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Stump Ranchers: 1939

Stump Ranchers: 1939

October 1939. The Unruf family. Mennonite wheat farmers from Kansas, now developing a stump ranch in Boundary County, Idaho. The mother, father and hardworking 15-year-old son with other children in yard before the barn. Father and son have cleared 30 acres of raw stump land in three years. Medium-format nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the FSA. View full size.


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I have to agree that Unruh seems to be more likely - my grandmother was an Unruh and I grew up Mennonite, we weren't old order Mennonites. One interesting thing I found in researching my Mennonite roots is the fact that Mennonites in Russia were well known distillers of brandy while here in America they became teetotalers.


There are more than one flavor of Mennonite. Church and community "rules" can vary from place to place. One of the reasons the Mennonites and Amish went their separate ways long, long ago was over the issue of modernization, the Amish preferring an even more conservative approach than the Mennonites. German Mennonite farmers in Russia in the 19th century (my family) readily adopted modern farming techniques and steam powered farm equipment.

By 1939 my family was well established in the US and Canada and using tractors, cars, motorbikes, etc. They were also upstanding members of their congregations and in some cases were pastors in addition to being farmers.

For a look at how much things can vary even amongst the modern day Amish (some coverage of the Old Order Mennonites also) visit the very excellent blog:



My family background is Mennonite and we have some Unruh people in one branch of the family. Yes, that's an h on the end, not an f. I've not heard of the Unruf name variation before so perhaps there's a typo somewhere between 1939 and now? No matter, wonderful photo as are most all of them on Shorpy.


[I agree, Unruh seems more likely to be correct. Although the family's name is spelled Unruf in the four LOC caption records. - Dave]

Mennonite? Maybe.

Certainly not old order/traditional--they have zippers instead of buttons, the females' heads are uncovered and they have a truck instead of a horse and buggy. You could not tell these people are Mennonite by any characteristic. Having been around them all my life, this is odd.

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