This family legacy begins with a ‘Z’

FARM LIFE — Henry Zeidler and his faithful companion Klondike enjoy a rare sunny day last week. Zeidler keeps an ample supply of firewood on hand at his Ohio County farm. -- Heather Ziegler

There was something warm and friendly in that broad smile that made me feel at home as I arrived at the Zeidler farm last week. As Henry Zeidler made his way toward the wooden footbridge I had to cross to reach his homestead, his dog Klondike barked a greeting ahead of my arrival.

Both man and his best friend were welcoming from the start of my visit. We made our way across the cemented sidewalk toward the white farmhouse, the centerpiece of this 29-plus acre farm. With its broad front porch and white picket-fence appeal, the house holds generations of memories. The property was whittled down from 40 acres when the state road brought a new road to Short Creek in Ohio County, it has always been home for families of Zeidlers.

As we approached the house, the beef cattle lounged in the front pasture, some rising to see who was visiting. We entered the house through the back door and instantly I could see the love and care this house has received over its many decades. Through remodeling and updates, it retained its farmhouse character with beautiful polished hardwood floors, lovely woodwork and practical fireplace.

Sitting at the round kitchen table, Zeidler appeared at ease as he talked about his family — past and present. He provided a brief rundown of the generations of Zeidlers, from his great-grandparents to his own family, who have lived on this expanse of land that borders the waters of Short Creek.

Zeidler, now 80, has lived on part of this property most of his life with the exception of his two-year stint in the Army. A family-operated dairy once stood on Zeidler property as did fruit trees and large gardens. At one point, there were seven Zeidler homes on three family farms that sat adjacent to one another along the road. Today, there are four homes left and Zeidler is the last of the males in the family to bear the last name.

“My mom wanted me to be an engineer, but I thought that would be so boring,” he said. “I grew up working around a farm. I couldn’t imagine walking around with a pencil and paper because that’s what engineers do.”

Zeidler attended Wellsburg High School and West Liberty College. He spent several summers working in the steel mill up the road, some of the hardest work a man can do, he said. A stint in the Army postponed his college graduation, but he came back and finished his education.

“I got a job teaching social studies at Wintersville and then Indian Creek High School for 37 years,” Zeidler said. “That was much better than working in the mill.”

He and his wife, the late Nancy Freund Zeidler, raised four daughters in this country setting. The girls and their families love coming back home whenever they can, he said. Nancy died in 1985, and Zeidler never remarried because he said “she was the perfect wife and mother.”

Zeidler said he learned from his mother the importance of family meals together and a simpler way of life, something he imparted on his daughters. He said dinner was family time, no matter what.

Since retiring, Zeidler has kept up with the farmland despite two devastating floods that wiped out fencing, his barn and footbridge. However, good friends and neighboring farmers were quick to lend a hand to make repairs.

“I have about 25-26 head of beef cattle now, but I’m not a fulltime farmer,” Zeidler claimed. “We used to have chickens and pigs and a big garden and fruit trees. We had to plant pumpkins because the kids liked to sell them out on the road. There are three caves on the properties and that’s where you stored your vegetables and fruit … it was cool in there.”

There are still a few fruit trees and several grape arbors on Zeidler’s well-kept farm.

He said several of the Zeidler family members who lived on the lane never left their property, living out their lives in the peace and quiet of country life. “My dad drove a horse and buggy into Wheeling. He never had a TV … didn’t want one. He had a radio, though.”

For all the accomplishments of his life, Zeidler said he’s most proud of providing his daughters with college educations. Two of his daughters have earned doctorates as well.

The daughters include Kim, who lives in Lexington, Ky.; Kathy, who lives in Arlington, Va.; Traci, who lives in Warwood; and Patti, who resides in Morgantown. There are three grandchildren — Kelly Madelyn and Henry Michael. Traci is a teacher and keeps an eye on her father, bringing him meals several times a week. He admits he isn’t much for cooking even through the girls had the kitchen remodeled and updated.

Zeidler said farming is hard work but having many good people in his community that share his interests makes it OK. Farming presents its challenges, from too much rain to sick animals to broken equipment, he added.

“You have to be able to do a little of everything to be a farmer,” he said.

Zeidler spends one day a week working at the Sampson Feed Store on North Fork Road, mostly for socialization with his good buddy, Dale Sampson. Then he heads back across the wooden bridge to the place that has always been home to Zeidlers and where Klondike keeps watch.