I am quite honored to announce I won FIRST prize in watercolor in the Daughters of the American Revolution competition with my painting, ‘This Old House‘. Every year the DAR holds an American Heritage national contest for its members. An additional requirement to entering the painting was a one-page document explaining how your art submission fit the theme of ‘Moving Family Traditions Forward’. Below is this story of our family farm and home in Illinois.
In my painting career, images of places often hold memories of experiences and feelings that I want to share with my viewer. This old farmhouse is one that brings to mind some of my earliest recollections of family gatherings, as it did, also, for my grandparents, parents, siblings, children and their cousins, as well as some in the next generation.
My great, great grandfather from Germany immigrated to New York in 1830. He had been a stowaway on the ship, spent his last money on a beer upon arrival in this country, soon found a wife in the city, and in 1836, traveled by stage, rail, canal boat, ox team and foot to find a home where he purchased land for $1.25 per acre. Our family retains the original sheepskin deed to the farm, signed by President James Monroe. One of our patriot’s descendants married my great grandfather and they raised their six children in this house. It was built in 1885, and in 1996 the farm received an Illinois Centennial Farm designation; in 2002, the farm was the first Sesquicentennial Farm designation in Warren County, Illinois.
Whenever I see a photo of it or visit it, the memories of many family gatherings and holidays come to mind with all of us crowding around one long table filled with a bounty of food; my children learning to drive in the cornfield at 10 and 13; my older sister and I staying overnight with Grandma and Grandpa and being afraid of the too-steep stairs with creaky noises; investigating the attic and making a fashion show of the many ‘creations’ from Grandma’s ‘dress up’ trunk; the grandchildren being allowed to spend an entire, unsupervised afternoon playing in the mud of the creek near the house; my mother teaching everyone about the bugs and flowers; playing hide and seek in the cornfields; and my father taking everyone on a ‘hay ride’.
The porch of the house, as shown in the painting, is in many photos from our family gatherings. In the front yard was a double 4-person swing where the grandchildren loved to play; the swing has been painstakingly restored now and moved to my brother’s farm nearby. Whenever I visited the farm, I always enjoyed painting the house in Plein-air and taking many reference photos of it in the various seasons. I can remember the cool of the screened-in side porch during humid dog days of summer with the rustling of leaves in the stand of maples which Grandpa had planted to provide shade for the house, the banging of the screen door, and the smell of fresh well-water on rock at the hand pump just outside that porch.
The house is now over 131 years old and, unfortunately, it must come down because it is beyond restoration. At our recent family reunion, I presented signed giclée prints of my original watercolor painting “This Old House” to my four siblings, nieces and nephews as my way of helping us all retain those great memories through my art. While raising their family of five children was the most important thing in their lives, my parents considered their farm business as doing their best for their country.