Mystery Place: Farm passed through generations of Chapin, Gifford families

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Ginny Hall | August 5, 2016

The current Gifford Farm, at 1075 County Highway H at the south end of Pell Lake, is located in sections 21 and 22 in the town of Bloomfield.

However, let me turn back the pages of history and track the movement of the Chapin family in this township. The 1857 plat map shows that John Chapin had 258 acres in sections 5 and 6, the greater portion in the southeast quarter of Section 6.  He also had property in Section 22.

According to the 1882 History of Walworth County and Albert Beckwith's “History of Walworth County,” John Chapin came to the area in June 1837, then went back east to bring his family. He was married to Clarissa Patterson.  John Sr. served as an associate town supervisor in 1844. He was vice president of the local temperance society.

The Chapins had 11 children, but by 1882 only six were still living. Three of the girls died within six months of each other.

The surviving children were William, John Patterson, John, Lyman, Monroe and Maryette.

Maryette married Ezra Gifford.

Monroe and Lyman served in the Civil War.

John Patterson married Sarah Jerrod on March 18, 1841.

William Densmore Chapin was born April 28, 1814. In 1847 he married Loretta Hyde. After Loretta died in 1894, he married Lucina Hotchkiss. He served eight terms on the county board and in 1856 was elected to the state Assembly. The 1873 plat book shows W.D. Chapin with land in sections 21 and 22. The 1891 and 1900 books indicate that he had more than 200 acres in those sections. He died April 20, 1904; Lucina died Nov. 18, 1905.

In 1904 the property is shown as owned by Mrs. Ezra Gifford.  Ezra and Maryette moved to Iowa right after their wedding for two years. They came back to Delavan for several years. They then moved back to Iowa for six or seven years and came back to her brother's farm. The Giffords had seven children: May, Ella, Lillian, Charlie C., Cora, George and Jennie.

Lillian married Lewis A. Kimball on Jan. 8, 1891. 

In 1905 Ezra retired from farming and moved to Lake Geneva.  The retired couple traveled in the West, visiting the Portland Exposition and Yellowstone Park before Ezra died May 21, 1906. 

By 1921 the plat book shows the owner as G.K. Gifford. The 1930 book has the owner listed as George Gifford.

The 1919 Prairie Farmer's Directory of Farmers and Breeders lists George as the owner of property in sections 21 and 22. He married Mattie Gleason; their children were Blanche, Ray and George Jr. 

Their property was called Lone Oak Farm. They raised Holstein cattle and Duroc Jersey hogs.  George drove a Maxwell car and had an Emerson tractor. There was a brick silo on the farm.

From 1966 until 1978 the owners are shown as Ray and Helen Gifford.

The current owners are Alexander R. and Dan. C. Gifford.  They also own more than 200 acres in Section 26, just north of Genoa City.

Ginny Hall, a Delavan historian, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.

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