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John Herbert Bogestad


Krista Bogestad


6 th Grade 1994, Tri-County School, Karlstad,MN


4th Place

Kittson County Historical Society GenealogyEssay Contest


The Portrait Of A Minnesota Farmer

Presented to Mr. Aanenson, Social Studies,Grade 6


John Herbert Bogestad, my grandfather, was a Minnesotafarmer whose lifetime spanned nearly all of the 20th Century. Though Iknew him for only a little more than 5 years of my life, I loved him forhis kindness and the feelings he had for me.

John Herbert Bogestad was born on September 5, 1905. Hewas the fifth of eight children: Inga, Norman, Spinner, Myrtle, John, Freda,Albin and Iolet. John was born, as were the other children, at the familyhomestead in Springbrook Township. A midwife helped with the delivery ofall of the children, as was common practice in those days.

John's parents were Tobina (Anderson) and Hans Bogestadwho both immigrated with their families from Norway in the late 1800's. Hans was the oldest of 14 children and the family had been engaged in fishingin Norway. Both families endured a long and difficult boat trip to Americawhich they had heard was a land of great opportunity.

Both families of immigrants settled in Northwest Minnesota. Hans Bogestad and Tobina Anderson courted and were married. They settledin Springbrook Township of Kittson County and farmed. The children wereborn and, as they grew, they became a part of the daily work force of thefamily.

Some of the chores were to help with the cattle, the potatoand grain farming and keeping up the farm machines. They helped with themilking, the plowing, haying, planting, churning their own butter, choppingwood, and many other chores. John's sisters helped their mother with cooking,sewing, mending, knitting, washing the clothes by hand in a wash tub (theywore things for more than one time before washing them), baking, and keepingthe house clean.

Tobina and John's sisters made most of the family's clothes. It was not very often that they got to buy clothes at the store. The womenalso made lots of quilts. These were needed to keep the children warm astheir bedroom was upstairs. During the cold winter months, the two storyhouse was heated by burning wood. The downstairs stayed warm but the upstairswas pretty cold!

Life for my grandpa settled around the home, school, andchurch when he was a child. Work activities took most of the time. Thechildren went to school over two miles from where they lived. The schoolwas called Sunnyside School and was about eight miles west of Karlstad.

Sunnyside was a one room school house. Some of the typicalone room school houses are still found in rural areas. They are used forplaces where country people can vote during elections. In this one roomschool house there were eight different grades. Just one teacher taughtall of these different aged kids! The Bogestad kids would walk the twomiles to school. It started at 9:00 a.m. John's favorite subjects werehistory and geography.

Church was important to the family also. They went tothe Oslo Free Lutheran Church. It was close to the Sunnyside School. TheOslo cemetery is Springbrook Township is where John's parents are buried.

Family life was really important in those days. Eveningswere spent together, often playing musical instruments and singing. Everyonein the family had musical talent. John enjoyed playing the violin. John'ssisters, Fred and Iolet, still occasionally entertain the Senior Citizenswith their musical performances.

When John had any free time, which was not very often,he enjoyed playing baseball with some of the neighboring farm boys. Theyalso fished, rode horses and just got together for visits.

When someone in the family was sick, they went to Dr. Turnbulwho was very good. The best home medicine was called red liniment. Itwould help with aches, pains and the flu.

The only trips they took were to the Hallock Fair. Ittook them an hour and a half to get there by horse and buggy. After theysaved enough money, they bought a "Model T", a buggy that youcranked by hand to start. They they could go more places easier.

Though he wanted to stay in school, John was needed athome to help with the farm. He had to quit school after the sixth grade. He helped his father until he was fifteen. He always claimed that hisfather didn't like him because his eyes were blue. Maybe that was the reasonthat John always dreamed of being on his own and living away from home. Whatever the reason was, John left home at fifteen and went west to Washingtonstate to work in the mines. He enjoyed mining until a tragic accident killedone of his friends.

John left the mine in Washington and went to Michigan wherehe worked for the Firestone Co. making car tires. Later, he worked at aChrysler Co. making automobiles. He saved money from these jobs.

In 1934, John left Detroit and returned to Minnesota wherehe started farming with his brother, Norman, in Springbrook Township ofKittson County. At first, the land he farmed was rented from another farmer. He had to go to the bank to borrow money to buy a tractor.

Times were tough in those days. This was during the GreatDepression and money was scarce. Farming was really difficult since thegrowing conditions went through a dry cycle. It was probably at this timethat John really learned the value of a dollar. In order to survive inbusiness, people had to be very thrifty. John farmed potatoes which soldfor about $1.00 per 100 pounds. The grain he grew sold for about $0.50per bushel.

At the age of thirty, John met Elva Torgerson at a dancein Roseau. Two years later, after a typical courtship, John and Elva weremarried on June 12, 1937.

John had saved enough money and had bought his first quarterof land which was on the western most edge of Springbrook township. WhenJohn married, he bought more land across the road. Their land had a houseon it where he and Elva lived. That house is still on our land and my motherand father lived in that house when they were first married, too.

Life was pretty much filled with hard work. John workedthe farm land and Elva cooked, canned, baked, and helped with the farm workin many ways and there wasn't much time for entertainment. Getting togetherfor a visit was the most common form of recreation during those years.

Roger Jon Bogestad was born on November 5, 1945. WhenRoger was five years old, the family moved to Karlstad to spend the schoolyear. In the summer they would move back to the farm for the busy season. Roger started helping in the fields when he was 9 years old. He did notget to play baseball or enjoy other kinds of summer fun because he was workingwith the farm crew.

The first years were the most difficult. Having survivedthe Great Depression, he was able to steadily increase the size of his farm. Little by little, he bought better machinery and more land. he had tosave carefully and plan for the future. Even with careful planning, farmingmeans gambling on good growing conditions and a good harvest in the fall. This will always be true with farming, but in all of the years as a farmer,John never had a crop failure.

As the farm grew, there was a need for more hired men especiallyduring harvest. To provide for these men, John built a bunk house wherethey could stay, and a cook house where they could eat three times a day. A cook was hired to cook the meals.

A large potato warehouse was built in Donaldson, five mileswest of the farm. The sign on the front of the warehouse read "JohnH. Bogestad and Son, Farms." By then, Grandpa John figured that mydad, Roger, was a part of the business too.

The success of the farm made John a well-known man in thearea. People asked him questions about farming and wanted to know his opinionabout farm issues and trends. He was interviewed by the Red River ValleyPotato Growers Magazine, and they did a whole feature story about John andhis potato business. He was also interviewed by Dr. Hiram Drache and waseventually quoted in Drache's book, Beyond the Furrow.

Probably the greatest sadness was losing his wife, Elva,to cancer when she was sixty-three. He lost brothers and sisters as well. In the early 1970's his seed potato cellar on the farm burned down, ruiningmost of his own seed for spring planting. But, the cellar was replacedand he bought more seed.

In his later years, Grampa John sometimes said if he couldhave done anything different in his life, he would have bought more landand expanded faster. He had a great opportunity to buy lots of land whenhe was young, but he was cautious. He didn't like to owe anybody money. He always thought things through good, then once he'd decided something,he did it. His philosophy of life was "He who hesitates, loses."

Grampa John never really did retire. He suffered a strokein the early 1980's. This slowed him down but he still went to the farmevery day. It hurt him when his eyesight failed because he could not readhis papers. He spent more time watching T.V. and especially liked the newschannel and sports.

He also liked to travel when he was older. By then, Rogerwas taking over as manager of the farm, and John finally felt that he hadsome free time. He made several trips to Southern California during thecold Minnesota winters, but always stayed in touch with the business ofthe farm. He was never gone for too long. He liked being at home best.

John H. Bogestad died on January 1, 1988. He had seenmany changes in his lifetime, not just in farming, but in all parts of life. There had been two World Wars, the Industrial Revolution had changed theway just about every kind of work was done. Television had been invented. Men had even walked on the moon.

John had gotten to know each of his five grandchildren,though the twins were only babies when he died. I always felt that he wasproud of us and had high hopes for us.

He will be remembered for being a totally self-made, successfulbusinessman. He made hard bargains with business deals, and would arguein a fair way, but people always knew what his bottom line was. Take it,or leave it.

I got my information from Roger Bogestad

argains with business deals, and would arguein a fair way, but people always knew what his bottom line was. Take it,or leave it.

I got my information from Roger Bogestad