Shelbyville Daily Union

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May 1, 2010

Civil War Veteran Stakes Claim to Future Centennial Farm

SHELBYVILLE, IL. — A young Civil War veteran returns to Shelby County Illinois and purchases 50 acres of land near current day Clarksburg. On that land the veteran raises his family while increasing the size of his farm.

Today Ann and Julie Elbert owns the family farm and in 1981 they received the Illinois Department of Agriculture Centennial Farm recognition. The farm is now five years away from the Sesquicennential honors.

Victor Elbert migrated to the United States from Germany in 1854 at the age of 16. He first settled in Somerset, Ohio, and four years later came to Shelby County. Here he worked as a farm laborer until he enlisted in Company H 7th Illinois Cavalry of the Union Army in 1862 and fought in some of southern battles in the Civil War. When he returned to Shelby County in 1865, he purchased 50 acres of land. By the time he retired in 1905, Victor Elbert had increased his farm size to 280 acres.

Victor’s oldest son George expanded the farm, purchasing neighboring parcels and bringing the total to 360 acres.

“George bought up quite a bit (of land),” said Julie Elbert, Victor Elbert’s great-great granddaughter. “All 360 acres have been in the family for over 100 years.”

George not only farmed the land, but also had sheep, hogs, dairy cows, beef cattle, chickens and horses.

George’s only son Forrest worked the farm alongside his father and eventually Forrest’s only son Robert (Bob), Julie’s father, completed the farming trio.

“Forrest loved to be there on the farm,” Julie said. “He didn’t care to travel. He liked to sit at the window or sit on the porch and watch what was going on.”

Forrest farmed until about six months before he died, although his farm work was lighter in nature in his later years.

Robert continued to farm the family land. He attended the University of Illinois, receiving both a bachelor’s and a master’s in agriculture economics. The U of I was the ag school at that time.

“He enjoyed farming, but there were other things in life that interested him,” Julie said. “He liked the innovations and applying new ideas to the farming industry. He would change with the times and see what’s best for now.”

Julie said his thoughts differed from previous generations who did not change their way of doing things because “it’s always been done that way.”

Bob encourage his daughter to pursue agriculture as heir apparent to the farm.

“He’s the one who made me take ag and FFA in high school,” Julie said. “He told me ‘One day you’ll manage the farm’.”

Julie, however, pursued geography in her college education and became a professor of the subject at University of Southern Mississippi and adjunct professor of geography at William Carey University.

“Geography does play a role in farming,” Julie said. “Buildings and land improvements have a way of leaving a footprint which are discovered many years later.”

Since her father’s passing, Julie and her mother Ann both have their names on the deed to the 360 acres. They do not farm the land themselves, but instead rent the land to be farmed.

The old wooden barn still stands on the land, although it is now reroofed and sided with metal. Julie’s great grandfather George’s house also still stands on the land although it has been sold to a new owner.

The Elbert farm is located on three parcels of the 700N and 2200E intersection in Clarksburg Township.

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