From the Hungarian Empire to Ross County
The Ohio Bicentennial & Century Farms program is about farm families and their histories, and applicants are encouraged to provide historic details about their lineage and their farm. Sometimes little is known of the past besides the fact that the owners are related; sometimes there is a large cache of precious history known by the family.
Esther Driapsa Knapp and her family are fortunate to know their family and farm history. Esther’s father, Emil Driapsa, and her mother Helen Kraus, were born in Upper Hungary, the present-day Slovak Republic, emigrated to the U.S. and married in 1912 in Columbus.
The couple had a goal of owning land in their new country, a dream that was almost impossible in Europe at the time. Through hard work and saving their earnings, the couple realized their dream in 1914 when they bought the 68-acre farm near the village of Bainbridge in Paxton Township, Ross County. The local terrain reminded them of their homeland, and they sponsored other European immigrants to move onto the adjacent farms in what became the Potts Hill European Community.
The family brought gardening traditions from Europe, raising cows, chickens and turkeys, growing fruit and vegetables, picking black raspberries and harvesting natural products of the forest for income. Real estate taxes were their main expense, and during the Great Depression, in order to help pay them, Emil dug roadside drainage ditches, earning a dollar a day.
Neither Emil nor Helen drove an automobile. During World War II, Esther, who was then 14, was allowed by the state to obtain her driver’s license in order to drive her parents where needed.
Today, except for Emil and Helen’s farm, the immigrant family farms from their era have long vanished. The log house, barn, root cellar and gardens of the Driapsa farm are the only surviving reminder of the vibrant Potts Hill European Community that once flourished.
To help keep their history alive for future generations, the family entered the farm’s historical record into the U.S. Library of Congress as a Historic American Landscapes Survey, number HALS OH-07.