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Poe homestead recognized as Centennial Farm PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

As Holyoke celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, the Poe family can say it’s lived through the community’s rich history since its beginning.

Last year, the George Poe farm was recognized with the Colorado Centennial Farm Award, which honors farmers and ranchers whose families have owned and worked their land continuously for 100 years or more.

The award was established as a way of recognizing the significant role that these families have had in settling and shaping their communities and the state of Colorado.

The Poes researched the family and farm history, including land title documents, Phillips County Museum records, old family photos and their great-grandmother’s diary, which was then submitted to Centennial Farms Colorado.

The Poe family was one of 10 to be recognized at a ceremony at last year’s Colorado State Fair, where they were presented with a sign, recognition by the State of Colorado House of Representatives and a certificate signed by the governor of Colorado.

The Poe family farm southeast of Holyoke is recognized as a Colorado Centennial Farm. Pictured from left are Mike Poe, Patti Poe and her husband Barry Logan.

The following is a family history written by Michael and Patricia Poe.


George Poe family settles southeast of Holyoke in the 1880s

George and Ann Poe and their four children, along with their worldly possessions, a team of horses and two cows, traveled by train from Alexis, Ill., to Venango, Neb., in 1886.

After unloading in Venango, they followed their grazing livestock to a spot along the Frenchman Creek six miles east and one mile south of Holyoke, where they built a sod house and homesteaded later that year.

George walked the seven miles to Holyoke each day to work as a carpenter. In 1894, it was so dry that their crops did not come up and there was no grass, so they turned the cattle loose and drifted with them to the edge of the sandhills five miles southeast of the original homestead.

They built another sod house and a barn at that location. Their sons Herman and Winnie inherited the land after George passed away in 1898.

Herman married Alta Smith of Champion, Neb., in 1900. In December 1904, Herman and Alta received a U.S. Patent Deed signed by President Theodore Roosevelt on the home site and 80 acres of grassland to the east.

Herman and Alta lived in the sod house until 1904 when they built a three-bedroom frame house 3/8 mile east of the soddy. The frame house was built from used lumber and is held together by square nails.

Around 1906, Herman and Alta razed the soddy and moved the frame house, by horse-powered winch, and set it where the soddy had been. It took nearly two weeks to move the house that short distance. The family lived in the house as it was being moved, since there was no plumbing to interfere with the progress.

There are still remnants of the sod house in the crawl space under the frame house. A root cellar for cold storage of meat and vegetables was dug very early in the farm’s history and is still in use today.

In 1917, Herman and Alta tore down the original barn and built a larger one. It is still used today for livestock, and there is hay in the hayloft.

They also acquired Herman’s brother Winnie Poe’s homestead to the north and bought a quarter section of land to the west for $10. This gave them farmground to raise feed for their livestock.

There has been telephone service to the frame house since around the time it was built. Barbed-wire fences served as telephone lines running out from Holyoke in several directions. Calls coming from Holyoke intended for homes past the Poe farm to the south and east all rang into the phone hanging on the wall in Alta’s kitchen. She would relay the call by ringing the far end party and then connecting the two parties together with a switch.

Herman served as Phillips County commissioner, both he and Alta served on the Amitie school board, and they were active in the State Line United Brethren Church.

Herman and Alta moved into Holyoke in 1928 to care for Herman’s aging mother Ann. They rented the farm to their sons Glen and Guy. Glen and his wife Della Walgren Poe moved into the frame house and took over the farming operations in the early 1930s. After Alta passed away in 1937, Herman moved into a small house on the farm and lived there until his death in 1949.

The Poe family survived on the farm through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. All the farming was done by teams of horses or mules until Glen bought a 1941 Case tractor. They built a large chicken house in 1940 and a two-car garage in 1951 after the garage next to the house was destroyed by a tornado.

In 1944, Glen and Della built a heated dipping vat next to the barn, and neighbors from miles around brought their livestock to the Poe farm to be dipped and treated for lice and grubs. Glen and Della also acquired additional grassland south of the homestead so they could expand the cow herd.

Despite having one of the first telephones in the area, there was no electricity to the farm site until 1944, and they upgraded to running water and indoor plumbing in 1945 when one bedroom was converted to a bathroom. A small basement was dug at that time, and it still has only an exterior access.

Glen and his brothers competed in chariot races at county fairs in neighboring towns.

Glen and several neighbors created the Pleasant Valley Ballpark in a pasture a mile east of the Poe farm. It had a lighted ball field, a score board, an announcer’s stand, bleachers, playground equipment and a pop stand.

Every child growing up in the Pleasant Valley area learned to play baseball or softball there, and families enjoyed popcorn from the pop stand and good-natured competition among youth and adult teams from Wagon Wheel, Champion, Imperial, Lamar and Venango in Nebraska and Amherst, Holyoke, Haxtun, Paoli and Wray in Colorado.

Glen’s and Della’s sons Donald and Dean were active in 4-H and FFA as they were growing up.

Glen Poe passed away in 1953. Della and their son Dean operated the farm until Dean went into the Army in 1957, at which time Donald and his wife Esther Douglass Poe and their small daughter Patricia moved into the frame house and took over the farm. Their son Michael was born one year later.

All the farming was entirely dryland until 1975 when Donald started irrigating 300 of the 510 acres at the home place. Today, the Poe farm consists of the original homestead plus about 1,200 acres of pastureland and produces irrigated corn and alfalfa and hosts a Hereford cow-calf operation.

Donald held many offices in the Phillips County Farmers Union /Local. He was an early member of and still actively fights prairie fires with the Sandhills Volunteer Fire Department.

Esther has been a 4-H leader and Phillips County Fair superintendent. She served as Phillips County Farmers Union education leader for 16 years and is still active in the Eureka Club (a neighborhood home extension club of which Della was a charter member in 1951). She is an avid gardener and quilter, teaches quilting and participates in (and wins) quilting competitions in western Nebraska and eastern Colorado.

Donald’s and Esther’s children, Michael and Patricia Poe, are the fifth generation to live on the home site. Both were active in 4-H and Farmers Union, attending camps and earning their Torchbearer Awards, and Michael was active in FFA while in school.

Michael currently is president and treasurer of the Phillips/Sedgwick County Farmers Union Local and frequently speaks on agriculture-related issues at regional and statewide forums and the State Legislature. Michael also is chief of the Sandhills Volunteer Fire Department.

Donald and Esther still live in the frame house. Michael lives in a new house on the home place and continues the family farming and livestock operations.


Holyoke Enterprise August 8, 2013