Joseph Leo Toepfer was born on January 26, 1915, in Crooked Finger, near Scotts Mills, Oregon. He was the 12th child of the 15 born to Johann (John) Michael and Margaret (Riedel) Toepfer. In 1917, when Joe was 1 1/2 years old, his folks moved the family to a 160-acre farm, east of Sublimity, Oregon. Joe attended school for eight years at Coon Hollow in Marian County. In 1918, Joe’s father, with the help of his other children, built a new house on the farm. John Michael died in 1935. Joe is the only one of the 15 children that stayed on the farm. He started to farm it in 1937.
During the summer of 1937, Joe met his wife-to-be, Cynthia Marie Cline. Marie and her cousins had applied for the job of picking strawberries on Joe’s farm. She got a permanent job. Joe and Marie were married on September 13, 1938 in Sublimity, Oregon, after a 15-month engagement. They lived in one of the cabins built for the strawberry pickers. It was small, but they made do. The cabin had no electricity or running water. They had to pack their water in and wash their clothes on the old wash board… Living in the main house was Joe’s mother, Margaret, and Joe’s younger brother and sister, Johnny and Julia. In 1936, Margaret’s brother, Uncle Andrew Riedel, came to live with them… Joe and Marie’s first two children were born while living in the cabin. Rose Marie was born on August 4, 1939, and Larry Joseph was born on December 31, 1940… In about 1942, Margaret, Uncle Andrew, and Julia moved into a house in Sublimity. Eight years later, Margaret passed away.
Joe and Marie moved into the main house at this time. Joe did some remodeling and got electricity and water, which made life much easier. They raised strawberries as their main crop. They also had some blackberries and loganberries. There were also a few cattle and milk cows for their own use. Chickens were raised and hatching eggs were sold. Around 1940, they started with a few sheep and as the years went by, the number of sheep increased. On January 2, 1943, Joe and Marie welcomed a second daughter, Elvina Ann, into their lives.
(Elvina Ann Toepfer :: My mother-in-law 😀 )
The purchase of their first tractor happened in 1948. It was a Model A International. Then, in the 1950’s, they raised fescue and bent grass seed. Joe and Marie’s fourth child, Ronald Paul, was born on February 15, 1953. Joe started to build a new house for the family in 1957. He had a sawmill and made his own lumber off his timber. He did most of the inside building himself, in between all the farming jobs. Four long years later, the new house was finished and moved into.
(Photo of the Toepfer house was taken in January 1994)
The neighboring farm came up for sale in 1960, and Joe had always wanted to own it. So Joe and Marie bought it. It was 222 acres, which increased their farm to 382 acres. The piece of property had a big hill on it, that they called “Black Tail”, because of the black tail deer living on it… A new shop and machine shed were built in 1949 with a new barn following in 1952.
(Photo of Black Tail was taken in January 1994)
Joe retired in 1977, at which time his two sons, Larry and Ron, took over the farm. They continued raising strawberries. The price dropped dramatically on berries, and it was difficult getting reliable pickers and keeping up with all the rules and regulations, so in 1992, Larry and Ron stopped raising strawberries. Since then, they have been raising beef cattle and grass seed.
The number 13 has been a special number for Joe and Marie. This number came up a lot in their lives. They were married on the 13th. Special events seemed to fall on the 13th. They have had 13 calves at one time, serial numbers have had 13 in them, and prices of items had 13 in them. They had many laughs, over the years, about how many times and different ways the number has appeared.
Some of the buildings have since been torn down and newer, bigger ones built… Joe loved to hunt and fish. Marie has enjoyed crocheting… Farming has been a hard way of living, but a rewarding one… Joe passed away on June 5, 1993.
To date, July 2, 2010, Joe and Marie have 4 children, 9 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and 6 step great-grandchildren.