Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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York family a longtime staple

by Chris Schultz

August 22, 2013

When William York bought the farm on Mohawk Road in 1895, he was not yet William York.

Walter York, 81, said his grandfather's name was Yerke.

Walter said his ancestor arrived in the United States from Germany in 1882.

There were five boys in the family, and they probably came here to avoid military service in the German army, Walter said.

And possibly, to reinvent themselves, as well.

Walter said that following plat maps, deeds and financial papers, it is possible to track William Yerke as he changed his name to Yarke, then Yorke, and finally, in 1904, to York.

The family has pretty much settled on the name York, added Walter. William Yerke, or York, bought 142 acres at W3454 Mohawk Road, town of Linn, where he milked 32 cows, getting the family started in the dairy business.

Today, the farm has 133 acres, because the family sold some of the land to the railroad, Walter said.

In 1927, the barn burned down. William had a touch of tuberculosis, and decided to sell his farm to his son, Lawrence, Walter's father.

Walter said his father grew the dairy herd to 48. In 1976, Lawrence York sold the farm to Walter.

The Yorks continued to raise dairy cows, corn and alfalfa.

And they found time to raise a family of seven boys and three girls, two of whom are adopted.

Many of the Yorks continue in farming. But two of the children, son Glen and daughter Deanna Giovingo, are teachers at Badger High School.

Deanna is married to the Badger assistant principal, Mike Giovingo.

While Walter and Mary own William York's farm, it's not the first place they farmed.

Walter said that his father, Lawrence, married Eunice Ledger, cementing those two families together.

Since 1852, the Ledgers owned the farm at N1240 Hillside Road. That property passed onto a family related to both the Ledgers and Yorks.

The Leedle family sold the land to Walter and Mary York in 1965. It's now called the Merry Water Farm.

The Merry Water Farm is named after its current owners, Mary and Walter York. If you don't see the connection right away, just say Mary-Walter fast a few times.

Walter said a high school friend of one of their sons, Dan Dries, thought of the name.

Walter said he and Mary married right out of high school, and he began to farm the old Ledger property, buying it in shares.

By 1965, Walter and Mary York bought it outright.

The Yorks credited their neighbors with helping them over the years.

They still live on the old Ledger farm, although they met a Regional News reporter to talk about the family farms at William York's old farm.

And old William probably wouldn't recognize it.

The York's son, Tom, is running the farm now, Walter said.

And Tom, with his parents' help, it building a $1.75 million robotic milking barn that will service up to 200 cows.

"Our son's thinking is that you don't have to pay workers," said Mary. "Tom thinks he'll be able to work this alone with one part-timer."

The robotic milking operation is expected to be up and running by January, Mary said. While some might imagine a farm family as being rooted to the soil, that doesn't mean the Yorks haven't gotten around.

Mary said three of their sons served in the Peace Corps.

"We got to visit all our kids in the Peace Corps," said Walter. "We've been around the world."

And on their 50th wedding anniversary, their children chipped in and sent them on an Alaskan cruise, added Mary. In addition to farming and raising a family, Walter has also been involved in the community.

He served on the Traver School Board for 27 years and on the Badger High School Board for 18 years.

He and Mary were general leaders in the Linn 4-H for eight years.

Walter has also been an elder at the Linn Presbyterian Church since he was in his 20s.

The Yorks donated the 10 acres where the church building now stands.

"We've been blessed our whole lives," said Walter. "God has been good to us."