Monday, June 20, 2011

Century Farm

My paternal grandfather filed this application in 1910, and one hundred years later, the land is still being farmed by his great grandson. Subsequent deeds confirm it is a Century Farm.

John Franklin and Annie Stearns
date unknown - possibly taken on their wedding

John Franklin Stearns, the patriarch of the South Dakota Stearns legacy, arrived in Provo from Brewster, Minn., in May 1910 with one goal in mind: to stake his claim on federal land and start a homestead. Known by his middle name, Frank was 40 years old.

Frank Stearns' wife, Annie, arrived by train seven months later (December 1910) with their five young children: Theodore, 7; Sadie, 6; Edward, 5; Arthur, 3; and Charles, 1. The seven of them squeezed into a 16-by-24-foot, two-room tar-paper shack with no insulation, plumbing or electricity.

While the children were still young, Frank contracted typhoid fever, causing him to run deliriously through fields full of cactus in the middle of the night. After finding Frank 20 miles from home and thinking he was insane, the sheriff threw him in jail. A doctor later diagnosed Frank with typhoid, and he was taken to a hospital in Hot Springs, SD. Annie ran the ranch while Frank recovered.

In 1927, Frank died from a bleeding ulcer at the age of 57. Annie outlived her husband by 23 years, dying in 1950 at the age of 82.

While Annie was still alive, her son, Ed Stearns, and his wife, Ida, took over the ranch in about 1933. Their son, Dewane and his wife Flora worked the land after them, and today it is owned and operated by Dewane's son, Jerry and his wife Melissa. All 160 acres of his original homestead are still ranched by the Stearns family 100 years later, and the dilapidated, original homestead house stands on the hill behind the modern home, built by Jerry and Melissa Stearns, Frank's great grandson. (taken from August 29, 2010 Rapid City Journal)

John Franklin Stearns


  1. How interesting. Out John Stearns wet from PA to CO about the same time to build a homestead. They ended up going back. That was my late husbands's great grandfather.

  2. It is wonderful that the land is still in the family. Thanks for sharing.

  3. What a fabulous story and wonderful that you have pictures. Not many people can both tell the stories and have the land still in tact like that in the family. I love history, and I love genealogy. I've done any with mine in some time. You come from sturdy stock Nancy!

  4. What great family history Nancy! AND you have old wonderful! At the museum we have a Pioneer Room (a one room cabin) no one wants to think of people living in such a small space, but they did. I hope you had a wonderful trip to South Dakota! :)

  5. It's wonderful that this ranch is still in your family. What an interesting story, too. This glimpse into the past reminds me of dramatically things have changed in only 100 years. Mind boggling when you think about it.

  6. Thank you for sharing the family history and pictures... very interesting stuff! 100 years of farming and all original land still theirs... that is very unusual!

  7. What a wonderful story! We've been researching our family tree, and it is amazing the hardships that people went through, and yet they acomplished so much.

  8. How wonderful! What a great story. I'm glad you shared, Nancy.

  9. What a wonderful story - I'm having a great time researching our family story too!

  10. Love your family's story! Priceless :)


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