Leaving their mark
Devines’ imprint on the land remains.
Morris and Cora (Gray) Devine have left footprints upon the rolling prairie on which they’ve lived and worked.
As a result, the farm—seven miles north of Gothenburg and nestled at the foot of the Sandhills near Custer County—was aptly named “Foothill Farm.”
The Devine family was recently honored as a Dawson County Pioneer Farm Family for having farm ground in the same family for more than 100 years.The land has been in the family since 1889 when John and Tina Siemmering, who immigrated from Germany, set up a homestead on 320 acres. Cora, who is a granddaughter, still has a trunk from the old country filled with German papers.
“The only thing my grandparents told me about when they bought the farm was that it was originally railroad land,” she said.
Cora lived with her grandparents for a year when she was 5 after her father died from a kidney ailment. Her mother Grace stayed on the farm in Custer County until it was sold. The two then moved into Gothenburg where Grace cleaned houses and worked at Beath’s Hotel on Lake Avenue.
While living with her grandparents, Cora remembers walking across the pasture to a country school and the summer kitchen at their home.
“My grandparents were good to me and I was spoiled,” she said. “I got lots of love and attention over there.”
When Grace remarried, the family moved to a ranch north of Brady and then near Callaway. Cora missed Gothenburg where she wanted to graduate from high school.
Her wish was granted and she boarded with Roy and Mabel Nichols where she helped baby-sit their children and worked at the Beath Hotel.
Cora graduated in 1943, got a job at O’Connors dime store and her own apartment.
She met Cozad graduate Morris Devine at a dance and the two married in 1945.
Two years later Cora returned, with Morris, to the homesteaded land where they dry land farmed corn and alfalfa and raised cattle on 160 acres. For a time, they also grew potatoes and sugar beets.
The Devines built a basement house about 1 miles southwest of the homeplace.
Morris said they were the first people to install an irrigation well “this far north.”
In 1966, they built a home on top of the basement where the couple still lives.
At one time, when their crops were hailed out five years in a row, the family—which by now included four children—traveled to Oregon for a month where they stayed with relatives and picked pole beans.
Morris was ready sell the family farm and move to Oregon but Cora said she missed home and familiar faces.
Fortunately the family made enough money harvesting beans to pay for the trip and to buy school clothes for the kids.
When the Devines returned home, there was no more hail for the next two years.
“We lived in a good community,” Cora said. “Everyone around us was in the same boat. When someone got hail, we’d cry on each other’s shoulders.
“It was a good life.”
For awhile, son Tim helped his parents especially when they rented 1,000 acres to farm.
“We worked night and day,” Morris said.
In 2003, the couple retired from farming and rented out the land, later selling 160 acres to Steve and Polly Ackerman.
Receiving a Pioneer Farm Family award is a great honor, Cora said.
“Farming has been a good living for us,” she said.
In addition to son Tim, who works for Paulsen Inc., the couple’s other children are: Ron, who is employed by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District; Brad, who lives and works in Cedar Rapids, IA; and Linda Swan, who works at the Gothenburg Public Library.