"Our Friends on the Acres"
Mr. & Mrs. Blake Rathbun
Three miles west of Postville, on Highway No. 51, lies the fine farm of Mr. and Mrs. Blake Rathbun, prominent residents of Bloomfield township, Winneshiek county. It is the farm on which Mr. Rathbun was born and with the exception of one year he has always lived on the property. As he will be 58 years old in September, he belongs to that select group of farmers in this vicinity who are members of the Herald's "half-a-century" club.
He was born September 26, 1882, a son of Mr. and Mrs. B.W. Rathbun. During his youth he obtained an excellent education, attending school in the white brick schoolhouse which is located at the northeast corner of the Rathbun property. Mr. Rathbun fondly recalls his school days. "During the years I went to school there were quite a few different teachers," he stated. "One of my best teachers was Bert McMartin, who is one of the veteran farmers of this community today. He lives straight north of this farm, about a mile and a half from here." After the conclusion of his grade school days, Mr. Rathbun continued his education by attending Postville high school. For three years he studied in town, then he went to Decorah for a year of advanced study in Valder's Business College. He returned to the Rathbun farm to help his father with the farm work. There was plenty of work in those days, perhaps more work than there is today, due to developments in the machinery line.
"My grandfather, Thomas Rathbun, was one of the pioneers in this part of Iowa," Mr. Rathbun reminisced. "He didn't homestead the property as I can remember hearing my father speak of the first owner, whose name I can't remember right now. I have often heard my father tell about shooting deer from the back door of the farm house. Of course that was a good many years ago and long before my time."
Mr. Rathbun has three brothers and two sisters, all of whom are living today: Mae Rathbun and Hall Rathbun of North Hollywood, Calif., Fred Rathbun of near Ossian, Bessie (Mrs. W.E. Cornell) of Ossian, and Bert Rathbun living east of Waukon. When he was seven or eight years old his mother passed away and in 1910 his father passed away.
In 1903, when he was 21 years old, he went to Lead, So. Dak., (called Lead City at that time). For a year he worked as a carpenter, but at the end of that time he decided to return to Iowa and once again located on the Rathbun farm in Bloomfield township where he has lived ever since.
Mrs. Rathbun is the former Miss Anna Christofferson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hans Christofferson. She was born on a farm northeast of Postville and in February of 1900 moved with her parents to the farm across the road from the Rathbun farm. (Clarence Wahls is on this place today.) It was while she was on this farm that she became acquainted with Mr. Rathbun. When she was eight years old her mother passed away. For two years she lived in town with her father before her marriage to Mr. Rathbun on February 19, 1910.
After their marriage the newlyweds moved to the Rathbun farm. For the first year they rented the property, but at the conclusion of the year they purchased the farm. It consists of 100 acres and as the years have rolled by they have constantly improved the property. Mrs. Rathbun's father passed away in 1922. She has three brothers, Herman Christofferson of Postville, Reuben and Albert Christofferson of Cedar Rapids. Mr. and Mrs. Rathbun became the parents of one son, Donald, who passed away in 1932.
Two disastrous fires have occurred on the Rathbun farm since the house was built 52 years ago. "I can remember both fires although I was just a boy at the time," Mr. Rathbun remarked. "The house burned to the ground, then about a month later a large portion of a basement barn, which was quite close to the house, also was destroyed by fire." Both of the buildings were almost immediately replaced. A large barn, 36X64 feet, was erected in 1917 and within a period of two years the Rathbuns built a chicken house, hog house, silo and many other farm buildings.
Livestock on the farm includes 16 head of cattle, 8 milch cows, 5 heifers, 2 calves and one bull. The Rathbuns have 11 sows, 70 pigs, 150 Hybrid chickens and 300 pullets. "Our hens are good layers," Mrs. Rathbun explained. "They started laying real well in October and on several occasions we gathered as many as 160 or 170 eggs."
Mr. Rathbun cultivates about 70 acres. At the present time he has 22 acres of corn, 18 acres of oats and a few days before the Fourth of July put up about 25 tons of hay off 27 acres. "The corn looks good this year, although it is a week or ten days behind the corn at this time last year," he remarked. "Of course 1939 was an exceptional year for corn," he added.
Mr. and Mrs. Rathbun have seen many changes since they have lived on their farm. In 1928 the highway past their property was paved and since then "traffic has increased 500 per cent." The old road was straightened out and instead of crossing the railroad tracks in front of the farm, it runs parallel to the tracks. To accompllish this improvement it was necessary for the road builders to cut off part of the Rathbun front yard and saw down several trees. But the beauty of the Rathbun yard was not impaired as Mr. Rathbun and his wife keep the lawn closely mowed and the yard neat appearing. Near the house they have three cherry trees, which are heavily laden with cherries this summer. "Do you like cherries?" Mr. Rathbun asked the Herald writer. After receiving an affirmative reply, he said, "Help yourself. All of our neighbors have been picking cherries and we've had all the cherry sauce and pies that we can eat."
The Rathbun farm is one of the best in this vicinity and only a few times in the past 58 years have hail and drouth caused losses. The possibility of a hail storm doesn't worry Mr. Rathbun as he carries insurance. "Which has come in handy and has more than paid for itself in the years I've been on the farm and for the years to come."
~Postville Herald, July 17, 1940
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