Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good Old Funks Grove, Illinois--History

Interesting article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune about Funks Grove, Illinois, which was what sparked yesterday's posting about our experiences there. I knew some of it, but did find out new stuff about one of our favorite stops.

I should also mention that we like the train station and the old antique store in "downtown" Funks Grove. Every year that old store looks worst for wear like the old rusted gas pump out in front of it.

The article starts by saying that you would never know you were so near the strip malls and SHS (my coinage for Standard Homogenized Stuff- when you see the area with all the TGIFs, Wal-Marts, etc.) of Bloomington along Veterans Parkway (the old Route 66 bypass around Bloomington-Normal).

Funks Grove is more than 1200 acres of woodland right out in the prairie between Shirley and McLean (the home of possibly the oldest truck stop in the US, the Dixie Truckers Home which started in 1928). Both of these are REALLY small towns as well.

At one time, it had a roller rink, tavern, and the famous maple sirup ( spelled this way because no sugar is added) was sold from the porch of the Funk house. Today, it includes a nature center, a 19th century church, a sugar house, and a rock and mineral museum.

The first pioneer to the area was Isaac Funk in 1824, and ever since, generations of the Funk and Stubblefield families have lived here. Isaac came from the Miami Valley of Ohio, and established a livestock farm. He raised half-wild hogs called"prairie pikes" and had a hard time of rounding them up and taking them to markets in Chicago, Galesburg, and Cincinnati.

He started making the maple sirup for his family, but by 1891, his grandson, Arthur , had begun selling it commercially. This tradition is continued today by Mike Funk and his wife, Debby.

Usually every year, they take sap from over 3000 maple trees to make about 1,800 gallons of some of the sweetest stuff you'll ever taste. They also make a lot of maple candy.

The store is a must-stop for folks touring Route 66. And that's not just Americans. Their guest book has people from all over the world, including" Australia, Bulgaria, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Scotland, Singapore, Slovak republic, Sweden, and Switzerland.

There is also the Sugar Grove Nature Center where you can learn more about Funks Grove nature.

"Maple 'sirup' only part of the nature of Funks Grove" by Karen Hansen. Chicago Tribune, July 8th

Thinkin' I just Might Need a Maple Fix, but They're Probably sold out by Now. --RoadDog

No comments: