The Beauty of Country Directions

We set out on a treasure hunt with no map. What we found was priceless.

I just have to say, I love country directions. When planning our Sunday Driving vacation (see parts 1, & 2 here), I called my 92-year-old Great Uncle Clarence to see if he had the address to the old farmhouse he and my grandma were born in. He obligingly said, “Better yet, I have directions.” These are those directions.
 
“First you want to locate the water tower and head straight west. You’ll pass the first cross road and then the second interchange and that’s where the old school house was. Keep going and it is the second farm house on the right.”

I scribbled down what he said and tried to ask for more information. He wasn’t sure of the name of the street. He didn’t know any other landmarks or postal address.

Our adventure begins.

Thankfully for us, the town of Granton,WI is not terribly big and the old water tower was impossible to miss.

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The first stop though was the church where Grandma was baptized.

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Uncle Clarence was on the building committee for the current structure when he was an adult. We spent some time looking for family names in the Cemetery not realizing that none of them are buried there. But we did recognize some names. Hillert, for instance, comes from the small town of Granton and is responsible for bringing us that wonderful festival setting of “This is the Feast” from the communion liturgy.

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After chatting with the pastor a little to explain why we were wandering over the church property, it was time to set out to find the old farm.

So let’s remember the directions… water tower (check), straight west (check), now 2 intersections to where the old school house was. (Check!) and (Check!) But somehow this doesn’t look like what I remember. It is a nice looking farm with a farm house that looks like it was built in the late 19th century, which certainly means it could have been around to shelter my Grandma and her siblings… maybe this was it!

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So we did what we’re always telling you to do… we drove up the long drive way and knocked on the door. No answer! We’ll have to come back later. So instead we went to lunch in Neilsville and enjoyed a great meal at a diner owned by some people who loved talking about their town. That will certainly be for another day.

Finally with our strength restored we went back to search for the old farm house. The owners were home this time so we drove up the drive and spoke to the owner. Kirsten (for that was her name) was confused at first but I explained I was trying to find my grandmothers house and showed her the picture from her memoirs. She said, it’s possible it’s the same house and began telling me the history.

“This porch was added on after a big fire at Christmastime, and that 2nd level was added on in 1915… but it’s hard to say from just this picture.”

And then she said the magic words,

“If you’ll pardon the mess, I’ll show you inside. We’re remodeling and we’ve found some hidden treasures within these walls.”

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We were excited to get out and stretch our legs (even though our boys are great Sunday drivers, they get pretty antsy). She informed us that they had bought the house and realized the wiring needed to be updated so they opened up the walls to fix that. And as any of you who are in to rehab work know, that is a very messy can of worms to open up. One thing leads to another and soon enough you’re moving staircases, adding bathrooms, and knocking out walls… But by opening that treasure chest, a whole story began to reveal itself.

First by a simple name and a date. It read: B. Tykac 1915. After doing some research she discovered that the entire 2nd floor was built in 1915. She figured this out because every board was stamped with that name and that date. At that time there was a train track that passed behind the back of the property. When Mr. Tykac purchased the materials they were shipped right to his property on the train and to make sure nothing got lost, each one was stamped with his name and the year by the shipping company.

But that wasn’t the only story in the walls. The boards were littered with short poems, games of tic tac toe, and quick calculations all telling the tale of children running around or workers enjoying their lunch break.P7141330

In the living room they discovered another “family” eagerly adding new levels onto their home: the remains of a massive wasps nest from decades earlier! Kirsten wasn’t sure when that wasps’ nest was formed but believed it was some time during the 1960s when 1″ holes were drilled into the outer walls to pump insulation into the 4″ thick walls. (Fun Fact: The 2x4s in this picture are actually 2″ x 4″ unlike modern 2x4s that are more like 1.5″ x 3.5″)

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After giving us the nickel tour and showing how much she loved her home she told us that she thinks the house we’re looking for was probably at the next intersection because that first intersection was “a mistake.” (<– Her words, not ours) She said she hopes we found it because she would be reading our blog to hear the tales. We drove away from what she said was once called “One Horse Farm.”

Pressing onward even though the boys were getting quite fussy we drove one more intersection and found a small 1 story farmhouse that looks like it could be from the pictures. The more we looked at it, the more certain we were that this was the home that Grandma Dolores spoke so fondly of. Here it is.

P7141351We couldn’t wait to show Uncle Clarence the pictures to know for sure! Giving a quick thankful honk to our new friends at One Horse Farm, we sped by eager to get back to the cabin retreat in the woods.  (But that will have to wait for another day.)

At the very end of our vacation we had the chance to see Great Uncle Clarence and show him and his wife, Marian, the photos we took. They were overjoyed and excited to see how similar things still looked. This country road picture brought a twinkle of delight into Big Clarence’s eye.

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He also knew One Horse Farm and he remembers walking to school across the railroad tracks with the young lad who lived there. This was a shortcut to school. He told us about earning spending money by picking beans for Mr. Tykac in the summer at One Horse Farm. They told us about their first date at the Silver Dome Ballroom (check out this video to see how grand it was!).P7181970

The hunt for the old Pannier farm was reward enough, but the pure delight from Clarence and Marian was the greatest treasure of all.

We can’t wait to share more with you about our vacation. Have you ever been back to a place from your history after years gone by? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Until next time thanks for driving with us.

 

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