*MONITEAU COUNTY* Burgers’ Ozark Country Cured Hams, Inc.:
The farm, originally owned by Frederick and Minnie Bueker, has been in the family for 116 years. It is now owned by their descendants. Frederick Bueker was born in northern Germany. He immigrated to America in 1881 with his parents and brothers. They resided on a small farm northeast of California. At the time, Fred was 13 years old with at best a seventh grade education, was in a new country with a new language to learn, and probably had little or no money. Despite these disadvantages, Fred took the "American Dream" seriously. Ten years later in 1891 at the age of 23, he purchased a farm on the Moreau Creek, some of the richest farmland in Moniteau County.
In 1900 Fred married Minnie Oesterly. Their children were Margaret, Natalia, and Lena. A handsome two-story house they built on the property is still standing today and is the home of Jane Burger, their granddaughter. By 1930 with the purchase of adjoining land, the farm consisted of 360 acres. In the 1936 History of Moniteau County Missouri, the author J. E. Ford Sr. refers to Mr. Bueker as “the owner of a beautiful home on a well -kept farm.”
Edwin Morris Burger married Fred's daughter Natalia in 1930 and they made their home on a farm located six miles southwest of the Bueker farm. Their children are Mary Keil (1932-), Morris Burger (1935-), and Jane Burger (1937-). In addition to farming his own land, E. M. also farmed with his father-in-law. In the 1930's, without electricity and consequently no refrigeration, food preservation was essential. In the fall of the year, E. M. and Natalia would butcher hogs and cure the various cuts of pork.
Fred and Minnie Bueker on south side of their home. Circa 1920.
Although as different as day and night, Fred and E. M. shared common characteristics. They worked hard and were both entrepreneurial sorts. E. M. realized the potential to retail hams so began curing hams in addition to family usage and sold them in nearby towns. By 1952, he was curing 1,000 hams, so the family formed a partnership and a ham curing building was constructed on the Bueker farm. In 1956, the family business was incorporated under the name Burgers' Ozark Country Cured Hams, Inc. In 1957, the company became the first federally inspected country ham plant in the nation. In 1972, the ham corporation purchased the farm. The corporation continues to rent out land for crops and grazing.
Today, Burgers' Smokehouse has grown from the small one-room building constructed in 1952 to encompass 309,000 square feet. The family business is the largest producer of natural, old-fashioned, country cured hams in the nation. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of individuals have visited the farm to tour the smokehouse and purchase meat. There are two caves on the property. Over the years, many arrowheads, tomahawks, and other artifacts have been uncovered when plowing in the bottom attesting to the fact that this was once the home of the Osage Indians.
Written on March 26, 2007 by Morris Burger, grandson of Fred and Minnie Bueker