Skip to main content

1943: John Swenson, 86, 'un-retires' to farm again

Bits By Betty
Lead Summary
Betty Mann, Rock County Historian

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
The following appeared in The Rock County Herald on June 10, 1943.
That a person is never really too old to begin farming has been demonstrated by John Swenson of Mound township, who held a sale and decided to retire about two years ago, and is now back “in the harness” once more and is happy about it.
Mr. Swenson decided he was going to quit farming so he sold his property and rented the place to his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Mike Hemmer. He still lived on the farm, however, as he couldn’t see where he could gain anything by moving to town, and enjoyed it, although he didn’t have quite the same personal interest in the work he had when he was in business for himself. Then came the opportunity to go into partnership with another son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Hans Christensen, which gave him a chance to do some work for himself. Now he is raising hogs, milking cows and doing other work with as much enthusiasm as ever.
Mr. Swenson has lived in Rock county for 52 years, and has watched it develop from a prairie community of scattered homesteads to its present stage. He is proud of the county, the state and the nation and is grateful for the many opportunities which have been afforded him during the past five decades.
Born May 23, 1867, in Varmiland, Sweden, a place near the boundary line separating Norway and Sweden, Mr. Swenson grew to young manhood in the land of his birth. His father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Swenson, were farmers, and he learned about farming by helping the family at home until he was old enough to obtain a job as a farm hand for a small sum of spending money. He recalls the first money he earned that he could call his own was in payment for herding sheep. He received the equivalent of 25 cents per week.
He was the oldest of a family of eight, four boys and four girls. When he was 17, he was permitted to go to Christiania (now Oslo), Norway, because the other children were old enough to help with the work at home. There he worked, helping to build concrete docks in the harbor for a period of three years. The wages were good, and he managed to save a little money.
The money came in handy, for relatives in the United States kept writing for him to come to this country, and he, together with two brothers, decided to make the trip. During the journey, they encountered a storm, making travel perilous, so the boat stopped for one and one-half days until the wind subsided.
The beginning of the trip to Rock county is one that he will never forget, Mr. Swenson states. He and many others had boarded a train to come west, and were just leaving New York when it left the track and went into the river. It was later learned that a switchman had made a mistake, and the train went on the wrong track. Some of the cars rolled over several times before landing in the water, but the coach he was in was not badly damaged and he managed to get out. Many people were killed and others were seriously hurt. Six doctors were rushed to the scene to administer medical aid, and another train was sent to pick up the passengers who had escaped unharmed. All his personal belongings, which consisted of a trunk and satchel full of clothing and other personal effects were lost.
When he arrived at Beaver Creek, he was met by an uncle, and the late Fred Norelius, for whom he worked during the year of 1899. Then he started to work for Elmer Gates at a salary of $18 a month, the biggest wages they were paying at that time for farm help. After working there for three years, he began farming for himself.
On Nov. 25, 1895, Mr. Swenson was married to Ida Jaqua in Battle Plain township, and from the first of March the following year, they lived with Mrs. Swenson’s parents.
That spring, they became engaged in farming for themselves. Their first two years of married life were spent on a farm in Beaver Creek township. From there they moved to Mound township, and lived there seven years before they moved to Springwater township where they remained another seven years. In 1908, they purchased the southwest quarter of section 30, Mound township, from Dr. Vail, and this has since been the Swenson home.
Mr. and Mrs. Swenson were the parents of eight children, all of whom are living. They include Charlie, Walter, Chester and Edwin Swenson, all of Springwater township; Mrs. Mike (Esther) Hemmer, Luverne township; Mrs. Myrble Newberg, Beaver Creek; Mrs. Ivan (Edna) Anderson, Spokane, Wash. and Mrs. Hans (Gladys) Christensen with whom Mr. Swenson lives on the home farm in Mound township.
Mrs. Swenson died April 16, 1930, and his two brothers, Emil and Gus, who came to this country at the same time as Mr. Swenson did, are also dead. He has one brother living in Sweden, and at one time had three sisters in Norway, but he does not know if they are living at the present time or not.
He has 30 grandchildren, one of whom is Carl Anderson, former Luverne boy, who is now serving with the U.S. Navy. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Anderson of Spokane.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

You must log in to continue reading. Log in or subscribe today.