Diedrich Wessels left Germany in 1881 with a vision to reach the freedom America offered. In 1905, he moved to York County. Twelve years later, on September 15, the union of his son Dick Wessels and Marie Amelia Blum brought David George into the rural home. Nearly 100 years later, a gift from the couple’s third son introduces the story of the American farmer to the world.
There were six children in the Wessels family. David was in the middle between older brothers Dick Herman and Edward Lewis. His younger siblings were Fannie Marie, Maxine Ruth, and Ralph Alfred. Maxine is the only surviving member of the family. Though she is nearly a decade younger than her brother, Maxine had fond memories of the relationships that began on the farm south of York, Nebraska.
“The family was close,” she said recalling her brother walking her home from school after a blizzard, “We had such a fun time.”
There was fun to be had on the farm, but plenty of work to be done.
“You did your best in the Wessels family, my brothers and father never did anything half way. Dave carried that on throughout his life,” she said.
After his parents retired in 1946, David and his brothers carried on their legacy of hard work and commitment. Those who remembered him spoke about a man who was a friend to all he met. He was proud of his heritage, most often seen wearing the humble suit of a dirt farmer with seed corn cap and bib overalls.
Photos of Wessels show a calm, determined demeanor that wasn’t without a broad smile in some scenes. Wessels kept up with the farming practices of the day. He is shown with Holly Miller setting up fertilizer demonstrations in conjunction with Miller Seed and Supply Company.
Miller described David as a “straight shooter” who “loved to have fun”, but who also was “a hard worker and honest above-board. He had a heart of gold.”
Wessels is also pictured with his strong arm leaning against a post upholding the sturdy shelter over an irrigation pump. Photos of his fields portray a lush, emerald green stand of corn with the gift of clear streams of irrigation water running between the solid stalks. When it came to equipment, Wessels was known to be conservative but progressive, keeping what he owned well cared for from season to season. He enjoyed modernizing as well through the years. And, he was committed to doing things right. One photo shows him planting seed riding over the Nebraska prairie on the open air tractor, with straight rows pressed into the black topsoil behind him.
He is also depicted as a devoted brother and friend as he holds his nieces and visits with neighbors on the farm. Maxine said he always had time for everyone, “He was enthused to share the farm with people. He could always take time to stop and visit. People were important to him.”
“Dave Wessels is probably one of the first guys that I ever met when I came to York back in 1976,” Jim remembers in this video oral history. “Neat guy, real neat guy! He learned a lot from what was going on. He would be very truthful with you. Farmers sometimes have a tendency to maybe stretch or BS as somebody would say it. But if you wanted information from Dave, you would get the factual. He knew what was going on. Good farmer. Did a good job.”
During World War II, Dave was drafted and sent to fight in the North African campaign. When he returned home, Maxine said he was silent about his service and simply returned to work in the fields.
Wessels felt strongly about agriculture. He spoke about that commitment most through actions, not words. He left his final gift in that silent style but with a firm vision, to leave behind a “living story” about the importance of the American Farmer. He left the opportunity to tell a broader story too, reminding the world what the planting of those first pioneer seeds meant for the human race in the past, present, and beyond.
York Area Agriculture Hall of Fame
In August 2003, David Wessels was inducted into the York Area Agriculture Hall of Fame for his contributions to the business of agriculture. He was recognized for his roles as both a progressive farmer and a philanthropist.
The York Area Ag Hall of Fame was established in 1999, a project of the York News-Times, and has inducted over 70 men and women. Plaques with the name of each honoree and a description of their contribution to ag make up the display.
Drawing on the philosophy of leaders like Thomas Jefferson, the directors of the Hall of Fame recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to the growth, development, and prosperity of agriculture as a producer, operator, innovator or leader in a related agri-business.
The Hall of Fame was moved from the courthouse to Wessels in November of 2016 and displayed in the church over the Christmas season. In 2017, it was moved to a more permanent place on the farm- the south wall inside the new tractor building. The first Fall on the Farm took place on Oct. 8th, where the York News Times inducted two new members into the Hall of Fame, celebrated by over 100 guests. Fall on the Farm has become an annual event. It is free admission to the public- Wessels’ thank-you to the community- and is centered around a “Celebration of Agriculture”, featuring the York Area Ag Hall of Fame.