Take Shelter

Meseke, H.F. - Root Cellar

Washington Township

Wabaunsee County

This arched cave is located underneath a stone structure that was used as a smokehouse which opened to the north. The cave itself was entered from the south via a covered stairwell with a door at the top and bottom. The structure is located around 20 yards to the southeast of the main house. The cave still retains its original potato bin which stretches nearly the entire length of the cave. The cave is approximately 16’(L)x10’ (W)x 7’(H).

What Happened in the Beautiful Flint Hills - by Helen Meseke Umbehr - August 2012

I was born on the Meseke Farm , the middle child of 2 older sisters and one older brother, and 2 younger brothers and one younger sister. So, Mom and Dad both always had extra help. But, we also needed lots of food for everyone. Sophie Fink was always helping Mom when I was small. She made me a Baby Quilt, which I still have today.

I went to country school when I five years old. There was Eleanor Moege, Ray Miller, Duane Bean and I in my class. Years later I was the only one to graduate from High School. Getting to and back from school was done by riding a horse, walking, or Riding in a cart. We had a barn where the animals stayed during the school hours. During the winter we set traps so we walked and checked them, If we caught a skunk the school day was smelly.

Life on the farm was different from today. The farm had a stone house with a wood furnace, built in 1897 along with an workshop, chicken house, horse barn, with stalls and a hay loft, a building for small grains, a milk barn, where we milked 7 cows year round (I always milked in the evening), A corn crib with a drive through, under this building was the hog shed (a small door of stone rock is still there, a good place for the pigs). Then there was the smoke house, we must have smoked meat in there before they had the electric motor to light the house. Early on we used carbide gas to light the house. Later, when I was about 10 years old, dad got a wind charger, to make electricity of 32 volts. But we washed, ironed had a stove and other things. I do not remember when we got a refrigerator, but a ice box was sort of out, as we lived 10 miles From town. When the REA came in we got all the new things, freezer, refrigerator, and stove.

But, all along we had a very nice root cellar, which was under the smoke house. It’s still in fair shape today. Dad would plant 100 lbs of potatoes, pumpkins long neck squash. When harvested we stored in them in the arched Cellar. I think apples, pears, fruit was also put in there. My sister said butter and milk was put there too. We had a large garden of carrots, peas, beans, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes and squash.

My jobs were always outside the house, picking garden produce, cleaning the chicken house which had steps for the chickens to go up to roost. We always put old oil on the boards when finished. Another job was raking the hay and alfalfa into rows to be stacked, with a team of horses.

This was a self sufficient farm, we also had a saw mill and dad would saw logs for other people too. Can you imagine how many potatoes a 100 lbs can grow into. When digging the potatoes we had to remove all the dirt. Another thing we fixed was sauerkraut which was stored in the arched cellar. We would start with a bushel of cabbage heads, and slice on Kraut board into a 20 gallon crook, layering the cabbage with sugar and salt mixture. This was held down in the crook by something heavy, and covered with a cloth, to let it ferment. After maybe 6 weeks in the cellar Mom would can this in jars, 2 qt size. We canned lots of food which would help feed everyone for the year.

The Arch Cellar was used until the 1960 or so. Just Potatoes and Squash were stored there after the REA electricity came. One of my sisters says that a snake fell down from ceiling one day when she went to get a bucket of Potatoes. She never liked to go in there after that.

Mom had taught school five years before she married. She always read or helped with homework each evening. Her name was Iris Thompson, of Scottish descent, and Dad was Arthur Meseke which is a German name from Hamelspring Germany.