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Harry E. Giffen


Doris Giffen


Many times, people dream about living in some specialperiod, l860 perhaps - - the time of mid-calf dresses, long hair, and pigtails. But since change is unavoidable, we have many different styles today.My grandfather experienced many of these changes.

My grandfather had a long and wonderful life. It was fullof sadness and happiness. His mother was German and his father was Englishand some Scotch. His ancestors moved to the United States long before mygrandfather was born. Therefore, his parents and himself were born in theUnited States. To be more specific, in Wisconsin. They moved from hereto Echo, Minnesota where the oldest of four children was born. His namewas Harry E. Giffen. Harry's dad died when he was a young man. He leftbehind one daughter and three sons. Since Harry was the oldest, he hadto work to support the family. He worked in a store awhile where he earned75 cents a day. About a year later he got a job at a feed mill where heearned $3.00 a day. As soon as the others were old enough to go to work,he moved upward to the Red River Valley. Here he made his home until hepassed away. He lived in a two story house next to the Red River where hefarmed 200 acres of land. He had purchased this land from a man who hadacquired it through the Homestead Act. The Homestead Act was an act whichstated that any head of a family or any adult who had not borne arms againstthe government would become owner of some public land. All he had to dowas to live on it, cultivate it for five years, and pay a small fee to havehis ownership recorded.

While my grandfather was farming this land, a Norwegiangirl was on her way to the United States. She came to the Red River Valleyfrom Hustad, Norway. Her name was Johannah Hustad. She acquired her lastname from the town she lived in, which was Hustad. Also everyone who livedin this town had the same last name.

She was sixteen when she came over here and she marriedmy grandfather in 1910 when she was twenty-four. In the years they weremarried they had 8 children. Their names were Donald, Leland, Ruth, Glen,Gladys, Joe, Gordon, and Duane. When Duane was three years old he swalloweda bean. The bean got trapped in his lungs and stopped him from breathing. He died a few hours later for the bean was never removed. This was justone of the sadnesses my grandfather had to face.

There were many things to be done on the farm. Each boydid his part in the farm work and each girl did her part in the kitchen. The boys had to drive tractor, take care of the sheep and other chores,The boys were always doing mean things. My father, Joseph Giffen, said,"We would put two cats in grease and tie them to the clothes line. Putting the cats together would start them to fight." (1)

The Giffens lived about four miles from town so every morningthey would hitch up the horse and buggy to go to school. The boys wouldsometimes ride the horses while the girls would drive the buggies. In thewinter the roads were usually blocked so they would have to wear heavy clothingand snow shoes.

In the year 1957 when I was four years old, another sadnessbe-fell my grandfather. My grandmother died. My grandfather took it hard. He didn't go out much unless he was asked out. Almost every Sunday asfar back as I can remember since my grandmother died we have had my grandfatherover for dinner. When my grandmother died all the relatives came to thefarm. We took pictures of all the grand children which added up to twenty-sixat the time, but many have been added since.

My grandfather died in 1964 when he was 76 years old. The only ones left of his family are his sister, Bessie and his sister-in-law,Mabel. They are both now occupying homes in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Times certainly have changed. Even with the families,for the families were usually larger than they are now. Even the transportationhas gotten better.

I will always remember my grandfather as that sweet littleold lonely man who had a long life of happiness and sadness.

(1) Joseph R. Giffen, St. Vincent, Minnesota



Giffen, Joseph; Humboldt, Minnesota, Interview, (February10, 1969).

Giffen, Alice; Humboldt, Minnesota, Interview, (February20, 1969).

+1>Giffen, Alice; Humboldt, Minnesota, Interview, (February20, 1969).