By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
About the same time that Union and Confederate forces were preparing to fight the Battle of Gettysburg, Gerhard Bruemmer set up his 200-acre homestead in Farming Township, Stearns County. It was 1863, and Gerhard was fresh from Hanover, Germany. His father, Anton, had come too.
Fast forward to 2013, and Gerhard’s great-grandson, Gilbert and his wife, Judy, are running the Bruemmer farm. They have been recognized for their sesquicentennial farm with a certificate from the Minnesota Farm Bureau and a commemorative outdoor sign.
The Bruemmers’ home has grown around the original log house which Gerhard built in 1867. The living room and a bedroom downstairs and the upstairs is still surrounded by a log wall, now hidden behind stucco on the outside and drywall on the inside.
“My grandfather built an addition in the early 1900s and I built a new entrance in 1975 and the garage in 1980,” Gilbert said.
Gerhard had gone to Missouri first and found that there was no land left to homestead. He went up the Mississippi and found free land in Stearns County, where he bought a cow, an ox and a few chickens.
A temporary house was built close to the creek. Gerhard married Teckla Niehaus in 1866.
Their son, Theodore, took over the farm in 1904. He married Anna Niehaus in 1905. The farm remained in Theodore’s name until his death in 1962, when his son, Leo, and Leo’s wife, Columbia Hoeschen of Avon, became the owners.
Gilbert came along in 1942 and grew up with 15 other people in the home.
“My grandpa and grandma lived here, my parents and my brothers and sisters,” said Gilbert. “But we were just in for meals and sleeping. Otherwise we were outside.”
Driving the horses was one of Gilbert’s favorite things to do.
“We cut, raked and loaded hay with them, and cultivated,” he said. “Most of our colts were from Lucy. We raised and sold them. For fun, we rode bareback in the pasture.”
The 70-foot barn included 40 feet for the cows and 30 feet for the horses.
In 1927, the family got a Farmall F20 tractor, which was used mainly for belt work like grinding feed and shredding corn. In 1948, they got a Cockshutt Model 30 from Canada through the Gambles store in Albany.
Gilbert left the farm in 1958 to work for his dad’s cousin, Joe Blonigen of St. Martin, for a year. Then Gilbert went into the Army. He was gone for six months for infantry training, continuing with Army Reserve meetings for three years.
After returning home, he married Judy Jansson of Richmond in 1966, and worked in carpentry and construction until 1978.
“My dad asked if I wanted to buy the farm, and I did in August 1978,” he said. “I missed farming; I always did want to be a farmer.”
This was a complete change in lifestyle for Judy, who had grown up in Richmond.
“My biggest thing was the schedule of milking and meals having to be at certain times,” she said. “But the kids had lots to do; it was a wonderful place for the kids to grow up.”
“It was a total life change for her; it’s still changing,” Gilbert said. “She had to take over feeding about 12 steers.”
In October 2012, Gilbert turned to come down off the grain bin and fell. He hit the ground on his legs, which cracked two vertebrae, broke his pelvis, left femur, left heel and crushed his right tibia.
Most of the breaks have mended, but doctors are still working with his tibia.
“Our major help has been our son-in-law, Leon Feldewerd of Melrose,” Gilbert said. “Judy had to learn to do some of my chores, too.”
“He’s had a lot of family, friends and neighbors helping,” said Judy. “Every couple days he takes the four-wheeler around the fields to check on crops.”
Judy has always been the bookwork person. “She has to be involved or else it wouldn’t go,” said Gilbert.
“I think of my great-grandparents farming the same land,” he said. “I think they were happy here too.”