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Keeping it in the family

LADD — Arthur Hovick is a contented man. He and his wife, Eileen, and their dog, Pugsley, live north of the Ladd Elevator on a farm that’s been in Hovick’s family for more than 135 years.

Unlike some area farmers, Hovick didn’t grow up on the farm. Instead, he moved there in 2007, after inheriting the farm from a cousin.

Hovick is enjoying every minute of living on the farm.

“It is absolutely freedom out here,” he said. “I was born and raised on a farm, and now I’ve got elbow room.”

Hovick has a thick sheaf of papers on the title to the farm, which dates back to about 1846 and a man named Nathan Gray.

According to research Hovick did when he applied for the state’s Centennial Farm designation, the farm came into his family in 1875 when William Hahn took possession.

Fast forward a hundred or so years ... The farm stayed in the family and was owned by Jake Hahn, his wife, Lena, and their twin sons, Wilbur and Walter.

“People here have never heard of the Hahn twins unless you had an airplane,” Hovick said.

Hovick said the twins went to the airport in Peru and got their pilot’s licenses when they were 18.

“So then they built the hangar, and their dad bought their first airplane for them,” Hovick said.

Hovick said the twins and two other men from the Ottawa airport where they worked owned Plum Island, just across from Starved Rock.

“From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Wilbur and Walter would go over there and fly and give people rides,” Hovick said. “They started out with an old beer barge to haul the people across. When that rusted out and sank, then they put a cable car up and over the top.”

Hovick was born and raised on a farm in northwest Iowa. His grandmother was a sister to Lena Hovick. Hovick and Eileen lived and raised a family in Onarga, Ill., and he worked in construction and as a trucker.

The farm was not part of Hovick’s childhood, but he became familiar with the place when Walter fell out of a combine and broke his hip.

“I’d come up here like once a month,” Hovick said. “We’d go out and drive around and go out to dinner and reminisce a little bit. One day he called me up and he said, ‘Would you like to have the farm?’

“I said, ‘Uh, uh, uh, sure,’ so he put me on the will, and here we are.”

Wilbur was married twice, and Walter was never married. Neither man had any children.
When Wilbur died in 2000, the farm was willed to Walter, and his wife inherited the house.

“We bought this house from the estate to keep this back into the farm,” Hovick said.

When Walter died April 27, 2004, the farm was Hovick’s.

Hovick and his wife hope the farm will remain in the family with their two children after they die.

“I hope they keep it, but if they don’t, that’s up to them,” Eileen said.

Arthur agreed.

“We wouldn’t be here to stop them,” he said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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