Farm Horizons, November 2007

Looking back at six generations of Matters farming west of Delano

By Ryan Gueningsman
DHJ Managing Editor

For Clarence “Buzz” Matter Jr. of Delano, farming has always been his way of life – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

It must have been something he picked up from the three generations of Matters who farmed before him, and is now something he is proud to pass on to his son, and grandson, as well.

“I wanted to farm because I wanted to be my own boss,” Buzz said. “I didn’t want anybody to be looking over my shoulder.”

Buzz, along with his wife, Virginia, still reside on part of the original Matter homestead established in 1856. Their son, Daniel, also lives on the property, and continues to operate the farm with his son, Paul Matter, 21, and step son Jeff Holovnia, 28.

“We’ve got a wonderful family,” Buzz said. “This has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

History of the Matter family in Delano

Reprinted in part from the Delano History Book

Joseph A. Matter was one of the early settlers in the Delano area. He was born Sept. 20, 1828, in Reschnug, Alscae, France, and came to America in 1854, first settling in Buffalo, N.Y.

After a time, he came west, stopping for a few months at Kenosha, Wis. In 1856, he came to Minnesota and set up a homestead in Franklin Township, where he resided until his death Sept. 21, 1901.

Joseph A. Matter married Sophia Buche, who was born June 16, 1839, in Under Ardingen, Switzerland. The Matters had 13 children – three of whom died in infancy, and the other 10 living in the Delano area until their deaths. In 1864, when their 2-year-old son died, Joseph buried him on his farm (what is now the old St. Peter Cemetery).

In 1865, a Catholic church was built near the burial site, on land donated by the Matter family – becoming the first St. Peter Church.

Of the 13 children born to Joseph and Sophia Matter, Joseph L. Matter Jr. was born Aug. 14, 1866. He married Anna Geiger of Delano. They farmed for a bit, and moved into Delano. Their main source of income was from breeding horses. Joseph’s wife, Anna, passed away in 1915 after a long illness, leaving the care of their two children, Addie and Clarence, to Joseph.

Although Joseph moved to the city of Delano, he owned land that houses the Matter farm today. Seven years after the death of Joseph A. Matter in 1901, Clarence’s father, Joseph L. Matter, became the owner of the land, which was purchased from Jacob Dick, and is traced back to the deed signed by Ulysses S. Grant.

As Clarence (Buzz’s father) grew up, he had a desire to farm, but the land owned by his father was all trees and brush. Clarence, with the help of his father and uncle, Tony Matter, worked hard to clear the land and make it suitable for farming. They also built a house, barn, and other farm buildings.

Clarence married Goldie Keplinger of Delano Oct. 24, 1923. After getting married, they worked hard to farm their 152 acres of land. Goldie worked for many years as secretary at Delano Municipal Utilities, and they had seven children – the late Dorothy (Jamma), Marian (Boll), Vivian (Domjahn), Clarence Jr., Bonny (Pawelk), Betty (Boll), and Pamela (Zinns),

“When my grandpa (Joseph L. Matter) bought this farm, he had to pay his mother $60 in cash, 100 pounds of pork, and half the wood she needed for heating or cooking, or $10, whichever she chose,” Buzz said.

Buzz and his wife, Virginia (Dunn), took over the farm in 1956.

“The class valedictorian married the dumbest guy in high school,” Buzz said with a laugh. He graduated from Delano High School in 1947, and Virginia is a year younger than him.

He recalled that when he first took over the farm was when the transition was being made to tractors instead of horses.

“When I was a kid, everything was done with horses,” Buzz said. “When I took it over, I wasn’t going to farm that way.”

He bought a baler, and eventually built a pole shed and a new barn. Buzz’s father would ask him what he was spending all that money for, but Buzz felt that, even though his dad didn’t say it, he was proud of what the farm had become.

Buzz recalls the floods of the 1960s that affected the Delano area, as well as the drought of 1978. When he first took over the farm from his father, he found he needed a little extra income, so he took a bus route with Stahlke Bus. Each morning, he would get up and milk, take milk to the creamery, which is located on Highway 12 (presently PortoLite) and had to be to the bus garage by 7:15 a.m.

“Sometimes, I’d be a few minutes late,” Buzz recalled with a smile. “The kids were so good. I just had a ball.”

Buzz drove school bus throughout Delano and the surrounding area for seven or eight years. Buzz and Virginia continued to farm, continually making improvements to the buildings and grounds at the site. They also raised five children – Dan, Debra (Motzko), Denise (Fahy), Duayne, and Darcy (Johnson), who now have families of their own, and have become the sixth generation of Matters in the area.

Proud that the farm has been in the Matter family since 1856, Buzz said he doesn’t know of any other farms in the area that have been in one family that long.

“It’s certainly not boring,” Buzz said of being on the farm. “We’re two of the luckiest people, and we’ve got one big, happy family.”

The Matters also have 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren – the oldest being 10. He’s glad to see his grandson, Paul, every day while working on the farm.

“I love all my grandkids,” Buzz said. “Paul will do anything for grandpa – he’s a mechanical genius. He takes care of me thoroughly.”

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