BELLECHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Our summer series continues this week as we head to Bellechester, a little town nestled on the edge of Goodhue and Wabasha Counties.
Deeply rooted in the community, the Strauss Family Farm, just outside Bellechester, celebrated its 150th anniversary last week.
For two days Bellechester’s population more than doubled in size as about 300 family members gathered at the homestead.
The Strauss Family Farm has been operating for five generations, its establishment in 1869 makes it a sesquicentennial farm.
“There’s 47 I think this year in Minnesota,” said Calvin Strauss, 5th generation. “Surprisingly, quite a few were in Goodhue and Wabasha counties. Then it’s real sparingly after that, so there must have been early settlement in this area.”
An honor this big requires a big celebration, or rather a family reunion with hundreds in attendance.
“We’ve been planning this for over three years, intensively planning for one year,” said Tina Strauss Henely, 6th generation.
In 2016, Strauss and Strauss Henely met some of their extended family members for the first time at the Luxembourg festival in Belgium, Wisconsin. Which was essentially a smaller family reunion.
“It’s exciting, because this is three years really in the making,” said Strauss Henely. “It’s kind of like the “if you build it, they will come” mentality, not really knowing what’s going to happen, expecting maybe 100 people and turning into 300 people.”
The Strauss family is originally from Luxembourg. Heinrich Strauss (2nd generation), his wife Catherine, and his father Franz Strauss (1st generation) first immigrated to a spot near Durand, Wisconsin before planting their roots in Bellechester.
“I think it’s the farming area, the soil is really rich, so it was an attractive location for the farming community,” said Strauss Henely.
As the last living grandchild of Heinrick, Jeanette (Strauss) Zelenak was happy to get back to where her family tree began in America.
“They did a very beautiful job of this reunion and I’m just glad to be here and back on the farm and areas I use to play when I was little,” said Zelenak, 4th generation.
Reunion activities included a hayride tour of town, lawn games, a scavenger hunt, tours of the farm, a barn dance, and of course plenty of family bonding time.
That bonding time included a chance to pour through all of the family pictures and heirlooms representing each branch of the Strauss family.
“I believe that a lot of them don’t realize where their forefathers were born and raised, so for them it’s going to be very valuable information that they can put in their book of knowledge,” said Strauss.
“I have great childhood memories from growing up right here on this farm and I think if relatives that are here and little kids that are here remember even a glimpse of this history, that they will value family even more they did before,” said Strauss Henely.
Family members came from as far east as Boston and as far west as San Francisco to attend the reunion.
Each branch of the family wore a different color t-shirt to identify which child of Heinrich Strauss they descend from.