Tracing the history of Sarcoxie township
Local farmer traces back the history of her farm and the “forgotten township.”
by Dennis Sharkey
A Sarcoxie woman is turning her curiosity into a tangible collection of history.
Joy Lominska and her husband Bob, moved into their small farm in 1976 and have raised their family there.
Through the years they have farmed the land and still do so today with their son. In fact the farm has a greenhouse that allows the Lominskas to grow greens in the winter for themselves and to be sold at a farmer’s market in Lawrence.
But over the years Joy has always asked questions about the neighborhood and more specifically her farm.
Since 2006 Joy has been collecting information and pictures for a book that she is currently writing about not just her farm but the area around her farm in the southeast part of the county.
“I’ve always loved talking to older people,” she said. “History was always battles and generals and I wanted stories.
“What did you eat? How did you manage when it was 110 degrees outside? Who milked the cow? That’s what I wanted to know,” she added.
The Lominskas bought the 40 acre farm in 1976 and have added land since to bring the total to 69 acres. The original farm was 80 acres.
When the Lominskas bought the farm it had not been farmed for several years and was run down. The barn was collapsing and the fences were falling down.
“The house was pretty decrepit,” she said.
“It was 40 acres and a house for what would buy a garage in Lawrence now,” Joy added while laughing. “It turned out the house was sound.”
The Lominskas fixed the barn that is now used for processing vegetables and the house was restored and upgraded over the years. But the biggest change to the farm was that it was actually being used like it was when Otto Bruchmüller first settled there.
“It’s kind of full circle in a sense,” she said. “We’re doing what the first people did.”
The Lominskas grow a variety of vegetables but mostly tomatoes and Asian greens. This year the farm has produced a large amount of sweet potatoes.
Joy said that Bruchmüller grew a variety of different items but started with wheat and rye because that is what grew well in his native Germany. What he found was that neither crop did well.
“Everybody that came here was kind of new and many of them were immigrants,” she said. “They were all struggling to figure out what you could grow here.”
Like the Lominskas, Bruchmüller found that sweet potatoes grew well. A record book that Joy obtained from Bruchmüller’s granddaughter shows that he would grow two or three acres of sweet potatoes. The record book also shows that butter making was a way the Bruchmüllers earned a living. One particular date shows that 15 pounds of butter was sold that day.
Finding information about the first settlers of the area has proved to be easier than finding the owners of more modern times. Joy said much of her research prior to 1930 was done on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Web site. Before 1930 personal census information was a public record. Privacy laws have made it more difficult to find the owners prior to the Lominskas owning the farm.
The Bruchmüller family were the longest owners of the farm from 1868-1919.
The last time the farm was used as a farm was between 1946 and 1964 when the Wipprecht family owned the farm. Joy is still looking for information about the Wipprechts.
The next owners were Tex and Mabel Pullin. They bought the farm in 1964 and added modern amenities like a bathroom. Prior to 1964 the farm used an outhouse.
Electricity did not come to the house until 1954 even though the neighborhood got electricity in 1948. Joy said the Wipprechts were wary of having a monthly bill.
The Pullins owned the farm for only a couple of year before selling. The Pullins were known for buying old farmhouses and repairing them.
Joy began her research with the property’s abstract. Much of her research was done at the Jefferson County Courthouse and Old Jefferson Town.
Many of the people she has contacted were found just in time. Bruchmüller’s granddaughter Fredricka was 93 years old when Joy found her and has since passed away.
Lominska is also looking for pictures and stories from the farms and areas around hers. She has made a map of all of the neighbors that Bruchmüller bought and sold from. She said there was a lot of social and economical activity in the neighborhood.
Old pictures are a particular interest of Joy’s. Her house is one of only a handful of old farmhouses left in Sarcoxie and old pictures help reconstruct the way the neighborhood looked. Lominska also hopes to take some pictures to enlarge and display at Old Jefferson Town. Of the more than 400 photos only one is from Sarcoxie.
Joy is not sure whether or not her book will be published or will be released in an e-book format. There is also no time table for a completion. Joy said he research is ongoing. She said her research probably began a few days after moving into the farm but she never thought to write anything down until a few years ago.
“In a way I’ve always been doing it,” she said. “I’ve always asked questions. I’ve always want to know who lived there. I wanted their story.”
Joy said she may never stop researching for her work.
“The research is actually a lot more fun than the writing,” she said. “I don’t really stop the research. I keep looking.”
If anyone has any information or would like to help with the research contact Joy at 785-842-5697 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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