Farm Horizons, August 2014

Horsch homestead has 150-year history

By Starrla Cray

If the 80-acre plot 3 miles west of Delano could talk, it would probably tell stories about the 1862 Dakota Uprising, the train wreck of 1922, the plane crash of 1924, or the tornado that took the machine shed in 1952.

The land is owned by Bill and Gerry Horsch, and it has been in the family for more than 150 years.

“Our sons are the fifth generation, and our grandsons are the sixth,” Bill said.

Bill’s great-grandfather, Jacob Horsch, purchased the farm back in 1858. While Jacob fought in the Civil War, the rest of the family was left to take care of themselves. Jacob’s wife, Elizabeth, and their children stayed in Rockford for safety during the Dakota Uprising.

After Jacob and Elizabeth passed away (in 1899 and 1903), the farm went to Adam, one of their 10 children. In 1918, ownership was transferred to Adam’s brother, Andrew, who served as a county commissioner.

It was during this time that two major events occurred at the Horsch property. The first, Feb. 24 1922, was a head-on collision between a passenger train and a double-header snowplow.

Andrew’s 15-year-old son, Lauren, had been getting water from the well before the collision.

“He saw the thing crash,” Bill said.

Two years later, Oct. 1, 1924, an airplane crash-landed on the property.

“It nose-dived into the peat marsh, and Dad [Lauren] pulled them out with a team of horses,” Bill said. “The pilot went to the city on a bus and got a new propeller, brought it back on a bus, and put it on.”

After the plane was fixed, the pilot flew away.

“Dad said he just barely cleared the power lines on the way out of here,” Bill recalled, adding that the co-pilot wasn’t interested in flying after the crash, and had taken another way home.

Lauren’s father, Andrew, passed away five years later, in 1929, and the farm then went to Andrew’s wife, Margaret.

Lauren and his brother ran two farms together, and Lauren became the official owner of the Horsch property in 1949. Three years later, in 1952, a tornado whipped through the area, damaging a machine shed, workshop, and several trees.

By 1965, Lauren had sold the dairy cows. Bill was just getting out of the service, so he and his father decided to raise beef cattle. Bill was working full time besides, and Lauren was serving as a Franklin Township official.

“By the time we finally decided this was enough – that was in 1986 – we had more dang cattle than when we were milking cows,” Bill laughed, adding that his father was 80 years old the day he quit.

Bill took ownership of the farm in 1988. He and his wife, Gerry, raised four children – Theresa, Denise, Cory, and Kurt – and they now have 15 grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

As in the past, the Horsch family is thoroughly enjoying life on their country property these days – a place where colorful chickens roam the yard; maple trees are tapped for tasty syrup; and Horsch heritage is alive and well.

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