- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

CLIFTON, Ill. (AP) - Sure, seed and fertilizer technology have changed dramatically. And no one would compare draft horses to today’s farm equipment.

But the far-flung members of the Cailteux clan returned to the original farmstead of Francois and Mari Jane, east of Clifton, and discovered it was the bond of a family that really tells the story of agriculture in America. And that story for this family began with the purchase of these 80 acres in 1866.

“They were my great-great-great-grandparents,” said Kenneth, the current descendant living on the land his forefathers tilled. “The house and buildings here were built around the time of the Great Depression. My grandparents got their savings out of the bank before the banks failed, and they built this house and these buildings.

“When something needs repair, I don’t think about tearing anything down. I think about repairing it and trying to keep it nice the way they did all of those years,” he said. “The thing is: I think about those people every day.”

This Saturday, though, it was time to gather the entire family - from across eight states - and celebrate that 150-year anniversary. With about 150 family and friends stopping by, the talk-fest and nonstop picnic went on for hours, breaking up only as night began to fall.



For some, there was time to visit the nearby church in L’Erable, and take a walk in the cemetery. A group from Clyde, Kansas, noted the names on the stones in L’Erable were nearly identical to those found in their hometown.

“This was a popular spot for folks in Belgium, I guess,” Kenneth said. “Then, when they opened up Kansas, some went out there. Our ancestors were farmers and they wanted good ground to farm.”

They found that fertile soil here, growing corn, beans and oats, as well as the garden that could make them self-sufficient through hard times. But life wasn’t always easy for Francois and Mari Jane. As the family history tells the story: They arrived with seven children, leaving a daughter behind until she was well enough to travel. They saved every penny until they could bring her to America.

And what do you learn at a reunion like this?

“Well, some of us had never seen each other before, so that was interesting,” Kenneth said. “And then there were a lot of familiar names. Like, my dad is Myron. He’s 81. And in another part of the family, there’s another Myron, about the same age, but the thing is that was never a family name or anything. It just happened that way.”

No one promised a 200th celebration, but there is a possibility. Kenneth’s son, Ethan, has joined his dad and grandfather working these same acres that Francois saw from behind a team of horses.

“I hope he can continue to be a good caretaker for this land,” he said. “I hope he feels the bond I feel.”

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Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/2bhRMTp

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Information from: The Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com

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