Saturday, March 4th, 2017
Family has deep roots on farm
Holdheides' connection to land dates back to 1837
By Sydney Albert
Doug Holdheide, left, and his father, Leonard, hold aerial photos of their Maria. . .
MARIA STEIN - Leonard Holdheide lived in the same house at the end of Hartings Road in Maria Stein for 71 years.
He was born in a room on the ground floor, and grew up working the surrounding farmland. When the time came, he raised his family in the same house and taught his children to work in the same fields.
Now, he has said goodbye to his old home and has moved to a different property just down the road - the time has come to pass the keys to the next generation. Leonard's son, Doug, will be the fifth generation Holdheide to own the farm, continuing a family legacy that has lasted for almost two centuries.
According to the father and son, the property was the original Holdheide family homestead when they came over from Germany in 1837, and it's been in their name ever since. March 16 will mark the 180-year anniversary of the family's ownership.
Sitting at the dining table in his new home, Leonard Holdheide pulled out an old family photo album and a file of legal papers that document the passing of the farm from father to son over the years, all the way back to the original sheepskin deed for the land signed by the eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren. The patriarch noted a lot of old family farms still operate in Mercer County, but he wasn't sure how many were still family-owned or had the original deed.
From the papers, Doug Holdheide pulled one contract aside, reading some of the conditions of the document: for $1, a son received two rooms in the farmhouse, but he also had to pay for good clothes, the doctor and nursing bills and funeral expenses of his parents.
"Part of the contract was taking care of parents in their final days," Leonard Holdheide noted.
Changes around the farm have been made as the years have gone by. Leonard Holdheide said from 1945-1955, everything on the farm was remodeled, including the house. The brick exterior of the current structure was built in 1889, and the kitchen and garage extensions were added on in 1953.
The house will change again to fit its new owner. Doug Holdheide plans to remodel the kitchen and is removing wallpaper in other parts of the house, wanting to modernize before he moves in his family.
Historically a grain farm, the family also started a hog operation eight years ago, Doug Holdheide said. M.S. Welding, which manufactures livestock gating, among other items, is also owned by the family and operates on the property. Some land is also rented out for raising steers, he added.
Doug Holdheide is a part-time farmer, taking care of the family businesses on top of working his job at Huelsman Automotive in Chickasaw.
"Sometimes it can be pretty overwhelming," he said.
Leonard Holdheide said he still tries to help sometimes, but he can't do as much as he once did. Doug's wife, Janice, lends a hand when she can - especially when they have "cute" little piglets on the farm, Doug Holdheide said with a chuckle.
His father said technology has made certain jobs much easier, but farming is still hard work.
"It's not all enjoyment, but some parts of the job are fun," he said.
Another change Leonard Holdheide has noticed over the years is the emphasis on sports in the area that has changed the dynamic of farm families.
"Sports was not as big of an issue back when I was a kid as what it is today," he said.
Though he and his brothers were involved in some extracurricular activities, Leonard Holdheide said his parents weren't nearly as involved as today's parents are. During his childhood, it was expected that when you came home from school you would help out on the farm.
"Now kids [are] involved in sports, band, extracurricular activities, take that time after school on top of homework," he said. "Kids want to be in bed at 10 p.m. because they have to go school in the morning."
Though Doug Holdheide's children are too young to understand what it means to live on a farm, their grandfather thinks they'll like it as they get older.
"I think it was a very good place to raise a family," Leonard Holdheide said, glancing over at his son. "They're all good kids."