Obermoller acres in family for 103 years

BREWSTER -- When Peter and Sophia Obermoller moved northeast from Hooper, Neb., in 1911 and bought a 128-acre farmstead in Ewington Township south of Brewster, it's unlikely they could have foreseen their grandson and great-grandson still enjoyin...

Alvin Obermoller
Alvin Obermoller stands with his dog on the farm that has been in his family for more than a century. (Jane Turpin Moore/Daily Globe)

BREWSTER - When Peter and Sophia Obermoller moved northeast from Hooper, Neb., in 1911 and bought a 128-acre farmstead in Ewington Township south of Brewster, it’s unlikely they could have foreseen their grandson and great-grandson still enjoying the land in 2014.

But that’s exactly what Alvin Obermoller, 90, and his son, Ronald, continue to do today.

“I’ve owned this land since I was 25,” reported the sturdy, affable Obermoller. “I raised corn and soybeans, and we used to have a stock purebred Angus herd - in fact, this was once known as the Okabena Stock Farm, a name the previous owner Thomas Bly gave it.

“We really enjoyed the stock cows; my kids even made pets out of them,” Obermoller said. “And my grandpa had purebred hogs when he was here.”

Okabena Creek crosses Obermoller’s property, which he knew met the Century Farm standards a few years ago.


“It took me a little while to get all the stuff together, but I just applied this year,” related Obermoller. “I got it squared away.”

These days, Obermoller limits his farming to sweet corn, some pepper plants and rhubarb that he shares with neighbors, while son Ronald works the land and a nearby farm, too, but Obermoller appreciates the efforts of others who produce.

“I go to my children’s and get tomatoes, and the farmers’ market in Worthington is a good place to garden,” he joked.

Obermoller and his late wife, Lucille, put in their share of work over the years.

“She died seven years ago on Aug. 4, and we were married in 1943,” he recalled. “Lucille was from south of Worthington, and her brother was Lester Jensen.”

The multiple magenta peony bushes Lucille planted out front bloomed fully and fragrantly this month; Obermoller sadly reported her roses were the victims of the frigid 2014 winter.

“When the wife was alive, we had a camper and we’d go to Minnewaska every summer to fish,” he shared.

The Obermollers raised five children, though their son Robert was tragically killed in a car accident as a teenager. Their other children are James Obermoller (a Round Lake mail carrier), Ruby (Mrs. Doyle) Moore, Connie (Mrs. Merle) Janssen and Ronald (Karen) Obermoller.


There were some years when Obermoller, who was born on the farm in 1923, was not at the home place.

After Obermoller’s birth, his father, Louis, moved the family to Pipestone, where he worked until the mid-1930s for the government as the “farm boss for the Indian school,” according to Obermoller.

“But then, during the Depression, my father’s brothers, Gottlieb and George, were about to lose these farms, so he sold the 10 acres we had in Pipestone to get some money and that was enough to help them save the land,” Obermoller detailed about his family’s return to the Brewster area.

Obermoller’s memories of the Dust Bowl years of the ’30s remain vivid to this day.

“In Pipestone, we had chickens, and we got 10 cents a dozen for their eggs,” he noted. “That was big money, because we could buy a bushel of corn for 10 cents to feed our few chickens.

“And there were some dust storms that lasted three days, when we couldn’t leave the house much - and there was no indoor plumbing,” he laughed. “We’d cover our mouths to go out to the well for water and put a dish towel over the pail to carry it back in - the dust just came in all over.”

After graduating as Brewster High School valedictorian in 1941, Obermoller attended the University of Minnesota, studying agriculture and engineering, before joining the U.S. Navy during World War II.

“I was on an Assault Personnel Attack (APA) ship in the Pacific, and I saw just about every island from the southern Philippines to Okinawa,” he said, adding that he was part of the first Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., a few years ago.


“A Japanese suicide plane got close to us one time, but it missed us - made a big splash right alongside the ship,” he recalled.

“The Good Lord was with us.”

Obermoller is proud that one grandson, Lee Janssen, has followed in his footsteps, having logged 18 years in the Navy.

The hospitable Obermoller, who some might mistake for 70, is a master woodworker who employs a scroll saw to create three-dimensional objects (especially during the long winter months) such as bowls, crosses, recipe card holders, anchors and other hand-crafted items.

“I like to watch some sports, and I enjoy old-time music,” he revealed. “I have a button accordion (purchased in 1937) I play once in awhile yet.”

Obermoller also runs into town for implement parts when Ronald calls, and he continues to value the contributions farmers make both locally and nationally - whether or not they work on century f arms like his.

“When I was at the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture, they really instilled in me the importance of farming,” Obermoller emphasized. “I’m still a farmer.”

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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