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Descendants of Garfield Farm settlers get together for reunion

CAMPTON HILLS – Until Saturday, Judy Painter Thompson never had been to Garfield Farm Museum, which is on land her ancestors first settled in 1835.

She was grateful that she finally got the opportunity.

“It’s an awesome experience as a genealogist,” said Thompson, of California. “I got to walk on the same land as my ancestors.”

The land that houses Garfield Farm Museum was first settled July 8, 1835, by Sam and Margret Culbertson of Crawford County, Pa. In June 1841, Timothy and Harriet Garfield of Belmont, Vt., purchased the couple’s 440-acre claim for $650.

Thompson is the great-great-granddaughter of Sam and Margret Culbertson. She was one of more than a dozen descendants of the Culbertson family who gathered Saturday at Garfield Farm Museum for a family reunion.

Mary Ellen Brue of Wisconsin, also is a great-great-granddaughter of the couple. As part of the reunion, Brue and other descendants learned about some of the artifacts, such as nails and pottery, that have been found in the vicinity of the original log house built in 1836 by the Culbertson family and later expanded and turned into a tavern by the Garfield family.

“It’s exciting, knowing they were the first people to settle the land,” Brue said.

Garfield Farm Museum operations director Bill Wolcott in 2010 started doing research on the Culbertson family and ended up making contact with Brue and Thompson.

“We didn’t know much about the family,” Wolcott said.

Helping piece everything together was the discovery of a day book that Sam Culbertson carried with him on his trek from Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Wolcott flew out to Arizona earlier this year to pick up the day book from Wes Price, one of Culbertson’s relatives. He donated the book to the museum.

“It helped put the pieces together,” he said. “It’s amazing it has survived all these years.”

Wendell Harley, the great-great-grandson of Timothy Garfield, also was part of the reunion. Harley, who lives near Elburn, is the superintendent of the Garfield Cemetery located next to Garfield Farm.

Harley said it was an opportunity for him to learn more about the Culbertson family, as well. And he is grateful the museum is helping preserve his family’s history.

“There is so much history here that could have been lost,” he said.

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