• Kristin Wenger

On the Farm (#52Ancestors week 39)

Focusing on just one ancestor is impossible this week. After all, Lancaster County has historically been synonymous with agriculture. An overwhelming majority of our ancestors were farmers. Eric’s dad and youngest brother are still carrying on the tradition!


Instead, I thought I’d mix things up and treat you to two videos [1] that highlight our beautiful farmland while tying in some family history.


Corn Harvest


Story behind the video:

We shot this video on 15 September 2018 at the former home of Eric's grandparents in Paradise, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It has been 25 years since they moved, but as soon as we mentioned the names John and Evelyn Becker, their former Amish neighbors lit up. They shared many fond memories of them. Jonas (whose wife and sons appear in the video) was still a child when the Beckers were his neighbors. He recalled his mother often sending him up the lane to get something out of the Beckers’ freezer. He would "ring the little bell, and Evelyn would call, 'Come in!'”


While Eric was flying the drone, I took some still photographs and wandered around a very old cemetery just across the tracks of the Strasburg Railroad.

Eric asking for permission to use his drone to record video of the corn harvest


Carpenters Graveyard has been preserved in the midst of what is now Amish farmland.


Carpenters Crossing


It is very typical for several households of extended Amish family to live together in close proximity. The railroad tracks and cemetery are at the crest of the hill.


Gorgeous farmland and expansive sky


Amish homestead with buggy and laundry drying in the breeze


Wide open spaces


Corn Day – Now and Then

On the Wenger farm, large combines now harvest field corn. However, we still have an annual “Corn Day” when we work together to stock our freezers with sweet corn for the year. I appreciate that my kids still experience a taste of family working together to accomplish a major task. Apparently I’ve been so busy with the corn that I failed to take pictures the past few years. These kids are a little bigger now than in 2015, but our Corn Day process is much the same.


Now...

Husking


Transporting corn from one station to the next


Lots of helpers washing and silking


After the corn is cooked and cooled, we either cut it off the cob...


or grate it for a creamier texture.


Then.

Corn harvest in the early 1940s with Eric's grandma and great grandparents.

From left, Elmer R. Heller (1894-1970), Mary Kathryn Heller (now Wenger, born 1930), Dave Sickman (hired man), and E. Elizabeth (Hersh) Heller (1895-1982).



Tobacco Harvest (and a bonus Amish schoolhouse)


Story behind the video:

We asked the 15-year-old Amish boy (seen at the beginning of the video) if we could fly from his family’s farm to capture some drone video of the nearby Susquehanna River. He knew what a drone was but had never seen one fly, and was quick to give us enthusiastic permission to take off. Cutting tobacco is hard manual labor and I think he appreciated taking a quick break to watch. When asked what he thought after we landed, he grinned from ear to ear and animatedly exclaimed, “That was AWESOME!”


The Amish schoolchildren had just finished recess but managed to get a “second recess” as they came pouring outside to watch what they called the “bumblebee.” The children hung on the fence and squealed with delight, begging us to fly near them. It was a memorable experience for all!


Tobacco – Now and Then


Now...

I took this photo near my home on a recent rainy morning because I noticed the wagon in the rear of the field looks identical to the one below.


Then.

Tobacco harvest in the early 1940s.

Hired man (with horse), my great grandpa Lloyd Millhouse (1911-1988) with his daughter (my grandma) Doris Millhouse (born 1934).

My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Gross) Millhouse (1881-1966) spearing tobacco leaves with two of her daughter-in-laws: Mary (Seitz) Millhouse (1912-1998) and my great grandma Grace (Kramer) Millhouse (1912-1995), early 1940s.


As you can see, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has a rich agricultural heritage that is essential to our identity. Want to learn more?


[1] Video credit: 717 Drone Guys. My husband, Eric, and youngest son, Nathan, are also known as the 717 Drone Guys. Eric handles the flying and videography while Nathan contributes with editing, sound engineering, and ideas for shots. Although not a “guy,” I also get involved by selecting music for each video and lending my “female intuition.”

© 2020 by Roots & Wings Research, LLC