Eli Uley Farm

Eli Uley Farm

Eli Uley Farm

Since 1851 the Ulery family has been associated with Macon County, Illinois. Eli S. Ulery was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1817. In 1841 Eli Ulery came to Illinois. For the next ten years he bought, fed and drove cattle to the eastern markets, much of the time to New York City where his brother Simon had a livestock commission business.

While buying cattle in Sangamon County he became ill with malaria and was cared for by 12-year-old Mary Elizabeth. Three years later, Eli Ulery returned to Sangamon County and married the young girl. This same year, Ulery acquired about 600 acres of rich farm land in Mt. Zion.

In the early 1860s, Eli Ulery built a weathered, brick house for his wife Mary. The beautiful brick home originally contained ten rooms with four double chimneys and a fireplace in every room. The house also had a summer kitchen and bunk house at the rear. The fireplace in the east, or formal parlor, was of white marble, the one in the west parlor was of gray marble, and the remaining ones were made of wood. The ornate front door opened into a rather narrow hall which extended the full length of the house with a curving stairway leading upstairs. The upstairs hallway resembled an open balcony surrounded by a banister which was a continuation of the balustrade of the stairway. Four large bedrooms with closets opened off the upstairs hall. One of the interesting features of the house was a glass enclosed observatory on the top of the house. The windows of the observatory showed miles of prairie land of central Illinois, including the small glaciated lakes that have since been drained to irrigate surrounding farmland.

Early histories of Illinois said that Mr. Ulery used to go up to the observatory to watch his field hands at work and to check his cattle. Originally the house had an Italianate porch on the front. This porch had a balcony with a door leading from the upstairs hall on to the balcony. Since the original porch and balcony are gone that door is now boarded up. When the house was built Eli Ulery planted pines leading from the rock and hitching post out on the road (which was the stagecoach road from Terre Haute to Springfield and the route the Lincoln family used on their journey to Illinois in 1830) up to the front door. Other pines were planted as windbreak around the house. The house originally had both inside and outside shutters. These shutters were decorative as well as functional and were adjusted several times a day, especially the inside shutters, to control both light and heat from the sun.

Eli and Mary Ulery had seven children but only three of them lived to maturity. Mary herself passed away in 1864. Eli Ulery never remarried and was left to raise his three children, Donna, Gertrude, and Eli Jr. on his own.

In 1880, Mr. Ulery's oldest daughter was married to Charles Fletcher, a farmer who resided in the Mt. Zion area. One hundred and fifty guests from Decatur and Mt. Zion Township gathered at the Ulery home for the festive occasion. The ceremony was held in the east parlor. Guests danced in the parlors and halls to the music of Goodman's band from Decatur.

By the time Donna was married, Gertie had finished her schooling at Monticello Seminary and was living at home to serve as hostess and housekeeper for her father and brother. On December 14, 1881, she was married in the home of her father to Washington Stoner Smith, a prominent farmer and grain dealer of Mt. Zion Township. After their marriage he and Gertie continued to live in the home. It was there that their first child, Mary Gladys (Mrs. Dean S. McGaughey) was born.

Eli Sr. continued to make the farm his home except for his buying trips and summers spent in Colorado. Gertie and her family lived there until her brother Eli Jr. (Ely) was married to Fannie Gibson Bell in the spring of 1885. At that time the Smith family moved to Decatur and lived there in a home on West William Street until they returned to the village of Mt. Zion in 1894.

Eli Jr. took over management of the farm and raised his family there until his death in 1921. His youngest child, Mary Wilson, inherited the property but sold it along with 200 acres to Grover Patton of Decatur.

At present G. Patton Penhallegon, Grover's grandson resides in the old house and farms 200 acres of land. Robert Crossman, grandson of Eli Ulery Sr. and now living in Tucson Arizona, has some of the original furniture from the house.

It is of special significance to the descendants of Eli Ulery Sr. that Pat Penhallegon has become so attached to the house that he restored some of the rooms to their original splendor. He applied for the house to be on the National Register of Historic Homes and in October 1979 it was accepted as a National Historic Landmark.

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                                                    4790 Janine Way  |  Mt. Zion, Illinois 62549

Contact Information

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Rose Price
Landmark Real Estate
One East Main Street, Suite 200
Champaign IL 61820
217-202-8843
217-352-1933
Fax: 217-378-1281