SHELBYVILLE, IL. — Note: This story is being rerun with corrected and additional information about the Boys Centennial Farm.
The Boys family farm has seen five generations living on the land in its 164-year history. A sixth generation Boys works the land for his father.
“My great-great grandfather came from Virginia and Kentucky and settled here in the eastern part of Ridge Township,” said Carl Boys. His land is located near 1625N and 1350E.
Carl admits he knows very little about his great-great grandfather Alexander Boys or his great grandfather John. He said that although the land was settled in 1846, it wasn’t deeded until 1866.
“There is an abstract that is dated back in the 1830s,” Carl said.
The land was passed down to Carl’s great grandfather John, his grandfather John and his father Wilkison (Wilk or, as some friends called him, W.R.). The land amounted to several hundred acres spread over several tracts.
Today Carl owns 112 acres which he received in 1970 after his mother’s death. Carl was given the entire farm.
Carl and his wife Lois live in the home built by his father. The house is made from clear lumber - lumber without any knots.
“Dad didn’t like knots,” Carl said.
“The home had its own electric generating plant,” said Rosemary Boys Miller, Carl’s sister. “There were two of those telephones hanging on the wall with a crank on the side for ringing central. One of the phones was a party line to Shelbyville, The other was a private line to Westervelt made possible by our father’s purchasing the wire and setting the poles himself. The home had indoor plumbing. They entertained, setting a large dining room table. The evening entertainment was music, everyone joining in with musical instruments or voice.”
The home is just a quarter mile north from the home site Wilk grew up in. (The home Wilk grew up in burned many years ago and has since been replaced by another home.)
The barn was built a few years later, but has since blown down.
“The barn cost more than it did to build the house and the corn crib cost more than that due to the inflation right before World War I,” Carl said.
The house remains “pretty much as it was built” - only small additions have been made to the home.
Carl’s family were Masons. His great grandfather was Grand Master of his Masonic Lodge in Kentucky and each descendent was also a Mason.
His father Wilk was a charter member of the Shelby County Farm Bureau and a state accredited poultry culler, raising Rhode Island red hens. He also had Jersey cows. He was one of the first farmers in the area to use crop rotation. He was also progressive in land conservation, building terraces to prevent soil erosion.
Despite having a stiff hip as the result of a bone disease as a child, Wilk actively worked as a farmer and dairyman. He dug by hand with shovel and spade, installing clay tiles which provided drainage for his fields.
“He routinely walked the fence when necessary to find where the electric fence had a short,” Rosemary said.
“As a child I often rode along with him on his milk route as he collected cans of milk from neighbors and delivered them to the condensery in Shelbyville. I saw him lift full cans of milk to his truck bed, about waist high,” said Harriet Boys Ramos, Carl’s sister.
He taught in a nearby Little Brick School, a one-room schoolhouse.
“His years teaching at the neighborhood school was in large part the inspiration that led me to become a teacher,” said Harriet.
He enjoyed playing violin and saxophone and played with a band in Westervelt.
Wilk married Lena Killam, whose father was the county’s biggest land owner at the time.
Carl served in World War II in the Pacific theater, specifically Saipan, as a military policeman guarding prisoners of war.
“I got a taste of police work and didn’t care for it much. I wished I stayed in the infantry,” Carl said.
Today Carl’s son Harold farms the land. Carl’s hope is that the land will remain in the family.
“I want it to stay in the family. It has never been sold and I don’t want it sold,” Carl said.
The Boys farm was recognized by the Illinois Department of Agriculture as a centennial farm in 1972, among one of the first farms recognized by the program.