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Family is dedicated to carry on their heritage

By Staff | Sep 4, 2018

Don and Linda Wakeman reminisce over photos of their Heritage Farmily Farm.



DUNCOMBE – The Wakeman family, of Duncombe, recently celebrated their family farm’s long history when they received the Heritage Farm award at the Iowa State Fair.

The family includes Don and Linda Wakeman, and his brother Joe Wakeman.

Everything started on Sept. 4, 1868, when Halsey W. and Catharine Wakeman – who are Don and Joe Wakeman’s great-great-grandparents – settled on land south of Otho in Webster County and purchased 40 acres for $600.

And aerial photo of the Wakeman family’s farm shows a time when it was a working farm.

According to Joseph Workman, a family historian – who is also Don and Linda Wakeman’s son – Halsey W. and Catharine Wakeman eventually made their way to Iowa from New York, but it is believed it wasn’t a direct route as there has been some evidence of them settling in Ohio and other parts of Iowa prior to their land purchase.

Next in line to purchase the farm was Willard Wakeman, a son the original landowners, on Feb. 19, 1883. His ownership of the family’s farm was short-lived, however, as records show Halsey W. Wakeman bought the land back in 1887.

Another son of the original landowners, Melzar Wakeman, is recorded to be the next landowner, buying the farm in 1889.

Don Wakeman said his great-grandparents, Melzar and Abi Wakeman, are the ones he attributes to building up the farm, starting with a home they built from a kit they bought from Sears and Roebuck not too long after they purchased the farm.

“They would go by horse and wagon to Boone to pick up the house,” said Don Wakeman. “It would sometimes take two to three days round trip.”

That house would come to be home for four more generations before it was demolished in 1993.

Henry and Berte Wakeman were the next to own the farm, purchasing it from his siblings. At that time there was other farmland owned within the Wakeman family and Henry Wakeman was able to also purchase those tracts of land during a timespan from 1926 to 1935.

In 1951, Don and Joe Wakeman’s parents, Lewis and Evelyn Wakeman, became part-owners of the farm before owning all of the 160 acres in 1968. They remained the owners until 2015, leaving the Wakeman brothers and Linda Wakeman as owners.

Don Wakeman reminisced about a time after they had plumbing brought into the house and the neighbors had shown some interest into wanting to buy their outhouse.

“But a tornado came and ended up blowing it there,” he said.

The tornado also made for some interesting breeds of rabbits around the Wakeman farm.

“The tornado also took a building my brother and I were raising rabbits in and rabbits got out and we ended up having some weird looking rabbits around,” he said.

In addition to some of the funny memories Wakeman has of growing up on his family’s Heritage Farm, he also recalled a lot of hard work including raising everything they needed and butchering their own livestock in the corn crib and milking cows, all by hand.

“I always gave the cats their milk,” he said.

The snow events he lived through on the farm also left an impact on Wakeman.

“I can remember large snow drifts and the cattle walking up and over the fences,” he said. “It would take a week to get the snow cleared. My mom worked in town and she would have to park on the highway and walk home.”

Joe Wakeman’s son, Mike Wakeman, said he enjoyed his time growing up on the farm and did everything much like other “normal farm kids,” including spending his summers baling hay and walking beans.

Mike Wakeman recalled when the barn came down,

“We took the barn down in 1976,” he said. “It was defunct so we tore it down to make room for a machine shed.”

Joseph Wakeman said the farm’s landscape comes with timber and a water source and assumes, due to its close proximity to Dolliver Memorial State Park, that the area was probably popular at one time.

Many generations of Wakemans have taken advantage of the timber and creeks utilizing it for hunting and fishing.

“It’s a machinery graveyard now,” said Joseph Wakeman. “It shows a step back in time.”

The farm is believed to have had a small gauge railroad run through it as family documents show there had been some disputes over land right of ways.

Don Wakeman said he and his son, Joseph Wakeman, have kept and restored his father’s old 1936 John Deere B. They currently use it for parades and it makes an annual appearance in the Labor Day parade in Dayton.

Joseph Wakeman said that although he is sad he is not able to farm his family’s land, he still has a strong connection to what his ancestors started back in 1868.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “It is something my family has been committed to for a long time and we want to keep it in the family. We are dedicated to that.”

Having a cemetery only a half of a mile away from the family farm also keeps the Wakemans connected to family.

“Every generation is there,” said Mike Wakeman.

“To know we can go to the cemetery and see those that have lived and also set up the farm,” Don Wakeman added. “It’s our legacy.”

Joseph Wakeman and Mike Wakeman are a part of the sixth generation of Wakemans and both are proud of their family’s long heritage.

They agree it needs to be kept in the family.

“I am very grateful we have the same attitude about the farm on both sides of the family,” said Mike Wakeman. “Receiving the Heritage Farm award has been very humbling. Having peers and other family members congratulate us as made me realize how big of a deal it really is. It puts us in a different league.”

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