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List, John--Century Farm, 1882-1983

LIST, HENRICH

Posted By: Lydia Lucas - Volunteer (email)
Date: 1/11/2017 at 14:52:29

From the Sioux County Capital, March 31, 1983, p. 2:

Square Snide Lines, by Melvin List

Earlier this month I received notification from the Iowa Department of Agriculture that the farm on which I have lived all of my life has qualified for Century Farm recognition in 1983.

My grandfather, John List, died when I was only three years old and while I can still dimly remember him, any chance I might have had of learning firsthand from him, his hopes and plans for the future of this farm, was forever lost. Oh, I know the cold legal statistics having to do with this farm are a matter of record but that is a poor substitute.

I know, of course, that on Oct. 23, 1882, he signed a contract for deed to buy the 240 acre home place from a Ben Felt of Galena, Ill., for $3,000. I don’t know for sure if Gramps was the first to actually farm this ground but it is very likely as Ben Felt, who is buried in an ornate above ground vault in Galena, must have been a wealthy land speculator who purchased much of the land hereabouts from the U.S. Government for an investment.

Old pictures of the farmstead help but although pictures are said to be worth a thousand words, the ones I have haven’t told me much because no one thought to write a bit on history on the back of them. Though it may interest no one, these words I am now writing are a belated attempt to partly make up for that lack.

One of what must have been the earliest farmstead picture shows a structure, now long gone, that I believe must have been the one that sheltered the family for a short time while the present house was being built by my great-grandfather Henrich, on my mother’s side, incidentally. As it was originally built, it had what is known as a ‘saltbox’ shape—a two-story conventional-gabled building with a one-story, two-room lean-to on one side with a roof having a flatter pitch than the main roof.

But the chimney leading from these two rooms never drew properly. As the family increased, grandma solved both problems by adding a room (with two storage spaces on each side) above the two lean-to rooms. This upper room had a wide gable with the roof ridge at right angles to the main ridge and at the same height. The smokey chimney was rerouted up through the centre of the new ridge and everything was hunky-dory with grandmother – except that she thought the location of a door between the former lean-to and the main part should be changed. But gramps said no way; so grandmother merely waited until he went to town one day with his horse and buggy and had her boys do a quick change on the door. It must have been really fast because the job shows it today; I swear they must have smoothed off the plaster with a sand shovel.

The original barn still stands as solidly as it was built nearly a century ago. It is a frame type structure using heavy beams with pegged mortise and tenon joints. It doesn’t have a gambrel type roof as do so many of the mistakenly-called ‘hip’ roofed barns built in later years. The basic shape of the main structure is the same as the house only much larger and the 22-foot wide lean-to is on the end rather than on the side as was the case with the house.

A novel feature of this barn is the fact that [the] gable end extends out about eight feet over this lean-to. Back in the days when hay was still put in the hay mow loose with harpoon forks and slings there was a 48-foot long drive-through alley under this overhang. Thus, it was possible to unload the hayracks under cover. If rain interrupted haymaking, three loads could be placed in this alley and kept dry until the rain was over.

Nowadays the barn floor, including that of the lean-to is ‘carpeted’ with wall to wall market hogs and the mow is filled with baled straw. There is, however, a 16-foot by 32-foot section in the central part of the barn where the mow floor was removed and the bales are packed from the ground up—making it possible to stack bales up to the carrier track 35 feet above ground level.

All the original 240 acres of this century farm are protected with terraces making it possible for me to attend the Land Stewardship Project public meeting held at the Orange City town hall recently without feeling unduly guilty. [The rest of the article gives county-wide soil protection and loss statistics.]


 

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