by Jenny Friedlund
account is unedited.
This account is unedited.
Mrs. Anna Gustafson Sandberg was the oldest Mountain resident, living to be 102 years old.
1849 to 1951
I, Anna Jenny Margreta, was the fifth child of August and Maria Frielund, the first was stillborn shortly after their arrival in Mountain, Wisconsin in 1900. They were living with my mother’s parents, John and Anna Sandberg at the time, in the house on the farm my uncle Nil’s bought for the family before they arrived from Sweden. The second child was a boy, Eric, born November 1902, while living in the Gripentrog house, which they shared with the Nil’s Nelsons. They had only one room and had to carry water from the town pump, almost a half mile. Eric died there in 1903.
Greta Aurora, born in December 1903, in the “Old Store”. This store was located where the town was going to be, between the graveyard and the Lutheran Church. When the railroad came in it was too far from it, so they built a new store where the town is now. There were living quarters in the back of the store where my parents had two rooms and the Asplunds had one. The Asplunds had five children at the time. Mr. Asplund and my father worked summer and winter in the lumber camps. They peeled bark from hemlock posts in the summer time, and worked cutting logs in the winter, it was hard work.
My mother was not at ease in the “Old Store”. She heard strange noises. And thought it was haunted. She told us many stories of odd things happening there. I slept in that room years later while I was in high school. My girl friend, Ruth Boetcher, lived there with her brother’s family while attending high school. I did not feel anything unusual about the place. Her brother and his wife had three sons, two born on February 29th, four years apart. The first was named Norbert Ralph, and the third on Ralph Norbert. There was a cheese factory in the front of the store for many years. When we went to church school we used to go to the factory for handouts of curds. Later the store was moved into town and had a meat market in it. It seems I heard that Mr. Boetcher hung himself there and that the building was burned down.
My sister Mildred Linea, was born there in 1905. I was born in the same place in December 1906. Mrs. Thomas Anderson was the midwife for us. Mildred was unusually smart according to my mother, she was younger than Gert and though Gert was a very smart child she taught Gert to light a match and to turn the latch on the door to open it. She died in February 1907. I think it was from a brain tumor, as I have heard of other smart children, smart beyond their years dying of brain tumors. My aunt Frieda was holding her when she died and said she heard a “pop” just before she died and thinks it was her appendix that burst. I too, almost died in infancy. The doctor gave me up, but Mrs. Thomas Anderson revived me with a hot mustard bath. I lived.
They had a cow when they lived at the store. Aunt Frieda said she was mean and ugly. As my father was gone most of the time, my mother had to do the milking and the chores. In fact, my father never learned to milk. He had short stubby fingers so it was hard for him to milk anyway, back in those days it was woman’s duty to it anyway. When my mother was ill aunt Frieda would milk for her. She was often ill, as she must have been pregnant most of the time. Aunt Frieda was only a teenager at the time.
In about 1908 my parents bought a forty acre farm with a three room house, a cow barn, a hay barn, and a wind mill with a small pumphouse on it. There was a bit of clear land ready for planting. He also owned eighty acres of land on the Crooked Lake road. He evidently bought it first, but as there were no buildings he could not move his family there.
My sister, Ebba Signe Agusta, was born on the farm in 1909. As was Eric Lennard in 1911, and John Arvid in 1914. I can remember when Len was born. I must have been left at my grandmothers house. When Dad came back from taking the midwife home, and the doctor back, with horses borrowed from grandpa, he took me home with him. He got a ride on a ice wagon and my father told the men he had a son. I was seven when Arvid was born, so that was easy to remember. I also remember when the Sandbergs, that was my mother’s brother Gust and his wife Maria, and children Naomi, Mattius, John, Waldemer. Elviora, Hugo, and Siguard came to my Grandmas from Sweden. They lived in part of grandmas house. They called the bedroom “kamaren.” I think they came over in 1910. My uncle Walfred’s father also visited in the U.S. in 1910. I remember when Halley’s Comet went over. I don’t remember seeing it but I do remember Gert scaring me that we would all die because of it. She was good at scaring me. When my grandparents gave or sold uncle Gus a forty of their land they were digging a well where they were going to build their house the well caved in and uncle Nils lost his life in it. I always recalled the song “Wearing of the Green”, uncle Nils’ song as he always sang that song when he had a few drinks. There was a log barn on the farm that had room for three cows. There was a calf pen that had a drop board over the back part of it, with a roost for a few chickens. Part of the building nearest the house was a storage area; there was an attic over the barn where our cats would usually have their kittens. We kids found many interesting things there. Down in the storage area there was a trunk that must of come from Sweden with their belongings in it. Now it was used to store the winter supplies like flour. My father being gone to the lumber camps all winter, supplies like flour had to be put in before he left. We never had bakery bread; it may not have been available then. There was a building to be used for hay. When the barn was not full of hay we had a swing there. I remember once when Waldemar Sandberg was swinging, he swung real high and jumped off a pile of hay in the back of the barn, he jumped so hard and far he hit the back wall and knocked a board out. I don’t remember that he was hurt. When it was full of hay we were not suppose to play up there, but it was fun, so we would at times.
There was a two seater outhouse next to the log barn, it was so poorly constructed that when it snowed we had to brush the snow off the seat before we could sit down. The pile under the seat got so high by spring (when dad got home to do something about it) that we had to take a stick and push the pile over so we wouldn’t touch it. In the summer it had to be cleaned often to keep the smell down and the flies away. This was spread on the hay fields for fertilizer. There was a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog there to be used as toilet paper. We would sit and crumble up a sheet several times to make it softer. The Sears catalog was always softer, when Arv was small it seemed he always had to visit the little place at night, and as he was afraid to go alone either Gert or I had to go and sit with him. We were happy when he got brave enough to go by himself; even then he was not too happy to be by himself, so he would sing as loud as he could to keep himself company. The Lundquist’s a half mile away could hear him and knew where he was.
Down the hill below the house there was a windmill that at one time pumped all the water we used on the farm. Next to it was a small building that held a barrel, that was our drinking water, then it ran into a tank, in this tank we set anything that needed to be kept cool. We had no ice-box, and of course no refrigerator. We had no electricity. From this tank it ran outside to a tank for the animals to drink. In the winter time this water would freeze. We had to chop ice to fill our bucket for drinking water. We didn’t need the tank for cooling, I don’t remember that it drained; evidently the water ran over the ice top of the tank outside when the pump would be pumping. The animal water would freeze. In the morning a fire would have to be started in the little stove in the middle of the tank to thaw enough ice so the cows would have water to drink. Later this well went dry so a new well had to be dug. By that time electricity had come to the area so water was pumped that way. When Arvid was between 2 and 3 years old we were all down in the field picking cucumbers when some one saw him up near the top of the windmill. Dad managed to get him down but there were some tense moments while he was doing it.
The house had a bedroom, kitchen and a parlor or living room. There was a dirt cellar under the kitchen to store our winter supply of potatoes and seed potatoes for next years planting. There were also some shelves to hold all the cans of fruit that were canned during the summer. We would go out in the woods to pick wild berries for canning. We would go quite far to get raspberries and blueberries. Blackberries were plentiful on our own land. Dad planted some apple trees, so we always had lots of apple sauce, as we had pancakes every day with either berries or apple sauce on them, it took a lot to see us through the winter.
There was a Reed organ that went with the place which was a real blessing. We were blessed too with a sister that was able to play it. Gert learned to play by ear when she was so little she could hardly reach the keys. We kids loved to sing so we made good use of this blessing. Ebba was not blessed with the ability to carry a tune, but she loved to sing and our mother would not let us leave her out, which was right, but did not help the singing or harmonizing. Gert got a few lessons and I do mean few, so she could play in church, and she in turn taught me the names of the keys and so on as I dearly wanted to learn to play. I spent hours teaching myself how. I even played in Sunday school once when the regular organist was absent. Our uncle Walfred taught Gert to play the violin. She played with his orchestra once for a school doing. As the violin is not a solo instrument, she would want me to cord on the organ while she played. I wasn’t always in the mood to play when she was, so I would goof off and be soundly rapped over the head with the bow. I had no instruction with the timing or fingering or what all those little symbols were for. Hymns were the simplest to play and that is what we had music for so I played mostly hymns. I still like to play them the best. The farm house was very small for a large family. I do remember early sleeping arrangements, but when we were bigger Gert, Ebb, and I slept in the living room in one bed. We let Ebba sleep in the middle so we could warm our feet on her after we had been to a dance or somewhere. She was a “stay at home” type. After Gert left home it seems my mother got the living room as she was ill so much of the time. Ebba and I shared a bedroom with the boys. When the boys got older they moved to the new pumphouse. There wasn’t much heat there, winters were pretty cold so perhaps they moved into the house for the winter. By that time I had gone from home too. They had a bed partner as they let Tut their dog sleep under the covers with them.
We were very poor. Our friends, neighbors, and the rest of the family were not much better off, so we did not realize we were poor. There was no thought of asking the government for a handout. We did the best we could with what we had. We had a cook stove that burned wood to cook on and help heat the house, there was also a heater in the living room that would warm the space near it; it also burned wood. My dad saw to it that the wood shed was filled with wood before he left for the woods in the fall. There was a small area for a pantry, probably about 3x3 feet; the rest of this area made a closet in the bedroom. There was a kitchen cabinet with a bin for flour and places for many things including some pots and pans. We had a table to eat at in the kitchen and a commode with a basin on it to wash ourselves in.
The closet in the bedroom ran the length of the bedroom except the space taken by the small pantry; the door was at one end which made it very hard to find anything; as it was the only closet in the house and we ended up being seven people, it was always full, even if we didn’t have many clothes. There was a sewing machine in the bedroom also besides the bed and a chest of drawers. My mother never learned to sew, she probably used the machine to mend our clothes. When we were to get a new dress, she would buy a piece of material and send us down to aunt Freida. She always did our sewing for us, she never had a pattern. When we got older we would pick out a dress in the Sears or Wards catalog and show it to her and she would make us one like it. She was fantastic! Our dad finally got a team of horses of his own, I was probably six or seven at the time. He had to shelter them so he built a lean-to on the hay barn. Later when he got more cows he added on to the lean-to so it was the full length of the hay barn. Some time later a silo was added. Before he had the silo the corn was set in shocks in a yard where the cows could not get to them, each day some was broken loose to feed the cows in the barn. The cows had to be kept in the barn day and night in the winter; they were just let out long enough to get a good drink of water. The corn would freeze to the ground so it had to be chopped loose, this was hard work for two little girls.
When Gert and I were in the 6th and 8th grade our mother was ill a lot, probably going through the “change,” she couldn’t do the required work. My grandmother came to do the milking but Gert and I had to do all the chores; it was hard but we both made it with honors. Cleaning the barn was hard for us, I was so skinny and such a weakling, I found it hard to shovel the manure out the window onto a pile that got so high we had to go out there and throw it off so it would not block the window. At that time we had a quite a few cows. The horses were gone in the winter so we didn’t have to care for them, they were in the lumber camps skidding logs all winter. Winters were always hard, the water in the cow tank would freeze so we had to be out there early so the water could be melted enough for them to drink. There was snow to shovel; at least a path to the barn and to the “privy”. We also had to light the fire in the house, usually the heater would be kept going all night as it could take pretty big chunks of wood, but we had to light the cook stove to help heat the house. Sometimes the water in the house was frozen in the morning. All our water had to be carried in, when we washed clothes by hand and boiling them, we used well water for rinsing, everything had to be hung on a line even in the coldest weather, we sure froze our hands doing it. The clothes would freeze as soon as they were hung out, some of them dried, heavy stuff had to be hung inside near a stove to finish drying. Believe me, we did not get clean clothes to put on every day, nor did we have white sheets on our beds; we had no sheets at all only our homemade quilts that were heavy to start with, and every time they go to be mended it was another layer of cloth, mostly from flour sacks. So we had a “fel”, this was sheepskin, black on one side and white on the other, the skin side was covered by home woven cloth. I believe my mother wove this cloth before she came to America, it was warm but heavy. In the summer time we caught rain water for washing clothes and our hair. It was kept in a barrel outside under a gutter.
We kids got a bath for Christmas, but we all had to use the same water, the smallest to the largest. I can’t remember any other baths except when we kids would bring a tub out somewhere where we could have privacy and carry cold water to play in. I remember one time when we were doing this Elvira and Sigurd Sandberg were with us, Sigurd was the youngest, he is a month younger than I; Johnnie, their oldest brother came to get them and found us all sunning around in the nude. Sigurd and I were probably five years old and Gert and Elvira were eight. Later after we were grown, Johnnie would tease us about it. We would walk to Green lake to play in the water, we couldn’t swim; we never had an adult with us, it is a wonder some of us didn’t drown. Later when the boys were growing up they used a car to drive down to the lake every night after chores. Their dog Tut loved to go with them, he dearly loved the water but he got to be a nuisance as he wouldn’t wait for the area to clear before he would dive and land on someone that went before him; so he was banned, he sure was a sad dog about that. We would get into the water tub that the folks used to cool their evening milk in after the milk went to the cheese factory in the morning. He was trying to get wet, he couldn’t accomplish it entirely but he sure tried. He was an Airdale and really loved the water.
I don’t remember how we were dressed when we were small. I do remember we wore a home knitted shirt with long sleeves under our dresses and long home knitted stockings that went over our knees. We wore “leif stuch”, a contraction with garters on it to hold up our stockings. We wore high topped shoes or “trusses” (a boot made out of old horse blankets with a stitched on sole of some rather soft leather). We liked to wear these when we were small. I remember wearing “long johns” (fleece lined underwear with long arms and legs. I do not know if these were available when we were real small, or if then we just didn’t have them. I don’t think we would have needed the knitted shirts over long john, as they were warm. We needed warm clothes as we had to walk a mile and a quarter to school. Some kids had a lot farther than we did. I walked it when it was 35 below zero, the janitor stood at the door of the school on those cold days and checked the kids for frost bite on their faces. We wore “fasteners” in those days, a scarf that wrapped around our necks and up over our faces. Our breath would freeze around the scarf which was very uncomfortable. In the summer time of course, we dressed lighter. We wore petticoats that were starched, at least around the bottom that had ruffled embroidered lace; these had to be ironed with “sad irons” that were heated on the stove, we would iron with one until it cooled, then take the next one, there were usually three irons that were a set, this enabled a person to keep on ironing. The two would heat while you ironed with the other. It was hot work, as you had to keep a good fire in the stove. We went barefoot in the summer time so foot wear was no problem. Cuts and bruises were, I remember when I was fourteen years old I was walking to town, barefoot of course, when there were some young men that had been brought in from Marinette to harvest sugar beets on the Olson farm that I had to pass by and they teased me about being barefoot. One said to the other “I didn’t know your girl went barefoot”. I think that was the last time I walked to town on my bare feet.
I can remember the first car I rode in, my aunt Annie’s husband Marinus Jensen got a car shortly after or before the Henry Allens. He used to take us for a ride, when he took us home we would ride half way, then walk back to get another ride. Emil Lund worked for my father one time, he had a motorcycle and when he went home from work we would take turns riding part of the way home with him for the joy of riding. After I left home my father brought a Ford touring car, it had curtains you could put up when it rained or turned cold. The roads in winter couldn’t be used for cars so the cars were stored for the snowy months until later years when we had snow plows. While we were still young Dad brought a phonograph, a very small one; about twelve inches in diameter, Dad loved music, he used to play the accordion later in life. I never heard him play while we were small. I believe the “Dra Spiel” was given to his brother Karl after Dad was gone. We didn’t have many records and what we had were Swedish. I remember we had “Swen Swenson’s Swen” and “Nicolina”. I still find myself singing them at times. Then there was “Johnan pa Snippen” and “Fiskar Vals Fro Bohusian” all good tunes. We have some of these tunes on record now. Later when Gert grew up and went to work she brought us a console phonograph and some popular music. I remember “Charlie My Boy” perhaps because of the parody “Dickie My Boy” for Dickie Leob who was on trial for murdering Bobbie Franks. When in Chicago we lived near the Loebs, Leopolds, and Franks.
After I left home the folks even had a radio, something unheard of when we were young. I was in high school before there was a radio in town. The first one was owned by my uncle, Marinus Jensen; we was our “rich uncle”, we would go there and take turns to sit with the head phones on to hear a little music and talking, reception was very poor and erratic.
When I was seven I lived with my aunt Hulda and her husband, Axel Olson; they lived on the old Olson farm; the house was near the road. They had a phonograph and a record “Oh where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone”, the singer whistled loud for his dog, I would wait for someone to go by the road, put this record on to see the bewilderment on the face of the person wondering who was whistling. I got a big bang out of that.
I remember the first airplane I saw; my Dad came home from town and told us and airplane was going to fly over Mountain; there was such excitement in town as no one had seen one before. I felt it was my duty to let my cousins the Sandbergs know about it so I ran down there to tell them; I was so exhausted when I got there as it was quite a ways to run, I was almost too tired to look for the plane.
I hardly knew a word of English when I started school; there were quite a few others that didn’t know either, the town was mostly Scandinavian. We had a large family, besides my Grandpa and Grandma there were two sons and six daughters; uncle Nils never married and died young. Uncle Gust and his wife Maria had twelve children, one died in infancy. Aunt Sarah and husband Ole Lundquist had six; the youngest, Sigierd was my age. I hardly knew the oldest as she married and moved to South Dakota. My aunt Bertha and husband Ole Lund had five, the oldest a little younger than Gert. Aunt Bertha died when the youngest Esther, was barely two years old. Aunt Sarah brought her up. Aunt Freida cared for Elvira who was my age, and Olga, somewhat younger, was taken in by her fathers relatives, the Andrew Olsons. The father raised the two boys Roudolph and Bennie. Gommer Stromberg (I never knew any other name for her) came and cared for the boys when they were real small. Aunt Annie and her husband Marinus Jensen, had six children but they lived in town so they learned the language much sooner that the farm kids. Aunt Freida and her husband Walfred Bloomberg and aunt Hulda and her husband Axel Olson were so much younger that I remember well when they were married. The two aunts and their neice Erka Lundquist were married in a triple ceremony in 1915. Their children of course were much younger than I. The Bloombergs have two and the Olson’s have four. All my cousins my same age started school with me and most of them could not master English language any better than I could. We sat in the first grade for two years, A class and B class. Later we had to take two classes the same year. We had no bi-lingual teachers but we learned well enough without them; and in turn we taught our parents. When our Mother spoke to us in Swedish we would answer in English; therefore she too had to learn. They also learned to read and write and took out citizen papers as soon as they could as they wanted to be good Americans. And they were…
We farm kids had to help with the farming. In the spring after the fields were plowed we had to pick stones, as the plowing brought up a lot of them. There were many big stone piles on our farm. In the summer there was hoeing and picking potato bugs. We had Colorado potato beetles that could ruin the crop if not destroyed. In later years they were controlled by spraying, but when we were small we went along and picked the big ones off and crushed the eggs on the leaves. We hated this job as we were always barefoot and the ground was so hot it burned out feet. Hour after hour of this was rough. We also had to steer the horses when dad was cultivating. We didn’t mind this so much. It was very monotonous and the horse flies were a nuisance. In the fall we had had to pick up potatoes; not only our own, we went from farm to farm as they needed big crews especially after they dug with machinery. The potatoes were dug in October; this meant we missed school all the while we were picking. One year Gert and I cut sugar beet tops for a guy that had contracted to raise a lot of them. It was November and bitter cold to sit outdoors all day. We worked for several weeks missing school all the while, when we went to collect our pay he had skipped out so we got nothing. I think we farm kids did as well in school as the kids in town, we just had to work harder; but we were used to it. After Gert and I left home Len and Arv took over the work we had done. I believe Len did the milking and Arv took care of the wood and water. At that time the well was much further from the house but it was not hard for them as they were stronger; they left home after high school as the town had nothing to offer in the line of work. The folks finally auctioned off what they had and sold the farm and joined us in Chicago.
Note at the bottom reads, “Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did”
Best wishes Esther Anderson