Old stone home is family’s legacy
Homestead lost in the Depression passes through generations of Groenings
A farm now owned by Gordon and Shirley Groening has passed through several generations of family.
It once was owned by Dallas Rogers, whose family lost it in the Great Depression.
In 1889, Rogers built a limestone house on the property that has a picturesque turret, or tower, on its southwest corner.
He also built a limestone barn that still stands straight and true. The house is surrounded on three sides by rolling hills of bluestem grass.
Rogers built a matching limestone addition onto the house in the 1920s so that his son Earl and family could live with them.
Shirley Groening, the former Shirley Helmer, remembers going to school with Earl’s son, Monte.
The Groenings often wonder whether the stone for the house came from the quarry near the historic Chingawasa Springs less than a mile away.
Trim around windows, doorways, and floors is made of rich hardwood.
The first floor has a kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, bedroom, and two bathrooms.
A large, concrete porch with stone pillars and arches adorns the north side of the house. Bedrooms and a storage area on the second floor are topped by a single, third-floor room.
When the Rogers lost the farm, Josiah Good, a Marion banker, purchased the property and rented it out.
In 1946, Clyde and Bernice Thies purchased the property bringing the farmstead into the fold for the Groenings. Bernice was Gordon’s great aunt.
Their son, Wayne Thies, Gordon’s second cousin, was living in the stone house when his parents Howard and Irma Groening of Lehigh purchased the building and the 160 acres that went with it, in 1951.
Irma’s father, C.R. Duerksen of Lehigh, built a wall of shelving and cabinets in the family room, and her brother, Mildor, replaced the metal kitchen cabinets.
They contributed other pieces of furniture, as well.
Howard and Irma moved to Hillsboro in 1988, and Gordon and Shirley took over the farm.
They rewired the upstairs and installed a heating and cooling system.
“I used to wear sweatshirts in the house until the middle of June,” Shirley said. “The foot-thick stone walls kept it cool until then.”
They transformed the unique southwest turret room into a bedroom. It had been used for storage. They reconfigured a front entrance near the bedroom into a second bathroom and walk-in closet. All of the floors were carpeted.
Gordon and Shirley attended Marion High School together.
Shirley’s parents, Jack and Sylvia Helmer, ran the Marion Marble.
The couple was married in 1972 and raised two daughters, Kris and Jenny. They have two grandchildren.
“I was a city girl, but I wouldn’t trade country life for anything,” Shirley said.
Gordon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer around Easter 2019. He underwent various treatments and a surgery, and now is cancer free.
The Groenings will never forget when neighbors came from all around to harvest crops and work cattle when Gordon couldn’t do it.
“We were amazed,” Shirley said.
Gordon is happy to be back doing farm work again as the couple continue to enjoy their historic stone house.