By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Frank and Elizabeth Wielenberg left Germany in 1903, and married soon after arriving in the Melrose area. They rented a farm from Henry Hinnenkamp until 1911 and then bought a farm north of town.
Their youngest son, Joe Sr., took over the farm and raised 10 children there with his wife, Marie. Their son Lawrence now farms the home place.
The Wielenberg farm will be recognized as a Century Farm at the Minnesota State Fair in August. The family history describes how this will “honor the dreams of a young couple, courageous enough to settle a farm and start a family in a new country.”
Frank and Lizzie’s last living child, 92-year-old daughter Marie Bösl, reports that the couple’s descendants now number about 568. That includes nine children, 65 grandchildren, 223 great-grandchildren and 271 great-great-grandchildren.
Joe and Marie’s descendents include 24 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. The farm has been held in a trust following their deaths in 2005. It was originally 100 acres, growing to 300 in 1922.
“A lot of it is woods, hills and rocks,” said Bösl. “The land borders Little Birch Lake, and we would walk there to go fishing with poles cut from the woods and worms we dug. There was a swimming hole, too.”
Each family member remembers picking rock. Bösl jokingly asked her nephew, Lawrence, if he had all the rocks picked yet?
“We left some for the next generation, too,” Lawrence said in return.
The Wielenberg children attended a one-room school at “Five-mile Corner,” one and a half miles from home. Bösl learned so much listening to other classes recite that she skipped two grades.
“The county had a test we had to take to finish eighth grade,” she said. “I passed when I was 12.”
All remember doing chores at the school. Bösl had to help carry water in. The only rest rooms then were outhouses.
“We had to stoke the furnace with coal,” said Joe, Jr.
“We had room duties,” Bauer said. “We had to sweep. But there was electricity and running water — just cold water, though.”
“I had to take out the trash,” Dennis added.
They all took lunches to school. “I liked dried beef, jelly and butter sandwiches,” said Lawrence.
“We started the day with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Bauer.
“And we prayed together at dinnertime,” said Dennis. He was a member of the last class to graduate from eighth grade before the school closed in 1968.
A big occasion was getting the first tractor, a 1939 model. The second tractor was a John Deere 1945 B.
“Dad had a team of horses that worked until the mid-1960s,” said Dennis. “In their later years they still raked road ditches and hauled wood. They got to live out their years on the place.”
Thinking back to Christmases gone by, Bösl recalls that St. Nicholas came on Dec. 6, while everyone was in the barn doing chores. He left candies, apples and peanuts on the table.
“On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus came while we did chores in the barn,” Bauer said. “We knew it was really Henry Von Wahlde.”
Frank and Elizabeth continued to use three rooms on the first floor of the house after Joe and Marie took over the farm.
“Part of our chores was making sure they had wood for their stove,” Dennis said.
“Grandma used to make big sugar cookies,” Bauer said. “She gave us one if we brought a lot of wood in.”
Lawrence recalls cutting wood. “We spent most of Christmas vacation making wood piles for the next winter,” he said. “In 1974-1975, we cut and split over 1,500 oak fence posts. They were used in about three years.”
The Wielenbergs still gather at the home place.
“We do all the holidays out here yet,” Bauer said. “Not everyone comes, but it gets to be a pretty big bunch.”
“We could have sold this, but money can’t buy happiness,” said Dennis.
“I’m glad it’s stayed in the family,” Bösl added. “There are a lot of memories here.”