VALORIE EVERSOLE - Daily Union Staff Writer
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
One of the first farms recognized in the beginnings of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Centennial Farms program is the Gallagher farm in southern Shelby County.
Jacob Gallagher and his family moved to Shelby County Illinois from Ohio in the late 1830s along with another prominent Shelbyville family - the Doves.
Today Jacob’s great-great grandson Fred Gallagher and his wife Joan live on the farmland that has been in his family for five generations.
“Mike Dove had a book about the migration from Ohio that included my family in it. He gave me a chance to look at it,” Fred said. From that point, his wife Joan began looking into the family history.
Jacob Gallagher settled in Holland Township near what is now the intersection of 2050E and 400N. The land was officially purchased in 1838.
Jacob built a one-room log house on the property. Later Jacob’s son Newton expanded the family property to 2000 acres, extending from Clarksburg southward. Newton built a brick two-story, twelve-room home with a full attic in 1876.
“I remember riding bikes in the attic - it was that big,” Fred said.
“I thought I might get to live in that house someday, but it crumbled,” Fred said. “It was made of soft brick that was kilned on the farm and it started to deteriorate.”
Newton Gallagher raised dairy and beef cattle as well as grain crops and an apple orchard. A nearby spring provided the water for the home. Newton also helped build the nearby Mt. Zion church in 1877 with the same kind of brick kilned on the farm.
“The church was later rebuilt used a few of the remaining bricks from the original building,” Fred noted.
Other nearby homes were also built of soft brick.
Fred’s grandfather Ralph built his home on the land. It originally had five rooms and a second floor. Fred and Joan currently live in this home.
“This house has been remodeled three times,” said Joan Gallagher. “The top floor has been removed and a couple of additions have been made.”
After spending a few years away from Illinois, Fred and Joan returned to Shelbyville and later moved back to the Mode area and the family farm.
“I have spent the biggest part of my life here,” Fred said.
Fred bought the land and house from his grandfather and inherited the farmland across the road to the west from the home. The home he grew up in is also adjacent to the family farm to the south.
“There is less of it in the family now than there was. We own only about 400 acres of it now,” Fred said. “Some of the land is owned by others.”
Fred also owns and operates Twin Oaks 40 Clays also located on the Gallagher property.
“That is my retirement business,” he said.
The Gallaghers said they plan on their oldest son Steve inheriting the property when the time comes.
“I think the kids will keep it in the family,” Joan said.
“There’s a good chance of it anyway,” Fred added.
The Gallaghers received the Centennial Farm recognition during the first year of the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s program in 1972. Richard Ogilvie was governor at the time.
“Somebody called us about the Centennial Farm program. We went to a meeting in Shelbyville and they presented us with the plaque. Two or three other families were also recognized at that time,” Joan recalled.
To date the farm has been continuously in the family for 172 years.