"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

From the field--
UPDATE: MAXSON FARMHOUSE REDIVIVA!

H. Scott Wolfe

Last month, while returning from a sojourn at the old collective community of Amana, Iowa, I instinctively decided to pause in what I call “John Brown Land”...the little village of Springdale. I, of course, felt compelled to pay my respects at the site of the Maxson farm...that obscure locale (yet of such immense importance to the Old Man’s story) that I have so (too) frequently discoursed upon in these columns.
The Maxson monument with its new 
neighbor, 19 April 2015 (Wolf photo)
Normally, as one approaches the farm from the west, the summits of the numerous grain bins, barns and equipment sheds become visible long before one reaches the spot. So, as my consort and myself passed the “North Liberty” graveyard, (still a mile distant from our destination), I suddenly blurted: “Something is amiss out there!” “Uh-huh,” she yawned. “Seriously,” I shouted, “there is something different about those roofs at the farmsite!” “Uh-huh,” she sighed, as she continued to peruse a brochure on eastern Iowa antique shops.

All was tension (at least on MY part), as I pulled up astride the Maxson monument near the roadside. It was then that I let loose with: “Holy ************!,” and promptly received a brief lecture upon both my choice of nouns and their close relationship to the ultimate destination of my questionable soul.

There, a mere thirty yards distant, sat a freshly-minted, sprawling residence of the “McMansion” style of architecture...still unoccupied, the stickers still clinging to those brand-spanking-new Anderson windows. The garage, where soon the Nissan will find shelter, sat where the old, cast-iron windmill had stood. (This generated another ejaculation from yours truly, for that windmill had appeared in many of the Depression era photographs of the original Maxson house, then in shambles.)
The New "Maxson" Farmhouse--Yikes! (Wolf photo)

Alas, the site is no longer pristine. And those visions of drilling men in an open field are much more difficult to conjure. In my personal fantasies, I had always dreamed of someone procuring the property...building a replica of the Maxson farmhouse...and exposing the stone foundation of the original (which still lies beneath a machine shed)...to create a true historic site. “If I ever win the lottery,” I would say....(But chances of this were indeed slim, in that I have never purchased a lottery ticket in my life.)

But now we have what appears to be suburban Springdale. A latter-day family of Cleavers will occupy the site...and, hopefully, send Wally or the Beaver over to the granite monument to clear the obscuring weeds...and spare these old hands from those pesky blisters.

Progress.....Don’t ya love it?

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H. Scott Wolfe is the Historical Librarian of the Galena, Illinois Public Library.  A veteran researcher of archives and historic sites, he has generously contributed a variety of informative and insightful pieces to this blog since 2011.  His seasoned, storied, and celebrated correspondence is published under the column, "From the Field," and is popular with the readers of this blog.

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