By 1860, Thomas Clow was growing wheat, corn, oats and potatoes, and he raised cows and horses on the land. Over the next two decades, he — like many farmers in the area — transitioned from wheat and started to focus on corn, increasing his yield from 600 bushels of corn to 3,400 bushels through the years. He also increased the size of his cow herd and added sheep.
In the 1890s, the Clows erected one of the largest barns in Wheatland Township. The structure is 117 feet long, 42 feet wide and 44 feet tall, and it features mortice and tenon joints and trunnels, or wooden pegs.
“Eventually the farm would include a barnyard between the settlement house and barn, two additional garages, three silos, a pig barn, a milk house, chicken coops, and a smokehouse,” according to an archeological survey of the site.
Thomas Clow and his wife, Margaret, died in the early 1890s. Their eldest son, James, managed the farm after his parents’ deaths. He continued the farm’s transition from subsistence level to commercial operation.
James Clow died in 1942. He was buried near his parents and other family members at Wheatland Cemetery. Members of the Clow Family continued to own the farm until 1974. After the land was named a landmark in 1991 by the Naperville Historic Sites Commission, the Thomas Clow Wheatland Riverview Farmstead Foundation purchased the land. The foundation later sold the land to the Forest Preserve District.
To learn more about Riverview Farmstead Preserve, sign up for a special tour on Saturday, April 15, which will feature an inside look at the barn and limestone house. The tour is from 9-10:30 a.m. An interpreter will share stories of life during this time. The free program is for all ages. Registration is required by Thursday, April 13.
Another informative program will be held at the farmstead next month. “Innovation Down on the Farm” is scheduled for 1-2 p.m. on Saturday, May 6. Participants will learn more about Riverview Farmstead’s unique collection of historic farm equipment. Visitors will gain special insight into how farm machinery operated and evolved to allow American farmers to provide abundant and inexpensive food to fuel the nation’s prosperity. The free program is for all ages. Registration is required by Thursday, May 4.
To register for either program, call 815.886.1467.
Article by Cindy Cain | Photos by Chad Merda
17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet, IL 60433