Williams Homestead earns bicenentennial honor

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The Williams farm Hoosier Homestead Award was presented at the Statehouse earlier this month. Pictured are (from left) Indiana Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler, Natalie DeShong, Sindi and Hannah Edelstein, Pam Schug, Steve Schug, Lori Anson, Todd Anson, Jim Crosley, Marilyn Crosley, Brent Schnepp, Chris Wilson, Jack Wilson, Kyle and Byron Wilson, Angie Wilson, and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.

Indiana State Department of Agriculture recently awarded the Hoosier Homestead Awards for the first time since 2019.

There were three farms in the State of Indiana that received the Bicentennial Homestead Award for having a farm in the same family for at least 200 years.

Madison County had one of these awardees with the Williams Homestead at 1080 W. Huntsville Road in Pendleton.

William Williams and his family of 11 settled on Fall Creek in 1821, and in 1822 was granted a deed to the land from the U.S. government.

The availability of fresh water from a spring attracted the family and prompted them to stop—reportedly they had been on their way to Lebanon.

The forest was so thick at that time that the underbrush had to be cut away to reach a spot where a log home could be built.

The family lived in their covered wagon until construction could be completed.

After first building a rudimentary log cabin, later a two story cabin was constructed where the family and descendants lived until the present Homestead property, a two story brick structure, was built in 1882.

According to Williams family historian Mabel Williams Bean, “William Williams was a horticulturist as many of the family were and still are. He was a lawyer and a Quaker leader; he had great influence with the Indians who were numerous in the Indiana settlement when he arrived there in 1821. He made friends with them as his grandfather Richard had done in North Carolina in the 1750s. He smoked the pipe of peace with the chiefs and read the Bible to them and explained its meaning. They loved and trusted him. During the Indian Troubles in 1824 resulting from the murder of some Indian trappers up Fall Creek, William returned home from hunting and found his family packing up to move to the Blockhouse at The Falls. He reproved them for want of faith, saying “they will not harm us.” His family was the only one that did not move to the Blockhouse.”

William established a nursery and for many years supplied Madison County with fruit trees. He became a sought after expert on grafting and the raising of hybrids.

Much has happened since those first days: a Civil War, two world conflicts, a Great Depression, numerous farm setbacks including a tornado that removed the roof and sidewalls from the barn, and tree fires caused by lightning strikes. In fact, during the Great Depression, William’s great-great-grandson, Ralph Williams, was in such financial straits that he put the farm up for sale for the sum of $10,000. No one could buy it.

At one time, it is believed the farm property consisted of about 400 acres. It included most of what is now Pendle Hill subdivision, and extended some ways north of the Homestead, the home of Pam and Steve Schug, the writer of this column.

Pam Schug is the seventh generation of the Williams family. Currently, generations six, seven, eight and nine still live on the original farm property, which consists of 94 acres.

Apple, pear, and peach trees still dot the landscape of the farm — horticulture is still important to the family.

Marilyn Crosley, 90, is the current matriarch.

She is well known in the area as a Master Gardener and the founder of the Pendleton Elementary Greenhouse, where she worked for decades teaching youngsters about flowers and how to care for them.

Her two daughters, Pam and Chris, carry on her work at the greenhouse.

As we stated at the Hoosier Homestead Award Program on April 1 at the Statehouse, “we feel blessed that we can still gather as family on the same soil where previous generations lived and worked, producing crops and fruit. Our farm has been the site of weddings, birthday and anniversary celebrations, and many bonfires!”

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