Weld County farm celebrates 100 years
When Judy Firestien talks about the history of her family’s farm, it doesn’t sound rehearsed because she knows it so well.
This year is the Centennial anniversary of the Von Trotha-Firestien Historic Farm in Bracewell, Colo., and the plan is to celebrate with an Open Farm on June 10.
The farm isn’t as large as it used to be. Firestien’s cousin, Mark, still produces corn and hay on 50 acres of land. At its peak, the farm had about 200 acres.
But it remains as one of the few properties left in the town most people only know about if they’re from the area. Even Firestien’s mailing address is Greeley, Colo., and the phone number is from another neighboring town.
The property is on the National Register of Historic Places, which includes the likes of Independence Hall and the Statue of Liberty. As the case with many places on the list, Firestien applied for the listing when a possible road expansion would have cut her home in half.
“The historical society was interested because everything is pretty much where it started,” Firestien said.
The listing prevented the road from running through the property.
While the farm is 100 years old this year, Firestien can’t apply for the Centennial Farm designation from Colorado because the family must own the farm for 100 years. The Firestien family didn’t officially own the farm until 1966.
“We have a few more years to go,” Firestien said.
Brothers Bode and Claude Von Trotha, weren’t the original landowners, but they settled on the land in 1916. The brothers improved irrigation practices on the farm and grew sugar beets, a big cash crop at the time.
“I don’t think there was a farmer who didn’t raise them then,” said Ruth Firestien, Judy’s mom.
Firestien’s great grandparents, Peter and Sophia Firestien, worked for the Von Trotha brothers. In fact, the Firestien’s house is now Judy’s.
The Von Trotha brothers didn’t have someone to pass the farm along to in their family, so they offered it to the Firestien’s.
Years later, when Ruth married Peter and Sophia’s grandson, Wilbert “Chuck,” they asked the Von Trothas about a place for them to live on the farm. The idea of building a new home was obvious, but the Von Trothas were resourceful and moved a nearby house to the farm.
“It hadn’t been used except for a hired man’s house,” Ruth said. “The house had been sitting empty for quite a while. They moved it up here and redid it.”
Ruth still lives in the house.
Even Judy’s house, while original, wasn’t built with new material. Brick from a few old silos was used to build it.
Although the Von Trotha brothers didn’t have someone to pass the farm on to, their lineage didn’t stop with Bode and Claude. Not too long ago, Judy said, a relative of the Von Trotha brothers, who had Texas license plates, drove into the property just to look around.
But that’s how the community of Bracewell is, regardless of how far they’ve traveled they seem to find their way back. Even Judy left for Fort Collins for a while before making herself home again in the house that used to be her grandparent’s.
“From there I started to look into (the history) more. There’s always this community of Bracewell that says, ‘We’re from Bracewell,’ so that’s always been cool in a way,” she said. ❖
— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm
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