Four generations of our family’s Grandmothers have lived and worked on Lone Tree Farm since 1871. All four had the kind of quiet courage that holds young families together and contributes to viable farming operations. However, each woman had her own unique set of gifts. This third in a series of four “Advent” posts provides a thumbnail sketch that includes each Grandmother’s favorite tree as described in an earlier post.

Harriet Cackett Shurr (1846-1928) was born in Wales and immigrated with her mother to upstate New York. Her mother and stepfather tried unsuccessfully to homestead in Wisconsin’s Big Woods when Hattie was a child. However as a young mother with three children, she helped to homestead near the cottonwood tree that gives this farm its name. We have family letters describing their dramatic arrival. They thought that a cabin would be waiting for them, but it wasn’t there and her husband wanted to turn around and go back. However, Hattie persisted and they stayed.

One of Hattie’s gifts was art. This is one of the miniatures that she did in pastels, but she also worked with pen and ink and oil paint. Ironically, most of her landscapes are reminiscent of upstate New York. Her religious fervor was another gift that was a mixed blessing. Although she helped to establish several churches and Sunday Schools, there’s also family “gossip” about how her religious zeal influenced the decisions of five of her nine children to leave the area.

Daisy Edna Shurr (1881-1957) was born on a farm homesteaded by Irish immigrants that was located close to Kanaranzi Creek about five miles upstream from Lone Tree Farm. After teaching country school for several years, she came to the farm as a young bride. The lilacs that she planted when she first arrived are still alive and bloom every spring. Although Daisy was somewhat frail, she worked as hard as any farm wife was expected to do in those days.

Daisy’s gifts were an interest in history and storytelling. Her father was a veteran of the Civil War and when her young husband enlisted in the Spanish American war, they shared a rock with a hole in it from Kanaranzi Creek. In her Irish tradition a rock with a hole in it is good luck. Her great granddaughter now has that treasure. Daisy used to tell my brother and me stories about Native Americans along the Creek and commonly pointed to leprechauns that always disappeared before we saw them.

Bernita Bell Shurr (1918-2014) was born on the banks of Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. She got a four-year degree in mathematics and after teaching for several years she got certified in library science. Her granddaughter, who is a middle school librarian, now owns Bernita’s old textbooks. When her son was killed in Viet Nam, Bernita became a strong antiwar advocate, although that loss would have a profound affect on her life until the very end.

Bernita’s gifts were her independence and her love of Nature. One of her students from the early 1950s just recently told me what an important role model she was for young women. Bernita encouraged us to find adventure down in the pasture along the Creek, although she secretly supervised our activities without us knowing. Wild plum trees in full bloom represent her commitment to learning from Nature.

Margaret Ann Siemer Shurr (1944-present) was raised on a farm very near Kanaranzi Creek about eight miles upstream from Lone Tree Farm. All four of her grandparents were German and had farmed for several generations. When Margaret was ten years old, her mother died. Although she always credited her family’s help, it was mainly her own personal resiliency that got her through the trauma. And, it was her courage that took her away from the family farm to get her college degree and then teach in several different metropolitan areas.

Margaret’s gifts of empathy and compassion extended beyond teaching and raising a family. When we moved to Lone Tree Farm twenty years ago, she planted evergreen trees….a lot of evergreen trees. She also cheerfully pitched in to provide help and support for the three “oldsters” who we had primary responsibility for. And, she joyfully did the same thing for our four grandchildren. Margaret’s gifts also include those of the other grandmothers: she’s independent, interested in family history, loves Nature and is artistic. She’s got a following on Facebook for her “The View From The Porch” photos.

These blog posts on “changes” have basically become “teasers” for the DNR Holiday “Prairie Podcast” that’s still coming. I’m sure that there’ll be lots of other stories in that podcast if the previous years are any indication. These posts on changes are an expansion of segment that’s only about five minutes long. So there should be something for everyone. Watch for it.

About Lone Tree Farm on Kanaranzi Creek

Recovering academic, earth scientist in phased retirement, farm manager by default, son, husband, father, grandfather.
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