Kaia Anderson

by

Emily Sobolik

 

6th Grade 1994, Hallock/Kennedy School, Kennedy,MN

 

3rd Place

Kittson County Historical Society GenealogyEssay Contest

 

My Great-great grandmother, Kaia, was born on January 2,1885 in Norforten Island, Norway. She attended school there and marriedOlaf Olsen in 1903 at the age of eighteen.

They had only been married for one month when they immigratedto America. They boarded a ship and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Theirship landed in Quebec, Canada. From there they took the railway to Winnipegthen to Emerson. Once in Emerson, they headed down to Caribou Townshipin Kittson County, Minnesota. They claimed their one hundred and sixtyacre homestead. The only real means of transportation and communicationwere the railway and the postal services.

While farming the homestead, Kaia bore two children, Mariein 1904 and Ole in 1906. Since times were tough, they decided that Olafshould seek extra employment so the family could make ends meet. Unfortunately,Olaf became ill and passed away in 1906.

Kaia found herself alone with one toddler and an infant. Because she had no money to raise her children, she sold the homesteadand went to work on the farm of a wealthy doctor. Here, she met Mons Anderson,the man later to become her second husband.

Mons was the foreman of the doctor's farm. Though he waseighteen years older than Kaia, she found him to be a kind and gentle man. As their relationship grew, he determined to make Kaia his wife and legallyadopt her two children. Soon after, they moved to Hallock. Kaia gave birthto her third child, Oskar in 1909.

Shortly after Oskar was born, Kittson County started advertisingfor someone to oversee the county farm, also known as the "Poor Farm." Since Mons had experience as a foreman and Kaia as a housekeeper, motherand cook, they decided that Mons should apply for the position. He reportedto the County Commissioners for an interview and was hired.

Mons and Kaia took over the "Poor Farm" in 1909. Mons was forty-two years old and Kaia was twenty-four. Their childrenwere Marie, five; Ole, three; and Oskar, an infant. Kaia could not speakor read English. Yet, they did not allow themselves to become preoccupiedwith the obstacles before them.

The first "Poor Farm" headquarters was an abandonedfarm house two and one half miles southwest of Hallock. It was in needof repair as well as furnishing. Each bedroom needed two beds, a smalltable and a mirror. There were also containers known as "chamber pots"placed under each bed because there was not an indoor bathroom. Two "outhouses" were on the farm but they were not convenient for the sick,disabled and elderly.

In the meantime, the county searched and found an 80 acrefarm one and one half miles northwest of Hallock. There were several buildingson this farm. The county purchased the land in 1910 and the deed is recordedin the court house on April 25, 1910.

The existing house on the farm had five rooms, and wouldbe the quarters for Mons and Kaia's family. Immediate arrangements weremade for improvements and the needed addition for the house. A dining room,sitting room, and a bedroom were added on the main floor. The upstairsaddition had a large bedroom and four smaller ones. There was also a fireescape on one side of the house. The size of the addition was twenty bytwenty-four feet, or four hundred and eighty square feet. This was consideredadequate space for up to twenty inmates without overcrowding.

Mons and Kaia were responsible for nineteen inmates bythe end of their first full year of work. The 1910 records show that therewas one sick, two blind, six aging, four disabled, and a mother and herfive children. They grew and harvested fresh produce, raised livestock,and provided medical attention when needed. Mons was hired on a yearlybasis. His wages were fifty dollars per month with board provided. Theagreement also specified that Kaia's services were included. That meantthat both were full time employees of the county for six hundred dollarsa year.

Mons and Kaia were overseers of the "Poor Farm"for fourteen years. During this time, they cared for thirty men, four women,and twenty three children. They housed the poor, orphaned, sick, insane,and alcoholics with no place to go. They experienced the flood of 1916and the influenza (flu) epidemic of 1918. Their daughter, Marie, was struckwith Polio and Oskar died at the age of nine when his appendix burst onhis way to the Crookston Hospital.

Though many people thought of the "Poor Farm"as a grim, disgraceful place, Kaia and Mons proudly provided homes for thosewho were less fortunate. Stories have been told about how they made holidaysand birthdays special for the inmates. Many have said that they providedthe genuine concern, love and support that many lacked.

In 1923, Mons and Kaia bought a large house in Hallock. Unfortunately, Mons died in 1927 after a sudden heart attack. Later, Kaiawent back to work as a cook at the hospital. She worked there until sheretired at the age of eighty years. She kept her house until her deathin 1982. She was ninety-seven years old.

My great-great grandmother lived a rich and full life. She welcomed her fifth generation to this world. She is remembered byher family and friends for her generosity, her kind spirit, her love, herChristian faith, and her positive attitude.

Bibliography

Diary entries and story recorded by: Marie Jensen

Ledger entries: Originals of Mons Anderson

Annual Report: Kittson County Poor House. 1910

"Roust-About": Article by Gary Phillips.

Kaia Anderson: Interview by Gabriella Mingot-About": Article by Gary Phillips.

Kaia Anderson: Interview by Gabriella Mingo