Farm Horizons, December 2016
110 years of history on the Gabrelcik farm in Franklin Twp.
by Gabe Licht
Gene Gabrelcik sits around the kitchen table with his wife, Lisa, and older brothers Gary and Don.
They’re there to talk about the history of the family farm at 164 Co. Rd. 30 SE.
Gary studies the abstract for the property, while Lisa opens an area history book to the Gabrelcik chapter.
According to that book, the Gabrelcik brothers’ great-grandfather Martin Gabrelcik was born in Oplein, Poland in 1851, though other records show he was born in 1849. Regardless, he came to the area in 1875, initially clearing land and building a cabin in what’s known as Frelings Woods in Woodland Township, before settling in Franklin Township.
Martin married Elizabeth Koziol who was born in Poland in 1859 at the old Waverly church in 1879.
According to the abstract, in 1906, the Gabrelciks paid $1,500 to purchase 72 acres of land from John Benning, who had settled it in 1860. That property, which has expanded to 92 acres, is the Gabrelcik century farm.
The original home built on the property was moved to Delano and is still standing.
Peter Gabrelcik built the existing home in 1924 after buying the property from his parents.
According to the abstract, Peter paid $500 plus “other valuable considerations,” which included 60 bushels of corn every year, four tons of tame hay, three tons of tame hay from the second crop, 25 cords of mixed hard wood measuring 18 inches long, and four head of cattle.
Before settling in Franklin Township, though, he worked for the Great Northern Railway and also as a boilermaker in Havre, MT. He married Frances Purkett, who was also from Poland, Sept. 13, 1910.
They lived on the farm until 1946.
The brothers’ parents, Art and Priscilla Gabrelcik, purchased the farm for $12,000 in 1954, after living there together for a number of years.
The brothers have fond memories of growing up on the farm.
Gary and Gene remember their dad pouring an 80-foot-by-20-foot concrete pad by hand.
“I scratched the date, 1950, into the concrete,” Gary said.
Don remembers a milking parlor being established in the 1950s. Gary added that the farm had a stanchion barn first.
The brothers remember hauling cattle to the cities, driving right down Hennepin Avenue. Their dad would always make the most of those trips.
“Dad used to pick up 50 pounds of bananas,” Gene said. “Mom would make banana brea, muffins, you name it. This table was full of banana bread.”
Art would also pick up bulk amounts of donut mix, plus peanuts and chocolate around Christmas time. With 10 kids, everything had to be made in bulk.
“Mom made more than a loaf of bread a day and a pound of butter a day,” Don said. “Her sister, Marcie, was the youngest. She lived here for a while when mom had one of the kids and was on bed rest. She said she made three different kinds of cookies, triple batch, and she told mom, ‘You’ll have cookies here for two weeks.’ Mom said, ‘No, it might last a weekend,’ and by the weekend, it was gone.”
The farm was a place of ingenuity.
“Dad made a lot of stuff,” Gene said.
One of those things was a tall clothesline that used a pulley system.
“The pole was real high they saw it in Canada or some place and then you would put the clothes on and wheel them up there, it was real high, so there was always wind and they would dry better,” Don said.
Aside from working hard and eating well, the kids also found time to play.
“Christmas Eve day, we’d always go out skating,” Don said. “When we came back, Santa had come.”
They also fished for smelt, and remember cleaning them with a pair of scissors.
“To this day, I can’t eat them,” Gene said, adding that he still likes donuts, despite eating many as a kid.
As much fun as the Gabrelciks had on the farm, they also traveled, including day trips to Duluth.
“We used to milk cows early in the morning, pack a lunch, go to Duluth, and be back for night milking,” Gene said.
Their parents were big travelers, too, driving about 80,000 miles to 44 different states, including a trek to Alaska.
Gene and Lisa bought the farm from Art and Priscilla in 1985. They didn’t keep the dairy operation going for long.
“We milked cows for two years,” Gene said. “I missed people.”
Gene and Lisa now raise corn, beans, and alfalfa on a total of 350 acres, in addition to 80 steers and 40 feeder cows.