Written by Chris Johnson (born as Christian Ludvig Jørgensen in Denmark) in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Chris came to America from Denmark in 1890. He died in January 1965 at the age of 94.
As I stated at first, my knowledge goes back only as far as my great grandmother who, at that time, was a very old lady. I do not know her name as I never heard her spoken of by any other name than “Den Gammel Mor” (the old mother). She was living with my grandparents, my father’s parents, my grandmother being her daughter.
My grandfather’s name was Jørgen Petersen and my grandmother’s name was Margaret. They lived in a small village by the name of Såby. My grandfather was a weaver by trade, and he followed this all his life. They had two large looms in their house and part of the time one of the boys helped with the weaving. Their weaving consisted of woolen goods for bed thicken, men’s clothing, also linen used for sheets, pillow casings, shirts, etc. I have seen goods go through every process from the time the wool was sheared from the sheeps back until it was on my back, or oftener on somebody else’s in the form of a suit of clothes. In like manner, the linen through every process from the time the flax was harvested in the field until it was made into shirts or other garments.
Towards the latter part of his life, business began to fall off as cotton goods was introduced and began to take the place of the homespun and home weaved material. The last few years of his life he did not do very much weaving.
Eight children were born to them, five boys and three girls as follows: Peter, Niels, Johannes, Jens, and Lars. And the girls: Magdalene, Ane and Karen Marie, each in order as to their ages, although I think that some of the girls came somewhere between their brothers.
My father, Peter Jørgensen, was the oldest in the family. He became a carpenter and settled in a neighboring town by the name of Kisserup, where he remained in the same house all his life. Staying in the same house may not be entirely correct, as he rebuilt and added to it from time to time until I wonder if there was any of the original left.
Here it becomes necessary to make some explanation. Up to the time shortly before my birth, it had been the custom for the children to receive their father’s given name for their surname. Thus, my father’s name was Peter Jørgensen while my grandfather’s name was Jørgen Petersen.
The next of the boys was Niels. He was adopted by some distant relative of whom I don’t know very much. He left for America in the spring of 1871, shortly after my birth, and I did not know him until I came here 19 years later.
Johannes was the next in line. He went to Copenhagen when a young man and was employed by a large wholesale produce company and became manager of a large cold storage plant where they kept in storage large amount of eggs which were shipped to England. He died quite young … must have been in his early forties.
Jens, the next of the boys, helped his father some with the weaving when a young man, but he also went to Copenhagen. There he was engaged in the shoe business as “toffelmager”, which consisted in the making of part wooded shoes – the bottoms being of wood with leather tops. This was a fairly good business as that kind of footwear was extensively used at that time.
Lars, the youngest in the family, also went to Copenhagen and became engaged in the same business. Later he invented a machine for making wire staples which were used for fastening the leather to the wood bottoms. I think me made a good success of this and built up a good business. As far as I know, he is still living as I had a letter from him not long ago. He is well up in the eighties by this time.
This accounts for the boys, and now for the girls. The oldest, Magdalene, married a farmer and they lived on a small farm quite a distance from our place and we did not get to their place very often. I think they made a living as a good many people did at that time by hard work and careful planning. They had a large family, but further than that I do not know much about them.
Ane, the next, married a man by the name of Hans. I do not remember what his last name was. He was a cooper by trade but that business was on its last stages at that time as tin ware was taking the place of woodenware and he had to resort to other work, whatever could be found. They had several boys, but I do not think that they had any girls.
My youngest aunt, Karen Marie, was well along in years before she married but apparently did not profit much by waiting as her husband seemed to be one of those never-do-wells and was never thought much of by the rest of the family.
I have now given a brief account of the people on my father’s side. On my mother’s side there is not a great deal to tell. My grandfather’s name was Jens Petersen, and I can remember him and my grandmother quite well. They had a small farm near our home and I used to go there quite often. They had four children that I know of: my mother, whose name was Birtha Kirstine Jensen, and one brother, Rasmus, who took over the homestead and lived there when I left the country. He was a good and jolly old fellow and I liked him real well and enjoyed going there. He had a boy a few years younger than I and we had good times together. There was another uncle and aunt, but of them I do not remember much.
So far I have not said much about my parents and grandparents. Of the latter, the grandparents on my father’s side had the greater part of my affection, a thing which I think was natural as they seemed to think a great deal of us children. First, I stayed with them a good deal sometimes stayed over night, and on several occasions in case of sickness or other reasons I stayed for longer periods. Another thing, I had a liking for school and reading, a thing that pleased my grandfather very much.
My grandfather was a kind man, but stern and craved strict obedience. When we were told to do a thing, there was no why or wherefore, but simply to obey without a murmur. He had a way of talking that made you anything but comfortable and to stand for what seemed like an eternity and listen to a lecture from him was about the worst punishment that I could get. My transgressions, however, were not always atoned for by listening to a lecture. Sometimes he would resort to sterner means – a thing which I have no desire to discuss here – but those instances were soon forgotten and forgiven and nearly all the time we were the best of friends.
My grandmother was somewhat different in many ways – good and kind and sympathetic. She would sometimes try to help us out of our difficulties without grandpa finding out. She was very neat and orderly. We never came to her house but what we were looked over from head to foot and I never left there with a button off my clothes nor a hole in my stockings.
They both seemed to enjoy a remarkable measure of good health. I never remember of any of them being sick, at least not until their very late years.
My grandfather died in 1890, a short time before I left for this country, and I helped to carry him to his last resting place a few days before I left. My grandmother lived a short time after I left and died at my father’s home where she went and stayed after my grandfather’s death.
My grandparents on my mother’s side were less conspicuous. My grandmother died while I was quite young and I can hardly remember her. My grandfather died when I was about twelve years old, but it seemed so we never came together with them as much as we did with my father’s folks. They were farmers and while most of my folks on my father’s side of the house were more or less mechanical and modernistic inclined, my mother’s folks were more of the peasant type and rather backward in their ways.
And now we come to my parents. I do not know how old my mother was. My father was born, I think, on December 1st, 1845, as I think he was 45 years old when I left in 1890. I think my mother was about the same age as my father.
I will now try to give their history as well as I can. Their names were: Peter Jørgensen and Birtha Kirstine Jensen. To them were born five children. One boy died in infancy and the others were: Christian Ludvig Jørgensen, born January 7, 1871, Bodil Marie Jørgensen, born January 2, 1875, Jørgen Peter Plank Jørgensen and Ane Margrethe Jørgensen, twins, born June 16, 1878.
My mother died in the spring of 1880 and about a year later, in the spring of 1881, my father married Inger Sofie Petersen. To them were born three sons: Lars Peter Plank Jørgensen, Niels Anker Plank Jørgensen, and Theodor Anker Plank Jørgensen. I do not know where the names Anker and Plank come in, but it must be some old ancestors that my father was able to resurrect after my coming as you will notice that I did not come in on this. I think, however, that my father had a purpose, and not a bad one, in this as the names Niels, John, etc. became so common that it often became difficult to know who was who and often it became hard for people to prove their identity in case it became necessary.
For the same reason, it sometimes became difficult for mail to reach its proper destination and nearly everybody had, in addition to their names, their occupation such as farmer, carpenter, or anything that would help to identify them, added to their address.
My father was a carpenter by trade but he did not confine his activities to carpentering alone. He would take on anything that came along, be it carpenter work, painting, tin work, or anything that came along. If anything went wrong, people always came to him and it seemed so he was generally able to help them. One day he would be out fixing a threshing machine, the next perhaps he would be cleaning a watch, or someone would have a hog to butcher. He would cut their hair, sharpen their razor, and when they died he would make their coffin and help at the funeral. These are but a few of the things he would do and I am not exaggerating. I never knew him to turn down a job. How well he did all of these different kinds of work I am not prepared to say, but I think that generally speaking he did pretty well as people seemed to be satisfied and generally came back for more. In addition to this, he was a pretty good gardener and always had a large garden and always sold a large amount of vegetables as he always seemed to have them ready before anybody else. I used to go around and peddle stuff when I was yet very young. First, in the spring, I would go and sell garden seed which he raised himself. Later I would go around selling vegetables, not only in our own town but I often went to the neighboring towns and I brought home quite a little change in this way. I was only eight or nine years old at that time.
From all this you may know that he was a busy man, and he was. I never knew him to be idle. He would work from early morning until late night, but with all his activities he always seemed to find a little time for experiments and he was always making things. I will never forget one time as I was coming home (this was after I left home for Copenhagen), as I was coming up the street and nearing my home, I noticed what I first thought was a dense cloud of smoke pouring out of the upstairs window and for a moment I thought the house was on fire. But upon closer investigation, I found that I had made a wrong diagnosis of the case and that what was coming out of the window was not smoke but dust. At that time, it was customary after the harvest for the farmers to let those who wished to gather the grain that was left in the field. This was what is called gleaning, and the women and children would go and pick up the grain and straw, cut off the heads and put them in a bag. In this way they could gather quite an amount in a day. This was what my stepmother and the younger children had bee doing, and my father had made a small threshing machine and they were threshing and this was what was causing the dust. I do not remember just how it was made, in fact, you could not see much but you could hear a lot.
Another time when I came home, he was working at something. He had brick and mortar and was building some kind of a contraption. I asked him what it was supposed to be. At first he was not willing to tell me, but after considerable prodding, I finally learned that it was supposed to be an incubator. It was at the time when incubators were not as common as they are today. I am afraid that it did not prove a success as I never heard any more about it.
I could name a good many instances like these, but this I think will be enough to show what kind of a man my father was. In the later years of his life, I think he discontinued a good many of his activities and devoted himself mostly to gardening. This I gathered from letters which I received from him from time to time. He died about 1917.
After my mother’s death, my two sisters went to stay with our grandparents and my brother Jørgen went to live with my uncle Rasmus. I stayed at home all the time with my father. After his second marriage, they all came home.
My sister, Marie, came to this country in 1892. Soon after coming, she want to Cedar Rapids and after a few years she was married to Fred Toft. He was a painter by trade and they lived at Clarion, Iowa, but after a few years they moved to Cedar Rapids where he was employed by the Rock Island Railroad where he was in charge of the oil house for a number of years. He was accidentally killed by being struck by a car when crossing the street on Easter day 1932. My sister died from tuberculosis in 1918, or about that time. To them were born three sons: Arthur, George and Roy. I think they are all married by now. Arthur, I believe, is living at Waterloo, and the other two at Cedar Rapids as far as I know. .
My youngest sister, Margaret, came to this country in 1906 and stayed for awhile in Cedar Rapids but after my wife’s death in 1907 she came to Rutland and stayed with me until the fall of 1908 when she was married to Thomas Schults, who lived on a farm about five miles north of Rutland. To them were born six children: Ann, Mary, Gladys, John, Orville and Lillian. Thomas had two children by a former marriage. The children are all married now and are scattered over various parts of the country.
My brother, Jørgen, married after I left the country. He had a daughter, but he died a few years after his marriage. I did not know his wife and have never learned what became of her or the girl.
My three half brothers are living, as far as I know, in Denmark, although I have not heard from them for some time. My sister Margaret and my youngest brother Theodor’s wife do correspond and do hear from them occasionally, but it is becoming a little difficult for me to write in the Danish language any more and we do not hear from each other very often.
This, I think, covers the history of my near relatives as well as I am able to give it, and it now only remains to give an account of myself which I think perhaps will be of more interest to those in whose possession it may come than what I have written so far. Herein, I think I am fortunate to have the privilege to do this myself as perhaps it would have a different slant if written by someone else.
I was born at Kisserup, Denmark, January 7, 1871. My appearing upon the scene did not create any great stir, except perhaps among my very nearest of kin. I had, I think, the distinction of being my grandparents’ first grandchild, but the pride that this may have caused I think did soon wane as their cries became audible from all directions.
My child hood was not much different from others. My parents were poor, and saving was an art which had to be practiced very extensively. Luxuries were not very plentiful at that time – about the only toy I ever remember of having was a rocking horse which my father made for me and he did not spend much pains in making it. It was simply a block of wood with four straight pegs for legs, a wisp of horsehair for a mane and tail, and a pair of rockers, but my, how I could ride that horse! I got as much enjoyment out of it as if it had been a magnificent steed purchased at a high price.
I was early taught to work and I was not very old before my parents were able to find some little tasks that I could perform. As I stated before, my father always had a large garden and it never lacked for something to do …it was not always to my liking, but had to be done just the same.
Early in the spring, I went around and sold garden seed that my father raised himself. Later on, I would go and peddle vegetables sometime quite a distance from home. I had a small cart, and I often went as far as to the neighboring town and sold quite a lot and brought home a little money in that way which came in very handy. I was only eight or nine years old at that time.
I started to school when I was 7 years old and I always liked school and got along well. While we were poor and had to economize on every hand, do not think that this prevented me from having a good time. I think I was just as happy and content as the children of today who are surrounded by expensive toys and every luxury which money can provide. And I think that this, all through my life, has been a great help rather than a handicap to me.
While life perhaps would have seemed dull and uneventful to the people of today, there was always some little events and gaieties to make life worth while for a youngster. One of these that I think meant more to me, and to most youngsters, than anything else was a feast celebrated in the early part of spring, just before the beginning of Lent. It was called “Fastelavns” meaning “getting ready for Lent”, and I must say they got good and ready sometimes! The feast started on Monday, a week and a day I think before Ash Wednesday, and that day and the following everybody, especially the young people, had a hilarious time. The young men would dress up as to a masquerade with all the finery they were able to provide. On Monday morning they would set forth on horseback, the horse also being decorated, and they would visit every farm in the community, each place receiving some little refreshment consisting mostly in the wet variety, and a little gift of money. By the time that the day was spent and they returned home, many of them had had a pretty full day. In the evening they would have a dance. The next morning they would set out again, this time on foot, and in place of the gay costumes they would now be rigged out as hideously as they possibly could make themselves with masks and all the old rags they could find. Again they would go over the same territory as the day before with the same results and again they would wind up with a dance in the evening which would often last all night and wind up with a breakfast in the morning.
This ended most of the activities at that time and was the dying embers of what used to be, in earlier times, a full week of similar actions and sports of different kinds, some of them of a cruel nature. One of those was a sport called “Slå katten af tønden” which meant “knock the cat out of the barrel”. It consisted in putting a live cat into a barrel, then suspending the barrel by ropes between two posts and then they would ride under the barrel at full speed and hitting it with a club – the one who succeeded in causing the cat to leave the barrel, dead or alive, was declared the winner. This, as you may see, was a cruel sport and had been done away with before my time. But while the cat had disappeared, the name still remained, and in place of the cat we would fill the barrel with ashes and, well, I will leave you to guess the rest …
Here I am reminded of a little incident which took place the 1st year I went to school. Monday and Tuesday of the week just mentioned had always been considered holidays, but this year we were informed that there would be school on Monday. This, of course, was a great disappointment to all of us, but there was nothing that could be done about it so on Monday we met as usual. After we went through the morning lessons, the teacher told us to move the seats along the walls of this room. This cleared the atmosphere somewhat for most of us as we thought that the teacher, who was considered unusual and that something pleasant was in the wind. We went to work with willing hands and soon had the deck cleared for action. By that time, the teacher came in with a large jar tied over the top with a paper, and also his wife and the hired girl with a baby to take in the show. We were lined up in a corner of the room while the jar was placed in the opposite corner. We were then in turn blindfolded and turned around a few times and provided with a club. We made a desperate effort to hit that jar, but it required more good luck than skill to do so. The whole school had a couple or three turns at it before any serious harm was done to the jar, but finally of course some one succeeded in hitting it right square and broke it. It contained a small cake for each of us and a sack of candy to the one who had the good luck to break the jar. During the performance the teacher’s hired girl was sitting off to one side watching the fun when a boy made straight for her with the club raised and she had to grab the baby and flee for her life and he hit the chair right where she had been sitting. Well, it was a great day long to be remembered and I am sure that what ill feeling there had been against the teacher for having school on that day was entirely forgotten and no one harbored any ill feelings against him.
Here let me say a few words as regards our school system of that time. Everybody was required to attend school in the ages from 7 to 13 years. The country schools, which were the only ones of which I have any great knowledge, were divided into two classes, one from 7 to 10 and the other from 10 to 13. During the six months from May 1st to November 1st, the little folks would attend four days in the week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and the older ones the other two days. Then in the winter this would be reversed. This gave the older children a chance to work most of the time in the summer, and for this purpose school for the older class was from six o’clock in the morning till noon in the summer. At my home school, where I went from the time I was seven to eleven years old, we had a very good teacher, but when I was eleven years old I went to working out and went to another school. The teacher was not so good there. I think he was well enough qualified, perhaps even better than the one we had at home, but he did not take a very great interest in his work and I did not learn a great deal. There may have been another cause for this, too … when a boy gets up at half past three in the morning as we did in the summer time and does a half day’s work before going to school, it is much easier to sleep than to study.
The teachers were hired by the state, the same as the preachers. The schools and the churches were closely associated and the teacher had some little duties to perform at the church. He had, for one thing, to lead the singing on Sundays, and at funerals he always had to be present. The teacher’s job was generally a life job. He was hired and paid by the state and the school house usually was a school room and the teacher’s residence combined. In addition to this there would be a small barn and other small buildings such as are usually found on a small acreage. In addition to his salary he would have the use of a small farm, large enough to keep a couple of cows and a few sheep and I think that the people who had horses were required to do what little work there was that required a team. I think the farmers also furnished a certain amount of feed for what stock he might have during the winter months, but of this I am not too well informed as I was too young at that time to become much interested in such things.
Well, so much for the school, and I will now come back to where I left off. I stayed at home until I was eleven years old, when I went to work out on a farm in a neighboring community, where I worked for three years until I was confirmed in 1885. These were three hard years for a young boy. During most of the summer we got up at three-thirty in the morning and from that time until evening I was constantly on the go. My work consisted nearly entirely in taking care of stock. We had about 16 mild cows, several head of young stock and some sheep. There were no fences during the summer. Up to harvest, the stock was all staked out and had to be tended and watered twice a day and it kept me busy from morning to evening. After the harvest, the stock was turned loose and I had to herd them then from September first ‘till November first or there about. It was a tiresome job every day, Sunday as well as week days, rain or shine it was all the same. Two months straight with only a half day off to go home and get some clean clothes.
On Easter Sunday, 1885, I was confirmed and on May 1st I went to Copenhagen where I went to serve a three year apprenticeship with my Uncle Jens, who as I stated before, was engaged in the shoe business. After serving my apprenticeship, I worked at that trade for another two years and could have made fairly good at it if I had been inclined to do so, but I think that seventeen is a little too young for a boy to be thrown entirely on his own. My chief concern was to have a good time and even at that I did not do as well as I would have wished as I generally was short of funds. These were two years of my life spent without much benefit to myself or any body else.
Then, at the age of 19, came the call from America. My Uncle Niels here had been sick and he wrote home to grandfather asking if he did know of some boy that would like to come to America and he came to me to see if I would like to go. I was ready right then and there, and as soon as the arrangements could be made I was ready to go. At that time all the arrangements consisted of was getting a ticket. You did not have to have permission to enter this country or anything of that kind like you do now. I went on a German ship by the way of Kiel, Hamburg and Bremen and on June the 5th I boarded the ship at Bremer-haven. It took two weeks to cross the Atlantic and on June the 19th I landed at Baltimore. This was on Friday and it took to the following Monday to reach my destination in Independence.
I stayed with my uncle the rest of that year, then in the winter I went to school for a couple of months. The following spring, I went to work on another farm where I worked a little over a year. I worked at farm work for a few years, but did never like it any too well. After staying in Buchanan County a few years, I decided to go to Council Bluffs where I had a friend. On my way, I went to Clarion to visit my sister, Mary, who lived there at that time, and from there I went to Humboldt to visit my former pastor, Rev. Carlsen. Here let me say that during the time that I worked on a farm near Rowley, I was converted and joined the Danish Baptist Church at Pine-creek. Rev. Carlsen was the pastor there then, but left and went to Humboldt. I decided to stop and make him a visit as it would be on my way.
When I came thee, a new Baptist Church had just been organized and they were getting ready to build a new church in the country about 7 miles north of Humboldt, and he insisted in my staying and he would see that I got a job on the church. As I had no definite plans, I consented and stayed and worked at the church until it was nearly finished. After that I got a job in Humboldt in a picture gallery during the winter, and the following year I went back to work again with Mr. Nielsen, the contractor who built the church. He lived in Rutland and thus this became my residence and I stayed there for about thirty years, with the exception of a couple years when I went to Minnesota.
In 1901 I was married to Mary Maloney, who, at that time, was postmaster at Rutland. She owned a small building in which she kept the office, but after a year or so we decided to put up a larger building which would serve as a store building and post office combined. So I put up a building 22 x 64 feet I think, with rooms upstairs in which we lived. For a year or so we rented the store, and my wife kept the Post Office but after that I went into partnership with Mr. J.E. Phleger and we started in a small way with a grocery store. At first it was our intention that Mr. Phleger and my wife would run the store and I would continue to work at the carpenter work and for awhile we continued thus. I worked during the day and in the evening I done the bookwork. Soon, however, our business grew and I had to quit my work and devote all my time to the business. We added to it from time to time and in a few years we had about an $8,000 stock of general merchandise consisting of a full line of dry goods, shoes and men’s furnishings and everything that went with that business. While we were doing a good business, it could hardly be called a get-rich-quick scheme as we had to do business largely on borrowed capital and this, together with the fact that we had to do a large credit business, cut down the profit, but everything considered we did very well.
On May 31, 1907 a daughter was born to us, but while we had been looking forward to this with a great deal of joy it did not prove to be the joyful occasion which we had hoped for as on the same day Mary left me and her little daughter to be with her Lord and Savior. This was a sad day, but the Lord was very gracious to me and helped me then as he often has in times of need and Grandma Maloney stood bravely with me and helped me although it was a terrible shock to her as well as to me, and with the Lord’s help we got along nicely. We named our girl Mary Margaret, as some who may read know, and she grew and got along nicely until she was about two years old when she was stricken with infantile paralysis which affected her left ankle from that time until she was about 8 years old.
We continued with the business for a couple years after my wife’s death, but about that time we sold out to Hollescow & Pavey and took as part payment a 160 acre farm in Pope County near Brooten, Minnesota. I traded the store building to Mr. Pavey for a smaller building and as I still had the P.O., having received the appointment after my wife’s death, I continued with that in connection with a small hardware business until 1914, when I traded my property in Rutland which consisted in the store building and a residence located across the street from the M.E. Church.
In the spring of 1914 we moved to Minnesota onto the farm and while my experience in farming was rather limited, I did very well for the time that I was at it.
While we were there, we learned of Dr. Gillette’s Clinic for crippled children and were advised to take Margaret there, which we did. After examining her, they advised me that they thought an operation would be advisable, and as soon as we could make the necessary arrangements I took her to St. Paul and had the operation performed by Dr. Catterton who was associated with Dr. Gillette. The operation proved to be a grand success and after the effect of the operation, she was able to walk without any brace. While her left leg never developed and caught up with the other, she is able to walk with a slight limp and does not seem to have any inconvenience to speak of. The doctors, as well as everybody else, considered the operation a great success.
Meanwhile, between trips to St. Paul after her return home, and taking her to school and bringing her home after she was able to go to school, I tried to farm but it was a little hard. This, together with the fact that the move to Minnesota did not seem to agree any too well with Grandma Maloney who had lived at Rutland all her life from her marriage up to the time of moving there, so I thought it best to go back there if I could arrange to do so. This I was able to do as I found a buyer for my farm, and so in the fall of 1916 we again set sail for Rutland.
When selling my farm, I took as part payment a Model T Ford. This was the popular car at this time and it proved to be a very good car and gave me good service for many years.
In the fall of 1916 we had a sale, not a large one as I did not have a great deal accumulated, but I had 4 horses, 2 cows, a young calf and about 10 hogs, some chickens and some farm machinery. Everything went very well and we had a good sale considering everything.
We were now ready to start on our long trip back to Iowa and on a day early in October, if I remember correctly, we loaded the car and started out for Iowa. A neighbor lady, Mrs. Kingstrom, went along as far as Minneapolis to visit her sister who lived there. We got there late in the afternoon and stayed there over night. The next day when we got ready to go, I went to the garage where I left the car and found that someone had stole about everything out of it but I did not figure that it would be worth my while to stay there and try to do anything about it, so we started out again on the last lap of our journey. Everything went well until we got pretty well on our way when it started to rain and it really did rain. We managed to get to Mason City although the mud was almost to the hubs of the car.
My wife’s cousin, Mrs. Blackstock, lived there at the time, Rev. Blackstock being pastor of the Methodist Church there, so we stayed there over night and the next day finished our journey by train to Humboldt and from there we got to Rutland some way – I do not remember just how. Now we were back at the old stand and the people did not seem to feel too bad over our return. We stayed with Grandma Maloney’s sister, Mrs. Entwistle, for a few days.
At this time the blacksmith, John Gruener, was planning on leaving and was offering his property for sale. It consisted of his residence in the south part of town, and his shop. Mrs. Maloney bought the residence and I bought the shop, including the blacksmith tools. I rented the shop to Cris Bondy, and later sold it to him, retaining a part of it which I used as a carpenter shop.
It happened that at this time there was a vacancy in the rural mail carrier route, so I took the examination and got the appointment and I kept it for about three years, but I never liked it very well. It required a team in addition to the car. When the roads were good it was not a bad job, but when it rained and the roads got bad it more than made up for it and in the winter it sometimes would get bad. Besides this, the pay was not very much in those days and it took a good slice of what you made to pay for horse feed and gasoline.
After quitting the mail route, I followed the carpenter business altogether the rest of my life. I did some contracting. I built 6 new schoolhouses in Humboldt County, but most of my work was by the hour and most of the time I employed a few men.
In 1919, Grandma Maloney died and it was quite a loss to Margaret and me as up to this time she had been a great help to us and we both missed her very much. After her heath, her property was divided up between my brother-in-law, Fred Maloney, and Margaret. The house in Rutland went to Margaret. Later I bought it from her and we lived there and got along as best we could. Part of the time my brother-in-law lived with us and part of the time we were alone. Margaret was about thirteen years old by this time and we got along pretty well. She was a good little worker and we managed pretty well.
About this time, Fred and I went up to Minnesota and bought a farm. He invested about $8,000 and I put in $4,000 – that was all that I could raise at that time. I then gave Fred a note for $2,000 and this then made us equal partners in the venture. The farm was located in Martin County near Grenell. We paid $225 an acre, making a total of $36,000. Of this we were to pay down $16,000, leaving a mortgage of $10,000. From this down payment was deducted a ditch tax which was against the property, so after paying the $12,000 it still left a small payment which we paid in the spring.
This perhaps to some would seem like a big undertaking, but the price did not seem high for the time, as many farms not far from there had sold for far more – some in the neighborhood for around $400 or even more – and we thought that it would be a good, safe investment and that we would be able to take care of our obligations without any trouble. But we soon learned differently, as things seemed to begin to go bad soon after we bought, and for several years we tried our best to hold on. Wages were fairly good yet at that time and I worked hard and saved every penny and thus was able to keep up the payments, interest and taxes and other things that came along, hoping that times would get better. Thus I managed to pay off the $2,000 note that I owed Fred, but instead of things getting better, they got gradually7 worse and we finally gave up the struggle and let it go. I sunk about eight thousand dollars in the venture. Well, that was that.
Nothing of importance happened after that for some time as far as I remember until in August of 1925 when Margaret was married and she and her husband went to Garner to live. Now I was all alone and two months later, on October the 7th, I was married and for several years yet we lived in Rutland.
About this time I began to think that most of the small towns had seen their best days. The automobiles and good roads were taking the business to the larger towns and I thought that it would be a good idea to try to get to a little larger town where there perhaps would be a better chance to find something to do when I no longer would be able to follow up the carpenter work. I also felt that it would be a good time to dispose of my property in Rutland and, as I had a chance to sell, I did so and in the spring of 1931 we moved to Algona where we are living at the present time.
The first summer after moving to Algona, I worked at the new high school building which was under construction at that time. For several years I worked for Mr. George Miller, a contractor here.
In addition to my carpenter work, I took over the janitor work at the Methodist Church and kept this for a few years, about three, I think. Later I took over the janitor work at the Baptist Church. This work I am still taking care of, near on to eight years now, and it is a better job than the work at the Methodist Church with less work and better pay accordingly.
The first fall after coming here to Algona, I bought a lot and started to build a house. I had it near enough finished so we could move into it the following spring, although it was far from completed. I worked at it when I had time to spare from my other work. I did all the work myself except the mason work and plastering. I even did digging of the basement by hand. It was hard work, but I was younger then and did not mind it. We have been living in that same house since I built it – eighteen years now.
I am still holding down the janitor job at the Baptist Church and I do some work in my shop. For a number of years I have been making boxes for a machine works here in town. They make machine tools for reconditioning valves and they use boxes for those tools. They have been using as many as eight or nine hundred in a year, but lately they have not been using quite as many. I also do some furniture repairing or whatever comes along.
Last summer I underwent an operation and had a cataract taken off my left eye, with the exception of that my health has been good and I am still feeling quite well.
I think that I have now covered most things of interest and I will close this now, hoping that it may prove of interest to those who may read it in the years to come.
It is now the spring of 1951 and, while my health is still good, I am beginning to realize that I am not as young as I was some years ago and perhaps it would be well to make some arrangements for the future while I am still able to do so. Margaret has often expressed the wish that we could live a little closer to them. It is 155 miles from here to Atlantic, so we do not get to see each other very often. After considering the matter pro and con for some time, we finally decided that it would be advisable to make a change while we were yet able to do so.
Having thus decided, I began to look around a little. At first I thought that we might be able to find something in a small town near Atlantic which perhaps would do as well and would be less expensive. After second thought, I decided that if we moved we had better go all the way while we were at it, so I went to Atlantic and began to look for a suitable place. It was not long until we found a house that we thought could be remodeled into a duplex at a reasonable cost, so I bought it.
A few days after I got home, I sold my home in Algona and we were now ready to move and, dear reader, if you never have moved, you should try it once … it sure was some job! We started right away after selling to get ready to move. After digging everywhere from basement to attic and everywhere between, we sure were surprised at the amount of stuff that had accumulated in the twenty years we had lived in Algona, but after giving away what we could, and hauling a couple of loads to the dump, we thought we had a good load left. To our surprise, we had two loads in place of one.
Well, we were finally ready to go and on May 15, 1951 we set sails for Atlantic and arrived there without trouble. Now the problem was to find a place to put all the stuff, but we finally found places for it all. The reason for having so much was that a large part of it was tools, woodworking machines and such that were heavy and bulky.
All that was left of the moving now was writing a check for $260,00 to the man who hauled us down here. Well, we were now ready to go to work and we had a real job ahead of us. I will not go into details about that, but let it suffice to say that we all worked hard all that summer. My wife and Margaret took the paper off all the rooms, 8 in all, and Ray did all the painting after supper, the only time he had. He also did what patching that had to be done with the plastering. I did most of the carpenter work. I hired some help for the outside but did all the finishing work myself – two kitchens, two bathrooms, and considerable changes in the old parts. I did the papering in our part but when it came to papering the north side and upstairs rooms, they all thought that it would be too much for me so they hired a paperhanger to do it.
Well, much more could be said about the work, but I will close here by saying, and I think I can say it without boasting too much, that we have done a fairly good job and we are all well satisfied with the result. We have a nice home in a good part of a good town. We have nice neighbors all around us and we like it real well.
It is now, as I close, April 1, 1953, and I do not know whether there might be something further to write about later which would be of interest.
Abbreviated Family Tree