Stickfort Farm recognized as Century and Heritage Farm

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The Stickfort farm was recently designated as a Century and Heritage farm by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship. From left are Kinsley Jones, Carey Jones, Kellan Jones, Casey Jones, Aracelly Stickfort, Stuart Stickfort, Kelly Bromelkamp, and Casey Stickfort. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship recently designated Stuart and Aracelly Stickfort's farmstead as a Century and Heritage farm. The Century and Heritage Farm program recognizes multi-generation farm families who have overcome challenges, adapted to fluctuating markets and embraced new technologies to remain successful for 100 and 150 years, respectively. 

Stuart and Aracelly both grew up on family farms – Stuart in Iowa and Aracelly in Costa Rica. The couple met while Stuart was enlisted in the Marine Corps in the mid-Seventies. They have two children, Carey and Casey, and two grandchildren, Kinsley and Kellan.

"We moved to the family farm in 1976," commented Stuart. "We raised livestock and crops throughout the years, but now we rent the land out to Gerry Schaefers. I am retired now and more of a hobby farmer." 

"I worked for 3M for 25 years, but now I am retired," Aracelly commented. "We both enjoy hunting and fishing and outdoor sports." 

"We started looking into the farm's deeds and began to piece the history together," they shared. 

Dehn's brick kiln

In 1850, John Dehn Sr. of Germany arrived in Garnavillo and purchased land near Buck Creek that contained good brick clay. The first bricks were set in wooden molds and the kiln was located on the Buck Creek bottom. An unfortunate cloudburst that washed all the materials away caused Dehn to rebuild, upon recommendation from his wife, near the site of the clay pit. As demand for brick increased, they installed a one-horse sweep brick press, which made five bricks per revolution. 

Eventually a larger kiln was built with nine fire doors on each side. A four-foot cord of wood was used to fire the kiln, and the bricks were burned longer than most brickyards at the time. 

The ambitious settlers also opened a limestone quarry, building a "Shaft Kiln" 12 ft. in diameter and 20-ft. high. The limestone was stacked so the fire could reach all parts, and was fired with four feet of cord wood for three days and nights. When the blue flames started to come out of the top, the lime was finished. It was cooled and moved to an airtight "Lime House" and sold in wooden barrels and also in bulk. 

Dehn's brick and lime were hauled by horse and wagon in a 50-mile radius in Iowa and hauled across the ice to Prairie du Chien, Bagley and Glen Haven, Wis. 

The brickyard operated until the 1900's and employed approximately 15 men. The brick was used to construct buildings and homes in the area, many of which are still in use today. The railroad would eventually usher in a new era of competitive brick builders, closing down Dehn's empire. 

Stickfort farm

On Oct. 20, 1870, John and Mary Dehn purchased property located along the Clayton-Garnavillo road, east of Buck Creek, from Henry and Anna Miller. John and Mary passed the property to their daughter, Lena (Dehn) Theodore and she passed it to her daughter, Emma (Theodore) Stickfort. Emma in turn passed the property to her son, Earl Stickfort who passed it on to his son, Stuart. 

"We assume my great-great-grandfather used his bricks to build our home and the original barn that still stands on the property, but we don't have any proof," commented Stuart. "We do know that many of the historic buildings in Garnavillo and the surrounding area were built with my ancestors' brick and limestone."

A Civil War grave marker revealed Dehn's military service. "John Dehn served in the Civil War from 1861 – 1865 with the Grand Old Army of the Potomac, which was the principal Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War," noted Stickfort. "The division was formed shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run."

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