The legacy of the Voelz farm family in western Bartholomew County began shortly after the immigration of a European family to the United States.
On Dec. 17, 1875, German-born John Volz and his wife, Christina, purchased a 130-acre farm in Harrison Township for $5,000. About 14 years later, the couple acquired a similar-sized adjacent property in exchange for $2,300.
The couple’s son, Louis C. Voelz (1863-1950), born in Germany one year before being brought to America, was the first to add the ‘e’ to his last name. He acquired the property from his parents in 1910, and handed down the land and farmhouse to his son, Louis J. Voelz (1887-1980). Eventually, the property was passed on to Louis J.’s son, Martin Voelz (1905-1987), and finally down to Martin’s only heir and the current male occupant.
Don Voelz, 78, represents the fifth generation to live on the homestead off Georgetown Road, situated off a branch of Wolf Creek.
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His son, photographer Todd Voelz, fondly recalls a childhood at the farm that made his grade school classmates envious after discovering where he lived.
“Growing up, I could stomp around on 260 acres, ride snowmobiles, build really cool-looking forts down by the creek,” Todd Voelz said. “My friends thought it was unique.”
In contrast, his father remembers his own school chums weren’t the least impressed by the homestead because nearly everyone lived on a farm in the post World-War II era in Bartholomew County.
And for Don Voelz, farming itself has always been fun — especially when a tractor is involved, said his wife of 59-years, Sharon Carr Voelz.
“All I wanted to do was drive a tractor ever since I was big enough to hold onto the steering wheel,” said Don Voelz while standing next to the 1950 Farmall tractor he maintains in pristine shape almost 60 years after purchasing it.
To emphasize he wasn’t kidding, Sharon Voelz described how her high school sweetheart and future husband picked her up on a tractor for their first date.
One of Don Voelz’s fondest recollections from his youth was when other farmers brought their wagons at harvest time, hooking two of them together behind a single tractor, he said.
Neighboring farm kids would pull the sweet corn out by hand 10 acres at a time, and toss the crop into one of the wagons, he said.
As an only child, young Don always got to drive the tractor and wagons into town and wait in line behind others to leave the corn at the Columbus Canning Factory, he said.
Another childhood memory was watching his parents, Martin and Irene Arnholt Voelz (1905-1994), cleaning and dressing turkeys, placing them in bags, and delivering them into Columbus, he said.
There was always a lot of work on the homestead, and Don Voelz admits it was much tougher on earlier generations than on him.
But whenever there was something to celebrate, each generation always tried to do it in a fine style, Sharon and Todd Voelz said.
Traditions recalled by mother and son include grandparent and grandchildren picnics, outdoor corn roasts over coal pits, a visit from Santa Claus every Sunday before Christmas, fall bonfires and nighttime Halloween hay rides.
Although Don and Sharon Voelz have turned over farming operations to the neighboring Fiesbeck family, neither Todd Voelz nor his only sibling, sister Kristi Stewart, are willing to put the homestead into the hands of strangers, Todd Voelz said.
“I would hate for my children and grandchildren to not be able to experience what we have here as a family,” he said. “There’s no way we are going to sell the farm.”
Address: 6210 W. Georgetown Road
Size: 260 acres
Year acquired: 1875
Founding members: John and Christiana Volz
Current owner: Don and Sharon Voelz
Number of generations: Five