Trailin': Kron Farm, A Unique Place

Posted 8/19/99

Bill Kron is quite a remarkable man. On a chilly, rainy day last week, we climbed the timbere…

By Tina Turney

Bill Kron is quite a remarkable man. On a chilly, rainy day last week, we climbed …

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Trailin': Kron Farm, A Unique Place


Bill Kron is quite a remarkable man. On a chilly, rainy day last week, we climbed the timbere…

By Tina Turney

Bill Kron is quite a remarkable man. On a chilly, rainy day last week, we climbed the timbered hillside behind his house south of Hills. Bill wanted to show me the site of Woodland-period Indian occupation on his farm and the beautiful view from the bluff which overlooks the Iowa River valley to the east. Bill is retired now and has survived several heart surgeries, but is still active and enjoys his rural Johnson County farm and home.

The farm, which was originally owned by the Schott family, was bought by Bill’s folks in 1941. The original house and barns were built in about 1867 and are still in use.

Bill and his wife, Evelyna, lived in Iowa City for forty years and Bill made his living in the oil business, employed by several oil companies, Texaco, Conoco, DX and White Rose. Evelyna, who grew up on a dairy farm north of Iowa City, was a long-time Johnson County school teacher and still tutors children in reading and math in her home.

The house where the Krons live was begun in the early 1960s and was designed by Evelyna. It was built in three phases over several years when the money for construction was available. “We didn’t want to go into debt, so we built when we had the money,” explained Evelyna. The fourth and final stage, which is their garage, has been finished for several years now.

During last summer’s severe wind storms, the huge barn was badly damaged. Wanting to save the barn, and with the help of Stumpf Construction of Riverside, Bill and his family have been able to preserve the landmark structure. Two of the large sliding doors that were broken have been replaced. The original brick foundation on the north end of the barn was torn out and a cement foundation poured. The Krons are still hoping to find an old 10’ x 16’ barn door to replace the original one that was lost in the storm.

The evergreen trees on the hill behind the Kron home were all planted by hand by Bill in the 1960s. Last year’s storms damaged some of these and a trash fire that spread up the hill several years ago also damaged some. But the hill has restored itself and looks much like it probably did centuries ago, a mix of trees and woodland vegetation and wildlife. For many years, the Krons pastured their cattle on the hillside and also had two ponies there when their family was younger. Now, they say they’re content not to have the constant work and worry of tending to livestock.

In 1977, following his first heart surgery at the University of Iowa Hospital, Bill took a leave of absence from the oil business, and in 1982 he retired for good.

Bill has always had a passion for collecting anything farm related, and over the years he had accumulated quite a collection. At the urging of his family, in 1991 they held a large auction at the farm and sold most of the antiques and stuff.

Now the Kron’s sons, Steve, Bill Jr. and Doug, use the barn for a shop and storage and help their folks with upkeep on the farm. Bill’s grandson is raising some hogs in one of the small sheds “so he can have some farm experience.”

Bill has always had a garden and still sells surplus produce along the highway. This year, he said it got too dry for his sweet corn to do very well. “It was a disaster this year,” he said smiling, although he still hopes to get in a small fall garden.

This past July, Bill and Evelyna enjoyed a trip to Alaska, which was sponsored by the Hills Bank. They flew with a group of eighty-two people to Anchorage by way of Denver and Seattle. The group spent two weeks touring Alaska and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Highlights of the trip for them were a boat trip where they got to see huge glaciers and a trip inland to visit the famous Valdaz pipeline.

The steel trestle bridge just north of the Kron farm on Old Highway 218 is going to be replaced soon by the Iowa DOT. In the past several weeks, archeologists from the University of Iowa have begun their survey in the bean field which is in the vicinity of where the new bridge will be located, just to the east of the existing bridge.

The purpose of this survey is to determine the location and significance of any archeological sites in the project area. The DOT then considers this information when borrow areas for the new bridge and road location are chosen.

The road leading to the bridge will be reworked, which will place it a little closer to the Kron farmstead. The old bridge will be kept open for use during construction of the new one.

Because the area is known to have several sites of early Indian habitation and also is believed to be near the location of Johnson County’s first saw mill, the Switzer Mill, great care is being taken before any dirt is moved on the Kron farm.