Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Life on the family farm under an open heaven: Great-Great-Grandma Elbert had the answer for today’s problems

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairy Published on 06 May 2020

There are people who lived years ago whom the world considered just ordinary people. But the lives they lived, and the influence they had, go on long after they’re dead and gone. Such was the life of my great-great-grandma, Mary (Marie) Elbert.

Mary Ziehlsdorf was born in Germany on June 24, 1834, and as a child gave her life to God. Later on her family immigrated to the U.S., settling in Wisconsin. There she met and married Philip Elbert. Together they farmed, working very hard to provide for themselves and their family. And what a family they had – 11 children.



Life wasn’t easy for them; they had lots of trials and challenges, obviously. And there were no government programs to help them out. Moreover, they didn’t expect any help from the government. They worked hard with their hands and looked to God to provide for them, and He always did.

It didn’t matter what the weather was like outside or what problems they were facing that day, Mary would always start her day with a song and prayer. I wonder, if all Americans would do that today, what kind of a nation would we have? I can tell you one thing for sure; it would be vastly different.

It was said of Mary that she was a ray of sunshine to her family and friends, a loving teacher and adviser. It was said that she always went to the Lord in times of trouble, and she always encouraged others to do the same.

People today would be shocked and amazed if they knew what Mary’s greatest enjoyment in life was. Her family all testified as to what it was – it was having her family gather about her so she could read them the word of God.

It was said that her husband and children loved and adored her with all their hearts. The world would consider her just an ordinary woman; I consider her a great woman, but what’s more important is that I believe God considers her a great woman. And in the end, it’s what God thinks that really matters.


In today’s world, we have many, many problems. Many people don’t know what to do or where to turn. People turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sports, TV or many other things that don’t help them out at all. Mary knew where to turn and did it every day. She turned to God – in the Bible, in prayer and in worship. And her testimony was that God never failed her. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He will not fail you, if you come to Him like Mary did. I know; I’m Mary’s great-great-grandson, and He’s never failed me either.  end mark

Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Email Tom Heck or order his book at Tom Heck Farm.