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Zimmermans Celebrate Centennial Farm Status

"Zimmermans Celebrate Centennial Farm Status." Napoleon Homestead, 17 August
2005, 1.


On June 23, 1905, Jacob Zimmerman applied for application of a homestead 15 miles east of Napoleon. We can only imagine what this land must have looked like, and why he homesteaded here. It took him seven years to have a clear title of the land, which was on June 14, 1912. This year marks one hundred years of this farm in the Zimmerman family.
A letter and certificate were received from Roger Johnson, ND Agriculture Commissioner, to recognize the Zimmerman farm as a ND Centennial Farm.

Jacob married Kathrina Pfeifle in 1907. They were blessed with 14 children: Bertha (Job), Julius, Jake, Helen (Schaible), Katie (Beckstrom), Emil, Lucy (Rohrich), Lillian (Becker), Carolina (Tergeson), Elvina (Schwartzenberger), Leon, Elmer, Marvin. Their son Leon, bought the farm in 1957, and now, Jacob’s grandson, Reed and his family own and live on the original farmstead.

Over the years, many things have changed. Only the original house is standing a mile east of the farm, where it was moved by horses across the pasture and rocks in the 1920’s. Jacob had built a larger house for their family. Emil and Gideon Oldenburger would go by horse and wagon Streeter to pick up lumber for the house. In 1998 a new house was built and the old one torn down.

Jacob Zimmerman died at the age of 59, in 1942, leaving the farming to the children who were still at home. His son Emil was the oldest at home, along with Lenora, Elvina, Leon, Elmer, and Marvin. Emil was later drafted into the army. That left Leon, at the age of 17, the oldest at home to run the business of farming and ranching.

Many children have called this farm “home” and there have been many happy memories. Lucy wrote: “I remember milking the cows, dragging, plowing, and working on the header box. When threshing time came, at 14 years old, I pitched the bundles into the threshing machine. Dad was the only one around who had a threshing machine, so we thrashed for other people. Dad and I would go home at night and get up at 4 AM and go again. Julius and Jake would stay and sleep in the hay mound. Every time the rig stopped, I got to use the oil can and find all the running parts on the machine to oil. There were plenty. I pretty soon knew where they all were.”

Marvin remembers riding to school on the horses. There were no storm days. They would just bundle up warm and ride to school. One day after school, it was storming pretty bad. He rode old Amos for an hour or more and was still not home. It was usually a 15 minute ride. He had no clue where he was, so he tied the reins around the horses neck and put his head down on the horse and rode for about 20 minutes. When the horse stopped, he was right in front of the barn! Marvin’s job was herding the cattle in the pasture so they
wouldn’t get into the grain fields. While doing that, things would get rather boring for a 7 to 10 year old, so for something to do, he would carry a piece of binder twine in his pocket (this was standard equipment for every young boy). It was used to make a loop around the gopher hole, then when the gopher out you would jerk the rope and have the old gopher on the leash.

Lenore is thankful for her parents, who gave then a Christian heritage. She says, “Although we were a large family, I cannot remember going hungry or without clothing, although we went barefoot during the summer months. We walked to and from school many times, and it was two miles one way; our parents took us to church, even if ‘by horse and sled in the winter and about ten people in the car in the summer time’. My Dad could speak the Russian language very well . . . in Dad’s latter years of life, the only time he spoke the Russian language was when the Nicholi Nenow family came for a visit. How we kids loved to hear and listen to them talk, although we couldn’t understand a word.”

Lillian wrote: “I have 80+ years of memories – hard work, tears, and also lots of fun times, too. I see the Lord’s blessing from the first to the third generation.”

The third generation, children of Leon and Gladys, are Rodney, Reed, Roxanne, Rhonda, Robin, and Russell. Rhonda’s memories included on Sunday afternoons, her Dad, older brothers and her riding horseback through the fields “up north”. Even though she helped in the field, her parents always sent them to bible camp in the summer, which had a life changing impact on her. Robin’s memories included riding Little Smokey (the favorite horse) to get the milk cows in the afternoon and then looking for bird nests in the branches; also helping cut corn in the fall and missing some school to help make the silage pile.

Now, the fourth generation calls this homestead “Home”. They are the children of Reed and Kathleen Zimmerman: Kelsie, 8; Kyle, 6; Kayla, 5; and Kelly, 3. They are in the process of making memories. They love to ride in the tractors with their Dad, or with Grandpa Leon. Picking rocks is the unending chore that was started many years ago and still continues. They race to see who can find the next rock or the biggest ever, even this creates cherished memories.

This photo was taken in about 1942 at the home farm where Ed taught the boys and Caroline how to swim.

Many things have changed in farming over the years. The land was broke with horse and plow, and now large tractors with implements behind, till this same ground. But it is not forgotten all the hard work that it took to make it what it is today. “We are thankful to the Lord for giving each the strength to do their individual jobs and for giving all the memories of this farm. The lord has truly blessed the Zimmerman family through the many years. And as Jacob’s favorite hymn, that Grandpa Leon taught Kelsie and Kyle in the tractor, says: When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more, when the morning breaks eternal bright and fair, when the saved on earth shall gather over on the other shore, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. We will be there because of the Godly Christian heritage that was taught through all the years.”

Aerial view of the Russell & Kathleen Zimmerman farm today.
The latest generation of kids to grow up on the Zimmerman farm, Kayla, Kyle, Kelsie and Kelly Zimmerman.

Reprinted with permission of the Napoleon Homestead.


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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