The Farm at Long Lane finds its home on a property that’s story is rich in Nebraska pioneer history.
Nebraska gained its statehood in March of 1867. Since the mid 1850s there had been significant settlement to the territory. For settlers moving westwards, there was hope of a new future and greater prosperity. An important milestone in the growth of settlers within the state was The Homestead Act of 1862 which allowed for qualified persons to obtain 160 acres of land as a grant. It required that the applicants were either citizens of the United States or had filed a declaration to become such and that they had never borne arms against the United States or aided enemies.
The town of Murdock traces its beginnings to the Chicago Rock Island Railroad. It was determined that Murdock was a fitting stop to locate a town as the railroad grew west from Omaha. The trains needed a water stop every seven miles along the tracks, so Murdock would meet this calling. Many new towns resulted from the prairie expansion of the “iron horse.” The trains benefited these areas and hastened further settlement of the plains. Today, Murdock is located midway between Lincoln and Omaha as accessed by I-80.
In the spring of 1857, Englishman Thomas J. Fountain settled on his farm located on a portion of section 24 in South Bend Precinct. The son of a wealthy stock-broker and farmer, Thomas immigrated with his parents to the U.S. in 1835 or 1836 at age five. Educated in Middletown, Connecticut, Thomas later served an apprenticeship in the blacksmithing trade. He then worked as a journeyman and, upon settling in Nebraska, became a full-time farmer. The Fountain farmstead was run by Thomas along with his wife Abilena and their three children: Jason, Isabelle, and Lafayette.
In June of 1869, the Fountains acquired additional land, less than two miles directly south of their homestead. It was then that our property was first purchased at a public sale of Common School Lands of the State of Nebraska. For the price of $1120, the Fountains expanded their land holding by 160 acres.
In 1876 German immigrants Christian and Louisa Kupke moved from Wisconsin to Nebraska. Five of their eight children survived that move. In March 1877, the Kupkes bought that 160 acre plot from the Fountains for $1900. Over the years, three generations of Kupkes have owned this property. Father Christian and son Charles built their original two-family house “down the hill” and it no longer stands.
In 1910 Charles Kupke built our beautiful farmhouse for the cost of $6,000. The home was completed in 1912. This house stands high atop a hill, presumably to catch breezes from the east and west. It is said that the house was a kit home, brought by rail car. Kit homes were constructed on site, but their building materials were made accessible thanks to train access. Homes of this type were popular in the plains due to lack of native hardwoods for construction. Sold by Sears or similar companies, these kits were labeled and carefully organized in an effort to simplify the building process. The house was built before electricity and was lit with carbide lights that were plumbed to fixtures in each room.
Charles Kupke passed the home on to his son Louis who continued to farm the property until 1968. In 1969 the Kupke family sold the home to the McCabe family who lovingly owned the property until 2010. Throughout the years, in the care of both the Kupkes and McCabes, the farmstead was a hub of activity. All sorts of livestock were raised including cows, sheep, goats, and pigs. Horses and chickens also made a happy home here. Great gardens were planted and an old orchard continues to bear fruit. Many of the early structures still stand, some dating back to 1876. To wander down the meadow or explore the south woods is to glimpse at history. Enthralled by the property’s historic charm, the farmstead was selected as the filming location for Hallmark’s adaptation of Willa Cather’s novel, O’ Pioneers.
We are now the fourth family to own this property in over 140 years; the third family to own the iconic farmhouse. In the course of time, most of the farmland surrounding the original farmstead has been sold and is still cultivated. The property is listed as The Christian Kupke Farmstead in the National Register of Historic Places as administered by the National Park Service within the Department of Interior.
As we set out to renew and restore the farmstead, we hold a tremendous amount of respect for the incredible people and their amazing tales that have brought us to this place today.
Anderson, G.W. Atlas of Cass County Nebraska. Mason City, IA: Anderson Publishing Company, 1918.
Cass County Nebraska Register of Deeds.
Cline, Maxine. Murdock: A Pictorial History of the Community. Murdock Historical Society, 2003.
Cline, Maxine. Neighborhood History. Unpublished.
Dick, Everett. The Sod-House Frontier: Everyday Life in Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota, 1854-1890. Lincoln: Johnsen Publishing Company, 1954.
Jason Phipps Descendants. Retrieved from: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~walkersj/Jasondescendants.htm.
Portrait and Biographical Album of Otoe and Cass Counties, Nebraska. Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1889.
~Revised January 2013