"Our Friends on the Acres"
John H. Gericke
Two miles north of Postville on highway 51 is located the farm of John H. Gericke, lifetime resident of northeastern Iowa. Mr. Gericke was born July 3, 1874, near National, a son of Mr. and Mrs. John Gericke. When he was four years old, his parents moved to a 160 acre farm southeast of Gunder, which was owned by Lars Johnson. The Gericke's lived on this farm for seven years and John attended a nearby rural school. "People seem to think that we are having hard times today," Mr. Gericke remarked. "They really don't know what hard times are. When I was a boy, times were what I would call 'hard'. I used to walk a mile and a half to school in bitter cold weather without enough clothing on my back to keep me warm. One time in particular I remember very distinctly. It was one of the coldest days of the winter with the mercury well below the zero mark. I didn't think I would ever get to the school house. If it had been any farther from our farm house, I wuold have frozen to death. Even at that, I suffered two badly frozen ears as well as frozen toes."
Mr. Gericke continued to reminisce. "Of course the people in the old days didn't have the expense they do today. Roads were not very good and in the winter they were about all blocked by snow. For that reason farmers couldn't get to town very often and they didn't spend their money as quickly as they do today. I can remember when butter was six cents a pound and eggs sold for six cents a dozen. No, I guess the farmers didn't make very much money until 1907. Then prices went up and for over 20 years farming was quite profitable."
After leaving the Lars Johnson farm, the Gericke family lived a year on the Severt Johnson farm, then moved to the Dave Jacobia farm. Here they lived six years. Both farms are in the Gunder vicinity. "By that time I was getting old enough to help my father with the farm work," Mr. Gericke stated. "I learned to plow corn when I was 11 years old. I still went to school in the winter time, but when summer came I would forget everything I had learned and work from dawn to dusk." He chuckled when he said he would forget everything he had learned in school, then continued to explain his early life's history.
"I hired out when I was 12 years old, working for $5 a month and my room and board. In 1888 I attended the German school in Postville, studying under the Rev. John Gass. I was confirmed in the spring of 1889 and went to work for my uncle, Henry Klinge, three miles northwest of National." Mr. Gericke worked three years for his uncle, earning $9 a month the first year, $10 a month the second year, and $11 a month the third year. By this time his parents had moved to the Dave Jameson farm northeast of Postville. So he quit his job at the Klinge farm and worked for his father.
In the spring of 1893, when he was 19 years old, he purchased a threshing machine, costing $2100, with his brother, William. After working during the summer for his father, he would go from farm to farm with the threshing machine during the fall. "In those days we received 1 1/2 cents a bushel for threshing. Today the price has gone up to 3 cents a bushel." In speaking about his threshing experiences, Mr. Gericke stated that he has been doing threshing jobs for 47 years. During those 47 years he has owned five steam engines and seven separators. He has also operated a saw mill for at least 35 years, sawing over a million feet of lumber. At one time he worked 23 consecutive days, sawing 106,000 feet of lumber which was used to build his father's barn.
When he was 27 years old he and his brother, William, purchased 263 acres of land at Lybrand. The school is located on this property today. The Gericke brothers paid $15,000 for the 263 acres. After three years, John sold his half interest to William and purchased 160 acres of land two miles north of Postville from J.B. Hart. This transaction took place in 1905 and Mr. Gericke has lived continuously on the same farm ever since. Last fall he purchased an additional 10 acres just west of his farm on the other side of the highway, from Mrs. Chas. Wegner, making his property 170 acres. Mr. Gericke also owns a 200 acre farm in Franklin township which is tenanted by Ben Morch. This land he acquired in 1921, paying about $200 an acre. In 1922 he purchased a half interest with his brother, Henry, in the farm at Lybrand. This farm is tenanted today by Ed Voelker. It is the same farm he once owned with his brother, William.
When he first moved to his property north of Postville in 1905, he lived in a little log shack, which he purchased for $16. There were no fences or any other buildings on the land. "In 1905 I built a barn, then in 1906 I put up a silo," he stated. After living two years in the small one room shanty, Mr. Gericke built his house in 1907. In the succeeding years he constructed many other modern buildings on the property, such as a granary, large woodshed, machine shed to house a fine outlay of machinery, garage, etc. One unusual feature of the Gerick farm is the absence of cows. "I have never had any cows, but I've raised hogs, and purchased steers and resold them," he explained.
Last fall he had his house remodeled. A new section was constructed to the north and a new roof, and new sidings put on the old part of the building. Mr. Gericke lives in the old section of the house and the Wm. Baltz family lives in the new section. This year will be the first since 1905 that Mr. Gericke has not done most of his farm work. He has rented it to Mr. Baltz.
Mr. Gericke's mother passed away in 1932 and his father in 1915. He has three brothers, William, Henry and Fred, all of whom live in the Postville vicinity. He also has five sisters, Mrs. Christ Meier, Mrs. Otto Sander, Mrs. Will Sebastian, Mrs. Ben Morch and Miss Matilda Gericke, who are living in Postville and vicinity.
At the conclusion of the interview Mr. Gericke explained the difference between farming in 1919 and the recent years. "In 1919 I sold two hogs, receiving $187 for them," he said. "In 1932 I sold 11 hogs, each one about the same size as those I sold in 1919, and received $85."
~Postville Herald, March 6, 1940
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