David Wessels didn't take his dedication to rural America with him
after his death. The vision he left in his will opened the door to an array
of opportunities in just a few simple phrases "a certain amount of land and
capital should be set aside to establish the 'Wessels Living History
When David Wessels wrote those phrases, he left an opportunity to send a living
story to the world, a story about the spirit of American
agriculture. The story goes back to Native Americans who first cultivated these fields, through the first European immigrants staking out the prairie ground, through boom and bust cycles and through the incredible technological innovations of the 20th Century. It's a story that will continue as long as the
human race consumes food.
The York Community Foundation, which administers David's bequest, formed a committee in 1995 including business people and farmers to carry out Wessels' vision of an the educational project. Five years of
research was completed, including studies by consultants with grandiose ideas
about what truly defined a "living history farm."
Slowly that definition began to form. The site would consider the past,
present, and future and attract large audiences. Then it
was decided that not only would there be an actual farm located just south
of I-80, but it would be shared digitally over the Internet to reach millions more.
This decision was solidified when the York Community
Foundation filed a lawsuit to make a legal definition of a "living history farm." The
plans were approved and the building of both the on site and website began in
cooperation with Nebraska Educational Television Network. NET completed the first section of the Web site, "Farming in the 1920s." The next section of the Web site, "Farming in the 1930s," was executed by The Ganzel Group Communications.
The 145 acre physical site includes a house that David Wessels and his brother lived in for a period of time when they moved to town. It's typical of farm architecture of the early 20th Century. The house was donated to the Living History Farm project by York College and moved to the physical site in 2002. You can see a video of the moving process here. The site also includes a barn donated by Bill Peters of Shelby, Nebraska. The red, timber frame giant reflects barns typical of the 1920's, the era chosen for the Living History Farm to interpret. In the future, an event center may hold offices, meeting places, and displays. The physical site will bring to life the history of agriculture for local visitors. The Web site will spread that message to the world.
In the future, the farm could grow in numerous ways. The
site is viewed by the Wessels Corporation as a "living project" on a "journey" reflecting
the continuing role those involved with agriculture play as they provide nourishment to the world.
The address for the Wessels Living History Farm is:
5520 South Lincoln Ave.
York, NE 68467 (Just south of Interstate 80 and US Highway 81)
It's open each Wednesday (excluding holidays) for tours, or by special appointment.
For questions about the physical farm site, including educational programs, tours of the farm, booking the facilities and special programs, please contact:
For questions or comments about the web site, please contact:
The Ganzel Group Communications, Inc.
2451 Park Ave.
Lincoln, NE 68502