Ivy Wild: Alice Rockwell Green continued

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Ivy Wild 2A while after Harry brought Upp home with him, he was again in Keokuk one evening and met Edwin Johnson, an unemployed school teacher who reportedly had a bad drinking problem. Harry and Ed got along so well that Harry invited Ed home with him too. Ed was welcomed by the family and he too spent the remainder of his life there. He wrote poetry, played several musical instruments including the hand saw, pitchforks, and some more conventional instruments but was probably best known for his ability to grow vegetables and flowers, especially dahlias.


A while later, George Upp's daughter, Laura, joined the group as the bride of Harry. Unfortunately Harry died at an early age with cancer and joined his father in a grave in the front yard. Laura later married again and left the area.


Soon after George?s arrival, he started calling the place "Ivy Wild" because Ivy covered the east and south walls of the house, and some of the area around the house was left in a relatively natural wild state in order to attract the birds and wild animals which they enjoyed so much. It must have been a beautiful place because so many remember the well-kept grounds and the drive back to the house. In an article published in the Quincy Herald-Whig in 1928, the writer described it as the most attractive spot in the area.


Even after Harry died, the show people continued to come and most artists who were passing through the area stopped by. Somehow they always found room for all who came?in a happy carefree manner. Many returned again and again: sometimes they brought friends.


The farm didn't bring in enough income for all the activities but an occasional sale of one of Upp's paintings and sales from Johnson's vegetable and flower gardens helped pay expenses. Not all of Upp's paintings were for sale, according to two reports, his favorite was a painting of a violin for which he was reportedly offered ten thousand dollars, which was a substantial sum at that time, but he chose not to sell it. On January 22, 1922, the house caught on fire and burned to the ground, taking with it most of his paintings including "The Violin" and many of the collectables. A new house was built that summer and Alice tried so hard to get everything back as it was before the fire, but Upp was despondent and could not paint. The next Spring, when the peach blossoms were in full bloom, she asked him to put them on canvas so she could enjoy them forever. He painted the peach blossoms and continued to try to paint again all the pictures that had been destroyed in the fire. He made the remark one day that one more day of painting and work would be finished but he didn't get that day; he died December 17, 1924, at the age of 80, of pneumonia after two days of illness. The funeral was held at the residence and he, too, was buried in the front lawn just to the side of his stone lion.


A few years before Upp's death, an aspiring young painter from nearby Elvaston joined the commune and studied under Upp. His name was Russell Duncan and according to some reports, he showed some talent. He had inherited some land from his grandfather's estate but because of the way the will was written, he could not get possession until his younger sister became a specified age and that would not be until 1935. At that time, he hoped to go to Chicago to study art. He was still at Ivy Wild in 1928 but beyond that time, we have no information on him. At that time, he had sold a few paintings but realized little more than enough to pay for his supplies.


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Hamilton City Hall / Visitor Information Center

1010 Broadway Street Hamilton, Illinois 62341
Telephone: 217.847.2936 Fax: 217.847.2936


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