John A. Ericksen
The rapid progress and development of the state of Iowa, both socially and educationally, can be largely attributed to its agricultural population. Those hardworking, thrifty and self-sacrificing men and women came here and established homes and by means of their loyal citizenship and public spirit have assisted in bringing the state to the position it occupies today. Among these must be numbered John A. Ericksen, who for a period of more than forty years has been identified with the farming interests of Crawford county.
He was born in Sweden on the 3d of April, 1836, and is a son of Mangus and Karliesa Ericksen, both of whom passed their entire lives in Sweden. Eight children were born unto Mr. and Mrs. Ericksen, but two sons, John A., who is the eldest of the family, and Peter, who has always lived in Sweden, are the only surviving members.
John A. Ericksen spent the first thirty years of his life in Sweden. At the end of that period he was convinced that he could never realize his ambitionwhich was to become the owner of landed property-in the land of his birth, so he took passage for America. Upon his arrival in the United States he made his way westward and located in Webster county, Iowa, where he bought one hundred and sixty acres of land. He cultivated this for one year, then sold and removed to Crawford county, where he bought a quarter section, upon which the town of Kiron is now situated. He sold this and purchased elsewhere, gradually adding to his holdings as he acquired the means until he now owns onehalf section of land in this county. All the hardships and privations which are ever the lot of those brave men and women who form the advance guard in the spreading of civilization fell to the lot of John Ericksen.
He had no horses, so hauled his household goods from Webster county with a team of oxen, and he also used them to plow the unbroken prairie of his new farm. There were no improvements upon his land and he not only had to cut the logs necessary for his cabin, but had to raft them across the river. However, he possessed all the needed qualities of the pioneer and despite the many discouragements never once thought of acknowledging defeat, and today is recognized as one of the affluent citizens pf the community. He rented his homestead seven years ago and retired to Kiron, being now able to enjoy the ease and leisure denied him during the early years of his life.
Mr. Ericksen has many interesting reminiscences to relate of the pioneer days, many of them relative to the hardships encountered by the settlers in their efforts to establish homes. Very few of the men owned horses, the majority depending upon oxen, which they used to cultivate the fields and haul their produce to and from the market.
Once on a dark, dismal, March day in the '60s Mr. Ericksen took his ox team and went to Boyer to haul logs. He was going to haul five loads up on the prairie a distance of about half a mile, where he could conveniently get them any time when needed during the summer. When he was finishing his third load it began to snow; by the time he was throwing off the last log the flakes were coming thick and fast and the wind was constantly rising. Turning his team he started toward home, walking beside his sled and holding on to one of the stakes. The storm had increased in intensity until he could not see the oxen; his home was five miles away and there were no roads; prairie all the way with nothing by which he could locate himself even could he see, so tying a sack over his head for protection he trusted his fate to the slow steady beasts who were drawing his sled. At last they came to the creek on his land and when they crossed the bridge he thought the oxen would turn homeward, but, as cattle are prone to do, they went in the path of the storm, drifting out into a cornfield where the Bank of Kiron now stands. Numbed with the cold and almost exhausted, Mr. Ericksen's senses were yet sufficiently alert for him to realize he was lost. Stopping his team, he endeavored to locate himself, realizing if he any longer depended upon the oxen his fate would be similar to that of many another settler in those days. At last establishing his position he started homeward. It continued to storm for three days and nights, during which time he and his wife and child were snowed in. He was unable to get out to the barn to feed his stock but twice, and being without a shovel, he used a slab to plow a path from the house to the barn.
In 1875, some years after the preceding incident, Mr. Ericksen started to Denison with a load of corn, which he was going to use to pay a note he had given on a grocery bill. It was fine in the morning when he started, but when he left town it began to snow and blow from the north. He was compelled to let his team walk, but had nearly reached home when the blizzard became so severe he was forced to turn around and return the way he had come. Reaching the homestead of Mr. Newcome he put up his horses and stayed all night, going home the following day. On another occasion, accompanied by his wife, he went to Vail with a load of wheat. Having discharged his business he fed his team, hitched up and started homeward. They had not gone far, however, when it began to storm. Realizing the impossibility of their being able to make the journey that night, he stopped at Mr. De Wolf's, where they remained until the following day. They were not the only guests the De Wolf's had that night, however, as their home also afforded protection for the school children.
Mr. Ericksen completed arrangements for a home by his marriage on the 22d of November, 1868, to Miss Martha Julia Larsen, of Crawford county. The young couple began their domestic life in a sod house, which about four months later had the misfortune to catch fire, thus destroying all of their household effects. Undaunted, however, he built another house, equipping it with the absolute necessities, to which he made additions from time to time as his means permitted. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Ericksen were born the following children: Lydia, the wife of George Swartz, of Boyer; Fred, who lives in Stockholm township; Effie, who became the wife of C. S. Johnson, residing in Boyer; Levi, who lives in the same place; and Emil and Amanda, both of whom have passed a way.
The family are all Christians and hold membership in the Baptist church. Mr. Ericksen gives his political support to the prohibition party, feeling its principles are best adapted to promote the moral welfare of the community. He has never been an office seeker, not aspiring to public honors, but he did serve for a time as a member of the board of school directors. He is one of the self-made men of Crawford county who has attained his ambition through his own unaided effort, without imperiling the interests of others, and during his forty years' residence here he has made many friends whose regard and esteem has been strengthened with the passing of time.
Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.