Buildings gone, but memories remain on Round Lake farmROUND LAKE — Hans Bunning may have been the first owner of what is now a century farm, but initially he owned it only for three days.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
ROUND LAKE — Hans Bunning may have been the first owner of what is now a century farm, but initially he owned it only for three days.
“Then Charles Bunning owned it. Mom has a cousin that still lives in Lakefield, so when I was doing this, I called her to see if she knew (the history),” said Marlis Ling, who is the current owner of the farm. “She said Charles Bunning was (Hans’) uncle and a single man and he frequently helped the family out financially if someone needed help. My guess is, and this is just a guess, my grandfather maybe decided he couldn’t afford it and the uncle helped him out until he could. Then grandpa bought it back again.”
Hans bought the farm in 1911, then Charles owned it for 21 months.
“I don’t know, but to me, that makes sense if that’s what he did, the uncle borrowed money to help people out. (Hans) probably transferred it to him,” Ling said. “Because it’s my grandpa’s uncle, it’s still in the family so it’s a century farm.”
Hans bought the farm back in 1916 and owned it for 33 years.
“After (Hans) died, it was in my grandma’s name and her kids,” said Ling. “There would have been three daughters and a son, my mom being one of the daughters. Then my uncle bought it from the estate and he had it 39 years.”
Since the Bunnings bought the farm in 1911, the nearly 80 acres has remained in the family for 100 years.
But their history with the land in rural Round Lake goes even further back.
“I talked to my brother, David Stofferahn, and he does a lot of family history,” Ling said. “He said the family has lived on that farm since 1904. Evidently they did not own it. I have the abstract and the first Bunning I found was my grandfather.”
Ling bought the farm in 1986 and has been the owner since.
“It was up for auction and we went to it,” Ling said. “I think, the neighbors, seeing that I was bidding on it, kind of backed off. I know one neighbor offered the estate more than I paid for it before the auction.
“We were farming at the time. We just wanted it.”
The land is actually 78.32 acres.
“It’s a pretty place,” Ling said. “It’s right on Illinois Lake. It’s kind of like somebody took a bite out of one side of it. That’s where the lake is and the rest is rectangular.”
The lake has a few feet of water in it these days, but it wasn’t always so.
“My husband says he remembers when he was in high school, the lake would dry up and my uncle LeRoy would plant crops in the lake because it was that dry,” Ling said.
Marlis and her husband, Gary, have two daughters. Lisa McClure lives in Minneapolis, while Pam Wendland and her husband, Brad, farm the land.
There isn’t any sort of marker on the land to designate it as a century farm yet, but Marlis has some ideas in the works.
“We don’t have anything out there yet, but we’re going to put something out to mark it as a century farm,” she said. “I got something from the state fair; it’s just a little metal sign that says it’s a century farm. But we’re going to put a rock out or something out.”
There aren’t any buildings on the land, but Marlis and her family have memories of the old homestead.
“My brother said there was a little house on that farm and then when my mom was a child, they built a big house,” she said. “I don’t have any pictures of it, but it was a typical big, square farm house with a screened porch on the front. My sister, Dianne Zylstra, and I ... don’t remember a bathroom. Evidently there was no bathroom in the house. There was electricity and then the water, you pumped it in the kitchen sink.”
That house was burned down years ago.
“First of all, I wish I would have preserved the family home,” Marlis said. “The Round Lake Fire Department burned it down for us one time as a practice for them. But I wish I would have saved it. It was probably structurally sound, but it would have had to be plumbed for water and it probably wasn’t insulated. It probably would have been a total remodel. At the time, both of our girls were in college, we weren’t thinking about saving a home for them and we had this home already. We didn’t want to rent it out. It seemed like it was easier not to keep it. But I wish we had.
“It had four bedrooms upstairs, one of them was small enough it could have been made into a bathroom. The downstairs had a parlor, a dining room, a kitchen and a pantry and that pantry could have been made into a bathroom. It was do-able. We just didn’t.”
Marlis has her share of fond memories from the farm and the fun she had there.
“I remember my older sister and I, Diane, she’s a year-and-a-half older than I, we stayed there one time,” she said. “My grandma was probably not thrilled with us staying there. She wanted to teach us to crochet, that was her idea of nice girls. Our idea ... was to take turns sitting in the dish pan (found in a junk pile) and sliding down the slope into the lake. That was our idea.”
What Marlis does have, however, is a rose bush, which was first started on the Bunning farm. Her cousin, Stanley Bastman, saved the bush and has given parts away to pass along a piece of history.
An avid gardener, Marlis proudly grows the bush with the hopes of passing it along to her family as well.
“I do have a rose bush out here that was my grandpa’s from the farm,” she said. “It’s a climbing rose called ‘Seven Sisters.’ I didn’t save it, but my cousin did and he called me one time and said, ‘I’ve got grandpa’s rose bush if you want a start of it.’
“I don’t know how many he’s given it to, but last summer I started it because it finally got going good and I gave it to my one sister and two of my brothers. I have two more started now and I’m going to give it to my two daughters this year. Another brother that I’d like to give it to is in the process of moving from Wisconsin to Michigan, so I’m waiting for him.”
The Bunnings are originally from Germany and came to the United States in 1884, settling in Iowa.
In 1900, the family migrated to the Round Lake area, where they have been ever since.
Marlis’ family is big into the family history, with her brother tracing ancestors back into the 1500s. Now, she’s doing the same for her daughters.
“I make copies for both my daughters of photo albums,” she said. “They are each getting a rose. Our family has always been close, so we go to the family reunions, so they know it through that.”
But through all the history and the evolution of the farm, owning a century farm is still a proud moment for Marlis.
“I’m just proud of the fact,” she said. “In fact, when we bought it, we bought it only in my name because we knew it could be a century farm some day.”