“The agricultural standing of any county may be determined by its yield of corn or hogs or cattle, but the real standing of any county or state must always be determined by the character of its schools.”
~Van D. Roughton,
Moultrie County Superintendent, 1916
The 200 Acres was originally homesteaded in 1859, and has century old buildings on the grounds, but has also been chosen as home to two historic one-room schoolhouses that had been slated for demolition. Preserving history, whether in heirloom varieties of seeds, photographs, or buildings is something we are passionate about.
In 1999, the farm’s landscape changed significantly with the addition of two historic one-room schoolhouses. The schoolhouses had been joined together and used as a 4-H Center, but were so expensive to heat that it was decided they needed a new building. Before tearing them down, they approached the Moultrie County Historical and Genealogical Society, who were then on a mission to find them a home. After hitting some dead ends, they approached Bruce and Mary Beth, who agreed to take on the project. The schoolhouses were physically separated, then driven about 10 miles down the road to the farm. Center School is restored back to 1912, and the 2-Mile Schoolhouse was given a second life as our Sweet Shop with the addition of a large porch, bathroom, and kitchen.
Center School, as this building exists, was built in 1912. It was given its name because of its “central” location in the township. We discovered this particular school was very special. After much research by the Moultrie County Historical & Genealogical Society, we found that Center School was designated a “Superior School.” And in fact, it was the first Superior School in Moultrie County, and the 5th in the state. To be ranked a Superior School, it had to have certain furnishings and supplies, have separate boys and girls cloak rooms, and sit on one acre of school yard “neatly fenced, covered with a good sod and planted with trees, shrubs and flowers.” This school was definitely a source of pride in Moultrie County, and is for us today. We are proud to announce that Center School was added to the Country School Association of America’s registry in October of 2014. Serving over 4,000 school children and over 50,000 visitors each fall, Center School still fulfills its purpose in education today.
The 2-Mile School was built in 1920 and was located “Two Miles” north of Mason Point near Sullivan, Illinois. In 1949 it was moved to the current 4-H site in Jonathan Creek Township to serve with Center School as the first consolidated school in the county. In 1953 it was closed by the Sullivan School District, but then was used by the 4-H for many years. The advantage of both buildings is that they never sat abandoned, The extensive work that had to be done to restore one side of each school was still tamed by the fact that because they were in continual use, they were in remarkably good shape for being wooden structures.
If you come see the schools in person, you’ll see objects that are original to the buildings…like the Center School piano, slate chalkboards, original wood floors, and map case and Shakespeare bust that were found in the attic.
The farmhouse at the Patch was originally a tenant farmhouse with just four rooms. In 1938, Mary Beth’s parents, Charles and Madeline McDonald, moved into it to begin their family. It had no running water, no electricity, and burned coal for heat. They began making changes soon and with their new baby, Robert, they even added a second story to the house in 1939.
Mary Beth was born in 1943 and remembers farm life fondly. The farm raised dairy cows and beef cattle and grew corn, soybeans, hay, oats, wheat, and straw. They also raised horses, which Mary Beth loved to ride. Robert was in 4-H and showed his cow at fairs. In 1957 they added a large living room and garage to the house.
After Mary Beth married Bruce Condill, they moved to the farm in 1971 after a stint in the Peace Corps in Uganda, Africa. Bruce was from the suburbs of Chicago, but learned farming from his father-in-law, Charles. They added their own touch to the farmhouse in 1973 with the addition of an upstairs bathroom. The farmhouse, like The Great Pumpkin Patch, has seen many changes—each one adding to the history, while allowing individual generations to make their mark.
The north half of this structure (the part with the highest peak closest to the road) was built in 1895, making the barn the oldest building on the farm. The southern half of the barn was added in 1935, doubling the size of the barn. It housed horses and cows until the mid-1960s. Currently, it houses The Great Pumpkin Patch’s offices, seed storage, and workshop. If you look up under the fore chute on the south side of the barn, you can see the original whitewash paint, and the track used to move manure out of the barn into a spreader. The current museum on the east side still has the slatted wood frame used to hold hay, and the troughs for grain as well. For well over 100 years, the barn has remained the center of life on this farm.