Alfalfa Lawn Farm Records and Lewis Family papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk P1988.32

Level of description

Collection

Title

Alfalfa Lawn Farm Records and Lewis Family papers

Date(s)

  • 1910-1988 (Creation)

Extent

93 boxes

Name of creator

(1927-1987)

Biographical history

Alfalfa Lawn Farm’s (ALF) primary business involved the breeding, promoting, exhibiting, and marketing the American Polled Hereford for seventy-seven years. The herd started in 1910 as a wedding gift to John M. Lewis, Walter’s father. From ten cows and one bull, John began to develop the herd. When Walter graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University) in 1935, John turned over the herd to him. Walter acquired his background in cattle breeding from his days in 4-H and working on the judging teams at KSAC, in addition to his activities around Alfalfa Lawn Farm as a young boy. John Lewis and his two sons, Walter and Joe, the youngest, managed ALF as a family-owned operation until the two sons died in 1987. Walter concentrated primarily on the business aspect of the herd, while Joe worked on the showing of the herd at the many events the Lewis’s entered around the United States.

Aside from being the foreman of the herd, Walter also traveled extensively to judge at shows and fairs. He was heavily sought after for his expertise and knowledge and judged shows in Australia, New Zealand, and England. Walter’s wife, Francis, was also active in managing the herd and farm operations. Judging from the collection, she took care of the various books and registers and performed secretarial duties.

As years passed, the quality and reputation of the herd grew, and, by 1987, progeny from Alfalfa Lawn Farm were found in virtually every state and in numerous foreign countries. Exhibition of its cattle resulted in eighteen National Grand or Reserve Grand Champion bulls and females. As the collection illustrates, people from all over the United States and many foreign countries came to tour the ranch or buy bulls. All sales, births, and deaths, of the cattle, were documented and registered.

Walter and Francis had two children, Robert “Bob” Lewis and Martha Lewis, and both attended Kansas State University; class of 1961 and 1963 respectively. Bob went to the University of Wisconsin where he received his Ph.D., while Martha continued her education at Pennsylvania State University where she received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in 1969 and married the head of the Department of Agronomy. Walter’s brother, Joe, was married to Margaret and they had a son, John D. Lewis, and three daughters. Both Joe and Margaret were actively involved in managing the ranch. As more family members became involved in the enterprise, the business became known as “Alfalfa Lawn Farms, John M. Lewis and Sons” (records attribute the name of the business to both “Farm” and “Farms”).

Walter and Joe were involved in local, national, and international, activities, and organizations. Every spring they sponsored a field day-judging contest at the ranch where students from all across Kansas came to learn about judging and cattle. Walter was active in the Pawnee County Extension Board, Kansas Herford Association, National Western Polled Hereford Association, Kansas Polled Hereford Association, American Hereford Association, American Polled Hereford Association, while serving on other boards including the First National Bank and Trust Company of Larned, Kansas, and the Livestock and Meat Industry Council of Manhattan, Kansas.

Coincidentally, both Walter and Joe died in 1987. After their deaths, Francis and Margaret decided to have a dispersal sale of Alfalfa Lawn Farm in November of that year.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The nature of the collection made it difficult to separate the family papers from the business records in many instances, although there is more of the latter in the material. In addition to personal correspondence, there are items concerning Francis Lewis’s activities in Cooperative Extension and 4-H. Also, there are family expense books, receipts, canceled checks, bank statements, and other statistical financial information, plus photographs, awards, and ribbons. A major portion of the collection deals exclusively with the registered bull records. This material begins with the start of the herd to the dispersal auction in 1987. Also part of the records is ranch-related correspondences from the time John M. Lewis owned the herd to the final days of Walter’s control of the farm. Most of these letters consist of requests for bull prices and information, bull shows, bull sale confirmations, and association with the American Polled Hereford organization. The Correspondence Series consists of nine boxes of personal letters from Robert and Martha Lewis to their parents. The letters begin when each child were students at Kansas State University, and continue through their academic pursuits. Also in this series is ranch-related correspondence to John and Walter as foremen of the herd. These letters are arranged alphabetically by the name of the person or company and in chronological order within each. Boxes eight and nine contain letters related to various subjects such as international, awards, hotels, publications, university, legal, and cattle organizations. The second series concerns Francis Lewis. It begins with her time as a student at Kansas State Agricultural College and continues with her involvement in 4-H and a meats instructor/judge. Printed items in her collection concern meat cooking, judging, showing, and education. These items include brochures, pamphlets, books, and charts. There are various items dealing with meat judging contests including scorecards, statistical information, team placement information, and some unidentifiable material. Also contained are family expense booklets and receipts. The third series comprises Walter and Francis’s judging for the Herford and Polled Hereford Association in arenas and shows in various countries which drew contestants from around the world. The fourth series is the Financial Series. Because of the nature of the records, this series includes both family business and ranch business. There are credit card records, canceled checks, bank statements, farm receipts, and Cooperative receipts. The fifth series is Cattle Records/Documentation. Within this group is a wide range of cattle records dealing with registration, births, deaths, sales, purchases, history, and transfer of the majority of the Lewis herd. There are various records, some complete and some incomplete, from the Polled Hereford Association Application Records to the Guide Lines Program records. This series also contains printed material associated with Walter Lewis, “Farm Management Records,” miscellaneous farm records, and weekly planners and calender books pertaining to both Walter and Francis. Photographs make up the sixth series that includes family members, awards, shows, and cattle. The photos are organized by subject, although a portion of the collection is unidentified. The seventh series is Artifacts, primarily those of Walter Lewis. They include pins from shows in the United States along with some foreign countries. Also included are buttons representing Walter’s activities. Other items include an assortment of name tags and ribbons from both Walter and Francis. Whenever possible, a few of these items; such as the pins and buttons, have been photocopied for easier identification and retrieval.

System of arrangement

The business records and family papers span the years 1927 to 1987 and they are organized in seven major series: 1) Correspondence; 2) Francis Lewis; 3) Travel; 4) Financial; 5) Cattle and Ranch Records; 6) Photographs; 7) Artifacts. They are housed in 93 document boxes that comprise 42 linear feet of shelf space.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Walter and Francis Lewis
Acqusition Method: Donation
Acqusition Date: 1988-06-01

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

The collection of Alfalfa Lawn Farm Records/Lewis Family Papers was donated to the University Archives of Kansas State University in 1988 by Francis Lewis. It documents the business affairs of the Alfalfa Lawn Farm (ALF) of Larned, Kansas, primarily those of Walter and Francis Lewis. The major activity of the Farm involved the breeding, promoting, exhibiting, and marketing of the American Polled Herford, for which it had a national reputation. The varied personal activities of Walter and Francis Lewis are also described in the material. As graduates of Kansas State University, and prominent leaders in the cattle industry in the United States, Walter and Francis Lewis were associated with many faculty and administrators at K-State, including Don Good, Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry. When Walter Lewis died in 1987, Dr. Good coordinated the arrangements for having the collection donated to the University Archives.

Accruals

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Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Notes element

Specialized notes

  • Alphanumeric designations: Citation: [Item title], [item date], Alfalfa Lawn Farm records & Lewis Family Papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Processing Info: Processing of the collection was completed in 2002 by David Arens and Tara Pool, student employees.
Archon processing by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, August 2015. Finding Aid Updated by Cindy Harris and Helena Egbert in 2021.
Publication Date: 2015-08-05

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Physical storage

  • 5" Flip Top, Letter: Box 1, A83412004333
  • 5" Flip Top, Letter: Box 2, A83412004244
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