AMBOY — We’ve all seen those old black and white spaghetti westerns on TV where there is vast acres of barren land and pioneers heading out on their covered wagons with all of their earthly possessions hoping to stake a claim for a better life as the winds swirl and the tumbleweeds roll by. Okay, so now that I have your attention, documented historical accounts state that those times were some of the most difficult in our country’s storied yesteryears.
Between 1910 and 1911, Morris July was up to the challenge and purchased 160 acres in Shaw Station, about five miles east of Amboy and three miles south of Sublette on Inlet Road and the hard work and legacy began.
Now, 121 years later, the July family farm still thrives. After a story ran in this publication last year about a farm owned by the Palmer family that was granted centennial status, Curtis July, the great-grandson of Morris became intrigued about his families’ prospects.
“We got curious about how long our farm has been around, so I contacted my sister Candi (Vine) and younger brother Dean and that’s how it started,” explained July.
Dean took on the task of digging for information and as a result, filled out all the necessary paperwork at the courthouse and last April the Illinois Department of Agriculture designated the July farm as a Centennial Farm.
“We are a small family and this recognition really means a lot to all of us,” said Curtis.
The Illinois Centennial Farms program has recognized more than 10,200 farms since it is inception in the early 1970s. Centennial Farm owners receive outdoor display signage and a certificate signed by the Governor and Director of Agriculture. The July family was recognized on Aug. 15 designated “Agriculture Day” at the Illinois State Fair.
The Director of Agriculture Jerry Costello was quoted as saying; “This designation not only honors their farm operation today, but also their ancestors who labored through adversity to maintain the family farm. I’m privileged to present this distinction to the family.”
With any farm operation, chores and hard work are a daily occurrence as Candi fondly remembers.
“I started helping my father Harold at 5 or 6 years old carrying pans of milk and feeding calves with a bucket that had a big nipple on it,” she said. “I was introduced to what was to come and it kept me occupied and made me feel a part of it. It was fun”
Not much has changed over the decades but in 1987 when Harold July passed away, and his wife Jean decided to relocate to Amboy, the family decided to sell 5 acres and the farmhouse and buildings to Lance and Becky Walters who have since farmed the July land.
“We can’t express enough of our appreciation for what the Walters have done,” said July with sincerity in his voice. “They’ve been great stewards of the farm.”
Lance Walter’s family farm was nearby, and he shared that he grew up around the July family and went to church with them.
“Their father drove all of us to services and I helped bale hay, shell corn and sheer sheep,” he said with a laugh. “When we got the chance to buy the farmhouses, we were very thrilled. We’ve fixed them up over the years and are happy with everything. We feel honored to have played a small part in the continuing legacy of the farm.”