From The Archives
c. 1880 Tenant House
Save Edward C. Sumner's Tenant Farmhouse
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- 1st Floor Bath
- Living room
- Master bedroom upstairs
- Driveway - Dirt
- Fenced Yard
- High Ceilings
- Original wood windows
- Wood shingle Roof
- Wood floors
- Shingle Roof: Wood shingle
- Septic Tank
- Water Heater - Electric
- Carriage House
- 8-foot Ceilings
- Plaster Walls
- Large Barn/Carriage House
- Two large pastures
- Water Cistern
- Well House
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Sumner Tenant Farmhouse History
The date of the house being erected is unknown and not many documents have been located about it. My mother told me that after the purchase of the house, a Census Official from the Iroqouis County Office in Illinois said that their records showed the house was standing there in 1880, but has been there longer than 1880. Late last year I conducted an investigation into the area of where the house is located and found that most of the property lots in that area were purchased and houses were constructed roughly around 1850 - 1870. After comparing what information I could find, as of this year 2016, the house is anywhere from 146 to 166 years old. The house is one of the few remaining original homes in the area in Stockland Township. The property could possibly date back to before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 or to before the Civil War. Something that has survived this long should be restored, preserved, and respected for generations to come.
The house stands out from the neighboring homes, because of its simple distinguishable architecture and features. To my knowledge, it's the only house in that area that has its original still-functioning cistern and foundation from when it was first erected. The old style pebble floor and stone brick foundation has the original floral wrought iron grates for ventilation of the basement. The barn that is on the property could be the original barn that housed the horses and carriages that were used over a century ago. and near the barn toward the pasture there is a well house used for pumping water for the house. Outside of the well house stands potentially the original horse trough that is similar in size to a small car. Also a very old hand pump base for water can be found in the backyard which used to be the front yard over a century ago when the property was first built.
As for the house itself, there are two additions that had been added to the house around the 1930's to 1970's, but the original white clapboard section of the house dates before 1880. The walls inside the original section is intact and still contains the horse hair mixed cement plaster on the interrior walls. The original white clapboard section of the house also has its own distinct layout and steep gable roof that was approriate to the era in which the house was built. In the bedrooms and upstair's hallway there are remnants of the original wallpaper indicating the main house had largely been untouched even after nearly 146-166 years. The home still has its original floors, most of the windows, and most of the original simple country woodwork.
In the basement there is a sectioned off room but appears to have been a harvest storage room, after all, the basement was actually a cellar before the enclosed porch was built. The layout of the inside of the house is mainly intact to the original with very little seeming to have been changed after so many decades when looking at the bigger picture.
Historical Find: Original owner Edward C. Sumner
Recently, some information has surfaced that the property originally was purchased in 1853 by Edward C. Sumner and was used for growing crops and grains for cattle feed. Sumner was a very well known Cattle King in Indiana and Illinois and owned massive swaths of land. The lands owned in Iroquois County, Illinois were used for growing grains and oats for feed for his cattle farms in Benton County, Indiana. The excess feed was sold to local farmers and stores in the nearby towns to further generate further profits. Sumner established only a handful of Tenant Farms in Iroqouis County and hired German immagrants, mainly from what is Downtown Chicago today, to work the land. This home is one of the very few Tenant Homes left in the county, if not the only one. Sumner, in other words, was known to look for any way to cut costs including only building enough Tenant Farms to meet his agenda. The home holds historical value to Iroquois County and some information shows that this property may have helped contribute growth to the county when the businesses in the area were in their infancy.
The original owner of the property was Edward C. Sumner who was one of the most successful cattle fanciers in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois. He purchased the property in 1853 from the Land Office. The house, however, is not noted being there at that time. In 1860 to 1883 there were mentions of tenant houses, very few, that were scattered in Stockland Township for use of growing crops and oats for cattle and supplying the main source of feed to the surrounding communities for farming. The information from Paul W. Gates also makes mention of disputes from tenants about only 1 of the tenant homes had a cellar, inadequate drainage, had an infestation of morning glories, cockle burs, and bull nettles which would ruin the crops and flood the cellar. This house shares all of the disputes said. The home has a cellar, infestation of the weeds described in the pastures, and has a huge abundance of morning glories that grow in large quantities around the pastures.
Edward C. Sumner also may have been the founder or co-founder of Sumner National Bank in Sheldon, IL. In the 1850’s Edward C. Sumner I, a relative of Senator Charles Sumner for whom the Charles River and Sumner Tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts were named, found his way to northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois. He bought a substantial amount land shortly after arriving for his extensive business expansion.
Historical research shows that the house has survived two tornadoes, fires in the vicinity, two flash floods, and a cholera outbreak that occurred in the late 1800's which devastated the livestock in this area.
There is some evidence from research as well that suggests that Minerva Sumner-Fowler, Edward C. Sumner's daughter, was given ownership of the property after her father passed away in 1883 and possibly converted the home into a Country Vacation House for herself and that she resided there for several years. Minerva Sumner-Fowler, however, moved to the family's vacation house in Chicago in the late 1880's then shortly later passed away in 1890. From what research I was able to do and information I found, the home was, at one time, lived in as a vacation house for one of the Sumner relatives. Information suggests that Minerva Sumner, the owner of the property in 1884 after her father Edward C. Sumner passed, might have moved into this property and converted it into a country, vacation house. Sources are limited and vague but do suggest that the vacation home was not far from Watseka, Illinois and that it was a former Tenant Farm in Stockland Township. Years later after Minerva's death, the Diaz family moved out of the Sumner Mansion in the town of Stockland, Illinois and moved to this house. The family lived here until there passing. I'm researching into the Diaz family and into the property as much as I can. It is hard to find information about the property because many of the details about the property may have been destroyed when the Archive's Building in Watseka, Illinois burned down in the late 1800s.
Archived in May, 2016