July 2, 2009

Past, present, future: Six generations on LeRoy-Englund farm/ranch

By Brenda L. Shelkey

It is love of God and deep respect for the land that first brought what was the beginning of six generations of LeRoys to McLean County and the Underwood area back in 1882. That same love and respect has kept them here despite the hardships facing all homesteaders. It was at that time that Robert and Margaret LeRoy came from Thornburg, Ontario to take a look at the land. The couple had met and married on Sept. 13, 1871 at Clarksburg, Ontario where four of their children, Walter, Janet, Percy, and Dora were born. Even though the LeRoys were impressed with what they saw, they returned to Clarksburg. But the following year, 1883, the couple returned again to the area and built a small two-room log house with a sod roof southwest of what is now Underwood. It was quite a contrast from what they were used to living in, but it was home. According to a narrative by Walter’s son, Walter, Jr. life was hard, but interesting. He wrote, "Their home served as a halfway house between Elbowoods and Bismarck. No one was ever turned from their door. Margaret LeRoy was a model housekeeper and excellent cook, and a delightful hostess. She was the only woman in the neighborhood for over a year." Walter, Jr. goes on to write about the scant crops and the long distance that the men had to go to earn wages to support their families while the women had to hold down the fort on the prairie. He wrote, "The women had prairie fires, blizzards and wandering bands of Indians to contend with, along with all of the family responsibilities." Despite the hardships, Margaret did what she could to help, even providing room and board for the teacher for $10 per month. It was during these tough, busy times that their children Laura, Lena, and Robert were born.


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