Saturday, November 22, 2014

W.F. Gesch, Pender, Nebraska Member of Farmer's Holiday Association

The Farmers' Holiday Association was a movement of Midwestern United States farmers who, during the Great Depression, endorsed the withholding of farm products from the market, in essence creating a farmers' holiday from work. The Farmers' Holiday Association was organized in May 1932 by Milo Reno. The group urged farmers to declare a "holiday" from farming, with a slogan of "Stay at Home-Buy Nothing-Sell Nothing" and "Lets call a Farmer's Holiday, a Holiday let's hold. We'll eat our wheat and ham and eggs, And let them eat their gold."

Farmers went to extreme measures to ensure that their wants were carried through. One person was killed when the farmers began to blockade roads, and other farmers rallied to destroy their crops, reducing supply, and raising prices. The highways into Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa, were blocked by pickets who dumped farm produce on the side of the road.  At Le Mars, Iowa some farmers dragged a judge out of his courtroom, placed a noose around his neck, and threatened to hang him unless he stopped approving farm foreclosures. The striking farmers were countered by sheriffs, militia, and vigilante groups.

Farmers' Holiday Association activity subsided by 1934 and was relatively unsuccessful. As a leader of the group from the Sioux City, Iowa area William Frederick Gesch, who was born on 9 October 1887 in Brandenburg, Germany and immigrated with his parents and siblings (one being Jean's Great-Grandfather August, Jr) in 1893 to the Pender, Nebraska area, was labeled a 'Reactionary' by the United States Government.  Indeed, the group was contacted by some of the leaders of the 'Communist Party' at the time, but the Farm Holiday Association rejected the groups overtures.  It was common, in this time period, for the US Government to jump at labeling people Communists.  

Hero or Reactionary, you be the judge.  Similar groups organized during the 1970's Farm Crisis, but because of input by famous people like, Willie Nelson, the group was a bit more successful.

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