By Roberta Olson
The Brick Farm, located adjacent to State Highway 4, north of Paynesville, has been designated a Minnesota Sesquicentennial Farm. The farm was honored by the Minnesota Farm Bureau with a 150-year certificate and plaque to display on the farm.
Present owners, James and Suzanne Brick, are only the fourth generation to own the farm.
The original 160 acres were purchased by Brick’s great-grandfather, Lenhart Lenner, May 15, 1861. Lenner was an Austrian immigrant who came to Minnesota via New Orleans in about 1850.
Lenhart and his wife, Margaretha, farmed 379 acres in Sections 14 and 15, just north of Lake Henry, until his death, Dec. 24, 1892.
Margaretha continued to farm the land with her children until her death in 1900. She had built the new farm home in 1897, part of which is still the Brick family home.
“The south portion of the house still has the original rock foundation,” James said.
The original barn was town down a few years ago, but a giant oak tree in the back remains. The tree is pictured in a browntone photo hanging in the Bricks’ entryway, that shows great-grandmother Margaretha Lenner standing in the yard smoking a pipe.
“I still have that pipe,” James said. “It has a little flip top, you tip it over to clean it out.”
“That tree was already there (in the photo), and was as big as it is now,” he said.
Family lore has it that Margaretha traded bread to the Indians for tobacco, “Which was probably marijuana,” James said, although Stearns County did raise a lot of tobacco at one time, he said.
When Margaretha died, the farm ownership passed to her daughter, Mary Ann Lenner and husband, Servatius Brick.
“There were four boys in the family,” James said, “but the daughter ended up with the farm.”
Ownership was passed from Servatius and Mary Ann Brick to their son, Othmar Brick, and his wife, Elenora (Ella). Othmar died in 1967, and Ella in 1982.
Othmar and Ella raised nine children on the farm. The kids attended Lake Henry District 131 School, and graduated from Paynesville High School.
Ownership of the farm passed to their son, James, and his wife Suzanne Brick, in 1976. James had graduated from Paynesville in 1955, and continued to live and work on the farm.
He met Suzanne in Lake Henry, and the two were married in 1972.
James and Suzanne raised a family of four on the farm. Maria Simon lives between Jacobs Prairie and Rockville. Kathryn Hermel lives in Onamia. James Jr. and his wife, Angela, live next door, and farm part of the original farm. Andrew and his wife, Megan, live in Paynesville.
Seven grandchildren complete the Brick family.
James farmed the land with his brother, Lt. Col. Ralph Brick after their father died. Unfortunately, his brother died in a car accident in 1975. The brothers were in the process of expanding the dairy operation at the time. James completed the dairy expansion, but discontinued the sheep and hogs operation.
Today, James still owns 140 acres of the original farm, part of which he rents out.
James, now 80, spends his days working around the farm and trapping critters. So far this year, he has trapped 35 raccoons, three skunks and a possum. And cats.
“I have trapped one cat more than 30 times. She keeps coming back. She’s never happy after I let her out of the trap,” he smiles.
As he checks his traps, James tthinks about the heritage of the land. As a history buff, he not only knows the detailed history of the area, having lived a good share of it, he is willing to share his opinions on a variety of subjects.
“One of my themes is ‘history matters,’ and ‘search for the truth,’” James said.
He wants history that is passed on to be factual.
“I like accuracy and honesty,” he said relating tales about his great-grandfather as vice president of Lake Henry State Bank.
The 156-year-old homestead is a park-like setting, with flower gardens created and tended by Suzanne, dotted in between the old growth trees. Rocks cut by James’s great-uncle, a stone mason, were recovered and used to define the gardens.
One of the gardens is centered by the Stearns County Centennial Farm plaque, which will be joined by the new Sesquicentennial plaque.