More than 240 descendants of Martin and Mary Nissly gathered for a family reunion at the original farmstead northeast of Dallas Center, Iowa. Clair Baldner, great-grandson of Martin and Mary, lives in the original home with his wife, Ann.
Martin, the Nissly family patriarch, had a brother John, who originally came to Iowa and bought the first farm, intending to settle. When he returned to Pennsylvania for his bride-to-be, however, she refused to come “way out west.” John sold his farm to Martin, who brought his wife, Mary, and two sons, Noah and Levi. Six more children were born in Iowa.
The Century Farm home looks much like it did when it was built in 1883. The small “weaning” house no longer stands next to the main house. It was for newlyweds to wean themselves from the main family before moving to their own farm. The “bank barn” still stands and is in use. A “bank barn” is built into a hill, as many barns were in Pennsylvania, with a drive that leads up into the hay mow on the second level.
The farm has grown from two 40-acre parcels to 160 acres. Clair’s son, Stewart Baldner, a fifth-generation Nissly family member, still farms the original land.
Clair and Ann planned the reunion and sent e-mails to each primary family to send to extended families. Second and third cousins came from Greece, Australia, Mexico, Canada and 11 US states. On Sunday morning, 140 people gathered in the machine shed for a church service, followed by a spread of good food.
“We were overwhelmed with the appreciation of family members that they could have the reunion at the original homestead,” Ann said. “So many people made the effort to get here. It was a joyous time.”
From a story by Maxine Grove in the Dallas County News, Dallas, Iowa.