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History and Timeline of Old Oak Estate Farm

 

 

To begin the history of Old Oak Estate Farm we must go back as far the record keeping allows us to, which is about 400 years.  If we could only travel to that time and visit the farm's first ancestors when the farm was not a "farm" but a part of a vast prairie land, we would undoubtedly see a beautiful world full of trees, animals, and open spaces.  People would be hard to come by and the world would be quiet from the buzz and hum of our communication and transportation world. The estate's early ancestors left, unknowingly, artifacts that bare witness to their living here.  Those ancestors were the Native Americans. 

This particular piece of land seems to have rather a short history compare to what time can be.  It has not moved in place but history has moved over it from when the large Mississippian culture, that existed prior to the 1500s, to European settlers as they move west with expansion.  Of course, we can only imagine that for millennia our little piece of property was wild and untouched until the Native Americans migrated across it's earth.

The question now is, what are the current residents going to do with this little piece of land and history for the future.

The land that Old Oak Estate Farm exists on has been subject to four governments: Illiniwek Confederation (1500s to 1673), France (1673 to 1763), Great Britain (1763 to 1783), and the United States (1783 to Present).  It was the French who named this territory Illinois because of the Illiniwek Confederation.  Illinois is the French version of Illiniwek.

 

 


1600s

map of 1600 timeline of the Illiniwek

 

According to the earliest records for this area, the Nation of Illinois or Illiniwek or Illinois Confederation lived here.  They were a band of several tribes speaking the Algonquin language, though with slightly different dialects, and closely relate in many ways. Illiniwek Tribes that lived in this part of Illinois were the Cahokia Tribe (not to be confused with the ancient civilization that lived at Cahokia Mounds), Tamaroa Tribe, and Kaskaskia Tribe.  Most likely, the early Old Oak Estate Farm ancestors were either the Tamaroa or Cahokia Tribes.

It is very possible that several of theses tribes, throughout the decades of the 1600s, actually shared residence on this land. Of course, there were French fur traders that lived in the area but it is not likely that they would have lived here on our farm for it is rather a distance to the Mississippi for trading. 

It was during the later part of this century that Joilet and Marquette explored this area and in 1673 visited the Peoria and Kaskaskia Tribes that were further north and south, respectfully.  In 1698, near the present day town of Cahokia, the Cahokia Tribe was attacked by the Chickasaw and the Shawnee tribes who were from the Southern Illinois and Kentucky areas.  The Illiniwek Confederation's biggest enemy, however, were the Iroquois.  The Iroquois would later play a large role in the demise of the Illiniwek from the land that is now this farmstead and this area.

 


1700s

Illinois map of 1718 showing the Cahokia and Tamaroa TribesAfter the 1600s came to a close, the way of life for the Illiniwek that lived on and around the farm was going to be forever change due to European immigrants colonizing the eastern borders of the New World and wars.  The European rapid growth in population began to push on the Iroquois tribes, that called the eastern land their hunting grounds, more westward causing tension between the Iroquois and the Illiniwek.  

According to the Illinois State Museum, by 1712 the Illinois Confederation (Illiniwek) numbered 6,730.  With these number certain tribes began to establish their own towns. (See map at right) By 1718, the Kaskaskia Tribe  (Caskaquias) established a village know as "Indian Kaskaskia" on the Kaskaskia River near the Mississippi River.  By that same time, the Cahokia Tribe  (Caouquias) established a village on Monks Mound adjacent to a French chapel that was also built on there.  Nearby, though exactly where is uncertain the Tamoroa (Tamarois) establish several villages for themselves.

According to a story passed on from Briesacher generation to the present generation, one tribe village or encampment was situated right here on a hill were the Farmhouse and gardens exists today.  Several arrowheads have been found throughout the decades by Briesachers farming the land that bare witness to this claim of encampment. The last arrowhead found was on the west side of the estate in 2008. 

However, by the mid to late 1700s many wars took place; The French and Indian War and the American Revolution among the bigger mentions. Also, more French settlers and militia began to arrive this area due to the French and Indian War in order to reinforce their strongholds and trading posts.  Those settlers and military personnel later insimulated into the local white man settlements that were springing up all around.

 


1800s

The wars of the late 1700s took their effect on the local Native American populations and in 1803, the Kaskaskia Tribe ceded their land east of the Mississippi by signing of the Treaty of Vincennes.  Also, and not very long afterwards, Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in which France sells territory west of the Mississippi.  In 1809 the Illinois Territory was organization. Thus, in 1818 Illinois becomes a state and her land officially property of the United States and therefore was now available for the government to sell and give.  One source found says that the Black Hawks fought in this little area during the 1830s.

Ten years later, in 1828, the Briesachers, who were from France and looking for better way of life, landed in New York and traveled by covered wagon from New York to the recently acquired territory in Illinois.  The trip took two weeks. The Briesachers arrived in a newly formed town called Centerville (now Millstadt). In 1842, Johannes Briesacher and his son, Georg, bought 40 acres each from the government for $1.25 per acre. They were the first owners of the land since the Illiniwek.  However, this property was not the land on which Old Oak Estate Farm exists but across a dirt worn trail that connected the town of Belleville and the new town of Centerville (Millstadt).  These two tracks of land are shown the merged 1869 survey map that George Briesacher, Jr. has commissioned in 1869. They are listed as No. 8 and No. 7 located in the middle of the map.  No. 8 was the land that Georg purchased, whose son George Jr. was heir and No. 7 that Johannes purchased whose grandson, Edward, took ownership after Johannes death. Today, most of these properties are under landfills with their southern property belonging to private ownership (No. 8) and Belleville Enduro Track and private ownership (No. 7)

The land that currently makes up Old Oak Estate Farm was originally purchased by John Teeter from the government, however, in 1854 on July 19th, Johann Georg Briesacher and Jean St. Eve (another native frenchman), purchase for $200 approximately 127 acres ($1.58/acre), with the exception of a small 14 acres tract that existed just north of Old Oak Estate Farm that was to be retained to Mrs. Yeager, a widow, who already had indentured her property to Georg eight years earlier in 1846.  The 127 acres consisted of land both north (Section 31) and south (Section 6) of the baseline (see map left) according to the original indenture and deed. The acreage was split and Johann Georg Brieascher, the son of Johannes of Offwiller, became the first farmsteader on the land after the Illiniwek  for no record exist giving clues that the Teter family ever live on this part of the original 30 acre farmstead. According to the Briesacher family story the land was prairieland and woods and they had to do much clearing on the northern part to built a home. Thus a year later the land found itself with its first permanent dwelling, that being an hand-hewned log cabin which existed until 1960 when it was unknowingly torn down when the old farmhouse was demolished to build the current Farmhouse.

In 1880, Georg's son, George took ownership and continued farming and commandeered the building of a farmhouse around the log cabin to enlarge the living quarters.  His materials purchased are still in archive on the estate and the total cost to build the farmhouse was $2,367.32.

 


1900s

The year of 1914 saw a change in the master of the estate when George Jr. died and his son Jacob T. Briesacher took ownership.  A few years later Jacob T. married Auriela Mueller who was from Columbia, IL. Jacob T. saw the likes of Prohibition and rumor has it that made him built a clubhouse and pond on the back of property, however, there has not been any evidence of such reason, though Jacob T. did, indeed, build a clubhouse and pond on the farm. Jacob T. and Auriela gave birth to only two children; Clarence and Warren.   Clarence and Warren, in 1970, took ownership after their mother died and this is the first time the farm was split in two. Jacob T. and Auriela left the farm to Clarence and Warren in equal part.  Clarence possessing the west half with the farm house and Warren the east half.  However, another decade Warren quit-claim deeded his half to Clarence.

 


 

New Millennium - 2000s

The  Briesachers continues living on the property until Clarence Brieascher's widow, Virginia Vollmer Brieascher sold the farm to her grandson, Michael Hayes in October 2003.  Almost 160 years after the first generation of Briesachers built their log cabin on the once dwelling grounds of the Illiniwek, a new surname graces the helm.  However, prior to selling it they talked Virginia into registering the farm with the Illinois Department of Agriculture as a Centennial Farm.  A few years later,  Michael registered the farm as a Sesquicentennial Farm. 

It was then, that Michael and Gisela decided to give the farm it's own name.  After months of thought, it was decide that farm should be named in honor of an old Burr Oak that had existed on the Northwest corner of the farm.  It is the same oak tree that, decades earlier, Clarence named the road, Old Oak Lane, in honor.  This Old Oak witnessed the generations of Briesachers living, working, and dying on the land and since it was in this New Millennium decade that the Old Burr Oak finally died, Michael and Gisela thought it was only fitting to honor such a long lived member of the family farm.

Additionallly, Michael and Gisela, gave the farmland a ten year much needed rest after years of stripping the soil by the decades of crop farming.  After 160 years, the farmland will, once again, returned to its praireland state of the 1700s in order to control the massive erosion of soil due to the construction of the western subdivision and bring the era of conservation and preservation to the legacy and history of the farm.