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State designates a Hoosier Homestead

The Sykes farm in Connersville Township has been designated a Hoosier Homestead and officials presented the family with Centennial and Sesquicentnenial signs last month since the family has owned the land more than 150 years. At the presentation in the Indiana Statehouse are, from left,Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, state Rep. Cindy Ziemke,Linda and Gregory Sykes, andand Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Sykes Road in northern Connersville Township is named for the family that has owned land there since before the Civil War.

Gregory Sykes and brother Paul Sykes currently own the farm located on Sykes Road and County Road 250-W. It became part of the family in 1845. Paul lives on the farm and Gregory lives in Indianapolis. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture recently designated it as a Hoosier Homestead farm.

Gregory Sykes said his great-great-grandfather, James Isaac DeHaven, purchased the farm in 1845.

“He was the son of Isaac DeHaven, a veteran of the War of 1812,” he said. “His father Isaac DeHaven came into Fayette County pretty early. I know where they’re all buried, they’re buried in Lick Creek Cemetery.”

James Isaac DeHaven’s daughter Flora married Joseph Emery Moffett in 1885. They are Gregory’s great-grandparents. As James Isaac DeHaven and his wife got older, they made a deal with Flora and Joseph that if Flora and Joseph would live on the farm and take care of them in later life, Flora and Joseph would inherit the farm when they passed away, he said. James Isaac DeHaven died in 1891 and his wife preceded him in death, so Flora and Joseph received the farm.

Flora died in the 1920s and Joseph Moffett died in December 1929. The farm passed to their daughter, Eva Moffett Murphy, who married Paul Murphy in 1913. Eva died in 1941.

“Paul Murphy was my grandfather,” Sykes said. “From the property records, in 1950 my grandfather deeded the farm to my mother, Roberta Sykes, who was married to Allen L. Sykes Jr. In 1993, my mother deeded the farm to my brother and myself.”

Roberta died in 1999 and Allen in 2007.

“For many years I worked with the state of Indiana by the Statehouse and at lunch hours I went to the library and did genealogy,” Sykes said. “I didn’t eat lunch, I did genealogy research every lunch hour.”

The farm is currently approximately 290 acres, but that is not the original acreage. His Grandpa Murphy, who lived until 1982, he owned land next to the farm. When he passed it away, it went to his mother and maybe mother and father, he said.

“My dad farmed it for some years and I think they all did for some period of time but I’m not even sure how long my dad farmed it,” he said. “I’m guessing my dad farmed from the 1950s and he retired sometime around 1973 or 74.”

As far back as James Emery Moffett, the family raised a variety of livestock on the farm.

“The story is he (James Emery Moffett) passed away from a heart attack as he and some friends were trying to round up cattle to get them in the barn or something,” Sykes said.

For the first six years of his life, the family lived on a farm south of Connersville that his Grandpa Murphy owned. The family moved to the homestead farm in about 1953 or 54. The family tore down the original house and built the current house, where his brother lives.

The state instituted the Hoosier Homestead program in 1976 to recognize the contributions that family farms have made to the economic, cultural and social advancements of Indiana. The program recognizes Indiana farms that have been owned by the same family for at least 100 years: the Centennial Award for 100 years; Sesquicentennial Award for 150 years; and Bicentennial Award for 200 years. More than 5,500 farms have received the designation.