Century Farms

  24 MARCH 1951

Johnson / Strunk Farm

The Strunk farms, an institution in the Town of Ellicott for more than 140 years, have change in size and appearance through the years, but one of them, the Paul A. Johnson farm on the Strunk Road, has been operated continuously by members of the family since its original purchase in 1816.

A part of the first farm on the Ellery-Ellicott Town Line Road is still owned by the Misses Marian and Mildred Strunk, although the buildings were sold about two years ago.  Another of the farms, which now includes the Hollenbeck Service Station on Route 17, is also occupied by descendants of the settlers.

At one time, the family owned and operated at least six farms in the area, in addition to other property.  One by one, most have passed out of the family, but it will be many years before they are known by others names.

The original plot of nearly 300 acres on the Town Line Road was purchased from the Holland Land Company in 1810 by Jonas Simmons, "typical frontiersman" who came from Berlin, Rensselaer County, where the family had first settled in 1750.

He built and operated a log cabin and tavern, that day's equivalent of a hotel, on the old lake road which at that time was located some distance back from the present road, and which ran into Worksburg (Falconer) instead of Jamestown.  The property extended to the lake.

John Strunk, a captain in the state militia, accompanied Jonas Simmons here and settled on a plot on the Strunk Road, now the Albert Nelson farm.

Jacob Strunk, older brother of John, came here in 1816 and bought land on the Strunk Road, adjacent to his brother's, on what is now the Paul Johnson farm, and built a log cabin.  His daughter, Elsie, married Jonas Simmons.

Henry Strunk, Jacob's son, married Anna Simmons, Jonas' daughter, and moved in at the Simmons place, later purchasing it.  Strunk family history includes a fight which Henry had with a trained bear that wandered into the cabin.  (Henry won).

About 130 years ago, the cabin burned and 3-year-old Siloma Strunk, Henry's daughter, perished in the fire.  Henry had to be restrained from going into the blazing cabin to try and save her.

Henry Strunk then built a house a few feet away from the ruins.  Part of this original house is now incorporated in the present house on the Town Line Road.

Jonas Simmons died in 1848 leaving 15 children.  Henry Strunk, who was his nephew and son-in-law, raised a family of 13, and one of his children, Gilbert, purchased the farm and made extensive improvements, including construction of the main part of the present house.  Gilbert died in 1908.

The late Hoyt Strunk, brother of Peace Justice Fred B. Strunk, Fluvanna, and a son of Gilbert, purchased the farm from his father.  On his death in 1947, the farm went to two daughters, Miss Marian Strunk, Niagara Falls, and Miss Mildred Strunk, Jamestown.  They sold the buildings and all but 40 acres of the land two years ago to John S. Turner.

Meanwhile, John Strunk sold his farm, the present Albert Nelson place, to his neighbor and brother, Jacob.  Jacob Strunk died in 1836, and John Strunk in 1856.  The two farms went to William Strunk, one of Jacob's 10 children, who cut the large tract up into several farms and distributed them among his children.

The former John Strunk place went to Dwight Strunk, from whose estate the Nelsons purchased it.  The Hollenbeck place went to Franklin Strunk, whose daughter married Clifford Hollenbeck.  The farm on West Oak Hill went to Alvin Strunk, then to his son, the late Bert C. Strunk, and went out of the family after his death.

One daughter, Mrs. Rosette Hopkins, received two smaller tracts, one on West Oak Hill and one on Hough Hill, both now out fo the family; and another daughter, Mrs. Kate Cowing, received two houses in Jamestown.

The other Strunk Road farm, the original Jacob Strunk place, went to another daughter, Mrs. Belle Cowing, and her daughter, Belva, married Paul A. Johnson who still operates the farm.

The Johnsons keep 60 Holsteins, 34 of them milkers, on the 131-acre farm.  The house, still in use, was built in 1840, 111 years ago, although it has been modernized by raising of the roof, work on the porches and other improvements.