receives rare state honor
200 years of family farming
(July 2012) In a culture that considers couples
who have been together six months a long-term relationship,
a commitment of 200 years seems near miraculous. Daniel Robins began
a trend toward miraculous, which the State of Indiana recognized in
March with the Hoosier Homestead Award.
In 1811, Robins purchased 120 acres from the territory of Indiana for
his daughter, Nancy Robins, who married James Matthews. The two traveled
from Pennsylvania to begin a life of farming at 2638 S. Carmel Rd.,
Hanover, Ind. So began a 200-year journey that continues today.
Matthews family receives
their award last March in
Indianapolis. They are Tom, Patty
(Naegele), Bill, Mike, Tommy,
Ken and John Matthews.
On March 21, the Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Indiana State
Department of Agriculture Director Joe Kelsay recognized this incredible
feat by awarding to Thomas, William and Patricia (now Naegele) Matthews
the Hoosier Homestead Bicentennial Award. This award recognizes their
family farm as one of only two farms in Indiana owned and operated by
the same family for 200 years.
Asked about the award of this prestigious honor to the Matthews family,
Skillman said, Our state has a rich, agricultural heritage thanks
to generations of families who have dedicated themselves to farming.
These families are also committed to help feed the world. It is important
to recognize those who have given so much to our state both economically
Jeannie Keating, Indiana Press Secretary adds, These families
must be innovative balancing weather, depressions, market
forces to hang onto their farms. The Department of Agriculture
exists to advocate for them and assist them. We feel deeply honored
to be able to recognize their achievement.
To give some perspective, as Francis Scott Key wrote the words of the
Star Spangled Banner, the Matthews were harvesting their crops, settling
onto their land five years before Indiana became a state. Tom Matthews
currently lives on the farmstead, farming it on behalf of his siblings.
He lives in the same house built by his great-grandfather, John P. Matthews,
shortly after his return from fighting for the Union Army in the Civil
The two-story building then housed Johns wife, five children,
parents, aunt and several hired hands. A summer kitchen was built by
the barn to protect the house from fire and overheating in the Indiana
summers. An addition to the back of the house brought the kitchen inside
Sitting at a picnic table on a breezy, shady knoll overlooking the farm
just outside the front door, Tom indicates a water pump feet away.
Every evening one chore was to bring in water from that pump for
drinking. We didnt get city water until the early 1960s.
He laughingly points to a hydrant farther away. Thats how
far the water company came. We still had to carry it from outside, but
at least we didnt have to pump.
The family ran a waterline to the house a few years later.
Both Tom and Patricia (Naegele) recall their childhood on the farm.
Patricia focused primarily on helping in the house and occasionally
watering the animals. Tom focused on outdoor chores, both on his farm
and others. He recalls going as far as Texas to bring back loads of
watermelon to sell. He also helped his father with custom work for other
farmers baling hay, filling silos and other jobs to keep
their farms running smoothly. The jobs left little time for play but
trained Tom well for his future in farming.
We worked hard, they both echo, but life was good.
In its early days, the farm boasted both crop farming and herds of cattle,
pigs and horses. Tom remembers butchering during early childhood. The
family served as a central location for neighbors to gather and butcher.
Market prices and intensive labor forced Toms mother to sell most
of the animals so that now the farm now focuses on crops.
The land gives a good crop every year. As long as theres
no drought, this farm produces, Tom says proudly.
The farm produces not only crops for the family living but a generous
spirit as well. At one end of the farm lies a cemetery the
only lasting symbol of the land the Matthews donated to Carmel Church
in 1816, the first Presbyterian church established in Indiana. When
the church folded into Hanover Presbyterian Church in the 1920s, the
land reverted to the Matthews Family.
Tom remembers his grandfather tearing down the building in the 1940s.
He still owns the church clock. The Matthews also donated another acre
of the farm for a local school. When that school closed, the land reverted
to the family, and the wood to use for an extra barn.
Will the farm stay in the family for another 100 years? Tom anticipates
his four children splitting the farm much as he and his siblings share
it today. He knows more farms will become bicentennial recipients but
imagines they will be few and far between. Its just too
hard to get into farming these days.
The price of land and equipment make it hard; the price of crops too
erratic to count on. Even with the current good prices, a farm
cant support a family. Yet sitting at the picnic table the
he fondly calls his favorite place on the farm as a refreshing
breeze cools a 90-plus temperature day. He knows he has a piece of paradise
A sign proudly displaying the Hoosier Homestead Awards for Centennial,
Sesquicentennial and Bicentennial stands nearby. In the hands of this
family, Hoosiers may look forward to the Tercentennial Award.
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