Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 608-13.

Transcribed by Mary Alice Schwanke and Cyndi Vertrees

Biography of  Nelson Suckow

Nelson Suckow, who follows farming on the old homestead property in Lee township, Buena Vista county, is a worthy representative of one of the old and prominent families of this section of the state. He is a native of Decorah, Iowa, born July 7, 1854, a son of Lars J. and Sigried (Boe) Suckow, both of whom were natives of Norway. In 1844 the emigrated with their family to America, the trip across the Atlantic requiring ten weeks. Landing at Quebec, Canada, they journeyed by lake to Muskego, Wisconsin, where they spent two years. On the expiration of that period they continued their journey to Winnebago county, Illinois, where they remained six years. With a wagon and team of oxen they then journeyed to Decorah, Iowa, where the father engaged in farming for twelve years and, then, being a shoemaker by trade, he also did shoemaking in connection with his farming operations.

In 1864 Buena Vista county was being opened up for settlement and in May of that year Mr. Suckow, with a colony of people, made the journey from Decorah to this section. He had two yoke of oxen and in all there were twenty-four teams, and they also brought sheep, cattle and goats. This part of the country was entirely wild and unimproved, roads had not yet been laid out, and streams and rivers were unbridged. It was a long and hazardous journey but these sturdy pioneers possessed the fortitude and courage that enabled them to press onward into the interior of the country. They traveled through Fort Dodge and coming to the Des Moines river, found that there was no bridge on which to cross. They journeyed on from Twin Lakes to Sac City, which at that time contained but one store and a post office. From there they made their way to the present site of Storm Lake, which at that time was not laid out. After remaining in camp for two days they journeyed north and Mr. Suckow, be acquainted with Torkel Torkelson. Managed to find his place and by him was directed to the land on which Mr. Suckow settled. The 20th of June, 1864, witnessed his arrival there. He then had to go to Sioux City to file his claim on a homestead and the trip required about a week, it being the 4th of July that he returned home, proud that he had in his possession a deed to one hundred and sixty acres of land. The next problem that confronted him was the improvement of the land. He at once built a log cabin, twelve by fourteen feet in dimensions, with a sod roof and no floor, for the nearest point that lumber could be secured was at Fort Dodge, seventy-five miles distant. The first year Mr. Suckow cleared but six acres and the following year he cleared a similar amount, which was planted to the products that were needed only for their own living, for there was no market within reach of them and thus it was necessary to raise all the supplies needed by the family. It was about this time, in 1866, that the grasshoppers appeared and for three years most of the crops were destroyed.. The government then gave out wheat for seed to all who would apply and would appropriate the crops for their own use. In this way Mr. Suckow managed to provide for his family, consisting of nine children. The winter of 1869 was a severe one, the snow was so deep it was impossible to get to market and the only man who had any corn was Mr. Brook, who lived in Brook township, thirteen miles distant, and Mr. Suckow made a trip, requiring three days, to his place and secured corn from which to make bread. As time passed the country became more thickly settled, towns and villages sprung up, railroads were built, and they were brought in closer connection with the outside world.

The father, as stated above, was a shoemaker by trade and he eventually left the care of the farm to his sons, while he built a shop in Sioux Rapids and worked at his trade there. He became a prominent factor in the upbuilding and development of this section of the state and his labors were of direct benefit to Lee township. He became active in public affairs and for eight years served as county supervisor.. He was also prominent in the rural development of his community, being a devoted member of the Lutheran church, in the faith of which he passed away July 4, 1896, lacking but a few days of being seventy-nine years of age. Thus ended a long, useful and honorable career of one of the best known pioneers of Buena Vista county. The mother survived for about ten years and died May 24, 1906, having reached the advanced age of eighty-five years. Both are buried in the Sioux Valley cemetery.

The family numbered fourteen children but only five of the number now survive. The record is as follows: Christine died in Sioux Rapids in 1892. Fred and Christopher are twins, the former living in Millelacs county, Minnesota. Christopher enlisted in 1866 as a member of the regular army and for some time was stationed in Macon, Georgia. After his discharged it was learned that he started for the north and later it is supposed that he started for South Africa, but nothing has ever been heard from him since that time. Carl died in infancy. Ellen became the wife of Theodore Steen, an old soldier. He was mail agent on the Union Pacific railroad from Omaha to Ogden. His death occurred in Omaha in 1880,while his wife died August 13, 1881. They had two children: Lewis Steen is an electrician residing in California. Effie Steen is the wife of J. C. Kittleson, employed in the Columbia National Bank of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Edward died in infancy. Ludwig, now residing in Rapid City, South Dakota, wedded Julia Johnson, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and has a family of six children. Bernard is the next member of the family. Nelson, the next in order of birth, is the subject of this review. Norris, who was born near Decorah, in Winneshiek county, still survives. Surene died in infancy. Theodore died at Spirit Lake, this state, in 1884, while out with a surveying party. Edward, who was born in Winneshiek county, Iowa, was lost in snow storm on the mountains near New Castle, Colorado, in 1902. Rudolph went to the Black Hills at the age of twenty-two years, and contracted an illness after which he returned to Sioux Rapids and died in 1888.

Nelson Suckow spent the period of his boyhood and youth amid pioneer surrounding and shared with the other members of the household in the hardships and privations which had to be met when they first located in Buena Vista county, for he was a little lad of ten years at the time of the removal of the family from Decorah to this county. From the time he was able to handle a plow he assisted his father in the work of the fields and remained under the parental roof until he had reached the age of twenty-two years. At that age he went to South Dakota and located on a homestead in Beadle county, while in 1880, in the company with Robert Ingersoll and John King, he established the first printing office in Huron, that state, and erected the first building in town. Mr. Suckow speculated in land and also did surveying, while his partners conducted the work in connection with the newspaper. He also took an active part in the building and development of Mitchell, South Dakota, which is today one of the thriving cities of the north. In the fall of 1881 he located a homestead within a half mile of Redfield and in partnership with Rufus Hadley conducted a land office at that place. In February 1885, he disposed of his holdings in Redfield and moved to Fairbanks, where he engaged in the real estate business, but a year later the town, after having a boon, suffered a collapse and Mr. Suckow then abandoned the place and made his way to Rapid City, where he carried on a similar enterprise. He spent several years thereafter in the north in various cities and at one time conducted a hotel in Ortonville, Minnesota, but eventually, on account of the advanced age of his parents, he returned to Buena Vista county and has since operated the old homestead property in Lee township, being numbered today among the substantial agriculturists of the part of Buena Vista county.

Mr. Suckow married April 10, 1885, in Fairbanks, South Dakota, to Miss Lena Olson, a daughter of Ole and Martha (Veride) Olson, natives of Norway, whence the family emigrated to the new world and settled in Buena Vista county in 1877. The father died in Norway in 1883, while the mother passed away in Bristol, South Dakota, in 1895. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Suckow has been blessed with one daughter, Laura, who on the first of January, 1907, was married to D. C. Haase, and they are now on the farm with her father. About three years ago they adopted a son, Ludwig A. D. Suckow, who is now five years of age.

Mr. Suckow is a stanch republican in his political views and for sixteen years has filled the office of the justice of the peace, while for two years he was treasurer of the township and is now serving as school director. He and his family are members of the Lutheran church. No pioneer of Buena Vista county is more familiar with its early history than is Mr. Suckow. Although he spent some years in the north the period of his boyhood and youth were passed here, and he is familiar with the hardships which confronted the family in the days of the county's early history and he today rejoices in the progress that has been placed upon a par with the older sections of the state. He is highly esteemed in his community and it is therefore with pleasure that we present the record of his life to our readers.