Eugene and Barbara Dolles

The Siegerts for this story originated in Germany: Eugene and Barbara (Dolles) were married in 1888 and for their honeymoon traveled 10 days overseas to their new lives – landing in New Orleans. She had a sister living in Asbury, Iowa; and so, they traveled to the state of Iowa. Eugene became a butcher and farmer near where St. Ambrose Church is today. They enjoyed sauerkraut, pancakes, and oatmeal. They both live to 92 years of age.

Walter and Clara Kress

Walter was the oldest of their 8 children. His wife; Clara was one of 10 children. They met on market days. A typical day was milking and picking corn until 8:45 then running to school at 9 down the road. After chores, Walter played baseball w neighbor kids until dark, no radio or electricity at that time. Trapping gophers and rabbits was profitable at $.35 each. On slow farm days, he could work for the neighbors for $1/day. Clara’s activities as a child were to help with sewing, canning, washing clothes on a board, and churning butter for 2 hours a day.

In 1936 Walter and Clara married. They started farming with 160 acres and 2 plow horses in Dubuque, Iowa. They had four children; Shirley (John) Bergfeld, Kenneth (Maureen), William (Janet McKenna), and Jeanette (Gary) Fagan. Of the four, William and Janet would carry-on the family farm.

They initially rented land in 1936, and then later purchased it in 1940. Eugene continued as a hired man, while Walter, Ken and William helped. Farming was done with horses until 1943/44 when they got their first tractor. Work was all-consuming with supper some nights of fried eggs only - if no time to bake bread. If there were any leftover pennies they could get a can of pork and beans as well. Entertainment was Euchre card games and dancing by a phonograph.

William (Bill) and Janet McKenna

According to Clara, Bill was always good with machinery and animals. Of the four children, he was definitely the farmer. He enjoyed the horses in the early years and could be found sneaking off with buckets to grease to ‘work’ on machinery as a boy. Later he had a truck route for milk hauling and sold seed corn. Janet likewise grew up on a family farm (1840 origin), with cattle, pigs, and chickens. After graduation she continued as a bookkeeper for Sieg Auto Parts in Dubuque, IA.

In 1960, Bill and Janet were married at St. Patrick Church in Garryowen, IA. They met while dancing at Melody Mills in Dubuque. They purchased the farm from Walter and he continued as a hired hand until he passed in 1992, shortly after Clara. Bill and Janet have 7 children; Peggy (Mark Kass), Tom (Melissa), Sandy (Mark La Rue), David, Wayne, Dan (Trish), and Cindy (Dan Hilkin), and multiple grand/great-grandchildren. Bill and Janet co-operated all aspects of the family farm. They both knew the books, the animals, and the equipment. Decisions were made to expand and they grew the farm from 160 acres to 1000+. They managed thru 18%+ interest rates, floods and droughts. Eventually the old stone farmhouse with dirt cellar was replaced with a new house, just as multiple buildings and equipment were added to the mix. The 1954 Farmall Super C tractor still exists and is operational. In 1977 they invested in an electronic milking system and new parlor. As the kids grew and moved on, old equipment was replaced with more efficient, less labor-intense tools……..remember the old square bales and stacking in the barns?!.

Although there was plenty of work to go around, they also made time for fun. All the kids participated in 4-H. Additionally, Bill and Janet sponsored Siegert’s Dairy men’s and women’s softball teams for many years. They provided each of the kids with their first car as well. Sometimes those cars double as trucks in the field but that was okay too. Periodically they were able to catch a Cubs game, Hawkeye bowl game, or an adventure to Ireland/Germany to visit other Siegert history.

Bill and Janet “retired” from milking in the 2000’s; however, they still assisted their kids with dairy, equipment, etc.…. Bill continued to do chores with Janet until he passed in December of 2022. Janet is still at it on a daily basis. The youngest son Dan and his wife Trish continue to operate a dairy farm in Peosta, Iowa, and 4/7 children live on parts of the family farm.

While no milking is happening at the original farm, it is still operational with crops, pastures for cows, goats, and equipment.

The Siegert family appreciates hard work and dedication to the land and its history. Raise a glass and enjoy the rewards with us, enjoy!


Corn to Whiskey