THE NORTH DAKOTA FARM
REMEMBERING ONE HUNDRED YEARS
Busch farm about 1906
By Dick Bernard
A "grandson" of the Farm
Spring 1905 - below
Postcards - click here
Summer - harvest time - click here
Fall - the Cottonwood tree - click here
Winter - remembering an old shed - click here
Written May 2005
"We were married on the 13th of November, 1906. Bought a farm in North Dakota in Section 13. Lived on Section 13 for 13 years, then moved to Iowa, [and] found we were living in the 13th precinct. While living in the 13th precinct we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on Friday the 13th. Gave birth to a 13th child, who was born on Friday the 13th. On the 13th of June, after living in the 13th precinct 13 years, we moved back to section 13, over Highway 13, and our 13th baby will be 13 years on the 13th of April in 1941.
This is the biography of Mrs. August Berning"
(which was doubtless written at the Berning farm near Grand Rapids, probably in early 1941.)
100 years ago in the spring of 1905, Ferdinand Busch and new spouse Rosa Berning turned their first furrow on the new farm between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND; two years later his sister Christina and her husband, Rose's brother August Berning, began to farm adjacent North Dakota land. Other siblings of both couples came to this part of ND for varying periods, and "the rest," as they say, "is history."
Ferdinand Busch of rural Cuba City WI (not far from Dubuque IA), apparently first came to what is now the Busch farm in Henrietta township in November, 1904. He came to complete arrangements for a new farm. A letter from the railroad, indicates that his return ticket to Dubuque from Edgeley was good till December 12, 1904. It is probable that his uncle, H. H. Busch of Dubuque IA, had something to do with the choice of location. H. H. Busch was to become a land entrepreneur, and by the early 1900s was familiar with North Dakota.
On February 26, 1905, Ferdinand married Rosa Berning, at St. Joseph's church, near Sinsinawa Mound WI. The Wisconsin Busch and Berning farms were nearly adjacent to each other, just east of the hamlet of Louisburg WI, and only a few miles NE of Dubuque. Separating their homes was perhaps a mile "as the crow flies" walk across farm fields. Ferdinand was second oldest of seven children of Wilhelm and Barbara (Heim) Busch; Rosa was the 8th child of 12 in the George and Christina (Vosberg) Berning family.
Soon after the wedding, Ferdinand and Rosa came to their new farm about 5 miles southwest of Grand Rapids. During the first season a number of their siblings spent considerable time at the farm, helping. A new house had been built coincident with their arrival, and a family grew. Between 1907 and 1927, nine children were born to the couple, all in the farm home: Lucina, Esther, Verena, Mary, George, Florence, Edith, Vincent and Arthur. Verena died of appendicitis at age 15 in 1927. She was the only sibling to not reach adulthood. Ferdinand (Fred, Ferdie) passed away in 1967, Rosa (Rose) in 1972. At the end of 2005, there remain three siblings from this farm family.
A year and a half after Ferdinand and Rosa came to North Dakota, their sister and brother, Christina Busch and August Berning, married at Kieler WI, and not long after moved to a farm adjoining the Busch's to the east. Thirteen children were born to Christina and August between 1907 and 1928, eight in North Dakota: the first, Irwin, died at 6 months, followed by Irene, Lillian, Cecilia, Rose, August, Hyacinth, Ruby & Ruth (twins, Ruth died in infancy), Agnes, Anita and Melvin. Christina passed away in 1950, August in 1961. Four siblings remain.
August and Christina Berning and family lived on the Henrietta township farm until 1920, when they rented out their land and moved back to Dubuque IA. The Great Depression caused them, in 1933, to return to their North Dakota farm, where they both lived the rest of their lives. Melvin was the only Berning to complete all of his schooling in North Dakota. The others went to school in both Iowa and North Dakota. Their daughter Agnes spent her adult life as a Catholic Nun.
Another Berning had a significant history with LaMoure county. Helena (Lena Berning, Rosa's sister), and her husband Art Parker, became the first manager/caretakers of the Veteran's Memorial Park in Grand Rapids when it was opened after World War I. They may have been the first occupants of the house which was then new, and still stands just inside the park entrance.
The families were very much a part of the American experience of the twentieth century: George Busch and August Berning Jr. were Navy and Marine officers respectively in the Pacific theatre during WWII; Art Busch and Mel Berning both were Army veterans following WWII. The fifth son, Vincent, was needed on the farm. Most of the girls became teachers, health professions and/or homemakers, in the manner of the times.v
Fred Busch was a school-trained violinist (fiddler) and had a country dance band in his day. He was also an inventor with two patents, the last received at age 76. Neither patent added to the family wealth, but were nonetheless significant accomplishments for a country tinkerer.
"Town" for the families varied: by 1915 Berlin became the hub for business, church, school and mail; LaMoure was a bigger business hub; Grand Rapids was a smaller business and recreation location (Veterans Memorial Park); and Jamestown ("Jimtown"), about an hour northwest, was the nearest major town. The horse and trains were major ways of getting around until and after the automobile became well established in the 1920s.
The families experienced deeply the privation and hardships of the Great Depression. Art Busch, born in 1927, in 1993 wrote particularly vivid memories of the Depression: "I'll never forget the panting birds of all local species which would come during the drought to the large livestock watering trough to get a drink and cool off since there wasn't even dew on the grass and weeds for them to get some moisture. We would put wood blocks into the tank for the birds to sit on and drink. Occasionally one of them would get knocked into the water and drown. As a preschooler I would go to the garden with Mother and occasionally a bird suffering from the heat would land in the plum tree close to me as if begging for water. Several times Mother had to replace the garden a couple of times each summer because of lack of rain.
"The heat was also a major concern for the farm animals, particularly the horses which were used exclusively for field work during the thirties. Heat stroke was a threat to animal and man, and eating lots of salt and drinking lots of water was essential. It seemed that when we got enough rain for the crops, the grasshoppers would come in droves and do major damage. There were several years that the swarms of grasshoppers were so great that they were considered a "plague". Hail was also more prevalent during those years. Because of the dryness of the soil, high winds also caused much damage as well as the discomfort to man and horse from the clouds of dust during plowing and dragging. These were the so-called "Dust Bowl" years. After a few decent crops in the late thirties, Dad was able to get a used tractor to do the heavy plowing and gradually the horse was phased out."
Hard times in Dubuque led the Bernings to return to their ND farm in 1933. At least, it was reasoned, they could eat home grown produce. But even that was uncertain during portions of the 1930s.
While Berlin and LaMoure were family 'hubs' for school, church and business, during the growing up years of the Busch and Berning grandkids, the Grand Rapids Park became a standard stop during every visit. There are many memories: fishing by the dam, watching the old guys play horseshoes, community baseball, refreshments at the refreshment stand...the Park was a hub of Sunday and holiday activity. Trips to the LaMoure dam to fish were always accompanied by a stop at the Dairy Bar for ice cream. And it was great fun to have an opportunity to see butter being made at the then-Creamery.
"The Farm" left lots of memories for the next generation of visitors.