Humboldt County farm family to receive Heritage Farm award at Iowa State Fair
By KRISS NELSON
BODE – A Humboldt County farm will officially be awarded its Heritage Farm status next month at the Iowa State Fair.
Although the farm has been in the Brown family for 157 years, records show it wasn’t documented as a purchased farm until 1866, making it only officially 151 years in the same family.
The farm is currently owned by Tom and Coco Brown with their daughter and son-in-law, Dawn and Don Fedkenheuer, residing there.
According to the family, Thomas Brown, who is Tom Brown’s great-grandfather, came from England and settled in New York when he was around 18 years old. He worked for numerous farms and was able to purchase 80 acres in the Bode/Livermore area on Feb. 28, 1860.
Dawn Fedkenheuer said her great-great-grandfather continued to work out east and earn money before eventually coming to Iowa to homestead the land.
Fedkenheuer knew her family’s farm was nearing Heritage Farm status of 150 years being owned by the same family, so she went to the family’s attorney to get proper documentation to be able to sign up for the award.
It was then they discovered their farm wasn’t officially deeded until years after Thomas Brown purchased it.
The documentation stated, “A warranty deed was executed on February 28, 1860, however, it was filed on June 7, 1866.”
Fedkenheuer said they have to go back to the official date of 1866.
Whether it is 1860 or 1866, the family said they are proud of their family’s heritage. And one way they are keeping that heritage alive is by remodeling the farmhouse.
Fedkenheuer and her husband are the fifth generation to live on the family farm and she said they have been doing extensive renovations to the farmhouse and refurbishing items as they go along.
“We are using things from the farm,” she said. “We are trying to use as much of existing things we have and by doing this, we are proud to be the fifth generation to live here and we are trying to continue the heritage of the farm.”
There are many unique aspects of the house, which is believed to have been built in the 1860s and added on to in 1901. Fedkenheuer and her father, Tom Brown, explained it featured a Delco system, which was put in to power the house up until the 1930s when electricity became available.
“That was one way they modernized the house,” said Brown.
Fedkenheuer said there is an attic in the original part of the house that was used for drying seed corn.
“The hooks are still hanging up there,” she said. “I think it’s pretty unique that is all still up there.”
The house isn’t the only existing building on the farm, as the summer kitchen, a chicken house and a round brick corn crib that was built in 1918 still occupy the Heritage Farm. Those structures remained even after a tornado struck the farm in 1964, demolishing a lot of the buildings, Brown said.
Another tornado hit the farm 20 years later in 1984, taking many buildings that had been re-built, including the barn.
Thomas Brown married Rebecca Stillion and they had nine children. Out of those nine children, they only had one survivor, Charlie Brown, who was Tom Brown’s grandfather.
Tom Brown said he is unsure of exactly what struck the family, killing eight of their children, but said it was an epidemic of some kind.
Charlie Brown was the second generation to take over the farm, doing so in 1921 when his father passed away.
Fedkenheuer said her great-grandfather farmed with mules and, like most farm families, they milked cows, had chickens, hogs and a garden to be able to be self-sufficient.
“They didn’t spend money on nothing,” Tom Brown said of his grandfather. “Things were tight.”
Next to take over the farm was Tom Brown’s father, Roy Brown. He had been farming the land for many years, but officially became the farm’s owner after Charlie Brown passed away in 1960.
“He didn’t like horses, so he bought a tractor early,” said Tom Brown.
He added it was either 1935 or 1936 that his father bought what he recalls to be a steam engine.
“Grandpa Roy loved steam engines,” said Fedkenheuer.
Tom Brown said his father raised livestock until 1964 when the first tornado struck the farm.
“He got out of the livestock business then, except for keeping a few cattle,” he said.
Fedkenheuer said her grandmother, Mildred Fedkenheuer, had chickens. She also has other memories of her.
“I can remember her being a wonderful cook, baking fresh bread every day, and she would can,” Dawn Fedkenheuer said. “She had a large garden.”
Tom Brown took over the farm when his mother passed away in 1979, officially purchasing it in 2011.
“I wasn’t going to give it up,” he said. “It’s nice to have it. Why let it go?”
His wife agreed.
“We want to keep it in the family as long as we can,” said Coco Brown.
Fedkenheuer said she and her siblings are all in agreement they want to keep the farm in the family as long as they can and they feel honored to be living on the family farm.
“It means the world to us,” she said. “There’s nothing better than being out in the country, especially on our family farm.”
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