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Andrew Anderson - Pioneer With Ambition


Vernon Bahr

"You can make your home anywhere if you condition yourself to your environment," has been Andrew Anderson's philosophy during his involved life in Kittson County.

Andrew was born in 1899 in Kittson County and was the first child of seven in their family. His father was a carpenter by trade but had the urge to farm like so many other men have. So he quit his carpentry business and started farming. He bought his estate from a man in Emerson, Manitoba in about 1884.

The land conditions were very poor back at that time. It was very rugged land. There was a combination of dwarf poplars and all kinds of willows everywhere to be seen. The land was marshy and there were sloughs all over.

One of the worst things to put up with then was the undesirable amount of mosquitos. It was so bad that your pant legs were tied at the bottom so the mosquitos wouldn't crawl up your legs. Also you had to wear a net around your face to keep them off. And if you didn't have a screen of some sort you could build a smudge of some kind. This worked pretty good too. Andrew remembers that until the marshy land was cleared away, the mosquitos at times were practically unbearable.

Another one of the very dangerous hazards was the inevitable prairie fires which were so common for a while before the lands were cleared. The lands were very dry back in that time. The farmers would go out into the prairie lands and put up hay for their livestock. The combination of the dry period and the hay made prairie fires real common for a while. The only good thing about these fires was that they really cleared out the willows in a hurry. Years later, a man from Northcote named Ted Florance was hired to clear away the remaining willows. He then planted flax on the old willow ground.

Andrew's school life was a little different from ours of today. He went to a country school called Grampion, just a few miles away. The building was poorly insulated and the stove had to be started pretty early in the morning if the room was to be warm by noon. The stove was a pot bellied stove that was run on wood and coal. Andrew also had to supply his own transportation to and from the school. He used an old horse and buggy that his dad didn't use much around home. Andrew's first teacher's name was Elisa Moore. After Andrew went to this school for eight years he transferred to Crookston A.C. for the next two years. Andrew took up blacksmithing and was the top in his class. When Andrew had only one semester left of school, his teacher was drafted, so Andrew was asked to teach the remainder of the school year. So Andrew also got an idea of how it was to be a school teacher in this wide world of ours. The schools around this area always had a baseball team. They would play each other and have tournaments and etc. Although the schools did have other sports like schools now days do.

Andrew recalls that probably the most important and common sport was hunting. For the simple reason that hunting was essential for food. People couldn't afford to always buy the food they needed so they relied on their hunting ability. It was a common experience back then to go out and bag 50 to 60 grouse or prairie chickens in a half day of hunting. The marshy lands also provided a good atmosphere for geese, ducks and other water fowl species. The farmer back then also had to pay attention to any of their livestock or poultry that they valued because the land was also plentiful with wolves and fox.

After school, Andrew came back to Humboldt to farm on the home place. He bought the estate from his dad and began his long and ambitious life of farming. In 1935, he married Ardis Alseth and then they both began their farming life.

Andrew's farm consisted of two quarters of land for grain, pasture, and hay purposes. Other than the grain he had to contend with some livestock too. He had the dual purpose milking shorthorns which, of course, were used for milk and beef. They also had about 100 hogs and about 150 laying hens. And, last but not least, they had ten hives of honey bees to supply honey for the family. Mrs. Anderson also had a large garden that supplied vegetables for the meals.

Andrew's crops were of the same variety of most of the farmers of today. They consisted of wheat, barley, oats, and flax. The weeds weren't too bad of a problem either. Mustard was scattered in most fields but not as bad as you may think. They could be picked in an afternoon. The harvested crop was hauled into Humboldt to the elevator until the Soo Railroad was put through, and then that brought on the building of an elevator where the Humboldt village dump now lies. The elevator was called Grampion and this name was derived from the words "grand bin". Although at first, before any elevators had been been built, they had to sack all their grain by hand and then transport it to Humboldt or Orleans to be shipped by rail. So the building of the elevators was a needed and welcomed change.

The machinery back in those days was very interesting. The steam engines came into the picture after World War I. In about 1933, the horse was sort of out of the farming picture as far as a means of pulling implements. The steam operated tractors were anywhere from 1 to 4 cylinders and could pull as much as 12 bottoms of plow at about two miles per hour. Andrew had his first engine in 1917, a John Deere. Another interesting fact is that they required two men to operate the machines. One guy would be in the back and watch the implement and the other would be in the front and he would drive the tractor. The implements in those days were similar in appearance to ours of today but made of cheaper materials and design. Now days, through experience, we have improved the design and efficiency of the farming equipment.

Andrew and Ardis have three children: Lowell, Ann, and Marion. They are all married and have families of their own. Lowell now operates the estate of his father and has been farming it for fourteen years. Andrew also housed his brother's children for a period of time. Their names were: Allan, Arnie, and Clarice. They all went to school in Humboldt.

Back in the early 1900's, the health situation was a little different. Smallpox was a dreaded disease unless, of course, you were vaccinated. Other than that, there was the usual run of flues, colds, measles, and etc. But still the situation was different in the aspect that transportation was limited to a certain extent. A doctor was hard to come by and at first there was no telephone. So, in those days, there was what they called mid wives that were available in the case of child birth. In case of a serious illness or tragedy, there was a doctor in the town of Pembina. After the telephone came in, it made it a lot easier to communicate.

Even though Andrew was a busy man, he did have some extra time. This extra time was mostly devoted to the children in the 4-H club in nearby Humboldt. He promoted his ideas in grains and soils management and some in engineering. He took some of the kids on educational trips, shows, and interesting meetings that involved some of the areas that I mentioned above. This sort of gave the kids an outlook towards some of the problems in farming.

In 1950, Andrew received an award from the Conservation Department for planting windbreaks to fight erosion. He planted 50,000 trees by his home. These shelter belts not only pout forth an example to the surrounding farmers but it also helped keep the dirt and snow from blowing wildly around his home place.

Andrew remembers when his home was sort of used as a half-way home. "I remember years ago when men use to pass by the place on their way to look for work. Usually they were going to Pembina or the Florance farm in Northcote. They usually came from out east by Tolstoi around there. They never caused any trouble but just wanted a drink or a bite to eat or maybe even sleep a while." (1) There also have been Indians around the country at one time or another. Signs of camp circles, arrowheads, and other Indian articles could be found years ago.

The Red River Valley and the pioneers that settled there had to cope with winter blizzards, the spring floods, the summer heat, and the autumn rains. They broke the sod and cleared the brush. The land produced for those that had faith and determination. Andrew Anderson was one of the men who had faith and determination and the idea that you can make your home anywhere if you condition yourself to your environments.

(1) Andrew Anderson, St. Vincent, Minnesota 56755; an early Red River Valley farmer; 1899 - 19--.


Anniversary Number Kittson County Enterprise. Hallock: J. E. Bouvette & Sons, 1935.

Andrew Anderson, St. Vincent, Minnesota 56755; an early Red River Valley farmer; 1899 - 19--.