Family celebrates 125 years of Fulda farm ownershipFULDA — Leonard and Margaret Gunderman must have been smiling down from their heavenly perches as more than 170 of their descendants gathered on Saturday at their ancestral farm three miles south of Fulda.
By: Jane Turpin Moore, Worthington Daily Globe
FULDA — Leonard and Margaret Gunderman must have been smiling down from their heavenly perches as more than 170 of their descendants gathered on Saturday at their ancestral farm three miles south of Fulda.
To celebrate the 125th year of keeping it “all in the family,” Glen and Kay Gunderman, who have carefully tended the homestead since 1962, hosted a family get-together of the magnitude few families ever enjoy.
“We had 200 people here for the farm’s centennial in 1986, but we’ve lost an older generation and thought maybe we’d only have about 70 this time,” mused Kay, who married into the Gunderman clan 49 years ago.
“But we had 171 here for dinner and more came later,” she said Saturday afternoon, as family members of various ages milled about the farm in the midst of the day’s well-planned activities. “It feels good they cared enough to come and are so appreciative of the work we did to make this happen.”
Leonard Gunderman was known as Leonhard Gundermann when he arrived from Kolmschneidbach, Bavaria, Germany, in 1886. His soon-to-be bride, Margaret Lober, also traveled to the Fulda area from Bavaria at that time.
It wasn’t long before Leonard purchased 167 acres of land (for $11 per acre) in northern Nobles County, married Margaret, and proceeded to father 15 children while tilling the near-virgin soil and serving as a civic and religious leader in the Fulda area.
“Leonard was a Christian man and one of the earliest members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church,” cited Kay Gunderman, whose family has maintained those church ties. Indeed, many Lutheran ministers, parish workers, parochial school teachers and missionaries are among their offspring to this day.
“Leonard did quite well in the ‘new world,’’’ she added.
For the farm’s quasquicentennial, relatives began arriving at the Gunderman property at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, promptly donning nametags and aqua blue T-shirts adorned with the motto “125 Years of Faith in America: 1886-2011” and the Gunderman family crest, which features three fish (representing Christian faith and the Holy Trinity), a German heritage symbol of fertility, grain (for agriculture) and an eagle (honoring the United States).
By 10:30 a.m., attendees were sharing in devotions led by the Rev. Vernon Gundermann, a grandson of Leonard and Margaret. Over a noon meal (catered by Brian’s Supper Club) consisting of roast beef, broasted chicken, hash browns, cabbage salad and corn, the family shared memories and caught up on each other’s lives while saluting the couple that got it all started.
Kay and Glen Gunderman, whose three children are Brenda (Gunderman) Hugo, Darin Gunderman and Elyse (Gunderman) Wilde, still live in the house first constructed by Leonard in the fall of 1886, though of course it has been expanded and improved over the decades.
“Leonard and Margaret lived and farmed here for 50 years, Glen’s parents did the same for over 25 years, and now Glen and I have been farming here for nearly 50 years,” listed Kay.
Several bushes of yellow roses, planted by Margaret herself, were in bloom on Saturday, and Kay said lilac bushes Margaret also planted are still outside a kitchen window — and a cottonwood tree that dates to the early 1900s is part of the property as well.
All 15 of Leonard and Margaret’s children were born in the neat gray farmhouse, though only 12 survived to become parents themselves. Descendants of eight Gunderman children from at least 12 different states were on hand to reminisce.
“Glen and his siblings Vern, Eileen and Pat were also all born in the house,” shared Kay, noting that all three of her children breathed their first breaths at the Worthington hospital.
The well-kept farmstead includes the 1905 barn (which was partly rebuilt after a 1915 tornado and received a new coat of steel siding about eight years ago — “easier to maintain,” explained Kay) and several red outbuildings, all trimmed in white.
“I absolutely loved growing up on the farm,” expressed Brenda Hugo. “You couldn’t ask for anything better. This is a farm family that loves the Lord and loves each other, and it’s a fantastic place that means a lot to me and my siblings.”
Hugo’s own three children delight in visiting the farm — and what kid wouldn’t, with a grandpa like Glen who founded the “Cow Pie Open” golf tournament in 1999 and who set up mini-golf, a horseshoe pit and bocce ball for the occasion, while board games were in readiness on the shaded porch and swings, a slide and a generous sandbox entertained energetic young bodies outside.
“They get to enjoy the blessings of the farm, but they do get put to work, too,” assured Hugo.
Among the work Glen might assign, however, is bottle-feeding one of the extremely rare triplet calves born there on April 2.
“In 50 years of farming, we never had that before,” marveled Kay, noting they currently have 16 cows and one bull on site at present.
Other committee members who helped with the year-long reunion planning process and details — such as a power point presentation, family “yearbooks” and 24 historic information signs placed around the farm — were Jan and Dennis Brech of Currie, Marcia and Kelly Groenewold of Northfield and Eileen Runia of Pipestone.
They also brainstormed the plan to have family members walk or ride on one of two hayracks in Fulda’s Wood Duck Parade Saturday night, an entry that proved to be a crowd favorite as their reunion day wound to its close.
“The people came, and that’s such a testament to the ancestors we honor here,” attested Groenewold. “We’re celebrating family — something people don’t do much anymore.”
Added Runia, “And faith — there are a lot of ministers here!”