A farming tradition
Sixth generation of Haase family now operating family farm
Having a farm recognized as a Sesquicentennial Farm is not a common occurrence. Being a Sesquicentennial Farm and having it still being operated by ancestors of the original settler is even more rare.
Brothers Don and Ken Haase are each being recognized for having a sesquicentennial farm. Their brother Paul, and his wife Virginia, live on the farm site where their ancestors settled over 150 years ago and which achieved sesquicentennial status in 2011.
It really is something to think about. Currently, Ken’s sons, Scott and Brent, operate the land located in Emerald Township. They are the sixth generation of the Haase family to do so.
“My ancestors came over to America in 1854 and settled in Wisconsin, near Tomah. My great-great grandfather Gottleib and his wife Dorothea had six children who made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean,” Don explains. “It was somewhat unique for whole families to come to America at one time because of the cost. Many times just one or two family members would make the original trip.”
Don describes Gottleib as a wage-earning peasant.
“He was able to save enough money so he could bring his entire family to the United States,” Don says. “They came from the Brandenburg area of Prussia.”
Gottlieb, who was born in 1794, was 58 years old when he made the trip.
In 1859, five years after arriving in Wisconsin, Gottlieb sent his three sons, Wilhelm, August and Christian, to Minnesota to find farmland. They did not have a car or truck to drive and they did not ride a horse.
“They walked,” Don says. “The land in the Blue Earth area was at the extreme west edge of the frontier and there were less than 80 people living in the Blue Earth area.”
The first 160 acres was acquired by a military warrant in 1860 for $1 per acre. Don has a copy of the document, signed by President James Buchanan.
“It transferred 160 acres from Pvt. Jones Burgess to my great-grandfather August,” Don comments.
With the land now acquired, the rest of the Haase family made the trip to Minnesota in 1860. Later, in 1870, August Haase would acquire another 160 acres under the Homestead Act, which was signed by Ulysses Grant.
Don and Ken both say they wonder how the family survived their first 10 years.
“There was no railroad in Blue Earth and the railroad did not come to Delavan until 1870,” Don says.
“How did they get supplies and where did they sell their crops?” Ken wonders.
Don explains the grain elevators in the towns were actually built first, ahead of the railroad lines, and then the railroad would connect the towns and elevators.
The lack of transportation was not the only hardship the Haase family and other farmers who settled in the area had to face.
“There was a grasshopper plague in the 1870s,” Don shares. “It almost destroyed everything.”
The Haase family also has a certificate from 1865 documenting the naturalization of the three Haase brothers, Wilhelm, August and Christian.
“They were the first naturalized citizens of Faribault County,” Don comments. “We also had relatives who served in the Civil War.”
August was one of the persons who helped organize Emerald Township in 1865.
“They operated under Blue Earth prior to organizing their own township,” Don notes.
August was also instrumental in the founding and building of Immanuel Lutheran Church in 1868, before the first church was built in Blue Earth, according to Don.
“They started the church in German and the congregation continued to hold services in German until 1923,” Don notes. “Our father, Elbert, was in the last confirmation class which was confirmed in German.”
August, who was a charter member of the congregation, also donated the land on which the church building was to be constructed.
“He donated six acres on the southwest corner of his farm for the church and then donated one acre north of the church property for the cemetery,” Don says. “He was bilingual. He had to use the English language to organize the township and German to help organize the church congregation.”
August continued to acquire land. Ken displays old plat photos which showed August also owned land in Elmore and Pilot Grove townships.
He was also an inventor, a trait which has been passed down through each succeeding generation.
“The house August built in the 1880s had indoor plumbing, long before other houses had water,” Don says. “He built a stave water tank in the attic and water was pumped from the well, underground to the basement of the house, and then up to the attic. The house had running water but did not have working toilets.”
Paul and his wife Virginia have lived in the house since 1975.
“The house had a porch on the south side of the house which was later screened in and then removed,” Paul explains. “Virginia and I decided to build a porch back where the original one was.”
August also built a windmill in 1865.
“You could not get steel so he built it out of wood,” Don explains. “A wind storm in 1949 blew the windmill down.”
When August died in 1907, he left 400 acres to his two surviving sons and 160 acres to his surviving daughter.
Don, who is the historian of the Haase family, shares other facts about the farm’s history.
“A variety of crops have been grown on the farm over the years including wheat, corn, oats, timothy hay for the horses, alfalfa hay for cattle, flax, red clover for hay or seed, hybrid seed corn for Willette Seed Farm, certified bean seed for Mike Willette and canning peas for Green Giant,” Don comments. “We have also raised replacement gilts for Land’O’Lakes and dairy cattle. Hogs were a part our farm from the beginning until 2018.”
Before tractors came along, they used to farm with horses.
“There was a barn on the property which held 18 draft horses and 12 milk cows,” Don continues. “In the spring there would be sheep lambing, then there would be sows having pigs and there would be beef cows calving.”
In 1919 the farm was wired for electricity which came from Rapidan.
“We were one of the first farms in the Blue Earth area to have electricity,” Don notes.
He says the Haase farm was also one of the first farms in the area to have a tractor.
“My dad, Elbert, didn’t like horses so he bought a Waterloo Boy in 1915. It was one of the first tractors in the area,” Don shares. “He also purchased a Studebaker the same year. Then in 1928, a Minneapolis Moline tractor and a threshing machine were purchased along with a Chevrolet truck. They operated the threshing machine until 1946.”
Elbert continued the family trait of innovation.
“Dad started to fix and repair farm machinery in 1942. He built Hi-Boy sprayers before you could buy them commercially,” Don says. “He made six of the sprayers for area farmers.”
The Haase family of farmers continues to be innovators. They began ridge-till farming over 40-years ago and have been 100 percent no-till for the last three years.
Now, the current generation operating the land has incorporated cover crops into their farming practices.
“I believe our innovation and commitment to the farm have helped us survive all these years,” Don comments.
Will the seventh generation of Haase’s continue to operate the farm?
“They are already mowing the lawn,” Don says. “I think there is a good chance one of the Haase family members will stick around to continue our family farm tradition.”