Family Farm Heritage

Posted: July 13, 2022

Honoring Centennial/Sesquicentennial Farms in DeKalb County

Oakdale Farm

City: Sandwich
Township: Sandwich
Original Date of Purchase: 1855 by George Bark
Current Owners: Great-Great Granddaugthers – Lori Carey, Jeanne Skelton & Karen Erhart
Acres: 348 acres

Farm History

In 1847 young George Bark left his birthplace of New York and headed west in hopes of becoming a landowner and farmer. In 1855 his dream became a reality as he purchased 110.94 acres of rich farmland which became known as Oakdale Farm in what is now Sandwich, Illinois. There, George Bark laid out the first road in this area.

The Oakdale Farm barn was built in 1855 and is a prominent well-maintained farm structure north of Sandwich on West Sandwich Road.

The farmhouse that still stands is an identical replica of the original house that burned to the ground on May 1, 1884. The family relocated to the corn crib (which later served as a school house) while the area farmers and neighbors rebuilt the house in a short six-week time span.

On November 24, 1894, Bert Bark (George’s son) married Grace Wesson. They had three children; Marium Reinette Bark, Hurdman Wesson Bark, and Ila Bark Smith. The children were raised on his family’s farm and Hurdman fondly remembered how his mother worked alongside her husband to pay for the farm by raising ducks/chickens, making clothes and cooking.

The farmhouse that still stands is an identical replica of the original house that burned in 1884.

Hurdman quit high school in 1915 and took over running the farm. The Barks were one of the first families in the area to own a tractor, car, indoor bathroom and a Delco Light System for electricity. In 1923, Hurdman “Hurdy” returned to high school then enrolled in college at Iowa State and graduated with a degree in Veterinary Medicine. He married Virginia Hamill and had two daughters, Janice Lee and Sally Jo. Hurdy purchased 75 additional acres and raised cattle and hogs while managing his veterinary practice. He bought and set up an old sawmill on the farm so he could clear several acres of timber which he then used to construct the large white corn crib which still stands today. Hurdy joined the United States Army in 1942, serving in the South Pacific, staying in a reserve unit until his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel.

The Oakdale barn has been renovated over the years for family entertainment. Inside the barn is a bar, movie theater, basketball court and treehouse.

Janice and Sally Bark were 4th generation farm owners and managed the farm after their parents’ deaths. Sally and her husband, Jim Dellenback, have three daughters: Lori Carey, Jeanne Skelton and Karen Erhart. They are the 5th generation farm owners. They continue to make improvements, including renovating the original barn and planting native plants and trees, while making many memories along the way, to ensure the farm will remain in the Bark Family indefinitely.

Current owners of the Oakdale Farm are: Lori Carey, Jeanne Skelton and Karen Erhart.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Centennial and Sesquicentennial Farm Program honors family farms for 100+ years. The DeKalb County Farm Bureau recognizes these local farms and families – the fifth in a series of features. To have your farm featured, contact the Farm Bureau.