Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 27, 2013

A farming tradition in Tipton County

Family farming same property for 156 years.

By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor

SHARPSVILLE — Indiana as a state was less than 50 years old when Charles Hawkins moved from Ohio to property he purchased in Tipton County, 156 years later his descendants continue to farm the property.

The Tipton County Historical Society is hosting a celebration of families that have farmed the same ground for a century or more from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Kelley Agriculture Museum.

“There are 270 families in Tipton County that have farmed the same property for over 100 years,” Gae Matchette, a member of the Historical Society said. “There are over 2,000 families in Indiana that have farmed the same ground for more than a century.”

She said younger members of the Historical Society board of directors want to revive the organization and decided to celebrate the family farms.

“Farmers started Tipton County,” Matchette said.

Matchette’s parents Max and Jane Henderson have been operating two farms in northern Indiana for more than 100 years.

The Henderson family has been farming property in northern Tipton County for 100 years and the two families have been neighbors and relations for more than a century.

Through four generations the two families have farmed in Tipton County and a fifth generation is waiting in the wings to take over the operations.

Jane Henderson said Charles Hawkins had nine children and her grandfather, Jonas, inherited the property in 1878 and her father, James, took over in 1940. Jane and Max inherited the farmstead in 1977.

Jane said two of Charles Hawkins brothers, John and Calvin fought in the Civil War.

The Henderson family had four sons that traveled to Indiana from Kentucky and scattered from south of Indianapolis to Tipton County. The family helped start the former Hopewell Church.

The couples, childhood sweethearts, have been married for 63 years and live in a house that is more than 100 years old. It was remodeled in the 1950s and expanded in the 1970s to include a great room with stone fireplace and a balcony.

“From day one I wanted to be a farmer,” Max said. “We have two grandsons, Austin and Caleb that will both continue to farm.

“There has never been an interest in selling the farms,” he said. “Some family members did sell off a part of the farms. This is a tight knit community.”

Gae said she was a member of 4-H in Tipton County and used to help her mother prepare meals to take to the fields.

“I always thought I would be involved in farming,” she said.

Max said when the families started farming in Tipton County the area was almost all swamp land and covered with trees. Trees that were felled to create the farms.

Jane said where her father had a cattle barn is now the site of Tri-Central High School.

“They loaded cattle in Sharpsville and her father rode in the rail cars to Chicago to make sure they made it,” Max mentions.

The Henderson’s winter in Arizona, but the family also owns a farm in the Panhandle area of Texas, raising corn, beans, wheat and cotton.

Max visits that farm twice a year; it was a farm that his father, Hubert, purchased from an uncle in 1927.

“He had an uncle with three children,” Max said. “He offered his sons each a section of land; two accepted the offer and one didn’t.”

Max was born in 1927 on a kitchen table of the family’s home and made his first journey to Texas in 1928.

He said it used to be a 1,380 mile trip, but since the construction of the interstate highway network the distance has been reduced to 980 miles.

“We survived the ‘Dirty ‘30s,’ Max said of the Dust Bowl era. “We used to go to bed with a wet cloth over our months. I can remember my mother setting the table and placing the dishes upside down. When it was time to eat we would turn the plates over and there was a dust ring around them.”

Jane said on the family owned property on the west side of Ind. 19 is the family cemetery that was started in 1849 by her grandmother, Louisa Turner.

She said in the area the Spears and Grimme families have been farming in the area for more than 100 years and there have always been close ties between all of the farm families.

“It would be nice if [her grandchildren] can continue the farming tradition,” Jane said. “We hope someone will want to continue.”