PRINCETON — The Wiggins farm of rural Princeton has joined an elite of group of 15 other Bureau County farms to be designated as Sesquicentennial Farms by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Brothers Bill and Tom Wiggins own the farm, located about mile from Princeton on Route 26. Their ancestors bought the original 128-acre farm in 1856, at a cost of $36 an acre. The farm has been in the Wiggins name ever since, Bill said.
To qualify for Sesquicentennial Farm status, an agricultural property must have been owned by the same family of descendants for at least 150 years. Statewide, more than 600 Illinois farms have been named Sesquicentennial Farms since the program was created in 2001.
On Tuesday, Bill, who lives on the family farm, and Tom, who lives in Monticello, talked about the significance of having reached the Sesquicentennial Farm milestone.
“We are very proud of being Sesquicentennial. It’s honoring our heritage. We have become owners through gifts from our ancestors and I look forward to maintaining the farm and passing it on to my children,” Tom said. “How many other businesses can you say that have had the same family owners for 150 years?”
Bill agreed with his brother’s sentiments.
“When someone asks me where I farm, I tell them where we are located and then I tell them it’s a Sesquicentennial farm. I’m as pleased as punch,” Bill said. “The farm has been in the Wiggins name since 1856 and that’s pretty nice.”
The brothers said they have a lot of good memories growing up on the farm. They remember hearing the story how there was once a horse racing track on the northwest corner of the farm. They remember how their dad would drive cattle down the road from their place to their other property a couple miles away, property which their dad sold in the 1970s to become the site of the Bureau Valley Country Club.
Their parents, Charles T. and Ruth K. Wiggins, kept the boys busy, Tom and Bill agreed. There was always chores to do, like taking care of the livestock and chickens. There was hay bailing and shelling corn. The boys were busy with 4-H club, summer ball leagues, and, in high school, Future Farmers of America at Princeton High School.
Growing up on a farm, you never said there was nothing to do, or your parents would find something, Tom said with a smile.
Their dad kept the livestock until the 1970s and the farm has grown seed corn for Pioneer Research for nearly 70 years, Bill said.
The brothers are joint owners and partners now on the farm now. Bill has worked on the farm, at least part-time, for years, before coming back years ago to work on the farm full-time. Though not a farmer himself, Tom has worked in the agriculture field, retiring after 30 years in professional farm management and farm real estate sales.
Looking to the future, Tom said the family farm will be handed down with pride to the next generation of Wiggins. Though none of the younger generation plan to farm the land themselves, they will inherit the land, Tom said.
“I hope the farm will stay in the family. I’m instilling that legacy in my children and my kids respect that,” Tom said.
Bill, too, is hopeful the farm he calls home will stay in the Wiggins family for years to come.
“We're shooting for 200 years,” he said.
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Sesquicentennial Farms in Bureau County Family Name City Township Orginal Date of Purchase Andrews Sheffield Manlius 1854 Arnold Buda Macon 1856 Bennett Neponset Neponset 1856 Bill Buda Concord 1835 Bowen Neponset Neponset 1846 Bradley Princeton Wyanet 1848 Bromme Buda Macon 1853 Davidson Neponset Neponset 1838 Faber Mendota Clarion 1855 Gingrich Sheffield Mineral 1858 Hasbrook Sheffield Concord 1854 Miller Neponset Neponset 1856 Norton Neponset Neponset 1848 Rod LaMoille Clarion 1847 Sharkey Bradford Milo 1854 Wiggins Princeton Princeton 1856 (Information from Illinois Department of Agriculture)