A century on Lake Okabena’s shoreWORTHINGTON — The Vogt farm is rather well-known in Worthington simply because of its location within the city limits, directly across the street from Lake Okabena, and now brothers Walter and Norman are celebrating the fact that the land has been in their family for more than 100 years.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Vogt farm is rather well-known in Worthington simply because of its location within the city limits, directly across the street from Lake Okabena, and now brothers Walter and Norman are celebrating the fact that the land has been in their family for more than 100 years.
It was their great-grandparents, Fritz and Carolina Vogt, who moved to Worthington from their home in Charter Oak, Iowa, after purchasing the 177-acre parcel on March 1, 1911.
According to a story published in the Daily Globe in the 1990s, Fritz and Carolina purchased the farm for $20,000 from Charles and Mary Foelschow. Fritz was a native of Horst, Pomern, Germany, and married Caroline Wiegel at Reinberg, Germany. In 1883, they and their two-year-old son Max crossed to the United States and journeyed to Crawford County, Iowa.
It was said that after such a long period crossing the ocean, young Max had to relearn how to walk.
“They spent 20-some years in Crawford County, Iowa,” said Walt, as Norman chimed in that they had good friends in the Kunze family, who were already farming in the Worthington area.
It was the Kunzes who told the Vogts of the farmland offered for sale on the lake, with a house large enough for two families.
No one seems to know when the two-story, 10-room home was built, but it’s safe to say it is the oldest building still standing on the Vogt Century Farm.
“At one time, there were four families living in the house,” said Norman.
Making the trek from Iowa to Minnesota in early 1911 were Fritz and Carolina, their only son and daughter-in-law, Max and Ida Vogt, and two-year-old grandson, Walter.
The young couple, married in October 1908, would experience both joy and tragedy in their first year and a half in Worthington. They welcomed a second son, Carl, to the family, and then, in Septemer 1912, young Walter drowned in Lake Okabena.
“He had whooping cough and they think maybe he had a coughing spell and fell in,” said Norman. Another possibility is that the family dog may have accidently knocked Walter off the dock and into the water.
In the coming years, Max and Ida would expand their family to include Leona, Arnold and Frieda, and the six of them continued to share their home with Fritz and Carolina.
The elder Vogts owned the farm for 21 years before selling it to Max, although they were essentially retired when they moved to Worthington.
Following Max’s death in 1944, brothers Carl and Arnold took over the operation, farming in partnership for a while until Carl purchased the farm in the 1960s.
Carl, who had married Leona Ullerich of Charter Oak, Iowa, in 1944, lived on the home place, sharing the house with Carl’s mom and sister Frieda. Ida and Frieda lived upstairs, with Carl and Leona on the main level. The couple added sons Walt, now 67, and Norman, 66.
Though the brothers are just 14 months apart in age, they didn’t admit to being devious or getting into trouble on the farm — there was no time for horseplay.
“I remember stacking hay up in the hay mow when it was 150 degrees up there,” said Norman. “We went swimming (in Lake Okabena) just about every night.”
Norman said when they were kids his dad still farmed some with a team of horses.
“At one time, they had six or seven teams of horses,” he said. “Dolly and Daisy were there when we were kids.”
One of the first tractors the brothers remember having on the farm was an F20 International with steel wheels. It was purchased just before World War II.
“My dad bought an M Farmall in 1949 that I still have,” said Walt.
The brothers grew up surrounded by livestock and no lack of chores.
“Dad always said if you wanted exercise after school, there’s the shovel and there’s the manure spreader,” Norman shared. “It was do chores, go to school, chop wood for the wood stove, pick the eggs, feed the chickens, feed the calves.”
Dairy cows had been raised and milked on the Vogt farm from the time Walt and Norman’s great-grandparents settled there, until about 10 years ago, when Walt decided to sell the herd.
“I never minded milking cows. I enjoyed it,” said Walt.
“That was my least favorite chore,” piped in Norman. “They wouldn’t kick Walt, but they would kick me.”
Today, the livestock barns are quiet on the Vogt farm. The fences have been removed from the cattle pens, the hog house stands empty and there are no roosters to crow in the morning to wake up the city-dwelling neighbors.
“It’s changed a lot in 100 years,” said Norman. “When we were kids, there was nothing around here.”
Walt dropped out of school at age 16 to work on the farm, essentially taking over the milking operation from his dad. The two farmed together until 1975.
Norman finished high school and then spent four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He was stationed in Japan for two years doing casualty staging. After returning home, he attended college for two years and then joined Walt in a farming partnership. They worked together for about a decade, and then the farm crisis of the 1980s hit. In 1987, Walt took over the operation entirely, although the two share ownership in the farm today.
Little has changed in terms of buildings on the farm site. In addition to the home, the granary built in 1917 by Max Vogt still stands, as does the barn that was built in 1925, the chicken house and the hog house. All have weathered over the years, just as the four generations of owners.
“I’m sure during the 1930s it was tough,” said Walt.
“But they always had something to eat,” added Norman.
The four generations of the Vogt family have managed to make a living off the land for more than 100 years, always maintaining that original 177-acre parcel.
It’s slightly less now, thanks to Nobles County 10, which was built through the Vogt farm in 1971. The road project meant the Vogts had to cross the highway in order to farm the largest share of their land. Their property east of Nobles County 10, 14.9 acres, is considered in city limits, with the land west of the road outside city limits.
They will lose a bit more land in the next year, when Nobles County constructs a walking path along the east side of Nobles County 10.
As for the future of the Vogt farm, the brothers aren’t sure what will happen. They lost their mother in July 2010, and since neither of them had children, there are no heirs.
“What’s going to happen when we’re gone, I really don’t know,” said Norman.