Wasco’s White Brothers Trucking to the Rescue
to Save 1870s Stone Smokehouse for Garfield Farm Museum
Thanks to a special donation of transportation by White Brothers Trucking of Wasco, IL, Garfield Farm Museum has saved from demolition a rare circa1870s limestone smokehouse that was located in Kane County’s Campton Forest Preserve.
Since 1982 when Minnetta Barber, a professor and great granddaughter of Timothy Garfield, bequeathed her household belongings to Garfield Farm Museum, museum founders were aware of the unique stone smokehouse that stood behind her maternal grandfather’s (Gunnar Anderson) home. She had sold below market value in 1970 her family farm to the Kane County Forest Preserve to establish Campton’s first preserve. When forest preserve policy changed and existing historic structures on preserve property were being removed, an opportunity to preserve by moving the building to Garfield Farm Museum arose. For the last 5 years, ways to preserve the building were sought. Grandnieces and a grandnephew donated seed monies in memory of Ann Barber Megaw to be used for the building’s preservation. Several building movers were contacted but they were reluctant to suggest a way to move it. First, it was a stone building with no sill plate so jacking it up and slipping steel I-beams under the foundation would not work as the stones would just fall away. In addition several exterior cracks with lost mortar made the building a particular challenge. Expense and risk would be hard to judge due to this difficulty. After exhausting several possibilities and consulting with stone masons and other building experts, the project went on the back burner.
Then barn restorationist, Rick Collins of Trillium Dell Timberworks from Knoxville, IL was brought in to restore the museum’s 1842 barn. In casual conversation the smokehouse came up and Rick asked to see it. He had moved several small stone buildings in Lockport, IL when a museum village was forced to relocate. Seeing the sloped terrain, the off road nature of the site, and the troublesome exterior cracks in the walls, Collins said it could be done. Making a very generous affordable bid, underwriting from a concerned donor came forward and the race was on.
Presidential leadership of the Kane County Forest Preserve had changed from John Hoscheit who knew of efforts to preserve it to Mike Kenyon who quickly endorsed the idea. With full forest preserve board approval this past May, the museum was suddenly neck deep in two projects with the barn restoration already underway.
The key to the plan was to create a ‘floor’ under the 5x10 foot x 8 foot high building with steel beams. The beams would then be attached to dollies to be moved down the highways. This required digging out a 30 foot wide area, 7 feet into the slope. Standing what looked like a fragile pillar of sandy gravel and clay, the first of several worrisome days began throughout the spring and summer season. Within several days, the steel was in place and a steel super structure was built to add additional support higher up along the stone walls. When a downstate associate of Trillium Dell looked at it to plan the move, several realities began to surface. Although the building stood only 8 feet tall, the steel below surrounding the pillar of dirt now replaced with wood cribbing and shims, added 6 more feet. Bring in the 3 foot high dollies (semi-trailer like wheel assemblies) and the height approached 17 feet for going down the road. The beams the dollies would carry were 24 feet wide so now shutting down highway traffic, not being able to take the most direct route, special permits, needing state trooper escorts, and raising and/or cutting any overhead utility lines, and a set forest preserve deadline, made worries and expenses only increased.
Time and time again several individuals from different professional trades kept saying it would be great to just pick up and put it on a truck. This was a hopeful thought but could the building, the steel framing withstand such a move. It was not a hopeful time but museum officials recalled a long time friend.
Since the 1930s, White Brothers Trucking of Wasco, IL has been in the business of providing ‘great rides.’ Growing from an agricultural based trucking firm to one that specializes in hauling outlandishly oversized loads, nationally and internationally, 2nd generation owner and recently ‘retired’ president Jim White got a call. Since the 1980 White’s firm had helped keep a 1970 International Harvester farm truck running for the museum. In 2002, he himself drove a semi so the museum’s Americorps volunteers could disassemble and move an 1840s hand hewn barn from Plainfield, lL. Having grown up in Wasco and known Ms. Barber, he offered his trucking services free of charge right down to obtaining necessary permits.
This made all the difference because though smokehouse and steel would ride near but under most wires and it would only stick out a couple feet from the side of a double drop trailer. Perhaps such a low riding trailer might clear the terrain. Now the question became could the building be picked up.
Dan’s Crane of Wasco took one look and said yes and because of the museum’s status was ready to give a generous price consideration. Then a call came from staff at Trillium Dell that were concerned over the real weight of the building and steel. By using very conservative calculations, a 36,000 pound estimate was made — beyond the abilities of the 40 ton crane. Again because of their specialty, White Brothers suggested O’Donnell Crane of Cortland, IL. Prepared for the heavier weight, O’Donnell sent in their 115 ton crane, again with a very favorable consideration for the museum.
Wrapping it up tighter than any Christmas present, Trillium Dell Timberworks went to paneling the interior and exterior, bracing the little smokehouse from inside and strapping it outside with 2x4s. More welds and steel were added to the steel superstructure. With less that 12 hours to go, Tom White, Jim’s son came down from the Milwaukee terminal to check out all the safety issues of transport. Looking at the steel beams which staggered and needed a 25 foot long trailer, Tom said cut off 18 inches on the one beam. That would make it fit on a special low trailer that had hydraulics to raise it above the uneven ground and the sharp crest of the driveway.
Nine a.m. Friday October 26th, the monstrous O’Donnell crane began slowly put tension on the heavy cabled straps looped over each end of the two steel beams under the smokehouse. Would all the work and precautions hold? For all the crew it was the most tense time. Slowly the beams came off the cribbing, more gently than a child in a swing, the 10 tons of stone and mortar, the 3 tons of steel and rigging rose and in an arc, gracefully pivoted towards the White Brothers trailer. Not a sound, not a creak could be heard, just the pulse of the diesel engines in the crane and semi, as it sat down on the trailer.
Secured, the truck pulled forward out of the low ground clearing the shoulder of the drive seamlessly climbing the drive on its approach to Ill Rt. 64. With traffic paused, it headed out on its nine mile route via Rt 47 and Rt 38 to get to its four mile away destination, the museum’s Edward Garfield/Mongerson Brothers Farmstead. With the crane going ahead, setting up at the farm, by 12 noon, the smokehouse was unloaded and sitting on terra firma once again.
Thoughts ran through everyone’s mind how it could have turned into a pile of rubble at any point but all the great help and good spirits got it safely to its destination. It could have been taken apart stone by stone and meticulously rebuilt, but the very thing that made it special, the historic mortar that held it together for over 130 years was the fabric of the building that dated and told its real story. It is a story of skill and forgotten methods of surviving here on the prairies of Illinois, when just finding a way to preserve food for the winter ahead was a life skill few Americans understand or appreciate today.
The smokehouse will be restored and someday be put to the test, curing some tasty hams or bacon. The museum thanks the Kane County Forest Preserve Commission and staff, Trillium Dell Timberworks, White Brothers Trucking, O’Donnell Crane, Wasco Nursery, Campton Hills Village Police, Campton Township Road Commission, Martin Implement, Neal Anderson of Anderson Building Systems, Bruce Sims of Long Eared Livery Service, and museum volunteers for all the assistance and consideration.
Garfield Farm Museum is a 375 acre historically intact former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s living history farm and inn museum. Donors from over 3500 households in 38 states have donated funds and labor to help preserve this National Register Historic Site. To help in the effort contact 630 584-8485 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Garfield Farm Museum is located in Campton Hills, IL, five miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road.