Hops Still Growing After 120 Years

Feature Story June 2004
Hops Still Growing After 120 Years
By Bob Williamson
The Falls City Journal Newspaper of Falls City, Nebraska wrote a story on October 14, 1968 about hop vines, which were brought from Pennsylvania over 100 years ago. Vines started from the original vines can be seen in the Dawson, Nebraska area to this day. They are a heritage plant of their ancestry. Known vines are growing at the homes of Genevieve Young of Humboldt and in the gardens of Bob Williamson of Dawson. The original article is printed in full in the colony history book, “The Sweet Spring Still Flows.”

“Hops that were brought from Pennsylvania and planted in 1881 are still producing at the Orville Wuster farm, two miles north of Dawson. Sort of like a faithful old horse that has been put out to pasture to live out his days in peace and with no duty assignments, the hops have no function around the Wuster place anymore. But one day they did, back before the turn of the century.

They were planted by Emanuel Ulmer, grandparents of Mr. Wuster, Mr. Ulmer bringing them out from Pennsylvania. In the early days the hops were soaked in water and then mixed with corn meal and left to dry. The mixture then was cut into squares and used as leavening in the making of bread. When Mr. Ulmer moved to Nebraska he paid $50 an acre for his farm, which was only raw prairie with out even a tree on the place. According to family history, he subscribed to The Journal in 1883 for Pennsylvania relatives and they wrote back that they really enjoyed getting the paper. The Wusters have lived on the place since 1929, succeeding his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wuster.”

No recipes using the hops are available as each generation taught the next the usage and care of the product. The vines carry a shrubby look with light green leaves that are leathery in texture. Once started they root deep and come back yearly regardless of the intense winters, hot summers and drought conditions. Heritage plants are an excellent conversation piece in the garden and will produce an interesting story or two from observers.