RED RIVER VALLEY KERNELS


| November/December 1968



Homestead house

This is my grandfather Lorentz Elden's homestead house built in 1879 - picture taken in 1916, just before house was taken down.

Oslo, Minnesota 56744

Hello, folks, long time no see.

Back in the year of 1895 one of our neighbors was building an addition to the house, and he had another neighbor to help. The helper would walk back and forth across the fields morning and evening. One morning, after walking across the field, he said, 'Now the devil has taken everything.' During the night there had been a heavy frost so the grain had all frozen down. This was during the first part of June. After that, though the weather got just perfect-nice and warm, and light showers just about every day--so the grain grew real good, and they harvested the biggest crop of wheat they ever had. That record stood until just recently when they started using new varieties of wheat and commercial fertilizer. The crop was so big, however, and threshing machines were so few that they got behind in the threshing and didn't finish that fall. There was one farmer who was already farming pretty big, and he had ten settings of grain with about six stacks in most settings. He could have had his crop threshed, but he couldn't agree on a price with the thresher. The thresher wanted one cent per bushel more than the farmer was willing to pay, and neither would budge, so he didn't get any threshing done that fall. Normally the stacks would keep pretty well until the next spring, but the spring of 1896 was very wet and the grain spoiled about two feet up into the stacks, so the farmers who didn't get the threshing done in the fall took a big loss.

My father, together with several of the neighbors, bought a threshing rig in the early part of 1896. They thought it would be a good deal since there would be two crops to thresh that year. As I have said, though, the spring of 1896 turned out to be very wet, and they didn't get near all of the land seeded, so the crop didn't amount to much, and the stacks left over from the year before spoiled. They didn't get much to thresh after all that year, and because of this, many of those who had gone together to buy the rig couldn't pay their share. They had signed a joint note, and therefore those few who could pay had to pay so much more. I don't know whether the company finally repossessed the rig, or what took place, but at least my father didn't talk very much about it. He did say, though, that he didn't like to sign a joint note anymore; in payment for anything; he bought.

In 1905 the Soo Line railroad came through this territory one mile south of my home-place. I came from Thief River Falls, east of us, and ran mostly straight west to Kenmare, North Dakota, a distance of about three hundred miles. This line is sometimes called the branch line, and they also called it the wheat line because of the amount of wheat they shipped on it. Some of the farmers who had the land the railroad was to cross didn't want the railroad on their land. One of them, several miles east of us, thought he would try to stop them. They had already built up the grade past his place, and it was fairly high, too-four or 4 feet. He got a bunch of teams and slipscrapers together and made a long cut in the grade. When they came with the train or 'tracklayer' as they called it, he stood on the side to see what would happen. A big Irishman came and took him aside, and they filled the cut with ties instead of dirt, and just went right along laying track. Later they came back and replaced the ties with earth fill. One of our neighbors living closer to us had intended to try to stop them, too, but he was waiting to see what they did to the man farther east. When he saw how easy it was for them to keep on with the operation, he gave up the idea. I remember my father took us kids over to see the tracklayer. We rode in the lumber wagon. The train was a fairly long one, consisting of many flatcars loaded with ties and several with track. They had a sort of a conveyor going along one side of the train and up past the engine which took the ties up front to be laid down by several men working there. On the other side of the train was a similar conveyor for the rails. They would lay enough ties for one rail length and then lay the rails and just tack them in place in front of the engine. Then the train would move up for the next section. Behind the train was a crew of Italians constantly chattering in their native tongue as they spiked the rails to the ties with their brand-new glittering sledges.

Also in the summer of 1905 my father built an addition to the barn at home-the cowbarn. In 1905 our hometown, Alvarado, and the town six miles west, Oslo, were built up. Many other towns sprang up along the railroad about the same time. The railroad went through many older towns along the way, too. Warren, for example, had' been there since 1878. It was on the main line of the Great Northern railroad between St. Paul and Winnipeg, which came through in 1878.