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When History Meets Archaeology: Hallock Family Farmstead in Wabash County, Illinois
Let Mary Hallock Shearer be your guide as you go through this exhibit. Mary was a well educated person for her time and had been a school teacher. She decided to keep a journal and wrote about her life and her family's businesses in detail. She also noted the people in the neighborhood, her travels, her extended family and many more things. Her great-granddaughter, Clara Pixley, published Mary's journal in 1967 for a limited run. It is likely that without Mary's journal this exhibit could not have been possible. Thank you Mary.
These are the books related to the exhibit. At the top is Mary's original journal in her handwriting, In the center is a copy of the printed version of the Journal of Mary Shearer and at the bottom is the original day-book belonging to the Hallock family. The day-book has been photocopied for anyone to look at and shows the products which were bartered between the Hallock family and their neighbors from their small store.
The Hallock family emigrated from Suffolk County England in 1640 and Peter Hallock settled on Long Island on land purchased from the Indians. Later his family expanded to live all over New York. In 1816-1817 John Hallock V moved to New Jersey. In 1822 John V applied for a patent for a screw type apparatus to crush castor beans to excrete the oil and make castor oil by the cold press method. Shortly after this he had to take a bankruptcy due to the bad business climate. His acquaintance in New Jersey was Dr. Ezra Baker Sr. whose son, Ezra Baker Jr. was making castor oil and speculating on land in Wabash County, IL. He owned a farm there and invited the Hallock family to come to Wabash County to settle and manufacture castor oil. John V, his wife and extended family of sisters and 3 sons came to Wabash County in 1837 by way of The National Road. They purchased the farm which belonged to Ezra Baker Jr. on Bald Hill Prairie, not far from the town of Centerville, the old county seat of Wabash County.
Using the information from the patent and the help of neighbor Isaac Parmenter, a millwright, the castor oil mill was built and soon went into production. Mary remembers Grandfather John pasting the labels onto glass bottles which he peddled from a one-horse shay. Larger amounts were also shipped in wooden barrels. All the Hallock sons assisted with the castor oil production. Eventually Aaron B., Mary's father, stayed on the farm and his brothers, Richard and Allen, respectively, became pharmacists in Princeton and Evansville, IN. The photo of the panel on the right shows how the growing plants and the beans looked, as well as the design of the horse powered bean press topped by a top running stone, and the bottled product. It was called Quaker oil. Grandfather was a devout Quaker. The Hallocks and neighboring farmers grew the beans used in production.
This is the very large millstone (called a bed stone) from the farm which was found at the archaeological dig. It is so large it has to be moved by a tractor. This stone had a spout on one side (which is now missing) to drain the oil. The beans were smashed and ground onto the stone by a heavy turning weight. The oil was processed by the cold press method after it was pressed from the beans.
The artifacts shown below were found on the archaeological dig in January 2018 at the Hallock farm before it was decimated by the advancing White Stallion Coal surface mine. The archaeologists and historians from American Resources Group performed the excavations and prepared the technical report. John A. Schwegman was the Field Supervisor. Monica Lomas analyzed the artifacts and Cally Lence conducted the historical research.
One of the most interesting panels shows the relationship of Mary's journal descriptions to the actual locations of buildings, fields and orchards on the farm as found during the "dig". Once the well and the cistern were located, the other positions could be identified. The left half of the panel shows locations given by Mary and the right side shows the locations of items found on the "dig". The nicest of those items can be seen in the exhibit.
As the economy changed a country general store was added to the family home. Many goods were on hand there which were sold/bartered with the local people at that store.
Hay and vinegar became important products shipped from the farm. A large bale could now be produced so that hay could be shipped down river to large city markets. It was needed for the many horses in the cities. In Switzerland County, IN a large scale baler was patented and others followed. Aaron Hallock saw such a baler in New Harmony and had one built at his farm. The family sold large amounts of hay and vinegar to the army during the Mexican war and during the Civil war. The Army could not do without these items. Flat boats were built locally and used for shipping until steam boats became more plentiful.
On major holidays during the warm months, O'Bannon Woods State Park operates a hay press similar to the one which Aaron B. Hallock had built at his farm. By watching the video in the exhibit, you can see how the hay press operates and see a video from The National Road museum in Ohio. The Wabash County Museum is very grateful to O'Bannon Woods, National Road Museum and for a grant from Walmart for the materials to show this video loop to our visitors.
It is difficult to get a sense of where these events took place without a good map. Bald Hill Prairie is not a location that we are familiar with today, since the prairies have been replaced by farm land and rows of trees between fields. The roads now are known by most people because of the major locations they connect. Bald Hill Prairie was not close to any major location but was good farm ground and had been close to the county seat at one time. Please look at the map to the right to see the locations and the landowners around the Hallock family to understand the significance of the people and places discussed in the Journal of Mary (Hallock) Shearer.
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