Farm Horizons, August 2017

Farm in Kadlec family for 150 years

by Denise Ernst
Staff Writer

An area farm was recently honored as a sesquicentennial farm by the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

The 160-acre farm, located in Hale Township near Silver Lake, is owned by Jerry and Judy Kadlec, and their son and daughter-in-law, Tony and Marata Kadlec.

To be named a sesquicentennial farm, it must be owned by the same family for at least 150 years, be at least 50 acres in size, and currently involved in agricultural production.

Seven generations

The east half of the farm has been in the family since May 1866, and has been host to seven generations of the Kadlec family, from Frantiek (born in 1800) to his great-great-great-great-grandsons.

According to the abstract of title, the very first listed owner of the farm was a descendant of immigrants from the Netherlands, Josiah Oothoudt.

The land was conveyed to Oothoudt for $0 by President Andrew Johnson under the Homestead Act of 1862.

In September 1865, the Oothoudts sold the farm to Samuel C. Gale and his wife, Susan Damon Gale, real estate agents from Minneapolis.

Josef (1838-1902) and Fannie (Kutina) Kadlec (1848-1919) purchased the 160-acre farm May 6, 1866, from the Gales for $400, but didn’t arrive until February 1868, having come from the village of Carver, after having spent some time in St. Joseph, MO.

They spent the early winter months of 1868 with their two small children as guests in the one-room log house of Jan and Susan Kasper in Rich Valley Township.

The north half of the original Josef Kadlec farm remains in the Kadlec family today; it is currently the east half of the farm, which was sold by Fannie Kadlec to her son, Albion, in 1905.

It was then sold to his son, Joseph, and his wife, Rose (Bednar) Kadlec, in 1949; and then purchased by Jerome and Judy Kadlec from Rose in 1978.

In 2015, Tony Kadlec, his wife, Marata, and their three sons – Theodore, Anton, and Nikolas – moved from St. Paul back to Hale Township to enjoy life on the Kadlec farm, purchasing the home site and three acres.

The farmhouses

According to family legend, “each morning, Josef walked to his claim with only a couple slices of bread for his dinner and worked all day clearing the land and making logs for his house.”

By the end of April 1868, the house was built on the north side of what is now State Highway 7, just across the road and a bit west of where the Bohemian National Cemetery is now located.

The house was about 100 years old when it was torn down in the 1960s.

The current farmhouse turns 100 years old this year, and was built by Josef’s son, Albion, when his son, Joseph was a little boy. The house was built in 1917, from trees that were cut down near the building site.

This is the house that Tony and his family live in today.

Back then

Young Josef and Fannie were part of the first wave of Czech immigrants to McLeod County, having first settled in the heart of the Czech community of Caledonia in Racine County in Wisconsin in the early to mid-1850s.

In the log farmhouse that Josef built, he and Fannie had 15 children, 11 of whom survived to adulthood.

By 1870, the household included Josef’s widower father, Frantiek Kadlec (1800-1876), who worked as a laborer on the farm until his death; he is interred in the family plot at Bohemian National Cemetery.

Old maps show, and oral histories tell about the road that arcs up past the Kadlec home, to a cooper shop run by their neighbor, John H. Danek, where stage coaches would stop to get their wagon wheels repaired.

Josef served as an influential member of his community, co-founding the Bohemian National Cemetery in 1873, the Bohemian Reading & Educational Society (Bohemian Hall) in 1876, and serving as McLeod County commissioner in the late 1880s.

Today

Eighty-year-old Jerry Kadlec, who has been entertaining polka enthusiasts for years with bands and entertainers including Wally Pikal and others, rents the farmland and currently lives in Hutchinson with his wife, Judy.

His son, Tony, and his family recently started growing grapes and have a home garden. Tony lived in St. Paul for about 30 years and traveled all over the world for his job. Currently, he telecommutes and is proud to be able to keep the farm in the family.

His wife’s family is from Greece and has olive orchards on a small family farm, so farming is definitely in the family.

Family members all agree, the role model for them is Jerry’s mother, Rose, who took care of her husband, Joseph, for 26 years after he was hit by a train while driving a tractor across the Luce Line Railroad. Besides taking care of him and their children, she milked 24 cows every day.

A favorite family story occurred when Jerry was about 7 years old and his father, Albion, would have neighbors bring their cows over to be bred by his bull.

Jerry asked his father why the farmers would bring the cows in the barn and then take them home again.

Albion explained that they were looking at buying the cows, but didn’t like the spots on them so they sent them back home.

History of Silver Lake

Tony is interested in the family history, as well as the history of the area.

He recently wrote a book, “Silver Lake: A History in Pictures,” a collection of 19th and 20th century historical images and accounts of Silver Lake. It is available for purchase on lulu.com.

The city was founded in 1889, largely by Czech and Polish immigrants, and their heritage will be celebrated during the 49th annual Pola-Czesky Days in Silver Lake Friday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 6.

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