Quintessential Barrington

Tales of Craftsbury Farm

An 1840s Cuba Township farmstead epitomizes Barrington land preservation.

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story by Barbara L. Benson

 

 

Drive south on Old Barrington Road, which dead-ends at Cuba Road splitting east and west. Straight ahead is a country house whose original walls attest to the building skills of the pioneers, with subsequent additions reflecting changing times. But for over 150 years, the four principal owners of the house and its surrounding acreage have been stewards of the land.

Craftsbury Farm has its origins in the two 40-acre parcels purchased by settler Thomas White and his wife, Alvira, in 1843 and 1845. Their land was divided by the wagon and mail route that became Cuba Road. The White family built a small frame house, broke the ground, and offered stability for their neighboring homesteaders by providing land for a [White] schoolhouse which also served as a church, and for a [White Memorial] cemetery to honorably bury their dead. They farmed mostly grain and some livestock.

In 1880, the heirs of Thomas and Alvira deeded the farmstead, now 300 acres, to Louisa and John Golden, natives of Germany whose name became synonymous with the property for the next 34 years as Golden Farm.

The early 20th century saw change in the direction of Barrington’s countryside. Local realtor Sanford Peck, who established an office in the Railway Exchange Building in Chicago, drew successful businessmen to the area to create country estates and become gentlemen farmers. Among them was Henry A. Howland, Vice President of the First National Bank of Chicago. He and his wife, Bessie R. Howland, acquired the property in February 1914 and, with memories of a favorite town in Vermont, renamed it Craftsbury Farm. The Howlands made significant improvements to house, barns, and land, and their farm business was listed in the Prairie Farmer Directory as Howland & Sons.

The Howlands raised White Plymouth Rock poultry, Holstein dairy cows, and Duroc Jersey hogs on their 180 acres and later, Guernsey cows. Bessie died in 1936 and Henry in 1938. Craftsbury Farm was inherited by three of their children. Two, Henry and Elizabeth (neither had married), lived at the farm for the next 18 years. An active member of the Garden Clubs of Illinois, Elizabeth designed and managed extensive gardens on the property, a small orchard, and maintained the farm.

In the mid-1950s, Arthur L. Rice, Jr. moved his Technical Publishing Company to Barrington (the present District 220 offices on James Street was its first location). He and his wife, Carol, saw the available Craftsbury Farm as an ideal environment in which to raise their children. This was to be a treasured family home for over 50 years. Through the efforts of the Rices’ and many of their neighbors, zoning laws were enacted to preserve the rural roots of many areas of Cuba Township.

By 2013, Carol and Art Rice had passed away, and the Dylan Nelson family became the new stewards of this historic property. At the 2013 Citizens for Conservation annual meeting, the children of Carol and Art Rice announced that in honor of their parents, 22 acres of the original White farm, comprising uplands, sedge meadows, and wetlands, had been donated to the organization to be known in perpetuity as the Craftsbury Preserve.

As farm, family home, gardens, and now, Preserve, “Craftsbury” epitomizes the cherished rural heritage of Barrington’s northern countryside.

Editor’s note: We spoke with the property’s current owner, Dylan Nelson, who shared that his family has renamed Craftsbury Farm to Buckley Farm. The family’s first rescue dog, (the late) Buckley, greatly inspired him and his family to devote time and treasure in support of animals that need rescue and care. Also: Special thanks to Nancy Schumm, of Schumm Consulting LLC, for historical research and data.

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Barbara L. Benson grew up in Kent, England, and later moved to New York. She settled in Barrington and has walked with our history ever since she first arrived here in 1980.