"Our Friends on the Acres"
Mr. Ray Putnam
Ray Putnam is another farmer living in the Postville vicinity who has been on the same farm long enough to qualify for the "half-a-century" club. Next September he will round out 62 years.
He was born September 23, 1878, on the Putnam farm, four miles west of Postville. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Surreno Putnam, natives of New York. Surreno Putnam took part in the Civil War, fighting side by side with his father, John, and his three brothers. Good luck was with the Putnams and all survived the conflict. At the close of the war John Putnam came west, locating west of Postville. He purchased 80 acres of land, which adjoins the Ray Putnam farm and which is now the home of the Klarence Kenney family.
John Putnam's four sons, Surreno, Ed, Will and Charles, soon followed him westward, locating on the Putnam farm. In 1871 Surreno Putnam married Emma Dean in Postville. She was also a native of New York, coming to Postville with her parents in her youth. After their marriage they purchased 40 acres of land and moved to their new home.
Three sons were born to their union: Ray, the subject of this sketch, and twin sons, Lloyd and Floyd. They also became the parents of two daughters: Mrs. Chas. Dresser of Emmett, Idaho, and Bertha. Only three of the children are living today as Floyd passed away during the World War and Bertha passed away 12 years ago. Lloyd Putnam is in business in Postville.
All of the children spent their childhood on the Putnam farm and after the death of Surreno Putnam in 1899, Ray Putnam took over the property. He is still on the same farm. In recent years he has rented the farm land to Klarence Kenney, but he still makes his home on the old property. Mrs. Surreno Putnam made her home with her son until she passed away March 17, 1939.
"About ten years after father and mother were married a terrible cyclone struck our farm. I believe it was in 1881. "Mr. Putnam reminisced. "Yes, I know that was the year, because it was the year President Garfield was shot. My father, aunt and two sisters were in Postville when the storm came up. They were attending memorial services held in honor of Garfield. I was at Nora Springs with mother. Luckily, no one was at the farm and only my grandmother, Mrs. John Putnam, was at home on the old farm, some 30 rods to the north. The storm scared her half to death, but the wind missed the farm to the north and struck our farm. It took our small frame house, and all of the other buildings. Boards, trees, straw and grain were scattered all over the premises." The Surreno Putnam farm bore the brunt of the storm, although some damage was done to the northeast on what is today the Gilbert Swenson and Rudolph C. Willman farms. "I was only three years old at the time, but I can remember hearing my parents talk about it." Mr. Putnam remarked. "I believe the damage on the Swenson and Willman farms was confined mostly to timber and small buildings, as I can't recall hearing about any destruction to the farm homes on those properties." The old Rathbun schoolhouse, northeast of the Putnam farm was also destroyed by the cyclone. As the storm occurred in the fall of the year, the Surreno Putnam family moved to the John Putnam farm for the winter. Then in the spring of 1882 they started to rebuild their house.
Most of the buildings on the property have been erected by Ray Putnam. In 1907 he put up the barn and in the following years he erected a hog house, corn crib and other buildings. He also improved the farm house, building on a kitchen and raising the house six feet. "In 1918 I built a garage and purchased a Model T Ford," Mr. Putnam explained. "I well remember that car. It cost me $580 without a starter and was considered quite an automobile in those days. What a time I had getting it started. I finally got tired of cranking it so I invested another $75 and bought a starter."
The Putnam farm is located quite a distance from the road and in the winter after heavy snows and blizzards it is quite a task to get to the main road. "Many times we have been snowbound for several days, until the road to town was plowed open," he added. Mr. Putnam's property is located in Bloomfield township, in Winneshiek county, being about one-half mile from the southern border of the county.
In the almost 62 years he has been on the farm he has seen many changes. He has seen dirt roads paved, tractors replace horses and many modern conveniences, which are considered necessities today, come into existence. "Farm machinery is one of the main causes for unemployment today," he said. "In the old days farmers would hire men in March and keep them until after corn husking time. Today they use machines that save time and allow them to do all of their own work." Although Mr. Putnam has ceased his farming activities, he has two cows, two horses, 100 little Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire chickens, as well as 50 hens.
Living alone, he does his own cooking. Last year he replaced his cookstove with a modern gas range. "I thought I'd try it out, so I bought some Jonathan apples and made a pie. The crust wasn't bad, but something went wrong with the 'insides' of the pie. It was so dry I could hardly eat it. That was my last attempt at making pie." "No, I haven't tried a cake," he answered when queried about his cake making abilities.
The Putnam farmhouse is well kept. When the Herald reporter called on Mr. Putnam he remarked, "You came at the right time, because I just swept out and cleaned up the house." Although he lives alone, he drives to Postville quite often and "likes the farm life."
~Postville Herald, July 24, 1940
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