For almost every item that Arline Kaul decided to sell at a recent rummage sale, she had a story about a life spent on the Town of Grafton farm owned by her family for 125 years
Arline Kaul has spent her entire life on the Town of Grafton farm that was purchased in 1888 by her great-great-grandparents Valentine and Wilamena Grisar.
Last weekend, she and her three daughters — Donna Gruetzmacher and Diane Pfaffenroth, both of Grafton, and Lynette Hennings of White Bear Lake, Minn. — held what they called Grandpa’s Barn Rummage Sale.
Arline, 87, said she has no intention to leave the farm that’s been in her family for five generations and she operated with her husband Fred “Fritz” until he died in 2009. But it doesn’t appear a sixth generation is interested in farming, so it was time to clean out the barn, she said.
“It was my idea,” Kaul said. “At sometime, it needed to be done. After Tim (her son) passed away, that was the deciding factor. Nobody else appeared interested in farming.”
For weeks prior to the sale, she and her daughters dug into the corners, attics and lofts of the 1893 barn and outbuildings, including a wood shed that once was her great-grandparents Henry and Amelia Grisar’s log home and blacksmith shop, also built in 1893.
The family lived upstairs, while Henry operated the blacksmith on the first floor and farmed with his father Valentine, Arline said.
In 1916, Henry and Amelia built the two-story farmhouse where Arline was born two generations later and still lives.
Diane said she and her sisters enjoyed hearing their mother’s stories as they unearthed items that triggered memories.
“She could tell us the stories behind everything and what we should keep and what we could throw out,” Diane said.
An old red boy’s bicycle with an Indian insignia, but no seat and flat tires may not mean much to other people, but it belonged to Arline’s older brother Armin and she remembers it well.
“I would sit on the back fender and we would ride to school,” she said. “He rode that bike everywhere.”
Some Indian bicycles made by the Hendee Manufacturing Co. in Springfield, Mass., are collector’s items.
A broken spinning wheel probably belonged to her great-grandmother, Arline said. A sewing machine, left behind by a buyer who wanted only the cabinet for a table, was her grandmother’s.
An array of old tools and antiquated farm equipment was sold.
“The gentlemen who came knew what each one was used for. We learned a lot,” Arline said. “I knew what most of them were for but not all of them.
“Fritz was a collector. He didn’t throw anything away.”
Most items were stored in the shed, barn, metal Quonset hut or chicken coop, except for her husband’s pride — a Model T Ford that he bought for two chickens and two dozen eggs from a local farmer and lovingly restored over many years.
“I think we have a buyer for that,” she said.
Arline enjoys telling her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about their ancestors and the farm’s history.
As each generation passed the farm onto the next one, she said, the younger ones with families lived downstairs and the grandparents moved upstairs. The house was built for two families and usually held several generations, she said.
The deeds often included not only the sale price but also an obligation that the younger generation take care of their elders.
Valentine and Wilamena sold 60 acres for $2,000 plus $2,000 in wages to their son Henry and his wife, but kept one horse and one cow and were to receive two tons of hay and 20 bushels of oats annually. Their son was also to give them one barrel of good wheat flour, 1/2 barrel of rye flour, 50 pounds of pork and three bags of potatoes annually.
Henry and Amelia, who had two sons Walter and Arthur (Arline’s father), built the current farmhouse in 1916.
Arthur served in World War I. He was wounded in France and awarded a Purple Heart in 1919.
In 1934, Henry sold the property to Arthur and his wife Lydia. Her grandparents lived upstairs while they lived downstairs, Arline said.
When she and Fritz were married in 1946, they moved into the Village of Grafton for a few years. Fritz worked for Grafton Truck Lines and she was a secretary for Banner and Houseman law firm.
They moved back to the farm in 1949, one month before her father died of a heart attack.
Her mother moved upstairs and the Kauls lived downstairs, where they raised their four children.
The couple leased the farm until buying it in 1966. They started their operation with 16 Guernsey cows, five heifers, three calves, a bull, a 1948 tractor and one milking machine, which Arline said she knew well how to operate.
“I always helped with the milking, morning and evening,” she said. “During haying season, I drove the tractor. I loved driving the tractor. Grandma was always in the house, so she could take care of the kids.”
Arline still mows the large lawn with a riding lawn mower. It takes 4-1/2 hours.
“I would rather be outside mowing grass than inside doing housework,” she said.
In 1957, the Kauls purchased 80 adjacent acres that included prime farmland and a portion of the Ulao Creek wetlands.
They sold their dairy herd in 1978, but continued to farm with their son, raising elk, nursery crops, cannery and cash crops.
Fritz, who was the Grafton town chairman and a county supervisor for many years, and Tim, who also served on the town and county boards, were dedicated to preserving the Ulao Creek watershed for ecological reasons and concerned about development encroaching upon their property.
In 1999, the Kauls secured a conservation easement with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust for 55 acres in the Ulao Swamp. They deeded the land to Tim and his wife Susan, who subsequently deeded it to their nephew Kurt Gruetzmacher.
In 2011, the Kaul family donated conservation easements on another 56 acres entering into an agreement with Ozaukee County and the Land Trust, thus preventing the majority of their land from becoming a subdivision or mall.
A friend is currently working the land, but someday a family member may decide to farm it.
Arline said Tim, who died of cancer in March 2012, perfectly described her and the family’s sentiments in his presentation to the County Board when they donated development rights.
Tim told the board, “I can’t imagine how many times any one of my ancestors could have decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore and sold out.
“They didn’t because they understood the value of passing farm land to the next generation and had family willing to give it a go themselves. I sincerely thank them for that.”
Image Information: HER GREAT-GRANDPARENTS’ original log home, built in 1893 and now used as a storage shed, was the backdrop for Arline Kaul, who sat behind her great-grandmother’s spinning wheel, and daughter Diane Pfaffenroth, who held an old red bicycle that belonged to Arline’s brother Armin Grisar. The items are among those left from Grandpa’s Barn Rummage Sale that Arline and her daughters held last weekend on the Town of Grafton farm that has been in Arline’s family since 1888. Photo by Sam Arendt