The story of the Steffen family begins long before we talked with Stanley Steffen, and he wanted to be sure we were aware of that. The story starts in the area around Berne, Switzerland where his family were Mennonite dairy farmers. Religious persecution caused mass immigration of Swiss and German Mennonites to France, South America, Canada and the midwest states of the U.S. The Nickolas Steffen family immigrated in 1850 and joined other families in the Sonneburg/Kidron area of Ohio who had arrived in the first immigration wave of the 1820s, like the Abraham Lehmann family.
Stan's great-grandfather Nicholas Steffen married Barbara Lehman in 1854, they then moved to Berne Indiana. Three children were born to this union and then they divorced in 1863. Barbara Lehman Steffen and her children returned to the father's home in Sonnenburg, Ohio. In 1877 she relocated with her two youngest children, Abraham, aged 11, and Peter, 9, to Oregon to help her daughter, Elizabeth, who had married John LIchty and moved to the Switzerland-Howell's Prairie area southwest of Silverton in 1876.
John Lichty, a woodsman and builder, had settled there on a portion of the T.C. Shaw donation land claim--a pioneer from Tennessee who played a vital role in the settling of the Willamette Valley. They soon started a sawmill business on the Pudding River near Silverton, the exact location of which the family is still trying to determine.
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Daniel and Linda Leisy Steffen were blessed with three daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was Stanley Steffen, Pratum hay farmer and inventor. On the family farm, Stan was always tinkering with things and became responsible for repairing the hay baler each time it broke down, which could be several times a week. He devised several other pieces of equipment to make the repetitive work of harvest a bit easier for himself and others working on the farm.
The Steffen boys continued devising more efficient machines over the years. In 1970, Stan opened up a shop where they worked together with other family members, friends, and neighbors--each bringing their own expertise--to build these machines. They learned to work well together, taking time to make each piece good to look at and good to last. Some years later, the enterprise would become Steffen Systems, run today by Stan's son David, selling their machinery all over the globe. Most of Stan and Ruth's seven children have worked in one of the family businesses in some capacity.
If you'd like to listen to our full interview with Stan about this humble, hard-working family who, along with others seeking religious freedom, helped settle the Howell Prairie and Pratum areas, please click here: Part One and Part Two