Friday, April 1, 2011

My Search for the Livesay Farm

Twice last year, I set out to find the farm of my great grandmother, Sarah (Davis) Wallen Livesay in Cloverdale, Indiana using Google Earth. My dad's first cousin Charlie told me the farm was 3 miles SW of Cloverdale and the first time I went hunting I spent the biggest part of a Saturday using Google Earth at "street view" going down State Rd. 42 starting at 2 miles outside of town and going as far as 8 miles looking at every house and farm, all to no avail.

A few weeks later I decided to try again. I thought maybe Charlie meant SE of Cloverdale so this time I started again at 2 miles out and went about 6 miles looking for the farm. Nothing.

Back in 2009 when Charlie died his sister-in-law mailed me a handful of photos she'd found of Charlie's that got left behind in his basement. Among them were three photos of the Cloverdale farm. Two of  the photos were taken in 1996 and showed the barn newly restored.

The oldest photo was taken in 1980 and in the foreground was a set of railroad tracks.The railroad tracks in that photo are what ended up giving me the clue I needed. 

Cloverdale, IN

The tracks have long been taken up but I found a historic map of Cloverdale using the David Rumsey Map Collection that clearly showed the tracks heading SE out of town. I knew that wherever they crossed 42 I was going to find that farm.

This time when I pulled up Cloverdale on Google Earth and zoomed out away from it I could clearly see the old railroad bed on the map. I followed the line of the bed down to SR42 and there was the cluster of specks that I knew was going to be the Livesay farm! 

I "flew" down to street view and there was the farm, almost exactly like the 1996 photo! It looks like it is not lived in but I don't know for sure exactly how recent the Google Earth photo is. I measured the distance from Cloverdale and it was approximately 1 mile outside of town, not 3 as I was originally told!
Google Earth view - Livesay farm looking SW from SR42

Google Earth view - Livesay Farm looking South from SR42

A little history from my half grand-aunt Myrtle, Sarah's daughter, via e-mail on January 30, 2011:

My parents moved to IN from Illinois in 1930, buying the Cloverdale farm - a small farm with a big mortgage. This was after the Wall Street crash and the great depression was just beginning. Don't even compare the recession we are in right now to that depression--they aren't even remotely alike. The jobless rate was something like 30 or 40%, there was a drought for about 3 years, making things hard for farmers, and my Dad couldn't quite keep up with the payments. I guess though we had everything but money! At any rate about 1942 the bank foreclosed and my father left that farm (I was teaching by then) and somehow managed to buy a farm 7 miles SW of Crawfordsville (and, by the way, paid that one off in less than 15 years).

Myrtle was born in 1920 and will be 91 in October. She is the youngest and last living of my great grandmother's 7 children.



  1. great detective work! thanks for sharing the photos! i love google earth!

  2. This is ONE great post, photos, all of it. YUMMY

  3. Fantastic! Now I'll have to "Google Earth", to see what I can find.

  4. Thanks Gen Story Girl! I love detective work and Google Earth is an excellent tool for detecting!

    Thanks Carol! This was a doozy getting those photos and text to "behave" together. I always love blogs with lots of illustration!

  5. Bill...I sense the hook sinking in deeper my friend. Conny has passed the baton and you are now obligated to carry on. Blogging about it is inevitable...why fight it? ;-D

  6. Perserverance pays off. How exciting for you to see the farm. Isn't google earth wonderful. I recently 'visited' an ancestor's farm here in Australia without leaving my computer. Who says technology isn't fantastic. I always enjoy your blogs.

  7. Incredible work, Lisa, beautifully presented. I'm so impressed.

  8. Thanks Sharn! Yes, technology is incredible and I am always amazed at what it allows us to do!

  9. Thank you Susan! I love and appreciate your comment!

  10. This wonderful post sent me straight to Google Earth to find a family farm in PA that I visited as a child. So after enjoying your post, I went on to enjoy memories of Wowie's (actually, great aunt Rhoda) farm. --Thank you!

  11. I am so glad to have inspired you pugbug! I have enjoyed using Google Earth immensely and have been able to locate many ancestral homes and old, hidden cemeteries. Last week I traveled the same path my great grandfather took through Texas in a wagon by himself. I don't get to travel like I'd like to and, other than breathing the air, Google Earth is the next best thing to being there!