"Our Friends on the Acres"
Mr. & Mrs. Ben Erickson
Ben Erickson, the subject of this week's sketch, can't qualify for the Herald's "half-a-century" club as he has only been located on his farm for 28 years, but he ranks near the top of the list of the best farmers in this vicinity.
He was born April 5, 1875, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Erickson, on the Erickson farm near Gunder. His parents were born in Norway; his father coming to this country at the age of 17 years. Peter Erickson worked on a farm near Beloit, Wis., for several years. In 1856 he cast his first vote in the presidential election, voting for John Fremont, republican candidate, who was defeated by James Buchanan. "Dad had better luck the next time he voted," Ben Erickson stated. "He cast his ballot for Abraham Lincoln, who was one of the greatest presidents we ever had." In speaking of his father, Mr. Erickson remarked that in the later years of his life he went to a republican rally at West Union wearing a campaign button which read, "Vote For Fremont." Several years ago the button was destroyed by a fire.
Mr. Erickson's mother emigrated to the United States with her parents in 1850 when she was eight years old. After coming to Iowa her parents purchased a farm of 160 acres near Gunder from the government, paying $1.25 an acre. This farm is owned today by Wettle Wettleson and his sister, Barbara Wettleson.
After living a few years in Wisconsin, Ben Erickson's father came to Iowa and purchased a farm of 160 acres from Peter Loun, paying $10 an acre. It was on this farm that Ben Erickson was born. Ben lived at home, farming with his father until he was 32 years old. Then on January 4, 1911, he was married to Miss Amanda Baker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Baker, at the home of the bride's parents near Gunder. "I'll never forget that day," Mr. Erickson laughingly reminisced, "because it was the coldest day of the winter. Mrs. Baker served a big wedding dinner to a house full of guests and we were having a fine time. finally, when it came time for the guests to go home we stepped outside to bid them goodbye. But the wind was blowing so hard and the blizzard was so intense that it was an impossibility to go very far. So they all came back into the house and stayed all night. Mrs. Baker had as many guests for breakfast the next morning as she had for the wedding dinner. "We got out of that pretty lucky. All of our friends were planning to charivari us, but because of the blizzard they didn't get a chance to do it."
After their marriage they lived a year with Mr. Erickson's parents, then in the spring of 1912 they purchased a 200 acre farm of their own from Nels Lyngaas. Their property cost them $75 an acre, which was considered a high price at that time. But the land was above average and today Mr. Erickson admits that he made a good deal when he purchased the property. The Erickson farm is located in Grand Meadow township, in Clayton county, on the gravel road to Gunder. They are the parents of two boys, Louie, 28 and Alvin, 20, both of whom live at home, and four daughters, Irene, 24, of Rockford, Ill.; Evelyn, 14, Lillian, 13 and Dolores, 9, all of whom are at home.
Since Mr. and Mrs. Erickson moved to their farm all of the buildings on the property, with the exception of the farm house, have been replaced. In 1916 a barn was erected. "It is a big barn, measuring 32X96 feet, but in spite of the fact that it was put up in an expensive year, the barn didn't cost me very much," the veteran farmer explained. "A sawmill was put up and most of the lumber was secured from our timber. One of the only things I had to buy was shingles and they cost only $4.40 a thousand. They were good ones, too, because after 26 years they still look like new." Other buildings were built in the following years. A corn crib and granary, 36X24, went up in 1917; hen house, 20X50, in 1919; hog house, 12X70, in 1920; woodhouse, garage and other buildings in the following years. the house received attention, too, being completely remodeled and today it is modern in every respect.
This year Mr. Erickson and his sons planted 35 acres to oats; 30 acres to corn; 5 acres of soy beans and 20 acres of alfalfa. "The corn crop looks good again this year," Mr. Erickson said, "but it will have to go some to beat last year's crop. I've never seen such a good crop before in my life. We husked the biggest and best corn ever to grow on this place, gtting over 80 bushels to the acre." Two years ago the Ericksons planted 300 Chinese elm trees for a windbreak on the north and west sides of the house. As the trees were planted in three rows, they make an excellent windbreak, already reaching about 10 feet in height. Considerable attention has been given the yard at the Erickson farm as it is closely mowed and weedless. One of the outstanding features of the lawn is a rock garden, which was designed by Irene Erickson. It is located on a high point in the Erickson yard and is visible from the road in front of the Erickson home.
Although the Ericksons have enjoyed good crops during recent years they have had their share of failures. On July 2, 1920, hail struck their farm and ruined all of their crops. "We didn't do any harvesting that fall at all," Mr. Erickson stated. "But we came out of that bad luck in fine shape. The next year we got a bumper crop that put us back on our feet. Back during the war time we lost our corn crop for three consecutive years due to an early freeze in August. But I guess we have to take the good with the bad." When Mr. Erickson made that statement he looked toward the creek which runs across his property below the farm house to the east. Last week's cloudburst caused the bridge which he built last fall to collapse. "We built that bridge to handle a rainfall of about three inches, but as soon as we get through threshing we are going to put up another bridge capable of handling ten inches of rain," he said.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Erickson have lived their entire lives in the Grand Meadow township vicinity. She was born September 22, 1888, a member of a large family. She has three brothers and one sister living today. They are Henry Baker of LaCrosse, Wis.; Oscar Baker of Farmersburg; Joe Baker of Gunder and Mrs. Fred Phister of near Luana. Mr. Erickson also comes from a large family. All of his five brothers and his one sister have passed away.
Livestock on their farm includes 20 Holstein cows, four horses, about 20 Holstein calves, 120 hogs, a pedigreed three year old Holstein bull, 400 white Leghorn chickens and about 400 baby chicks of the same variety. Mr. Erickson is especially proud of his Holstein herd. Ten of them are pedigreed and he has papers on them. One of the cows ranked third in the district dairy show, which was held last year at Elkader. Another is one of the high cows in the Elkader association.
~Postville Herald, August 7, 1940
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