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February 10, 1964

I’ve been thinking for some time of writing down, as much as I can remember, of what my mother has told me, about her parents. I wrote to Uncle Dan, my mother’s youngest brother and he sent me the following; (taken from and old family bible.)

Peder Austenson was born in Numedal, Norway in 1782.

Kari Haagesdatter born in 1792 in Numedal.

These were the parents of my grandfather Peterson, and his brothers and sisters as follows:

Haagen born May 23, 1816

Austen born Jan. 11, 1820

Herbrand born March 19, 1823

Anne born Sept. 29, 1827

Andrew born Oct. 4, 1832

Andrew was my mother’s father. They were all born in Numedal, Norway. They used the name, Gaarden Aarud. This must have been the name of the locality or estate in Numedal. My grandfather was given the name Peterson because he was Peter’s son. His name should have been Austenson or Aarud. Grandpa and two brothers, Austen and Herbrand came to America when he was 17 yrs. old in 1849. He married my grandma in Mineral Point, Wisconsin in 1856. Her name was Helge Nilsdatter- later the name was Helen Lee. She came to America with her three brothers, John, Tom & Ole. Grandma was born June 10, 1835 in Norway. We don’t know if she left any relatives in Norway, bur Grandpa left a sister and brother over there.

Now, I’ll go to Andrew Peterson and Helen Lee’s children.

Kari (Carrie) born Mar. 17, 1857

Julie born Oct. 23, 1858

Annie, (my mother) born Oct. 6, 1860

Maggie born March 25, 1863

Peter, born Oct. 18th 1864, died Oct. 24, 1871

Nelson, born Feb. 14, 1867, died Dec. 7, 1885

John Henry, Dec. 31, 1868, died 1869

Helen Jane, born June 8, 1870, died Oct. 12, 1871

Peter Henry born Aug. 21, 1872, died 19 ?

John T. born Oct. 29, 1874, died 1894

Andrew (Andy), born Apr. 16, 1877, died 1961

Daniel Alfred, born Sept. 27, 1880

Note that 5 children died quite young. I remember Aunt Carrie, Aunt Julie, Aunt Maggie, Uncle Pete, Andy and Dan real well. Aunt Carrie died in California while staying with some of her children. Aunt Julie also lived in Calif. When she died. Aunt Maggie lived all her life in Wisconsin and Uncle Pete died in Wisconsin. Uncle Andy died in Canada. At this time Uncle Dan lives in California.

I don’t know the exact date of death of any of them. When Grandpa came to America, there were very few railroads and he and his brothers walked from their point of landing to Wisconsin. They bought a farm in Grant County, near Preston. There the older children were born.

Later, he sold out and bought a farm in Iowa County, near Edmund. He was a very kind and very honest man. Grandma was a kind, gentle person. They both belonged to the Lutheran Church. They spoke English quite well.

Grandpa could read it, but Grandma couldn’t read English. I remember so often seeing her sit in her willow rocking chair, reading her Norwegian bible.

The girls being older than the boys, had to help Grandpa in the field, milk cows and all the work that boys ordinarily did. Aunt Carrie married Julius Hanson and lived near Watson, Minnesota, so later on, my mother went to stay with her. There she met and fell in love with Annanias Stennes, who she later married. When she got engaged she went home to Wisconsin to prepare for her wedding. They were married Dec. 29, 1883 and lived on a farm 3 miles north of Milan, Minnesota. I think my father traded a team of horses for this farm. This had been homestead land, at that time they called them “timber claims” as, when a person filed on a quarter of a section, he was obliged to plant a certain number of trees, I would say about 10 acres.

On my Dad’s place, was mostly cottonwoods. These were planted North and West of the house and barn for a wind break, as they had some awful snow storms in Minnesota.

When it looked like there would be a blizzard, they would tie a small rope on the side of the house and the other end on the barn, so they wouldn’t get lost.

Alvin, Elma and I were born on this place. When I was about 2 yrs. old, my Dad rented the farm and we moved to Milan and he worked for Tom Anderson in the hardware store. Nora was born in Milan. My Dad had a house built in town. Four large rooms downstairs and 4 upstairs. He planned to rent out the upstairs rooms. We were in the new house only a few months when he got sick and died in a short time. There was no doctor in Milan, but the doctor came from Appleton on the train. I was only 3 yrs. old when he died, but I remember a few things about him real well. He died Sept. 30, 1892. He was only 32 yrs. old. Left Ma with four children.

Grandma & Grandpa Peterson came from Wisconsin and helped Ma get things settled. Then Alvin went to stay with Grandma Stennes for the winter and Ma took us girls with her to Wisconsin. We stayed at Grandpa Petersons all winter.

I don’t remember very much about that winter, but remember coming back to Grandma Stennes in the spring. I was waiting so to see Alvin and he had grown so much, I didn’t recognize him. Then we moved back to our house in Milan. Think things were pretty rough for mother. It was hard to get a good honest man on the farm. I remember one fall, Uncle Pete came, was there when they threshed the wheat. They sold some to put in a supply of coal for winter, etc.

Uncle Pete said there would be wheat left to sell in the Spring. When spring came, Mother hired 2 men with high top wagon boxes to haul her wheat in. They came back, said the granary had been broken into and swept clean. The renter pretended to know nothing about it.

We always had everything we needed and as far as us kids were concerned, we had a good time.

Mr. And Mrs. Tom Anderson were real good friends. I know for years, when Mrs. Anderson got material for “best dresses” for her girls, she bought for all us girls too. One nice dress for Xmas and one in the spring.

We would all go to Watson a couple of times a year or more and stay a week with Grandma Stennes. It was so different than at Grandma Peterson’s. Grandma Stennes treated us as guests. She always had a “hired girl”, who done most of the work. Grandma was always dressed so prim and proper.

We liked to go to Aunt Martha’s, just a quarter of a mile from there. They had several children and we all had a good time.

Ma used to manage to go when the gooseberries were ready to be picked. Then again to gather plums.

Aunt Carrie lived close to us in Milan, which made it nice too. They had a large family. When I was 8 yrs. old, we spent the winter in Wisconsin again. Uncle Andy was married then and I thought his wife, Priscilla was the most beautiful girl I ever saw. They were there at Grandpas too for the winter. Early in; the spring, they rented a farm and moved not far from Grandpa. Aunt Maggie was also married. I loved to go and stay a few days at the time with her. Think that trip was the first time I saw apples on the tree. Andy and Dan gathered

a lot of nuts, black walnuts, butternuts, hazelnuts and pecans. We always had a lot of nuts, apples and popcorn in the evening. There were large lovely pine trees around the house. It was all so different from the Minnesota prairies. We went to a little country school that winter. I also saw my first Blue Jays and squirrels and turkeys.

Aunt Julie and family lived a few miles from Grandpas. She was so sweet and gentle, never scolded. They had nine children, mostly girls and we had some good times together.

One of the greatest attractions for me on Grandpa’s farm was the old rail fences. It was built zigzag, Dad calls it a worm fence. Grandpa made all four of us ski’s that winter, made from old hickory. We had lots of fun going over snowdrifts and over the rail fence to Aunt Maggie’s.

When spring came, we went back to Milan. We attended the Lutheran Church, Norwegian. Went to Sunday school every Sunday, attended services and back to church again in the evening. I always liked to go to school, and liked to recite or sing at the Literary Society.

During the summer, we had 4 weeks, sometimes 6 weeks of Norwegian Bible School. Alvin was a very good student, was very quiet, didn’t go in for sports, would rather stay in at recess and help some other scholar who had trouble keeping up with the class. He worked with Grandpa Stennes on the farm during the summer vacation. One fall,Henry Lee came and stayed all winter. He had Asthma real bad and they thought the climate would help him and it did. He wasn’t bothered with it at all that fall. Then later on, in 1900, Allie Lee came and stayed until May 1901. I remember the date because I went back to Wisconsin with her. Uncle Pete and Aunt Jennie had a little girl, Helen, about a year and a half old and he wrote that they wanted me to help out with the house work and take care of Helen. They would pay me 50 cents a week.

That sounded great to me, as the year before I helped the woman on our farm and only got 25 cents a week. It was just fun for me to take care of a baby. I had to keep my own room clean, always done the dish washing, some sweeping and part of the ironing. In fact, was busy most of the time.

Aunt Jennie had taught school before getting married and was very particular. Not much fun to be with all the time. Aunt Sill burned her hand making jelly, so I had to go and stay with her a week, to wash dishes and help her. She was so much fun that the time went so fast and I didn’t mind the work.

Then sometime thru the summer, they had 4 weeks of Bible School in the little Bethlehem Church, not far from Aunt Maggie’s, so they decided that Ma would like for me to attend that. I stayed with Aunt Maggie then.

Later, when the blackberries ripened, Aunt Julie wanted me over at her house. All their children picked berries and took them to town and sold them. She said I could pick too and she would sell them for me. I don’t remember what we got for them, but I bought a new hat and my first pair of slippers, and little white gloves. I felt quite dressed up. Then I went back to Aunt Jennies until school began that fall.

Mabel Lee taught school at a little country schoolhouse. I went to school there for a few months. Later, Ma, Alvin, Elma and Nora came and we stayed at Grandmas and us girls went to the Edmund School. Alvin worked for Uncle Pete one year. We had lots of fun that winter, the young people would all gather at one of the houses and play games. It was just like dancing, only we would sing. Sometimes, Uncle Andy played the violin, Aunt Sill, the guitar and Uncle Dan chord on the organ.

Whenever all us girls got together, we would gather around the organ and sing hymns. The year we stayed with Grandpa Peterson, I took music lessons from Professor Bahl. We always ate dinner at Grandmas so my lessons were only 25 cents each. One little waltz I played, “Frolic of the Frogs” was Grandpa’s favorite. If Grandma came in the room then, he would grab her and waltz her around. He was so jolly, had such a good laugh.

Just before Xmas he came home from town one day, said some little boys followed him around and finally asked, “Was he Santa Claus?”

He had a long white beard and wore a cap and fur coat. I can imagine what a time he had with them then, when they thought he was Santa.

Uncle Dan was at home then, working in the depot. Later on, he was depot agent in several different towns. After he was married, he was in the bank in Edmund, then moved to California and sold real estate until he retired some years ago.

In the spring of 1903, Alvin wanted to try farming for a while, so Ma decided to move to the farm near Milan. Alvin had saved most of his money, working for Uncle Pete. He bought a team and wagon and Ma got a cow, pigs and chickens. I thought it was wonderful to have a place of our own and I’m sure they all felt the same.

Elma helped with the housework. Ma done all she could to help Alvin and Nora and I done all we could to help with anything around the barn.

Alvin made quite a few improvements, some on the house and barn and built a new granary. That first summer I went in every Thursday to the Lutheran Church for instructions and was confirmed in November. That fall, Mabel Lee and Roy Rule came from Wisconsin and spent several weeks for his health. He was quite a pest. I was glad when he went home.

I had to walk 3 miles to Milan to school. Nora was sick a lot and not able to walk so far. When Alvin wasn’t busy with the horses, we would drive in and put up our horse in a barn. When the snow got too deep and it got too cold to go, we both had to stay at home.

Cousin Joe Anderson came from Watson to visit and he asked Ma if I couldn’t go and stay at their house and go to school. They had a large family, but nobody seemed to think that one more would matter, so I went down there and stayed awhile. They went to a country school, had about 6 children to take to school, so we all piled in the sleigh and had fun out of it all. While there, I took the county exams and done real well. My teacher was Bert Whitmore. That fall he was going around the county, he was running for County Superintendent. He met Elma over at Cousin Albert Hansons, asked her if she would like to teach a country school. She didn’t know what to make of it, cause she didn’t know him, so she told him she wasn’t interested in teaching. She never liked school like I did. After she left, he told Albert, “she passed some good exams last spring.” Albert told him he was talking to the wrong girl. It was me that went to school down there. He said if I wanted to teach, to get in touch with him. I was all for it, but Ma thought I was too young.Think country school teachers got about $40.00 a month. A person could teach the First Semester, then take Teachers Exam and if you passed, just go on teaching, go to Summer school. I figured that was the only way I would get to go on with my education. There we lots of hardships, boarding here and there, whoever would keep the “school mom”. Maybe walk a mile to the schoolhouse, build your own fire, so I didn’t get to try for that.

I went to school in Milan part of that winter, as there were some subjects I needed more help. Professor Road was such a help, especially to anyone that really wanted to learn.

All my schoolmates that could afford to went to Windom Institute at Montevideo or Madison Normal, but it wasn’t possible for me to go as tuition and board and room was too high, so that was the end of school.

The summer I was 15, Aunt Emelia wrote that she was going to teach 1 month of Norwegian Bible school and would I come to take care of her little girl, Ellen, about 2 yrs. old. She lived at Myers, a small town about 20 miles from Milan. I went down on the train, wasn’t very many cars then. The only car in Milan was Dr. Burns one seated Ford.

Uncle Melius run a general store in Myers and they lived upstairs over the store. His brother, Peter, stayed with them and worked in the store. I had most of the house work to do and all the baking. I grew real fond of little Ellen.

Aunt Emelia took me to choir practice and suggested that I sing in the choir. Aunt Emelia and I sang alto and Uncle Melius, tenor. They had a horse and buggy and we used to take drives in the evening down the river road, was very pretty.

When the term of school was over, they took me to Grandma Stennes’ on Sunday and I stayed there a few days before going home.

Elma was working for Grandma that summer. She got 1.50 a week. That’s what Aunt Emelia paid me.

Ma and Nora had papered the little living room at home, done a little painting and oh! How nice and cozy it looked to me. I didn’t know how homesick I had been until I came home. Guess the people in it make the home. We didn’t have much furniture. An organ, an old home made sofa, a couple of rocking chairs. That’s about it. Elma used to tell people in later years how wiggly the old sofa was. We were used to it and knew just where to sit. On summer John Thomper was coming to help Alvin in haying. He was from a pretty well to do family and we tried to spruce things up a little. Elma told me, “Now, if John sits down on that end of the sofa, you manage to sit on the other, so it won’t pop up.” It was quite a worry, but we managed and he never found out how rickety the old thing was.

He was a piano player, but couldn’t play the organ, so he always wanted me to play the organ and sing. I was always ready. I’m sure he enjoyed that. Ha!

When the wheat was ready to cut, Alvin cut it with a binder. Ma, Nora and I shocked. The binder cut and bound the wheat in little bundles. We set up 10 bundles in a bunch, that was “shocking it.”

It was hot, hard work. Earlier, we would walk thru the wheat field and pull up the wild mustard. When the yellow blossoms came out, it was easy to find. There was also quite a lot of wild oats. When we saw that in a field, the next year we would plant corn on that piece of ground. Then when the wild oats headed out, we would walk down the rows and pull it up. So, we got rid of it pretty easy.

We didn’t have much recreation like the young people of today. A few picnics, church social and school entertainment. Alvin liked to go to town and watch the ball games.

One fall, Grandma Peterson and Aunt Maggie came from Wisconsin and stayed a few weeks. In 1903, when we left Wisconsin to go on the farm, Aunt Maggie and Uncle Peter wanted me to stay with them. They said they would get me a piano and give me lessons. Also send me to Dodgeville High School. That was really a good opportunity, but, I was so anxious to go back to Minnesota and have a home of our own and Ma didn’t like the idea of leaving me, so we let that go by.


MEMORIES by Mabel Stennes-Stone

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