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I was born on April 12, 1909, on the Ole Sjobakken farm about nine miles due north of Lawler, Iowa, the first child of Muns and Andrina Munson. Aunt Mary Vaala and Grandmother Sjobakken were there to greet my arrival. The following spring I moved with my parents to the farm my father owned a mile to the south. The building site was on the east bank of the Little Turkey River. My sister, Sophia, and I learned to love the river and to watch with awe the flood water that occasionally and very quickly covered all low lying pasture and portions of the road.

In 1919, Dad sold the farm and purchased a bare eighty acres a mile west from his old farm. During the next two years, Mother and Dad with their different abilities and skills planned and built our beautiful farm home. First the well, then the barn and granary, and lastly the house took shape. Shortly, after we moved into the new house at Thanksgiving, 1921, Mother's sister, Anna Sjobakken, died and Grandma Sjobakken came to live with us.

The spring of 1923 ended my happy days in the rural schools as I graduated from eighth grade. After due instruction, I was confirmed by Rev. H.M. Tjernagel on May 27 in the Saude Lutheran Church. Sophia and I, Mother, Dad, and our good neighbors, Butler and Celia Vikdal, watched our beloved Grandmother peacefully leave this life on June 21,1923.

Sophia and I attended high school in Cresco and, like other rural children, lived in private homes during the week and came home on weekends. We stayed with Mrs. Anna Fessenden and her daughter, Zina, who at that time was Superintendent of Schools in Howard County. Several of the neighbors exchanged making the many trips to Cresco. In fair weather they used their cars, but in winter a sleigh and a good team of horses was a much better mode of travel. I was fortunate to attend Bethany Lutheran College at Mankato, Minnesota, graduating in 1933.

On January 7, 1934, Dad died. His health had been failing for some time, but he was active until a few weeks before his death. Not only did we mourn the loss of a good husband and father, but we felt the gloom of the economic depression, although we did not suffer material hardship. With spring came the drought that made the outlook for crops seem very dismal. July brought the much needed rain, so our area was spared the suffering other locations had to endure.

On February 24, 1938, I married Fred Nickolai Steensland. We were quietly married at home with about 30 close relatives present. We took over the farm operation and purchased more land. Mother continued to call the farm her home, but spent much time with Sophia and her husband, Frank Dow. Mother died after a lingering illness on May 13, 1954.

Fred and I were blessed with two daughters, Anna Matilda, born February 16, 1939, and Sara Kristine on August 7, 1943. We enjoyed farm life and were active in church, school (public and private) and community affairs.

One of our most rewarding projects was establishing a permanent site for our Christian Day School. In due time, Anna and Sara finished their elementary education there and years later, so did Anna's five children. Sara's children attended Christian Day School in Moline, Illinois.

Anna married Bob Webster, the son of Donald and Grace (Lindsay) Webster, who farmed just east of Cresco, Iowa. Due to Fred's failing health, Bob took over the farm operation. Sara married Larry, the son of Albert and Aleda (Hereid) Knutson, who lived in our community. They moved to Bettendorf, Iowa and later to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

On March 1, 1966, Fred suffered a massive stroke and died eleven days later. I felt lost and very lonely, but I was thankful he had seen both girls married to men we respected. He also saw the four Webster children and Todd, the oldest of the Knutson children. After Bob and Anna had taken over the farming operation, I had held several interesting part-time jobs. Now, I needed full-time work that was meaningful to me. This I found at Bethesda Lutheran Home for the Mentally Retarded in Watertown, Wisconsin from 1967 to 1971 and the Davenport Lutheran Home from 1971 to 1979. I retired and moved back to New Hampton to be near family, old friends and acquaintances.

As I write this, I am active and in good health in my 81st year. I continue to feel that my church, Redeemer Lutheran Church, E.L.S., and family are the center of my life. I enjoy having family near so I can watch each of the nine grandchildren begin to establish their busy adult life. A special blessing to me is having my six great grandchildren come to my home and I even do a little babysitting.

Written by Martha (Munson) Steensland
Contributed by Jim Johnson, October 2009