By Vinde Wells
A Forreston man’s love for his family farm and his wife’s love for horses came together nearly a decade ago at Centennial Acres southwest of Forreston.
Matt and Emily Williams and their son Isaac, 4, will celebrate the farm’s sesquicentennial and showcase their riding stable with an open house on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 1 to 5 p.m.
Centennial Acres is at 13440 West Grove Road, approximately two miles southwest of Forreston.
The event will include tours of their facilities, free pony rides, information about the farm’s history, and refreshments.
The Williams’ five-acre homestead is part of the farm purchased in September of 1868 by Ubbo Greenfield, Matt’s great-great-great grandfather.
When the couple moved there nine and a half years ago, Emily had the perfect spot to develop and operate a riding stable, her lifelong dream.
She gives riding lessons and trains and boards horses.
Matt summed up their feelings.
“Living on the farm is a blessing,” he said.
Emily’s love for horses runs deep, even though she grew up in Ashton.
“We lived in town. Getting a horse was never an option,” she said with a smile.
However, she started taking riding lessons she was 12, and her passion for horses grew.
In college, she took equestrian courses and bought her first horse.
Emily taught lessons sporadically while working another job, but moving to the farm provided the opportunity to make it a full-time career.
“I very much love horses,” she said. “Coming out here was a dream I never thought would be a reality.”
Matt’s love for the farm runs just as deep.
“When I was a little guy I always loved coming out here and picking corn with my grandpa,” he said. “I love it here. I like being out in the country.”
Extended family members live close by.
“Our neighbors are family,” he said.
Matt, who works as a warranty technician for Borg Warner in Dixon, is the fifth generation of his family to live on the farm, which was designated a Centennial Farm by the Illinois Department of Agriculture in 1972, meaning it had been owned by the same family for at least 100 years.
The Williamses are awaiting their Sesquicentennial Farm sign, which they hope will arrive in time for the open house.
Ubbo Greenfield, who was born in Embden, Germany in 1824, bought 160 acres that included the homestead from George W. Hewitt in 1868.
He sold the farm to his son Frederick in 1910. Frederick’s son Irvin and his wife Linnie bought it in 1935.
Their son Donald and his wife Norene moved to the farm in 1953 and raised their three daughters Sandy Williams (Matt’s mother), Cathy Schmidt, and Laurie Plambeck there. They purchased the property, by then expanded to almost 300 acres, in 1973.
When Ubbo bought the land, a set of building was located near a spring about a half mile back in what’s now a field.
The barn and possibly other buildings may have been at the current location when he moved in, but he built others and added onto the existing barn.
Ubbo also raised corn, oats, and hay to feed his milk cows, feeder cattle, hogs, and draft horses.
Sandy Williams remembers growing up on the farm which by then had a dairy herd and hogs.
Her father Donald soon replaced the dairy cows with beef cattle.
Her grandfather Irvin came to the farm from his home in Forreston every day to help with the operation.
Sandy and her sisters remember helping with chores, making hay “all summer,” taking tea and cookies to Dad and Grandpa in the field during harvest, and picnics by the creek behind the buildings.
“We didn’t realize how lucky we were,” said Laurie.
Sandy and Laurie also remembered listening to weather and market reports on the radio several times every day.
“When that came on there was no talking,” Sandy recalled with a laugh.
“When it was over, we just went on with our conversation,” Laurie said.
Cathy, who lives in Germany, sent her written recollections.
Under blessings, she wrote, “Learning to trust God in hard situations — Dad losing his fingers and area farmers coming to the rescue to harvest the rest of the crop.”
One of their favorite memories was the closeness with family including their grandfather, Uncle Leo DeVries, and cousin Robert DeVries, Leo’s son.
Robert and his son Butch currently own the farm except for the homestead.