"Our Friends on the Acres"
Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth J. Kerr
For 89 years a farm property of 176 acres, just west of Postville, has been owned and operated by the Kerr family and relatives. Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kerr and family are on the farm today, which was settled in 1851.
It was William Henderson who took the land from the government in 1851. Mr. Henderson and his wife were the parents of Barbara Henderson, who married Kenneth Kerr's grandfather, George Kerr, the same year. As the Henderson family was a large one, George and Barbara decided to have a farm of their own, so they homesteaded 80 acres of land near the Henderson farm. It is known today as the Arbe Schroeder farm.
Both Mr. Henderson and Mr. Kerr paid the government $1.25 an acre. They were natives of Scotland, who had come to this country by way of Canada, first settling in Illinois, then moving westward to Iowa. When the Civil War broke out, Mrs. Kerr's brother enlisted and saw considerable service. Three of her brothers were killed in acton, which eventually caused a land transfer between the William Hendersons and George Kerrs. The Hendersons thougth their farm of 176 acres was too large for them, so they traded farms with their son-in-law and daughter. The 176 acre farm has been owned by the Kerrs ever since.
One of Mrs. George Kerr's brothers was Col. D.B. Henderson, who was speaker of the House of Representatives at Washington, D.C., for two terms (8 years). He was a great friend of Governor William Larrabee, so after Colonel Henderson's death, Governor Larrabee had a monument erected in his honor at Clermont. (Nearly everyone is familiar with this monument as it was located in the middle of the street at Clermont for many years and only in recent years was it moved to the side of the road, near a church.)
Mr. and Mrs. George Kerr lived on the farm for many years where they reared two sons and five daughters. Mrs. Nettie Marston of Postville is the only surviving member of this family. In 1890 Charles M. Kerr, a son of Mr. and Mrs. George Kerr, was married to Miss Annie Dodge, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Dodge of Newton. Shortly after their marriage they located on the farm, where they continued to reside until the fall of 1926. They became the parents of two girls and three boys: Kate (Mrs. H.E. Benson) of LaMoille; George, living northwest of Frankville; Helen (dead); Malcolm, who is teaching in Berea College, Berea, Ky., and Kenneth, the subject of this sketch.
Kenneth Kerr was born October 10, 1896, and has lived over 43 years on the farm. He attended rural school for four years, then continued his studies in Postville public schools. After graduation from high school he spent two years at Iowa State College, Ames. But after the world war broke out he enlisted in the army. In May, 1918, he crossed the ocean to see action for a little over a year. In August, 1919, he returned to the United States, going directly to the Kerr farm where he has since been located.
On October 20, 1926, he was married to Miss Joyce Turner, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Turner, who are living south of Postville. To their union were born six children, all of whom are living at home. They are Dorothy, Marjorie, Keith, Geraldine, Peggy and Donald.
Shortly after their marriage in the fall of 1926, Mr. Kerr's parents retired, moving to Postville. His mother, Mrs. Charles M. Kerr, is still living in town, but Mr. Kerr passed away in 1931. In March, 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kerr took over the farm. They have continually improved the property and for the last three years Mr. Kerr has taken steps to prevent erosion of land. Strip cropping, planted on a contour, has proven effective for him. The longest strip is 2,860 feet with each strip about 84 feet wide.
In 1914 the old farm house was torn down and in its place a large, eight room, brick house was erected. Mr. Kerr tore down an old wood silo in the dairy barn in 1936. He put up two silos the same year. Each silo is 10 feet in diameter, standing 45 feet high. Other buildings on the farm are older. The horse barn was begun in 1868 and completed at a later date. It measures 32X68 feet. A granary was put up about the same time. the diary barn, 36X72 feet, was erected in 1909. There are 27 stanchions and three calf pens in the barn. Each stanchion in the barn is used daily as Mr. Kerr has 27 milch cows. Also on the farm are eight heifers, three horses, 175 crossbred hens. "I have from 60 to 70 spring pigs and usually have about the same number of fall pigs," he explained. He will plant 36 acres of corn, 39.5 acres of oats and five acres of flax this year.
In addition to Mr. Kerr's farm work, he has been identified with other tasks. He has been president of the Postville creamery for several years; served as director of the Fayette county farm bureau for three years; was Clermont township committeeman for the AAA; and served as secretary of Clermont No. 3 school district for 13 years. He takes an active part in working his farm, having the help of Leo Kneeskern, who also lives on the farm with his wife and two children.
At one point of the Kerr farm it is possible to touch four counties, Clayton, Fayette, Winneshiek and Allamakee. "When my grandfather, George Kerr, first located on this land he used oxen to break the land." Mr. Kerr stated. "I can remember hearing about some of his early experiences. With Squire Moir he drove seven and eight yoke of oxen on a breaking plow, turning under hazel brush eight and ten feet high. They used ot put bells on the oxen and and after turning them loose at night near the spring, would get up early in the mornings to work from sun to sun.
~Postville Herald, May 15, 1940
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