“The Farmers:” Gus Meinert and Family
by Victor Meinert
Gus Meinert was the third oldest of the children born to Peter and Marie Meinert. He arrived on 20 February 1890. At that time, the Meinerts farmed an 80 acre place in Sheridan Township, IA. Gus was a farmer from the very beginning. He was always interested in all the things pertaining to agriculture and, from boyhood on, was a hard worker.
After graduating from Sheridan Township grade schools, Gus took a man’s place on his father’s farm and quickly learned the arts of plowing, planting, cultivating, harvesting and all the rest of the work that went with the farming of that time. He was equally interested in livestock and the crops. He did some threshing work with this father’s threshing crew and, although very young, was regarded as one of the best strawstack builders in the community. While Peter was out with the threshing rig for weeks on end, Gus, along with his older brother Emil, had the responsibility for the operation of the Meinert farm. This was especially true during the period Grandfather Meinert was ill, and also later, even though a part of the 80 acres was sold.
When he was 16, Gus went to Brown’s Business College, later to graduate from the bookkeeping courses offered there. This training later stood him in good stead in the management of his own farming enterprises.
Early in the new century, Peter and Maria Meinert were able to buy a choice 200-acre tract near Maysville. The family moved from the small Sheridan Township place to the big farm in Hickory Grove Township, adding much to Gus’ responsibility. This was especially true after Emil graduated in Engineering from Highland Park College and left the home to enter the automotive business. Meanwhile, Gus’ younger brother, George, also worked on the home farm, but he, too, was not at all interested in Agriculture and in time, took work with the national Cash Register Company.
On 10 March 1915, Gus was married to Hattie Rohwer, Daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Rohwer, well known farmers of near Donahue, members of another pioneer farm family. Attendants at the Davenport church wedding were Grover W. Hahn and Emma Meinert Hahn, sister and brother-in-law of the groom. Following their wedding, Hattie and Gus had a dinner at the Fejeruary Park Inn and then, after pictures were taken at Frank Free’s studio, left for a Chicago honeymoon. While in Chicago, Hattie and Gus bought furniture for their new home.
On their return from Chicago, the young couple started farming on the Meinert home from near Maysville. They rented the 200 acre tract from Peter for a number of years before they were given the opportunity to buy in 1928.
Two children were born to Gus and Hattie. A daughter, Grace, was born March 17, 1917, and a son, Ralph, arrived June 27, 1920. Grace and Ralph both graduated from Scott County schools and took part in 4-H work. Grace also attended the Immaculate Conception Academy, and Ralph took business courses at Brown’s Business college.
Ralph was in WWII from November 1940 to April 1943. His service included seven months overseas in the height of the Nazi Blitz of England.
Grace married Harry Fawcett in 1940. They had one child, Ginger, born in 1942. The marriage was dissolved in 1951, leaving Grace with a daughter to raise on her own. Ginger frequently was with her grandparents, and they took great delight in Ginger’s exceptional ability scholastically, in music and in other ways. As an expression of appreciation, they presented their granddaughter with an electric organ, which she learned to play beautifully. In time she became an organist in Grace Lutheran Church in Davenport. In 1962, Ginger was married to Gerald Arp, a youth Stockton farmer, the son of a well known farm family in Muscatine County. They now make their home on the Arp farm. Grace has also remarried and is now the wife of John Grisham, of Davenport.
Ralph, on his return from military service, resumed farming work with his father. In 1945, shortly after the end of the war, he was married to Jean Madden of Long Grove, daughter of another widely known farm family, whose father, Clyde, was killed by an enraged bull. The young couple started farming the Meinert farm shortly after marriage. Jean and Ralph have two children: Mike, born in 1951, and Debra, in 1954.
As for Gus and Hattie’s farming career, it extended over a 30 year period. Peter Meinert, original owner of the place ought to have been very well pleased with his son’s achievements. Gus was considered one of the best farmers in the community and without doubt, had one of the most attractive farmsteads, as well as one of the most productive farms, in Eastern IA.
Soon after purchasing the 200 acre tract in 1928, Hattie and Gus made plans for replacing the old home with a new modern brick structure. By early 1930, plans were completed for the new house, one that would be the pride of the community. While the house was still under construction, and nearly finished, a devastating fire swept the farmstead. Occurring at a time when everything was tinder dry and after the first crop of hay was made. It is believed a hired man’s carelessness in smoking caused the fire that quickly consumed the entire barn. The granary and other buildings were also lost, and fire scorched one side of the nearly completed home.
As a result of the fire, it was necessary to rebuild the barn and other out buildings. These new structures, along with the new brick home, plus some well planned landscaping, made the Meinert farm a model for the county.
After farming the home place 28 years, first as tenants and then as owners, Gus and Hattie bought an additional 200 acres in nearby Muscatine County. Victor Frisch, a former Scott County farmer, was the Meinerts tenant on the Muscatine County farm from the time of its purchase until this writing in 1964.
The home place near Maysville was diligently farmed by Ralph and Jean from the time of their marriage. Gus continued to take an active interest in the operation, both in the practical and advisory terms. Gus’ brother’s Emil and George, and his sister, Emma, also took great pride in the way their home farm was improved and produced.
In 1963, Gus and Hattie sold the 200 acre Meinert farm to Ralph and Jean, making the third generation of Meinerts to operate the property, and, with Mike and Debra listed as the fourth generation Meinerts to enjoy life on the “home” farm.