Historical Society presents Century Farm Award
During a ceremony at the Stock Pavilion at the Lincoln County Fair on Friday, the Wilharms/Barkley family, owners of The Honeysuckle Lane Dairy Farm, received the Merrill Historical Society Century Farm Award. The certificate was presented by Bob Gruling, Century Farm Chairperson.
The Century Farm Program was begun during the Wisconsin Centennial celebration in 1948. Since that time, about 9,000 century farm families have been identified and honored throughout the state. This year, 156 families have received the century award and 27 families have received the 150 year award (Sesquicentennial) and are being honored at the State Fair this August. In Lincoln County, (since the early 1980s), about 52 families have been identified by the Merrill Historical Society.
In order to qualify for this award, the farm (in whole or part) must be in continuous family ownership for 100 years or more. Also, the title of the property must be held by a blood relative of the original owner, or legally adopted child of a descendant. Families qualifying for the award also receive a certificate from the state and are invited to a breakfast at the State Fair.
At the ceremony, the Wilharms/Barkley Family, with the help of a large display of photographs and documents, told the audience of about 40 friends, neighbors and relatives about the history of their farm. The following are some examples:
The first family farm owner, Henry Wilharms I came from northeastern Germany in 1865. According to family history, Henry, during his voyage to America, became acquainted with another passenger, Marshall Field. Little did he know how famous Mr. Field and his business would become. After his arrival in America, Henry first settled in Illinois prior to making his way to Central Wisconsin where land and farms could be purchased at a lower cost.
Henry Wilharms I purchased the farm located at N1028 Deer Run Ave. in the Town of Pine River, from C.S. Rusch and his wife, Louise, on Nov. 2, 1914 for $11,500. Fortunately, a frame barn and brick house had already been built on the property by the Rusch family.
Following Henry Wilharms’ death in 1917, the farm was passed on to his wife (Augusta) and their children. In 1922, the farm was passed on to Henry I’s two sons, Otto and Henry II. Since 1953, the farm has been in ownership by Henry Wilharms III and his family, Arlene, Donna (Wilharms) and Tim Barkley.
A few of the highlights from a timeline of events compiled by the family are as follows:
1915 – First milking machine with two claws, one bucket was run by a gas engine
1936 – Public Service brought electricity to the farm
1939 – Chicken and hog barn built
1941 – A 14’X30’ poured cement silo built by Arnold Pick
1950 – A 4-car garage built
1954 – First telephone was installed
1958 – Indoor plumbing installed
1961 – Built 50 foot addition to barn
1966 – Purchased six registered Holstein heifer calves (The beginning of their registered Holstein herd)
1967 – 18’x60’ cement silo built by Johnson Silo Company
1968 – Purchased bulk milk cooler, etc.
1970 – Farm officially named – “Honeysuckle Lane Farm”
1972 – 50’x136’ machine shed built by Burger
1979 – Menards 40’x90’ machine shed built
1983 – Constructed 40’ addition to the barn
2000 – Dairy herd is all Holsteins
2001 – 19’x62’ slurry store built
2014 – 136’x50’ machine shed goes down from excessive snow on the roof
A few interesting stories:
1919 – The granary wasn’t just built to hold grain. Dances were also held there. Otto Wilharms frequently provided dancing music with his concertina. Often times, attendees printed their initials on the wood boards lining the interior of the granary.
1961 – Twenty-one neighbors and five uncles came to help raise the 50 foot addition to the barn. Assorted family members also came to prepare and serve food.
At the time, there was a “wise guy” in the carpenter crew, so a few crew members pulled a prank and nailed his pants to the roof boards and then took down all the ladders. After the wise guy finally got all the nails out of his pants, some “kind person” put a ladder back up to the roof.
1966 – Henry Wilharms III and his wife Arlene travelled in their eight-passenger Pontiac station wagon to an auction near Fond du Lac with the intent of possibly buying some registered Holstein heifer calves. As it turned out, they bought six calves ranging in price from $55 – $90 and hauled them home in their eight-passenger station wagon. Cleaning the car the next day was utterly awful! However, in retrospect, it was a rewarding adventure in that their present dairy herd is entirely descended from three of the six calves purchased.
Today the family farm is operated by Arlene Wilharms, Donna and Tim Barkley and their two children – Amanda and Joe. Amanda is a pharmacy student and Joe works on the farm full time. They love farming and look forward to keeping Honeysuckle Lane a working farm for years to come. As a result of researching their family and farm history, they have also learned that “Knowledge of the past gives us a greater understanding and appreciation of ourselves and our lives today…..and perhaps helps us to learnwhy we are who we are.”