day-to-day operations of Garfield Farm and Tavern Museum. From giving tours, holding special events, maintaining staff and volunteers, and fundraising to advance the preservation and development of the farm as an 1840s working farm museum, GHS owns the 1842 and 1849 barns, the historic collections and documents and 8 acres of prairie and oak savanna on Mill Creek. Open Lands of Chicago, IL holds conservation easement on this and the bulk of the museumís property owned by Campton Historic Agricultural Lands, the museumís land preservation agency.

    As Garfield Farm is a study of traditional farm life, the tradition of observing significant anniversary dates on the actual anniversary day makes this coming Friday evening the day of choice. It starts at 6:30 pm offering appetizers for those who chose to dine later and will conclude by 7:30 pm with an anniversary cake for those who choose to attend for dessert after an earlier dinner hour.  

     Donations are most welcome to defray the costs of the evening and reservations are appreciated to help plan for the eveningís fare. The museum can be contacted at 630 584-8485 or e-mail Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off IL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills.

    Garfield Farm & Tavern Museum is the only 375-acre historically intact former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored by volunteers and donors from over 40 states as an 1840s working farm and inn museum.