Four generations of Hamann family members in rural Princeton can say that their family has a century farm.
The Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau sponsor a program that recognizes farms in the state as century farms if the farms have been in continuous ownership by a family for 100 years or more.
The Hamann century farm is owned and occupied by Rod and Connie Hamann and located about 9 miles northeast of Princeton along 90th Street east of Mille Lacs County Road 1.
John and Anna Hamann were the original owners, purchasing it as a 40-acre piece in 1909. The couple’s grandson Don Hamann, 91, of rural Princeton, said that John and Anna Hamann didn’t live on the century farm. They bought it to grow hay for the livestock on their farm operation that was some miles to the southwest. It was common in those times for farmers to purchase ground just for hay, Don Hamann said.
John and Anna Hamann built a two-room house for daughter Emma to live in on the century farm. When John and Anna Hamann’s son Oscar Hamann married Esther Dalchow in 1919, Emma moved out, and the newlyweds moved in and purchased the property. Oscar and Esther Hamann moved a log barn onto the farm from the nearby Dalchow farm and used it to house dairy cows.
When a dairy barn was built on the farm in 1923, the log barn became storage for horse-drawn machinery.
Don Hamann and his brothers Earl and Alvin Hamann were born in the little two-room house. Oscar and Esther Hamann had a new house built on the property in 1926, which is what Rod and Connie live in now. The little two-room house was moved around in the farm yard after it was no longer used as a dwelling. During the structure’s second life, it was first used as a garage and later as a hog barn.
Don and Shirley Hamann remember their sons Ron and Rod as children pulling the siding off the old hog barn to make a tree house. Don and Shirley Hamann also had two daughters: Connie Haubenschild and Sandy Haehn.
Don and Shirley Hamann farmed the century farm, raising crops and milking cows. They quit dairy farming in 1986.
Parcels were added to the Hamann farm over time until it had 140 acres at its peak. Later, 3 acres were removed for a residence, leaving the farm with 137 acres at present.
Various Hamann family members, looking back on the farm’s ups and downs, said that the Great Depression was a struggle for Oscar and Esther Hamann on the farm. A neighbor told the couple during the 1930s that they would “starve to death” on that farm, but the couple persevered by working extra jobs. Oscar Hamann drove his horse team to farms to work on grain threshing crews and also worked on a road crew. Esther Hamann kept the farm going and cared for their three children while her husband was working off the farm.
Rod Hamann married Connie Rick in 1980 and they raised two children, John and Jackie. The couple started a dairy herd on the farm in 1993 and purchased the farm in November 1994.
Don and Shirley Hamann moved off the farm that year and into Rod and Connie Hamann’s home. Rod and Connie Hamann eventually stopped dairy farming, the last load of milk leaving the farm in September 1998. Rod and Connie Hamann have jobs off the farm now but still farm the land, raising hay, corn and soybeans and running a beef cow and calf operation.
Rod and Connie Hamann’s son John Hamann married Jennifer Bartz in September 2009 and moved closer to the farm, where the couple has a few cows in the herd there. The couple had a son, Daniel, in February of this year.
Don Hamann talked last week about his experiences on the farm, at one point asking, “Where does a hundred years go?” He noted that when his parents left the farm, there was a herd of eight cows. Don Hamann added onto the dairy barn and gradually built his dairy herd up to 50 cows.
Last Saturday Don Hamann stood next to a one-bottom plow that sits in a rock garden on the farm and said his father used that plow.
Some of the Hamann family members discussed the flooding that occurred at the farm and vicinity in 1972. During the flooding, two boys in the neighborhood canoed across fields in that area to the Rum River to the west and then canoed down the river into the city of Princeton.
The Hamann century farm has heavy black soil and is near the bog area that was once the site of a big vegetable growing operation. Don Hamann said he worked on the vegetable farm hoeing weeds on his hands and knees, using a little hoe with an L-shaped handle. He also remembers seeing World War II German and Italian prisoners of war working at the vegetable farm.
Don Hamann walked 3/4 mile each way to attend the District 3 country school, which had eight grades. He didn’t continue formal education after that, which was at a time when there wasn’t bus service to transport rural children into the high school in Princeton.
“I got smart enough,” he said about his eight years of schooling.
One of Don Hamann’s difficult times on the century farm, he said, was the time he fell out of a haymow, broke his back and spent nine days in the hospital.
Don and Shirley Hamann said that despite some setbacks like hail damaging their hay one time, and hail one year extensively hurting their oats, they made it through. The year the oats were hit by hail, Don Hamann said, he only got one wagon load of oats but a “good Samaritan” named Bill Kral brought him a wagon load. Bill Kral had to drive a long way to bring those oats, Shirley Hamann said.
“He went to a different church, but he was a good Samaritan,” she added.
Among the big events at the Hamann farm was when electricity was brought there, which Don Hamann thinks was during the 1940s. Another big thing was when the farm home eventually had running water.
Don Hamann, looking back on the farming on the century farm, said he wouldn’t have farmed if he hadn’t enjoyed it.
“I liked cows and pigs, but I didn’t like chickens,” he said. “They were too dusty.”
Shirley Hamann said that reviewing the history of the Hamann century farm has brought back a lot of memories.
“It was a good place to raise children,” she said.