By Kerry Hoffman
History hasn't always been an interesting topic for me. In high school I found it rather mundane. It wasn't until I matured that I really started to dig history.
I recently started looking into the history of our farm site. Steve had an inkling we would be a Century Farm in 2012, so we started looking for information regarding the who, when and where of our location. (There are not many family-owned businesses that can say they have been in operation?for 100 years.)
I find it extremely fascinating to look into the history of the farm. I may not have any previous direct connection to the land where our farm sits, but my sons will have every bit of their history tied to the ground beneath my feet.
Our farm began during November of 1860. Carl and Dorothea Schmidt put their roots down near the Little Cottonwood River for a total price of $225. It wasn't developed with the Homestead Act of 1862. (I wonder if
Carl was kicking himself for not being patient and waiting for the free land.) I wish I could find out why Carl and Dorothea chose this very location.
Finding information on Carl Schmidt is very difficult. I do know that once he passed, his widow Dorothea married Phillip Pfisterer. Dorothea was born in France in 1826. Mr. Pfisterer entered the world in Baden-Wurtemberg, Germany. I would love to know the reasoning of both of them as to why they left their home countries and came to America.
Dorothea and Phillip had four children: Phillip Jr., Martha, Henry, and Wilhelm. What I really find intriguing regarding their children is that the first three respectively, were all born in Kewaskum, Washington County, Wis. Ironically, Kewaskum is just a few counties southeast of the town where I was born and still love to visit - Berlin in Waushara County, Wis. The last son, Wilhelm, was born in Searles.
It almost feels like destiny. I know good people come from Wisconsin.
Phillip, Jr. passed away at the young age of 16. Martha and Henry passed at 73 and 76, respectively. Wilhelm never married but became a doctor and died at the young age of 40.
Due to my dissection of information, I have to think Mrs. Dorothea Pfisterer was a tough French woman who knew how to throw a loaf of French bread. For the second time in her 76 years of life, her second husband precedes her in death and the farm passes on to her and her two living sons - Henry and Wilhelm.
Henry Pfisterer, along with his wife Caroline, purchased the farm from his mother and brother in 1891 for $5,000. Caroline was a Waibel, and they had one son named Frank.
Both Phillip Sr. and Dorothea are buried in the cemetery just up the road from our home, as are two of their sons. Isn't it interesting that Martha was born in Washington County, Wis. and died in the state of Washington, but is still buried in the New Ulm Cemetery?
Henry is buried in the New Ulm City Cemetery.
It was July 5, 1912 that Steve's great-grandfather Conrad Hoffman purchased the farm from Mr. and Mrs. Pfisterer for $20,800.
So the Pfisterers had the farm in their possession for 52 years, which is still quite a stretch of time.
I don't know any decendants of the Pfisterer family as of yet, but I still have time to dig further for more information. I can only hope that we are doing them proud.
It's surreal to go visit the small Cottonwood Cemetery and stand next to the headstone of the family that started our farm. It's odd to know that that they walked the same paths I walk today.
I know our farm has changed quite a bit. Years ago there were hundreds of chickens roaming the farm and just a few cows.
Today, there are hundreds of cows and just a few chickens.
The barn where we house cows having babies once housed pigs and thousands of chickens on the second and third floor. This year, we converted that barn by removing the second level and allowing hundreds of pigeons to live on the third floor. So much for chickens.
We are still able to find the "cooler" Steve's grandfather and sisters used to store cream cans. It's a long way from the barn, built into the side of the ravine. I cannot fathom carrying a can of cream down to that "cooler."
It gives us a sense of pride to know that we owe where we are to the Schmidts, Pfisterers and, of course, the Hoffmans. Joey's goal is to make it the 150th celebration. He'll be 68, I hope he gets to see his son accept the award, way beyond retirement from farming.
For questions, or comments, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.