Remnants of Courtland farm preserved for history
By Cynthia Scheer – Special to the Telescope
The Anderson farm near Courtland may be gone, but several buildings from it have been saved, including a stone smokehouse moved to Belleville and part of a stone barn that serves as a main street gateway in Courtland.
The limestone buildings were constructed in about 1890. The Miller family, descendants of the Andersons, donated the stone smokehouse to the Republic County Historical Society and Museum in 2009, and the arch from the barn now graces Courtland’s main street
“My mother was a great believer … in where she grew up, and the Courtland community,” Jim Miller said of the family’s decision to donate the stone arch to the Courtland community after the death of his mother, Madeline (Anderson) Miller, who grew up on the Anderson farm two miles south of Courtland and two miles east. “She had donated the smokehouse several years ago so other people could enjoy it and it would be well preserved.”
She had also donated the farm’s wooden blacksmith shop to the Republic County museum.
In 1870 John Sederlin homesteaded the land and built the stone barn. He later sold the land to the Anderson family. Three Anderson brothers came to Republic County from Sweden in the 1870s, Miller said. They handed the farm down through their families.
The wood house was built over the family’s original home – a dugout, which later served as a limestone cellar and often had snakes in it, according to Jim Miller.
The farm was owned by John Anderson and later Alvin Anderson, who was Madeline Miller’s father. He was the last person to live on the farm. He died in 1953.
According to a 2009 Belleville Telescope article, Madeline Miller said she played in the stone smokehouse as a girl. Her sons, Jim Miller, of North Dakota, and Jack Miller, of Colorado, own the land now and said they remember playing in the circular smokehouse during the hot summer days of their childhood because the smokehouse would be cool.
The Miller family has owned the farm for decades and continues to visit the farm, although the farmland is rented out. The Millers transformed the house into lodging where they stayed when they came back to hunt.
The smokehouse was moved from rural Courtland to the Belleville museum by Ball & Son Company.
A few years later the arch from the limestone barn was moved as the dilapidated farmstead was demolished to make way for irrigation pivots.
“The barn was starting to come apart,” Jim Miller said. “We decided to take the barn down rather than watching it decay. For a long time we thought about ways Courtland could use [the arch.].”
It was decided that the stone arch from the barn’s doorway would be salvaged and placed next to the Courtland Arts Center. It will be the entrance to a garden.
Dan Kuhn volunteered his time to see the Arts Council project through. He called the project “dear” to his heart.
“I just thought we needed it,” Kuhn said of saving the arch and putting it on main street. “It came from a beautiful old barn. I have a thing for arches and limestone.”
The arch was dismantled in about 2011, and the stones were marked for future assembly. Extra stone from the barn was also taken. The pallets of rock were then stored at Kuhn’s Depot Market for about three years while volunteers decided where to put the arch and how to pay for the project.
Donations were needed to pay contractors for dismantling and then re-assembling the arch as well as landscaping around the arch once assembled.
The arch was assembled in 2014 on an empty lot next to the Arts Center. The limestone rocks salvaged from the barn were used to complete the archway area. The cost was $12,000. The community continues to raise the remaining $8,000 needed for phase two of the project, which will include landscaping, sidewalks, and a watering system. The arch is the gateway to a garden area that will be used for a variety of events throughout the year.