Virnigs’ property receives Century Farm designation

Great-grandfather John Jinderlee purchased the property in 1913

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

John J. Jinderlee was born in Charles City, Iowa, to Joseph and Mary Jinderlee in 1881. He grew up on a 600-acre farm near Elma, Iowa. He came to Morrison County  in about 1911.

Jinderlee’s great-grandson, Mike Virnig, who now lives on the original homestead, said Jinderlee moved to Ipswich, S.D., for some reason and while there, married a Margaret Knippling in 1906.

“My great-grandmother Margaret was also from Iowa, so I’m not sure about why they were both in South Dakota,” he said.

RoseAnn, left, and Mike Virnig show off an old wood stove he found, in pieces, in the old barn. He put it back together and it now sits proudly in their home. Mike is the great-grandson of John Jinderlee who, 100 years ago, purchased the farm Mike currently lives on.

RoseAnn, left, and Mike Virnig show off an old wood stove he found, in pieces, in the old barn. He put it back together and it now sits proudly in their home. Mike is the great-grandson of John Jinderlee who, 100 years ago, purchased the farm Mike currently lives on.

While living in South Dakota, they had a daughter, Marie, who was Virnig’s grandmother. She was born in 1910.

“I assume that when the Soo Line Railroad came to Pierz in about 1909, land agents acting on behalf of the railroad enticed people to come and settle the area,” said  Virnig. “Some records say John and Margaret arrived in 1911, but they purchased the original 120 acres in April 1913.”

Family stories have Jinderlee riding in the box car with his livestock and farm machinery from South Dakota to Pierz, while Margaret and Marie rode in the passenger car.

The land in the Pierz and Buh townships was purchased from John and Theresia Mischke for $4,000, about $33.33 per acre.

Five months later, the Jinderlees purchased  another 56 acres of adjoining property for $2,100, or $37.50 per acre.

Daughter Clara was born in 1913 and the two girls were the Jinderlees’ only children.

John Jinderlee stands with his Model T in front of the original barn on the Morrison County property he purchased from John and Theresia Mischke in 1913. The picture was dated 1914.

John Jinderlee stands with his Model T in front of the original barn on the Morrison County property he purchased from John and Theresia Mischke in 1913. The picture was dated 1914.

In 1914, Jinderlee built a 40-foot by 60-foot barn with a split rock foundation and a drive-in hay mow. The stone mason received $1 per day for his work and the entire project cost Jinderlee about $1,000.

“A mortgage was taken out for $1,800 in 1915 to pay for a new barn and other outbuildings. The Jinderlees had the amount paid in full within five years,” said Virnig.

In December 1929, just after the stock market crash and the beginning of the Depression, Jinderlee purchased another 246 acres of tax-forfeited property in Leigh Township.

“The land was unimproved, yet had been logged several decades before,” said Virnig. “They probably purchased it for the amount of tax owed. The land was previously owned by Elias Colbert or by a mortgage company who purchased it for speculation.”

The Jinderlees cleared the land (stumps and rocks) with help from the Banach brothers, their tractor and about 1,000 pounds of dynamite.

“That’s no exaggeration,” said Virnig. “My grandmother said her father (Jinderlee) purchased dynamite, available from the local hardware store, by the half-ton. The story goes he liked to cut costs by using very short pieces of fuse which led to some very fast sprinting by him and his hired man after the match was struck.”

The Jinderlees raised sheep, dairy cows, beef cattle, laying hens, chickens, hogs and work horses. Virnig remembers his great-grandfather as slim and healthy, in spite of the fact he loved candy, drank beer, smoked cigars and a pipe plus chewed tobacco.

Margaret broke her hip in 1949 and never really recovered. She eventually became an invalid and lived with her daughter Marie, who married Werner Virnig in 1933.

In 1950, Jinderlee moved to a smaller farm north of Pierz and rented out his original farm. Family lore says he moved back to the first farm when he tired of fixing things there for his tenants.

When Werner and Marie Virnig, Mike’s grandparents, were first married, they farmed the original property for awhile, but eventually purchased their own acreage. They had five children: Jerome (Mike’s father), James, Patricia, Betty and Mary.

“I am the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest daughter,” Virnig said.

In 1955, Jerome married Betty Boser. In 1958, he and his growing family moved to the original farm to help run it with his grandfather, Jinderlee. Jerome had hopes the farm would eventually be sold to him.

Jerome and Betty had six children: Mike, Robert, Thomas, John, Debra and Glen.

Also in 1958, when Jinderlee was 77, he purchased another 160 acres, a farm known as the Medek place, and sold his other farm north of Pierz.

It was about 1960 when a bathroom was added to the home. The place had a kitchen sink with water plus a water heater, but no bathroom until then. Jinderlee and Jerome dug the septic, probably using dynamite.

Virnig doesn’t remember a time without electricity. He said his great-grandfather had a Delco light plant with a generator that charged a bank of batteries

“From 1913 – 1968, the farm was always known as the Jinderlee place. It still is to many,” said Virnig.

“I remember one time when great-grandpa was backing out of the barn on a tractor and ran over another tractor, rolling the one he was on,” said Virnig. “But, he got up, dusted himself off and yelled at us kids to get a chain, ‘cause we have to tip this back up.’”

While in his 80s, Jinderlee complained that his legs just couldn’t go fast enough anymore, said Virnig. He said they were wore out from all the miles he had walked. He told Virnig that when he was 10 years old, he plowed 80 acres alone behind a one-bottom walking plow (a plow that is pulled by a horse and creates one furrow).

Jinderlee made out his will in 1968 and gave his daughter Marie the home farm and his daughter Clara the farm in Genola. That’s the year he retired from the dairy farm.

Jinderlee worked on the farm until his mid-80s and passed away at age 92, in 1973.

Marie and her husband Werner Virnig were nearing retirement at that time, plus had their own farm to work. They sold the home place to their son Jerome and his wife Betty in 1969.

While farming, Jerome built a Jack Frost chicken farm for laying hens to supplement the farm’s income. In 1982, the barn was converted to a dairy barn and the cows were moved out of the old stone barn.

Their son Mike Virnig, born in 1956, married RoseAnn Lust in 1977. They had three children: Ken, Jeremy and Jennifer.

For seven years, Virnig worked in artificial insemination, but in 1983, he joined the family farm with his father, with the goal of creating a family partnership,

“I always wanted to dairy farm,” he said.

But, a year later, Jerome died suddenly of a heart attack at age 49.

“My brother Glen, RoseAnn and I took over the day-to-day operations of the farm,” said Virnig. He and RoseAnn purchased the 407 acres from his mother, Betty, in 1985, and ran it as a true family farm with help from their children.

From 1985 – 2012, the Virnigs built a shop, cattle shed, machine shed, silo and grain bin and a new home, replacing all the original buildings.

This year, the 60-head of dairy cows was sold to their daughter Jennifer and her husband, Andrew Kapsner. The cows are registered under the name Jinderlee Dairy.

The Jinderlee place was in Mike Virnig’s family even before John Jinderlee came to Morrison County. Virnig found records of Lorenz and Kunigunda Boser owning the property, his great-great-grandparents on his mother’s side. There was a gap in the ownership, so they could not be counted as part of the Century Farm lineage.

The Century Farm program is sponsored by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Farm Bureau. It recognizes farms which have been in continuous ownership by a family for 100 years or more. Since the program began in 1976, more than 8,500 Minnesota farms have been added to the list.

The property must be at least 50 acres and currently be involved in agricultural production. It must have been in the family for at least 100 continuous years according to the abstract of title, land patent, original deed, county land records, court files or some other authentic land records.

For more information on the Century Farm program and how to apply, go to www.mnstatefair.org.

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