Esther's grandfather was John Johnson and her father was Charley. Charley Johnson was born in Torpa Socken Oaterfotland, Sweden February 28, 1854. When he was older, he joined group of people who decided to go to America. Charlotte Adolfson was also in the group that landed in Chicago and then went to Moline, Illinois, in the spring of 1880. Charlotte and Charley were then married. Charlotte's father was a blacksmith. Charley worked for the Moline Plow Company.
The couple had heard of homestead land in O'Brien County, Iowa. First Charley came to the homestead. The farm was on the corner, east half of S.E. 1/4 Section 10 in Baker Township. In 1885 Charley sent for his family. A daughter Esther was born October 16, 1885 on the homestead farm. It was cold that winter and they had to burn flax straw twisted like an 8 so it would burn longer. They would take turns feeding the fire all night. At that time it was called Squatterland since one could put up a building, live in it and call it home.
In the spring, Charley started to plow the ground which was difficult because it had never been plowed. It had pretty wild flowers growing on it. It showed roads where the Indian had trails across the land. He had saved $500.00 to start farming. A few years later, they bought 80 acres adjoining the homestead. When Esther was old enough to go to school, she went to Center School. She writes, "My classmates were Mildred Thomas, Walter Buck and Leo Behean. Occasionally renters moved in and joined us at school. During vacation, I helped with the farm work, and often stayed home to help pick corn in the fall. At that time, we used a husking peg. We picked one ear at a time, cleaning the husk and throwing it into a wagon."
Esther attended Sunday school in the Philby (Baker) Church. Sometimes she rode with Mrs. Jonas Hedin, the Bembos or the Sutters. Mrs. Sutter was the teacher when Esther was about 5 years old. She remembers the pretty little doll that hung on the Christmas tree, for when the gifts were handed out, the doll was Esther's from her Sunday school teacher. Mrs. Beers and Mrs. Lamkin were other Sunday school teachers and they were dear to Esther's heart. The organist was Mrs. Emma Hedin. Esther always remembers the song she played a lot‐"Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine". When she played those notes so clearly, we could hear she had the assurance that Jesus was here. One summer a tornado blew the church away, but it was rebuilt at the same place. There used to be a store at the corner and a post office in the Philby's house.
When Esther was growing up, the family had many good times with their friends, especially on birthdays. Esther recalled, "The young people came October 16, for my birthday." One time she says they brought an accordion for music everyone enjoyed. One friend Conrad Kaiser headed to the church on Sunday evenings, for there would be piano music. Vick Sands was also in the group. Esther Johnson married Conrad Kaiser on February 24, 1909. They lived on a farm and the first year they had a hail storm but still had a pretty good crop. At harvest time the men went out at day break and Esther took them lunch at 9:00 o'clock and then helped until noon when they all came in for dinner that she had to get the ready for all. Esther had typhoid fever and was weak for two years. Their first son was Roy and then Harry was born in 1918. Myrtle Lasher was Esther's hired girl at the time Harry was born; Dr. Galman was her doctor. Roy was 4 years old and Myrtle was busy watching him. Vernon was born in 1922. Esther remembers hearing the whistles when World War I was over.
Esther's family was longtime residents of the Baker community. They witnessed many changes over the years. Her father and mother eventually built a house on the same corner where they had lived 37 years before. Only at that time, the first Philby school had been moved and a new one built. Later, that building was moved to the home place for a cob house, and the second school house was moved to where Nell Nieuwenhuis lived across the road. Elbert Philby made a house out of that one. A modern school was put up at Philby and all three sons went through eighth grades there. Conrad was director there for many years, until the time of his death. He enjoyed making the schoolyard nice by planting shrubs and flowers. Then in the year 1947 they did not have a teacher and the school was closed.
Now in 2018 Joyce Kaiser has donated a bush at the Baker school in Sheldon in memory of her father, Harry Kaiser. Joyce is happy the Baker school has been restored.
Used with permission of Joyce Kaiser