Jefferson County Online
Charles Henry MANNHARDT
1873 - 1981

FAIRFIELD'S SPRIGHTLY C. Henry Mannhardt recalls the days when a good workhorse was a must for every farmer. A successful horse-breeder for many years, Mannhardt will celebrate his 100th birthday on December 1. A community open house is planned in his honor at the First Lutheran Church.-- LEDGER PHOTO

The Fairfield Ledger
Wednesday, November 28, 1973
Saturday Birthday Celebration--
Mannhardt To Mark 100

By Olive Schanfeldt

Saturday, Dec. 1, is C. Henry Mannhardt day in Fairfield. On that day he will be starting the second 100 years of his life.

In celebration of his first 100 years, this active, clear-minded, wiry, retired farmer will be honored by the community at an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the social rooms at the First Lutheran Church. His daughter Osie Mannhardt and the Dorcas Circle of the church will be serving refreshments for the courtesy.

It was just 100 years ago that John and Anna Geye Mannhardt, storekeeper in Germanville, welcomed a little brother for their year-old daughter Magdalena. That was the beginning of a life full of work and hardships, fun and dancing, successful business ventures, and being wiped out by two depressions.

Henry has watched land that sold for $70 per acre 47 years ago, now sell for over $450 per acre. His life span began in horse and buggy days, and today three men are circling the earth in space, and it is entirely possible for the cow to jump over the moon.

It was 1912 when Mannhardt bought his first Ford with its elegant brass radiator, which he learned to drive. At 100 he still drives and says proudly "I'm on my fifth automobile and never hit another car." This was one of the first cars in Walnut Township, and he did buy the first bicycle in the township some time before that.

Although he was a noted breeder of work horses at the time Mannhardt believes that the invention and production of the tractor was the machine which did the most for the farmer. His daughter agreed and believes that electricity did the most for the women. Henry bought his first tractor in 1948. He was 75 at the time.

Henry began his working career at age 9, after the death of his father. His reputation as a good worker became known, and he proudly states, "I never asked for a job in my life. There wasn't anything I was afraid to tackle... and I never had to buy lumber." He would work for farmers with timber land, and hew his own wood. "I always had a stack of boards ready."

In his youth he would work 14 or 15 hours a day then walk to town for a dance. Or on Sundays he would do his own work at the farm where he was living, dress and walk the three miles home to his mother's in Germanville, do her chores, go to church and walk home again in the evening to finish his evening chores. He also always took his wages home to help his mother and sister.

Straight as an arrow and with a twinkling sense of humor, Mannhardt is still good at figures, and knows many, many readings and songs. He did a jig on his 90th birthday, and still remains firm of step. When this reporter arrived to interview him, he met me at the door, and had just been cleaning the kitchen stove!

He and his only child, Osie, make their home together in a neat two-story house at 51 S. Fifth. She prepared a life history of her father and presented the paper for members of the Keep Young Club. Following are excerpts.

"My Dad's father was born Nov. 18, 1816 in Wartenberg, Germany. His mother Anna Geye was born in Bern, Switzerland and was brought to the United States by her mother. They all came on the same ship. His parents were married June 8, 1871 in Washington County and made their home in Germanville where they owned the store. At age 5 he started school days at the Germanville school. He babysat for Mrs. T. Thompson's children who remember him as their Santa Claus, every Christmas since.

"At age 9 he went to work for Henry Diers at the wage of $15 for six months' work. His clothing consisted of two shirts, two pairs of pants, a pair of shoes and two pairs of socks.

There was no easy way to get news, no paper or telephone. The mail came to Germanville once a week.

One time Mr. Diers paid him $20 which he intended to take home to his mother. While the Diers family was helping neighbors thresh, two hoboes came through the country following a circus show from Fairfield to Washington. They entered the house, stole all his money, his suit, shoes, and new pair of sox. He traced them to Washington, but although he found the discarded thief's clothing in a field, they got away. He and a friend came to Fairfield and reported the theft to Sheriff Shan Campbell, father of the present mayor. It took Henry six months' work to pay for the loss.

The machinery they worked with had no seats, so it was followed on foot, day after day. "On stump ground you mark out rows and drop corn in the crosses then follow up and cover with a hoe." Henry remembers well that you walk 7 miles to plow one acre with a 14-inch plow. Grain was cradled and bound for threshing. Binders came much later.

In 1883 the Frank Thompson who purchased his father's store offered him a raise to come help him invoice. The amount was $200 per year. In the summer a huckster wagon was used, and he was appointed assistant postmaster.

Diers offered Mannhardt a raise to come back to the farm, and because he liked horses so well he returned for four more years. Winter months he worked in the timber, got wood for his mother and the neighbors, worked in a sawmill and helped put up windmills.

At 24 years of age he was asked by a bashful girl, Emma Schmadaka, to a Leap Year Party. He and Emma were married Nov. 9, 1898, at Hope Lutheran Church and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1958. She died in 1962.

The young bridegroom came to Fairfield and bought a wagonload of furniture for $90. It is still in use at the home. He started farming for himself, when area farmers got interested in raising more horses. He raised a colt out of the famous Thompson horse, and at the request of neighbors was soon in the horse breeding business. He purchased another Percheron and a Shyre stallion because he was given more work than he could handle.

Osie continues, "He found that producing only 50 per cent colts was not a paying proposition so he went to Kansas City and took a new course in artificial insemination and with his learning, raised his percentage from 50 to 85 per cent. He then handled the breeding of 350 mares each season for 12 years.

Tractors ruined the horse business so the Mannhardts sold out and bought 40 acres south of Brighton. Osie took care of most of the work while her father shipped stock for the Farmers Union for 8 eight (sic) years. One year this amounted to $94,504.52, at prices in those days!

Henry was treasurer of Hope Lutheran church during the two years when the envelope system came in. He was also assessor for the township for 22 years.

On March 1, 1942 the family moved to the Bales farm--he was 75, where they lived six years, got their first electricity and where Osie helped pay for the farm by driving their first tractor while her father was eating his meals.

Moving to Fairfield in 1949 Henry "retired" as custodian for First Lutheran Church, did carpenter work, mowed lawns, and did extensive gardening for the family and for neighbors. He still managed his farm near Milton.

Henry is a little rueful that he didn't get to vote the first year he was eligible. He and his sister were out of town, and didn't get to the polls. He cast his first vote when Grover Cleveland was elected in 1893. Since then he has lived during the administrations of 14 presidents.

He served as an officer of the Golden Wedding Club, and thoroughly enjoys the Keep Young Club and is active in the Lutheran Church.

He recalls a time when he raised 10 acres of tomatoes for the canning factory at Brighton, and hauled in over a ton of ripe tomatoes per load.

"Oh, I know where my nickles came from," he laughed. "If any man in Jefferson County has worked any harder than I have, I'd like to see the color of his hair!"

Henry offers no other panacea for a healty, long life. He seldom looks on the dark side of things, but in the recesses of his mind, it bothers him that prices and taxes are so high. He still remembers the depressions which followed other such times.

When asked about the future of the world, Henry laughed and launched into a poem about how different everything is from 100 years ago. It was so apropos that I asked him where he found it. He thumped his knee with laughter and said that he and his sister used to sing that poem when he was 12 years old!

At the rate he is going Charles Henry Mannhardt will be making a big dent in his next 100 years. He frankly admits, "I can't realize I'm as old as I am." He can't act it, either.

61 YEARS OF DRIVING--"I'll drive my car on my 100th birthday," Henry Mannhardt promises. One of the oldest persons in the nation to hold and use a driver's license, he recalls his first car purchased in 1912.--LEDGER PHOTO


HAPPY OCCASION--Standing in the reception line for his 100th birthday anniversary party are C. Henry Mannhardt, the honoree, and his daughter, Osie, hostess for the celebration. Over 500 came to shake his hand and join in the festivities Saturday at First Lutheran Fellowship room. Shown greeting the Mannhardts are some of the long line of well-wishers which continued for over two hours.--LEDGER PHOTO

The Fairfield Ledger
Monday, December 3, 1973
500 Honor Mannhardt--
Big Day For Centenarian

Saturday was C. Henry Mannhardt's 100th birthday anniversary and it was also his shining hour. He stood 10 feet tall all during the open house at First Lutheran Church, shook hands with everyone, and visited with each well-wisher.

Henry's vocal chords gave out, early in the reception, but he whispered quips and greetings to over 500 friends, business associates, neighbors from the farm community, members of his church and the Hope Lutheran Church, and several who just wanted to greet a man who had reached his 100th milestone, and who could still enjoy life.

 Drives Car
As he promised, Mannhardt drove from his home at 51 S. Fifth to the church for the reception. He is the oldest man in this area to hold and actively use his driver's license.

Well-wishers formed a line, at times extending up the stairs and out the door of the church. Never garrouless, Henry visited briefly with each one. The line never let up until well after the 4 p.m. hour set for the close of the reception.

There was a strong undercurrent of joy during the entire afternoon--happiness that Mannhardt reached the goal he had set for homself some 15 or 20 years ago--gladness that he is well, mentally and physically; giving hope to others for a happy old age.

 Stands Over 2 Hours
Always natty in his attire, Henry with red carnation boutonniere, stood during the entire reception and only sat down to hold a little tot on his knee for a snapshot.

The Rev. E.A. Piper, who came from DeWitt for the occasion, urged Mannhardt to sit for a rest, but Henry firmly refused. "Well," quipped the former pastor of the church, "you're old enough to know what is best for you." Henry just as firmly passed up the refreshments. "I never eat between meals."

This is probably one of the secrets of his longevity. He eats sparingly at meal time, never takes a nap, although he may nod over his newspaper. He doesn't get all worked up over anything, his daughter, Osie revealed. He remains a positive thinker, even about the world today and all its problems.

Miss Mannhardt, the honoree's only child, was hostess for the reception. The Dorcas Circle assisting hostesses were delighted to be a part of the first such party in the church.

The table was beautifully appointed, with red carnations. The tiered birthday cake was monogrammed with Henry's initials, as were the mints. They were made for the occasion by his cousin, Mrs. Ronnie Statler of Mount Pleasant.

Punch and coffee were served by Mrs. August Luedtke, Mrs. N. B. Evans, Mrs. Wesley Shafer, Mrs. Willlard Diers and Mrs. Eva Schram. Brenda Diers, Melissa and Sarah Shafer were other reception assistants. Mrs. Gene Luedtke offered the guest register.

Mannhardt received over 100 cards, as well as cash, gifts and flowers as mementoes of the occasion.

To everyone there Henry Mannhardt's birthday was one to be remembered. To each it was an historic occasion, especially enjoyed by Henry, himself.

Guests came from all the surrounding communities, as well as Milton, Wayland, Iowa City, Washington, Kalona, Keota, Crawfordsville, Mount Pleasant, DeWitt; and the following nieces and nephews, Mrs. Adelaide Sussman and two sons of Golden, Colo., Mr. and Mrs. John Rusche of Foxton, Colo., Mrs. Esther Babcock and Douglas of Denver, and Arthur Rusche of Arlington Heights, Ill.

It was reported today, that the two Mannhardts stood the activities well, and that Henry's voice is returning.

"See you next year, Henry," was the parting for many of Saturday's reception guests.

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