The Torch is Passed on
As I was growing up, I was vaguely aware that Grandma Hanna owned part of the farm and eventually Dad bought that part from her. But how did that happen? And when? Once again, Grandma’s treasure chest to the rescue.
No copy of Abe’s will – if he had one – exists. If he had none, then by virtue of dower rights, Addie – Grandma Hanna – would have received one-third of the farm and the remainder would have gone to Garnet, my Dad, once he came of age as he was barely 17 when his father died. However, surviving documents imply that Abe did have a will by which Grandma Hanna became owner of the South half of 25-8-7-W3 and South half of 26-8-7-W3, in other words, almost half of the farm.
The first is a “Farm Lease (Share of Crop)” agreement dated March 18, 1947, between Grandma Hanna and Dad. By this agreement, Grandma Hanna leased those two half-sections to Dad for a one-third share of the crop. The lease was good for five years, at which time it could be renewed. The agreement also gave the lessor (i.e., Dad) the first option to purchase the land.
In 1961, Grandma Hanna prepared her will in which she bequeathed to Dad “all of my farm land, being the South Half of Section Twenty-Five (25), in Township eight (8), in Range Seven (7), West of the Third Meridian.” The will makes no mention of the South Half of Section Twenty-Six (26), which suggests that sometime before 1961, Dad had purchased that part of the farm from her.
An Agreement for Sale of Land, dated 1964, records that Dad purchased the south half of section 25 from Grandma Hanna for $2500.00, to be paid by “crop payments in annual installments” plus 6% interest computed annually. I don’t know how that worked out in reality – did Grandma Hanna continue to receive one-third of the crop value each year until the purchase sum was paid in full? Or did Dad and Grandma Hanna come to some other arrangement?
However that those 1964 “crop payments in annual installments” were arranged, Dad got a good deal. In 1967, Grandma Hanna had to file a “Gift Tax Return” to Department of National Revenue. It seems the actual value of the land was determined to be $11,200.00, so Grandma Hanna had to declare a “gift” to Garnet of $8700.00. Fortunately, this qualified for a Gift Tax exemption because it was a “gift of an interest in real property . . . to a child of the donor and the property is to be used in farming operations carried on by the child.” Otherwise, she would have had to pay 12% tax on the gift. Phew! Escaped that one!
Grandma Hanna died in 1971. Unfortunately, she had not updated her will in 1964 after she sold the S-25 to Dad. He felt cheated by the terms of the will, especially since Edith, his sister, received money and “any articles or chattels she may wish to have that are situate in my dwelling.” The residue of the estate was to be divided equally between the two, so it’s not as if he received nothing at all. Still, it rankled him for a few years thereafter.
Dad was now the sole owner of the farm that his father had acquired. He was proud of the farm and of its history. He had been born on that farm and grown up on that farm. It was more than his livelihood; it was his passion. He felt an obligation to care for it as his father had. Dad hated leaving the farm; whenever we went on holidays, he fretted and fumed about the state of affairs there until we were back home. He farmed it to his dying day in January 1997.
A year later, ninety years after Grandpa Hanna applied for his homestead on NE-25-8-7-W3, Mom sold the farm. It was a heartbreak to both me and my brother. That farm was our home; not just a place we lived but Home, where we had been formed as individuals, where we had learned the values of hard work, community involvement, and determination. It was part of us, and we were part of it. It hurt to see it go.
Those 1080 acres now belong to others. It is their turn to take care of the land.
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