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c. 1855 Tenant House
Save Edward C. Sumner's Tenant Farmhouse
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- 1st Floor Bath
- Living room
- Unfinished Basement
- Master bedroom upstairs
- 1 Car Garage
- 2 Car Garage
- Driveway - Dirt
- Fenced Yard
- Storage Building
- Storm Windows
- Basement Workshop
- High Ceilings
- Original wood windows
- Wood shingle Roof
- Wood floors
- Shingle Roof: Wood shingle
- Oil Heating
- Septic Tank
- Water Heater - Electric
- Carriage House
- 8-foot Ceilings
- Plaster Walls
- Large Barn/Carriage House
- Large Detached Garage
- 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. The land plot the house lies on was originally purchased on February 2, 1853 from the US government by Edward C. Sumner. My mother told me that after the purchase of the house in 1991, 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 much 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 Tenant Farmhouses were constructed between 1850 - 1880. After comparing what information I could find, as of this year 2016, the house is anywhere from 166 to 156 years old. The house is one of the few remaining original tenant farmhouses in the area in Stockland Township. The property predates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Civil War, and the Watseka, Illinois Vennum House (The Watseka Wonder). 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 still has the original floral wrought iron ventilation grates for the basement. The barn that is on the property is the original barn that housed the farmed grains, oats, horses, wagons, and carriages that were used over a century ago. Behind the barn toward the pasture there is a well house used for pumping water to the house. Just outside of the well house lies the original horse trough that is similar in size to a small car. A very old hand pump base for water can be found in the backyard behind the house.
There are two additions that were added to the house in the 1970's (the back porch and the new front-door entryway), but the original white clapboard section of the house predates 1880. The walls inside the original section is intact and still contains the horse hair mixed cement plaster on the interior walls, and has a distinct layout with a sharp gable roof that was appropriate to the era in which the house was built. Original wallpaper remnants still lie in the upstairs bedrooms and hallway indicating the main house largely was untouched even after 166-156 years. All original wood floors and most of the original doors and windows were kept in tact.
In the basement there is a sectioned off room which used to be a storage room for harvested grains and foods for the tenants. The basement was a cellar before the enclosed back porch was built. Even with slight changes to the basement and a couple of additions having been added, the house's floor-plan has remained unaltered.
Historical Find: Original owner Edward C. Sumner
Information 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 great swaths of land. Most of the lands owned in Iroquois County, Illinois were used for growing grains and oats for feed for his cattle farms in Benton County, Indiana. Any excess feed from the cattle was sold to local farmers and stores in the nearby towns to further generate profits to Sumner. Sumner established only a handful of Tenant Farmhouses 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 original Tenant Farmhouses left in the county, if not the only one. Only so many Tenant Farmhouses were erected in order to lower costs on maintenance and upkeep. The home holds historical value to Iroquois County and historical information shows that this property helped contribute growth to the county when much of the businesses in the area were in their infancy.
The original owner of the property was Edward C. Sumner, one of the most successful Cattle Barons in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois. He purchased the property in 1853 from the Land Office. The house, however, was not documented being there at that time of the purchase. Between 1850 to 1880 there are records of tenant houses, very few, that were erected in Stockland Township for use of growing crops and oats for cattle and help supply the feed to the surrounding communities for livestock farms. Information from Paul W. Gates mentions disputes in his research book from tenants that resided at one of the tenant homes which was the only Sumner owned Tenant Farmhouse that had a cellar but had; inadequate drainage resulting in flooding of the cellar, infestation of morning glories, cockle burs, and bull nettles which would ruin the crops. This house shares all of the disputes that were stated. The home has a cellar which does in fact have an issue with flooding, infestation of the weeds described in the pastures where the crops used to be grown, and has a huge abundance of morning glories that grow in large quantities around the pastures.
Edward C. Sumner also was the 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 are named after, found his way to northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois. He bought a substantial amount of land shortly after arriving for his extensive business expansion.
Historical research shows that the house has survived four tornadoes, three major wildfires, three flash floods, and two cholera outbreaks that occurred in the late 1800's which devastated the livestock in the area.
Minerva Sumner-Fowler, Edward C. Sumner's daughter, was given ownership of the property by the court after her father passed away in 1883 and converted the home into a country vacation house for herself in which she resided there for several years. Census Records indicate she was registered as residing there for a few years after being given the property. Minerva Sumner-Fowler, however, moved to the family's vacation house in Chicago in the late 1880's where she shortly later passed away in 1890. She was laid to rest beside her parents in the Sumner Family Plot in Earl Park, Indiana. Sources are a little vague as to the location of the country vacation home, but do state that the vacation home was a former Tenant Farm not far from Watseka, Illinois in Stockland Township. After Minerva's death, the Diaz family moved out of the Sumner Mansion in the town of Stockland, Illinois and moved into this house where they resided until they passed away. The Diaz family were close friends to the Sumner family from what several sources claim, however, it's difficult to find detailed information about the Sumner family and the Diaz family and their roles with the property because many of the details may have been reduced to ashes. The Archive's Building in Watseka, Illinois burned down in the late 1800's, around the same time as Minerva Sumner's passing, destroying much of the records that had been kept for many years.
Archived in May, 2016
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