Centennial Farms in Western Elkhart County, IN

Centennial Farm Tour Group
Centennial Farm Tour Group

HUNDRED YEAR FARM FAMILIES WEST OF GOSHEN

Michiana Anabaptist Historians’ Tour
Saturday, August 10, 2013

Phil and Barb Berkey
Phil and Barb Berkey

Phil & Barb Berkey

Peter Berkey, b. 1844 in Sommerset, PA, bought the farm in 1866, and d. 1921. Plat Book says 90 acres, but 10 were sold. His daughter married Frank Miller, and they owned the land in 1915. Peter’s son was Foster Berkey, and he owned the land in 1920. His son was Harold Berkey, and owned the land in 1967. His oldest son was Phil Berkey, who has owned the land since 1981 and is our host today. All the men were farmers but also accountants, pastors, or teachers, and some of their wives were teachers, too.

Tim and Beth Witmer
Tim and Beth Witmer

Tim & Beth Witmer

Martin Musser came from Ohio and bought 158 acres in 1852. His daughter Margaret married Martin A. Hoover, and they bought the land in 1870. Their daughter Catherine married Amos Witmer, and they bought the east 100 acres, and Catherine’s brother William Hoover bought the west 58 acres. Their son Walter married Alma Shaum in 1919 and farmed the land. Their son Paul married Edna Fay Wenger in 1949 and they shared the house with Walter & Alma until the latter moved into a new house near the road. Paul & Edna Fay’s son Tim and his wife Beth bought the land in 1986. They live there with their 5 children, who are the 7th generation. They were all farmers, but Amos Witmer was also a builder. He built the house and barn on William Hoover’s land to the west, as well as a church in Ohio; he also made furniture.

Ethel Hoover
Ethel Hoover

Ethel Hoover

In 1836 President VanBuren released 160 acres for $1.25 per acre to a Samuel Burson. There were four more owners, including the Steiners from whom Elias Martin bought 80 acres in 1884 for $600. Elias gave the farm to his son John, who married Emma Snyder. Their daughter Nettie married Warren Hoover and moved onto the farm in 1926 and actually bought the land about 1945. Their son Ernest bought the land in 1984 from Warren’s estate. His daughter Vera and her husband Dean Witmer and their sons Clifford and Cleon bought the land in 2013.

Ron and Arlene Wenger
Ron and Arlene Wenger

Ron & Arlene Wenger

Christian Wenger bought 50 acres in 1859. In 1866 he bought 10 acres of woods on the south side. Christian’s son Eli Wenger purchased the 60 acres in 1882. Eli’s brother Michael purchased 80 acres (where Ron now lives). Menno Wenger married Amanda Reed, and had a son Russell. Menno bought the farm in 1911, and his wife died in 1912, so he moved back with his parents and rented the land to others until 1920. Then he married Ada Reed and had a son Clifford. Russell married Esther Eby in 1932 and farmed with his father. Clifford rented Bernice Hess’s farm in 1939, and later purchased other land nearby for himself. In 1959 Ron married Arlene Yoder and went into partnership with his father Russell in 1965. They have four children, the oldest of whom is Brent, who now owns part of the farm. Ron’s brother Carlton Wenger purchased the farm in l986 and Ron farmed it. Ron’s daughter Kari Wenger Kern purchased the land in 2002. Her children are the 7th generation.

J.R. Rohrer
J.R. Rohrer

J R & Marilyn Rohrer

In 1900 John R. Hess purchased land from Jacob & Elizabeth Hess (earlier owners are unknown—the abstract goes back only to 1900) on both sides of CR 32. He died in 1914. In 1925 his widow sold the north farm to her daughter, Bernice Hess Wagner, and the south farm to her other daughter, Lucille Rohrer. Bernice rented out the land, and in 1981 JR Rohrer (Lucille’s son) bought it from his aunt’s estate. JR & Lucille’s son Rolland owns and operates the south farm. In an earlier era, there was apparently a tannery on the property, but that comes from oral history only. They have always been farmers, but JR sold insurance and his son runs a small trucking company in addition.

Robert and Juanita Weldy
Robert and Juanita Weldy

Robert & Juanita Weldy

The land was surveyed in March 1834. A Lockwood bought it in 1836 from the President VanBuren tract. John K. Weldy bought it in 1869 for $2500. John and his wife Susanna (Mumaw) had 10 sons and, finally, a daughter; Walter was one of the 10. Walter’s son was Kenneth, and Kenneth’s son was Robert. They have all been farmers, but some were also preachers, singers, and salesmen. John was known as “Old John” at the age of 45; because of all his axe-yielding work, his body looked old. His wife played the organ and the family produced many good singers (Dwight Weldy’s father was one of the 10 sons).

Steve and Sherry Kehr
Steve and Sherry Kehr

Steve & Sherry Kehr

In 1849 “Mother” Kehr, a widow, and six sons moved from Medina Co., Ohio, to Harrison Twp. She came in the company of one John W. Moyer who followed a brother. The oldest Kehr son was Christian, who bought a 40-acre farm from Daniel & Rebecca Hoover for $1000 in 1865. He drained the land, built fences, and raised crops and livestock. He married Winifred Singer and they had a son George, who had a son Jesse, who had a son Stanley, who was Steve’s dad. In addition to farmers, Jesse was a chiropractor, Stanley was a woodworker, and Steve is an automotive technician; Sherry operates her own business, the “Bread…it’s in the Bag” store.

Wengers
Wengers

Diana & Andy Wenger

Martin A. Hoover purchased this farm as part of a larger tract in 1870. His son William A. Hoover took possession of the west 60 acres and had a house and barn built in 1899 by his brother-in-law, Amos Witmer. His son was Paul. His son was Clarence. His daughter was Diana, and her children are the 6th generation. They have all been farmers, but William was also a teacher for 25 years in at least 8 different schools, and Paul was ordained to the ministry at the age of 25 in the Wisler Mennonite Church. Paul was also very involved in the beginnings and growth of Oaklawn.

Hannah Witmer
Hannah Witmer

Hannah Witmer

Martin A. Hoover purchased the land in 1892, had the buildings put up in 1893, and retired there. The farm across the road was left to the children of his first marriage, but this home was left to his second wife and her children; she had one son from a previous marriage, and three more with Martin. The son, Peter Hartman, never married, but lived there with a succession of different families, the last of which was Isaiah & Beulah Witmer (he was a great-grandson of Martin). Isaiah’s son is Dean, and Hannah is Dean’s daughter.

 

Saturday, October 26 – “John F. Funk Day” at Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart

J. Nelson Kraybill
J. Nelson Kraybill
Philip Gollner
Philip Gollner

This annual fall program of the Michiana Anabaptist Historians, planned by Loren Johns, will focus on the many innovations that John F. Funk brought about among Indiana Mennonites, especially through his Mennonite Publishing Company in Elkhart.  The program will begin with coffee at 8:30 a.m., to be followed by a presentation at 9 a.m. by Nelson Kraybill and one at 10:30 a.m. by Phillip Gollner.  Nelson is former president of Anabaptist Mennonite Seminary in Elkhart and current pastor of Prairie Street Mennonite Church, which Funk was instrumental in founding.  Phillip, a native of Austria, is a doctoral student in history at the University of Notre Dame and the author of an M.A. thesis on Funk’s innovations.  The business meeting will consider the placement of a historical marker on Funk in Elkhart.  More information on this program will appear in the Fall 2013 issue of the MAH newsletter.