Alpha farm in Ambrose family since 1893
ALPHA -- The Ambrose farm has been in the family for 120 years. The land, originally owned by G.A. Albertus and Geo. R. Moore, was purchased by John Ambrose in 1893 for the sum of $12 an acre -- $1,920 for the 160 acres. The Ambrose family's roots are in Czechoslovakia, although not much more is known about their heritage.
Two years later, in 1895, John Ambrose sold the parcel to his brother, Frank Ambrose Sr., who owned the land for 26 years. Frank Sr. and his wife, Josephine (Josefa), had a farm auction in 1913. A sale bill lists 11 horses, 24 cattle, nine sheep, 33 hogs and farm machinery.
In 1921, Frank Sr. and Josephine turned the property over to Frank Jr. and his wife, Carrie, who owned it for 27 years. Frank Jr. was a World War I veteran, and they had three children: Charles, Edward and Blanche. During the 27 years that Frank Jr. farmed the land, he kept a detailed record book with the year's inventory of livestock at the beginning and end of the year, depreciation of the machinery, expenses and income. The book has notes about the market prices, the year's weather, the crop outcome, addition of different machinery and buildings, family events and even when the "Revenue Man" showed up.
Frank built the barn in 1925 for a cost of $1,735.90, and a corn crib and silo were added two years later.
As a child, Charles remembers having to help with chores each day, driving the horses when it was time to help with baling and picking some corn by hand. Charles and his brother, Ed, loved playing in the grove. They made roads, dug trenches and buried tubes as if they were tiling. Charles still remembers going with his dad and brother just north of Alpha to watch the road being paved with concrete for State Highway 16. They had never seen the process before.
A big event for the family was going to the neighbors for barn dances. Frank Jr. always played the accordion. They had a Model T Ford, but in the winter when the roads were not the best, they took the bobsled to town.
Carrie did a lot of baking, especially making kolaches -- a tradition that is continued today by some of her grandchildren.
In November 1948, Frank Jr. and Carrie moved to Jackson, and the farm was passed to Charles. In February 1949, he married Janet Wrase, and they had four children: Linda Vogt, Okabena; Lois Lucht, Belmond, Iowa; Sharon Carter, Milford, Iowa; and Gary Ambrose, Lake Benton.
Charles grew corn, hay and soybeans and raised cattle and sheep. Later, when Gary got involved with 4-H, they had hogs. Janet raised a lot of chickens and ducks.
Like most farm families of the era, the Ambroses grew much of their own food. Janet had a huge garden and did a lot of canning of fruits and vegetables, and she also did a lot of baking.
The family attended Trinity Lutheran Church in Alpha and was involved in many of the church functions. Sunday evenings were spent visiting relatives or neighbors.
"Every year when it was time to fill silo, the neighbors helped each other," recalled the Ambrose siblings in some written memories. "All the women and children also went along. There would be morning lunches, huge dinners and afternoon lunch, and then everyone went home before supper since everyone had chores to do. The neighborhood ladies celebrated their birthdays by spending the afternoon together. Of course, the kids went along to play with the neighborhood kids. Some other special events were attending the Jackson County Fair, going to Alpha for town night and going fishing."
In the fall of 1981, Charles and Janet moved to Jackson, although Charles continued to farm for a couple more years. The land is now rented and farmed by an Ambrose grandson, Travis Carter. Janet and Charles were blessed with 11 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Although the property has long been eligible for the Century Farm designation, the family didn't consider it until this year.
"Since we filled out the application, our mom passed away on April 27 at Colonial Manor in Lakefield," noted the Ambrose siblings. "Dad moved in April 2012 to Valley View Assisted Living. Dad is a World War II veteran. We were all so pleased that he was able to go on the first Honor Flight from southwest Minnesota to Washington, D.C. What an honor for veterans."