Mann farm filled with history
LUVERNE — In just a few days, the Mann family of rural Luverne will celebrate the second wedding ceremony on their farm in the span of 70 years and three generations.
The first was on June 11, 1944, when Eva Lu Mann married Melvin Hemme, and the second will be on Saturday, when Eva Lu’s great-nephew, Derek Mann, will wed Skyler Kruger.
This time around, the farm wedding will have an extra special meaning. It was recognized this spring as being a Minnesota Century Farm.
The 168-acre parcel in Luverne Township, just south of the city of Luverne, was purchased on March 26, 1910 by Eva Lu’s grandfather, Wilhelm Mann. He bought the land from Thadeus and Jennie Grout for $15,120.
Wilhelm, born in Mecklenburg, Germany, emigrated to the United States in 1884 and settled in Plymouth County later that spring. Two years later, he and Louise Ahrendt were married.
The couple raised five sons in northwest Iowa, but chose Rock County in far southwest Minnesota to purchase five farms — one for each of the boys. It isn’t known why Rock County was chosen — perhaps it was because land was still available there, or maybe because Wilhelm’s sister had settled in Mound Township, Rock County, in February 1892.
Whatever the reason, Wilhelm and Louise purchased the five quarter sections — one just south of Luverne and the other four on the north side of town — as a way to get their sons established in farming.
“They were young men when they came here,” said Eva Lu Mann Hemme of her dad, Albert, and four uncles. Albert was the oldest of the five boys. At age 92, Eva Lu is the last surviving descendant of the immediate Albert Mann family.
“This was a bare quarter, so they built all this up when they got married,” she said of the farm south of Luverne, adding that her parents inherited their quarter section in 1912.
“Albert Mann married Hilda Wulf,” Eva Lu said. “There was always a joke that a wolf married a man — they never did get over that!”
Albert and Hilda quickly began construction on their farm site — the house is believed to have been completed in 1915, and the barn around that time as well. Both buildings are still in use today, along with a summer kitchen that later generations turned into a garage.
Today, Eva Lu’s nephew, Jerold Mann, and his wife, Patricia, reside on the farm.
“It was a quarter, but then the city purchased 17.3 acres for runway expansion,” said Jerold. “They had to buy it for flight clearance for the length of the runway, but … we have a contract with the airport to continue farming it.”
While the size of the farm may have been altered slightly, many of the original buildings remain. The latest generations of Manns to call the farm home have done some remodeling work to the home and are in the process of constructing a double, attached garage on the home’s west side for easier access. Jerold, the great-grandson of Wilhelm Mann, purchased the farmsite in 2000. The farmland is part of Mann Estates LLC, held by Jerold and his siblings, Gary, Gail, Judy and JoAnne.
The purchase allowed his son to move onto their already established farm, and for Jerold and Patricia to keep the farm south of Luverne in the Mann family name.
“Dad had tears,” said Jerold, adding that his father, George, wanted the farm to remain in the family.
“That’s why I think this is so special,” said Eva Lu. “It could go on for 104 years from father to son.”
“Farming has always been in my blood, and I still can’t forget — Dad will be gone nine years this September — he always said he would love to live to see this farm become a century farm, and he didn’t make it,” said Jerold.
“I guess that’s why I pushed it so hard,” added Eva Lu. She was the one to compile the family history and — with help from Jerold’s brother, Gary — complete the application for Century Farm recognition.
Generation to generation
Albert Mann and his brothers were cattle growers, raising Hereford cattle — a tradition that continued for nearly 80 years.
Eva Lu has pictures of cattle shows in which she and her cousins competed against each other — as 4-H’ers at the Rock County Fair and Minnesota State Fair, to Ak-Sar-Ben and the South St. Paul Junior Livestock Show, among others.
“As cousins, we were terrifically close because we all did this — we all had our separate herds,” she said.
While her family raised cow-calf pairs, some of her uncles and cousins bought from them.
“The cattle we showed were all raised by us, and the steers I showed were all from the same mother because I knew hers were good,” she added with a laugh. Her last year in 4-H, she showed the third-best steer at Ak-Sar-Ben.
“I’ve got boxes of ribbons,” Eva Lu said. “We did real well and learned the value and cost of doing business. We all worked hard on the farm.
“Things were not always easy, but we were never without the necessities,” she added.
Eva Lu has handwritten memories in a scrapbook about growing up on the farm and raising Hereford cattle. She said her dad raised, finished and sold at least a railcar load of cattle to Chicago every year. Every spring and fall, there was a cattle drive to take their stock to a summer pasture 11 miles north of Luverne.
The drive generally included 70 to 80 head of cattle, herded on horseback.
“We had a Welsh pony — those were cattle ponies,” Eva Lu recalled. “They could cut out one cow from the herd in short order. All you did was hang on!
“We raised a couple of colts — they were sold to cousins that helped with the drive,” she added.
Twice a week, Eva Lu’s dad, Albert, would make the trek to the summer pasture to check the herd.
“He could walk in and know if one was missing,” she added.
In the fall, the cattle would be led back home.
“We had a couple cows we kept as they knew their way and could help lead the herd,” Eva Lu said.
While Albert and the kids tended to the cattle, Eva Lu’s mom was a volunteer 4-H leader, kept a garden and raised chickens.
“She did a lot of canning. She sold eggs, chickens and butter — we churned our own butter and sold every week to people in town,” Eva Lu said.
Eva Lu loved to work outside with the cattle and everything else required to keep the farm going. She was the youngest of four children born to Albert and Hilda. Her older siblings included Irene, George and Alice.
“Us kids were all born on the farm here,” she said.
As the only son, George took over ownership of the farm from Albert and Hilda, effective April 9, 1940.
“Dad sold all of his stock cows and pretty near all of his livestock to help buy this,” said Jerold, the youngest son of George.
He and his siblings grew up on the Mann farm and, one by one, moved away.
“I graduated in 1969 and started farming on another farm in 1976,” said Jerold. “I think that was the last year my dad fed cattle here.”
The cattle were sold at a time of great changes in the beef industry and the cattle business.
George’s herd was no longer “big enough” to compete.
“He didn’t want to go out on a limb to expand, because he sacrificed to get this and he didn’t want to lose it all,” Jerold said.
Today, there is no livestock on the Mann farm. The barn stands empty, though the original stanchions from years of milking cows and the original horse stalls remain. Jerold plans to remodel the barn next summer by removing the loft and making the space usable to store machinery.
While farming has been a way of life for the Mann family, faith has also helped get them through the years.
“My grandfather (Wilhelm) was one of the organizers of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Luverne,” Eva Lu said. “All of us were baptized, confirmed and married in this church. It was an important part of our upbringing. God has been good to us.
“Not many have the privilege to be part of 100 years of history,” she added. “A farm is part of God’s earth for us to take care of and produce for the good. I am glad I could live to be part of it.”
As for the future of the Mann family farm, Jerold said it will probably continue on in the family.
“I’ve got sons and grandsons that are interested in taking it over,” he said. “My boys would just love to take it over.”
Out of all five of the farms Wilhelm purchased for his sons, the farm south of Luverne was the only one to remain in the Mann family for 100 consecutive years.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.