Gilfillan volunteer Frank Vogel
In the early 1870's, Charles Duncan Gilfillan started the water works in St. Paul, Minn. In 1882, he sold his company to the city of St. Paul and purchased approximately 13,000 acres of farm land in the state's Redwood County.
The early years of ownership the property was farmed Bonanza style using many farm hands. The present estate was the headquarters for the operation. Horses were used for power, cattle were raised and exported to Europe. In the earlier days most of the corn was shipped in from Iowa. When the railroad was lord in this area Mr. Gilfillan had his own siding at this site.
After Charles D. Gilfillan's death his son Charles O. Gilfillan took over management. Under his management the property was broken up into 160 - 320 acre parcels. The land was cleared, buildings and fences built, and rented to tenant farmers. Over time the tenants and others were given the chance to buy the property.
Charles O. Gilfillan married a local girl and they made Gilfillan their home as he managed the property. Charles O. died in 1962, his widow in 1990. In their will the property was transferred to the Redwood County Historical Society.
A photo of the main house and office, with the pagoda connecting them. Note the 'widows watch' around the chimney on the house roof.
Shortly after the Redwood County Historical Society accepted ownership of the property, the Friends of Gilfillan was organized: A group of volunteers who take care of upkeep and maintenance, and provide tours during the warm months. The house, the focal point of the estate, is furnished as it was when Mr. Gilfillan passed on.
Mr. Gilfillan's office was connected to the main house by a pagoda. The office contained a scale and grain testing equipment, and a conference room with a small nook, where Mr. Gilfillan used to take his noon nap. Many records are still on hand in the office.
Surrounding the big house and office are large flower beds. These are all tended to by Volunteers. The flowers change from season to season with the peak being during Farm Fest time or early August.
Nearby is the summer kitchen which has been furnished with period furniture and appliances. Next to it is a small garage, which houses a display of laundry equipment and washing machines.
The next building is the farm shop. It is still used for restoration and upkeep. Beside the shop is the original ice house as used by the Gilfillan's and their employees. Each winter the Friends of Gilfillan cut ice from a local lake and store it along with sawdust in the ice house. This ice is used during the summer for making about 400 gallons of home-made ice cream
The dairy and horse barn has been updated with new steel ceilings and paneled walls. It now holds an extensive collection of Ag Heritage and early American items displayed on shelves and in display cases. The dairy barn held a small dairy herd during the 40's and 50's; today it houses displays during Farm Fest and dairy days. Antique dairy equipment is on display in the nearby milk house.
An enclosed water tower with a capacity of some 2,000 gallons is next. The remains of a unique switching system is still visible. It supplies running water to all out buildings and the main house and office as well as all the tenant houses.
There is a small chicken house which has an extensive display of toys and the recently renovated hog barn, which contains the display of early tools.
The Friends of Gilfillan raised funds to build a 60-foot X 206-foot steel building. It holds displays of farm machinery, ranging from a 30-60 Aultman Taylor to Maytag washing machine engines. It also holds the 1937 Oskosh Rotary Snow Plow that Redwood County bought new.
This article was prepared with help from the Friends of Gilfillan.
Farm Fest, a farm show that features the latest in farm equipment and technology, has been held on the site since 1994, About 400 exhibitors are present. This show is held on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday of the first full week of August each year.
During this show the Friends of Gilfillan conduct tours of the house, and-have all buildings open. Some local collectors display their farm pump engines and equipment.
The Friends of Gilfillan serve homemade ice cream along with 1919 Root Beer (reputed to be the best root beer on the earth), brewed by the Shell's Brewery at nearby New Ulm, Minn.
The estate has been the site of several weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, Relay for Life (which raises funds for cancer research) and a host of many other community events during the warm months of the year.
Large events scheduled for Gilfillan in 2001 are Farm Fest on August 7, 8, & 9 2001 and the National Hand Corn Husking Contest, to be held October 20-21, 2001.
For more information or to arrange a group tour Please Contact: Lorraine Tauer, Box 147, Morgan, Minn. 56266; (507) 249-3451 or Alice Hunt, 34331 Wocoata T.R.L., Redwood Falls, Minn