The Holley Raper Homestead Legacy
Written by Gene Huddlestun ©2004
published by the
Jasper County News Eagle on May 10, 2004
Reprinted here with Mr. Huddlestun's permission
Formatted by ©2004 Barb Moksnes for Genealogy Trails




The FRANK AND MARTHA JANE RAPER FAMILY - c. 1901
Seated left to right: Martha Jane, Ted, Dewey, Frank
Standing left to right: Charles, Jim, Lewis

One hundred fifty years ago in the decade of the 1850s, there was a surge of people, including entire families, from the Eastern United States migrating to the Midwest. Hostile Indians had been driven out, and the U.S. Government and the railroad companies were offering 160 acres of fine farmland and wooded areas for homesteading at the low price of $1.25 per acre with the requirement that the homesteader live on and cultivate a portion of the tract for five years; and at the the end of such time, the homesteader would be given a deed and full ownership of the 160 acres. (Information from "History of the U.S." by Thwates and Kendall, p. 420)

In the waning months and weeks of 1853, over 150 years ago, much excitement, talk and discussion must have been occurring in the Holley Raper household in Brown County, Ohio about the whole family joining the migration movement and finding new homesteads in the Midwest. Holley had just recently sold his ownership of a toll bridge to the state of Ohio - reportedly at a very good price - and could finance the cost of homesteaded land, as well as all other expenses made necessary in the move, and sustain other members of the family until income was derived from the homesteaded property. They probably did not visualize a prairie that could be insect infested and cruel. They did not anticipate the possibility of seeing their babies and young children die for need of a doctor.

Holley was 63 years of age; Susan's age is uncertain. They were bringing a family of 5 daughters and 1 son. The children ranged in age from 9 to 27. Two daughters were married - Rachel to Washington Odell and Elizabeth to Joseph Shumard. The venture probably appealed to the siblings as romantic and exciting as well as an opportunity to own a large farm. But, all must have had solemn thoughts of leaving old friends and loved ones whom they might never see again; and it seems likely that an older son, Holley, remained in Ohio and did not join the family move to Illinois. Holley and Susan, especially, must have realized some of the hardships to be encountered and had serious reservations about the undertaking.

A letter of March 10, 1965 from the Cincinnati Historical Society Librarian reinforces the probability that a son, Holley Raper (father Holley's namesake) remained in Ohio.

(Letter on Cincinnati Historical Society letterhead) addressed to Mrs. Shirley Huddlestun of Wheeler begins Dear Mrs. Huddlestun: In reply to your letter of March 3, 1965, our vital statistics file records an unidentified newspaper clipping which states that on March 5, 1844, at the residence of Col. Geo. Ramsey, Clermont County, Ohio, on Tuesday evening the 5th inst., by the Rev. WM. Fife, Mr. Holley Raper, of Cincinnati, Ohio was married to Miss Mary, daughter of Col. Geo. Ramsey and granddaughter of Ex-Gov. Morrow.
We have no other information, but hope the enclosed sheets may be helpful.
Very truly yours, Mrs. Andrew N. Jergens, Jr., Librarian.

No records indicates that any member of the family had prior farming experience. However, in those pioneer days on the prairie, a team of oxen or horses, a walking plow, a brook brood sow, a cow for milk, some chickens, a garden and fruit trees were the essentials. By being resourceful, the hunting of wild game such as deer, prairie chickens and quail helped sustain many homestead families. In spite of this, the family was faced with monumental concerns. Not only one, but three households would need to be established in new, unknown territory; one for Holley and Susan with 3 daughters and a son yet at home, one for the Odell family, and one for the Shumard family. 3 cabins must be built for 3 households with a fireplace in each for both heat and cooking. Water wells must be dug at each site. Draft animals and simple farm equipment would be necessary for each household. The few roads that were laid out were poor, only trails in some cases; and the distance form Newton, the county seat of Jasper County, to the land they would homestead was 11 miles. Supplies would need to be kept on hand when the families were snow-bound in winter.



In 1965, my wife, Shirley, wrote of her close childhood relationship with her grandfather, Frank Raper, which began when she was aged 4 and he was 55 and her family moved into her grandfather's home following the death of her grandmother. She recorded her memories of stories he told her about his pioneer grandparents (Shirley's great-great grandparents), Holley and Susan Raper, and their homesteading of "The Old Place". Shirley's 1965 writing included these passages:

"I would stand near Granddad and look across the now settled prairie land and try to draw a picture in my mind of how this prairie-land looked then as Holley and his family arrived. I remembered he said there were five girls in the family, some of who were already married and came with their husbands in the covered wagon. Arthur, the one son (then aged about 14), would later marry Louisa Smith and become the father of my grandfather, Frank A. Raper, who filled my mind with the prairie-land lore. What did great-great grandmother Susan and these daughters think as they left their comfortable Ohio homes to later arrive in this vast prairie-land I would ask myself. One of the daughter's husband, Joe Shumard, was making such good wages, $9.00 per week, in Ohio, and hated to leave so his wife Elizabeth came on with the rest of the family. He worked at his job until he was able to purchase enough land to provide his children with a home..."

No family account or record indicates which family members left Ohio to find and choose land to be homesteaded. However, the records held in the Jasper County courthouse show that Holley Raper, his son-in-law Washington Odell, and a man named Thomas Foster, made homestead claims on the east Half of Section 35 in Grove township in Jasper County containing 320 acres on March 10, 1854.

The following account was written in 1978 by Harry Shumard, a great-grandson of Holley Raper, and was copied form genealogy information furnished by Harry's daughter, Linda Shumard Green:

Notes for Harry Austin Shumard: Written by Harry Shumard in 1978 as indicated in the letter below.

In 1854 my great grandfather Holley Raper, a veteran who had served in the War of 1812, resided in or near Milford, Ohio. He owned a toll bridge across the Ohio or the Little Miami River. I cannot say definitely which. In 1853, the State assumed ownership of his bridge by a legal cash transaction, taking over the operation and management of the facility. Holley's wife, Susan was the Governor's daughter, but this had no bearing on the transaction.
In the summer of 1854 Holley, after selling his bridge, came West to invest in cheap land. He came to Newton, Jasper Co., Illinois with cash in his pockets. There he contacted a real estate broker, namely Thomas Foster. He must have liked what he saw, for he bought 1500 or 2000 acres of northwest Jasper County.

Holley and Susanna's children were several. Mostly of the distaff branch. But when you have girls you soon acquire boys. Which they did.

In 1855 when conditions were favorable they started for Jasper County in their private wagon train. The married girls and their husbands drove the wagons. My grandmother Elizabeth had a small son. She came with the wagons. Her husband Joseph Rush Shumard was a skilled cabinetmaker employed in a furniture factory at an hourly wage of $.025. He hated to leave his job and the money. So he told Lib to go with her folks in the wagons. He would continue to work all summer then come alone. I am appalled at his courage. He was carrying his summer wages in cash. They did not have bank facilities as we do in 1978. He finished time at the factory drew his wages and after a good nights rest, embarked on foot for Jasper County. If I were heardy I don't remember how long he was walking from near Cincinnati, but I am sure glad he made it.

He was a truly good Christian, a good family man, and very loyal to his political party. He was also my most dependable champion. When I was born they asked him to come in and see me. I was not named. He entered the room and said, "Hello Harry" My mother said "That is his name!" He died when I was 3 ½ years old, but I still have fond memories of him. His last years were spent in our home. He was a man with many talents, one was the ability to graft trees. I remember peach trees with cling peaches on one side and freestones on the other side. Plums and peaches on the same tree. Pears and apples on the same tree. Raised without chemicals or sprays of any kind.

Great Grandfather born 3-5-1791, died August 17, 1867, age 76yr, 5mo, 12d, Holley Raper, Veteran War of 1812.

(Note: Mr. Shumard's statement and at least one other report indicated that a relationship existed between Susan and the governorship of Ohio. To date, we have been unable to trace the date of Susan's birth or the exact relationship to the governor. Could Susan have been confused with Mary Ramsey, wife of the younger Holley, who was a granddaughter of former Ohio Governor Jeremiah Morrow? According to Ohio Historical Society documents, Governor Morrow spent his final years in his home near Lebanon, Ohio and the Little Miami River (which was mentioned as a probable location of Holley Raper's toll bridge)


Also in the notes written in 1978 by Harry Shumard, he mentioned that Holley Raper may have bought 1,200 to 1,500 acres of Jasper County land. After Shirley and I were married, I also heard from a member of the Raper family that Holley had, at some time, owned a great amount of land in the county. I have not been able to find any records in the Jasper County courthouse of Holley owning any Jasper County land other than that homesteaded in 1854. Fifty years later, the 1902 Atlas of Jasper County, which indicates the ownership of land, shows that the Raper family had increased their ownership from 320 acres to 420 acres, an increase of 100 acres in 48 years. This increase was land acquired by Frank and Arthur in the adjoining section to the east (Section 36). Land speculation was rampant during the period of migration West, and it is possible that Holley became involved in that activity. The life style of Holley and his family after 1853 did not portray that of a wealthy landowner.

The facts have been lost as to the location of the first three cabins. (Note: Sometime after my marriage into the Raper family in 1932, I was told that Holley's first home was briefly located one-quarter mile west of the northeast corner of Section 35 and that a well was dug there. This location would have been on the northeast corner of his own homestead)

Regardless of what happened to Foster, Holley relocated and made his permanent residence on a small knoll about 100 yards west of the northeast corner of Section 35 on Foster's homestead claim. Continuing to live on Foster's claim, he evidently satisfied homestead authorities and claimed the 80 acres for himself without a homestead release from Foster. (Note: It is my understanding that if a homestead was not proven within 8 years, it could be picked up by others and claimed.)

On January 26, 1863, Holley and his wife, Susan, deeded the East Half of the Northeast Quarter to their son, Arthur.

On December 4, 1893, 30 years later, Arthur and second wife, Jenie, deeded the North half of the northeast quarter to his son, Frank Raper. Frank and his wife, Martha Jane, had 5 children - all boys- to grow to adulthood; Lewis, Jim, Charles, Dewey and Ted. All chose endeavors other than farming. Lewis, the oldest, farmed for several years and then, joined Charlie in operating the "Raper Brothers Store" located at the crossroads at Gila, two miles from "The Old Place" They operated the store for over 40 years until the death of Charlie in 1945. Jim attended college in Terre Haute and became a very successful newspaper publisher and owner of the Brazil, Indian Times. He was instrumental in getting Dewey and Ted established as owners and publishers of newspapers; Dewey in Monticello, Indiana and Ted, elsewhere in Indiana.

In the year 1954, "The Old Place" had been owned continually by a descendant of Holley and Susan Raper for 100 years and was awarded the designation of "CENTENNIAL FARM" by the Governor of the State of Illinois. Now, in the year 2004, the Raper ownership will reach 150 years; and the "Old Raper Farm" has become a sesquicentennial farm owned by 5th and 6th generations of the Holley Raper family.

Factors which were very important when selecting land to be homesteaded were surface drainage and the nearness of wooded areas; and it is obvious that Mr. Raper had good advice or otherwise made a fine choice. The 320 acres has a gradual slope, half to the east and half to the west, for drainage and is within one mile of Mint Creek bordered by fine timbered land to provide firewood and for use in building cabins and making rails for fencing; and the outcropping of stone along the banks of mint Creek provided an unlimited supply of stone for building foundations and walling wells.

At the time of homesteading and the pioneer movement, a demand was always present for schools and churches. Religious services and schooling were, at first, held in the homes or in one-room log cabins, their locations lost with time.

However, in the Frank Raper generation, his children attended Prairie School, which, from their home, was located one mile west and slightly less than one mile north and was located on the west side of the road. (See Book W-P-387 at the Jasper County Courthouse)
Fairfield Church, located 1¼ mile south of Gila, was built in 1870. The ground for the church and cemetery, where at least 5 generations of the Holley Raper family (including Holley, Susan, and all their children) are buried, was donated by Thomas and Rebecca Graham. Joseph Shumard was one of the 8 trustees serving on the church board. Members of the Raper family and, especially, the Shumard family were very loyal and supportive in building the new church and maintaining its existence for many years. Services were terminated in the 1940s due to structural weakness of the building. A sale was held, and the church was dismantled and hauled off the premises in 1981. Two hewed beams were saved and used as fireplace mantles -one in the beautiful log home built by Donnie Meyer in 1994 and located a short distance north of the Fairfield Church site. The other beam became a mantle in the basement fireplace of the home lovingly planned and built by my wife, Shirley, and me at 25 Homestead Drive in Newton, located about 11 miles from Fairfield Cemetery.


When the writer of this account, Gene Huddlestun, came in 1929 to teach the Kibler, one-room country school located ½ mile east of the "Old Raper Place", it was occupied by temporary tenants and was already in a state of disrepair. Very large silver maple trees were on the premises as well as volunteer brush and berry vines. The fence rows, both west and south, had grown up and were wide with volunteer wild cherry and other brush entangled in old and rusting fence wire. After that, the buildings stood unoccupied for a time and fell further into disrepair during the Great Depression of the 1930s. I do not know which members of the Raper family built the original buildings but feel sure a log cabin was the first building on the property. After that, both a house and barn were constructed and sat on large boulders for foundations.

After my wife, Shirley and her sister, Ruby, heired "The Old Place" in 1949, I farmed it for 21 years, until 1970 when I retired. I personally and alone removed the wooden pins and dismantled the old Raper barn and reassembled some of the frame over a prepared foundation at our home ¼ mile south of Gila. This made a fine usable shed that remains in good condition today. Calvin Marrs, the Gila blacksmith at that time, had previously dismantled the old Raper house and made use of the materials in constructing a better building for his shop. It is located ¼ mile east of Gila and still stands. Regretfully, I pushed the fine old stones, which were foundations for the frame house and barn into the wells for fill. Such beautiful stones are now used in landscaping projects and would have been precious souvenirs of the old Raper homestead.

I have no information of the location of the Odell home, but I presume it was on the northeast corner of his 80 acre homestead, the exact location of what was later the Shumard permanent house. Washington Odell and his wife, Rachel (Raper), died young in life. Rachel died in 1872 at age 45 and Washington at age 44. They had 2 daughters. Sarah Ann Odell died at age 21 and is buried at Fairfield. The other daughter, Myrtie, was raised by a Sherman family, married Ira Mitchell, and is buried elsewhere. During the intervening years, the Shumard family acquired the north 40 acres of the Odell homestead. The south 40 acres was sold to others outside the family.

Holley Raper's daughter, Elizabeth, who married Joseph Shumard, and their descendants became the most enduring farmers to work any of the 320 acre homestead. Gayle and Harry Shumard, brothers and fourth generation descendants, were the last members of the Shumard family to work the Shumard ground.

The permanent Shumard home was located ¼ mile south of the northeast corner of Section 35 on part of the original, abandoned Thomas Foster homestead. According to the 2003 Jasper County plat book, fifth generation Linda Shumard Green presently owns 159 acres of the Raper family 320 acre homestead. That 159 acres also became a sesquicentennial farm in the year 2004. It is reassuring that this large portion of the original Holley Raper homestead remains owned and valued as important family heritage by direct descendants.

The 80 acre portion of "The Old Place" which Shirley and Ruby heired in 1949 has always been extremely special to our family. During the summertime of the late 1950s, Ruby's son, Charlie, came form Tennessee for visits with us on the farm. Being a small lad, he was with me on the tractor in his safety seat when farming the land at "The Old Place" and also playing in the grain at harvest time.

To honor our ancestors and to commemorate the legacy of Holley Raper's homestead, a new and beautiful headstone has been erected at the gravesite of Holley and Susan Raper in Fairfield Cemetery as a tribute from Ruby Raper Gholson and son, Charlie, and Gene and Shirley Raper Huddlestun and daughter, Sue Cunningham.

Although fragile, weathered, and damaged, the original sandstone monuments at the head of their graves were salvaged and set at each side of the new monument in one, single base. The gravestones of Arthur Raper, son of Holley, and Arthur's wife, Louisa, had previously been reset in a new concrete base because of their fragile condition. This was done by courtesy of Shirley and Ruby.



[Additional information may be found concerning the Village of Gila and the Raper family, submitted by Shirley Raper Huddlestun and husband, Gene, in the Histories of Jasper County printed in 1976 and 1988]


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