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A barn full of history

Sesquicentennial Farm owned by New Ulm founder William Pfaender Sr.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Kristine and Willis Runck inside their newly restored Artstone house.

The farm originally owned by New Ulm founder, politician and businessman William Pfaender Sr., was named a 2023 Minnesota Farm Bureau Sesquicentennial Farm.

Born in Heilbronn, Germany, Pfaender emigrated to the United States in 1848, settling in New York, then moving to Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1856, Pfaender organized a group of Cincinatti Turners to move to New Ulm after a political attack on his family and other German immigrant families at a picnic, by Know Nothings (a nativist political movement who’s members were required to say “I know nothing” when they were asked about its specifics by outsiders).

Located on the KC Road in Milford Township several miles northwest of New Ulm, the 175-acre farm was purchased by Pfaender in 1856 from original homesteader Anton Kaus.

Willis Runck, the great-great grandchild of Pfaender, said the farm, where he and his wife Kristine live, included New Ulm’s first post office, first Brown County Courthouse and first New Ulm Turnverein.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch The Pfaender-Runck Artstone family farm house was built in 1913 after a fire destroyed a log cabin and wooden house on the property.

“During the (1862) Dakota War, the farm was spared due to the fact that my family was friendly with the Indians, providing food for them when they visited the farm,” said Willis Runck.

Pfaender, commissioned lieutenant colonel, serving in the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, commandeered Fort Ridgely, near the Minnesota River Valley, about 20 miles northwest of his farm, when the Dakota War broke out.

Pfaender’s wife, children and a hired man stayed home to run the farm that included growing wheat and a dairy operation.

He was a busy man, wearing many hats. Pfaender was the first New Ulm Justice of the Peace, a Minnesota State Senator, state treasurer and Minnesota elector for Abraham Lincoln.

William’s youngest son Herman inherited the farm. He grew corn, wheat and raised registered Hereford cattle besides running a New Ulm milk route. Herman was also Milford Township Town Clerk and served on the Brown County Fair, New Ulm Farmer’s Elevator and Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank of New Ulm boards.

More than a century old, the dairy barn still stands.

After the original log cabin and wooden house burned in 1913, Herman Pfaender built an American Artstone home because “he didn’t want a house that would burn down,” Willis said.

The decorative concrete blocks were made at the Fairfax Artstone plant, hauled to the farm by horses and ox carts.

The home still stands, along with an 1880s barn built in two sections.

Willis Runck said his wife and sons grow corn, soybeans and alternative crops. Kristine Runck is the Milford Township clerk. Runck has coached many New Ulm tennis teams.

The Runcks restored the five-bedroom, 1913 Artstone home several years ago with help with their sons and a friend, Ron Lambrecht. Now the Runcks rent the house for special events.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch A marker shows where the original New Ulm Turnverein was built in 1856.

“The only thing we did to alter the home was add a laundry room to the kitchen porch and turn one of the smaller bedrooms into a bathroom and added a walk-in closet,” said Kristine.

Willis said the home’s sheet rock was torn out and new wiring, insulation, and a new well and roof were added.

New Ulm founder, politician and businessman William Pfaender Sr.

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