WEEPING WATER – John Murdoch came to Nebraska in the 1850s with a dream of raising crops on the fertile land of Cass County.
His descendants recognized the successful nature of his vision Friday night by accepting a prestigious state honor.
Members of the Murdoch family accepted a 2019 Aksarben Nebraska Heritage Farm Family Award at the Cass County Fair. The special ceremony took place in the Open Air Auditorium at the fairgrounds. They were honored for maintaining their family farm for the past 160 years.
The Aksarben Foundation, Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska Association of Fair Managers sponsor awards for Nebraska farm families each year. They honor families who have reached either 100 or 150 years of consecutive farm ownership.
The Aksarben Nebraska Heritage Farm Family Award is presented to families who have consecutively held ownership of at least 40 acres of land for a minimum of 150 years. The farms can be handed down to future generations either through direct bloodlines or through marriage.
State officials began recognizing Nebraska residents with the 150-year award in 2014. Nearly 75 families have earned the honor since then.
Duane and Eileen Murdoch are current owners of the farmstead, which is located three miles north of Nehawka. Duane Murdoch accepted the state award on behalf of all of the family members.
“There are a lot of people who have made this possible over the years,” Murdoch said.
John Murdoch was born in Richland County, Ohio, in 1834 and crossed the Missouri River at Plattsmouth in 1854. He wanted to take a claim on nearby land but was told he was not old enough to do so. He worked for other settlers until 1859 and then purchased property north of Nehawka.
John married Sarah Oliver in October 1861. He enlisted in the Second Nebraska Cavalry in 1862 and was assigned to the Army of the Northwest in North Dakota. He received an honorable discharge in December 1863 and returned to the Nebraska homestead.
John and Sarah had four sons and four daughters. Their homestead has remained in the family for multiple generations.
Program representative Roger Wehrbein said he was glad to see the Murdoch family honored with the longevity milestone. He asked other families to come forward in future years if they reached either 100 or 150 years of consecutive farm ownership.
“I’m sure there are some 100-year farms out there and possibly some 150s,” Wehrbein said. “This is an ongoing award and it’s a great thing to have. It’s very appropriate that we recognize them each year, because these families have shown a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Duane Murdoch also announced at the program that his family would be providing a $2,000 donation to the Cass County Agricultural Society’s foundation. Members of the Cass County Fair Board will be able to use the money for scholarships, building maintenance or other positive projects. Murdoch said he hoped the donation would inspire other Cass County families to contribute to the local organization as well.