NEW PALESTINE — Sitting in a wooden swing next to her mom on the front porch of her great aunt’s house, Molley Wilkins was busy looking at her phone.
The 13-year-old is a seventh-generation Roesener family member, a group who planted roots in the New Palestine community in 1837 when relatives first came to the area from Germany and built the family homestead on 80 acres of land.
Daryn Wilkins, Molley’s mother, is a sixth-generation Roesener. The two were enjoying a summer swing together on the property Anita Roesener, her aunt and Molley’s great aunt, has lived on since 1980.
Story continues below gallery
Roesener and her brother, Gerald Roesener, Daryn’s dad and Molley’s’ grandfather, joined other family members recently to celebrate the 180-year anniversary of the family owning the same homestead, one young Molley may one day live in.
The family held a huge celebration and invited more than 170 family and friends to help celebrate.
For generations the family has passed the property down. Anita Roesener has lived on the homestead for nearly four decades and has done work on the original house built in 1851 and second home, built in the 1870’s, refurbishing areas and making them fit for modern living.
The property, which began with the Roesener homesteaders living in a log cabin somewhere on the land, is a point of pride for family members still living.
“I can’t imagine there are too many homes or farms out here that have been in the same family for all these years,” Daryn said.
Anita Roesener knows every inch of the original house and one built in the 1870’s that has since been connected to form one large Roesener home.
The original dirt cellar under the porch is still usable. There is a secret back stairway in the living room and a neat section in the doorway by the kitchen where a plank opens so people can see the old mud and straw used by relatives to build the old home.
While the older Roesener children, Anita and Gerald, now in their late 60’s and early 70’s, understand how special it is to still have an original home from the 1800’s standing and functional, they hope the next generation in line to inherit the old home will cherish it as much as they do.
“The younger kids don’t really quite yet fathom what this home means,” Gerald said. “180 years seems like ancient time to them.”
Daryn and her two siblings, which include a brother, are next in line to inherit the family property followed by Molley and her siblings, but Anita, who still likes to get out and cut the grass and work on the home, isn’t ready to move out just yet and plans to live on the homestead for as long as she is able.
The family is looking forward to the next family anniversary. They enjoy holding major celebrations every five years and plan to hold a big celebration in 20 years to mark two centuries of family homestead living.
The state already has recognized the family ownership with two Hoosier Homestead Farm awards — one for 100 years and the other for 150 years.
The next state honor comes when they reach 200 years. By that time Molley will be in her 30s and might be sitting on the old porch swing on a summer night with her daughter.
At least that’s the hope, the family said.