Shelbyville Daily Union

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August 3, 2010

Spannagel Centennial Farm

143 Years and Counting

SHELBYVILLE, IL. — On 120 acres in Ash Grove Township, near the intersection of 1000N and 3050E, stands a barn surrounded by fields of grain. Near the barn is an open area where a hand-hewn, soft lumber frame home once stood. A water well still remains – a reminder of past generations on the land.

Christian F. Spannagel, a carpenter by trade, moved to Shelby County from Sugar Grove, OH, with his seven children. In 1867, he established his homestead near Strasburg.

“The family name in Ohio was the German spelling ‘Sponagal’,” said Glen Spannagel, Christian Spannagel’s great grandson.

Christian brought his carpentry trade with him from Ohio. He designed and built houses and barns for others in the area.

“They were the same house and barn plans – just different in size,” Glen said, referring to the design of the Spannagel home and barn. The barns were built with wooden pegs instead of nails.  When the old barn on the land was torn down years later, Glen recovered some of the tools used in building, including a framing clamp.

Although Glen did not know his great grandfather, he has memories of the home when his great aunt Clara lived there. Clara, who never married, was the youngest child of Christian and the sister of Glen’s grandfather John. John and another brother worked the land while Clara lived in the home taking care of her father.  She remained in the home after Christian passed away.

The home never had electricity. “There wasn’t much you could do after sunset anyway,” said Betty Spannagel, Glen’s wife.

“When I was a boy, I mowed the yard for Aunt Clara,” Glen said. “She paid me 50 cents one time, but I lost the coins in the yard. We looked and looked for them and Dad (Edward) even used a metal detector. We never did find the coins.”

However, the yard contained other small treasures beneath the soil including a 2-cent piece, small china doll heads, and arrowheads.

“This is a pretty good arrowhead area,” Glen said. “We found quite a few arrowheads in our lifetime.”

After Clara died Glen bought the old home and land in the estate sale in 1962. Unfortunately the home had to be torn down because of termite damage. The old barn had also been changed to accommodate a combine Edward bought before it was eventually torn down 25 years ago.

“I had the intention of building a house there, but I never did build. I lived in Shelbyville at the time,” Glen said. Glen still has a window from the home and his brother has an outside arched door that was part of the home.

Glen noted that the land is situated on a large, deep sand ridge which was probably left behind by glaciers. The field was tiled to enable it to raise the grain crops.

Glen farms 80 acres of the land with his son Steve. His brother Lloyd farms the other 40 acres.

The Spannagel farm was one of the many farms recognized as Centennial Farms in 1972, the first year of the program by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“We are seven years away from being a Sesquicentennial Farm,” Glen said proudly.

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