One Farm, Three Families, 168 Years – Grundy County, Iowa Century Family Farm History

Mar 12, 2024

Grundy Center Iowa Historical Society by Loren Kruse

“We are the result of lines of effect which draw together into our story.” – Grundy County native son Herbert Quick (1861-1925)

    Farmland Ownership in Grundy County, Iowa

    With an eye toward the 150th anniversary in 2027 of the incorporation of Grundy Center, I am researching families with continuous ownership of land in Grundy County since 1877. A Facebook post in early February by‘s Jason Smith about the auction this month of the Porter Farm in Clay Township caught my attention.

    Coates and Porter Family Farm in Grundy County, IA History

    In drilling deeper into the history of the Porter farm, I found that the story begins in 1850 when the Francis Coates family of England emigrated to America. They joined other Coates family members already living in Pennsylvania. Between 1854 and 1859, various Coates family members acquired 11 tracts of Iowa land by patent from the United States. Six of the tracts were in northern Marshall County and five were in Grant Township, Grundy County.

    In 1856, Francis and Mary Coates and their children moved to one of the tracts two miles west of Green Mountain. By the 1860 Census, they were producing wheat, Indian corn, and oats while tending workhorses, cattle for beef and milk, and hogs.

    George Coates Farmer and Businessman 

    In the early 1870s, George Columbus Coates, about 25 and the eldest son, moved to Clay Township and broke the prairie of what is now known over 150 years later as the Porter Family Farm. He gained a reputation as a hard worker and a successful farmer and businessman. In addition to raising livestock and growing crops, he added a side business of buying livestock and corn, which he shipped to Chicago. He rode the rails with his shipments.

    Incredible Farmland in Grundy County, Iowa

    In 1884, George, 35, married Mary Luella Turner, 31, in Storm Lake, Iowa. They had two daughters. Ada Belle was a teacher but suffered from poor health. She died in 1909. In 1916, daughter Florence Grace married an ophthalmologist, Dr. J. Arthur Porter, of Headrick, Iowa. They moved to California in the 1920s.

    George and Mary had many friends and loved to entertain at their big house on the farm. They also loved to travel. After George discontinued his buying/shipping business in 1913, George bought property in Clearwater, Florida where they spent their winters for 16 years.

    In 1914 after retiring from farming, George built a new house on his farm for his new tenant farmer, Charles Stepp, 24, and his bride.

    The Coates farm was regarded as some of the best land in Grundy County long before Iowa State University ranked the soils of Iowa with a Corn Suitability Rating (CRS) and later, CRS2. Between 1908 and 1920, local newspapers reported four times that Coates had received offers to buy his farm. The first offer was in 1908 for $160. The average value per acre at the time was under $100 per acre for Iowa farmland.

    History of Farmland Values in Iowa

    In 1913, Coates turned down $250. The average value for Iowa was around $130.

    In 1919, the average value per acre in Iowa soared to $192. George still couldn’t be convinced by prospective buyers to set a price. A year later, the average price in Iowa jumped to $255 – tops in the nation and well ahead of the second highest in Illinois at $204. Coates declined an offer of $500.

    Family Farm Estate

    In 1930, Georges chose Adolph Kock, 57, as his farm’s new tenant. The following year George, 83, died in California while visiting his daughter Florence and family. In his will, George left all of his property to his wife Mary with the provision that upon her death the property would go to their grandchildren, Florence’s children.

    Florence died in 1941, her husband Dr. James Arthur Porter Sr., in 1946, and her mother Mary in 1947. The Porter children who inherited Mary’s estate and the Porter farm were Dr. James Arthur Porter Jr. (1917-2000); Dr. George William Porter (1920-2011); Dr. Raymond Eugene Porter (1922-2008); and Ralph Kenneth Porter (1927-1982). A trust continued ownership in the Porter family.

    168 years of Family Farmland Ownership

    In 1949, the state and counties began funding and constructing farm-to-market roads. One of the roads in Grundy County identified for upgrading was known as the north-south Beaman road that ran on the east side of the Porter farm. The Porter Estate refused to sell land for widening the road, saying the will’s trust prohibited the sale of the property until 1960. The government acquired the land through eminent domain.

    In 1950, Adolph retired and moved to Reinbeck. He died the following year at age 78. His son LeRoy, 36, who farmed with his dad, took over as tenant of the Coates/Porter farm. In 1954, LeRoy visited the Porters in Modesto, California. Dr. James Arthur Porter Jr., an ophthalmologist like his father, visited the Kock family in 1956 and at other times over the years.

    In 1980, LeRoy passed away at age 65 of cancer. His son Paul, born in 1956 and farming with LeRoy, became the tenant of the Porter farm. Last year marked 93 years for three generations of Kocks to farm the Porter land. This year marks 168 years of continuous ownership by the members of the Coates/Porter families.

    Herbert Quick – Grundy County, Iowa Native

    Grundy County’s most nationally prominent native son in his time, Herbert Quick (1861-1925), had a lot of say about relationships between landowners and tenants and Iowans and the land. Born on Grundy Prairie to a pioneer family in western Grundy County, Quick in the early 1900s was Grundy County’s best-known national figure. He had been a national farm magazine editor, a member of the board that launched what is now the Farm Credit System and published 22 books, including novels.

    One of them, VandeMark’s Folly, was about life on the Iowa prairie for a young pioneer starting in the 1850s at the same time as the Quick family. The novel was highly acclaimed for its detail and historical accuracy. Quick ended the book with the words below, which are still pertinent to land owners and buyers today:

    “There are some fifteen hundred townships in Iowa. Every one of these townships has a history beginning in the East, Scandinavia, Germany, or the South. We are the result of lines of effect that draw together into our story. And we are a cause of a future of which no man can form a conjecture.“The prairies took me, an ignorant, orphaned canal hand, and made me something much better. How much better it is not for me to say. The best prayer I can utter now is that it may do as well with my children and grandchildren, with the tenants of these rich farms, and the farm hands that help till them, and with the owners who find that expensive land is just like expensive clothes—merely something you must have, and must pay heavily for.”

    To learn more about the life of Herbert Quick visit:


    Author’s note: Much of the information about the Coates, Porter, and Kock families was gleaned from the archives of The Grundy Register and Marshalltown Evening-Republican newspaper. – Loren Kruse

    Grundy County iowa farmland auction

    229.95 acres Farmland Auction in Grundy County, Iowa

    The Porter Family’s lineage has deep roots in this Iowa family farm, dating back to their settlement in 1873, a mere four years prior to the incorporation of Grundy County in 1877. At that time, Iowa was still in its infancy as a state, just 27 years old, and Grundy County was the youngest in the region, only 19 years old at the time of their arrival. This farm’s history intertwines with the early development of both the state and the county.

    Situated amidst the picturesque prairies of Iowa, the Porter Family recognized the exceptional fertility and productivity of this land over 150 years ago. Back then, elk and bison roamed Grundy County, a testament to its untamed beauty. Despite the absence of modern CSR ratings, the Porter Family made a wise choice in selecting this farm, now recognized not only as one of Iowa’s finest but also as a global agricultural gem.

    High Quality Tillable Farmland For Sale

    Today, you have the exclusive opportunity to become part of this enduring legacy by owning this historic Iowa family farm. As one of the oldest Century Farms in the state, this property offers not just a rare investment opportunity but a chance to enrich your family’s heritage for generations to come.

    Spanning six generations of ownership, this farm boasts over 91 acres, or 40%, with a perfect 100 CSR2 rating, showcasing its unparalleled quality and productivity. With an overall weighted CSR2 average in the high 90s, this farm promises enduring productivity and value appreciation over time.

    Farm Income

    Currently under a crop share agreement with a minimum cash rent, detailed in the accompanying documents, buyers will assume the seller’s position for the 2024 crop year. Your share of the income will correspond to the tract or tracts you purchase, ensuring a seamless transition into ownership and continued prosperity for your family’s farming legacy. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure a piece of Iowa’s rich agricultural heritage. View the auction and bid at:

    This is a live and online auction. Online bidding is available now and throughout the live portion, which will take place at 2 p.m., onsite at the farm, located at 31341 K Ave, Beaman, IA 50609.

    Jason J Smith

    Jason J Smith

    Auctioneer & Land Broker

    Jason is an experienced farmland broker and auctioneer with extensive experience in farmland sales across this Midwest.  Jason has worked with hundreds of clients to create advantageous outcomes.  If you are selling land schedule a consultation with Jason by calling or using the calendar.

    Phone: 515-537-6633

    Request a Free Valuation for Your Farm or Land Property

    Whether you’re ready to start the selling process, or even remotely curious, we will gladly provide you with a FREE Market Analysis! If you are in a position to sell land in the Midwest, we want to help you achieve the top of the market on your sale.

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