After breakfast most days, Wanda Lea Ramsey Stewart, 87, gets on her side-by-side and sees about the cattle on the Richwoods farm that has been in her family for more than 150 years.
On Aug. 9, 1934, Wanda was born on this same family farm to Walton Otto “Ott” and Georgie Gowens Ramsey. Her grandfather, John Preston Ramsey, bought the land in 1868, only three years after the Civil War. Except for a short stint when she and her husband worked in Kansas City, Wanda has spent her entire life on that farm.
Wanda’s grandfather was hardworking and visionary. At 27, he moved to this area from Monticello, Ken., with his wife, Paulina Philpot Ramsey, and their three children. He soon bought land on Fredonia Hill in the Richwoods community and started a farm. He built a dogtrot house near a spring that never ran dry. He raised corn, wheat, and other crops, hogs, and cattle. Through the years, he accumulated a vast amount of land in what would later be Stone County. He also bought land in Texas and Oklahoma.
John P. and Paulina’s fourth child, a son they named Benjamin, was born on their farm in 1877. When Benjamin was three months old, Paulina died. When he was six months old, John Preston married Sarah Elizabeth Hinkle. They were to have nine more children. The youngest of those was Wanda’s father, Walton Otto “Ott” Ramsey, born in 1896.
Ott and his brother, Heber, stayed on the farm, eventually buying land from their father.
Heber’s daughter, Marie Ramsey Younger, continued to farm her father’s land after his death.
Ott had four children: three daughters and a son, Newton. Newton grew up and married Margie Finch. With his father’s help, Newt sawed timber with a crosscut saw and cut it into lumber with a sawmill they had bought. They then used the lumber to built a house for his family west of his father’s house. Newton row cropped and raised cattle, but with four young children, it was hard to make a living.
Newton moved his family to Mountain View, where he became a merchant. About that time, his youngest sister Wanda’s husband, Howard Stewart, was laid off from his job at Kansas City. Wanda and Howard decided to move back to the farm into the empty house.
They hadn’t been back long when Howard was offered his job back. Wanda said she’d “rather eat beans and taters” on the farm than live it up in Kansas City. They stayed. Wanda and two of their three sons and their families still live on the land that was her grandfather and grandmother’s home place.
Wanda still runs the farm with the help of her sons and grandson. To say she is active is an understatement. She buys and sells cattle and knows every foot of the big farm. Though she uses a walker, she keeps her all-terrain vehicle by the door and uses it hard and often. If a cow is missing, or has a new calf, she searches until she finds it. That usually involves leaving the wide valley pasture and going up and over the rugged, steep and rocky hillside.
See the full story in the Oct. 27, 2021 issue.
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