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Take a Backroad in Illinois

Updated on May 20, 2018

Just a few miles off the beaten path hours from the busy interstates and freeways there are treasures to behold. If you slow down your roll and divert from the highway there are wonders to see. Take a trip down a back road for families as fortunate as mine these can sometimes be trips down memory lane. Not only that they can lead to new discoveries of new and exciting scenery. You see we can at times get caught in the ruts of daily the grind never taking a break for some much-needed adventure! It's time we strayed from the path ventures through the ruts of a thrilling dirt road where barren fields lie and any town that you see could be missed if you blink your eye. Not knowing where going only adds to the excitement as long as there’s a compass direction getting lost is okay because the needle can help you find your way. This winter with the lack of snow and warmer temperatures than most winters my mother, brother, and I hopped in my brothers F150 and followed some dirt. We ignored the busy freeways and highways, and we rolled down some old country back roads. Our destination was slightly unknown; well my brother saw a nature preserve near the small town of Bath, IL on Google Earth on thought we would head out from Peoria, IL to check it out. We used no MapQuest directions no in-car GPS. We went by only our knowledge of the town of Bath’s location and the Google Earth image my brother remembered in his head of the preserve known as Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak.

We took time to appreciate our country’s wide open spaces!

House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton | Source
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton | Source
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton | Source
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton | Source
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton | Source
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton
House of: Major Benjamin H. Gatton | Source

Now here comes the part I love most about these trips; having no real sense of direction. You see we knew this preserve was near Bath, IL, but not exactly where. So we set out in the direction of the town hoping once there we would find some clue as to where to go from there. We got to the town and still were unsure of where to go so we took a guess and made two right turns.They were two turns that put us in the wrong direction for the preserve but in the right direction for an adventure! We stumbled upon a piece of history in a town once surveyed by Abraham Lincoln the site of one of Abraham Lincoln's "a house divided...can not stand" speeches in 1858. We found a house one seemingly larger than most in the town of Bath and with a rather rustic appeal.

This was a true piece of history a site to be held with my mother being such an avid lover of old houses it was like we had planned to make those wrong turns. We in no way knew we would discover such an amazing piece of history. In fact, we initially stumbled upon this house only knowing it was old and it was up to us to do some investigating to do determine the true story behind this awe-inspiring structure.

This house was the second house and first mansion, a two-story red brick Italianate four-square, was built by Major Benjamin H. Gatton in the 1840s. Now we have discovered a bit about the house's past. We stumbled upon a rustic house and we have learned a little about its past, but I will say to really know its true history we had to of been there when people inhabited the house. If time machines were real I would love to see this place back in its hay day!

I will say after a few more turns in the right direction and couple of muddy dirt roads we found our nature preserve. Though it may not have been as exciting as the house had it not been our destination sought only by a picture in my brother's head we would not have found such a wonderful piece of history!

Where we were in IL

Bath Illinois:
Bath, IL 62617, USA

get directions

This is the area, the town with house we stumbled upon so you could have your own adventure there!

Have enjoyed a car trip with your family through the countryside?

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    • profile image


      9 months ago

      I love a good road trip where my family and I can explore backroads too.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      What an insightful piece on old spot of history!

    • Kwett profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristen Wettstein 

      5 years ago from United States

      @sandi Love to hear from others who explore off the beaten. You have some great questions. I've wonder the same thing because it appears the lawn has been cared for, but I don't really know who is responsible. I thoought through my digging on the above mentioned websites would give some clues. I have yet to find out anything, my only thought is to maybe do a search through records for the town or county to see if there are any realestate reocords on the house. For now all I have is it's history. Thanks for reading. Happy Roadtripping!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We found this amazing home today just riding through little towns fron Jacksonville to Peoria. I saw the coupola sticking out of a lot of trees and vines from a few blocks away. I thought it was an old barn. Aneighbor told us we could go up and look at it more closely and would not get shot. I am in love with it and want to know who owns it and who mows the yard around and more details about it. The old pool still had a diving board and some of the sides of the pool in the back yard. Who were the last peopkle to live there and what year?


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