VALORIE EVERSOLE - Daily Union Staff Writer
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
A wife wanted to give her husband a special Christmas gift. So after a bit of research, she was able to present him with the Illinois Department of Agriculture Centennial Farm honors.
Harley Farms became a centennial farm in 2006, but part of the land is nearing its sesquicentennial honor at 147 years.
Richard Harley and his wife Darla Kay continue to live on and farm the land, located north of 2400N on the west side of Route 128, that has been passed down from his great great grandfather George Wright.
George Wright, a Civil War veteran, acquired 80 acres of land in Pickaway Township in 1864. More land was purchased until 160 acres was in the Wright name. An additional 40 acres was added to the land in 1906 by George’s son John Sherman Wright when he inherited the farmland. John’s wife Mary inherited the land in 1922 after John’s death. In 1962, Elizabeth Harley, daughter of John and Mary Wright, and her husband Carl became the land owners. The land was passed on to their son Howard Wright Harley in 1989 and finally to Richard Harley in 2005.
Richard bought additional land to bring the acreage in his name to 240 acres.
“This place used to be called Prairie View Farms when the Wrights owned it,” Richard said. “Dad and I decided to call it Harley Farms in the 1980s.”
Richard said he admired his grandparents and worked closely with his father on the farmland.
“Carl and Elizabeth were hard workers. I was pretty close to grandpa (Carl). I liked to go work with him and watch him,” Richard said.
The land saw crops of corn and soybeans as well as beef cattle, hogs, and sheep.
“Some people from all over the state and Missouri would come look at the cattle. They were the best,” Richard said. Richard noted that he used to show cattle in 4-H and the cattle would place well in the show.
Richard grew up on the farmland, working side by side with his father Howard.
“Dad had me on a tractor at 6 years old. I was driving tractors at a young age while dad baled hay,” Richard said. “Dad taught me everything he knew about farming.”
“Dad planted test plots for Calahan and LG seed. He was proud of those test plots. He was a stickler on tilling. He always said if you take care of the ground, the ground will take care of you. Good stewardship for the ground is something he instilled in me.”
The original home on the land was a “four-square” two-story house. In the 1960s the top floor was removed. The home remained until 2006 when Richard tore it down and built a new home.
“I lived here from 1968 to 1980. When I moved back here in 2006, the old house was in bad shape and needed to be torn down,” Richard said.
Nearby stands a barn that Howard built.
“He was good at everything he did. He was a good carpenter and a good mechanic,” Richard said.
Also among the outbuildings stands an old buggy shed and an old livestock shelter.
Richard plans on the land remaining in the family, passing it on to his son.