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Off to a new, Untamed Land

"Off to a new, Untamed Land." Prairies 7, no. 7: June/July 1984, 79-81.

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The Jenner farm has had five generations living on it. It was started by Jacob and Magdalena (Lammle) Jenner after they had left Bergdorf, South Russia, during the early part of 1887. At the time, Jacob was 26.

They reached Menno, Dakota Territory, early the same year, and then traveled to Ipswich and Eureka.

In Eureka they bought two oxen, a horse, plow, harrow, and wagon, after which they headed northeast of Eureka to within 10 miles of Ashley. There they homesteaded with nothing but a wagon box and a few personal belongings. Soon, Jacob built a house and barn of sod.

The Jenners had eight children, two who died in infancy: Elizabeth (Mrs. John Jesser of Long Lake), Jacob of Ashley, John of Aberdeen, Fred of Ashley, Lydia (Mrs. Andrew Bertsch of Eureka), and Ida (Mrs. Ted Hoff of Mandan).

The original homestead consisted of 160 acres. Their homestead papers were signed by President William McKinley.

Jacob increased his holdings to 1,200 acres, and, at the time of his retirement in 1917 when they moved to Ashley, he gave each son 400 acres.

Fred took over the homestead, farming it until 1950. In 1920, he married Anna Bertsch of Ashley. They had four children: LaVern (Mrs. Elmer Diede of Jamestown), Vernon of Ashley, Frances (who married Ervin Grenz, and, after his death, married Milbert Schick of Eureka), and Alvera (her first husband was Ewald Ebel; following his death, she married Al Richardson of Jamestown).

Fred had the misfortune of farming throughout the seven terrible years of drought in 1930s.

During that time, grasshoppers were so thick that they covered complete sides of the house. At other times, when they swarmed, they shaded the sun! Grasshoppers chewed on fenceposts so that the weathered wood looked like clean wood again. They absolutely destroyed all vegetation.

It was a frustrating, agonizing time. People looked anxiously up into the skies whenever rain clouds appeared. Many times it looked like big rain storms were coming from the northwest as huge dark clouds rolled across the heavens. But only a few drops would fall—and then it was sunlight again. No rain of any consequence fell. That was the pattern for years.
Hundreds of families gave up and moved west. Others hung on.

Finally, the rains came in 1940. The land had rested so long that the crop that year was good. And the crops got better. Since then, there have been many lean years and good years, but no crop failures of the magnitude of those in the ‘30s.

Despite those troubles, Fred saw transportation change from horse to automobile to tractor.

In 1950, Fred and Anna moved to Ashley for retirement, and Vernon and Ruth (Luebeck) took over the farm. When they started, the farm consisted of 400 acres, which they expanded to 1,600 acres.

Under them, the mechanization of farming continued, such as from tractors which pulled two-bottom plows to diesel four-wheel-drive tractors to enable them to do more work.

From 1950 through 1970, Vernon imported thousands of Wisconsin grade and pure-bred dairy stock to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Montana. Cheese plants were being built in many small towns in those states. For that reason, dual purpose cattle were replaced with pure dairy breeds causing a great demand for better quality cattle. Ruth spent much of her time managing the farm as the business took at least three days a week of Vernon’s time.

Other changes to the farm made by Vernon and Ruth included remodeling all of the farm buildings. No rebuilding or extensive repair could occur during the Depression, of course, and so certain improvements became necessary. A new home was built in 1958.

Their children are David (who married Deborah Meidinger), Judith (married to Dr. Steven Meier of Des Moines, Iowa), and Rhoda (special education director in Ellendale of Dickey and LaMoure counties.)

In 1976, Vernon and Ruth moved to Ashley, and David and Deborah moved to the farm. David had taught vocational agriculture in Oakes for three years, and Deborah was an elementary school teacher there for the same time.

David had always been interested in farming and livestock, and decided he wanted to farm with his parents. He has since added another 900 acres, and made improvements in machinery and buildings.

He and Deborah have two daughters: Gretchen, 4, and Christen, 2.

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