Family thrilled to see landmark find a new home
CHAMPAIGN — One of Cathy Cruse Revere's prized possessions is a painting of her family's old barn between Champaign and Savoy.
Her sister recently commissioned the painting, by Champaign artist William Roy, as a birthday gift for Revere, who cherishes the memory of her childhood on the family farm.
The sisters, who now live in California, are thrilled the barn will be finding a new home. A contractor is taking the barn down and will reassemble it on a farm near Congerville.
"We just thought it was such a beautiful and well-built building," Revere said last week. "We hated to see it rot away. I'm happy that it's going to be living on somewhere. It was such a landmark."
Revere grew up on the farm, located about a quarter-mile south of Windsor Road and just east of the railroad tracks that parallel U.S. 45.
Her great-grandfather, Andrew Cruse — an Irish immigrant who, the story goes, had stowed away on a ship to America as a young child — originally purchased the farm sometime around 1900, Revere said.
The farm already had an old barn, but Andrew Cruse had the 39-foot-tall timber-frame barn built soon after purchasing the property, she said.
He had two sons who farmed with him, including Revere's grandfather, Joseph Cruse. But Joseph Cruse later moved his family to California because Revere's father, also named Joseph, had terrible asthma. An uncle, John Cruse, managed the farm, but when he died in 1938, Revere's grandfather moved the family back to Champaign to manage the business, she said.
Her father was then 20 years old. He married and had three daughters: Carol, Mary Beth, and Cathy, who was born in 1953 at the former St. Mary's Hospital. They lived in the smaller house on the property, across the drive from the big farmhouse where her grandparents lived.
The younger Joseph Cruse farmed the property for 25 years. Revere remembers her father wearing a mask during planting time. The girls would fill the soybean planter for him and he would stand upwind, to avoid wheezing, she said.
The sisters spent hours playing in the hayloft of the big barn, sometimes with cousins who would visit.
"It's the only one I knew that had a staircase in it. The others just had ladders," she said.
The barn held mostly cattle and had a milking stall, she said. The kids would feed the cattle, throwing the hay down from the loft. They also played in other outbuildings on the farm, rode horses and helped out with chores, driving tractors and herding animals.
It was, Revere said, "the best childhood ever."
The family moved back to the San Diego area when the UI Foundation bought the farm in the mid-1960s, she said. The university offered a fair price but also said it would use eminent domain to acquire the farm if needed, she said.
"We weren't looking to sell," said Revere, who was then 13.
Her father had always hired UI students to help with the planting and harvest, but not that last year.
"When we knew we weren't going to be there anymore, we said, 'Don't hire anybody. We want to do it,'" Revere said.
Revere last visited the farm three years ago, when the big corn crib and several other buildings were still standing.
All that remains now is the timber-frame barn, along with a few oak trees, a gravel drive, several piles of rock and a two-story mound of dirt and rubble with old bricks and other remnants of farm life.