By Starrla Cray
CARVER COUNTY, MN In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for president, a pound of rice cost 7 cents, and John Petter Hendricks had just signed the papers for his new farm on Quaas Avenue in rural Watertown.
“Things were different back then,” said John’s great-great-grandson, Jim Hendricks, who now owns the farm with his wife, Lois.
The 120-acre plot of land has been in the family since 1860, and it was recently named a sesquicentennial farm by the Minnesota Farm Bureau. The Hendricks’ farm was one of 14 properties in Minnesota to receive the award for 2010.
Jim’s great-great-grandfather was also a charter member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Watertown.
John made a living as a dairy farmer until he passed the farm down to his son, Oscar. From there, it went to Oscar’s son, Arne.
Arne owned another farm, north of Mayer, before moving to Watertown.
“The farm in Mayer had better land, but it was too far to get to school and church,” Jim said.
In 1926, Arne built the house that is currently on the Watertown property, after the previous one burned down.
Jim’s dad, Orville, was 12 at the time, and had been living in the house with his mother and five siblings.
“My grandfather (Arne) was having gallbladder surgery when the house fire happened,” Jim said.
In 1944, Orville took over the farm, and continued the dairy operation. It wasn’t until 1950, however, that a well and septic tank were installed.
“I think that’s the year they got the farm paid for,” Jim said. “My dad figured he could spend a little money.”
Jim said it’s surprising how long his parents lived on the farm without indoor plumbing.
“People wouldn’t put up with that nowadays,” he said. “You ask people what is the greatest modern invention, and some would say the computer, but I’d say the flush toilet.”
Farming techniques were also less technological back then.
“My dad had horses, but he quit using them before I was old enough to harness them,” Jim said. “He was able to get a tractor during World War II, which was hard to do.”
Jim and Lois still have a 1949 Farmall that Orville purchased used in 1950.
“Our kids learned to drive with that tractor,” Lois said.
“We used it all the time,” Jim said, adding that it still works great for pulling cars and boats in their storage shed.
Jim farmed with his father for a few years before he and Lois married in 1970.
Then, in 1971, they built a new barn.
Farm life was a definite change for Lois, who had grown up in town in St. Bonifacius.
“I wasn’t used to farming at all,” she said. However, she quickly learned how to help.
“We all milked cows at one point,” she said.
The first few years were non-stop work, Jim said. At one time, they were farming more than 700 acres.
“In the first four-and-a-half years, we never had a day off,” he said.
In later years, however, they were able to hire full-time help, which gave the family a little more free time.
The Hendricks family sold the cows May 1, 1994, and since then, they’ve been renting out the pasture and the fields.
“I just take care of the fences,” Jim said.
The Hendricks have three adult children Sue Jerde of Watertown, Sherry Wanamaker of Texas, and Dustin Hendricks of South Dakota as well as five grandchildren.
The other 150-year-old farms that were recognized this year include the farms of the Seppelt family in Foley, Herbert I. Davis in Lake Crystal, Charles and Lauretta Holm in New Ulm, Lyle Ruh in Farmington, James L. Hill and Carol A. Hill in Winnebago, Stephen D. Bouley in Dayton, Patricia and Daniel Fodstad-Bouley in Dayton, Dale and Carol Horn in Caledonia, Ardy and Sig Lundgren of Belgrade, Terry Pankratz of St. Peter, Herbert and John Poncin of St. Peter, Don and Laurie Webster of St. Peter, and Darrell and Melody Bieder of Belle Plaine.
A commemorative certificate signed by Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson, and Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President Kevin Paap will be awarded to qualifying families, along with an outdoor sign signifying Sesquicentennial Farm recognition.
Information on all sesquicentennial farm families will be available online at www.fbmn.org.