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Martin Hylland: A Pioneer In "Blue Heaven"


Sharon Ohmann


Ole Hylland, father to my grandfather, Martin Hylland, was born in Telemarken, Norway, August 14, 1869. He settled on a homestead with his parents near Hatton, North Dakota until his marriage in 1891.

His new wife was Margaret Heggseth who was from the same place in Norway and only four years younger than he. She and Ole made a charming couple. He had black curly hair and she was a beautiful brunette.

During the first year of their marriage, they rented a house near Hatton. Frost hit his first wheat crop and left Ole holding the bag! With a wife and a new baby daughter to support, Ole wondered what to do next. He was told homesteads were still available in Northern Minnesota, so he filed a claim for a quarter four miles north of Badger. After building a log cabin to live in, Ole wondered if he had made the right move. On summer evenings he would sit on the top of the sod roof of the barn and weep as he surveyed the surrounding area. All he saw was trees, brush, water, weeds, rocks, and a muddy trail to the farm. This was a far cry from the open lands in North Dakota.

As years passed, his livestock herds grew and the family was able to make a living. Being a thrifty Norwegian, he saved and slaved until after about fifteen years, they were able to add another room, this time built to the sod cabin. With lumber, a horse and two oxen, gradually, the sod was turned. As years went by, horses replaced the oxen. On this homestead, Henry was born in 1894, Clarence in 1897, and my grandpa Martin in 1901. The boys grew up in the log cabin and can still remember how water dripped from the sod roof on rainy nights.

The boys had to follow the straight and narrow path because they had no money to waste. A five gallon can of kerosene was expected to last through the winter so the boys couldn't sit up and burn the night-oil!

Christmas was the highlight of the year for the homesteading family. The cabin had a face lifting: whitewash applied inside and out, and the rough board ceiling was covered with old copies of a Norwegian weekly called the "Dakota Poster". Things came to a climax on Christmas Eve. One memorable year, each of the boys were presented with a brand new harmonica. They played in unison until their mouths were so sore they could hardly open them to eat! Their older sister, Julia, was happily bundling a small china doll! There was no Santa Claus in their house, no Christmas tree or candles. But spirits ran high as my great grandma bustled about with Scandinavian baking. There was lefse. The soft rounds are made of mashed potatoes, flour, and cream rolled thin and baked on top of the stove till brown spots appeared, then it was turned and browned on the other side. Spread with butter and sugar and rolled up, it was a delicacy fit for a king! Then there was flatbread, a mixture of milk, sugar, shortening, and leavening which was also important. A sausage made mainly from hog's blood, ground pork and beef, flour, sugar and raisins. My great grandma would sew casings three inches by twelve inches from flour sacks and pour the mixture in and tie off. These filled casings were then dropped into boiling water till firm.

The Christmas school program was an annual event. Everyone was presented with an apple and a bag of hard Christmas candy and peanuts. The children presented plays and declamations. The one room school was one and a half miles from grandpa's place and one teacher had all grades from one to eight. Grandpa attended school here until he was fifteen. Then he stayed home to help his father with farming until he was old enough to work in North Dakota's harvest fields. At the age of seventeen, he was confirmed in the Lutheran Faith. He enjoyed the Bible history stories most of all, but managed to memorize the catechism.

As a teenager, Grandpa's favorite hobby was carving. All the brothers loved to carve. Clarence and my Grandpa made dozens of farm animals from poplar wood, but Henry just whittled chips! In later years, both Grandpa and Clarence carved violins (which they still have) and played them at neighborhood house parties.

Parties and basket socials were favorite ways of socializing in those days. At basket socials, the ladies would decorate boxes with a lunch. The men would pick their favorite basket and the man had to have lunch with the owner. Grandpa was always afraid of the girl he'd have to have lunch with. Neighbors got together as often as they could even if they had to walk several miles!

As the brothers passed the teenage years, only one was needed to help with farm work, and two hit for North Dakota in the fall to pitch bundles or pick potatoes. By saving the major portion earned, each saved about $400.00 in bank savings at 3%. In 1922, the banks closed and the boys lost every cent of their hard earned savings. In 1924, Martin met Minnie Wickstrom from west of Badger. Every Friday night they would get together at Sjobergs Hall and a courtship started which lasted for seven years. It finally led to marriage on June 6, 1931. They rented a farm west of Badger with a high airy house, and barn big enough for seven cows and four horses. It was a pleasant home with improvements made after they moved in. Crisp curtains, colorful draperies, new linoleum, nice walls, a new wooden heater, and range made living quite comfortable. No one thought anything of carrying water from the well or wading out to the toilet. Here grandpa farmed about 160 acres with horse power and used old machinery his dad and brothers had discarded. Here, their first three children were born: Herbert, Gloria, and Walda. Karen, the baby, came along ten years later.

Andrew Wickstrom, my grandma's dad, died from uremia in1938. Things looked bad. The farm was for sale and Grandpa put in a bid. It was accepted, so they moved over in the fall of 1938. Things were looking up; a better house, more barns, and more acres of open land for crops. At this time, work horses were replaced with tractors and combines. There were more cows to milk, chickens to feed, gardens to hoe, wood to carry, water to haul, and always more fruit, vegetables and meat to can. Farmers over-produced and there seemed to be a surplus of everything in the nation, so in 1956, a Federal Program started called the soil bank program. Because Grandma was teaching in Humboldt, summers were spent on the farm and Grandpa kept the farm looking like a park. The house was modernized and summers were very pleasant. In 1967, Grandpa purchased a house in Badger. After selling the farm in 1970, they have made this their home and now have time to enjoy leisure hobbies they didn't ever find time for before. In spite of all these comforts, Grandpa still misses the farm and always thins of it as his "Blue Heaven".


Interview: Charlotte Bratlein, Humboldt, Minnesota

Interview: Gloria Ohmann, Noyes, Minnesota

Interview: Martin Hylland, Badger, Minnesota

Interview: Minnie Hylland, Badger, Minnesota


Interview: Minnie Hylland, Badger, Minnesota