AXEL & JUDITH ERICKSON FAMILY HISTORY

 

Erickson is a fairly common name in the more Scandinavian communities of Minnesota (over 2100 entries in the Minneapolis Telephone Directory), however, far outdistanced in frequency by the names of Anderson (over 6800 entries) and Johnson (0ver 10,000 entries).  Actually, the Axel and Judith Erickson family, formerly of Lowry, has a history in each of these names.

 

JUDITH ANDERSON

 

Looking first at Judith’s history. Judith’s parents, Alfred Johanneson (would be Johnson if Americanized) and Emma Andersdotter, were married in 1880 in the Nårunga Lutheran Church, a rural State Church, in Nårunga lan (an administrative district), in the province of Västergötland, Sweden. This is a province in western Sweden and is an area of rolling farming country. Note that, as was frequently the case, the founders of Norunga Lutheran Church, west of Lowry, Minnesota, no doubt took their name, some of them having immigrated from this area of Sweden. (It was interesting to visit the farm and home of Emma’s youth, as well as the Nårunga Church, during a 1985 visit to Sweden, a farm still owned and operated by descendants of her extended family.) In any case, Alfred, together with his father and three brothers, was a part of a fairly large and prosperous farming operation in the neighboring community of Kvinnestad. However, by 1885 they had encountered severe financial problems, and there was nothing else to do but sell the farm. In April 1886, Alfred’s parents, Andreas and Katrina, together with children and grandchildren, a party of about 30 persons, emigrated to America. This was a time of mass emigration from Sweden to the U.S. It started in the 1860s and reached its peak in the 1880s with almost 350,000 leaving in that decade. This party included Alfred and Emma and three children who had been born in Sweden. The emigration party included Alfred’s three brothers and their respective families, a sister and her husband, as well as Alfred’s father and mother. As was not uncommon, immigrants sometimes took a different surname upon arrival in the U.S. In this case all of the five siblings took different surnames. Judith’s parents took the name Anderson; Alfred’s parents later changed their name from Johanneson to the Americanized version ‑ Johnson. State Church records in Sweden have named persons in the two generations prior to those discussed above, the earliest being born in 1769.

 

In coming to the U.S. the Anderson family, together with many Swedes, settled in Chicago, Illinois, where Alfred was employed as a carpenter. During this era Chicago had more Swedes than any other city in the world except Stockholm. The family stayed in Chicago for about thirteen years, until the 1898 era. Six additional children were born in Chicago, while three of their children died in childhood, reportedly during a diphtheria epidemic. The family moved to Minneapolis in 1898 and their the tenth and youngest 

child, Judith, was born. At some point in their Minneapolis history Alfred became a dairy farm operator. The farm was in the area that is now the suburb of Richfield; a part of the original farmhouse is still standing at 75th and Portland Ave, however, the house has clearly had subsequent modifications and additions. On this farm they milked up to 80 cows, this in an era before milking machines; they also had a milk delivery service. There were four sons in the family, but there was no doubt substantial amount of additional hired help to carry out such a dairy operation.

 

It was in Minneapolis that Judith Anderson grew up, graduated from Minnehaha Academy Business School, and was employed as a secretary until her marriage to Axel Erickson and her move to the Lowry area in Ben Wade township.

 

AXEL ERICKSON

 

Now looking briefly at Axel’s family history. Axel’s grandparents were Johan and Fredrika Eriksson and their origin was near the Baltic coast in Östergötland, an eastern province of Sweden. Johan was a master gardener and cared for the orchards and gardens of the more wealthy landowners. In addition to being a master gardener he was also a lay pastor. During this era there was increasing discontent with the State Church in many parts of Sweden. It was felt that many churches and official clergy were not personally interested in the parishioners and also not interested in a personal Christianity or relationship with God. The church had forbidden religious gatherings, for purposes such as Bible reading, without approval of the State Church. The Conventicle Decree, which had forbidden such gatherings, was rescinded in 1858; however, it may have continued to have a practical effect in certain locations much later than that. In any case, during the later part of the 19th century, many members of the Lutheran State Church were forming fellowship groups called “läsare” (readers), and Johan became a leader in these groups as the family moved to different locales in eastern and southern Sweden.

 

However, in 1888 the Eriksson family responded to a somewhat similar emigration impetus that had caused the Johanneson (Anderson) family to emigrate two years earlier. Having moved a number of times and not owning land, life in the 80’s appeared bleak and difficult for the Eriksson family. The parents, Johan and Fredrika, together with four of their children decided to come to the United States. The ages of these children ranged from 11 to 26, so they, no doubt, would have had an active input to the decision. Staying in Sweden were two of their offspring. The family settled on a farm near Dawson, Minnesota in Lac Quie Parle County, with several of offspring soon moving on to other endeavors. Here Johan continued to serve as a lay preacher in the Swedish community where they lived, with Johan listed as one of the earliest pastors of the Dawson Mission Covenant Church (1891‑92).  In 1899 one of the Eriksson daughters that had initially remained in Sweden, Hilda, arrived from Stockholm with her one year old son Axel. (It was interesting while on an earlier visit to Sweden to visit the Klara Kyrka in central Stockholm, the church of Axel’s christening.) They had intended to come for a visit but ended up staying the rest of their lives.

 

Since the time of homesteads and free land was over, they rented the land in the Dawson area. Eventually, the prospect of affordable land “farther north” appealed to the Eriksson family. In 1900, the family left Dawson and moved to the Lowry‑Farwell area, where they bought a 140 acre farm in western Ben Wade township, about six miles west of Lowry. The farm bordered one of a cluster of small lakes characteristic of Ben Wade township, where many of the lakes were named after the owner of the adjacent farm; hence there is an “Erickson Lake” adjacent to the farmstead. Of the four offspring who had come with their parents from Sweden, only Joseph moved with them to Ben Wade

Township, forming a farming partnership with Johan. However, Hilda and young son Axel moved with them to Ben Wade township. Although Johan had served as a lay pastor, he now no longer followed that calling. The family did, however, affiliate with the Ben Wade Covenant Church, now located in Lowry, then located about two miles west of Norunga Church. The family and descendants were active members of Ben Wade Church throughout their lifetimes and times of residency in Lowry.

 

In the move to the U.S. the Eriksson family did not change their surname as the Anderson's (Johanneson’s) had done. However, there were spelling variations, apparently not closely controlled. There is a notation in the Pope County Courthouse that says: Johan Eriksson, Johan Erikson, and Johan Erickson are one and the same person. State Church records in Sweden have named persons in the three generations prior to Johan’s, the earliest being born in the 1720s era.

 

How then did the Anderson and Erickson families get together? The Andersons of Minneapolis had three daughters: Elizabeth, the oldest, Alfreda, the next oldest, and Judith, the youngest. The Anderson daughters also had an uncle living and farming in Ben Wade township ‑ Henry Magnuson (the grandfather of Stanley Magnuson, a current Lowry resident). It is easy to postulate that as the Anderson daughters paid visits to the Magnuson home they became acquainted with eligible men from the community. This resulted in the marriage of Elizabeth to Joseph Erickson, Johan’s son. The Joseph and

Elizabeth farm was about one half mile northeast of Johan’s farm, and about 5 1/2 mile west of Lowry. The property continued to be farmed by Erickson family members after Joseph’s death. Initially, the sons Harold and Cornell, together with Elizabeth, operated this farm, as well as another farm in the area. Harold Erickson continued to operate the farm until his retirement in 1972. Elizabeth retired and moved to Lowry in about 1946, building the home at 247 Aurora Ave. The visits of the Anderson daughters to the Ben Wade area, or introductions arranged by their uncle, Henry Magnuson, also, by the way,

resulted in Alfreda’s marriage to Carl Rosengren; their farm home was north of Norunga Lutheran Church. Finally, with the marriage of Elizabeth to Joseph and the visits of her sister Judith to their home, it resulted in her marriage to Axel Erickson, Joseph’s nephew.

 

AXEL & JUDITH ERICKSON AND FAMILY

 

At the time of Johan’s death in 1920, Axel had earlier completed the 8th grade in School District 76, and taken over the farm (and the mortgage) in Ben Wade township. Axel and Judith were married in 1927. In preparation for the marriage, and since Judith’s father and Axel’s mother were to live with them, they built a substantial addition to the farm house. Although the Stock Market crash of 1929 came in October, kicking off the Great Depression, in the rural farm areas the depression had started much earlier ‑ in the early

1920s. Another factor which contributed to the economic disaster in the rural areas was the major drought of the early 1930s. Moreover, in the local area, the collapse of the Farwell State Bank resulted in the loss of whatever deposits there may have been at the time. With such unfavorable circumstances, farming success would be difficult under the best of other conditions. However, a further aggravating factor developed in that Axel in

the 1933 era came down with rheumatoid  arthritis, and this health condition precluded doing the work of a farmer. The result of the these circumstances was a mortgage foreclosure on the farm and an auction sale of cattle, horses, and machinery.

 

The family then in 1935 moved to Lowry where a home was maintained until Axel’s death in 1973 and Judith’s move to Bethany Home in Minneapolis in 1978. Their first home was a house located at the present Aurora Ave. Apartments, next a house at 413 Aurora  Ave., next at 445 Aurora Ave, and finally the house at  336 Drury, which was their home after 1940. Upon moving to Lowry Axel became a Watkins Dealer, distributing Watkins products over the north Pope County territory, continuing his route until his death. During the early Lowry years, Judith worked primarily as a homemaker, but starting in the early 1940s doing secretarial work for Hoplin & Nelson Hardware. and later serving as a Post Office clerk. They continued to be active members of Ben Wade Covenant Church during their lifetimes,

 

Axel and Judith had three sons, all born in the farm home in Ben Wade township, west of Lowry: John, born in 1929, Theodore (Ted), born in 1931, and Daniel, born in 1934. Each of the boys graduated from the Lowry Grade School, Glenwood High School, and North Dakota State School of Science at Wahpeton. John went on to receive a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at North Dakota State University (NDSU), then called North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC). Ted went on to receive a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from NDSU. Daniel went on to receive his Degree in Business dministration from the University of Minnesota. However, during their years in Lowry, the boys had the good fortune and opportunity of working, doing lawn work for Lowry area residents, doing seasonal farm work for relatives and other area farmers, and working at Lowry businesses including: Hagstrom Farm Implement Co,, Bob Bennett  Oil Co., and Hoplin and Nelson Hardware. Following college graduation they each pursued long careers in the corporate arena: John in various positions with Honeywell Inc. in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and St. Peterburg, Florida; Ted in various positions with the Naval Systems Division of FMC, now the United Defense Corp., in Minneapolis; and Daniel in various positions with Honeywell Inc., Control Data Corp., and NJK Holding Corp., a private investment firm, in Minneapolis.

 

In forming the next generations John married Janet Soderberg of Minneapolis; they have three children: John P., Nancy, and Beth. They have six grandchildren. Ted married Marilyn Krohn of West Hartford, Connecticut; they have two children: Peggy and Paul. Daniel married Joan Sorensen of Minneapolis; they have three children: Mark, James, and Susan. They have six grandchildren.  John and Ted are now fully retired; Daniel is partially retired. They and their wives all live in the Minneapolis area. Three of the children (Nancy, Beth, and Peggy) live in the Minneapolis area, three children (John P., Mark, and Susan) live in the Chicago area, James lives in the Newark area, Paul lives in the Boston area.

 

Growing up in Lowry implies a busy lifestyle and this has continued even in retirement with involvement of the three Erickson brothers and their wives in different activities suiting their individual interests, including: participation in various volunteer organization and church activities; involvement in grandchildren activities and events; golfing; traveling,‑within and out of the U.S.; antiqueing; genealogical research and documentation; wintering in Florida; gardening and lawn care; recipe collecting and cooking; taking Swedish language classes; participation in Swedish Historical Society; reading books that didn’t get read during working years; and many other scheduled and nonscheduled activities that result in

the days being filled with interest.

 

The Lowry area and its people are the sources of good memories and it is

always a pleasure to return for periodic visits and scheduled events.

 

John Erickson, October 2002