About Retter Farm

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels:

Retter Farm is an Ohio Century Farm having been in the same family lineage over 100 years; in our case for at least 140 years. The earliest documented family member that owned the farm was John Black, maternal grandfather of Russell Retter.  It was then passed to John Black's daughter, Luvina Black Retter, and thence through her estate to her son Russell.  It is from the Russell Retter era and that of his daughter, Pauline Retter Myers, that we maintain the Retter Farm name; their guardianship of the farm extended for more than 100 years.

We also call our home Retterbauernhof meaning Rescuer Farm.  It can be said that the literal translation of Retter from German into English as Rescuer is appropriate as the farm first rescued Russell who was orphaned, but later assumed the farm after his guardianship in Dayton ended upon his majority. Russell's brother-in-law Harry Eickhoff, a wounded veteran of WWI, also resided here under the care of Russell's wife Nettie.  Each of the 3 sons-in-law were likewise rescued from their pasts as WWII soldiers when they came to live peacefully and quietly with their families at Retter Farm.

Retter Farm is one of a handful of Century Farms in Miami County.  The Century Farm program recognizes Ohio farms that have been in the same family's ownership for 100 years or more.  We are proud to maintain that designation.  And proud to continue our rescues.

Russell Retter, An Everyman

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: , , ,

Grandpa Russ Retter was the first bus driver for Bethel School and eventually head of maintenance and scheduling for the bus fleet. He farmed 86 acres and was a field representative for Grange Insurance. I remember him as just as warm and jolly as you'd expect if he had a big white beard and red wool suit trimmed in white fur - my own personal Santa. My son has his name.

Russell "Russ" Retter
"Grandpa, can I go with you to check the barn damage for that Granger person?" "Ask your mom, Denny," he would say and off we'd go in the '35 Chevy Standard Sedan, the chassis of which is now a hay wagon in the barn. Good times are too short, just like summer vacation... 

Former passengers on Russ's bus recall that he would occasionally reverse the route he took because he felt some of the students always had too long a ride home while other always had it short.  Concerned parents wondering where their children were understood his logic and did not make too much fuss with administrators who would say, "Don't do that again," then look the other way the next time.  Doing the right thing for kids back then was possible.  My goodness, a child with a headache or fever might even get a free tablet from the teacher without an Act of Congress. We are the victims of our modern selves.

My grandma, Jeannette Romainia Retter, gave him no end of grief, she being raised in a Dayton city house until she was 18. Country mud and animal droppings on knee boots don't mix well with city-trained housekeepers, but they were married 'til death they did part and raised three great girls into snappy-dressing ladies and wonderful wives.  I learned politics on my Grandma Nettie's lap watching the '52 and '56 conventions; she's still right as rain in 2014. A victim of "shaking palsy" she struggled to keep up with world events through the Dayton Herald, Dayton Journal and later, the Journal-Herald (all now long gone, just like beautiful Nettie.)

Nettie would likely have perished in the "Great Dayton Flood of 1913" if she had not left home to come to the farm before the flood.  The Eickhoff house was in an area where many were drowned as was her brother, Henry, the eldest of the sons in the family.  She passed along her fear of water, swimming and drowning to my mother, Pauline, who rarely went in the water even to wade in a shallow pool.

Grandpa had a good death -- 4 months of living alone after Nettie passed, he died doing just what he loved most, herding animals in the pasture on a gorgeous spring day devoid of clouds. Surely it was a sign of what awaited him. He fell and never got up, not knowing any of what hit him. Blessings for the good ones are found in the worst of moments for other family members.  Forty-three years later my father died not 100 feet and 23 hours removed from Russell's death.  Dad did get to say "goodbye" to us all before he left, after asking me to take care of Mom. I did for the 8 more years of her life after Roy..

Farm Girls

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: , , ,

A group of young women wait by the lane in front the "chicken house."  The building was once used for a variety of small farm animals, such as chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and rabbits, but by the 1950s had largely become a storage building.  The frame building was made with clapboard siding and a concrete floor, the building was removed in the late 1980s by Roy Myers.  Dennis and Chris Myers completed the removal by excavating the concrete in 2011.

Identification of the "girls" is difficult, but believed to include Pauline "Pat" Retter (front) and Mildred "Midge" Retter (left.) We have no idea what the girls were gathered to do.

Retter Farm Garage

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The original farm garage is shown in this photo from the early 1950s, or late 1940s.  The garage stood at the end of the lane, was wood clapboard and had a cement floor.  The men at the Sohio gasoline-provided gas tank are Russell Retter, and possibly Robert Jenkins, though that is a difficult identification. The tractor in the garage is possibly Russell's Farmall B.

The garage was removed in 1969-1970 to make way for the move of the house away from the highway.  The existing attached garage now stands near the location of the original, but slightly forward.

Retter Relatives

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A Photo From the 1920's With the Russell Retter Family, Bob and Dottie Retter, and Stella Brown.

The Russell Retter Family is Mildred, Pauline, Carrie, Nettie and Russell.

Veterans

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This Veterans Day, November 11, 2013, brought to mind the fact that many that have lived or been attached by family to Retter Farm have served the United States over the course of many conflicts.  The first that come to mind are our World War II veterans -- Leroy John Myers, Joseph Marshall and Robert Jenkins. 



Leroy John Myers
Joseph Marshall


Robert Jenkins
 

We have no archival photo of Bob in his Army uniform so I show him in his postal uniform during the early 1950s.

Retter Grandparents

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Russell and Nettie Retter with Denny Myers and Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins from Oak Hill, Ohio

A Reserve Champion

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A photograph from the Miami County Fair, circa 1958, shows Denny Myers with a Reserve Champion gilt.  The photo was likely one taken by the Troy Daily News for inclusion in its Fair Editions.  Retter Farm Yorkshires earned many top honors at the county fair and Ohio state fair.  During that era (late 1950s and early 1960s) the farm was known as Retter Acres for the purpose of showing and registering livestock.

Not Just Words

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: ,

This is my tale of life on the farm, where to manhood I grew and left with alarm,

Off to adventure in South Vietnam.

No choice but to leave there, for service to country was then only fair,

Had to do duty said both Dad and Mom.



In earlier years there was no such big fear, for all my loved ones stayed close and lived near,

Aunts and uncles, even cousins stayed 'round.

And now, if you'll let me, I'll tell you the yarn, of good times and bad times on our little farm,

Of how it became, for me, hallowed ground.



The old house was clapboard, foundation of stone, and long had been standing before it was home,

Small shelter it was, is now, always will be.

Guard trees by the lane in two perfect rows, of gravel and grass, and wintertime snows,

Kitchen window looked down on sledding-time lee.



Below it the rock in the creek for my play, whilst olders and wisers worked every day,

In soil, on fields, fecund and fertile.

Mostly minnies and crawdads there did I see, and often a frog made me jump up with glee,

Sometimes a snake or great snapping turtle.



The earth neatly turned up and ready to sow, the cows in the meadow movin' ever so slow,

The beauty of wheat, the aromas astounded.

In the orchard spring blossums lasted not long, but out there came also songbirds' sweet song,

Pears, plums, apples and cherries abounded.



A barn, a henhouse, a woodshed be there, the work sounds of farming alive in the air,

A mother, a father, three sisters and theirs.

The long walk out back to free-standing wood, was made even better than any man could,

By cattle and sheep that roamed there in pairs.



Under great maple, hickory, and large golden oak, I sat with a friend yet seldom we spoke,

Though climb them we did as high as we could.

Birds and squirrels, other creatures were neighbors, and they, just as we, went on with their labors,

And they, just as we, were in love with the wood.



Later in childhood I joined them in toil, and learned the great joy of working the soil,

A farm kid is happy just being out there.

On foot, later tractor, I went to the field, and learned from elders how dirt's made to yield,

Crops, then great joy, of cycles aware.



My dad was a trapper in what water we had, today you might think him quite terribly bad,

But no one back then thought him any the worse.

Muskrat, some raccoons, a fox, and few mink, would meet their demise each winter, I think,

Then Dad smoked his pipe while taking the furs.



Some ducks, some hens, some Guineas as well, the thistle left standing not far from the bell,

The chopping block stood by, silent and still.

Their eggs we were after from each one, you see, but ever the stewpot could easily be,

Filled up and heated at Grandmother's will.



Then there was George, a very large goose, for him we considered making a noose,

For George, you see, did what his fame was.

And always a dog, maybe more than just one, for they also worked and gave us great fun,

Often running and barking, but seldom a fuss.



Black-faced sheep, two horses, and also some swine, and always the straw unbundling from twine,

Made rich by the soil, not in money, but love.

Our ground looked upon from one tiny stoop, the outhouse, the beehives, and also the coop,

And one lonely cedar I saw from above.


And now I look back with sorrow and sadness, for most that we loved have passed to new gladness

'Twas just as it should be for those that love country.

Our Telephone

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Bibles

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: ,

There have been many Bibles at the farm.  Each branch of the family seems to have brought their own and, of course, many were the result of marriage of family members.  Over the years, and through the distribution of estate items, many of the earliest examples are now lost to the farm. 

The oldest that we have identified, and kept at the farm, was brought to the farm by Luvina Black Retter.  The 1876 Bible is leather bound and approximately 10 by 13 by 5 inches in size.  Produced by A. J. Holman Company of Philadelphia, the Bible was awarded many prizes for its excellent illustrations.  This Bible has heavily embossed and gilded covers on both front and back.

The second Bible of interest is that which was Nettie Retter's and received by Mildred Retter Jenkins after Nettie's death in 1956.  It is from the International Series, Self-Prouncing Edition from the John C. Winston Company of Philadelpia.  This is a personal Bible and easily carried for worship services.  Many of the important events in Nettie's life are recorded in clippings within the Bible's pages.  Mildred has added to these important events during her own life by also including clippings and other memorabilia.

Christmas 1955

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: , , ,



In this photograph from Christmas 1955 all of the people living on Retter Farm are pictured with exception of Pauline Lavina Retter Myers, the photographer.  The people in the picture are Bob Jenkins, Bill Marshall, Joann Marshall, Joe Marshall, Carrie Marshall, Roy Myers, Penny Marshsll, Denny Myers, Russell Retter, Nettie Retter and Midge Jenkins.  The picture was taken in the Marshall home dining room at our annual Christmas dinner.

Retter Farm in the Late Russell Retter Era

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: ,

Russell Retter was about 61 when the aerial photo was taken. He lived another seven years, dying at age 68. He was preceded in death by Jeannette (Nettie) Romania Eickhoff Retter on November 17, 1956. Son Kenneth Eugene died at childbirth on July 12, 1919. Daughter Carrie Catherine passed in 1998. Daughter Pauline Lavina Retter Myers, my mother, died on October 24, 2008. She, along with father Leroy John Myers, had been the caretakers of the farm since Russell passed away on April 1, 1957. Russell was born in the farmhouse as was each of his 3 daughters and infant son.


Animals on the farm in the 1950s included Shropshire sheep (for wool), Jersey/Guernsey dairy cattle (for personal milk consumption, butter and cooking), an occasional beef cattle or hog (for butchering), Muscovy ducks (for fun, I think, as much as anything else), chickens (for eggs and the occasional stewpot), Guinea hens and a couple of bridle horses for Pat and Roy. Russell kept several beehives for honey and for crop pollination. There was an orchard with apples, cherries, plums and pears. The farmhouse itself was adequately served by a 3-hole outhouse (Mom, Pop, child) until Russell and Nettie could no longer make the late night journeys that became necessary as they aged into their 60s.

After WWII Russell gave each of the 3 daughters and their husbands one acre from the farm on which to build a home. Thus we had Aunt Carrie and Uncle Joe Marshall and their 3 children, Joann, Penny and Bill on the southeast corner; Pat and Roy Myers and son Dennis in the middle; Aunt Midge and Uncle Bob Jenkins on the northeast corner; and Russell and Nettie in the 1820s farmhouse as the caretakers of the Retter Farm.   This was the composition of the farm from the late 1940s through most of the 1950s.

Brandt Lutheran Church

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels:

Members of the family have long held affiliation with Brandt Lutheran Church ELCA.  One of the stained-glass windows in the church sanctuary is dedicated on behalf of Russell and Nettie Retter.  The church is located about one half mile from the farm at the edge of the village of Brandt.

Land has been donated by the Dinsmore Family that would provide for a new location for a church building.  Though there appear to be no imminent plans to move to the new location, the new church would eventually be directly across SR 201 from the southernmost part of the farm.

The Old Maple and Me

It's always been there, the old maple. The biggest tree in our little farm woods is that old maple. It has its legends and it has survived now more than a century of which we are certain. And I've watched the old maple grow older just as have I.

It was once so dominant that other trees nearby stood only by its whim as its shade slowed their growth. It had a multitude of low branches within my memory, and from one of those branches once was hanged a horse thief, or so the legend says. The horse thief and his branch are now long gone, long ago.

The old maple now has but one low branch, and it will soon be gone with the others. The trunk is scarred and rather sorrowful having withstood all those decades of punishment from the elements, and from those that lived within its canopy. The canopy is now so small and withered that other trees nearby now taunt the old master with their height and youthful energy.

I remember the bobcat on one of the low branches. The bobcat watched Dad and I wonder at how it found the old maple. It stayed awhile, just as did all the other creatures - the squirrels and the raccoons and the multitude of birds now long gone, long ago.

The old maple's days are numbered now, just as are mine. It will survive me, and it will give memories still as it lives out its end. Soon enough the sentinel crow will give its alarm from another tree. And then there will be no memories of the old maple or me one day, as we become long gone, long ago.

Today

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Retter Farm Buildings in the 1950s

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1. The Barn. The second barn and the one Russell Retter built after the original barn burned. It was built sometime around 1910.


 2. The Runway, as we called it, that attached to the barn from the north haymow. It began to be demolished by Roy Myers in the late 1980’s for fear the middle might collapse with grandson Chris on the farm. Chris Myers removed the enclosed portion to the east in 2009 after it began to lean. He removed most of the portion attached to the haymow in summer 2009 and it was removed completely when the MAJW Construction Company started barn renovations in August 2009.


3. The Garage. Removed when the house was moved to accommodate SR 201 expansion in 1970. It was a wooden one-car structure with concrete floor.


4. The Chicken House. Removed in 1970. It was wooden sloped-roof structure with concrete floor. Was used for chickens by Russell, and as a farrowing house by Roy Myers and son, Dennis.


5. The Outhouse. Wooden structure with a concrete base that had a cleanout on downslope side (north wall.) Removed in 1970. The house now sits atop the same ground with the front bedroom being about where the outhouse stood. The Outhouse was a “three-holer” with one seat each for father, mother and child.


6. The Woodshed. A wooden structure with a loft on the southside. Dirt floor. Never served much of a function during my years on the farm, but it is said to have been where Willie Boitnott found gun parts for the Civil War Enfield that he returned to the family in 1981.


7. The Pump House. Wooden structure that did enclose an electric pump for a dug water well/cistern. Concrete over the well/pump area, wooden floor in the enclosed north portion that was used for a smokehouse. The front of the pump/well area was open to the east.


8. The Chicken House. Wooden structure with concrete floor. I don’t recall that it was used for hens, but rather for storage. It was the only out building not affected by the road expansion and remained in place until the 1980s when Roy Myers took it down, but left the floor/foundation in place.


9. The House. Based on what we know, the house was likely built in the 1820’s, possibly earlier. By the 1940’s it had a “back kitchen” that was a one story lean-to structure attached to the back (west side) of the original house. It had a trough sink with handle pumps at each end that took water from a cistern underneath and slightly to the back of the structure. The water was used for cleaning and bathing. The room was basically a utility room for “Saturday Night” baths, canning, butchering and such. It also had an enclosed stairwell that went down to the cellar under the rear third or so of the original house. Roy and Dennis Myers dug out the dirt floor in the late 1950s and poured a concrete floor. It became the location for the first furnace system that was used until the house was moved in 1970. Other notes:


  • a. A nice grape arbor was attached to the back of the “back kitchen” and served as a cover for a walkway sidewalk along the back wall of that room. 
  • b. The original foundation cellar/crawlspace walls were formed by the flat limestone rocks found stored by the creek and used elsewhere on the farm.
  • c. The front of the house had a covered wooden porch that faced the road and on which roof you could get by a door in what is now the north bedroom on the second floor.
  • d. What is now the front door had several different porches over the years and was enclosed by Roy and Dennis Myers in the late 1950’s.
  • e. To the best of my knowledge, there was only one Catalpa tree removed because of the road expansion. The rest have been in place and roughly the same size for all of my life.
  • f. The farm was composed of 84 acres until Russell died, then divided into 3 parcels of roughly 28 acres each. Mildred and Robert Jenkins sold their parcel to Pat and Roy Myers, and Pat and Roy also bought out the shares of the original farmhouse. After both Roy and Pat passed the two remaining parcels were inherited by Dennis.


Tractors

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: ,

In 1948, Nettie received a small inheritance from the estate of a half-brother. She used the inheritance to buy Russell an anniversary gift - a 1948 Ford 8N tractor. The tractor was used extensively on the farm for several decades then fell into disrepair into the 1990's. In 2003, grandson Dennis had the tractor completely remanufatured to factory specs. The tractor resides happily at the farm more than 60 years after its initial purchase.






We know the first tractor on the farm was a Fordson steel-wheeled tractor.  No pictures or evidence of that tractor remains, but implements remain that were originally horse-drawn and converted to be pulled by tractors.  The Fordson may have looked like this one pictured at the Henry Ford Museum.


 











Prehistoric Axe Head

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Found on Retter Farm in the early years, this primitive axe head measures approximatley 9 inches long, 2.75 inches wide and is 4.75 inches tall. 
The person that used this battle weapon was quite strong.

The Eickhoffs

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Eickhoff Family circa 1902

From left - Henry, Herman Henry, Rosie, Harry, Lottie, Barbara, Ed, Nettie

Russell Retter in the Field

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Russell worked the fields with teams of horses until he could later afford to use a tractor, the first being a steel-wheeled Fordson.  This photo was likely taken in 1917 when Russell would have been 28 years old.  We still have some of the equipment shown -- a collar, doubletree, and small portions of harness.  The horses would have also served in pulling transportation such as wagons and buggies, but none remain at the farm.

Rescues

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Russell Retter - partially orphaned when his mother, Luvina Black Retter, passed away.  After living in north Dayton until he reached 18 Russell returned to the farm and became an important member of the community.

Jeannette Romania Eickhoff Retter - also orphaned, but by her Civil War veteran father, Nettie came to the farm at a young age to become Russell's housekeeper and eventually became his wife.

Harry Eickhoff - Nettie's brother was wounded in WWI service and never fully recovered from his service wounds.  He lived at Retter Far, cared for by Nettie, and died at a young age.

Joe Marshall, Roy Myers and Bob Jenkins - sons-in-law of Russell and Nettie, all of whom survived U.S. Army service during WWII.  Each found peace at the farm.

The Farm Buildings Get Renovated and Updated

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The barn at its low point





The barn during reconstruction
with new foundation, roof and siding


South end of the barn from the pasture


The house before work begins in 2009


Preliminary front elevation plan with proposed addition


House renovation - front elevation
Phase 1 nearly complete
No expansion of space

Retters

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The 1960s

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By 1960 the 3rd generation of our family had departed the farm, Nettie in 1956, and Russell a few short months later in 1957.  The estate of Russell divided the farm into 3 more or less equal parcels with the parcel lines being parallel with Ross Road and extending from SR 201 west to the back of the farm.  The parcel willed to Carrie Marshall included virtually all of the "woods" made of oak, hickory and maple, and an access lane that extended to the National Road.  The parcel for Mildred Jenkins included all of the frontage on Ross Road.  The parcel for Pat Myers was the middle third of the original farm.  Each parcel consisted of approximately 28 acres.  By 1960 Mildred and Bob sold their home and 2 acres and moved into New Carlisle.  In 1959 they sold the remainder of their acreage to Pat and Roy Myers.  Over the years, most of the Marshall acreage has been sold outside the family.  Thus the current configuration of 56 acres known as Retter Farm was in place by 1960.

The 1960s were a time of growth and maturing on the farm.  The fourth generation family members were moving into and through their 40s and the fifth generation was moving into and through their teen years.  By 1968 all of the fifth generation were out of school and into college or the working world, all of them off the farm.  Dennis Myers graduated from the University of Dayton and joined the US Air Force, was assigned to Scott AFB, Illinois and served in Viet Nam and Thailand.  He returned to the Dayton area and a job at the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.  Joann Marshall attended college in Cleveland and then married.  She and her husband built a home on 5 acres given to them by Carrie and Joe Marshall.  Penny Marshall married soon after graduation and lived in nearby Brandt.  Bill Marshall married soon after graduation as well and lived nearby.

Fourth generation family members continued in their occupations off of the farm with Roy and Joe maintaining farming on their parcels of the original farm during their spare hours.  By the late '60s it became known that expansion of State Route 201 would effect both families at the front of their parcels with the Myers' being forced to make a decision to tear down the original farmhouse or move it back from the highway.  They chose to relocate the original home of the family further back on the farm.

Barn, Again, Again

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels:

We do not know much about the original barn.  It is believed to have been built originally when the farmhouse was built and that would have been in the early 1800s, probably between 1810 and 1830.  The first barn would have needed to accomodate horses used for pulling implements and for use as transportation.  It is also likely to have housed various other farm livestock, hay, straw and grain.  At some point near the time Russell returned from guardianship to the farm, the original barn burned beyond rebuilding and the second, current, barn was built.  This entailed mortgaging the farm to pay for construction of the most essential building on any farm.  Many years of labor and saving would ensue before the debt was repaid.

The second barn was built during a transitional era between the early, traditional building method of post and beam, and the later baloon style construction.  This barn features elements from both post and beam, and the later baloon style construction.  Posts are much small than those found in older barns, as are the beams.  Sidewall construction is largely of dimensional lumber with some lamination where heavier beams were necessary.  The north end of the barn was the only area to have had a poured concrete floor for the milking parlor.  It included a drainage trough that was used to carry away waste and stanchions for the milk cows.  Lofts for hay and straw were placed on the two ends of the barn above the stables and the milking parlor.  The barn also featured pull-through sliding doors on each side.  this was necessary to accomodate the horse-drawn wagons that carried loose hay and straw.

When the second barn was renovated in 2009 we discovered a couple of massive handhewn beams that were likely saved from the original barn and reused in the new barn.  These beams supported a small internal corn crib that was removed to allow the pouring of new concrete floors.  The beams are believed to be white oak and in amazingly good condition considering that for around 100 years the bare ground was in contact with the beams.  The beams appear to have been used as plates that rested on the foundation and supported wall posts.  We have, as yet, not determined how the beams will be reused, but pehaps for mantel work.

Ducks being driven from creek to pen

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Automobiles and Tractors at Retter Farm

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At some point during the 1920s the first family-owned automobile appeared.  It was a Ford Model T Tudor.  This was quite appropriate as Russell had become accomplished at mechanical skills and by then was driving a Bethel Local School's Model T schoolbus and maintaining the growing fleet owned by the school.



True to form, Russell then invested in his first tractor to supplement the horse-drawn farm equipment.  This was a Fordson steel-wheeled tractor.  It is unfortunate that we have neither photos nor data related to these first powered tools.

Duck Dive

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Reconstruction of SR 201 Forces Move of the Farmhouse

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Russell Retter

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Russell Retter, son of Franklin Peter Retter and Luvina Black Retter, grandson of John and Susan Swanger Black and Emmanuel and Elizabeth Retter, was born March 22, 1889, died April 1, 1957.  Russell was born in the farmhouse at Retter Farm, but lived for several years in Dayton after the death of his mother. 

Little is known of the care of the farm during Russell's years away, but it is virtually certain that he returned to the farm full time around 1907, his 18th year.  The next year Nettie Eickhoff is known to have taken residence at the farm to serve as housekeeper.

During the earliest years Russell farmed with horses in order to make a living from the land.  The farm was quite rural at the time and had no electricity, running water, motor vehicles or indoor plumbing.  At some point early in the 1900s the original barn burned to the ground.  This necessitated mortgaging the farm in order to build a new barn.  Many years of labor and saving would be required to pay off that loan.

Over time, Russell began to take on jobs off the farm in order to supplement income and support a growing family.  His active participation in the Bethel Grange brought about service as a Grange Insurance agent, a service he continued for local farmers until his death.  At some point in the early 1920s Russell began driving the schoolbus for Bethel Local School.  He eventually served as head driver and maintained the growing fleet of buses as the school district grew.

His marriage to Nettie on December 31, 1914, resulted in four births -- Carrie Catherine in 1917, Kenneth Eugene (stillborn) in 1919, Pauline Lavina in 1920, and Mildred May in 1922.  All births took place in the farmhouse where Russell was born.  The three daughters and their husbands were each given one acre of land on which to build their homes.  During the 1950s twelve people were thus full time residents on Retter Farm.

Jeannette Romania Eickhoff Retter

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Jeannette - Nettie to everyone who knew her - was one of six children from the union of Herman Henry Eickhoff and Barbara Daler Eickhoff.  She was the youngest of their 3 daughters.  Nettie came to the farm early in her life to be a housekeeper for Russell Retter who was then a bachelor.  Russell had inherited the farm from his mother.  The earliest record of Nettie living at the farm is from a custom post card sent to her at the rural New Carlisle address in 1908.  Nettie would have turned 18 in that year having been born on February 25, 1990.

Nettie lived at Retter Farm for the remainder of her life having married Russell Retter on December 31, 1914 at Tadmor, Butler Township, Montgomery County, Ohio by Simeon Frantz.  This union yielded four children - Carrie Catherine in 1917, Kenneth Eugene (stillborn) in 1919, Pauline Lavina in 1920, and Mildred May in 1922.

Nettie was an active member of the Brandt Lutheran Church and a longtime member of Bethel Grange.  She and Russell actively worked the farm and often took fresh fruits and vegetables to Dayton for sale at the farmers' market there.  She was skilled in all household crafts such as sewing, cooking and making butter from milk that she took from the small herd of dairy cattle.  During her early married life Nettie cared for her brother, Harry, who had been gravely wounded in France during WWI.

In later life Nettie suffered from what was then called "shaking palsy," what we now know as Parkinson's Disease.  Her Bible rarely left her side during her years at the farm.  She died November 17, 1956, a beloved family and community member.

Sunshine Biscuit Girls

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Edward Christian Eickhoff

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Always referred to within the Russell Retter family as "Uncle Ed," Ed Eickhoff was the youngest child of Herman Henry and Barbara Daler Eickhoff.  Ed was born March 27, 1900 and died April 25, 1983.  Ed spent much of his life in California and worked for a time in Hollywood in the film industry.  His service in World War I came when he was just 18 years old.  Both he and next older brother Harry spent time in France.  Ed married Blanche Slanker whose family moved from Pennsylvania to Dayton, Ohio early in her life.  The marriage produced one child, Mildred, and Mildred had two children, Bonnie Leiter Aveyard and Harold "Skeeter" Leiter.  (Photo courtesy of Bonnie Aveyard from the Blanche Slanker Eickhoff collection.)

First Kids

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: ,

The first goat babies - March 13/14, 2011
Hansel and Gretel?

Goat Cart

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: , , , , ,


This photo shows the three Retter girls -- Pauline Lavina, Mildred May and Carrie Catherine -- with their "goat cart" around 1925.  The cart is posed beside the main entry to the farmhouse at its original location.  This elevation is facing south.  To the right of the photo is the "back kitchen" addition to the original house.  This addition was removed in 1970 when the house was lifted, rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise and placed in its current location approximately 100 feet further west.  The move was forced by an expansion of State Route 201. (Photo courtesy of Bonnie Aveyard, from the Blanche Eickhoff collection.)