The sparkling waters of French Lake are just 1,000 feet from the farm where 57-year-old Lorne Chappuis grew up.
But when a scene like this is right outside your door, it’s easy to take it for granted.
“I’m really busy now,” said the dedicated dairy farmer, “but when I slow down I’ll probably take the time to look into it more.”
His mother, Janice Chappuis, 78, some time ago reached the point of greatest appreciation for the 875-acre lake that rests on the edge of the Chappuis farm, whose original 82 acres have been officially designated Minnesota Century. Farm in 2011.
“It’s a million dollar view,” Janice said. “It’s just wonderful.”
The Chappuis family has lived in concert with the landscape surrounding French Lake in Rice County’s Shieldsville Township for at least a decade over 100 years.
Ancestor César Chappuis officially purchased these first 82 acres in 1911, launching a legacy that now extends to a sixth generation of Chappuis.
Although Janice Chappuis, who enjoyed 45 years of marriage to Gordon “Bud” Chappuis before his death at age 67 in 2008, doesn’t have a plethora of details about Caesar Chappuis’ origins, she willingly shares what she knows.
“The Chappuis [of French descent] came here from somewhere in Missouri,” Janice said. “They had 14 children, and one of them, Caesar, landed near French Lake.”
Caesar and his wife Katherine operated the farm for many years. When César died in 1947, his son, Alfred “Fritz” Chappuis, became the second owner.
(In a sad aside, Katherine predeceased Caesar; she died of blood poisoning when Fritz was just 12.)
Janice and Bud married in 1963 and became owners of the farm the same year. The land was in Janice’s name from Bud’s death in 2008 until 2018 when Lorne became the owner.
From 2022, three Chappuis households will continue to share the estate; Lorne, the eldest of Janice and Bud’s 12 children, lives in the house which dates back to 1954 while Janice resides in the house she and Bud built together in 1963 and expanded considerably in 1976 to better accommodate their growing family. Lorne’s younger brother, Tim Chappuis, added a double-wide trailer to the site about 17 years ago to top off the trio of Chappuis accommodations.
“There are really no more original buildings from Caesar’s time,” Janice said. “Every year they were producing, they were improving things and it just got better and better,” she said, mentioning additions to the barn and silos, among other upgrades along the way.
“It was [and is] a well kept and well cared for farm.
It has also retained its historic status as a dairy farm, since César Chappuis has started milking cows.
Fritz and Ellen Chappuis continued the dairy tradition, according to Bud’s only surviving older sister, Connie (Chpuis) Lockwood, 96, an Oregon resident since she was 20. (Two older sisters, Maxine and Joane, are deceased.) Lockwood said their parents milk 12 cows, raise 10 pigs for their meat and care for 100 chickens, selling the eggs they produced.
Janice and Bud started with 25 cows in 1963, and today Lorne, along with son Adam and brother Tim, continues to build a larger herd of Holsteins.
Along with the original 82-acre plot of Century Farm, Lorne and Adam farm an additional 400 acres, producing soybeans and corn.
“They are beautiful cows,” Lorne praised his Holsteins, mentioning that Chappuis milk is sold through the National Farmers Organization.
“And I love cows; that’s what I know. But any milkman can tell you it’s a lot of work, milking twice a day.
This timeline, in fact, largely kept Lorne tied to the farm; he says seven days is the longest time away, and he’s only been away four times in his life for vacations spent in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
But the hardworking father of four (all in their 30s) and grandfather of six isn’t complaining.
“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Lorne said.
Third Generation Memories
Janice (Dienst) Chappuis hasn’t moved very far in her life; she also grew up as a “farm kid”, albeit on the opposite shore of French Lake.
“I just crossed the lake,” she joked of her transition to becoming the wife of Bud Chappuis.
Janice’s grandfather immigrated from Prussia and settled on the eastern shore of French Lake, being the first to clear its acreage of trees in the late 1800s. Her father, she says, was d 100% German origin.
As a teenager, Janice was known for her skill with horses. One day when his girlfriend Pat was at the farm, two other visitors also arrived: Bud, a graduate of Faribault High School in 1959, and one of his nephews who wanted to go horseback riding.
Janice’s sister, Phyllis, persuaded Janice and Pat to walk away from the lake, telling them that “beautiful boys are there”. So Janice, then 18, and Bud met; they got married within a year.
“Oh, he was quite handsome,” laughed Janice, mentioning that Bud was tall and had dark hair.
Besides being a capable farmer, Bud endeared himself to his devoted wife with a generosity of support and care for their dozen or so descendants.
“He was almost like a woman in a man’s body,” Janice said. “There was nothing he couldn’t or wouldn’t do – wash clothes, bake bread, look after babies, do his field work – the man was very good at everything he did. was doing.
“Bud did his chores but [often] asked me not to bathe the baby before he arrived because he wanted to. He helped a lot, and his mother Ellen lived with us and helped too.
Eight of Janice and Bud’s children – four sons and eight daughters – were born in eight years. The last two were twins, so Bud’s willingness to participate was key.
“He was crazy about kids,” Janice confirmed.
And even though Bud died at 67, Janice made 45 years of fond memories with him.
“He was really likeable, so much fun and a great person in every way,” Janice said. “I had a ball and a half with Bud.
“We danced a lot at Jewett’s Point Ballroom and the Faribault Eagles Club,” she continued. “Even after all those kids, we still went out and had fun.”
But a working farm run by a family of 14 meant everyone pitched in to keep things running smoothly.
“All the older kids got up and helped with the milking, helped in the fields, helped with the hay,” Janice said.
“And all the children had to work on the farm.”
This expectation continued through the sixth generation of the Chappuis family. Lorne’s son Adam is a farming partner, and Adam’s teenage sons, in turn, are doing their part today.
His daughter Ann (Chpuis) Brown, the 11th of 12 Chappuis children, credits her older siblings for getting up to help milk before their school days start, which hasn’t happened. not always been easy.
“But the last four of us didn’t have to because at that time our older brothers were milking,” Ann said, listing many other farm chores she and her family do. sisters did: picking up stones, baling and putting hay, feeding the cows and making silage, among other tasks.
“The farm wouldn’t be what it is without all of us,” Ann said, admirably referring to the dozen Chappuis in birth order without missing a beat: Lorne, Mary, Lee, Connie, June, Lance, Amy , Tim, Jody. , Christina, Ann and Jan.
Love of the lake, treasures of the church
With the century-old Chappuis farm perched on the edge of Lac des Français, it’s only natural that the lake figures prominently in family traditions.
“The lake was our main form of entertainment when we were kids,” Lorne said, noting that all of the Chappuis children became strong swimmers.
“The older kids were watching the younger ones, and our playtime was swimming in the lake.”
The nearby Church of St. Patrick dates back to 1856 and is the second oldest Irish Catholic parish in Minnesota. It has also been the main place of worship for the Chappuis family for many decades.
“My dad started going to church in Shieldsville when he was five,” Ann said.
“He was very Catholic and dedicated to the church. When it burned down in 2002, he was devastated and very sad.
To honor his memory of the original building, Bud collected stones from its crumbling foundation and erected a cross near the lake as a memorial, creating a meaningful place for spiritual contemplation.
“It’s beautiful,” Janice said.
“Church had a big impact on her life,” Ann agreed.
With its status as a farm of the century firmly established, the Chappuis farm is well into the next century of its living history.
“It’s been my home for 62 years,” Janice said, “and it’s still going. It makes you feel pretty good.
Said Lorne, “This is my home, and it will be in the family for a long time.”