Experience Nineteenth Century Farm Life at the Buckley Homestead Living History Park
Information provided by Partners in Preservation
The historic traditions, culture and heritage of farming life during the 19th and early 20th centuries are recreated on this living history farm in Lowell, where visitors learn about local history and reminisce about their own childhood memories.
When Dennis and Catherine Buckley first settled in Northwest Indiana in 1849, they would
The Buckley Homestead Living History Farm
never have imagined that their farmstead would be of interest to visitors over 150 years later. The Buckleys were immigrants who fled Ireland with their four children (William, John, Julia and Patrick. A fifth child did not survive the voyage to America) during the Potato Famine. Upon their arrival, they journeyed to Northwest Indiana to purchase a farm near their cousins, the Driscolls, who had arrived from the same county in Ireland sometime before. The Buckelys bought 60 acres from soldiers who received the land as payment. They immediately built a log cabin and began to farm. Dennis died within three years, leaving Catherine to raise their children.
William, the oldest, inherited the land and took over the farm. He built the front part of the current white “I” house in 1853. Prior to retiring from farming in 1897 and moving into Lowell, he farmed in partnership with his brothers, John and Patrick. Buckley Homestead passed through four generations. At one time the operation concentrated on raising Holstein cows, milking them by hand and selling the milk in Chicago. The family developed their land into a 150-head dairy farm that operated through the early 1900s.
In 1977, part of the homestead was donated by Rose Buckley Pearce, great granddaughter of Dennis and Catherine, to the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department so that park visitors could experience the sights, sounds and smells of early farm life through a living history outdoor museum. Later, upon her passing, Mrs. Pearce’s estate donated the remaining acres to the parks department and to the residents and visitors to Lake County. The Buckley Homestead had remained in family ownership continually from the mid-1800s until donated to the parks department in 1977.
Upon arriving at the park, you’ll notice the Visitor Center, located next to the parking area on Hendricks Road. It includes restroom facilities, drinking fountains, an information kiosk and a gift shop. Take the path from the Visitor Center past the herb garden and through the orchard to the Buckley Family Farm. If the buildings are closed when you visit, feel free to peek in the windows. Be sure to read the interpretive signs at each building.
Visitors first arrive at the Carriage House. The garage for storing a carriage was in the center section. The west side has an underground cistern to hold water and served as a cool place to store foods. The Buckleys also did laundry in this area. The east side served as a chicken coop. You can see a small door for chickens on the side.
Main House Museum: did you realize that many farms were divided by a roadway? The side of the road with the house was where the housework, gardening and care of the chickens were done. Nearly all furnishings in the home are original to family members.
Off to School: You’ll find the path to the one-room school house behind the Hired Hands’ House. Look for horses and cows in the pasture along the way. The Buckley School is a replica of the original one-room school that was open from the middle 1800s until the 1920s. It sits on the original foundation site. The outhouses and water pump are safe for public use.
Pioneer Farm: Follow the path along the fence row from the school to the pioneer farm- a log house from the mid-1800s shows how early pioneers lived in northern Indiana. Check to see if the Native America Woodland Indian Camp is open.
Back Again: From the pioneer farm follow the path down the hill and along the stream. Turn left at the first opportunity to cross the scenic footbridge over the meandering creek. This will take you back to the 1916 barn, granary, milk house, hog barn and hired hands’ house.
The focal point of the barnyard is the Bank Barn, so named because it is built into the side of the hill. The upper part was used only for storing hay and some grain for feeding animals. Although there is farm equipment and machinery in there today, it would have been completely filled with hay in earlier times. Back in 1916, when the barn was built, hay was not bailed, it was stored loose. The barn is tall so they could fill it with hay. At the top of the structure, you can see a track that was used for hay forks. The men would drive a wagon filled with hay into the barn and bring the forks down to catch loads of hay and carry it to the top of the pile. Horses would be hooked up to the ropes that raised and lowered the forks. Children had the job of standing on top of the hay in the barn, pitching the hay down the sides as the forks would only dump the hay in the middle. It was dangerous work.
The Buckley Homestead is located at 3606 Belshaw Road, Lowell, Indiana 46356. Check the calendar at www.LakeCountyParks.com or call 219-769-PARK (7275) for special events and activities throughout the year. There is an admission fee charged on the weekends September through October when the historical buildings are staffed from noon to 4 pm. Admission is also collected for special events. Park grounds are open year-round from 7 am until sunset.
The Buckley Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior in 1984.