A symbol of family: Family celebrates reunion at 100-year-old Freetown farm

A home away from home can be described as a place that is pleasant and comfortable as one’s own home.

For some, this might mean a beach house on a sandy shore, a cabin in the mountains or even a condo overlooking a bustling city.

For the Roberts family, the vast stretch of trees and land in Freetown that holds 100 years of family history is their home away from home.

“It was like I was at the ends of the Earth because of the remote location and lack of modern conveniences,” Faith Freeman said.

In 1923, Freeman’s great-aunt and great-uncle, Emma and Ralph Rose, purchased 80 acres of land for $600 plus $50 for a mortgage to build a life and live off the land.

During that time, the couple did not have water, heat or electricity until Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Cooperative was formed in 1936. The Roses built a three-bedroom log cabin complete with a potbelly stove, horse-hair furniture, a water pump located a few feet away from the home and an outhouse.

The couple lived a pioneer life as best as they could, raising chickens and pigs and growing vegetables in their garden.

“I remember watching Emma going out and catching and butchering a chicken and then cooking it that night for supper. She was a true pioneer woman,” Freeman said.

The pioneer life wasn’t always easy as the couple lived a very poor life surviving the Great Depression.

“There is a lot of clay soil out here, so I imagine it was difficult for them to farm,” said Joe Roberts, youngest of the five siblings who now own the property.

Along with a log cabin, the couple also built a barn using one of the oldest construction techniques in the world, the mortise and tenon. It is a technique that consists of cutting two mortises, a hole or groove in which something is fitted to form a joint, into the edges of two planks. A separate rectangular tenon, a projection on the end of a timber for insertion into a mortise, is then inserted in the two mortises.

The assembly is then locked in place by driving a dowel, a cylindrical rod usually made of wood, through one or more holes drilled through mortise side wall and tenon.

Freeman said after many decades, the barn finally caved in, and the wood from the barn was used to make a shelter house for family get-togethers and reunions. The fourth-generation sons took part in building the shelter house.

In 1957, the couple decided it was time to move closer to civilization and opted to move next door to Freeman’s parents, John and Eva Roberts, in Seymour. That same year, the Robertses purchased the farm from them.

All that open land, however, didn’t go to waste. As the Robertses began raising their five children, the family spent many days out on “the farm,” as they like to call it.

“I remember going out there and swimming in the ponds that we have and having to dig potatoes that my parents planted,” Freeman said.

In 1981, John and Eva Roberts deeded the farm to their children, Freeman, Hope West, John Roberts, James Roberts, who has since passed away, and Joe Roberts.

All five siblings equally own the property, and to this day, they help with the upkeep of the land.

“We all get along, which is something you don’t see very often among families these days. We actually look forward to seeing each other,” Joe said.

Freeman said the farm has been a source of happiness for all generations with each having their own special memories.

“In my mind, I can picture where everything was at a certain time in my life,” she said.

Joe said one of the fond memories he has of the farm property revolves around his high school sweetheart.

“I told my high school sweetheart, Linda, at one of the swimming holes we have that I was going to marry her and build a house across from where we were swimming,” he said. “I delivered on both promises. It really was true love.”

As the family continues to grow through multiple generations, many memories and history continue to be passed down and shared.

Even though the Roberts family has now spread across the United States, they all still come together three to four times a year to the place that started it all.

“Three generations of kids have spent time there learning to hunt and fish, and one of the grandsons had his wedding receptions there,” Freeman said. “We continue to have family parties there even though our parents have passed.”

On Saturday, the Roberts family will be celebrating 100 years of family history with a reunion of loved ones and a memory trail of those in their life who have since passed.

“It has become our homeplace and a place that symbolizes our family,” Freeman said.

While the barn and cabin are no longer standing, 100 years of memories of a home away from home still remain in the hearts of a close-knit family.