By Roberta Olson, Correspondent
When Peter and Anna (Bell) Rausch packed up their three children in 1857, and boarded a ship, little did they know their heritage would be recognized 150 years later.
The farm homesteaded by the Rausches remains in the family, and was honored in July by the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture with a Sesquicentennial plaque.
The Rausch farm has been passed down from father to son just four times.
Peter and Anna came to America 150 years ago, to escape the over population, crop failure and famine plaguing Rhineland, Germany.
One child died aboard ship, but the remaining family settled on a farm near Jacob’s Prairie in 1857.
In 1863, Peter enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War (1862-1865). Union soldiers were promised 160 acres of free land as a result of their service.
Peter took advantage of that federal land grant, and in 1867, moved his family about 20 miles northeast to a homestead in St. Martin Township, Stearns County, Minnesota, about a half mile north of the Sauk River. The original 160 acres were doubled with a purchase of 160 more acres at a price of $7,000, or $43.75 per acre.
The family from the town of Rieden, Germany, established their new home, carving their farm out of the pristine wilderness. They were one of the first German families to settle in the area. They helped organize the school district, as well as St. Martin Catholic parish. Large numbers of German immigrants followed, settling in Stearns County.
Peter owned the farm from 1867-1902. Upon his death, the farm was passed to his son and daughter-in-law, Joseph and Margaretha Rausch. Joseph farmed from 1902-1919, and after his death, Margaretha continued to farm the land until 1937. Their son, Joseph, inherited and farmed the land from 1937 to 1973.
Joseph’s son, present owner, Donald “Don,” and his wife Magdalen, took over the farm in 1973.
The farm now includes 266 acres.
Today, not many of the original buildings still stand. The Rausch farm home is the oldest building on the farm, and stands on the site of the original home built by Peter for his growing family. The nearby barn is estimated to be between 90 and 100 years old.
“All the smaller buildings have been replaced, they got replaced with something a little bit bigger,” Don said.
The couple is semi-retired now, but still work together doing the chores and field work.
The Rausches ran a dairy farm in the earlier days. But 10 years ago, they converted from milking 40 dairy cows, to raising beef cattle. They plant corn, some of which is fed to the cattle, and the rest sold, along with their soybeans cash crop.
Peter would no doubt be amazed at the present farming operation, with its modern irrigation system installed, and numerous buildings on the farmstead, Don said.
The Rausches are active in St. Martin’s Church. Don has served as the St. Martin Township clerk for 44 years, and as St. Martin’s Lions Club secretary for 34 years.
Magdalen volunteers at St. Martin’s Church, and serves as the Catholic United Financial treasurer.
“We keep busy,” she said.
Don has no regrets about spending his life on the Rausch family farm.
“I have enjoyed it, and we made a good living at it,” he said.
They raised three children, daughter Pamela Rausch who lives in Hutchinson; daughter Kimberly Rausch in Bloomington, and son Bryan Rausch lives in Dubuque, Iowa, where he is a mechanical engineer for John Deere.
The Centennial plaque received in 1976, along with the 150 year Sesquicentennial plaque are on proud exhibit in the flower garden gracing the farm yard.