NEW RICHLAND — When Frank and Emma Wenzel first came to the United States from their native Germany, they didn’t immediately wind up in Minnesota, let alone rural Waseca County.
It was 1887 when the Wenzels emigrated from their native land. He was 28, she 22. And it would be another 31 years before they purchased the farm just outside of New Richland in the Byron Township.
“They bought the farm in New Richland in 1918, but they moved to the farm in 1919,” said Annette Wenzel, the trustee of the William W. Wenzel Family Trust.
It is the family trust that now owns the farm — 160 acres off of Highway 30 west of New Richland. The trust was established after the death of William Wayne Wenzel 24 years. William W. [Wayne] Wenzel was the husband of Annette Wenzel. She and everybody else called him “Billy.” Everyone calls her Ann.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Frank and Emma’s migration to southern Minnesota came with sojourns first to Wisconsin and Fonda, Iowa, where they farmed and raised a family. A big family. A very big family. They had 10 children as well as two children who died in infancy.
When they made the move to Minnesota, not all of the children — many had grown up by that time — made the move with them. Herman, Frank, Bill, Clara, Clarence, Anna, and John came to Minnesota, while three other children — Paul, Richard and Emma — remained in Iowa. The seven who made the trek north — Herman was the oldest at 27, John the youngest at 8 — were what Ann Wenzel calls “built-in farmhands” for their father.
The patriarch, Frank Sr., purchased 160 acres of farmland outside of New Richland for $125 per acre on March 8, 1918, according to information supplied by Ann Wenzel on their century farm application. The land was purchased from Joseph Bartosh.
“They were regular small farmers,” Ann Wenzel said of the Wenzel clan, adding that they raised oats and hay for the livestock, as well as corn and soybeans.
Frank Wenzel’s wife, Emma, died just two years later on Aug. 6, 1921. She was 56. Frank Wenzel continued to farm the land until his death a decade later on Aug. 30, 1931. They are buried in Calvary Cemetery in New Richland.
Upon Frank Wenzel’s death, the farm was sold to his son, William Henry Wenzel, who was 31 years old at the time.
“He was my father-in-law,” said Ann Wenzel.
William Henry Wenzel — “Bill,” everybody called him — continued to farm the land until 1974, when he was 74 years old. At that time, after 43 years of farming that land, he sold the farm to his son William Wayne Wenzel, or “Billy.” Bill Wenzel died two years later at the age of 76.
Billy Wenzel was 40 years old when he purchased the farm from his father, though that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t farming all along. On Sept. 2, 1956, when he was 21 years old, Billy married Annette Herum.
The two continued to farm with Billy’s father in New Richland even after 1966 when Billy and Ann bought their own place in Martin County.
“We spent a long time on the road,” said Ann Wenzel about their commutes back and forth from Martin County to Waseca County.
And if they purchased new equipment for their Martin County farm, they would make sure to transfer the older equipment to the family farm outside of New Richland.
Billy Wenzel died in 1995 in Martin County. At the time of his death, the family established the William W. Wenzel Family Trust for which his and Ann’s children — Dean, Steven, Darlene and Kent — are beneficiaries and for which Ann is the trustee.
None of the children, however, farm the land, though the farm remains in the family name and is farmed by a family member. The farm is rented out to Mary Routh of New Richland, who is the daughter of Billy’s sister, Lorraine Alma Wenzel Evenson. According to Ann Wenzel, Mary Routh and her husband farmed the land until his death, at which time she took over the farming operations. The Rouths have farmed the land since Billy Wenzel died and the trust established.
None of the original buildings remain on the land, but there is a building site on the land that is owned by Craig Wenzel and his wife, Lesley. Craig Wenzel is the nephew of Lester Wenzel, Billy’s brother.
Ann Wenzel believes that even after her death, her children will continue to hold on to the land, even though they will rent it out.
“I think it will stay in the family,” she said.