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home : news : news February 6, 2016

9/5/2013 10:59:00 AM
Robinson farm has roots back to 1882

by Ken Haggerty

The Stanton Township farm of Harry and Betty Robinson is being recognized as a "Century Farm" this year, but it actually has roots back to 1882.

William J. and Eliza Robinson, Harry's grandparents, were farming the ground nestled among some hills east of Hwy. 56 and south of Hwy. 19 in Sections 27 and 34 of the Township off of 35th Avenue way back in the 19th century.

William T. and Martha Robinson, Harry's parents, took over half of that 240 acre farm in 1931. Martha, maiden name Smith, was from Wabasso, MN and had moved from Ireland when she was just two years old. Harry recalls stories of his father and one of the Goudy boys traveling 135 miles by bicycles on gravel roads to Wabasso to see Martha and a sister. The hill climbs out of the Minnesota River Valley by Henderson were especially memorable, as Harry remembers the story.

William T. and Martha Robinson raised five children on the farm. Harry was the youngest, born in 1923, and is the lone surviving child.

The oldest was William, who went on to be head boilermaker at the Milk Producer's plant in Farmington and later worked at Honeywell. Harry had three sisters, Luella (Burch), Elizabeth (Fox), and Martha (McKeag), who all stayed in the area. Harry says all three of his brothers-in-law (David McKeag, Charles Fox and Lawton Burch) were great guys and helped out on the farm over the years.

David was riding with Harry on his new tractor hauling a heavy load of grain one cold fall day when the tractor started to slip down a hill on a frosty patch. "He yelled at me to jump," recalls Harry, "But I told him I couldn't since the tractor wasn't paid for!" Harry escaped harm narrowly, flying off the tractor just before it did flip and the wagon behind it flipped as well.

Lawton Burch got Harry involved in baseball and he played for the old Stanton team, as well as Randolph and Cannon Falls before farming and family took up more of his time.

Harry attended Country School #166 through Grade 8 just over the hill at a site on 325th Street. He said there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood back then. Lilleskovs, Goudys and Frettems are a few he remembers tobogganing and skiing with on the hills around the farm. "I used to be able to do pretty good on one ski, handmade by my dad," says Harry.

Harry can remember Stanton as a town with two grocery stores, a bank, an elevator and an active train route.

Harry married Betty when she was just 18. She grew up a Drentlaw and lived on a farm between Northfield and Faribault. She said her dad slammed the door on most of the boys who came calling, but that he liked Harry. Harry says he was just quick enough to get his foot in the door before her dad slammed it shut. They met through a friend who worked at the Gustafson farm near the Robinsons.

Harry and Betty raised five children on the farm where Harry grew up: Betty Ann (Johnson) now of Northfield, Harry Lynn, Larry (who died in 2008), Marlene (Wilson) and Sharon (Stone). All have stayed close to home and Harry Lynn is set to take over the homeplace after Harry S. and Betty.

Harry S. used to milk a herd of about 30 Holsteins, but there is no livestock on the farm now. He ended up pulling the original 240 acre farm back together and they have added some land in the area. Harry, married since '44, can remember planting and plowing with horses, and getting indoor plumbing and electricity in the 50s. Growing up in the country was fun, says Harry. He recalls ordering a .22 through the mail for $9.45 and taking out two foxes on that same winter afternoon with pelts worth about $18.

Harry currently hires out planting and combining but he still likes to get out and mow the ditches and grass and keep up the farmstead. Son Harry and grandson Josh, who lives nearby, say they have to stop by the farm on these 90 degree days to make sure Harry and Betty aren't taking on too much work.

Betty, who worked for Kid Duds in Cannon Falls as a seamstress, floor supervisor and trainer for 37 years, still stays active at 88. Despite 95 degree temperatures, she was busy at the stove this August cooking up about 50 quarts of homemade "V-8." The multiple freezers in her garage are packed with vegetables and other foods she puts up. The rhubarb crisp she offered a visitor was to die for, as were the fresh picked apples from the small orchard.

Betty also keeps up a hillside rock garden with over 450 flowering plants. The rocks were from an old rock pit on the farm which used to supply gravel to the Township.

The house is new after a furnace fire led to the old house burning down in 1980, but a stone barn dates back over a 100 years, says Harry.

The State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau sponsor the Century Farm program to recognize family farms that have stayed in a family for over a hundred years.

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