Lominska’s book tells story of Jefferson County farm
By Jared Speckman
Joy Lominska makes sure to note that her book is not about just any Kansas farm and it’s not about farms in general. This book is about her farm.
Lominska, of Sarcoxie township, recently published “The Old Home Place: The Story of a Kansas Farm.”
Her exhaustive research traced the property’s history back to the mid-1800s. Her property was originally a part of the Delaware Indian Reserve until the Indians moved in 1868.
From there, Lominska followed the trail of ownership from 1871 until the present day.
“The first people that we know lived here were the Bruchmillers,” Lominska said. “Otto and Augusta Bruchmiller and their daughter Trudie. They bought this farm in 1877 and owned it until 1919.”
In the history of the property, the Bruchmillers are the longest tenured owners, however, Lominska and her family are closing in on that mark since buying the property in 1976.
Lominska used several research methods to acquire the history of the property that she has come to love. She conducted oral interviews with many of the relatives of neighbors who lived in the area.
“I interviewed neighbors who had recollections of the past or who had been told stories by their parents and grandparents because I was reaching back pretty far,” she said.
Her book though relied heavily on the granddaughter of the Bruchmiller’s who first owned the property and the house. The granddaughter was born in the house in 1915 and currently resides near Seattle and provided most of the pictures that Lominska would end up using throughout the book.
She attempted to trace every family that lived in the house down to a living person so that she could have an oral interview about each family.
“That wasn’t a total success, but I found people online through ancestry,” she said.
She also notes that luck has played a part in her research of former farm families. Two relatives of former owners have pulled up to the property asking to look around, providing her with more background about the farm.
A second source for Lominska would be the Independent. She used the microfilm at Old Jefferson Town to search through old papers and look up news about her property.
The third source for Lominska was reading books that described Kansas during that era.
“I’d look at Kansas agricultural history, geography, Delaware Indian history to fill in the gaps with local information,” Lominska said.
The census also gave her a look into what was happening every five years.
“Many people know that there’s a federal census every 10 years,” Lominska said. “But there’s a state census every 10 years on the years ending in five.”
She used the agricultural censuses from 1885 until 1915 to not only determine who was living at the property, but also what they were using the farm for.
“I could see how many horses they had, how many cows they had, bees and dogs and prairie grass,” Lominska said, noting the detail of the censuses.
“We still fill those out so we realize that they’re not totally accurate,” Bob Lominska, Joy’s husband, added before heading out onto his farm.
Joy added that she was able to locate the account book from the property, giving her a record of everything bought or sold on the farm. This account book helped her track the finances of the farm and which years it made money and which years it lost money. Cross-referencing the account book with censuses was a good way to get an accurate description of what was happening on the farm.
“I know that in a particular year they told the census that they sold no garden produce,” Lominska said. “But I know that in the account book they actually did sell garden produce.”
Her research went as far as getting a Sears Roebuck and Co. catalog from the early 20th century to research the tools that they were using on the farm when it was initially bought.
Lominska explained that there were many little items that she found when going back through history that many people may not even know about such as selling peach pits for blacksmith work, or the fact that all the chimneys in the area were painted the exact same way. She can’t explain all the tidbits she found but she admires the historical value of knowing even the little things.
The decision to write a book did not come until long after her research process had started.
“I thought I’d write something,” Lominska said. “A pamphlet or an online piece in an online magazine, something small.”
She admitted that she was not initially comfortable with her writing abilities but she was encouraged the more she wrote and with the help of a close friend who is an editor.
“(My editor) guided me and I had a couple of other friends who gave suggestions on how to make my writing flow better,” she said.
Lominska also thought she should write the book because of her connection with a local food movement.
“This farm has cycled from a very successful family farm supporting 10 people, through a worn out farm where you couldn’t make a living and back to a successful family farm again,” she said.
Neither Joy nor Bob grew up in Kansas but, after attending the University of Kansas, decided that farm life was for them, a decision that they have enjoyed ever since buying their old farmhouse in the ‘70s.
“We don’t see the work as drudgery,” Lominska said. “It’s hard work, it’s muddy but it’s what we choose to do.”
Avery Lominska, 34, is the middle son of Joy and Bob and keeps the family’s roots firmly tied to the land. Avery makes his entire living off the farm.
Chris Lominska, 36, is the oldest son and is a doctor at Kansas University Medical Center. The youngest, Ashton Callshim, 27, is an adopted son who works as a mailman in Lawrence.
Despite not growing up in the area, the Lominska’s have made Jefferson County their home. Joy, originally from Ohio, and Bob, from New York, joined the Peace Corps after college as an alternative to the draft and spent much of their Peace Corps time in Nicaragua. Their time in Nicaragua was spent on small farms and was a catalyst for what they decided to do afterward.
From there, the Lominska’s decided to buy their piece of land and the rest, as they say, is history. And, with Joy’s diligent work, the history of one Jefferson County farm is outlined in significant detail in her book.
As for future writing projects, there are no new books on the horizon. She says that the intrigue of her farmland may have been the only thing that could draw her into writing a book.
“I’m researching smaller historical projects,” she said. “I put displays up at old Jefferson Town sometimes. I like doing the research. I like interviewing and pulling together the newspaper articles but I’m not sure there’s anything that could call me strongly enough, like this farm did, to write another book.”
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