The state of Wisconsin was mapped out into sections (which are 1 mile squares or 640 acres ) starting at a point in Hazel Green Wi. This point is called the point of beginnings. Roads, townships, farm land, were all measured from this spot . I might add with such accuracy that it leaves a person to question how? How? How? I don’t think they used my method of choice which is the one- stride- equals- approximately- three- feet method. That is exactly how I mapped out my garden. There have been crews since then with surveying equipment and GPS that, I have heard first hand, are astonished at the accuracy the surveyor Lucius Lyon demonstrated laying out this grid. Hazel Green is the southwest tip of Wisconsin. My featured farm is not far from this tip and was homesteaded about 15 years after this mapping process. At this time, Wisconsin was still in Michigan Territory. I wish I had a statistic for Wisconsin farms that have been owned by the same family since before Wisconsin became a state. I am sure the number is very low. Well I have a treat for you, because that is exactly the story behind this months farm feature.
My featured farm is owned by our friends Gail and her farmer Ron. The farm has been passed down through Rons family. The picture above is Rons great-grandfather Mark (sitting) and grandfather Charles on the far right. In this picture, there are 7 children, but Mark and Tamer had three more girls that are not in the picture. The farm was bought in pieces as most farms are. The original homestead was bought by Elizabeth and her farmer Joseph (who came from Liverpool) in 1845 (four years before Wisconsin became a state). Yes, 163 years ago! They bought 80 acres for $750. Yes, $750! Today, you can’t buy half an acre for that. Ron and Gail bought the farm in 1998 from Rons parents and are the 5th generation.
The moment I arrived at the farm the fun began. This is often the case on a farm in the springtime. Gail informed me that her and Ron were keeping their eye on a cow getting ready to calf. Even though I grew up on a farm, we didn’t have a cow-calf operation like Ron and Gail have. I didn’t get much of an opportunity to see cows give birth. Ron had suspected the cow was having twins and wanted to get her into the barn so he could give her some help. This is when Ron also has to be a vet. Well she did have twins and both were not in a very good position to come out naturally. By the way, it’s not like cows have ultrasounds Ron just has to guess by looking at her if she is having twins or not.
The first one came out breach and its umbilical cord was severed so it came out a still-born and did not survive. The second one Ron was able to deliver with no problem. He had to help it start breathing a little at first, but once it got the hang of it, it was a healthy little calf. The mom and the baby were put in a pen together and Gail and I started our farm tour.
Ron and Gail’s farm has an old Mill that was used for milling grain in the mid to late 1800′s. Gail explained to me that at one time, the farm was a stopping place for people of the area where there was a blacksmith shop, the mill, and the mill keepers home. Now, the mill and the mill keepers home still stand on the property. Gail has dreamed of fixing up the mill and living there. Ron says over his dead body will he live in the mill. To Ron, who I am sure has not spent many hours dreaming about the mill and its romantic appeal, has had to shovel corn, clean, and just keep up general maintenance on the mill. I doubt living in the mill is on his bucket list. To Gail and I, we could talk all day about building lofts and using the beams and the list goes on. Speaking of beams…..It just doesn’t get any better than this. Gail and I climbed to the third floor of this baby and it was worth every rickety step. There is still old milling equipment that was used all those years ago.
This is where the mill keeper carved his name into the wall of the mill. The mill was built-in 1853 by another man by the name of Alderson on land owned by Ron’s great great grandpa Joe. After about 5 mill owners came and went Joe bought back the mill and the land it sits on.
Gail made the comment that she wishes these old buildings could talk. You can only get so much from records and numbers and logs, but to hear the stories first hand would be unbelievable. Looking at the mill, it was all built with local limestone and a mortar that they hand mixed and it’s still standing. How did they do that? These people had less than an 8th grade education and look what they accomplished. To hear these stories about the how and why would make for some good entertainment that’s for sure.
This photo is so fun to look at. The white house in the left corner is where the family has always resided then you can see the white outhouse beneath the house. The beautiful garden between the house and the barn. There are two large barns the upper barn was the horse barn. There was no machinery then everything was done with horse power. The lower large barn is the cattle barn. This farm is on river bottom land which is great for a cattle operation. Then the other large building towards the right is the mill. The mill keepers house is above and to the left of the horse barn. Other small buildings are hog houses, the blacksmith shop, machinery buildings. The family started using machinery in 1952. There was a lot to take care of on a farm like this. Having 10 kids doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea anymore.
I had such a fun morning at Gail and Rons farm, there just wasn’t enough time to get through all the fun farm stories that Ron has. They should charge admission and put on a show for people. It would be worth every cent.
The Farm Wife