Vollrath, Henry Century Farm
Contact: Allan Wessel
----Source: Received from Mrs. Lorraine Allchin, California.
Farm In the Vollrath Family for 100 Years Passes into Hands of Illinois Couple.
When the Henry Vollraths of Greenwood sold their farm in the West Side community, three miles west of Greenwood, recently, it marked the end of a century of Vollrath family ownership of the property. It was one of but a handful of Clark County farms remaining in the family for 100 years or more.
The original 80, which formed the basis of the 240-acre farm which has been purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Zocher of Westchester, Ill., was purchased in the summer of 1868 by John Vollrath and his son, Philipp. Before them the 80 was owned by a V. Vanderhoff, a name which has disappeared from Clark County.
Records which Mr. and Mrs. Vollrath have retained told an interesting story of the early days in Clark County. For instance, the Vollraths had purchased the original 80 acres for $5 per acre, which would make an original outlay of $400.
Taxes were something to make a person today bugeyed. In 1868 taxes paid totaled $4.08; in 1869, $7.97; in 1870, $4.96; and in 1871 they were down to $3.36, according to tax receipts in the Vollrath hands. But listen to this; the receipts stated that these were the taxes on real estate and personal property for "state, county, town school, school district and highway" purposes!
Compare those figures with taxes on an 80 today and it makes one wonder whether he couldn't put up with just a few less "services" of government.
An insurance paper also conveys the fact that horses in those early days were among the most valuable of a farmer's possessions.
This paper lists the valuation of that day on a "block house" at $40; frame granary, $50; log barn, $120; and a team of horses at $200.
No doubt, too, these were a matched team, for people of that day prized matched teams even more highly than today's residents prize a beautiful home or a powerful car.
In fact, Mr. Vollrath tells about the time this same team of horses valued at $200 either "strayed or were lured away" from the Vollrath Farm. Philipp Vollrath, Henry's Father, set out on foot to trace them. He tracked them as far as Wisconsin Rapids; but his money gave out and he had to return home.
"He never did find them, or find where they were taken", Mr. Vollrath related.
John Vollrath came to Greenwood from Sheboygan, where the family located for a short time after leaving their German homeland. With hem were two others whose names are numbered among the pioneers of Clark County: Henry Decker and Henry Schwarze. The first part of the trip from Sheboygan was made by train, to Humbird. From there they made their way by wagon and either oxen or horses, probably the former for horses were scarce in these parts a century ago, Mr. Vollrath suggests.
A 50 year history of the West Side church traces the movement of these three families into the Greenwood area, and tells how they arrived on Jun 1, 1868. All three lived together in a "little block house" on the Vollrath farm property. In the first year they planted potatoes among the large trees which covered the 80-acre tract, and harvested a fairly handsome crop for winter.
In those days, the West Side church book related, there were only paths through the woods to Greenwood, and this community consisted only of a store, a sawmill and "a few houses".
Living a typical frontier life, the Vollraths, Deckers and Schwarzes had to clear land before they could start farming. Henry Vollrath recalls his father, Philipp, telling how he clared land by hand. It took about a week to clear an acre, as Henry recalls his father's word; and his father frequently went out and cleared land for others for "a couple of dollars an acre." This outside work at that time was practically the only source of ready cash for the Vollraths.
"Of course," Henry smiles, "they didn't clear an acre a week, either."
The Henry Vollrath family made their home on the farm until 11 years ago. Then they built a house in Greenwood and left the place on which Henry had been born and on which he had lived without interuption for 65 years. They torned the farm over to a son, Dale, who was called into the service in 1952.
In those years Henry rented out patches of the farm to neighbors, ran some beef stock on some, and took care of maintenance work. He thought was to preserve the farm for Dale, whom he thought would take up farming again. But, the pure fact was that Dale had stayed with the farm principally because he didn't know how his parents would make out without someone there; not because he wanted to farm.
His period in the army, however, proved that the "old folks" could get along without him, and Dale turned to an education which had always been his real desire. He became a teacher and presently teaches in Green Bay East high school. His younger brother, incidentally, also is a teacher and teaches in Green Bay, as well -- but on the west side. It was a coincidence that last year Dale served as president of the east side Teachers association, and the younger brother, Larry, was president of the west side Teachers association.
The Vollraths have a third son, Vern who is employed in Janesville.
Throughout the last 11 years during which the Vollraths have continued in ownership, the farm buildings have been vacant. The Vollraths have lived in their house in Greenwood, and Mr. Vollrath made daily trips (sometimes more frequently) to the farm to inspect and take care of matters requiring attention there.
The new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Zocher, plan to retain their residence in Westchester, Ill., for another four or five years; but they plan to visit the farm on weekends and during vacation periods, when they will remodel and make the buildings ready for permanent occupancy.
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