Farm Horizons, May 2008

Farmers’ retirement plan included shoes for their feet

Searching through a box of personal papers, Paul Neumann of Winsted, third generation of his family to farm in this area, came across a deed agreement between his great-grandparents and his grandfather made Dec. 17, 1890.

The contract went into effect Jan. 1, 1893, when his great-grandparents, Martin, 66, and Rosalie, 58, Neumann exchanged their farmland with their son Clemens, 25, for goods and service. It was a farmers’ retirement plan that was so detailed it even included the shoes for their feet.

In the deed agreement, Clemens was to supply, yearly, to his parents, the following: The sum of $30; 30 bushels of wheat; 13 bushels of corn; 20 bushels of potatoes; furnish pasture, stabling and feed for one cow; furnish and deliver at the house enough wood cut and split for use; furnish and give one room in the west end of the building for use; furnish two dressed hogs (must weigh at least 200 pounds); one-quarter acre of land for a garden spot near the house; 25 pounds of coffee; five gallons of molasses; 10 gallons of kerosene oil; salt as necessary; one pair of boots for Martin Neumann each year; one pair of shoes for Rosalie Neumann each year; a free ride or transportation to church each Sunday; and to pay all medical expenses, including medicine, for either parent if they are sick; and to take care of them and do any and all acts that are proper to do by a son for aged parents.

The agreement took effect just 11 years after the family had arrived in the US from Germany May 8, 1882. The Martin Neumann family had been tired of the wars in Europe and wanted things to be better for their children and decided to come to America.

They had worked hard and saved their money to come to America, but just before they were to leave, three of their five children became ill with cholera and died within 24 hours.

When the Neumanns arrived in New York, they had their two remaining sons, Clemens, 15, and Martin, Jr., 10, with them.

The family moved to Minnesota and the Jordan area to begin with. Martin, Sr., and Clemens worked on a section crew for the railroad for about a year but wanted to be closer to their family and friends in Winsted.

They bought what was called the Snyder farm, southwest of Winsted. The farm consisted of 80 acres of land with a log house and a few log outbuildings. The farm became known as the Evergreen Orchard Farm.

The Neumanns worked from sunup to sundown clearing land for planting. Most of the farming was done by human labor and the help of a neighbor’s oxen, when that was possible.

Later on, when they could afford their own oxen, the family felt they were accomplishing what they had originally set out to do – becoming successful farmers.

Clemens married Mary Duesterhoeft Jan. 10, 1892 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. They had nine children.

Although life was good for a time, the family struggled to survive the hardships of the Depression which was made even more difficult because of personal tragedy. A farm accident in 1929 changed Clemens’ life forever.

Paul, who was 5 years old at the time, remembers it like yesterday. Everyone was hauling corn in bundles in from the field to run through the corn shredder.

“Grandpa was there pushing in the last stalks of corn and my dad was scraping up. Grandpa’s arm went in there. My dad saw what happened and he flew against the belt to throw it off. I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t stopped it,” Paul said. “My pa hollered to the guys to come in from the field, and I remember my mom coming out with sheets to wrap his whole arm up and they took him to the hospital in Hutchinson.”

“They had to cut off his arm between his hand and elbow,” Paul said.

“Grandpa would try to farm, but with one arm it was pretty hard,” Paul said. “There were no milk machines and he had to milk cows with one arm. It was pretty hard.”

Some of Clemens’ married children moved home because of the Depression and were able to help on the farm.

“They probably had no other place to go because things were just that tough and Grandpa had the house where they could live,” Paul said.

Besides his grandfather struggling with the loss of his arm, and the hard times of the Depression, Paul’s grandmother got cancer which she eventually died from in 1934.

Within one year after Mary died, the farm was foreclosed on and after an auction, Paul’s grandfather, Clemens, went to live with one of his daughters in Long Prairie.

Clemens, Sr., did return to Winsted a few years later to help Paul’s dad, Clemens, Jr., farm. By then, he had learned to manage to do quite a few things with the use of just one arm.

“My grandpa was a big man and he would cut trees with me with one hand,” Paul said. “He and I would crosscut trees, and my dad would split the wood. Grandpa could harness a horse with one hand, too.”

The wood that was cut down was used for heating during the winter. However, Paul said that back when his grandpa and great-grandpa farmed, they would cut trees down all winter long. In the spring, they burned all the logs.

“Everybody had so much wood,” Paul said.

Paul stayed home and worked on his father’s farm until he was 24.

He married Elaine Jagodzinski of Silver Lake July 1, 1950.

When Paul first left his father’s farm, he worked a number of jobs including one at Minneapolis Moline. Later, in 1955, Paul was given the opportunity to work for a farmer named Joe Fiecke on his farm east of Winsted along Carver County Road 20.

All of Joe and Ann Fiecke’s children, who had been interested in farming, had already acquired farms of their own, and Joe knew Paul had always wanted to farm. By that time, Paul and Elaine had three children, and Paul admits that times were pretty tough for them.

Neumann agreed to work on the Fiecke farm for $125 a month and a 15 percent commission on everything the farm made over $5,000. It was a deal Paul has never regretted.

“I remember the first time I started working with Joe, and we got eight cans of milk which was 600 pounds. One day Joe saw all of the milk slips from the creamery, and we got 720 pounds. That was nine cans of milk,” Paul said. “Joe told me that was the most cans of milk he had ever gotten on his farm. I think we were milking 28 cows at that time,” Paul said.

“Then we hit a 1,000 pounds of milk. We didn’t have more cows, we just got better. I went on Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) testing. It was state-wide. We were the second or the third in the county almost all of the time. We had a good herd of cattle.”

“People around here would say, ‘if you have a cow to sell, let me know,’” Paul said. “Then they would buy them and say they were the best cows they had in the barn.”

In 1967, Paul bought the farm from Joe Fiecke. Joe and Ann Fiecke had moved to town years before, leaving the farm home for Paul, Elaine and their 10 children. The two couples had an agreement almost like the one Paul’s grandpa had with his parents.

Joe asked Paul to take care of his wife if something were to happen to him. Also, Paul and Elaine continued to supply farm goods, hogs and chickens, as they were needed.

“We were really close. Almost like family,” Paul said.

Paul and Elaine farmed from 1955 to 1995, a total of 40 years. Elaine died Nov. 17, 2004. Paul is retired and lives in Winsted.

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