The present owners of a rural Seymour family farm, which dates to 1903, recently were recognized during a ceremony at the Indiana State Fair.
Mary Elisabeth Trimpe Keller and Anne Keller, representing the Miller-Kasting-Trimpe-Keller family, received the Hoosier Homestead Centennial Award for 104 acres that lie south off East County Road 550 North in Hamilton Township.
The Kellers, however, also had a second reason to celebrate during the fair, as Mary Elisabeth Keller also received a Bicentennial Barn Award for the red English-style barn that sits behind her home on State Road 258 west of Seymour.
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“We have worked on the barn through the years to keep it looking nice,” said Mary Elisabeth, who is a Cortland native. “Just like my grandparents did, I also keep hay in the barn. I get a joy in watching my cows and calves in the pasture, so the hay is for them in the winter.”
The barn dates back to about 1880, around the same time the house was built. The barn is held together with old wood pegs and timber.
Mary Elisabeth said that there has never been electricity in it.
“There’s just something about an old barn,” she said, “A barn today will never be built like that one again. It’s a beautiful work of craftsmanship, and I think that an old barn truly exemplifies a farm heritage.”
The barn was one of two to received honorable mention in Jackson County as part of the Bicentennial Barns of Indiana project. The other belongs to Dennis and Tricia Bowers of Seymour.
The land for what is now the Keller Farm was bought by Henry and Mary Stockhover Miller, who were Mary Elisabeth Keller’s great-grandparents, just after the turn of the 20th century.
Today, the land is still being tilled, planted and harvested, although the types of crops being planted have changed from corn, wheat and other small grains to a corn-soybean rotation.
In 1937, Keller’s grandparents, Ernest and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Miller Kasting, purchased the two-story, Italianate-style white brick home. It includes the English-style barn and additional land that has stayed in the family.
That ground adjoins the 104 acres the land purchased earlier by Elizabeth Kasting’s parents. Mary Elisabeth Keller currently lives in the house, where she raised her only child, Anne.
“Henry’s parents migrated to America in 1846 from northern Germany, and he first purchased a farm in southern Bartholomew County,” Mary Elisabeth said. “My family relocated to America because they had no hope of owning land in Germany.
“Some years after Henry got married and established himself, he had the opportunity to buy his own land. Even though he bought in the river bottoms, he was thinking that growing crops on sand ground would be more productive.”
An old Indian boundary line, known as the 10 O’Clock Treaty Line, which dates to the early 1800s, factors into the historic parcel.
“This line passes through the 104 acres and in one place, even today, forms a property line for this farm ground,” Mary Elisabeth said.
Adding to the farm’s history, the white brick house and surrounding farm buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
“Both sides of my family have farmed in Jackson County for more than five generations, but we are five generations for this particular parcel of 104 acres,” she said. “The ground subsequently has been passed down through four generations of women, from Henry and Mary’s only child, Lizzie Miller Kasting, to my parents and my mother’s sister and then to me.
“Anne is my partner in the family farm today, and there isn’t a day that passes that we don’t talk about the farm. That’s how I was raised, and that’s how I raised her.”
Mary Elisabeth grew up as the only child of Omer and Thelma Kasting Trimpe in a red brick home next to her grandparents. That’s where she learned to love the country life.
“I have always been a businesswoman in farming,” she said. “When I was growing up, I was so immersed into what my father and mother were doing on the farm. Summer, to me, was on the farm putting up hay and working on 4-H projects. Farming was so completely rooted into my being. When I was growing up, every day was a learning opportunity with my parents where we discussed the weather, livestock, market prices and more.”
Anne said her mom raised her the same way.
“You have to engage the next generation in conversations,” she said. “It’s like a lifelong apprenticeship. I believe that the farm has stayed in the family because farming is a lifestyle. People tended to stick with what they were raised with. And in that sense, people felt a deep connection to the land.”
For information about the Bicentennial Barns of Indiana project, visit 200indianabarns.com.