Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Friends and Neighbors: Freeburgs are keeping a century-old family tradition alive


John Verser

The Freeburg family of Kimball County was honored at the 2015 Kimball-Banner County Fair when they were awarded the Ak-Sar-Ben Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award. Accepting the award on behalf of their entire family, from left, are Natalie Freeburg, holding Dalton, Travis, with son Braydon in hand, Carsten, Brynlee, Troy, Loretta, Kinsee, being held by Jamie, Kathy and Raymond. Not shown in the photo are Raymond's daughter, Lori Trevillian, her husband Ty, and their children Laine and Piper Jo, who farm near Saratoga, Wyoming. Also not shown are Raymond's brother, Russ, who along with his wife and children farm near Frannie, Wyoming.

In 1912, a Union Pacific Railroad engineer stationed in Cheyenne homesteaded 640 acres in Kimball County, just north and west of Bushnell.

That man, Dave H. Sonday, and his wife, Etta, were deeded that same land two years later, after they made required improvements to the land and living on it for the duration.

The land was deeded in 1914 and was signed by the President of the United States, a document great-grandson Troy Freeburg and his wife, Loretta, still have.

What the Sondays created at that time was a home. More than 100 years later, the true creation was a legacy. That legacy was recently recognized at the 2015 Kimball-Banner County Fair when Troy and Loretta accepted the Ak-Sar-Ben Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award on behalf of the past, present and future generations of their farming family.

Sonday, while working as an engineer for the railroad and farming his land, found time to open a hardware store in Bushnell. He also raised livestock, which he sold within years of homesteading, according to Troy.

During that time, as the railroad was growing and Sonday traveled with it, the land was making and breaking would-be homesteaders.

"He helped get everything to Cheyenne, he was an engineer. When they got the new steam engines he and his wife would go back to Pennsylvania and pick up the new steam engines and he would bring them to Cheyenne, Wyoming," Troy said. "In the process, there was a section of land one mile away that the guy didn't get it upgraded and so he bought and farmed that section, too."

Sonday was also elected as a Kimball County commissioner, but gave the chair up when he found he had too much to do to serve on that board, according to Troy.

Stories from the original homestead abound, and Troy recalls that the original barn was raised in the draw. When it was found that it continually flooded, the decision was made to move it to higher ground.

The lengthy process was done with horse and rolling logs, and the barn was eventually placed on a concrete foundation.

Sonday, who sold his livestock just five years after homesteading the land, bartered goods such as eggs in Cheyenne, and he had cards that read, 'Good for one dozen eggs at the Sonday farm.'

An article appeared in The Western Nebraska Observer following the livestock auction, which informed readers that after gaining $6,000 from the sale of 61 head of cattle, Sonday was left with 640 acres of good land.

The article further states that the man began with practically nothing, but with hard work, he cleaned up the land and turned it into a big farm.

"In a five year period he had it all paid for and everything," Troy said.

Hard work, dedication to family and good stewardship of their land has been passed down from one generation to the next and serves each well, as the story unfolds.

Sonday passed the farm down to his daughter, Lucy, a teacher at Flowerfield. She married John H. Freeburg. Together they farmed the land, raised their family and eventually passed it on the their son, John W. Freeburg, who was Troy's father.

"They, Lucy and John, were pillars of the community in their generation, "Loretta said. "They were instrumental in the Calvary Methodist Church in Bushnell."

Contributed image

The Freeburg family has continued to improve upon their original homestead northwest of Bushnell.

Troy and Loretta came home to farm the land in 1976 when his parents were involved in a terrible vehicle accident.

They moved onto the farm in 1981and continue to grow dry-land wheat and summer fallow. Troy added a pivot, and now corn and alfalfa is also grown on the irrigated land.

Together they raised two boys, Raymond and Russ, and the legacy created more than 100 years ago continues.

Raymond, along with his wife, Kathy, farm the original homestead with their son, Travis, and his wife, Natalie. They are growing the next generation as well, as Troy and Loretta are now the great-grandparents.

"Our younger son Russ and his family farms and ranches by Frannie, Wyoming," Troy said.

"We just hope to continue this in the family down the road," Loretta added.


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