Shea land is Century Farm

By Thomas Shea and Marcie Klomp

In this ever-changing world, it is hard to have something established for 25 years, let alone 50 years. It is really unusual to find something 75 years old, but the state of Iowa has been honoring families who have owned the same farm for 100 years or more since 1976.

The Thomas Shea 67 acres in Howard Center is one of the 18,328 farms recognized since the program began! In total 344 farms were named Century Farms at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12, 2014

Tom and his wife, Jan, of Pocono, Penn. did not attend the event, but are still proud of the milestone their farm made.
The story really begins way back on February 13, 1911 when Tom’s grandfather, James A. Shea purchased the property from O.C. and Mattie Blessing. It stayed in the family for the next 103 years, when Tom filled out the paperwork to get it named a Century Farm.

James and Ella and their children, William Charles (Tom’s dad) and Elizabeth Florence, farmed the land together. They lived in the farm house and used the barn, which records show was built in 1888. It is still standing today. The land was transferred to Ella just one day before James passed away, on Aug. 10, 1920.

William was 17 at the time. He had already been accept into medical school at University of Iowa so the family decided that his education was more important than taking over the farm. He went on to finish high school in Cresco.

Unfortunately, William was unable to attend medical school, but he did farm the land his father and grandfather had farmed. He married Viola Schmidt on June 7, 1926 and the couple raised four children—Thomas,, Paul, Helen (Shea) Hoffbeck and Elizabeth Anne (Shea) Salter.

The family was not without hardship. In November 1932 the old house burned to the ground but being tough pioneers they quickly erected a new large poultry house to house the family of four through the winter of 1932-33. A new four-bedroom house was built that year, which is still in use today.

During the 1930s, William coordinated with the Federal Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and other Howard County officials to reorganize and survey the farm field borders (fence lines) and establish terraces using contour-farming principles. Those terraces remain an essential part of conservation practices on the farm.

Ella owned the farm until 1953, when she deeded it to her children. Later, full ownership was passed to William and Viola.

By 1976, William was ready to slow down. He scaled back his active farming and rented the land to Gary and Elaine Gassett and later to Gary and JoAnne Larson.

In November 1993, William passed away and the farm went to his wife. In October 1994, the farm passed to a partnership of Thomas and Janet Shea and Mark (Tom’s nephew) and Sharon Hoffbeck of Macomb, Ill.

In early 2004, the acreage was sold to R. Whalen. The remaining 67 acres continue to be farmed by Larsons. Later that year, Sheas purchased the Hoffbeck half, leaving the entire acres in the Shea name.

Many changes took place on the property purchased over 100 years ago by a man and his wife. Lots of blood, sweat and tears fell on the ground, but pride in the land is evident as it was named a Century Farm in 2014.


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