End of an Era

It is time to thank family and friends who put up with us during our 2023 pilgrimage home to Illinois. To especially thank sister Carolyn and Christine for allowing us to vacation in Carolyn's Retirement Home.

Maple Grove Cemetery, near Bonfield, Illinois is where almost all Bradley's of my generation reside. Each gravestone reminds us of a loved one with whom we shared life.

This is the one-hundred year anniversary of Klu Klux Klan incineration of the Dixie Highway Farm barn and wheat field so I visited those ancestral sites. It was in that farmhouse brother Jim, and sisters Susan, Alice and Carolyn were born and from which they walked to school. Across the Dixie Highway is the Grant Park Cemetery where those Bradley and Beebe ancestors are interred. Across the valley where deer roamed is the oaken glade where Chief Yellowhead is buried. Cousin Hazel told me the Dixie Highway Farmhouse was built by Grandfather Leonard Bradley for his wife Bertha, the Matriarch of ancient Bradley family reunions.

Memoirs illuminates life on the Dixie Highway Farm. Grass grew year round in the Great Kankakee Marsh. Each summer Dad led late summer cattle drives down the Dixie Highway, through Momence to ford the Kankakee River, on to The Great Kankakee Marsh where grass was always plentiful.

The Great Kankakee Marsh documentary clarified so much. Inundating almost a third of northern Indiana the marsh made travel impossible. Crossing into Illinois, and taking the Dixie Highway to the Kankakee River ford at Momence, was the only way south.

Outlaws lived in the marsh on Bogus Island which made travel and residing nearby dangerous. Vigilantes Indiana Sheriffs swore in to control outlaw predation fueled the belief civilian surveillance and enforcement of the law was necessary. Legally sanctioned militias thus created evolved into Klu Klux Klan enforcers when led by a charismatic man who used fear of others to seize control of the Indiana government and gain access to the State Treasury. It was his Klu Klux Klan Dark Angels that incinerated the Dixie Highway Farm which led to it eventually being lost during the Great Depression.

We are now home in Phoenix with memories of the past and hope for the future. Thank all of you again for making what is almost certainly our final pilgrimage to what is left of the Bradley Homestead where I was born and raised.