THE GOOD OLD DAYS
SCHUMAN FAMILY HISTORY
Written by Daisy Kurz Schuman
Believe it or not - I Daisy Kurz Schuman - am about to write a book. Not because it has been a life-time ambition, or because I believe myself capable of writing anything of real interest to the general public, or because I think there was anything in my rather uneventful life that people need to know about. I am writing this book because my children and grandchildren have been coaxing me to write down for them what it was like to grow up in "The Good Old Days" that they have heard more or less about, while they were growing up, under different circumstances in an everchanging world.
If I am to write this book, I must of necessity, tell about my parents for they were the ones who brought me into the world, and to whom I owe my existence.
My mother was born in Norway in May in the year 1848. Her family lived on a very small farm at the foot of the mountains near Trondheim. The men of the family earned at least part of the families living expenses by working on a fishing vessel off the coast of Norway. They were away from home several months each year. While they were gone the women took care of the farm. The older women cut grass with a scythe and carefully hung it to dry on racks put up for that purpose. My mother, when a teenage girl went with neighbor girls to take their cows up the mountain to pasture them on such small plots of grass as grew there. These young girls spent the summers caring for the cows - milking them, making butter and cheese for winter use. They lived on milk products and rusks which they brought with them, or older women brought up the mountain for them. No doubt these girls spent lonely days during the long summer months.
My mother's mother died when mother was sixteen years old. Four years later she came to America with her father and youngest brother Jens. The two older brothers had gone to America two years before and they had earned enough money to pay for the tickets for their father, Jens and my mother aboard a ship. They didn't come first class, of course. The immigrants were crowded together in the hold of the ship much as we would ship cattle. There was no privacy, very few comforts, and the passengers brought their food with them as meals were not included with the fare. Since these were sailing vessels no one knew how long the trip would take - and it was your hard luck if your food did not hold out till the journey's end.
They made the voyage safely and landed in New York where they went through customs and they eventually reached Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the older brother Erick had established a home on a farm.
My mother spoke no English. The first word she learned was mine," when a small boy claimed his toy. She later went to school with first graders to learn to speak, read, and write a little. Then she took a job as a hired girl for an English speaking family.
She met and married Peter Skoyen and they lived for awhile at Sacramento, California. Here her first child was born. She was named Kaja, after a cousin of my mother's. This child died in infancy. The second child, Enga, was born in California. The family then came back to Wisconsin where the third girl, also named Kaja was born. Shortly after coming back to Wisconsin the house they were living in burned in a brush fire. Mother was home alone with the children when the fire came in the night. She dressed the children and herself except for her shoes. She managed to take the little girls to a neighbors home, walking over burned ground barefooted. She had to stay in bed for two weeks while her feet healed. She had lost everything including the few precious keepsakes she had brought from Norway.
Her husband deserted the family just after the fire, and mother was left alone to care. for her two little girls.
Some time later, she got a job keeping house for John and Jacob Kurz who farmed about 25 miles from a trading post called Grand Forks. In 1883 she got a divorce from Peter Skoyen and married John Kurz. They had eight children in the years that followed including my triplet brothers, George, Fred and Willie, and Arthur and Walter and my sisters, Lillie and May. I was the youngest of the family and the only one living at the present time.
My father's people came from Germany in the 1850's. myfather was born in October 1859 at Green Bay, Wisconsin. His was a large family and he was one of the oldest children. He earned his first wages by picking a pail of wild blackberries and carrying them four miles to town where he sold them for four cents a quart.
When he was fourteen years old he chopped his big toe with an axe while he was chopping wood. Since he was unable to work with such a sore toe he went to school for two weeks. This was all the schooling he ever had but he was able to write letters and figure quite well. At least well enough to take care of his farm business.
My father and his brother Joe bought land near the present town of Warren, though Grand Forks was the only town for several years. They turned the virgin soil with a walking plow pulled by oxen. It was slow hard work, but the rich soil was worth the effort as it still produces wonderful crops. He still owned the land at the time of his death in 1931.
In the early years the land west of Warren was very wet - and a little farther west the land was called a swamp - wild strawberries grew there abundantly. During those wet years my mother suffered terribly from rheumatism. She spent one whole winter in bed - much of the time unable to turn over without help. So she was advised to move to a drier climate.
In the summer of 1897 my parents took me along and drove to Minnewaukan, North Dakota, to visit mom's brother Jens and his family. While there they bought a quarter of land at the south end of BuffaloLake, near where Esmond was later located. This land had once been part of a cattle ranch, but the owner had become discouraged and left the land which could now be bought by paying the delinquent taxes.
I still remember the day my folks went to look at what was to be our new home. My parents, Uncle Jens, and Aunt Caroline drove the thirty miles with a team and buggy. I was left with my cousins. Sophia was two and a half years older than I was, but she was my youngest cousin. We played in the yard for awhile quite contentedly, but soon looked for something else to do.
Uncle Jens was having a new house built at the time. The frame of the house was up and the carpenters were busy plastering the walls of the rooms inside. They mixed the plaster in a vat in the yard, and brought it into the house by putting it into a wheelbarrow which they pushed on a platform from the vat to the door of the house. Cousin Sophia thought we could have fun running back and forth on this plank so we proceeded to do that though I don't think the carpenters were very pleased with us. All went well for awhile till somehow my feet slipped on the wet plank and I fell kerplunk into the box of mortar. My clothes and long brown hair we're dripping plaster over everything as Sophia led me into the little house they lived in and her big sister Pauline began the task of washing the plaster out of my hair. She did the best she could to clean me up and then dressed me in some of Sophia's clothing. I'll never forget how alone and deserted I felt for I was a very bashful child in a strange home, with strange people, dressed in clothes more than two sizes too large for me. There I sat waiting for the return of my parents, but I must have fallen asleep long before they came for the round trip of sixty miles took a long time with only horses to drive.
I have one other memory of that trip when I was four. I remember eating all of our meals around a campfire along the road, for stopping to eat at a restaurant was unthought of in those days. When we passed through Grand Forks my folks stopped at a store and bought some cheese. It didn't come in individually wrapped slices as it so often does now. The storekeepers of that time had cheese which was about twenty-four inches in diameter and six or eight inches thick. If a customer wanted to buy cheese he uncovered it, and cut a wedge-shaped piece, weighed it and wrapped it in paper. I had eaten cottage cheese, but never had eaten cheese bought in a store, and I thought about how good it would taste. It was well ripened and had a strong, tart taste. I took a big bite, and to this day I remember how awful I thought it tasted. I've never been able to eat anything but mild cheese since that time - now over eighty years ago.
During the winter of 1897-1898, my older sisters and brothers stayed in Warren and attended school, while my parents made plans for our move to Dakota. The farm work had to be done and crops planted for my father could not give up the farm at Warren even though we planned to live in a different state about a hundred and sixty miles away.
We started on our journey the last week in May. We had one wagon covered with white canvas stretched over rounded supports - the typical prairie schooner you see pictures of. This wagon was loaded with our clothing and bedding, Mother's sewing machine and her trunk in which she kept her most prized possessions. On top of the other things was a mattress on which my sister May and I played during the day and slept at night. Mother drove the team on this wagon and slept there with us.
The second wagon carried a breaking plow and an assortment of tools and other equipment. The third wagon carried the calves which were too young to follow the herd of stock which were driven along by my brothers and sisters - one on horseback and the rest walking. We camped along the trail at noon and at night. Meals were cooked over a campfire while the horses and cattle fed on the lush green grass which grew along the way. Potholes and ditches were full of water which was still quite fresh and pure this early in the season.
We made only a few miles each day for meals had to be cooked, the cows milked, and the calves fed. Horses and cattle grazed where ever we spent the night. There were settlers along the trails leading west, but most had not been there long, and since transforming open prairie to farms was slow work in those times, not much of the land was cultivated.
The breaking plows used by the early settlers made one furrow twelve to sixteen inches wide, and since these plows were pulled by oxen or horses they didn't move very fast. Turning an acre of sod took quite awhile. What a contrast to the speed with which our tractors and large machines get over the fields today.
It took us three long wearisome
weeks to move from Warren, Minnesota to our new home at BuffaloLake in
Pierce County, North Dakota. We reached our new home on the 17th of
1898. My sister May and I were asleep in the prairie schooner as it was
late at night. When we awoke there was our new home, made of clean
It was twenty-six feet long and about sixteen feet wide. There was only
one room with an attic above it. The walls of this attic were fourteen
inches high topped by a steep roof. We small children could stand
upright in the middle of the room, but no one else could. The frame of the house was covered with two thicknesses of boards, but inside the bare two by fours stood out with no insulation or plaster covering them. The stairway to the attic was made simply by nailing boards to the two by fours. This attic served as bedroom for the older children who slept on mattresses filled with hay or straw.
This home served very well during the summer months, and I'm sure we must have enjoyed that first summer. We went swimming in the shallow lake, and picked berries, and wild flowers. My brothers learned to shoot with guns my father had provided, and we had all the ducks and prairie chicken we could eat. They also had a fish net, and since there were so few people in the area, there was no law against fishing with a net. We ate all the fresh fish we wanted, and salted down a thirty-one gallon vinegar barrel of fish for winter use - it was well we did for in the hard winter that followed the fish in the lake all died. Spring brought hundreds of dead fish to line the shores and there were no more fish in the lake for many years
I remember that my father had heard many stories about wild geese that were in that area - they even nested around the lake before settlers moved in. When we reached the lake that night my dad saw a spot of white on the water, and he could hardly wait for morning. With the first rays of morning light my dad and the hired man got their guns and crept close to the water's edge. They fired several shots and most of the birds flew away, but seven or eight lay on the water. They waded out and brought them in. To their dismay their "geese" turned out to be pelicans - those big ungainly, worthless birds at least of no apparent worth to man though ecologists would say they keep nature in proper balance by eating lizards, frogs, and the like. After we youngsters had looked them over the men carried them off and buried them.
My father and the hired
man stayed long enough to break up seventeen acres of virgin prairie
they planted potatoes and a garden and some flax. By then they had to
for the farm at Warren had been untended for several weeks. They took
team and wagon and drove back over the trail we had come on, and my
and we children were on our own till fall.
We soon learned that in
those vast stretches of waving grass we had one neighbor. The Daniel
family lived in Trappers Coulee, about two miles away, but we seldom
them that first year.
At GigardLake, about eight miles north of us, there was a ranch with a few people, and sometimes a hungry cowboy, looking for stray cattle, would stop at our house. These were our only neighbors that first year.
Our only towns were Harvey, twenty-two miles to the southwest, and Minnewaukan, thirty miles east of us. We had no roads, no car, no telephone, and no mail.
My mother drove to Harvey and brought home the first cream separator any of us had ever seen. It was a DeLavel - painted dark blue, and the top of the tank into which you poured the milk was six feet from the floor. I remember seeing my dad lift a fourteen quart pail of milk to pour it into the tank. Somehow his fingers slipped off the bail of the pail, and his other hand still held the rim, while the milk from the inverted pail ran all over the kitchen floor and down through the trap door to the cellar. Years later the manufacturers decided to lower the tank so that even a shorter person could pour milk into it.
Summer passed and winter came with ice and snow, and bitter cold. My dad had finished the farm work at Warren, and had returned. He brought three yearling colts for us to raise so we would have more horse power for farming. There were still fairly good barns on the place put up by the former owners so the animals had shelter.
Our house, with its thin walls, unprotected by trees, stood where the cold winds sweeping across the lake seemed to come right through the boards. We had only a small cook stove for heat, and the coal had to be hauled by team from Harvey, twenty-two miles away. My sister Lillie and my four brothers slept in the attic above the main room. Many nights, when they could not endure the cold they took their straw-ticks and threw them down in the cellar and slept on top of the potatoes. It kept them from freezing to death and kept the potatoes from freezing too. May and I slept with our parents and did not mind the cold so much.
The next year it was decided to move the house to a spot where it would be sheltered from the north winds by a hill. Some neighbors living about eight miles away said they would come with their horses and move the house. They put the house up on some skids and hitched their teams on to it, but no matter how they tried they could not make the horses pull together. They worked all day long till about ten o'clock that night they finally had the house in its new location. We lived in that little house for three years. In 1901 we built a bigger house where we lived till 1916.
During our pioneer years in North Dakota we did not fear Indian raids as many early settlers in other areas did. Sometimes groups moved through going from one reservation to another but they were always friendly.
The thing that did worry us was prairie fires. It seemed that every spring when the grass was dry a fire would come from the north or west of us. Few people lived in that area and there were no plowed fields to stop the fires - only miles and miles of dry grass. When a fire started it would move across the countryside at alarming speed, especially if a brisk wind was blowing. Early spring found us always on the alert. If we smelled smoke or saw a haze in the distance we gathered up old grain sacks, and brooms to which we tied heavy material. These cloths soaked in water were our best means of checking a fire, which often came at night. They burned haystacks and unprotected buildings in their Paths leaving only parched ground to tell of their passing.
Perhaps the fire I remember best was one which came one very windy night when I was seventeen. My dad and mother and I were home alone. I thought I smelled smoke and ran up on a hill to take a look. Some three or four miles to the west I could see an occasional flame on a rise of ground. I ran down the hill to tell my parents. My dad said, "Go harness a team while I put an evener on the plow to make a fire break." I ran to the barn and put harnesses on Prince and Jennie and brought them to where my dad was getting the plow ready. We tried to plow a fire break west of the buildings but it didn't go very well, so we tried another plow. In those few minutes the fire, 'pushed by the strong wind had come about three miles, and was so close that the frightened horses were snorting and cringing away from the heat. My dad said, "Put the team up and let's get something to fight with." As I started for the barn I met mother coming with two pails of water. She reached dad just as I ran back to them. Dad said, "You didn't bring anything to fight with!"
Mother ripped off an outing-flannel half slip she was wearing and gave it to him. I had grabbed an old sack from the barn, and together we fought the fire while mother brought more water. We managed to put the fire out when it was only a rod from some scattered straw near the barn. Just a couple of minutes more and it would have been too late.
We had come to BuffaloLake in 1898 and about a year later the government officially opened the land for settlement. Any citizen, twenty-one years old who had not filed on land in the United States could file on 160 acres of unclaimed land. As soon as word got out that land was available around us people started moving in. Many came from Canada, and Minnesota, and the land to the southwest of our farm was taken over by German Russians. Most of these people had little or no money to start with. They spoke very little English most
could not read or write.. But they were a hardy resourceful people. They filed on their claims and moved out on them. Since they did not have money to buy lumber for houses they cut turf about twenty-four inches long, eighteen inches wide and four or five inches thick. They stacked these slabs one on top of another to build the walls of their houses. They must have bought lumber to support the turf they used for roofs, and very soon they had comfortable dwellings - warm in winter and cool in summer. They plastered the walls with something making them smooth and hard. I never did learn what they used for this, but it made a good finish.
Now the people that moved in had lots of children, and schools were needed, but school districts were non-existent and there were no schoolhouses. A family named Rowland had come from Canada and built a house three and half miles east of us. This house had one room downstairs and one upstairs with a small lean-to room. They said we could use their larger room for school, and a lady named Armitage became my first teacher. She taught one three month term, and my sisters and I walked to school every day. Since I was only seven years old the long walk made me tired and many hot summer afternoons she let me sleep for awhile. Of course, we could have school only in summer as that was the only time the room could be spared. The following year we went to school in the Stevens house for three months. In all I attended school in four different houses and a granary before we finally got a schoolhouse when I was twelve years old. In these schools taught in homes our desks were long counters on the sides of the room with benches behind them for seats. We brought books from home if we had any and since we did not have paper to write on we used slates.
During the winter time we studied at home. My sister Enga promised to buy me a book if I learned to read all the stories in Baldwin's Third Reader and spell all the words. She bought me a copy of "Alice in Wonderland" which I still have.
During this time my sisters Enga and Kaja were teaching school. Enga had a Minnesota license and taught there most of the time, but Kaja taught in North Dakota.
When I was quite small Kaja decided to apply for a school near Harvey. Enga was home at the time so she went along. They hitched Prince and Jennie to our pride and joy, "a surrey with a fringe on top" and started for Harvey. Enga sat in the front seat and did the driving. They took me along -I don't know whether it was because I was a nuisance at home or a joy to have along. Whatever the reason, Kaja and I sat in the back seat enjoying the beautiful summer morning, while Fido, our little black and brown dog romped along beside the team. He was a small dog, but had the heart and courage of a lion. He would fight a dog half again his size or any wild animal he happened to encounter. He soon spied a very large badger, and immediately decided to have some fun. But the badger was a good match for the wiry little dog. They continued to do battle, and my sisters unwilling to leave our pet waited for awhile, and then Kaja decided to give Fido some help. She picked up some stones which were plentiful there and she soon managed to kill the badger, or at least thought she had. She picked it up and put it between the seats at our feet and we went on. A short while later we looked down to see the badger sitting up with its head by our knees looking at us with bleary eyes. The bite of a badger we well knew was something to be feared by anyone. Kaja screamed at Enga telling her the badger was alive, but Enga, accustomed to Kaja's practical jokes drove calmly on down the road. Finding she did not intend to stop, Kaja climbed over the back seat, taking me with her, to the ground. It was only when Enga realized that our screams were coming from some distance behind her that she decided it was for real, and she stopped. Somehow they managed to get the stunned animal out of the buggy, and killed it, but this time made sure it was dead.
My brothers who trapped many badgers in those early years said it was the biggest one they had seen. Since the animal had been killed in the summer the fur was not of any value so they tanned the hide and made a bag in which to carry ammunition when they went hunting. The bag was still in perfect condition many, many years later for badger hide is almost indestructible.
Kaja did get a school near
Harvey and taught there for eight or nine months. When school was out
came home, saying she felt so tired she would like to stay in bed for a
couple of weeks. That is what she did for she came down with a bad case
of measles. She had a high fever and was delirious part of the time.
in the family got sick except my mother. I don't know whether we had a
doctor or not, as doctors didn't come out in the country if they could
avoid it. That seige of measles cost us dearly in the years that
My brother Willie never did recover from the effects of that illness.
settled on his lungs and eventually turned to consumption. We did not
the medicine we have now, or treatment centers and he gradually grew
He died in September the year I was twelve.
The fall I turned thirteen May and I went back to the old home at Warren to attend the school Enga was teaching during the winter months. She brought us back in the spring and taught our home school for three months. May was in failing health for she had picked up TB germs from Willie. She had to drop out of school, and grew rapidly worse about the time school closed. The doctor ordered her moved to a tent in the yard where she would get more fresh air. I was given strict orders to stay away from the tent for it was feared I would be the next victim of the dread disease. I obeyed those orders to the letter - partly through a child's dread of illness and suffering, and partly through fear. I've always regretted that I did stay away so completely as May must have been very lonely. Either my mother or Enga stayed with her constantly till she died in July. These were some of the saddest days of my life. May and I had been almost inseparable during the years when we were growing up together.
I remember we were separated for one week when I was nine years old. Mrs. Wm. Preus had had a baby, at home of course, for most people did not go to a hospital just to give birth to a baby. She had no one to be with her while her husband was in the field so he came to ask my mother for help. She sent me to stay with them for one endless week. I don't think I could have been of much help to them though I tried to follow the directions Mrs. Preus gave me from her bed in the large room which also served as kitchen and dining room. How glad I was when Sunday came and my brother Arthur came to take me home, and what a joy it was to be with my beloved sister again!
Shortly after May's death
I found and memorized this poem which seemed to fit my need and gave me
Over The River
Over the river, they
beckon to me
For none return from those
There is one with ringlets
of sunny gold,
Over the river the boatman
I sit and think when the
During the first years my sisters taught school their salaries were about fifty dollars per month, but they could get room and board at from thirteen to twenty dollars per month, and everything else was very cheap compared to present day standards so they were satisfied. They found their largest problem was getting transportation to and from school so they decided to buy bicycles. They would furnish the power and go wherever they pleased. Bicycles cost thirty dollars apiece but in time each girl had saved that amount and became the proud owner of a "bike."
Enga was teaching in northern Minnesota that year. There were no buses or cars so she decided to ride her "wheel" to Warren a distance of almost a hundred miles. She didn't like to go alone, but knew two young men who planned to ride there and said she could go with them if she could keep up. They started early in the morning and had ridden about ninety miles when it started to rain. There were no surfaced roads at that time, and anyone who knows Red River dirt knows it sticks Re glue when wet. They could ride no further and walked pushing their wheels for a ways. By then Enga was exhausted and stopped at a farmhouse along the road. She asked the men to leave a note in my father's mailbox asking him to come to get her. I'm quite sure that was the longest ride either of mysisters made in one day.
Kaja had a very frightening
experience. She had been home for a short visit and was riding her
bicycle back to her boarding place near her school. It was a long ride,
and the road only a wagon trail across the prairie. She had to cross a
wide coulee on the way. In the middle of this coulee a stream of water
was flowing merrily along, and of course there was no culvert or bridge
over the water. She knew she could not ride across the stream, nor push
the bicycle across while carrying her shoes and holding up the long
which fashion had decreed were the proper garb for a school ma'am of
She didn't know what to
do, but while standing there she looked up at a railroad trestle which
spanned the coulee a short distance away. That was the answer. She
leave the road and push the bicycle across the trestle high above the
and then come back to the road. It all seemed very simple. She found
the bicycle on the trestle wasn't difficult and she soon was in the
of the long span, when she was horrified by the shrill whistle of a
and looking up saw it rapidly approaching. She knew she could not
reach either end of the trestle before the train reached her.
This sister of mine had long been known for her ingenuity, but I'm sure God's guardian angels gave her courage and direction in that moment, for she stepped quickly out on the very ends of the ties that supported the rails and dropped the bicycle to the ground below, and then lay face downward on the ends of the ties and hung on with all her strength, while the seemingly endless wheels of the train rushed by only inches from her prostrate form.
When the sound of the train died away in the distance she rose shakily to her feet and walked to the end of the trestle and then down the coulee bank to get the bicycle, which fortunately had fallen on the right side of the water. She went on her way frightened but unharmed.
I really benefited greatly by having my sisters as teachers. I was given strict orders from home that since I was the sister of the teacher it was my duty to set a good example both in conduct and diligence when at school. Enga excelled in teaching English and taught me to love and appreciate poetry. I never learned music as we had no one to teach us, and perhaps I didn't have the talent for it, but poetry took the place of music in my life.
Kaja's strong points were math and phonics. Both helped a great deal later on.
I must pause in this narrative to tell you about the school Kaja taught near Harvey. This school was in a strictly Norwegian settlement. Many of these families had not been in America very long and had many friends and relatives who were eager to join them in the new world. Of course these "newcomers" as they were called could not speak English and many had very little education of any kind. Five young men -eager to learn - asked Kaja if they might attend her school. She explained that she was hired to teach the children of the district but said if they came she would give them what help she could in her free time. During school hours they could sit in the back of the room and watch the children recite. As in most rural one-room schools, one teacher taught all the grades from beginners through eighth grade. Each class in turn came to the front of the room to recite, and were often sent to the blackboard to write words, sentences or arithmetic lessons. The "newcomers" sitting in the back eagerly listened and observed, and learned at an astonishing rate.
I remember the name of only one of these men - that was Ole Riveland who later lived in our vicinity. These young men helped my sister in many ways. Country school teachers were expected to do all the janitor work as well as teach the children, and building fires on cold mornings was an unpleasant task. These young men took turns on this task among others.
One winter day a severe storm was coming and all became uneasy. These blizzards were greatly feared as many teachers and their pupils had been marooned for days in schoolhouses with scant supplies of food or heat.
There was a farm about half a mile from the school and it was decided that all should try to get there before the storm got any worse. Kaja hurried the pupils into their wraps, and asked each of the young men to put one of the smallest children on a sled that a child had brought to play with at recess time, and pull the child to the farm, while she would take charge of the older pupils. This was done and all reached the farm safely before the storm closed in.
When, school resumed after the storm subsided four of the -newcomers" came back at once, but Ole did not return for several days. When he did come back she noticed that his hands were red and swollen. Only then did she learn that Ole had no mittens, yet he had pulled the sled bare-handed and brought the child through the storm to safety even though in doing so his hands had been frozen so badly. It was people like Ole Riveland -people with such courage and dedication that have made our state and nation what it is today. They deserve our heartfelt praise and thanks.
Years later Ole told my brother George how much that winters schooling had meant to him. He had learned to speak, read and write English and learned a certain amount of arithmetic, though he regretted not having mastered fractions. Before he died he became a well-to-do farmer owning much land in the U.S. and Canada.
Kaja taught school near Minnewaukan in 1902, and boarded at the home of Severin Togstad. May and I stayed there too and attended school in the schoolhouse which later became the home of Alfred Sogge - he still lives there. She later married John Togstad and they farmed his father's land for several years. Later on they lived in New Rockford, Williston, and Superior. They had five children - Myrtle, Stella, Lillian, Joe and Florence. The first two are now deceased, but the three younger ones are living. Kaja died in Hawaii while visiting her daughter Florence . She was 84 years old. She is buried beside her husband in a beautiful cemetery in Superior, Wisconsin.
Enga married Ole Stomsvik in 1906. She had met him in Badger, Minnesota, where she taught, and he ran the cooperative creamery. He was a handsome man with very good posture, perhaps acquired while he served in the army in Norway. He spoke some
English, and had a good education from Norway. He was trained as a buttermaker, and one of his proudest Possessions was a medal whichNorway's king had placed in his hand when he was declared the best buttermaker in the country the year before he came to America. He had been in this country only a couple of years, when they were married, but he had bought a lot and built a home for his bride.
Enga - always concerned about my education - asked me to come and stay with them and go to school the year she was married, but my mother who had lost two children the previous
year said she could not let me go. Doubtless she thought they should have time to adjust to married life before sharing their home with anyone else.
I spent that year attending what school our district provided and helping at home. The following year I went to Badger at Christmas time to attend school. What an experience that was! I had never lived in town - we had very little company in our home, and we had not attended a church regularly, because the services in the Lutheran church in Esmond were always in Norwegian, and the services in the Congregational church were in the evening. Since it took an hour to drive to town with a horse and buggy, and as long to return we could not be gone that long at chore time. Small wonder that at fourteen I was a bashful awkward girl who longed to go to school, but dreaded meeting new strange people.
How different from today's children who are put on display the first day of their lives, and whose parents put them on life's stage and expect them to perform in a manner which will bring credit to them. They want them to excel scholastically or in athletics consequently the children are under pressure and tension. They miss much of the freedom - the carefree childhood we knew when like Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin, "we just growed.
When I reached Badger during the holiday break, Enga took me to see the school - a frame building of two stories. On the ground floor were rooms for the first sixgrades and the seventh and eighth grades were on the second floor. She introduced me to Professor Diamond, a kindly man about seventy years old. He had been school principal and taught the eighth grade for many years, including the five years Enga had taught there. He showed us around and promised to see I was properly enrolled the following Monday.
I'll never forget that first day of school in Badger! I came to school a little early and climbed the stairs, going directly to Professor Diamond's room, but he was not there. I stood timidly inside the door waiting for a few minutes - then a young eighth grade boy came over and asked if I wanted to see Professor Diamond, and offered to go look for him. It was a simple courtesy but how much it meant to me. I never forgot it.
When Prof. Diamond came he took me to the seventh grade room and introduced me to Mrs. Olson, my teacher. She had taught many years and knew how ill at ease I was, and promptly found a vacant seat for me in the front of the room and proceeded to get my books. By then the class was arriving and I knew some twenty pairs of eyes were fixed on the new pupil. They all knew I was a former teacher's sister, and supposed I would be a poised, well adjusted person. At recess time Mabel Iverson, the daughter of one of the small town's storekeepers said to me, and whoever else was nearby, "Well I never thought you'd be like that." Her tone more than the words implied that I certainly didn't come up to her expectations. I went over and stood by a rather shy girl who was at a window watching the younger children play.
That first day - uncomfortable as it had been - was the beginning of two very happy years spent in that school. I soon felt at ease and accepted by my classmates but the eighth graders seemed strange and superior beings to me. One day Mrs. Olson said the eighth graders were having a debate in their room that evening and that we should attend. I was elated - at long last I would be welcome in that magic place. I went to the debate and enjoyed every minute of it. I don't remember what the debate was about, but to see young people up in front of that audience stating their opinions with such ease thrilled me. I was delighted when the debate was termed a success and plans were made for another one. Two of the young people who were on the first team were to be captains of the next team and were to choose three more helpers for each side. I don't know what strings Mrs. Olson pulled, but I know it was because of her that two seventh graders were on the second team - Orville Lockrem and myself.
When I learned I was to have part in a debate on "Which is more destructive fire or flood" I raced home to ask my sister and brother-in-law to help me which they did. Largely because of their help I went to the debate feeling I had some good points. I must have done pretty well for I was chosen to take part in all of the five or six more debates we had that year. How happy I was for now I was accepted as one of them by the eighth graders and was invited to the social hour which followed the debates.
The following year I got back to school only six weeks late. I was delighted to be back, and had a very happy school year.
At that time a young Methodist minister was in town. He had no church building so he held services in the schoolhouse, and many young people attended. One evening he asked all who were willing to accept Christ as their personal Savior to come forward and several of us did. He also asked us to sign a pledge to abstain from the use of alcholic beverages. I don't know if the rest remained true to these commitments, but I know I have remained faithful to both of them for seventy years.
I was asked to join the MethodistChurch but did not. My father had been brought up in a Catholic Church while mother was Lutheran, and Enga had joined the MethodistChurch and her husband was Lutheran. I could see that these different religious beliefs caused a certain amount of friction, and I decided I would wait till I married and join the church my husband belonged to, so I waited.
I was sad when school closed as that school had no high school and I knew I would not be coming back. I did return for a visit two years later. I was happy to see my sister and her family, but she seldom saw my former chums and knew little about them. I was told that several of them were at summer school in Roseau so I went there and did see several of them, but in the two years we had been separated each of us had found new interests and somehow the old close relationship was gone. I have talked to many people since who have revisited old haunts only to feel let down as I had felt. An all-wise Creator knew that people could not stand the emotional strain if joys and sorrows remained at their peak indefinitely.
When I was seventeen I attended a three weeks summer school course in Minot and then took the teachers examination. I received a teacher's certificate and taught in our home district for one year. The following year I taught a school west of Minnewaukan and stayed at my sister Kaja's home. I walked or drove two miles to school and did my own janitor work. It was a bad winter and by spring I had decided to go back to school and prepare to teach in some small town, as I hoped this would be less strenuous.
I went to visit my brothers
and sister Lillie at our old home at Warren. At that time the Swedish
Church was supporting a high school which they called "North Star
though most of the subjects taught were high school subjects, I
there in January 1913 and also the following year and studied at home
the summer, and graduated in June 1914.
While at Warren I met Ernest Schuman, the son of long time friends of my parents. We went on a few dates before I returned to North Dakota. He came to visit me the following Christmas and we became engaged.
My mother's health was failing at that time, and Lillie was in bed recovering from an operation, so mother said I should go and care for her. In the first part of February George called and said mother had died so Fred and I caught the first train home. The funeral was held in Minnewaukan and she is buried in the Lutheran cemetery here.
I went back to BuffaloLake and kept house for my father and brother George till the middle of June. My brother Arthur and Mary Scott were to be married on June 28th and they urged me to come to Warren and be married at a double wedding service. Ernie came at Easter and I told him of their plan. He approved of the plan and so it was arranged.
I shall never forget how hard it was to leave George and my father alone. George took me to Fillmore to catch the Soo train, and looking back I could see daddy standing in the yard watching us drive away. He was still there when we went over the hill half a mile away.
We had our double wedding
in Warren on June 28th 1916. The reception was to be at the Kurz farm
my folks borrowed a large tent and had set tables for 150 guests. Early
that morning we had gone down by the Snake River and picked wild roses
to decorate the tent. My sister Lillie had a beautiful bed of pansies,
blooming abundantly and we placed three pansies beside each place at
table. It all looked lovely when we left for the ten o'clock service.
had arranged to have pictures taken following the service. When that
over it was raining, and by the time we reached home, water was leaking
through the tent and the tables were soaked. Everything had to brought
into the house. Dinner, of course, was delayed and it was close to four
in the afternoon before all had been served.
In the evening the sun came out, and I went with my new husband to my new home in the new Ford car he had bought just before the wedding.
My new home was on a farm two miles north of my birthplace. The farm had been owned by the parents of Ernie's step-father. Ernie was renting the farm when we were married. The house had fourteen rooms if you included the old-fashioned pantry, but we used only the first floor. We had very little furniture in our new home. Ernie had bought a table and a large comfortable rocking chair, and there was an old-fashioned sofa, two beds and some kitchen chairs. No one gave bridal showers in that area at that time so new brides didn't receive all those little extras which must be such a boon to newlyweds.
In the Vega township where Ernie grew up it was the custom to have a surprise party shortly after the wedding, I don't think the honored couple was as much surprised as they might have been for it was expected by those who lived there any length of time. Ernie had helped arrange many such parties.
About two weeks after we were married some of Ernie's cousins came to visit us. They stayed for supper, and later on the half-grown children coaxed me to come outside to play with them, which I did. When we had been out for some time and it was growing dusk, I looked up to see a long procession moving slowly down the road that passed our house. They approached very slowly because the first vehicle was a hay rack pulled by a team. This rack was loaded with furniture. The driver, Ernie's cousin, Fred Seimers, pulled up by our back door, and the men soon had unloaded a brass bed with spring and mattress, a bedroom rug, a birds-eye maple dresser with a matching rocking chair, a buffet, and a child's lovely wicker rocker. Now, over sixty-one years later the bed and rug are gone but the other pieces are still in use. And what a great help they had been to a young couple who had little to start a home with.
They also gave us $16 in money, and Ernie promptly went to town and brought home ice cream to treat the crowd. Since people didn't have ice cream very often as no one had a refrigerator or deep freezer that was a welcome addition to the lunch our guests had brought.
Shortly after our marriage I started taking instruction for confirmation in the GermanLutheranChurch, Missouri Synod, as that was the church Ernie and his relations belonged to. Ernie had taught me to drive the Ford and almost every week I went to the parsonage in Warren for a lesson. I wore my wedding dress and was confirmed in our home in the presence of Ernie's family, my relatives, officers of the church and their spouses, on June 3rd 1917.
Seven happy years flew by quite uneventfully. We had three lovely children: Evelyn born in 1918,Kenneth in 1920 and Glenn in 1923. When Glenn was about seven months old I had tonsilitis and went to Grand Forks for a tonsillectomy which was so common then. No one told me it would be dangerous because I was nursing Glenn at the time and a nursing mother's blood does not clot easily. The result was that I nearly bled to death. The nurses and the young doctor were worried and some how used things that had been used around typhoid patients then in the hospital. Two weeks later I became ill, but managed to stay up and care for the children.
When Ernie got sick on Thanksgiving Day we called the doctor. He came that evening and as soon as he stepped inside the door he gave me a startled look and said, "Typhoid." I tried to tell him it couldn't be that for I had had the same thing and had been up all the time, but he said that didn't prove a thing. Ernie was frightened for his father had died of that disease when Ernie was three years old. We told him that doctors knew by now how to treat the illness and that he wasn't in real danger. He was put on a liquid diet and medicine.- The doctor said -the two older children would get it, but not the nursing baby.
We were put under quarantine of course. The doctor advised me to hire a nurse who promised to stay till Christmas. In the meantime I wrote to my father who was at BuffaloLake. He came at once and stayed with me the rest of the winter. The nurse had let Ernie sit up in bed to shave before she left and he caught cold. By. New Year's Eve he was having awful chills. The doctor came and said he should be in the hospital but could not be moved. He ordered different medicine and Ernie's brothers drove into Warren in -30' weather to bring it. Whatever the medicine was it caused him to perspire so profusely that his night shirt would be soaked every two hours but it finally brought the fever down. He was in bed till the middle of February but gradually regained his health. It had been a very rough winter. I'm sure I don't know what would have happened if my father hadn't come to help us. He did the chores and I did the nursing and cooking. I made gallons of ice cream for that they could eat. But no solid food was allowed for any of them, and of course there was baby Glenn to care for. Thank God we were all well when spring came in 1924. My father asked us to come to N.D. to farm a half section of land he had bought some years before. I didn't mind the thought of moving so much for I had spent many years in that state and knew many people there. But it was different for Ernie. Moving meant leaving his people and the community where he had grown up, and moving to a new and different area where he knew no one.
The winter had been hard for us in many ways. Till then we had been able to make a fair living on the farm we rented, but supporting a growing family left no money over. Now for four months Ernie had been unable to do anything - and fuel bills, grocery bills, and doctor bills had piled up. My daddy had helped us all winter, and we felt we owed it to him to do as he wished.
In March Ernie began making preparations for the journey. We couldn't hire trucks to move our possessions as one would do now. There were no trucks available, and if there had been, a heavily loaded truck would have bogged down on the soft trails we knew as highways. So he arranged for an "immigrant car" on the Soo Line, which had an elevator and loading platform 3 miles from our home. This car would take our belongings to Comstock a station near Harlow, N.D. There we would unload and haul our possessions home by team.
The last week of March found Ernie, his brothers and his cousin busily hauling machinery, our Fordson tractor, household goods and finally the horses and cattle were driven to the siding called "March," and loaded in the railroad car.
Ernie had a little yellow dog someone had given him the year before we were married. It was a female, but the former owner, for reasons of his own, had named her "Teddy." This little dog helped drive the cattle to the station, and when they were loaded she jumped into the car and lay down on the hay which was to feed the stock on the way. Ernie tried to get her to leave the car, but she understood perfectly that we were moving and she refused to stir. She whined softly and settled deeper into the hay. We had talked of leaving the dog with Ernie's folks for she was 8 or 9 years old, and we thought perhaps that would be best, but when she seemed to want so much to go along my kindhearted husband could not leave her behind. We were very glad in the years that followed that she was with us as she continued to be a good watch dog and faithful companion for our children for several years longer. Old age finally claimed her, and one winter night she died beside the kitchen stove, and the family mourned the passing of a good, faithful friend.
The house on the new farm had been built about 25 years before we came. It was quite well built according to standards of that era, but was not very well planned. The kitchen flooring was double soft wood, pine I think, and the top layer of boards were almost worn through in places. These boards were rough and covered with slivers. Our baby Glenn had not yet learned to walk, but he was an active child and wanted to be on the floor. The slivers tore his diapers and other clothing to strips in no time, and his seat and legs were covered with slivers. This was unthinkable so Ernie went to Minnewaukan to get linoleum to cover the kitchen floor. He used a team and single buggy for the trip. After tying the heavy roll of linoum on the buggy he started home. It had rained and there were deep ruts in the road. When he reached the land then farmed by Bennie Spidahl the spokes in the hind-wheel of the buggy broke and the wheel fell off. What should he do- After some thought he decided to take a fence post from the pasture fence beside the road and wire with which to fasten it in place so that it would support the axel where the wheel was missing. When he reached Bennie's home he stopped to tell him he had used a part of his fence to repair the buggy. This man had never seen Ernie before, but after hearing his story and realizing his predicament he promptly took a wheel from his own buggy and put it on ours. Ernie reached home without more trouble. That night after the children were in bed Ernie, my father and I fitted and installed our new floor covering. The next morning while baby Glenn played happily on a bright shiny floor Ernie returned the wheel to Mr. Spidahl, but he never forgot his kindness and help in a time of need.
There was a well on the farm but it was a long way from the house. Water was brought to the top of the well in an oaken bucket attached to a rope threaded through a pulley above the well. The water was good, but hard to get. While Ernie was preparing to put in the crop daddy set out to find a well-driller. He soon found Mr. Hogstrom who promised to dig a well for us. We soon had a good well and a 60 ft. windmill and for years our water problems were solved.
That summer we built a new barn 80 ft. long and 34 ft. wide. It meant having carpenters, and a hired man to work the fields, while Ernie and daddy hauled lumber and helped with the building. Cooking for the men and caring for the children kept me extremely busy.
We saw few neighbors that first summer. My cousin Annie Hanson and her family lived a couple of miles away, and Martin Thorson a widower, and his family lived a fourth mile north of us. We had little time to visit, but at least it was good to know they were there.
Evelyn started school that fall. She was six years old and the schoolhouse was over two miles away. Since there were two girls in the Thorson family she walked to school with them.
Ernie and I dreaded the
thought of being so far from our relatives when Christmas time
as we had always spent the holidays with both sets of relatives and we
feared the children would be very lonely. But children adapt to
conditions better he
than grown-ups do. Then
too, t 23 relatives sent cards, letters and gifts and the children were
happy. I believe Ernie and I missed our former neighbors and the
more than the children did.
As the holidays approached we heard some talk about former years when the young people had gone from house to house "Julabokking" or Christmas fooling. They said they dressed up in masquerade outfits, and went to the neighbors for short calls, and at the last place they visited would stay for the evening. I didn't pay much attention to this talk but Ernie said it sounded like fun.
One evening between Christmas
and New Year a team came into our yard pulling a high box sleigh filled
with young people (standing room only). Ernie quickly lit the lantern
went to find a place for the horses in the barn. When the young folks
in our children were frightened, but our guests soon removed their
and wraps, and the children recognized at least some of them, and all
How glad I was that Ernie loved young people, and could always put them at ease. Very soon he had them singing carols and telling stories. I was in the kitchen wondering what in the world I could find for lunch for all these unexpected guests. I'm sure there were not many goodies on hand. People didn't have deep freezers and refrigerators as we do now. They prepared food for one day at a time. We did have milk, cream, eggs and flour, so I poked up the fire and proceeded to make cream biscuits as I had so often done before in emergencies. While they were baking I found a small table which I set up in the kitchen. I sorted out the four cups which still had handles, and set the table. Soon I invited four of our guests to come and lunch on hot biscuits, butter I had churned, homemade jam and coffee; when they had finished eating I quickly washed the cups and set the table for four more till all had been served. It was all very simple I am sure, but the young folks enjoyed it, and we did too. Somehow when they left several hours later, we felt we had been accepted, and were now a part of the community. How much that meant to us then and in later years!
It was in May 1925 when we had lived in Dakota for a little over a year, that I went back to Warren and spent three weeks. While I was there our fourth child, that we decided to call Ethel Mae was born. Ernie, daddy and my niece, Myrtle Togstad, had kept the home fires burning while I was gone. What an excited happy group met me at the station when I returned bringing the new addition to our family.
Very soon we began to wonder when and where we could have her baptized. We learned that the nearest Missouri Synod churches were in Devil's Lake and New Rockford. When some of Ernie's folks visited us during the summer we took Ethel to Devil's Lake to have her baptized at the parsonage there. We still felt the need of a church home, but could not decide what to do. There was a LutheranChurch about two miles from our house. This church had been started by "Free" Church people, but was being served by Pastor Elstad of ELC who lived in Minnewaukan. Once when driving by this church our son Kenneth who was 5 or 6 years old said wistfully, "When we were in Minnesota we went in the church - here we go by the church." That settled it. We decided that whenever the services were in English we would attend church there. Gradually the Norwegian services were replaced by English ones and we joined the church. It was our church home until the church was closed many years later because so many members had passed on or moved away.
Those next years slipped
by very quickly. The older children were in school, the crops were
good and our herd of good grade holsteins was increasing - all seemed
and we were very happy.
And then came the "Thirties" - the years of drought and dust! The farmers planted their crops, while their wives planted gardens, but the rain did not fall, and the seed did not sprout. If a few plants did start to grow they soon withered and died. The grass in the pastures simply didn't grow. Patches of bare black ground showed up where grass should have grown. Ernie and I bought grass seed and planted some of the bare spots, but it did not sprout either.
There were a few stunted stalks of corn growing in the field where Ernie had planted corn, and Russian Thistle - that sturdy plant which requires little moisture - was also growing there. The farm papers said these thistle plants were nutritious so we proceeded to cut them down and store them in the silo. We found that they did not keep as corn silage did, and by the following February they smelled awful and the animals refused to eat them. The neighbors helped Ernie haul them out and spread them on the fields.
When the drought continued the following year, Ernie loaded our eight best cows into a truck and took them to Warren where his relatives cared for them till the drought ended. The government offered us $22 per head for cows and a few dollars for calves which were later slaughtered to keep them from starving to death. We sadly drove several of our animals to town where they joined others from nearby farms. We did keep a couple of milk cows in the hope we could somehow feed them till times changed.
By this time Evelyn and Kenneth had finished the eighth grade and were eager to begin high school. Ernie wanted them to have a chance for more education, but could not see how it would be possible, as they would have to stay in town where high school classes were taught. I begged him to go to Maddock to see what arrangements could be made. He went and walked around for awhile, and then sat down on a bench utterly discouraged. While he sat there a man he knew slightly sat down beside him, and soon they were talking about what was uppermost in their minds. Ernie told of his hope of finding a place where the children could stay and attend school, while the other said he owned a house in town, but no one had money for rent. He also said he had a milk route in town, but did not have enough milk for his customers. This then was the answer to our prayers. Mr. Legreid would take our cows for the winter and supply milk for his route, and we would live in his house and the older children could attend high school while Glenn and Ethel went to grade school. I would keep house and care for our youngest child Earl who was two years old. Ernie would stay on the farm and care for our horses and the house. Part of the winter his brother Art and his wife Thelma stayed with him. I still wonder how we managed to buy groceries for the family and even kept Solvig Sogge who stayed with us most of the winter and attended school.
The following year it was still dry but a little better than the year before. We rented a small house on the north edge of Maddock, and moved the family to town again. There was a small barn on the place where we kept our two cows and some chickens so they helped with the grocery bills.
The following year there was more rain, crops were better and we were able to rent an apartment in town where the children kept house for themselves while going to school.
When they finished high school in 1937 Evie was at the head of the class, and Kenney did well too, he was Sr. Class President and had the male lead in their class play and we were proud and happy. We were thankful they had been privileged to go to school when many in those hard years could not.
Evie got a job in the BensonCounty courthouse shortly after graduation, and Ken was offered a job in the Farmers Union Oil Station in Maddock. It was hard to see them leave home. In the words of Longfellow's "Hiawatha" - "So it is our children leave us just when they have learned to help us, just when we have grown to need them. " We knew that was God's Plan. Young people have their lives to live, and we were happy for them.
After working for Bert
Salisbury for over three years Evie quit and went to school in Fargo.
graduated as a Home Economist, and began teaching. After teaching two
she married Harvey Piper and lived on a farm close by our home. They
two children - Estelle and Ronald. She has continued to teach and I'm
has had a good influence on the lives of many many young people.
Kenneth continued to work for Farmers Union, as a field worker in N.D., Washington, and Kansas; also served as president of the Iowa Farmers Union, and the last several years as an insurance agent in S.D. He married Mamie Roos and they have two children.
Glenn started high school in 1936. That year we decided to spend the Christmas vacation at Warren, so we drove down in our Ford car, to Ernie's parents home. Glenn seemed to be having chills when we got there and kept close to the stove all evening. On Christmas day he had quite a fever and we called the doctor out to see him. This was Dr. Blegen - the man who had been Ernie's doctor when he had typhoid. He said Glenn had double pneumonia, and would have to stay in bed. Back home our neighbors were doing our chores and caring for the place, but we had promised to return within three days. There was nothing to do, but for Ernie to take the family home while I stayed to care for Glenn. The doctor came every day but Glenn's fever kept rising, and we knew he was a very sick boy. Almost a week later he was so ill the doctor promised to come again in the evening bringing a new medicine he wasn't too sure about as he had not used it enough to know how it would act. I believe it was either penicillin or sulfa drug, but never did know for when the doctor came that evening, he took one look at Glenn and said, "You don't need any different medicine." The crisis had passed and Glenn steadily improved from then on. On the 17th of January - Earl's birthday - the Hickman brothers brought us home. Ethel had stayed home from school to care for Earl and had baked him a nice birthday cake which was waiting when we reached home. What a happy reunion that was!
I have mentioned somewhere before in this narrative that the house on the farm was not well planned. That was a gross understatement of fact. It seemed that many people of the time when the house had been built, decided how large a house they could afford and the general shape of the exterior but gave no thought to the number or size of the rooms which were to be inside. This house was sturdy and well built; there were four rooms on the first floor, but only two on the second floor which had the same amount of floor space. There was not a single clothes closet in the whole house, and absolutely no storage space except a small rock-lined cellar under the middle of the house. We had no time or money to make any changes so we just moved in and tried to make the best of what we had. The following winter we hired a carpenter to cut an archway in the west wall of the kitchen so that we could use the adjoining room as a dining room without going around through the living room to get to the table. We also had him build a cupboard in which to store our dishes. These improvements helped a lot.
But it was the upstairs that really troubled us. The east and west walls in these rooms were only three feet high, and on the top of each wall the lower edge of a very steep roof rested. This left sufficient headroom in the middle of the room, but if you went a few steps to either side, your head bumped the ceiling. Yes, the south room had been ceiled with wide boards, full of knots which the children would lie in bed and count. The north room had been back plastered but nothing more had been done. Snow sifted in around the windows.
It seemed there was no way to make these rooms more serviceable unless we could add a few feet to the height of the walls. There was no money for this so we waited - we waited twenty years. By then our older children were grown and impatient to get something done.
We consulted the two carpenters who were in our area asking if it would be possible to raise the sides of the roof. One said it could not be done without taking the roof all apart and completely rebuilding it, but the other -Albert Nottestad - said he believed it could be done, and he would be willing to try it but simply could not leave the work he had promised to do. Our son Kenneth had set his heart on this remodeling and said if Albert would give him some advice he would do the job himself. They sat down one evening and planned how it could be done without too large a risk, and it was decided to start as soon as possible. Our men went to town and got the lumber, nails and some jacks which carpenters use to lift floors, etc. They found chains and ropes, and when everything was ready asked some of our near neighbors to come to help.
On a bright beautiful morning the neighbors arrived. I can still see them standing in that low upstairs - eager, expectant and a little fearful -wondering what the result would be. They nailed planks to the undersides of the roof and tied the two sides together with chains and ropes. They then set the jarzks in place ready to lift the lower edges of the roof, and Kenny, eager and enthusiastic, took his brand new saw and climbed up on the roof where he proceeded to saw the ridge pole free from the sides of the roof while our men and their helpers observed. Slowly and carefully the men turned the jacks and lifted the edges of the roof over two feetabove the original place where it had rested. The roof was much flatter now, but still was steep enough to give good drainage. With what haste and glee they climbed up to lengthen the 2 x 4's which would support the roof and the new walls, while some helped Ken nail a new ridge-pole in place.
By the time dinner was ready the most risky part of the task had been completed. They ate a hasty meal and went out to add the new parts of the walls. Our dream had become a reality. Of course, only the shell was finished. It took several months to put up new partitions to make four new rooms, with clothes-closets in each. We had sliding doors for each room and each closet, and also had a nice hallway. The ugly old chimney was enclosed and even a broom closet was put in. It all took many hours of hard work, but how happy we were with the results. And what a family project it had been. All were proud and happy that we tried "the thing that couldn't be done," and had done it. And how thankful we all were that the Lord had blessed us with good weather when our roof had been dangling over our heads supported by little beside prayer.
All this happened about
forty years ago, but the house with its remodeled roof is still
It has withstood many storms and high winds which broke down large
but the roof is still there.
Certainly this story would not be complete if I failed to mention an organization which had so great an impact on our lives - "The Farmers Union. "
How well I remember the day we first heard about this organization. It was on a beautiful afternoon in the spring of 1926 - little more than two years after we had moved to North Dakota. Ernie was working in a field very close to the house when a man drove up, and started to visit with him. For about two hours they continued to talk while the horses enjoyed an unexpected rest. I couldn't imagine what could be of such importance that Ernie would spend such a lovely afternoon just talking while so much work needed to be done.
When the man finally left Ernie came to the house and explained that this man was one of several then working in the state trying to get all farmers to unite into a union which would seek to better the status of all farmers in the state - he was much interested in what the man had told him of the dream of a better and more prosperous future for farm people. I remember I was not too impressed. This man had said he would come again the following day and wanted to talk with both of us.
When he came we were busy in the granary cleaning seed grain with a fanning mill which was standard equipment on all farms of that period. He spoke very convincingly of the hopes and dreams of the leaders of this movement, and said we should attend a meeting which would soon be held to discuss the subject.
A couple of days later Mr. & Mrs. Sib Haagenstad paid us a visit. They, too, had been approached by the farmers union field worker, and had come to ask us to a meeting in their schoolhouse. At this meeting on our wedding anniversary, June 28th 1926 1 was asked to serve as secretary of the local formed that night. We paid our dues and became members of the organization, and have been members ever since.
Looking back over the years I cannot help marveling at the changes the years have brought - changes in the social and economic status of farm people.
The people who lived in North Dakota had known few advantages. Many had come from European countries - they had to learn a new language, and many had little education, but they were strong, able people who were willing to work very hard and were contented with what they had. People who lived in town tended to look upon the farmers as an inferior group of people who were incapable of running a business or holding a public office. In most cases the farm people themselves accepted this class distinction, and referred to themselves as "just farmers."
Town-people often took advantage of those who farmed, charging more for goods and services than was fair. Now farm people gathered in local meetings and listened to gifted speakers tell them they should pool their resources and form cooperatives to supply their needs. It was a new and startling concept, but the people - especially the younger ones - were fascinated by the idea. They began to dream of a time when they would own their own creameries, and gas stations and elevators. And in the years that followed they proved their ability to run these cooperatives successfully. They have proven to their own satisfaction as well, that they are not an inferior class of people, but are endowed by their Creator with as much ability as anyone else. On that long ago day when the idea of a farmer union first was brought to us how little we realized what it would mean as an important portion of our lives.
From the very first we became involved in the farmers union program. We attended meetings, and Ernie spent much time and effort in getting various cooperatives started and running smoothly. With few exceptions these are still doing a large volume of business. When I think back over the years and recall how we, like so many others, saved nickels and dimes so that we might be able to buy shares in cooperatives we hoped to start, and now realize what these cooperatives have grown to be, I am proud and happy that we had a share in starting them. I have before me this years report of the Maddock Credit Union, started in 1941, with a capitol of $2,458.40.Now in 1977, it was worth $2,804,085.84. And this is but one of the many cooperatives in our community. Yes, I am proud I was able to help, in some small way, to bring a more prosperous life to our community. I served our local as junior leader for several years, teaching our young people the purpose and value of cooperatives - also served as county junior leader, and still am secretary-treasurer of our rather inactive local. A very important part of all local meetings were the programs put on by special speakers, and members of the locals. One of the first years when our local put on a program in our schoolhouse one number was a skit I had found in a magazine. This skit was so well received we decided to give a play the following year. We chose a play called "Hans von Smash." Ernie had the leading part. This play and several other numbers put on by members of the local, were greatly enjoyed by a large crowd. We decided to make putting on a play an annual event. Much work and pleasure went into choosing and practicing these plays during the next ten years. They brought much pleasure into long winter evenings when television was still unknown in our area. Large crowds attended these plays and they are still spoken of by the older people of this community. The plays put on by our local were certainly different from the plays one sees on television today. They didn't show violence or crime as a way of life, but rather showed humorous situations that arise from misunderstandings or misinformation. I remember one play called "Here Comes Charley." In this play "Charley" was the young heir of a deceased citizen of the community who was expected to take possession of the estate and make his home there. Elaborate plans were made to welcome the young heir, but had to hurriedly be changed when "Charley" turned out to be a lovely, vivacious young lady. Plays of this sort sent the audience home happy and satisfied. Ernie was our best actor as he seemed to know instinctively what would please the audience, and he had a good part in every play.
These were busy, happy years. The children had school and school activities; we all had our church with church suppers and fancy work sales to earn the pastors salary, and F.U. meetings and cooperative meetings. Ernie served for 15 years on the Co. Soil Conservation board, besides all the other meetings.
But ours was a very happy home where love reigned supreme. We worked and played together.
It was during this time that we first read about a day that was to be set apart to honor Mothers. None of us had heard of this special day before and really didn't understand what it meant. I remember on that first Mother's Day we talked it over in the morning. We did not have services in our church that Sunday so Ernie and I decided we would relax and rest as we had had a busy week. The children did not think they wanted to spend a long quiet day at home, so suggested going to church at Leeds since their friends had told them they were having a special service for the day. We said that was fine and they took turns washing faces and shaving at the washstand in the kitchen, for of course, we did not have a bathroom at that time. When they were ready and drove off, I picked up the extra towels and tydied up the kitchen. Ernie said, "The children won't be here, so don't bother with dinner. We'll just have a sandwich and some coffee, and relax." That suited me fine. We finished our lunch and took the dishes to the kitchen, and saw a car coming into the yard. In the car were Ernie's brother Art, his wife and three children. They were a little apologetic for having come late for dinner, saying there had been so many people who had come for the Mother's Day program that church had lasted longer than usual. We said we had already had lunch, but I'd fix some for them. When they had finished lunch another car came bringing my brother George, his wife and two girls. They were hungry so I put on the table whatever I could find in the rather bare cupboard, and they ate.
We spent the afternoon visiting and playing with the two sets of children. And because of the rather skimpy noon meal, I prepared a good supper for our nine guests. By the time the dishes were done, and the guests had departed it was time for the evening chores eggs had to be gathered, chicks fed, and cows milked. When I went wearily to bed that night, I wondered about Mother's special day. Now when I've enjoyed so many happy, restful "Mother's Days" it's fun to remember my first one.
But now to get back to our family history after discussing social and economic changes that have taken place during the years.
Glenn was the first of our children to marry. He married Lucille Bernhardson, on June 11th 1944, at Comstock, Minnesota. They farmed a couple of years and then he started working for Floyd Poyzer at Amenia, where Floyd managed a grain elevator. Later he moved to Farmington, Minnesota, and has for the last several years been general manager of several cooperatives in Farmington. They have raised four children: Cheryl, Luan, James and Marinell and now have four grandchildren.
Ethel taught school for
a couple of years before marrying Harlan Helgeson. They live on the
which used to belong to his parents. They have two girls - now both
and have homes of their own.
Earl, our youngest, was in the Air Force. He spent two years in Alaska during his term of service. When he finished that he worked at television stations in Florida and Indianapolis. He married Joan Miner at Indianapolis in 1956. He now has his own production center where he makes films and tapes for various companies. They have four children and a grandchild.
During the years while our family was growing up Ernie and I worked very hard taking little time out for vacations. When the children were grown with homes of their own we spent more time traveling. Our first long trip was to Earl's wedding.
We spent one winter in Denver while Kenny and Mamie lived there. We rented an apartment for three months. While there we learned that classes for adults were being given in a number of subjects. We enrolled in a class in upholstering furniture. This was really fun as we had a gifted teacher, who taught us many things which have helped us in the years that have gone by. And it made the winter much more pleasant.
Earl and Joan lived in Florida for several years. We visited them three times while they were there and what pleasant visits those were. We went sight-seeing in lands that were new and strange to us, and appreciated having summer in the winter time.
In 1962 we spent the winter at Yuma, Arizona. Ethel and Harlan and their little girls were there as well as his parents. We rented an apartment and joined a Senior Citizens group which we enjoyed. These trips have been pleasant memories through the years.
Ernie had suffered from high blood pressure in his later years and did not feel as well as formerly. I certainly did not realize how serious his condition- was becoming for he had no serious sick spells. In September, we took a trip to eastern North Dakota, to visit relatives there, and at Warren. He enjoyed that so much. Shortly after his return he decided to dig our potatoes which were still in the garden. I had been at Evie's that afternoon but as soon as I returned I joined him in the garden. We had worked only a few minutes when he moaned and fell forward. I ran to the house and called Evie for I could tell he did not hear me speaking to him. They came at once, as did Harlan and Ethel and together we put him in the car and took him to the hospital. He regained consciousness and was able to talk with us at times, but he lived only nineteen days after that first stroke. He died on October 10th 1963. That is over fourteen years ago, but he will never be forgotten. He was a wonderful husband and father and a good, kind neighbor to all who knew him. Someday, I feel sure we will meet him again where there will be no parting.
Harvey and Evie moved in with me and stayed for about five years after Ernie's death. They continued to farm their land and ours, and still do. Then they moved to their own home, and I went to spend the winter with Ethel and Harlan. That was in 1968. My brother George died in February, and his triplet brother Fred died about a month later. My sister Lillie who had kept house for them came to live with me. We stayed on the farm in summer and moved into the Senior Citizen units for the winter months, for a few years.
I had the misfortune to slip on an icy sidewalk in February 1973, and broke my hip and right wrist, so was in the hospital for a month. When I came home my sister kept house, and the county nurse cared for me till I was able to get around again. That was five years ago. I'm able to care for myself now, and am in good health.
My sister Lillie passed away on Dec. 30th 1973. She had cared for me during my illness, but high blood pressure and some infection sent her to the hospital about two months before she died. Five of my family are buried in the Minnewaukan Lutheran cemetery. I alone remain of our large family. Since her death I have lived alone here in these units.
During these years I have gone on many wonderful trips with my children. Once I went with Harvey and Evie to visit Kenny and Mamie in Iowa, then on to Indianapolis to see Earl and Joan and children, and visited Glenn and Lucille in Minneapolis - a most enjoyable trip.
I also went with Ken, Mamie and family to Vancouver, British Columbia, about four years ago, and a year and a half later to Mexico City, and this past summer I went with them to Lake Tahoe, and we toured many of the western states.
Last fall I accompanied
Glenn and Lucille on a wonderful trip to Washington, D.C., and spent a
week with their daughter Cheryl and her family at Renton, Virginia.
a wonderful trip that was! I had always wanted to see our nation's
and visit the spot where the first settlers landed. We spent
in Williamsburg, where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated and
historic spots there.
I made several short journeys with Ethel and Harlan. As all of these trips were made by car one gets to see much of our wonderful country. I would like to see the New England states sometime, and perhaps- New York City.
I am very thankful to God for the good health that has made these journeys possible and wonderful. I'm also very grateful to my children and their spouses for taking such good care of me on these tours. Without their patient help and concern for my welfare I could not have had these experiences.
When I'm here in the units I spend many happy hours with friends and my children who drop in often. I love our Senior Citizen's group and its activities. I belong to St. Olaf Church and its women's organizations, but when I don't have a ride to church in the country I attend St. Peter's here in town where I always feel welcome.
My time is spent doing hand work of many kinds, and the days pass swiftly by. I'm very thankful for each day that I am well and able to share the joys and sorrows of those about me. May the good Lord continue to guide and direct me till He calls me home.
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