Farm Horizons, August 2014
Light farm in Watertown Twp. celebrates 150 years of family ownership
By Starrla Cray
When Wilbur D. Light’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Light, came to Minnesota in 1856, he settled on farmland on Oxford Avenue in Watertown Township with his wife, Esther, and their many children.
A few years later, Benjamin applied for the right to purchase (pre-empt) 160 acres where he had built his log home.
“The land was paid for with a bounty land warrant,” Wilbur said, explaining that Benjamin was a war veteran.
The Light family owned another nearby farm, as well. After Benjamin passed away years later, the property was split among the children. One acre was also set aside for Oak Lake School.
The youngest son, Joel B. Light, received 85 acres, owning it from 1896 to 1943.
Joel and Mary had eight children, including Wilbur D.’s father, Wilbur B.
Wilbur B. was 17 years older than his wife, Dorothy (who goes by “Susie”).
“He was 39; I was 22,” Susie said, recalling their ages on the wedding day.
The couple enjoyed 50 years of marriage together, and had two children Wilbur D. and Diane (Filek).
“Dad milked cows,” Diane recalled. “We were teenagers when he quit.”
Wilbur B. thought about moving to town after his bypass surgery at age 83, but couldn’t quite bring himself to leave the farm.
“He got cold feet,” Diane said.
Instead, Wilbur B. had a one-level house constructed on the property.
“He could still see his fields, and see the land being tilled,” Diane said.
Of Wilbur B.’s 65 acres, 54 are now owned by Susie, and most is rented out for cash crops. Wilbur D, and Diane each have three of the acres; and five acres that include the old farmhouse were sold.
“I’ve been on the property all my life, all but two years,” said Diane, who lives with her husband, David.
Wilbur D. said the farm has always been his permanent residence, as well.
In their early years, Diane and Wilbur D. attended Oak Lake School, the country school near their home.
“I was the only one in first grade,” Diane recalled, adding that there were only 18 students in the whole school at the time.
Since then, the school building has been remodeled into a house.
Although the Light property has changed in the past 150 years, the land is still thoroughly enjoyed. Wilbur D. has 200 apple trees and 135 tomato plants, along with watermelon, muskmelon, raspberries, strawberries, and more. He sells the produce in the Twin Cities for jams and jellies.
“We never thought about moving closer to the city,” Wilbur D. said.