Canyon County

THEN AND NOW: One farm family's story is told in this collection of photos from 1941 and today

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman
Mike Wagner has five kids, including Will, 13, who is the one most interested in farming Ñ just like Mike was.
Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman Mike Wagner has five kids, including Will, 13, who is the one most interested in farming Ñ just like Mike was. Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesma

The life Lee and Elva Wagner planted on 95 acres in Caldwell took root in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“It gives me a great deal of pride knowing (we) haven’t sold out,” says their granddaughter. “It’s still in the ­family.” The Wagners’ story is told in this “scrapbook” of photos from 1941 and today.

During the Great Depression, the Farm Security Administration hired photographers to document government projects and the plight of rural Americans.

Photographer Russell Lee visited Lee and Elva Wagner in November 1941. He most likely met them as he was photographing desert farmers waiting for water from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Black Canyon Irrigation District’s Unit 2. Lee and Elva Wagner’s 95 acres already had water from Unit 1; the 120 acres the Wagners later bought for their sons (and where June still lives) had Unit 2 water.

Russell Lee filed 13 Wagner photographs that are available through the Library of Congress (where Lee misspelled their name as Wagoner). He also photographed field workers and labor camps, which were very different than the ones we see today.

Click through the 12 photos on the right to see the historic and contemporary photos of the Wagner family and their farm.

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