Joy Lominska didn’t grow up in Kansas. She wasn’t raised in the home where she lives now. And Otto and Augusta Bruchmiller, who built the home and founded the farm, are not her ancestors.
Though Lominska is just the latest in a long line of residents of her property over more than a century, she sought to tell the story of the original owners and their farm in southern Jefferson County. And in the process, she has come to feel like she knows them personally.
"The Old Home Place: The Story of a Kansas Farm," written and published by Lominska, doesn’t focus on one particular family. Its center is a piece of land north of Lawrence where occupants have come and gone, in good times and in bad, since its founding in 1877.
“It’s the story of this piece of land and all the people who have lived here,” Lominska said as she showed a visitor old photographs of the property. “”All the people who lived here, in chronological order, how they made a living, what they ate, how successful the farming was and why they left.”
The book starts with a description of the land when it was part of the Delaware Indian Reserve, from 1830 to 1868. Five chapters are dedicated to the Bruchmillers, German immigrants who met in Lawrence, bought the land and had eight children. Back then, Lominska said, the farm could support the family of 10.
After the Bruchmillers sold it in the 1920s, the soil was worn out. It became a poor rental home after families tried and failed to make a living off of it. Lominska and her husband, Bob, are the first owners since the Bruchmillers to use the land as a family farm.
“It’s kind of come full circle since we bought it in 1976, just about 100 years since this family bought it,” Lominska said.
The farm is now named Hoyland, meaning “high land” in Norwegian. The Lominskas raise a few pigs, cows and chickens and grow a variety of fruit and vegetables organically. They sell their produce at the Lawrence Farmer’s Market and are members of the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance, a community-supported agriculture, or CSA.
Though she never knew them, and has only heard their stories, Lominska said she has a certain attachment to the people she has spent years studying and writing about.
In September, Lominska and her husband are planning a visit to the small villages in Poland and Germany where Otto and Augusta Bruchmiller were raised.
“I feel like I know them as people,” Lominska said.
It took dozens of interviews with neighbors whose families have lived in the area for decades and with descendants of past inhabitants of the home to put together the book. She began researching intently in 2006 and writing in 2011, and the book was published last Saturday.
"This has always been in the background,” Lominska said. “I’ve always wanted to do it but didn’t have the time to do it properly.”
"The Old Home Place: The Story of a Kansas Farm" is available from Amazon. It will be sold at The Raven, 8 E. Seventh St., and The Community Mercantile, 901 Iowa St., starting next week. The Raven will host a book signing with Lominska on Oct. 18.