Family celebrates a century on Jefferson Township farm

Monday, August 30, 2010
Clyde Stringer proudly holds the Hoosier Homestead Award sign to be displayed at his home in Jefferson Township as brother Norman Stringer holds a proclamation from the Indiana General Assembly honoring the family for the award. The Stringers received the award for having kept the farm in the family for 100 years. Their grandfather Oliver purchased the farm in 1910. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN

BELLE UNION -- When Oliver Stringer purchased an 80-acre farm in Jefferson Township in 1910, it's unlikely he could have imagined our world today.

High-speed travel has made it possible for families to easily spread around the country and the globe. Our Information Age makes contacting any of them only seconds away.

It was a bit simpler in Oliver's day. You found a nice piece of land and you settled down there -- hopefully for good.

It would be with great pride, then, that Oliver would regard the Hoosier Homestead Award, which was awarded to his grandson Clyde Stringer, recognizing the family's 100 years on that same 80-acre parcel.

"With the way society is nowadays, just mobile back and forth, we've just been around here a long time," Clyde said.

A look around the farm today reveals some things have changed -- electricity, running water, automobiles and a newer house. And yet, the land is still a simple Midwestern farm. Clyde's land is divided between crops, woods and pasture area for two horses he keeps for his son and a neighbor.

The small house Oliver purchased along with the land also remains standing. Although Clyde now lives in a newer home next door, the original house remains in use as more of a bunkhouse, a place family and friends stay when they come to visit.

This small house on the Clyde Stringer farm has been on the site for more than 100 years. It was already in place in 1910 when Clyde's grandfather Oliver Stringer purchased the 80-acre farm. Although Clyde now lives next door, the house remains in use periodically as a guest house. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN

Clyde's brother Norman was one of the old house's guests over the weekend, in town for a celebration of the Hoosier Homestead Award. To say Norman has a history with the house is a grave understatement -- he was born there.

Norman, who has lived in Memphis, Tenn., since after World War II, shared a few other memories of the house. Although it now has electricity, water and a TV in the living room, it wasn't always that way.

Instead, Norman recalled his grandpa sitting in a rocking chair in front of the pot-bellied stove that sat in the space now occupied by the TV. A tobacco chewer, Grandpa Oliver had spitting into the stove down to an art. On one rock forward, he would open the stove door. On the second rock, he would spit through the open door. On the third, he would close the door.

Upon Oliver's death in 1945, the farm passed down to Loftie Stringer, Norman and Clyde's father. Clyde took possession when Loftie passed away in 1979.

Clyde remains active at 80 years old. His brother calls him a jack of all trades. A retired lieutenant colonel, he is an Indiana committee member for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves. He still helps mobilize and demobilize troops at Camp Atterbury.

He's also a retired farrier, member of the Indiana Horse Council and helped found the Indiana Farrier Association.

The Hoosier Homestead Award, which was what the party was all about, is awarded by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to recognize families who have owned farms for 100 years or more. The program was instituted in 1976 and recognizes the contributions family farms have made to the economic, cultural and social advancements of Indiana.

Nearly 4,500 farms have been so honored.

Clyde was in his element on Saturday, making last-minute preparations and welcoming family and friends as they arrived for the celebration.

"Clyde has been talking about this party for almost two years," second cousin Beth Stringer-Shields said.

A genealogist, Beth's job at the celebration was to tell about family history. As far as she has been able to tell, the first Stringer of their line born in the United States was Edward Stringer, Clyde's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Edward's son Edmund traveled from Louisa County, Va., to Bullitt County, Ky., likely through the Cumberland Gap.

Two or three of Edmund's children were the first Stringers to travel to Hendricks and Putnam counties. Stringers have been in the Stilesville area for generations.

And from Stilesville, Oliver traveled west to the farm Clyde still owns.

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