McLouth couple receive 100-year farm award
John Sanders' grandfather, Henry Kimmel, was one of McLouth's earliest settlers.
Sanders referred to a local landmark, a granite boulder that divides traffic in the middle of Mclouth's Granite Street, to explain how undeveloped the land was when his grandparents settled in McLouth.
"The story is that Henry Kimmel would get up on top of that rock and you could see the whole country and he'd count his cattle from that rock," Sanders said.
In fact, Sanders said, from his perch on the granite boulder -- before houses and trees went up in town -- his grandfather could see all the way to Oskaloosa.
John and Zelma Sanders were honored Thursday as Jefferson County's Farm Bureau Century Farmers.
To qualify, the honorees must be members of Kansas Farm Bureau, the land must have been in the same family for 100 years and honorees still must own at least 80 acres of the original land. And the present owner must be related to the original owner.
In this instance, the land has been in John Sanders' family since 1881.
Henry Kimmel and his wife, Lydia, were Sanders' grandparents. Henry had originally moved with his parents to Kansas in 1864, settling in Oskaloosa.
And Sanders, born in 1924 to Clarence and Anna Kimmel Sanders, has lived on the farm all his life.
In 1948, Sanders brought his bride, Zelma Tarr Sanders, to live on the property.
The couple visited Friday afternoon in the comfort of their living room, which is an original part of the house built in 1883 by Sanders' grandfather.
Zelma Sanders smiled as she reminisced about their wedding day.
Busy on Sunday
It was 57 years ago Tuesday, in the midst of summer farming. She and John had an outdoor wedding at John Bower's house, north of McLouth.
They were married on a Monday.
"That's because we were putting up hay on Sunday," John Sanders said, chuckling as he leaned back in his rocking chair.
The couple raised four daughters on the family farm, living most of those years in the house in which they live today. Their daughters are, Beverly Muzzy, McLouth; Ronda MowBray, Kansas City, Mo.; Lois Uihlein, Lawrence; and Glenna Kaup, Topeka.
The Sanders farmed until about 1997 when they sold most of their machinery. But they still own 450 acres of ground that's been in their family for more than 100 years. And, they own the original 160 acres, as well. Sanders said his grandfather paid about $45 an acre for the first 160 acres.
John Sanders remembers when McLouth had not one, but two railroads traveling through.
His ancestors came to the area by train. It was possible to board a train to go shopping in Topeka or Leavenworth.
In fact, during a spring blizzard in the late 1800s, his grandmother was stranded overnight on the train as she returned from a trip to Leavenworth.
"She went to leave on the train, it got in a big snowstorm and she couldn't get back home," Sanders said.
And he remembers the last train that chugged on the tracks in view of his house.
"We were out in the yard there, and my dad said that's the last time you'll ever see it and it was the last time the Leavenworth and Topeka went through here," Sanders said, noting he had been a young boy at the time.
That's when what residents today know as Kansas Highway 16 was still a gravel road, Sanders said.
But he said a gravel road would have been a modern convenience to his grandparents, who arrived here long before the automobile.
In fact, his grandfather farmed with horses, and kept at least 24 work horses in the barn. Henry Kimmel was good at what he did, Sanders said.
"He was the corn king of Jefferson County for years," Sanders said. "He would raise more corn than anybody else."
Sanders recalled hearing that in 1890, his grandfather harvested 22,000 bushels of corn. Kimmel also raised oats to feed to his horses, and wheat.
John and Zelma met at a Halloween party at school. Zelma walked four miles to get to school, while Sanders had a shorter jaunt of only one mile.
Though the couple has been happy living on the farm, they're ready to make a change.
This year, during the family's annual Father's Day dinner, the couple made an announcement.
"We're in the process of having a house built in town and we're going to have to sell this," Zelma Sanders said. "It's just too much work, we're tired."
The couple plan to sell their farmhouse, the surrounding buildings and 20 acres.
Though they said they're looking forward to having a much smaller house and lawn to tend to, the move won't be without regrets, Zelma said.
Zelma said they will miss the old farmhouse, as well as a pond and picnic area out back -- the gathering spot for countless family get-togethers.
"I think the tears are going to flow," Zelma said.
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