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Homestead Award honors Marengo farm


July 11, 2012
When Marie Greathouse traveled to Indianapolis this past spring to receive the Hoosier Homestead Award, it was special for several reasons.

The award, presented by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, recognizes farms that have been owned by the same family for at least 100 years. Greathouse's 112-1/2-acre farm has been in her family since 1904.

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Marie Greathouse looks through photographs of her parents and grandparents. Greathouse lives on the 108-year-old family farm that received the Hoosier Homestead Award last spring. Photo by Chris Adams
More important than that longevity for Greathouse, however, are the numerous generations represented by the farm's 108-year history. The farm, like those who have called it home, has endured.

The farm was purchased by Greathouse's great-grandparents on her father's side, Joseph and Nancy Main, on March 11, 1904. The couple had a daughter, Matilda, but later divorced, and the farm went to Joseph. However, it reverted to Nancy when Joseph failed to pay child support.

Nancy married James Toney, and the couple lived on the property until the farmhouse burned. They then moved, and it was then that the farm was at its closest to leaving the family.

"When the farm went up for sale, my grandfather bought it for $200," Great-house said.

Leonard Pond, Nancy's nephew, took out a loan to purchase it at a tax sale in the early 1920s. He never paid off the loan, however, instead choosing to pay just the interest until his death in 1979.

After Pond died, his son, Robert, Greathouse's father, inherited the farm and paid off the small loan. Robert held the farm until his death in 2000, at which time it went to his wife, Lila. Greathouse then inherited the farm when her mother passed away in 2004.

Greathouse and her husband, Curtis, moved from Jennings County to the farm a few years ago, living in a house — the third since it has been in her family — that was built for her mother in 2003. It was a homecoming for Greathouse.

She lived in Crawford County until she was 5, when her family moved to North Vernon after her father, who had been the Marengo town marshal, became a state trooper. Even after moving away, however, she visited her grandparents often on the farm.

"We were down here all the time. We came down and fished," Greathouse said.

Her childhood is filled with adventures on the farm, although heading off by herself into the woods that cover much of it always frightened her. Now, however, she enjoys walking the quarter of a mile or so up the old logging trail with her dogs to the old Taylor Cemetery, where some Civil War soldiers are buried.

Her grandparents essentially lived off of the land, Greathouse said.

"They raised a cow a year and they raised at one time pigs. The fields that still are here is what they had for hay," she said, adding they did what they had to to survive.

Greathouse said that one day, when her grandfather was heading to market, he only had 11 eggs in the container, so her grandmother added a hard-boiled egg to make an even dozen. She laughed when imagining the surprise of the person who unknowingly purchased the already cooked egg when they later tried to crack it.

Greathouse's family hasn't always lived on the farm. She recalled a tenant the family had staying there to look after the farm who created quite a stir. The tenant didn't send their children to school, so the truant officer began stopping by. The situation escalated to the point that the tenant planted dynamite around the house.

"This farm's seen its fun things," she said.

Greathouse, who enjoys genealogy (she is a member of the Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society), began the process of applying for the Homestead Award as soon as she learned about it.

"It took me eight years to get it done, and it's a simple process. I'm a procrastinator," she explained.

Greathouse, who was joined at the March 21 award ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse by her husband and grandson, Aaron Gabbard, said it was important for her to complete the application not only for herself but for her family members who lived on the farm before her and those she hopes will live there after her.

"There's not enough words to say how it makes me feel. Excited, and one of my main thoughts is hoping my kids will hold onto it and pass it down," Greathhouse said.

"Seeing the faces of my grandchildren when they come down here, especially the 12-year-old, who got his first deer this year, it's just amazing. I love it," she said.

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