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Visiting farm like stepping back in time

Peterson family began farming in Emmet County in 1861

June 21, 2013
By KAREN SCHWALLER - , Estherville Daily News

Editor's note: Farm News shares the following article about Nordein Peterson's Heritage Farm with the Estherville Daily News. A heritage farm is one owned and operated by the same family for 150 years or more.

WALLINGFORD - Stepping into the home of Nordein Peterson is like taking a step back in time. But it's okay. The 94-year-old Norwegian said he prefers it that way.

Peterson and his family are the owners of a Heritage Farm one mile east of Wallingford in Emmet County.

Article Photos

Nordein Peterson relaxes before an original log cabin wall. It is adorned with portraits of his ancestors, tools used to build the log cabin, and other family artifacts.
-Farm News photos by Karen Schwaller

Ole Peterson came from Norway with his parents in 1848, settling in Emmet County in 1860, due to nearby Des Moines River and plentiful timber. He became the first owner of the land in 1861.

Ole and Sarah Peterson were married in 1873 and reared 10 children in a one-room log cabin with a loft. The logs were cut by hand on the farm. The hand-dug basement's foundation walls of large rocks keeps the log cabin erect. It's the center of the house today.

"It had to have taken a couple of years," said Paul Peterson, "just to gather the things they needed for the house - the rocks, the wood - and to do it all in between breaking up the prairie sod and farming with oxen."

Peterson, who lives part-time with his father, Nordein Peterson, added that the 40-foot well for drinking water was dug by hand, but is not used today.

Ole and Sarah's son, Oscar Peterson, and his wife, Bertha, took over the family farm in 1928, where they were married. They kept work horses and raised colts each year. Peterson had a favorite team of horses, and kept them even after tractors came onto he farming scene.

"He took great pride in his horses," said Paul Peterson of his grandfather. "And after he died, it was just a few weeks later that his horses all died, too."

Oscar Peterson ran a threshing ring for 50 years, and he and his wife opened their home to board school teachers and seasonal hired help.

Nordein and Donald Peterson inherited the farm when their mother, Bertha, died in 1986. Nordein Peterson was born in that house and has lived there all of his life, with the exception of a brief stint in the Army, when he cared for German prisoners at an army hospital in Nebraska during the 1940s.

The Petersons milked up to 16 cows, raised 200 hogs each year and maintained a flock of 500 laying hens through 1972.

Paul Peterson said he remembered hearing his father talk about his childhood days of hauling cream to town three times a week with his father and bringing home ice blocks.

"I also remember that we could only go into the parlor on Sundays," he said. "It was the only day the doors were open."

When the family re-shingled the house, they found newspapers underneath the shingles from 1896, featuring ads about crossings to the United States from Europe via steam ships.

Peterson said he remembered hearing the stories of his grandfather pitching manure onto horse-drawn skids, pitching it off the skid when in the fields.

The home has been added onto over the years, but the family has uncovered and preserved an original log cabin wall. It is adorned with portraits of their ancestors, tools used to build the log cabin, and other family artifacts. The home also features an original log cabin window, the original cook stove and a kitchen cupboard. They still have an original party line phone.

Oscar Peterson bought and operated a used saw mill in 1912 in partnership with his brother, Asher. Nordein Peterson purchased it from them years later, and it was used both on the farm and for the needs of neighbors. The Peterson family is the only group using it today, and Paul Peterson has plans to reconstruct their barn with lumber he cuts on that sawmill.

Original buildings on the site today are in poor condition, but include a barn, made from used lumber in 1894, plus a corn crib, chicken house, cattle shed and a functional outhouse.

Marcia Klingbeil said she is grateful for all of the time spent with her grandmothers as she grew up, as they passed down family recipes of Norwegian and Danish heritage.

"My mother was Danish," she said. "So she learned how to make some of the Norwegian foods that my dad's family made."

The recipes will continue to be passed down in the family, she said.

The farm has always been farmed by someone in the family, and the Peterson family is confident that it will continue that way for the foreseeable future.

"It would be a tragedy if this farm was sold out of the family," said Paul Peterson.



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