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  • Writer's pictureKaren L Kurtz

Asparagus & Buggies

Updated: May 20

Laura snapped the reins of her fancy horse-drawn rig. She passed up a young man about her age who was driving his buggy on a country road. He was visiting Columbiana, Ohio, which was two or three days travel by buggy from his home in Wayne County. They were both on their way to church, which I suppose adds another layer to the story we were told of how my mother’s parents met.

From a young age, Laura Longanecker had a direct, strong gaze that matched her personality. She laughed heartily at humorous stories, but she also had definite opinions about what was funny and what was not. She had a sharp mind and no time for nonsense. Sometimes it seemed she was too impatient to wait for a more diplomatic way to phrase things.

Photos: c.1883, 5 yrs old; c.1886, almost 9 yrs

Jonas Horst had a quiet, gentle nature and a keen interest in everything around him. His vibrant interiority shone in his eyes and in his ideas, which came out thoughtfully formed and articulate. Perhaps their differences in the way they met the world was what attracted them to each other.

Toward the end of the 1890's, Jonas resided in Washingtonville, Ohio, where he was employed as a teacher. It was only five miles to go courting at the farm where Laura lived. They married on Thursday, the Ides of March, 1900. It seemed an odd time in the school year to set a wedding date, but perhaps his school had already suspended classes for the year because of spring planting. Rural communities were attuned to the rhythms and demands of their farms. It was an era when textbook schooling had about 6 to 8 years to make its mark on farm kids.

Four months after their wedding in 1900, a census interviewer came to the W. Pine Lake Rd farm where Laura had been born. She and her new husband were listed as members of the household of Alfred and Elizabeth Longanecker, her parents. The young couple soon moved to a rental property on Green Beaver Rd, (shown below.) Laura gave birth to their first four children in this house.

Photo, c. 1905. Laura & Jonas Horst with Arthur, 3; Galen, infant; Myron, 4.

Jonas may have returned to teaching again in the fall. In October, 1900, he was elected into the ministry, an unsalaried position in the Mahoning Church of the Brethren where Laura's family had always attended. Three congregations―Zion Hill, Bethel and Woodworth―would grow from the Mahoning Brethren, and over several decades Jonas would pastor in all three.

Photo: c.1908. (Green Beaver Rd.) Jonas and Laura, both 30 yrs old with their first four children. L to R: Myron, 7; Arthur, 5; Elva 18 months; Galen,3, on the pony.

By the time the 1910 census was recorded, Jonas and Laura had just purchased their first farm, which was located on Pine Lake. Their next five children were birthed there.

In 1920 Laura inherited the farm where she'd grown up. It had been in her father's family for several generations. Laura's great-grandparents, Daniel and Sarah Mack* Longanecker had given each of their children―3 daughters and 5 sons―a farm. This 96-acre property had gone to the youngest son, Samuel, Laura's grandfather.

There was a special photo of Laura with her Grandpa Samuel Longanecker taken in 1886. Laura was "8 yrs 11mo," as she noted on the back of the original print. A newspaper reporter interviewed Laura 80 years later. At 88 years of age she still remembered very clearly that day when the photo had been taken.

Photo, c.1920. Alfred and Elizabeth "Lizzy" Longanecker at the gate of the home they built. They built another house on Main St. in town where they retired when Laura & Jonas took over the farm.

Samuel Longanecker gave the farm to his son, Alfred, Laura's father. Alfred and his wife, Elizabeth, built a new, red brick home on the farm in 1880 when Laura was only 3 yrs old. Its bricks were made from the clay of their own pond and fired in a kiln on site. Alfred passed the farm along to his youngest child, Laura.

Jonas and Laura moved their growing family to her inherited farm on W. Pine Lake Rd. shortly before my mother, Hazel, was born in 1920. Her brother Howard, the last child, was born the following year. Hazel recalled that with 13 people under one roof, she did not have a specific bed assigned to her when she was small. Each night she looked to see which of her older siblings had space and crawled in wherever there was room. All eleven children grew to adulthood at this farm. One of the older boys drove a horse-drawn "kid wagon," to pick up children from neighbouring farms and take them to school. (It was half-filled with Horsts, no doubt.) Sleigh runners replaced the wheels in the winter and a coal burner sat in the centre to warm them on the long ride.

Photo, c.1923. Back: Waldo, Galen, Myron, Arthur, Elva

Front: Kathryn, Jonas & Howard, Hazel, Robert, Laura, Esther, Mildred

Jonas took on extra work as a shipping clerk in a Youngstown steel mill to supplement their farm income. His children later recalled how he still made time for rhyming games with them and sat at the piano in the evenings, teaching them to play by ear. They were a musical family. The four youngest Horst sisters performed in a singing quartet as children. And Howard sang in a men's quartet as an adult.

When their eldest daughter, Elva, wanted to go to college, Laura went to work picking asparagus at a local produce patch to pay for the tuition. She said she would put the first one through school, but after that each graduate was to help the next sibling through college. And they did. Six became educators with help from their siblings using "the asparagus principle."

My mother's family enjoyed being together. Their genuine affection for each other was always evident to me when I was growing up. Family reunions were all-day gatherings and they loved to play! (My mother said with that many kids in the house there were always enough for two teams in any sport.) Rain or shine, for more than 60 years, the Horst family gathered every 4th of July. Any Sunday afternoon when I was young, we could count on seeing family members dropping by Grandma's house.

Their family found all kinds of ways to show their love for each other. Even picking asparagus.

~ K L Kurtz

At the end of their long lives Laura and Jonas were buried in the Zion Hill Church of the Brethren cemetery in Columbiana, OH amongst the headstones of many of Laura's ancestors.

*Laura's great-grandmother, Sarah Mack Longanecker, was the great-granddaughter of Alexander Mack, founder of the Church of the Brethren, Schwarzenau, Germany, 1708.


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