Thursday, February 18, 2016

Little House in the Dakotas

It all started around 1900. Alfred was a very young man, oldest in his family in Lake Norden, Hamlin, South Dakota. Twelve children had been born in 19 years to his parents, John and Liisa.
Liisa Liisa Kaisa Alavesi Palavalehto EfraimsonJohnJohn Efraimson 1858-1935

Alfred was born in 1880; John was born in 1882. In 1884 twins Anton and Andrew were born. In 1886 Hilda was born; in 1887 Emelia was born. Hilma was born in 1890, and in December of 1892 twins Carl and Arvid were born. In September of 1892 Arvid died. In 1894 Willie was born, and in 1896 Sophia was born. In 1899 Esther was born.

John and Lissa Palvalehto had come from Finland to make a new life here. When John filed for his homestead in South Dakota, the land office did not like his last name. So they asked him his father’s name. He said, “Efraim”. So they said, from now on, your last name will be Efraimson. At the same time his father was filing for land, so they asked Efraim what his father’s name was and he said, John. They changed dad Efraim’s last name to Johnson. The kids in John’s family who were adults became Efraimsons, and the kids still in the household became Johnsons. So John Efraimson’s younger brother was named Efraim Johnson!
Like their kinsmen, John and Liisa spoke Finnish. Their children learned English when they attended school. Farming the prairie was brutal, but many hands make light work. Nevertheless, cash was scarce. The house was full of able helpers, and Alfred heard there were jobs to be had in Minnesota, so he kissed his loved ones good bye and headed to Chisholm.
Alfred worked in the iron mines for many years. In 1902  a cute young lady arrived from Finland and began working at the boarding house where Alfred roomed, cooking and cleaning. Alfred fell in love, and the feeling was mutual. They were married 11/13/1904 and moved into a little sod house in Chisholm. Alfred and Emma 11-13-1904
That is where their first baby, my grandmother, Eina (pronounced “Aye-na”) Esther was born on 10/16/1905. And Esther’s lifetime best friend (and sister) Jennie was born there 3/20/1907.

Emma was expecting again, and with each new child the sod house seemed smaller. Alfred also disliked mining and did not feel like he was getting ahead – he was barely holding his own financially. All groceries had to be purchased at the “Company Store” – the only available store in Chisholm, and the prices were so high that all one’s income went right back to the mining company. Alfred wanted out.

Alfred found a farm in North Dakota that was willing to hire him and house his growing family, so he sent for Emma. Emma, Esther and Jenny joined him in his forever home. I’ll never know how it happened that the farm owner loved Alfred and his family so extremely, but childless himself he one day left the farm to Alfred and Emma. In 1908 Emma gave birth to Eino (“Aye-no”) at the new farm at Armourdale, (Towner County) North Dakota. Emma was born in 1910, and Josaphine (Jo) in 1911. Hilda was born in 1913, and Arne in 1915. William (Bill) was born in 1916, and Viola (Vi) was born in 1918. Carl was born in 1921, when Esther was 15. Tragically, in the summer of 1921 Arne suffered a ruptured appendix. He spent months recuperating, much of the time in a hospital in Minnesota (with Esther by his bedside). He was released, but sadly the infection was still present and he died before he could be returned to the hospital.
IMG_1485 Esther’s high school graduation photo.

Alfred and Emma mourned Arne's death, but with a busy household life had to go on. And God did not forget them; Emma’s womb was again blessed, and in 1922 Rudolph (Rudy) was born, and in 1925 his brother Rupert also came along.

The thing about this timeline that long confused me was this: My grandmother’s youngest brother was born the same year as my dad. True story. 

Here is a family photo of most of the siblings. Esther is in the light blue shirt; Jennie is to her right. Hilda is slightly behind Jennie. Bill is in the middle front with Rupert in the front right and Rudy in the front left. Jo is the dark shirt between Bill and Rudy. I don’t have the rest down in my mind, so I’ll try to come back and edit later.
So next time we will talk a little about Esther’s life. I’m building a story here leading to my own diary, at the request of my oldest.

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