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Custer Grenz, Sidewalk Farmer


John Grenz was born near Artas, SD, on this date in 1917. When he was nine years old, his family moved to Napoleon, where he was buried nearly five years ago. In 1943, Custer and his wife Irene bought a farm in the Street Flat area and also opened Irene’s Café in Napoleon, which qualified Grenz as a “sidewalk farmer.”

He was an avid antique collector and wrote articles for the Napoleon Homestead under the byline “Findings By John G. ‘Custer’ Grenz.” Among his treasures was the first tractor he ever bought, a 1943 John Deere “B.” On the hills east of Napoleon, Custer displayed a number of threshing machines that caught the attention of more than a few; in March 1987, they were featured in National Geographic Magazine.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm