Idaho recognizes Century Farm with roots near Cassville

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Department of Agriculture designated Sage Chicken Ranch of Heglar, Idaho, as a Century Farm Oct. 6 at the Cassia County Commission meeting in Burley, Idaho. From left is Tom Blanchard, an Idaho State Historical Society trustee; family members Kevin Broadhead and Carla Farwell; owners Shanna and Mike Farwell, and Gary and Louise Farwell; and Mike Mathews, a representative of U.S. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho). Contributed Photo

Barry County native buys homestead in 1913, is honored a century later

A 3,750-acre farm in southern Idaho with family ties to Barry County was recently designated as a Century Farm.

The Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Department of Agriculture held the Century Farm ceremony at the Cassia County Commission meeting in Burley, Idaho.

From left, this circa 1930 photo shows Bert and Wanda Farwell's children along with Ruby Parr, a neighbor girl holding a cat on the Heglar, Idaho, homestead. From left, front is Shirley Farwell. Back is Max Farwell, Parr, and William, Mary and Alice Farwell. Contributed photo

"It was really fun to have that farm recognized by the state of Idaho as a Century Farm," said Gary Farwell, an owner of the farm. "I wish grandpa, grandma and my dad and his brother could have seen it. It would have made them happy."

Gary Farwell's grandfather, Bert Farwell, bought the original 300-acre homestead in Heglar, Idaho, after visiting his sisters, Minnie and Lulu, who were homesteaders in Heglar with their respective husbands, Frank and Walter Sater.

Farwell was born Oct. 9, 1881, on the White River between Cassville and the Arkansas border. His grandparents, Albert Moors and Angeline Wilder Farwell, moved the family from Preemption, Ill., to Missouri in 1857.

This 1917 photo shows, Bert Farwell, left, and Wanda Farwell with their infant son, William Farwell, in Burley, Idaho. Bert Farwell, who grew up southwest of Cassville between the late 1800s and early 1900s, lived in southern Idaho for about 58 years. The Heglar, Idaho, homestead that he bought in 1913 was designated as a Century Farm on Oct. 6. Contributed photo

The family settled in the Eagle Rock area, near the White and Roaring Rivers, Gary Farwell said. After the Civil War started, Albert Farwell was pressed into service on the side of the Union because he was a Union sympathizer. His hired men and he traveled in his wagons to help supply the soldiers. In 1862, Albert Farwell possibly died from pneumonia after returning home from the Battle of Pea Ridge, which was in northwest Arkansas.

In January 1864, Bert Farwell's dad, Wilder, enlisted in the Second Arkansas Cavalry (Union) in Cassville.

He joined two years after his family were driven off their farm in Eagle Rock by the bushwhackers, who were criminals associated with the Confederates, Gary Farwell said.

About a decade after the war, Wilder Farwell married Virginia Josephine Horner on Dec. 9, 1875. They initially owned a large farm in the Roach community of Barry County. They then moved to the Horner community, about 3 miles southwest of Cassville. Bert Farwell was the fourth out of six siblings.

Virginia Farwell died on Dec. 30, 1884, eight days after giving birth to an infant son, who died the previous day.

In 1886, Wilder Farwell remarried to Kizzie Wright. They had six children. Wilder Farwell died of a severe hemorrhage at his Horner home on Dec. 20, 1921. He was 76.

The Farwell farm, also called the Sage Chicken Ranch, shows its Century Farm designation in Heglar, Idaho. Contributed Photo

Bert Farwell married Wanda Strother on July 7, 1916, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Wanda Farwell was born Sept. 15, 1889, in Maxey near Paris, Texas. After her parents died, her five siblings and she were divided among relatives in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

She went to live with her uncle and aunt, George and Elizabeth (Dabbs) Ragean, in Rocky Comfort, Mo.

Wanda Farwell's grandfather, Elisha Strother, and his oldest son, John, were Confederate soldiers, Gary Farwell said. John Strother was injured at the Arkansas Battle of Cane Hill. Elisha Strother died from an illness while tending to his son at a field hospital in Dardanelle, Ark. John Strother also died there from his wounds.

Before Wanda Farwell met her future husband, she attended Southwest Missouri Teachers College in Springfield and taught in public schools.

Bert and Wanda Farwell had two sons, three daughters and 17 grandchildren.

Gary Farwell's dad, Max, was the youngest son. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps on Feb. 10, 1944.

He was a ball turret gunner on a B-24J and was the aircraft's armorer, Gary Farwell said. His crew was part of the 736th Squadron, 454th Bombardment Group, 304th Wing of the 15th Air Force. They did their initial training at Gowan Field in Boise, Idaho, then they went to Laredo Field in Texas before being deployed to San Giovanni Airfield, west of Cerignola, Italy, for combat missions in North Africa, Germany and Italy.

"When the war in Europe ended, they returned stateside for training in the B-29 for action against Japan, but that war ended first, and they were sent home," he said.

Max Farwell was discharged on Nov. 26, 1945, with the rank of sergeant. After World War II, he partnered with his dad, Bert, to farm the Heglar homestead.

Max Farwell then married Lois Fullington, of Burley, on March 6, 1946, in Burley.

Gary Farwell, who is the oldest, has four siblings: Blenda, Carla, Mike and Douglas.

Even though Bert and Wanda Farwell retired to Burley in the early 1950s, they still checked on the farm.

Bert Farwell died on March 27, 1971, and Wanda Farwell died on Feb. 10, 1973.

Heglar is about 10 miles from Raft River, Gary Farwell said.

"Raft River was called the Parting of the Waves because the Oregon Trail went north to Oregon or south to California," he said.

Much of the area is mountainous and rugged.

For about 30 years, Farwell family farms in Heglar have had 2,800 acres in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program, Gary Farwell said.

"It's used for erosion control," he said.

Max Farwell drives a Caterpillar D-6 tractor, and a neighbor, Luther Horn, is on a Harris sidehill pull type combine during a 1954 harvest of a wheat field owned by Farwell's brother, William, in Heglar, Idaho. Max Farwell owned both pieces of equipment. William Farwell's farm became part of the 3,750-acre Sage Chicken Ranch in Heglar, which received a Century Farm designation. Contributed Photo

In 1996, Gary Farwell and his brother, Mike, bought a 1900-acre farm owned by their uncle and aunt, William and Irene Farwell. The farm was about three to four miles north of the original Heglar homestead. William Farwell is Bert and Wanda Farwell's oldest child. In 2002, Gary and Mark Farwell bought 1,550 acres owned by their parents. In 2004, they then bought the original 300-acre homestead from their brother, Douglas. The three farms were merged into one farm called the Sage Chicken Ranch. Gary Farwell and his wife, Louise, and Mike Farwell and his wife, Shanna, currently own the 3,750-acre farm.

A neighbor leases 40 acres for grain production, Gary Farwell said. The crop is wheat and barley.

Gary Farwell's son, Gary Marc Farwell, was a veteran of two tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, earning numerous medals -- including the Distinguished Flying Cross -- for gallantry and valor piloting a Black Hawk helicopter, he said. His son was killed on Feb. 3, 2010, in Germany "doing the most dangerous job of all, training an inexperienced pilot." The last time he saw his son was when he came to the Sage Chicken Ranch to hunt in October 2009.

Since the Idaho Century Farm & Ranch Program started in 1990, the Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Department of Agriculture have recognized more than 400 farms and ranches owned and operated in the state by the same family. According to the program, at least 40 acres of the property must have remained in agricultural use for at least 100 years.

In 2014, the program has recognized four farms, including the Farwell farm, and a ranch, said Steve Barrett, program manager of the Idaho Century Farm & Ranch Program.

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