PLEASANT RIDGE FARM/PARK
The Kinsella Family Cabin restored in Fairview Heights
The year was 1840. A great potato famine was forcing many Irish families to immigrate to the United States.
It was at that time that William (1813-1897) Kinsella left his homeland of Ireland in the famous town of Dublin to
seek his own future in the new land. When he arrived in Caseyville Township, it was little more than country
roads with houses few and far between. He sought work and got it with the B&O Railroad building a new line
which helped in the development of Caseyville and O'Fallon. As he worked laying the ties, he rested at the crest
of the hill overlooking the rail line. Eventually, he decided to build a lean-to on that land, and he lived there until the
line was complete. He was so impressed with the beauty of the oaks, elms and maples, especially as they
changed their leaves in the fall, that he named the area "Pleasant Ridge."
After the line was completed and his new land secured, he married Anna S. Connely (1826-1907) from the county
of Wexfort, Ireland in 1850. Using the wood from nearby forests, he built a two-story log cabin of hand-hewn logs
(circa 1850). In their new home Anna and William raised the first generation of children - three sons and five
daughters. They included Mary (Doyle), Catherine, Thomas, Ann, William T., Ellen, Bess (Siekmann) and
Lawrence. Two daughters became Sisters of the Sacred Heart. One son, William R., bought a farm adjacent to
his father's and raised a family there.
The homestead was left to his youngest son, Lawrence. After Lawrence married Emily (Aunt Emily) Fournie,
they had nine children - Prosper, Gart (Siekmann), Stelle (Schaefer), Mary (Giedeman), Joe, Tom, Cyril, James,
and Bernard. Between the years of 1920 and 1925, Lawrence built an extension onto the log cabin to provide for
such luxuries as running water and electric appliances. White wooden siding was placed over the existing log
cabin preserving the wood.
After Lawrence's death, Pleasant Ridge Farm passed on to Cyril. In 1942, Cyril married Rita O'Brien, and they
carried on the tradition of farming and raising children. Their children included Larry, Kenny, Dennis, and Susan
. The family had close ties to the founding and development of St. Albert the Great Church in the 1950's. Cyril
was one one of the first trustees for the new church. In 1960, Cyril and Rita built a new brick home next to the old
farm house. They rented the farm house to Mary Ceil (Gart Siekmann's daughter) and Jack Koch. They raised
their seven children - Art, Jack, Steve, Ron, Kathy, Ann, and Frank on the farm until 1973. After Cyril's untimely
death in 1962, the farm land was leased.
Fairview Heights became a city in 1969, and in 1973, the city purchased the Pleasant Ridge Farm for a nature
park with the intent of keeping the beautiful wooded trails, natural landscape, and verdant trees. As part of the Bi-
Centennial Celebration in 1976, a committee was formed to restore the unique two-story log cabin. Citizens and
community groups alike joined the "Bi-Centennial Army" by purchasing "commissions". The proceeds were used
to restore the log cabin. Joe Kinsella, one of Lawrence's sons and a general contractor, and Larry, one of Cyril's
sons, (who were both raised in the log cabin) were carpenters instrumental in the restoration of the log cabin. The
Fairview Heights Garden Club, in which Rita Kinsella was a charter member, planted a myriad of old-fashion
flowers including a fragrant herb garden. Today the park is host to family reunions, weddings, summer camp,
and individuals who roam the many trails. The serenity of the park provides the citizens of Fairview Heights with a
glimpse of the old "Fairview." To read more, click HERE. To read more about The Pleasant Ridge Park, click
Four generations of Kinsellas lived in the old log cabin. After the land was sold, Rita moved the brick house she and Cyril had built to the end of the driveway leading to the farm. She lived there until 1978. Larry Kinsella and his wife Marilyn (Niemann) bought a few acres of the original farmland when the rest was sold to the city, and built their home in 1976. They live there with their children, Christine, Amy, and Brian. When they walk up their backyard into the Pleasant Ridge Park and stand in the upper window of the log cabin that overlooks a beautiful ridge of tress, they fully understand why over one- hundred-fifty years ago their great-great grandfather, William Kinsella, called the area "Pleasant Ridge."
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