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Grandmother Peterson [1] - By Winfield Forsberg [2]
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The story of Grandmother Peterson is a story of the pioneers who settled the prairies of Nicollet and Sibley Counties shortly after the Civil War. She and Grandfather Peterson were among the courageous pioneers who helped to build a thriving civilization of an expansive prairie.

Clara Yden [3] was born August 3, 1848 at Askryd, Forsamblig, Astergotland [4], Sweden. Her father died when she was only 10 years of age leaving her mother to care for a family of three girls and three boys. Clara received a common school education and in the earlier years assisted her mother at home.

As Clara became older, she secured work on a large dairy farm where her industry soon placed her in the position of manager of butter and cheese production. It is said that she assisted her brother, K.A. Yden to pay for his University education by doing various sorts of odd jobs.

During these years she met and became engaged to Andrew Peterson and together they decided to emigrate to America. Andrew and Gustaf Lindberg [5], a brother-in-law to Clara left ing May, 1868. Reaching America, they proceeded to Vermont, Illinois where they found work and sent word back home asking Clara and her sister to join them.

In the fall of 1868, Clara Yden and her sister, Mrs. Lindberg [6], with the four Lindberg children started for America. They spent three weeks in crossing the ocean and after reaching this Country proceeded to Chicago. Their tickets entitled them to passage to Vermont, Illinois, but they had misjudged their expenses and were stranded there without any money for food and other expenses. Cold, hungry, and bewildered, they found that they had a long wait for a train to Vermont. A strange gentleman noticed their plight and inquiring in Swedish learned their story. Possessed of a kind heart, he gave them food and all possible assistance. In later years, Grandmother spoke often of this man's kindness.

Shortly after reaching Vermont, Grandmother married Andrew Peterson and the young couple established a home at that location. Their first son John [7] was born there. During their second year at Vermont, they heard alluring stories about free land in Minnesota and received a letter from a friend John Swanboom urging them to join him. So, in 1870 they moved to Minnesota.

After reaching the Swanboom home in Nicollet County, the family lived with these folks until Grandfather secured a homestead a few miles further North in Sibley County. They found the country a gently rolling plain destitute of trees except along river and lake shores. Paths winding along the higher ground between sloughs served as roadways. Deer roamed along the Minnesota River bottoms and prairie chicken, wild duck and geese were very abundant in the many sloughs and lakes. Fish were abundant in deep clear water in nearby lakes. Indians passed occasionally on their hunting trips to Swan Lake.

The thick prairie grass spoke of the rich virgin soil and grass roots were so strong and matted that it needed two oxen teams to turn a shallow 14 inch furrow. It is said that the roots broke apart with a cracking sound that could be heard for a long distance. Many blistered hands and tired feet were needed to break up that sod!

The fibrous prairie sod was a blessing because timber was very scarce and high priced due to the transportation problem. Therefore, most settlers used sod huts as walls for their homes during the early years. The sod was cut into strips and used as building blocks for the walls. Holes were left in the walls for doors and windows and the roof consisted of long poles covered with hay. Rough boards were used for floors, doors, window frames, and for some furniture.

Grandmother moved into such a sod home located on the Southeast slope of a large hill near the West boundary of their homestead. Today, this land is described as the East one-half of the Northeast Quarter (E½ NE¼) of Section Thirty-two, Cornish Township, Sibley County.

Grandmother found the new home a great contrast to her old. The sod walls, rough floors, and all the other inconveniences of pioneer life was discouraging. Firewood was scarce and often twisted grass was the only thing available. Water was lifter from a shallow well by means of a long pole which had a bent hook on one end to hold a water pail. Most of the furniture was homemade and there were no trees to offer shade in the summer or windbreak in the winter time. Huge drifts of snow often covered the hut in winter time and isolated the family from neighbors. The closest town was New Ulm about 12 miles to the South.

Grandmother and Grandfather accepted these hardships as necessary and set about building a better future for themselves and their children. The first few years were extremely difficult with plenty of land but no money to buy equipment to operate it. Some oxen and a plow were rented the first few years from neighbors and used to break some new ground. Each year, new land was added to the old fields and some new equipment purchased with the extra earnings. However, there was not enough land under plow to first few years to support the family so Grandfather sought work in the older settlements at Litchfield and New Auburn. Thus, Grandmother had a double task at home not only caring for the young family and housework but also doing much of the farming. She churned butter, spun yarn, knitted clothes, and during the harvest would tie grain as Grandfather cut it with a scythe.

It is said that Grandmother became a citizen of the United States at New Ulm in 1871 [8].

In 1874, the family had about 10 acres of crops planted. Prospects were good and everyone expected a bumper harvest. Then on July 4, the settlers had their first experience with the Rocky Mountain Locust. A strange dark cloud came out of the Southwest bringing with it millions of locusts. They literally rolled over the land as the Locusts in the rear kept rising over those in the front and then settled down to ravish the crops.

The settlers tried in vain to scare the Locusts away from the crops but everything was devoured except a certain kind of prairie grass which they apparently did not relish. The Locust returned with diminishing severity in 1875 and 1876 making these terrible years for all of the settlers. Fortunately, some prairie grass was left to feed the cattle and there was also an abundance of wild game. They were forced to borrow money to buy additional food and clothing but the only security that they could give was their home. Finally, the Locusts were gone and they were able to begin repaying the debts and to start developing their home.

They built their first wood frame house about 1877. It was only a two-room house but a great improvement over their former home. A windbreak of Cottonwood, Willow, and Box Elder trees was planted and also an orchard of plum trees.

During these early years, Grandmother formed enduring friendships with her closest neighbors which included the Strom, Lind, Wedin, Holmquist, Swanboom, and Nels Johanson families. Her best friend was Mrs. Gustaf Lind, mother of former Governor John Lind [9]. Grandmother's high regard for Mrs. Lind is shown by the following incident.

A few years before her death, Grandmother suffered greatly from diabetes and neuritis with a great deal of pain which often caused her to wonder if her God had forsaken her. She had suffered untold hardships throughout her life and now in her last years, she had great physical pain. One night she fell asleep and dreamed that she had entered the Heavenly Kingdom. An angel led her into a beautiful room and she said, "Am I worthy of such a home as this?" Then she entered a second room more beautiful that the first. "I certainly am not worthy of this." She continued to be led through various rooms each more beautiful than the other. She could not visualize her right to enter such a home. The Angel led her into the last room and there was Mrs. Lind. "Now I know that I am really in Heaven" said Grandmother "My toils and hardships are nothing in face of this reward."

A characteristic of all pioneer people was the open door of hospitality. Their homes were always open to anyone hungry or in need.

Grandmother had been brought up under the strict guidance of the Swedish Lutheran Church with her family all strict members of that faith. Her brother, K. A. Yden became one of the outstanding Lutheran preachers of the Swedish State Church. Therefore, it was only natural that you join the Lutheran Church in America. Deeply religious, by nature, she and Grandfather attended the Bernadotte Lutheran Church. However, in 1876 an incident occurred that led her to change her religious affiliation. The early settlers took turns in caring for older and destitute people and such a lady was staying at our Grandparents' home that summer. This lady also belonged to the Bernadotte Lutheran Church and often accompanied Grandmother to services.

One Sunday, when communion service was offered, the lady asked Grandmother, "I have not paid my dues, do you think that I can go to Communion?" Grandmother did not thing that this should make any different and persuaded the lady to accompany her to the communion table. The pastor refused to serve the elements to the lady saying "You have not paid your dues." This incident greatly disturbed Grandmother because she could not understand this type of thinking.

That same summer, a Norwegian Methodist preacher, Christ Pherson from Brighton was holding Revival Meetings in the Holmquist school house and in the homes of certain other Methodists. Grandmother and Grandfather attended these meetings and finding them inspiring became regular attendants.

On March 10, 1877, my grandparents and 16 other families assembled at the Bengshtrom home and organized a Clear Lake Swedish Methodist Church. The first service was held at the Peter Lindquist home inside of walls charred from a fire set by the Indians a few years earlier. Services were held at various homes until 1879 when the members gathered their meager resources and built a church. The site was a large flat hill about one mile to the East of our Grandparents' home. The men did the building while the women worked harder at home. Members of another denomination threatened to destroy the new church and offered all sorts of opposition but the settlers persisted. The church on the hill has now been moved to Lafayette but the cemetary [is] still used by the Methodists of the Clear Lake-Lafayette area. The church was an important element in life of our Grandparents and of many settlers. Religion gave them strength and power to meet the many challenges of pioneer life.

February [??], 1888 dawned as a beautiful winter day with most of the settlers doing outside work taking care of livestock, etc. My Grandparents remained around the farmstead soing odd chores and about 5:00 o'clock that winter day noticed a storm coming up from the Soutwest. Within a very few minutes a blinding snowstorm made it impossible to venture outside and they were unable to bring cattle back into the barn. The snow was so blinding that no one dared to step outside of the house and intense cold developed overnight. The temperature fell to 40 degrees below zero the next morning. When the storm abated and they reached the barn, they found their cattle gone and dead and scattered over the prairie. The only animals that survived were 2 sheep found approximately 3 miles from the home. Many pioneers lost their lives in this sudden raging snowstorm.

About 1890 my Grandparents moved their house to a newer location on the farm near ot the main road. Horses were used to move the former home and the house was remodeled and an addition added. Some 17 different kinds of trees and shrubs are still noted in that grove. An orchard of apple and plum was also planted. Honeysuckle, lilac, snowball, and many other flowers were planted by my Grandmother.

Two years past and Grandmother had completed furnishing her new home and settled down to enjoy it when tragedy struck. One mid-summer morning Grandmother rose extra early because her daughter Selma was to be confirmed that Sunday morning and she wanted an early start for the day's work. She started a fire in the kitchen stove and went out to care for the chickens and to do some other chores. Finishing the chores and coming back to the house, she found the kitchen afire.

She ran to the house and screamed for the children to run out but one of the young daughters, Ida, became confused and ran back into the flaming home. She was saved by one of her brothers who managed to take her out but the home burned to the ground and very little was saved. Heroic efforts were necessary to save the granary which was full of wheat. Nearly all of their household goods and clothing was lost in the fire. A new house was built but this required a great deal of effort and saving.

In 1883, the eldest son John lost his right thumb and the next year developed an infection in one leg confining him to bed for almost a year. Thus Grandmother became a nurse in addition to her other work.

Grandmother became the mother of 9 children--John, Charley, Emily, August, Selma, Frank, Ida, Arthur, and Elsie. She so guided and helped to mold the character of these children that they all developed into good useful members of society. The development of her children was her life and she often sacrificed her own welfare in their interest. Above all else, she instilled a love of religion into her children. As the years passed, and she grew into middle age finances became brighter and the poverty of earlier years disappeared so that she and Grandfather were able to enjoy a few modern comforts in their later years.

One cold December morning in 1926 [9], the bells of the Swedish Methodist Church at Clear Lake tolled out over the countryside and told of the passing of Clara Yden Peterson. The next Sunday afternoon, people came by foot and on sled over huge drifts to look for the last time at the face of one whom they had loved and respected. She came and found the country a treeless plain and left it a beautiful thriving countryside with wooded farmplaces and beautiful fields. She lived 56 years on one farm--no wonder that people still think of her when passing that home.

(I wrote the above as a theme in high school about 1930 or so. I spent a great deal of time at Grandmother's house during those years as our home farm was only one-half mile to the North.)

Signed [Winfield Forsberg]

 

NOTE: This document was retyped by me, Eric O. Troldahl, in 1999 with the grammatical and spelling choices of the copies that I possess. Many of the words have more than one way that they were spelled at the time, or have changed spelling in the interim. When I feel that there is a "more correct" spelling or I have information that was not included, I have included a footnote.

FOOTNOTES:
[1] Clara Ydeen Peterson was my Great-Great-Grandmother.
[2] Winfield is my first cousin twice removed.
[3] Most documents I have spelled the name YDEEN, but some spell it YDEN or UDEEN.
[4] Östergötland
[5] The name is variously spelled LINDBERG, LINDBERGH, LINDBURG, and LINDBURGH. I have not traced it, but family history says that they were related to the famed pilot Charles LINDBERGH.
[6] Mrs. LINDBERG was Anna L. YDEEN. She and Gustaf had 5 more children after settling in America.
[7] Andrew John.
[8] At this time in history it was normal for women to be citizens only if they were born in America or married to an American citizen, and lose their citizenship if they married a foreign man. They normally only Naturalized directly if they were single or widowed. I have not investigated whether this Naturalization record is Clara YDEEN Peterson's or Andrew PETERSON's.
[9] Governor of Minnesota.

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My first cousin twice removed Winfield Forsberg wrote an essay on Great Great Grandmother Peterson back in 1930 and retyped it to share with the family.

My third cousin twice removed was the world renowned Wagnerian Opera singer Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962) from Norway. She sang at the New York Metropolitan Opera House.

I have my Father's cadet book from flight school in the Korean War era Air Force. It is from Ellington AFB, marked "52-24" which I assume means 1952, class 24. It is similar to high school yearbooks.

 

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