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The Grand Queen

of Bloomfield County We lumbered in the Heritage Pickup over to Clover Road in Bloomfield County near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Seth was driving so Emily jumped out to open the heavy wooden gate that had long protected the property from curious visitors and local n’er-do-wells. Ben was fiddling with camera equipment and I was there for research. It was the perfect fall day for the Heritage team to collect the story of one of our barn reclamation projects. We were there to unearth the history of the barn and the property and the family who owned it all. Sue Terrilewithee met us outside. Wearing a flannel shirt and no-nonsense jeans she gathered us on the back patio and started right in on giving us a rambling dissertation on the history of the place. Listening back to the audio file you can hear a dog yelping into the wind protesting our arrival.  While we settle in on metal chairs and wooden benches next to the house we notice that names and dates are carved into many of the the cream bricks surfaces and find out that they’re the names of the owners and families that have lived on the property since the house was built in 1843. Pioneers Enos and Edwin Hanchett Olden forged their way to the property and bought the land for $1.25 an acre. The story goes that one of them sent back for “the wife and the ox” and they eventually amassed 300 acres including a good part of the lake. “They built the barn right away as a barn was important. You had to have a barn to keep the feed as well as the animals to help you farm. Without that you couldn’t survive.” “Enos and his wife Julie Anne Briggs were both the descendants of Revolutionary War people,” said Sue. “They started the first school around here in the 1840’s or 50’s, and at that time this house was something to see I’ve been told. People used to come from all around just to take a look at it because it was beautiful to them. They brought the brick from New York where they came from, and brought it down the Erie Canal.” Eventually Enos and Julie Anne went west, but left their daughter Harriet (Hattie) the farm. Hattie married E.T. Hibbard. “He was a provost marshall and a justice of the peace here after the Civil War. They got married in the living room of the house and sold eggs and chickens to the town once it started.” When Sue’s family bought the farm in 1963 they knew it as the Hibbard Farm. She has missing links in the history of who owned the farm, but she’s doing her digging in hopes of writing a book. Sue and her husband Howard bought it in the mid 1990’s. “I ran around here as a kid. It was just a part of my life. So we bought it. We decided to live here and start fixing everything up the old-fashioned way.” There was a famous tornado that tore through here and took down all the barns around here in 1883. It went through Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin. They called it The Cyclone. The spaced between the farm and the lake was covered with farming implements, broken timber, grain, hay, dead hogs, dead sheep which had been carried there by the wind. Pell’s Lake was sucked almost clean of water by The Cyclone. The barn was ravaged by The Cyclone and rebuilt on the original foundation using a lot of the material salvaged from the storm. it was eventually certified by the Walworth County Historical Society (along with the house). When Sue and her husband took the property, they tried to save the barn. “To me it was like the queen of the property. Next to the house it was the oldest building here. When I was a kid there was the smell of hay and horses and you could swing from one side to the other on a hemp rope. I watched it slowly disintegrate like some old person that’s starting to fall apart. When her cupola went down, it was like her crown fell off. We don't have the barn today because you have to prioritize. The house was the first thing. We took care of these two barns here, and by the time we got to the Grand Queen she was already leaning on her side and someone had already cut her beams. It was way beyond what we could afford.” Her foundation was made from giant three-foot granite rocks which had to be cut by a mason to be made flat, pulled by oxen to the location. “Friends and family would dig the trench, drop the rock, drop the cement, so the ground was the form. I’m assuming there was a barn-raising, because that was their livelihood. The barn was their survival. Originally the barn was stained red because back in the day that’s what they had, and her edges were trimmed in white. In the 1950’s it was painted white with a blue roof following a local trend at the time, and eventually faded to a beautiful weathered grey. You can see on the boards the grey and white and red peeking out.” “It’s good that her parts are being used to continue on. To somebody that appreciates history. Old growth wood lived through history. It’s stronger and can live on for centuries and centuries and be repurposed and rebuilt. If you pick up a piece of old growth wood there’s a weight to it. You can just feel the history, looking at the grain and everything. It can be so many things to people who appreciate the passing history.” On our final walk around the property we came to the place where the old barn stood until Heritage came to salvage it. An early moon rose up to see us off. Sue was so full of knowledge and history. Aside from the piles of pictures and articles we poured over, she regaled us with more stories that we promised not to share, and has three more boxes of materials in the house accumulated as research for her book. We can’t wait to read it. Long live the Grand Queen.