Heritage Acres

Submitted by Esther Cox

Family farm keeps Hoosier legacy alive

My family farm is a place I have called home for 70 years. It was the only place I ever really called home because my father was a minister and we lived in parsonages. We lived in three different states before I was in junior high school.

The farm was bought by my great-grandfather in 1858 after he returned from the California gold rush. He then volunteered for the Civil War, was wounded and died, never returning to the farm he loved and his wife and six children. The farm was passed down; I am the fourth generation to own it.

I bought my three sisters' parts in 1996—100 years after my grandfather built the existing house. For three years, we have been renovating it.

Birds of a feather

My grandfather's sister, Martha Johnson, is Larry Bird's great- great- grandmother. We are sentimental about this farm, which I have named Heritage Acres.

The house sits high on a hill on the George Rogers Clark Trail, U.S. 150, and overlooks the Lost River, just west of West Baden.

In 1902, my grandfather opened Johnson's Fishing Camp on the river and ran it in conjuction with the famous West Baden Hotel. The guests rode horseback from the hotel to fish and eat a chicken dinner cooked by my grandmother. The price was $1.00.

My mother, Zeta Johnson Cleaver, lived on the farm until she was 90; she was a widow and lived on her own for 25 vears. Now I am the grandmother of the farm.

Esther Cox and her husband John live in Paoli. They have 4 children and five grandchildren They are tour volunteers at the West Baden Hotel restoration project.

SATURDAY, JAN 16, 1999