The Beginning of Farming Township
Situated not far from the geographical center of Stearns County is Farming Township, and the little Village of Farming. The township was originally one of waters, woods, prairies, and gently rolling hills with excellent soil for farming. . . hence the name Farming.
Before the white settlers came to this area the Sioux Indians, and possibly a handful of trappers, traders, and hunters had occupied it, but because it was West of the Mississippi it developed at a later date than those areas located East of the Mississippi River.
Minnesota had been proclaimed a territory in March of 1849, and just two years after that a peace treaty was signed with the Sioux Indians, opening lands West of the Mississippi for settlement.
Father Francis Pierz was very instrumental in the development of Farming by writing many letters and articles to contacts in Germany and other parts of the United States extolling the wonderful climate and fertile soil.
By early 1860’s there was a steady stream of farmers, many of German decent, who were looking for a chance to work farm land of their own. They felt that with the fertile land offered in Farming Township, and hard work, they could carve out a better life for themselves and their family. When they reached Farming, they had to build homes, clear and break land, plant crops, put up fences, tend to cattle and chickens, buy tools and equipment; all with very little knowledge of their environment.
Neighbors were very important in those days, and many times it was the neighbors that helped them adjust and prepare for the winter blizzards, the isolation that occurred because of the poor roads, and the limited means of transportation. Most of the population spoke German, but because they hailed from different parts of Germany, they spoke different dialects, which made communication difficult. Because this group of German settlers was very independent and self-sufficient, their thoughts turned toward organization of a township of their own.
By this time, St. Martin, Richmond, and Albany townships had already been established. On December 4, 1872 a formal petition was signed by 24 residents of legal voting age, and the petition was presented to Stearns County Board of Commissioners on January 8, 1873. And, on May 8, 1873, the township was entered into the State Auditor’s Records. However, the village of Farming was never incorporated, and therefore it remains a Hamlet, governed by the township board.
Throughout the years, the Catholic and Lutheran Churches in the township provided a steady source of leadership and were the center of much activity for township residents.
St. Catherine’s Catholic Parish was established in 1879, under the direction of a Richmond Pastor, and by 1881 the members decided to build a church on 20 acres that had been donated by Michael Bock. But in the summer of that same year the church was destroyed by a tornado, only to be rebuilt again in the fall. By 1988 the parish had grown to 65 families. But tragedy was to again strike when a fire destroyed the church in 1903, due to a faulty chimney. Again the parishioners rebuilt the church. The church continued to flourish and made additions to the church building, the parish house and the school buildings and grounds throughout the coming years. The parish buildings were host to many recreational opportunities and memorable family events.
According to The Director of Planning Office of the St. Cloud Catholic Diocese, “From the beginning, Saint Catherine’s Parish was served by Benedictine Monks from Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN. As the Abbey experienced a diminishing number of priests, and the community a diminishing number of parishioners, it became clear that changes had to occur. It was in 2011 that Saint John’s Abbey determined it could no longer provide a priest to serve as pastor of this wonderful parish. The Church of Saint Catherine had a final Mass, con-celebrated by Bishop John F. Kinney, Diocese of Saint Cloud and Abbot John Klassen, OSB, Saint John’s Abbey, on May 29, 2011. The parish merged with Saint Martin Parish, St. Martin, MN on that date. All church records are held at the parish in Saint Martin. This difficult decision came after many hours of discussion, prayer and planning with priests and lay people alike.”
The beginning of Immanuel Lutheran Church, located at 23845 County Road 40, dates back to the 1870’s when a number of Lutheran families from Wisconsin settled in the vicinity. During the following years other families arrived from Germany, Russia, and a number from other parts of Minnesota. During the summer of 1873, a congregation was organized by the Lutheran Missionary, Rev. Vetter. Some records show there were some 14 to 17 voting members present at the time the church was organized.
In 1879 the growing congregation built a log house for the new Pastor, and with the addition of that Pastor and their growing numbers they saw the need for an actual church building which was constructed of logs in 1884. After some remodeling to expand the space, it was determined that a much larger building was needed. In 1902 the larger and present church was built.
In 1910 a new school was built behind the present church. Throughout the coming years members continually made improvements to the buildings. Then in 1977, after closing sometime earlier, the Immanuel School was moved off the church grounds to Pioneer Grounds in Albany.
In 2011 there were 138 communicant members and 19 Wednesday school children. Service time is listed as 9:30 a.m., which includes communion every Sunday, with Pastor Fred Kutter who also broadcasts a 5 minute devotion “The Word Today” on KASM Radio, 1150 on am dial, Monday through Friday at 5:55 p.m. Church phone number is listed as 320-845-2620.
The 2000 US Census shows that there were 280 households, with a total population of 875. Adults ranging in age from 25 years to age 64, make up the largest portion of the population. Many are still farmers, but many have also chosen to take a job outside the farm in addition to farming on a smaller scale. A drive through the township tells you that the fields are still fertile and that residents find pride in their homes.
References for historical information from–
Centennial 1879-1979, St. Catherine’s Parish, Farming, Minnesota
Director of Planning, Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN
Stearns History Museum, St. Cloud, MN
Immanual Lutheran Church History, Farming, Minnesota