Grubbed Stumps, Fixed Fence, Pa to Town: Our Nebraska Farm (1871-1910)

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In an age when the small American farm is fast disappearing, Grubbed Stumps takes us back to the early days of Midwestern farming--when the first homesteaders in Nebraska struggled to tame the wilderness. 

Bill Buffett wrote this book in honor of his ancestors, farmers from the Inavale area in south central Nebraska. Stories, photos, family papers, historical documents, and recipes help recount the history of a farm that was in his family for almost 140 years.

"Grubbed stumps" — On the night of May 3, 1902, William Norris wrote these words as he sat at the kitchen table of his farm in south central Nebraska. The words meant that he'd spent part of the day with a team of horses or mules pulling stumps from the ground. When it was cleared, the field would be ready for planting.

William was the son of Daniel Gibbon Norris who had come from Kentucky in 1871. At the age of twenty-four, Daniel rode to the end of the rail line, bought a pair of oxen and a wagon and headed south across the unbroken prairie. On the banks of the Republican River, Daniel laid claim to 160 acres of land—made available when Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in 1862.

The farm grew from 160 acres to over a thousand. It was in the Norris family for 139 years, from 1871-2010. Daniel, then William, and after William died in 1932, Mildred Norris, William's widow, ran the farm until she died in 1969. For the next forty-one years, the farm was rented to two generations of the Hersh family. Rodger and Jody Hersh finally bought the farm in 2010.

The farm is where Bill Buffett's mother, Katherine, was born, and where Bill spent many summers of his boyhood. Though he lived in Omaha, this land that his ancestors farmed is, to him, the most sacred place on the face of the earth. From letters, memories, photos, old newspapers, and other sources, Bill has pieced together a history of the farm.

Thousands came from the eastern United States and from Europe to claim a piece of Federal land west of the Mississippi River. Daniel Norris was one of them. He lasted.

Many others were not so fortunate. Bill wrote this book to honor his ancestors, farmers from long ago.

William Buffett: 2013 | Hardcover, illustrated: 272 pages


About the Author

William (Bill) Norris Buffett grew up in Omaha where he attended Central High School. He received degrees from Carleton College, Yale, Harvard, and Boston Universities. Bill taught high school history in Illinois, drove a taxi in Boston, and was the director of Fenwood Inn at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. He has three children: Wendy, Tom, and Noah; and four grandchildren: Maya, Zev, Olivia, and Helena. Bill lives with his wife, Susan Kennedy, in Arlington, Massachusetts. This is his fourth book.



"In an age when the small American farm is fast disappearing, Grubbed Stumps takes us back to the early days of midwestern farming—when the first homesteaders in Nebraska struggled to tame the wilderness.

Not only with the tales of the hardy souls who cultivated the land in south central Nebraska stir your imagination, you'll also be treated to an array of photos, ads, family artifacts, historical documents, and letters that will help bring these times and characters to life.

Bill Buffett traces his family's history back to his great grandfather Daniel Norris, a pioneer, and shows us how rural middle America changed over several generations on his family's land. Quotes by the author Willa Cather, who grew up nearby, add texture and depth to this entertaining and accessible story of a family and a farm."

John A. (Jay) Yost, Board of Governors, Willa Cather Foundation

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