More than 100 years ago, President Horace E. Hess of the Yellowstone Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Idaho told Abraham Hillam that he needed to build a bigger house on his Marysville farm to replace a small log home. That century old house has stood since and celebrated its 100th anniversary in July.
The state of Idaho designated the Hillam Hilltop Farm in Marysville as a Century Farm on July 17. About 250 of Hillam’s descendants gathered for the centennial celebration at the farm located just east of Ashton, according to an email from Gary Zavoral, one of the celebration’s attendees.
During the celebration Idaho State Historical Society trustees Jim Johnston and Cheryl O’Brien presented the Century Farm plaque for the farm. The Idaho Century Farm and Ranch program, a partnership of the Department of Agriculture and the Idaho State Historical Society, recognizes the importance and extraordinary contribution of Idaho’s farming and ranching pioneers by honoring those families who have farmed or ranched the same land their ancestors did 100 years ago.
Johnston noted that the 250 descendants that attended the event was the largest gathering for any of the Century Farm and Ranch presentations, excluding the time that 250 cattle joined a group of 50 for a previous celebration. The Hillam Hilltop Farm is the first farm in Marysville to receive the designation and one of the first in Fremont County.
The farm was homesteaded in the 1890s by Abraham Hillam’s father-in-law, Samuel Taylor. Taylor was one of the first settlers of Marysville and would sell the farm to Abraham Hillam in 1901. Abraham Hillam retired due to poor health in 1944 and sold the farm to his son, Marvin Hillam. The farm is now owned by Marvin Hillam’s son, Rulon Hillam. He and his wife Marlene lease out the farm production and host Boy Scouts events, family reunions and other meetings on the property.
Zavoral and his wife Denece Zavoral gathered at the 240-acre farm along with many other Hillam descendants. Denece Zavoral said her mother lived on the farm but eventually left to move to California, which led to her becoming a city girl. She visited the farm nearly every year with her family growing up when they went on vacation to visit her family.
“To see an award going to my family’s farm where so many people were raised, it was really special,” Denece Zavoral said.
She said it was a touching experience to meet so many different people that were connected to the farm and her family. Some of them were there for the first time and others shared their stories of what they remembered from their ancestors that lived at the farm.
One such story was that of Mary Ann Taylor, the first wife of Samuel Taylor. During the celebration, many people asked about her after hearing that she haunts the farmhouse attic, which was a story Marvin Hillam made up to keep kids from going to the attic because he was afraid they might fall through the ceiling.
“Aunt Mary Ann was a nice person, she just happened to be the person (Marvin) thought of,” Denece Zavoral said. “We were always scared to go up there. You’d swear you could see the curtains up there moving from her ghost when you’d play on the swing set outside.”
After Abraham Hillam completed Hess’s task of building the house, Hess called him to be bishop of the Marysville Ward. He served as bishop for 12 years and was later the Yellowstone Stake patriarch for eight years. Abraham Hillam used the parlor in the farmhouse for interviews and patriarchal blessings.
“An awful lot of Church members came through those doors to get their patriarchal blessings, so this is a sacred ground for many people,” Rulon Hillam said.
Today, the house remains nearly the same as when it was built with most of the changes coming from running water and electricity being brought to the house. During the celebration, family members led tours of the home and the surrounding property, displaying historical artifacts the family has owned.
The farm was also recognized by a certificated signed by Gov. Brad Little, Historical Society Executive Director Jan Gallimore, and Celia Gould, director of the Department of Agriculture, as well as a letter from Sen. Jim Risch.
“Sustaining a working farm through so many generations is exciting and commendable,” Risch wrote. “Your family’s continued operation of the Hillam Hilltop Farm is a great example of the dedication, determination and stewardship that has been demonstrated by Idaho farmers for more than 100 years. Your care for the land shows a commitment to future generations while you use its resources for the needs of today. This award is a testament to your vision and hard work.”