Bauer Berry Farm–History of the land. (Excerpted from a history written by W.H. Bauer)

The land which is now known as the Bauer Berry Farm in Champlin, Minnesota, can be traced through the Abstract of Title to the original owner, Mr. Wentworth Hayden, and entered into the Land Office Records on October 20, 1856. Despite being a prominent citizen of the era and the namesake of a small lake in the area, Mr. Hayden required a mortgage on the property and filed the same from one Alanson Smith. In less than a year, however, the mortgage was paid and on March 13, 1957 this parcel of farmland was again sold in what was to become serial filings in the Book of Records at the Hennepin County Courthouse.

Times were difficult in the mid 1800s and poor farmers were hard pressed to hold onto their land. Much of the land, and certainly this particular piece of property, was marginal at best. Crop failure was common. Notice of the first of two Sheriff’s Sales, the result of a mortgage foreclosure, was filed on January 17, 1863. Miraculously, a previous owner of this property managed to reclaim his farm by 1865. For reasons about which we can only speculate, this particular piece of land changed hands many times. In fact, by the time it became the property of William and Nancy Bauer in 1985, there were more than 100 activities recorded on this single piece of property.

But by 1944 part of the original eighty acres had been subdivided, no doubt in an effort to satisfy debts and other intricacies of human life. Probably some land had been sold off by often-times desperate farmers in need of cash to provide for their families. But it also appears that some portion of land was inherited by children of parents who died intestate and whose estates went to Probate Court. Whatever the causes, what had been an eighth of a section of land (80 acres) had shrunk to 35 acres, “more or less”. (Less when the right of way for an expanding roadway, County Road 121 was subtracted.)

And as for continuous ownership, the Abstract clearly shows that only in relatively modern times did a single owner occupy his or her land for any appreciable length of time. By Warranty Deed dated August 8, 1947, Karl and Mildred Foster became owners of these 35 acres, more or less. They lived in the small farmhouse occupying the property and raised a fine family. In the ensuing twenty-two years their family grew up and moved off the farm. Occupation of this farm site had become the longest continuous ownership since it was deeded to Wentworth Hayden in 1856! It was, by accident, that this piece of marginal farmland came into the hands of a lifelong and successful farming couple. The following story was related by Webster Hamilton Wadsworth to the crowd of friends and family at their 60th wedding anniversary in 2002.

While on a duck hunting excursion on Hayden Lake one fall day in 1968, Webster and his hunting partners returned home via County Road 121, a route they normally would not have used. Along the way Webster noticed a For Sale sign on property in the Village of Champlin. Thinking this might be a speculation investment, he decided to purchase the property from Karl and Mildred Foster.

As coincidence would have it, earlier that same year Webster and Norma’s daughter, Nancy Lee, married William Bauer. Since they were renting an apartment, they were given the opportunity to rent the vacant farmhouse on the property. They moved in on June 6, 1969 for what was to be a short duration, “until they got their feet on the ground” as Webster put it. As in baseball, and most other things in life, timing is everything. When the time came for the Wadsworths to sell the property, the market was down and it didn’t sell. It was then, in 1977, that the Bauers and Wadsworths teamed up to create a partnership that would eventually become the Bauer Berry Farm. Webster brought with him the knowledge of a lifelong relationship to the land and the young couple brought the blissful ignorance of youth. The combination proved to be successful and today, thirty-three years after the partnership was created, the Bauer Berry Farm continues to be an icon for fruits and vegetables in Northwest Hennepin County.

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