The Winona Farm... Then, Now and Forever.

Looking south in 1912 and North in 2001.
Mural in Merchants Bank... View from neighbors field.

The Winona Farm is a beautiful piece of South East Minnesota, it's diversity, natural beauty and proximity [3 miles] to downtown Winona so impressed Dick, that for many years he searched for a way to protect it for future generations to enjoy. From two beautiful clear trout streams down low in the valley to the top of a 600' hill, with wet areas, ponds, forests and fields in between this 175 acres will forever remain intact.

It is so much more than a farm, in fact only about 60 acres could be considered farmland, the rest is more like a nature reserve... is home to animals and plants which are listed with the Minnesota D.N.R. as "Endangered": the Green Northern Cricket Frog, "Threatened" the Timber Rattlesnake, and of "Special Concern": the Snapping Turtle, Least Weasel, Northern Pocket Gopher, Sharp Tailed Sparrow, Common Moorhen and American Ginseng. As well as these there are more common residents such as many species of frogs and toads, muskrats, squirrels, chipmonks, white tailed deer, racoon, coyotes, possums, wood chucks and the occassional mink, river otter and beaver.

The Winona Farm is located in East Burns Valley, just three miles from the center of downtown Winona, Minnesota. Winona was named for a young Dakota woman who threw herself to her death from "Maiden Rock", it is an American Indian name meaning "first born daughter", and Minnesota means "Sky tinted waters".

Not long ago Dakota [Sioux] Indians lived in this scenic valley. The local tribe were the Medawakantonwan, they ranged from Winona to Shakopee. When I'm walking on the large hay field to the west of East Burns Valley Creek I imagine their camps and wonder how they survived Minnesota's harsh Winters. There is still evidence of their lives in arrow heads which can be found in the creek and on the fields. They didn't pretend to own the land as we claim to, they were a part of it, as in reality all life is.

Their summer homes were made of bark supported by a framework and poles. Their winter residence was a teepee made of about 8 buffalo hides sewn together with deer sinew, a typical teepee was about 12' high and 10 to 12' in diameter, with a fire in the middle the temperature inside the dwelling remained tolerable even in the coldest weather.

Their tools and utensils were simple, bowls and spoons made of wood, and their only agricultural tools were hoes and they had awls for leatherwork. Axes were made in varying sizes for strong women down to little girls, they would use them to fell trees for firewood. Men had little use for tools except for hunting and war, and carried a small tomahawk and scalping knife, young men would also carry a bow and arrows. Spears and warclubs were used exclusively in battles.

The first entry in the farms abstract dated November 14,1855 shows that John C. Brown and his wife Julia [Haskins] were the original "owners" of this beautiful little piece of East Burns Valley. They had four children, Mary, Frank, Sarah and Calvin. John Brown took a very active part in the development of his town and county, and was Wilson Town's assessor for 15 years. He was a farmer by profession and a liberal republican in politics.
The Brown family owned the farm until it was sold to Mathias Voelker in 1883. Mathias was one of the first farmers in the district to raise cattle.

In 1884 Jacob Voelker and his Father-in-law Louis Groff, started The Winona Brickyards on the part of his property in East Burns Valley adjoining The Winona Farm.

In 1886 when Jacob and Mathias Voelker's sister Anna Goetzman was widowed she came with her three children, Carl, Wendle and Louisa to live on the farm. I am yet to establish whether this house was their residence at this time, but as it was two years after the brickyard started operations and this house is built from bricks from there logic could indicate that it may have been... I'm still looking for more information on when the house was built.

Jacob Voelker became guardian of the estate when Mathias was declared insane in 1897.

In 1912 Albert Fluery was commissioned to paint a mural for the Merchants National Bank's new building. A larg part of the mural depicts East Burns Valley as seen from West Burns Valley Road, possibly even from Jacob Voelker's residence. It was around this time that East Burns Valley Road was paved. Jacob was a very well known local identity, being a pioneer dairy farmer, manufacturer and Chairman of the Winona County board of Commissioners.

This gives some credence to the local legend about East Burns Valley Road being the first paved road in the state of Minnesota. I'm still searching to find the answer, if in fact it can be found. I have found some newspaper articles that seem to confirm it.

Mathias died in August 1928, and some older residents of East Burns Valley told of how children would tease "the crazy old man". It is unclear as to whether or not Mathias lived out his last days in his home, as death records contradict the newspaper reports.

In 1929 James and Pauline Voelker either inherited or bought the farm from Mathias Voelker estate. James died in 1939 and and willed the house to his wife Pauline who owned the property up until 1945 when Earl Harris bought the farm from the Voelker estate.

A good thing happened for the future of this 175 acres, when on October 1 1956 Richard Gallien and his wife Barbara bought the farm from Earl Harris. Little did the young Dick Gallien know how many struggles he would go through to keep the farm which he would eventually protect forever.

Around 1990 a lady came to visit The Winona Farm and brought with her a 70 year old photograph of herself as a child under the big maple trees in the front yard. The trees were huge even then, so may even have been planted around the time that the house was built. If this is the case it could be these very trees depicted in the mural painted by "Albert Fleury" in 1912 in the then new Winona National Merchants Bank. This mural was restored in the 1990s and to the surprise of the bank workers there were cows depicted on the large hay-field on the other side of East Burns Valley Creek.

On January 3 2002 a "Conservation Easement" was signed which will ensure that this 175 acres will look very much as it does now forever.

We have an interesting plan for the future which we hope will become a reality fairly soon. We hope to start a Green Cemetery to further protect the farm from future developement. When the time comes for people to pick their burial plot we will use our horses May, Zara or Magick to pull our small four passenger carriage to view the available sites. May and Zara will eventually team up to pull a people mover to take family and friends to the graveside for funerals. On these occassions we hope to have Magick pull the hearse.

Here is an AARP article about Natural Burials with a poll about their readers' reactions to the concept. There seems to be a very positive response to this "everything old is new again" idea, with slightly over a third of the respondents saying that they preferred the idea of Green Burial.

Mother Earth News has a very informative article which covers many aspects of the subject, including home funerals, death certificates, burial permits, moving a body etc.

I see caring for your own dying and dead relatives as being very similar to home births. In this day of medical miracles, there always seems to be yet one more thing that doctors can do to prolong the inevitable, even when there is no chance of recovery. How much better it must be to be at home with loved ones close by and leave the world in a gentle manner. I'm not against hope, and medical care when there is a chance of recovery, but I see that Death has become big business and the longer you can be kept alive on ventilators or heart/lung machines the bigger the profit in your dying.

The following is a quote which emphasizes the huge amount of waste and pollution created in the funeral business, was taken from the "Mother Earth News" article "Greener Ways to The Great Beyond".

Each year in the U.S. we bury:

827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde
180,544,000 pounds of steel, in caskets
5,400,000 pounds of copper and bronze, in caskets
30 million board feet of hardwoods, including tropical woods, in caskets
3,272,000,000 pounds of reinforced concrete in vaults
28,000,000 pounds of steel in vaults

Statistics compiled by Mary Woodsen, vice president of the Pre-Posthumous Society of Ithaca, New York, and a science writer at Cornell University.

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