Lakin Family History

Charles E. Lakin, I (1860 – 1934)

 At age 16 Charles came to Emerson, IA in 1876, from Illinois. He worked as farm a hand, then renter, then farm owner ultimately owning 1,000 acres.

Arrival to Iowa

Charles had one son, Harvey

PHOTO: Charles E Lakin I, Kate Lakin, and son Harvey Albert Lakin 

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Mills County Supervisor

PHOTO: Charles was a Mills County Supervisor for several years

Harvey Albert Lakin

Harvey and his wife Lena had three children: Ryan, Dorothea, & Charles II

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Emerson, IA Home Built 1914 by CEL I

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Emerson, IA Home 2020

Charles E. Lakin, II (1921 – 2016)

Born May 4, 1921 to Harvey and Lena Lakin, Charles II was raised in Emerson, Iowa. After graduating from Emerson High School, Charles married his high school sweetheart, Florence Swoboda of Malvern on Aug. 4, 1938, and they continued their lives on a farm in the Emerson area. Charles and Florence raised their four children in Emerson before moving to Odebolt in the mid 1960s.  


After a move to Omaha several years later, Charles continued to grow his business by purchasing the “Lippold Building” and several acres of property around 90th and Dodge Streets. As a younger man, Charles was an avid boater, water skier, pilot and loved life in general. His spirit lives on in his children and their children. 

Early Life

  • Youngest child in the family

  • Idolized his grandfather, Charles 1st

  • As a young child earned money by catching gophers ($0.05 / gopher)

  • Worked for his grandfather’s farms through his teens

  • PHOTO: Schoolhouse Charles attended grades 1-4. It is now located at the Indian Creek Museum in Emerson (man in photo is a worker at the site).

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Swoboda Family Members

PHOTO: Malvern, Iowa Bakery (1921) owned by Frank Swoboda. Pictured are mother Mary Swoboda, baby Florence, sister Maree (seated), and brother Paul (standing by his sister Maree). Standing beside baby Florence is a bakery employee.

Charles II and Florence

  • At age 16, Charles met Florence at a church event.

  • Charles (age 17) and Florence Swoboda (age 18) ran away to Missouri to get married, then moved to Galveston, TX for a year.

  • In Texas, Charles worked as a dishwasher and Florence worked as a cashier at a local hotel.

  • In 1939, Charles and Florence moved back to Emerson, IA and began farming together on one of Charles 1st’s farms.

PHOTO: DaVare Knight (friend), Florence Lakin, Charles Lakin, II; and Dan Swoboda (Florence’s brother). 

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Charles II - 1939 - Horse drawn farming

While established farmers were buying Farmall tractors in the 1930s, Charles was getting his start in farming by renting land and driving horses.

Family Life

  • Charles and Florence were married for nearly 78 years

  • They had four children: Diane, Charles III, Deborah, and Nancy

PHOTO: Charles & Florence 1938 in Galveston, Texas

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Lakin Grain Company and Lakin Implement Co.

Charles E. Lakin owned and operated the Lakin Grain Company and Lakin Implement Co. from 1948-1962. He held the International Harvester franchise in his home town of Emerson.

PHOTO: Charles preparing to takeoff in his Lakin Implement Co. crop duster airplane

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Largest Single-Person Land Owner in Iowa

In 1962, Charles purchased the “Lakin Ranch” in Odebolt, IA which was around 6,500 sq. acres. According to Prudential Insurance Mortgage, when added to his other holdings, this made Charles the largest single-person land owner in the state of Iowa with an estimated 17,000 acres. Charles sold the Ranch in 1975 to Shinrone Incorporated of Detroit, Michigan.

Lakin Ranch

Charles II 6,500 acre farm was near Odebolt, a small town in Northwest Iowa.

PHOTO: Main buildings on Lakin Ranch

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Self Made Man

Charles E. Lakin was a self made man. Beginning with horse drawn farming he grew his 139 acre rented farm to where he required an airplane to manage his operations. Despite his success, Charles always cherished his Southwest Iowa roots and the many people who helped him along the way. While he became one of the largest single person farmers in the country, Charles' proudest achievement was to have the ability to form the Charles E. Lakin Foundation to give back to the community that supported him.  


Thus, the mission of the Foundation is based on Charles’ wishes to focus funding on Children and Families, Education and Training, and Economic Resilience. Because of the strong support he received in his early years, Charles chose to restrict funding to only the counties he called home: Pottawattamie, Cass, Montgomery, Mills, Fremont, and Page counties in Iowa, and Douglas and Sarpy counties in Nebraska.

PHOTO: Charles II 1939 horse drawn farming; opening the Odebolt Bank door; Charles II with his airplane.

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Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus

Groundbreaking 2008

Charles II:

"Growing up in rural Iowa, I never dreamed of the day when I would do something like this."

"Seeing the day finally come and watching the family-friendly campus come to fruition is a very proud day for us."

PHOTO: Charles II and Florence at Campus Groundbreaking 2008

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