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Alfred and Anna Nelson

By Dorothy Nelson Potteiger, April 1983
(Youngest child of Alfred and Anna)


This is some of the history and events in the lives of my parents and their parents and grandparents. It consists of things I remember, and that were told to me by my parents, older brothers and sisters, especially my sister Emma. Also genealogy shared with me by the Idaho cousins. They furnished copies of genealogy records of grandfather Nelson from Sweden, consisting of parish records and clerical surveys. And, from the United States, copies of naturalization papers and a homestead application for land in Sidney, Nebraska. From mother's parents I have records of loans made in purchasing land which is part of the home farm.

Mother, Anna Sophia Peterson, was born May 31, 1864, in Kalmars lan, Småland, Sweden, the only daughter of Peter Peterson and Emma Sophia Dolk. She spent her childhood in Lintjoping, Östergötland, Sweden.

Very little is known of grandfather Peterson. He owned and operated a sawmill in Sweden. He had two sisters. Mother said she had reddish, curly hair like her aunts. Her parents did not have this feature, which she said also resembled that of the local beggar and rag picker, so she tried her best to straighten it. Mother spoke of her happy childhood, skating across a lake in cold weather to school. She was confirmed in the local church in Lintjoping.

Grandfather Peterson died when mother was 9, and later her mother married Charles A. Goransen. From that time mother did not have the happy, carefree childhood she had enjoyed. She was sent out to work for her board and room. At age 13 she worked for a farmer, arose at 4:00 a.m. milked cows, brought in the nets with fish from the lake; all this before she left for school. When she was 15 or 16 she came to the United States with her parents.

I do not believe mother had a chance to go to school in the United States. She wrote excellent Swedish in such a manner that I could read and understand it. Since she knew no English she worked in various homes as a housekeeper and maid. I believe she worked once for the Cook family, who owned land north of Odebolt. At this time she learned American and English cooking and baking at which she was most proficient. It was in the process of working in different homes, and for his parents, that she met my father.

My grandmother, Emma Sophia Dolk, was probably also born in Kalmars län, Småland, Sweden. I have not been able to learn much about her early life. Mother was her only child. After the death of grandfather Peterson she married Charles A. Goranson. They came to the United States, with my mother, about 1879-1880. They carried some of their food, probably cheese and bread, in a wooden keg. The keg was later used by my mother as a sugar container. I found the keg on the farm, minus handle and lid, and have it now.

On arriving in this country they came to Iowa and purchased 80 acres of land, which is part of the home farm. They built a house and some buildings. Mr. Goransen was ill for a long time. Mother said she thought it might have been stomach cancer. She also said he would frequently visit them and look sad and wistfully at the children playing. Before he died he asked her forgiveness for some of the hardships she had endured in her earlier years. She said she forgave him.

After his death, in 1887, my parents with their first children, moved in with Grandma Goransen. Later father was to build a larger house for their rapidly growing family.

I well remember Grandma Goransen because she lived with us. She was a short, stocky, energetic little woman. Her hair was parted in the middle and severely drawn back into a tight knot. She wore black dresses a lot, with always an apron, which was white trimmed in lace for special occasions. The aprons always had pockets in which she sometimes carried candy for us, and more often, snacks for her beloved cats. She had may of those.

I watched her card wool to make yarn and spin on her spinning wheel. The yarn was made into many pairs of mittens and stockings for us. She could knit so fast; a talent that was passed on to my mother.

Grandma had a loom that I believe came from Sweden. She made many rugs on this loom, and tore yards of old clothing and material and sewed them together for this purpose. These were then wound into large balls. The loom was housed in what was later known as the cob shed. The loom was always a temptation to us, and we received many scoldings and spankings for "tampering" with it.

Grandma read her little Swedish prayer books a lot. She spoke nothing but Swedish and we had to speak to her in this language. Some of the older children in our family attended Swedish school. I never did.

She had few relatives in the United States. Her only brother was Andrew Dolk, who lived in Kiron, Iowa. This may have been the reason they came to this part of the States, as Uncle Dolk (as he was fondly called) signed notes for loans of money they needed to buy the farm.

Uncle Dolk was a kind, gentle man and the children all loved him. He married a lady with a child, whom he adopted. This was Charlie Dolk. They later had a son, Cody, who was mother's only cousin. Cody Dolk lived in California most of his life.

Grandma also had a half sister, Lottie Thorngren. There may have been other half brothers and sisters. I remember Aunt Lottie as a tall, gaunt woman, who smoked a pipe. She visited us on occasion and she and grandma were very close. I believe there were other relatives in the Creston Iowa area, as mother used to visit there.

My father, Alfred Nelson, was born February 21, 1863, in Össjö, Kristianstad, Sweden. His parents were John Nelson (Janne Nilsson) and Hester Elina Olson.

My grandfather, John Nelson, was born February 24, 1839 in Össjö, Kristianstad, Sweden, the son of Nils Olson and Kjersti Larson. My great grandfather, Nils Olson, was born in Össjö, May 12, 1800, the son of Ola Knutson and Pernilla Pehrsson.

Kjersti Larson, my great grandmother, was born in Hylinge, V. Broby, Kristianstad, Sweden, June 5, 1801, the daughter of Lars Pahlson and Hannah Pehrsson. My great grandparents were married December 4, 1824. Great grandfather died Dec. 15, 1868, and great grandmother died Dec. 7, 1855.

My grandfather, John, had two sisters and six brothers. Two of the brothers were shoemakers in Sweden. Two of them joined the Swedish army, and because so many soldiers had the same name they took the names of Lindow and Lindell.

His brother, Lars, had already come to America and settled in Illinois. Lars had two children that died in infancy. He moved to Odebolt, Iowa and lived with his sister Nellie (I believe formerly called Petronilla). This was after they had both lost their mates. My mother was very fond of Uncle Lars, who she said was a fine man. Lars lived across the street east of the old Lutheran Church in Odebolt and had some part in starting that church there. He and his sister returned to Sweden to live their remaining years. I have a copy of a letter sent to his niece, Mary Banta, my father's sister, sent from Sweden.

Petronilla (Nellie) married a Mr. Anderson and they lived in Illinois. Father used to talk about them, but all I know is that their son, Arthur, helped my grandfather and family on their move to Idaho from Nebraska.

My grandmother, Hester Elina, was born in Vellinge, Malmöhus, Sweden, January 26, 1841, daughter of Ola Begtsson and Kjersti Nystrom. My Great grandfather, Ola Bengtsson, was also born in Vellinge, December 6, 1817, son of Sessa Pehrsson and Paul Nystrom. He married Kjersti Nystrom, who was born in Tossjö, Kristianstad, Sweden, January 16, 1820. Great grandfather Bengtsson died July 27, 1847.

My grandfather, John, married Hester Elena Olson on May 24, 1861. They had ten children, seven boys, Carl Oscar, Alfred, Olaf, Anton, August, Nels and Joseph, and three daughters, Amanda, Marie and Amanda. In 1871, when they had five of the children, they came to the United States. They came by steerage, with money loaned to them by my grandmother's brothers, who were already in the States. Father was eight years old at that time. Grandmothers two brothers were Carl and Pehr Olson, who settled in Iowa. She also had some half brothers and sisters. I believe two of them were Mrs. Briggle and Mrs. Will Ahlberg, both of Odebolt.

My grandparents arrived in Marshalltown, Iowa and stayed with friends. There the sixth child was born, Marie Christine. They moved on to Sac County in Iowa, and four more children were born. They farmed and first bought 40 acres of land, and then later more land. This was in Wheeler Township, just south of the Wheeler #8 school. Grandfather donated the land upon which the school was built. After they left this place, the Buller family lived there (in my time) with Martin Berg and his mother living across the road.

Father talked about going to school in Marshalltown and then in Sac County, whenever they were able to go. They all had to help with the farm work.

One of the children, Olaf, at age 12, was drowned when they lived here. He was herding cows and tried to swim across a stream.

On March 13, 1881, Grandmother Elena died of tuberculosis, at least that was the diagnosis then. Grandfather hired a young, Swedish girl by the name of Emma Louise Vickbom, to help with the children. She had just arrived from Sweden to live with her uncles, Sol and Gus Peterson. Emma became engaged to Carl Oscar, father's older brother. He died of smallpox, and she later married my grandfather. They heard of free land in western Nebraska and decided to sell out and move west. They homesteaded near Chappel, Nebraska in Duel County, between the North and South Platte Rivers. This was, of course, before irrigation and in the nine years they lived there they never raised a crop. In 1894 they decided to move on west. By that time Mary and Amanda had moved to Denver and worked for the Salvation Army. Amanda died there.

Father was the only one of the family who remained in Iowa. So, after having an auction sale, grandfather moved the rest of the family on west to Idaho. A nephew, Arthur Anderson, grandfather's sister's boy, helped them move and load their remaining belongings on two wagons and a buggy, pulled by six horses. Grandfather had 50 cents in his pocket when they arrived in Idaho. They decided to settle in an area north of Idaho Falls near a canal. Grandfather went to a bank and told them he planned to settle there. They loaned him the money for staples. Later they moved to the New Sweden area, south of Idaho Falls, and as time went on bought 300 to 400 acres of land there. Several children were born of this marriage. Grandfather died in November, 1902.

My parents, Alfred and Anna, were married March 14, 1882. They first lived on my grandfather's place, which he vacated when he moved west with the rest of the family. While living there Albert was born. From there they moved to a farm near Boyer, where Ida was born. They moved back again to my grandfather's place where Emma was born.

After Mr. Goransen died they moved to the home farm as we know it, and lived with my grandmother. William and Esther were born there. Then father built another house on the farm, which is still standing, and the rest of the children were born there.

Vernon was the first child born after they moved into the new house. Emma tells he was born while the cornshellers were there, and they were having their midday meal. So, the children, for want of a name, called him the little "cornsheller". After Vernon, there was Lillian, Elmer, Sidney, Glenn, Gladys, Francis and Dorothy.

Father was more or less self taught. He could read and write English well. He was a Justice of the Peace for the area for a time, and on the Election Board for a number of years. He was a loyal American and proud of being a citizen of this country, and would get upset with some of his Swedish friends that did not become citizens or even try. I can hear him say, "this is the only country", and so we were told what a privilege it was to live here and to always vote on election day. On the 4th of July he had large firecrackers which he would fire very early in the morning - to the annoyance of mother but to our delight. He was a good provider and with the large family apples were purchased in barrels, crackers in crates, huge pieces of cheese and many sacks of flour and staples. He did a lot of gardening, raised the best strawberries, boysenberries, raspberries, grapes, and fruit trees, etc. so there was much canning and preserving done. Of course we did our own butchering. Father built a smoke house back of the living house, where he smoked hams, bacon and cured the best dried beef.

Mother was a good cook and her baking was great. I remember the pleasure of coming home from school to smell freshly baked bread, rolls or cookies. She baked two or three batches of bread each week. Also, usually two kinds of cookies - large white sugar cookies and molasses cookies. These were large in size and doled out in our lunch pails for school. They had to last the week. She fed and took care of the chickens and gathered the eggs. All helped with the chores, like the churning of butter, laundry, milking, ironing, etc. Mother liked to read, usually when she was in bed resting. And every morning father would bring her coffee, with a sugar cube, to her bed.

The boys in the family were initiated into farm and field work very early in their lives. And the older girls to help with the housework, take care of the younger children, cook, sew and any chores that were required.

The saddest times I remember on the farm were the deaths of little Grandma Goransen and my sister Gladys. Grandma was ill such a short time. And then two years later Gladys, my youngest sister, died, during the World War I flu epidemic. The house was like a hospital - everyone ill, except father. I believe Elmer was called home at that time to help care for us. In the case of Gladys it developed into pneumonia, and by the time we could get a nurse and specialist from Sioux City it was too late. They tried hard to save her. She was a lovely, young girl, and my youngest sister.

I am sure there were many inconveniences and hard times for us, but there was always plenty of food and many things to do. For me, the good times were having strawberries with thick cream for breakfast, the arrival of the first group of grandchildren - they were playmates and fun for me, and good company. All of the pets, a chicken, goat, cats, and always a dog, swimming in the watering tank, wading in the creek and making waterwheels, leisurely summer days and some mighty cold winter days too! My first music teacher, Mabel Hedstrom, who rode side saddle down to the farm to give us music lessons. It was bitter cold in the parlor, shut off from the rest of the house - since the piano was in there I made a keyboard on the window sill. Christmas trees that we cut, decorated, and clipped on the branches the candles that burned only on Christmas eve, when the family got together.

Those were the years my brother Albert sort of looked after me. I would follow him around the farm and he would give me ridiculous little jobs to do. We always sat together at the table - he would see that I had food on my plate and that I ate it! This was probably because we were the "oldest and the youngest".

In 1917 father bought a lot on Park Avenue in Odebolt. This was purchased from Leonard Goreham. In 1920 he built a nice, four bedroom home on this lot. At this time the boys, Albert and Elmer, purchased the farm. They lived on the home place and were later joined there by Francis. The three of them spent their remaining days there.

The new home had many built-in features and lovely woodwork which father helped install. It is still a well preserved home. On this place he continued with his gardening, raising fruit of all kinds and keeping an immaculate yard. He had a great interest in trees and served on the Odebolt Cemetery Board for a number of years. In this capacity he helped Henry Hanson of Odebolt plant many trees in the cemetery and in Odebolt.

Mother was not in good health during this time. She became frail and inactive, but she did enjoy having the children visit and also an occasional fishing trip with father. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March, 1932. After a long illness, mother had a stroke and died in a short time. This was April 4, 1936.

About a year later father fell out of a cherry tree and broke his leg. It never healed properly, and with other complications he spent almost a year in bed. During this time he was cared for by my sister Esther who, with her family, had moved into the home after mother died. Father died June 3, 1938.



©  2002
Revised: 04 July 2005 09:28 AM