Arrhenius Homestead

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A visitor to the Lincoln Community Forest today sees a fairly young forest with little trace of a history other than management by timber companies.

​However, the South-East 80 acres of the Community Forest were originally a part of the 160 acre tract of land acquired under the federal governments Homestead Act. This land was granted to Martin J Arrhenius  and he and his family lived on the property from 1888 to 1918.
We have been researching the homestead era in the Town of Lincoln, one focus being the Arrhenius family, their lives, and their property.

​On this history page we will present previously unknown accounts of life on the Arrhenius Homestead.

Periodically, we will be adding new material to this page; we hope you will continue to check for updates.

How was 80 acres of the Lincoln Community Forest originally obtained by Martin J. Arrhenius and his family?  

The answer lies with President Lincoln and an 1882 Act of Congress known as the Homestead Act.

After January 1st,1863 any person who was head of  household and a citizen of the U.S. (or who had filed papers to become one) or who had performed service in the Army or Navy, was entitled to apply  and file a Homestead Application, for up to 160 acres of surveyed government land.

The land had to be used for settlement and cultivation. The person filing could not move or abandon the land for more than 6 months at a time, for 5 years after the initial date of application for Homestead.  After this 5 year period, additional documents were filed. These were a “Final Affidavit Required Of Homestead Claimants”, along with “Homestead Proof – Testimony of Claimant”, which also had to be filled out by two Witnesses.

The Arrhenius, both emigrants from Sweden were anxious to obtain land of their own. The family filed for 160 acres and moved onto their land in 1888. The cost to them was an $18 filing fee.

We know from the original “Testimony” documents that the family had fulfilled their requirements. Both, the Claimant and two witnesses state the following developments of the homestead.

They had a log house 14×17, shingled roof,  board floor, 3 windows, 2 doors, log stable 14×42,  root house 8×32, 60 rods of fence, a hen house 8×12, a bridge over the Marengo River,  1/2 mile of road,  and 9 acres cleared besides cultivated land. They described their land as timbered farming land, sandy loam soil, fair quality, most valuable as farming land.

​Our next entry will be part of an account written by daughter Hulda Arrhenius about some of the families early homestead experiences and survival on their land.


​Reminiscences of my Early Life
by Hulda (Arrhenius) Johnson

Submitted by Jean Zirn, FLCF member

My parents came from Sweden in 1883 and were married in 1885. My father came to Nebraska and my mother to Menominee Wisconsin. Father worked for a farmer but did not like the prairie so moved to Ashland Wisconsin where mother was a maid. In Ashland my parents met and  were married in the Episcopal Church in 1885.  Probably there was no Lutheran Church in Ashland at that time.  Northern Wisconsin was timber country and Mom and Dad felt at home there.  In 1886 Dad was working in a logging  camp in Ironwood Michigan.  Mother was the cook.  On the day that my sister, Anna, was to be born the labor pains came very strongly while the men were still eating their noon meal.  My mother went to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed to prevent the birth until the men had left.  This was their first child.  Mother worked into the night hours to prepare food for the next day. She baked all the bread there and were no canned vegetables.  There were times it would be 2am before she would get through peeling potatoes and she would be so tired she could hardly keep awake and would almost drop off her chair.  Mother seldom complained.  It was nothing but work and more work. Mother and Dad moved back to Ashland and worked in a sawmill for ten cents per hour.  Brother Carl and sister Victoria were born in Ashland.

Uncle Sam gave homesteads to build up the county so my parents among others took up a homestead.   They had to live there for five years improving the claim and then they could be citizens.  In our part of the country most all were Swedes born in Sweden.  Most of them did fairly well but my parents did not.  Dad and Mom gave three  acres on the northeast corner for a community cemetery and church.  The church was built in 1894 and dedicated.  The homestead was in Bayfield County later called Birch Lake.

Father built a log cabin but it burned down in January, probably due to an overheated stove.  I was born in that cabin and was so small that my mother pinned my clothes to a pillow and placed me behind the stove keep me warm and away from drafts..  I do not remember the log cabin only the hole in the ground where it had stood.  My father had built that cabin with upright cedar timbers,  flattened on two sides and held together with hand made dowels.  The second cabin was built the same way.  It burned also.  There was an upstairs where we children slept.  Our parents slept on the main floor.  My brother, Albert , and I  were taken to he horse barn to keep warm.  My brother sat on the floor behind the horses and I bent down on my knees to cover his legs.  Girls wore long dresses then.  My mother was working in Ashland at a hotel  and my father was home and working outside in the woods.  Anna, my oldest sister had to learn to make bread.  It was so hard for her to learn.  She shed many a tear having to take care of two brothers and two sisters at age thirteen.  Father was a stern man and we were afraid of him.  I know I was until I left home at age seventeen.  We didn’t dare to laugh and at the table we were not allowed to talk.  In Swedish he would say, “Let the food silence your mouth.”  Mother was quiet.  I don’t remember my parents disagreeing.  If they did, it was when we children were not around.  After the house burned down we were taken in by a neighbor a couple miles away until another log cabin was built of timber which had been cut with plans to make a cowbarn.

The horse barn and the cowbarn were cut into a sidehill with connecting passageways between.  The chickens were in a dugout above the horses and cows.  We children had to climb up the hillside to get in and gather the eggs.  I don’t know how my father could have dug out so much dirt to make them big enough for the animals.  The sheep and the pigs were also in dugouts.  Light was furnished by kerosene lamps.  They were warm in winter and cool in summer.

As was the custom in Swedish Lutheran churches I went to summer school in a public school house to learn church history, writing, spelling and catechism in preparation for confirmation. I had been christened a few months after birth. First communion made us Christians and that was all we needed to go to heaven.  I was glad when it was all over and I didn’t need to read the Bible any more and I didn’t. (The day came, however, that I learned to love His Word and was glad to read it and believe it.) Church services were in Swedish but public school was tax supported and in English and teachers were sent to the communities  to teach grades one through seven.

Father took care of the horses, cleaned the horse barn etc. Mother had to take care of the other live stock, milk the cows, clean the barn and care for the pigs and sheep.  Father would help her when the cows were calving.  We would castrate the male calves and pigs.
House number two was blown away by a nasty little cyclone in the fall but I don’t remember what year. Hay had been harvested and dried but cabbage heads were not in the cyclone blew most of the hay away but some was wrapped around the cabbages. My dad and older brother were in the dugout root cellar where vegetables were stored for the winter.They looked and saw my sister, Victoria, close the window upstairs in the house. Anna was so curious to see what was going on outside that she opened the door downstairs and the house blew away; clothes, bedding and everything went with the twister.  Mother was sewing and coffee was cooked for the four P.M. coffee break which was the usual habit from Sweden, but no coffee that day.  I suppose, no supper either. Albert and I crawled out from behind the cook stove unharmed.  Sister, Victoria, got cut by stepping on glass on the floor. That night we children stayed in the barn in the mangers for beds. The cows could not come home due to fallen trees but they did get to the cemetery which was not in use yet.  The  lead cow tried to get home by following the wire fence inside the homestead but a tree fell on her and she was killed.  It was milking time and since she was the lead she had a bell around her neck and the other cows would follow her.  A neighbor and his wife that lived not far from the cemetery came over fallen trees and logs about ¾ mile to see how we all were. We were all right. Mom and Dad slept behind a huge log near where the house had stood. Again Dad had cut down trees and prepared them for a cow barn but the family had to have shelter so the cows had to stay in the dugout.

Dad had been a carpenter’s apprentice in Sweden so he knew how to build a farm wagon. He made the wheels and all. We called it the bolt wagon. He made a spring wagon which we used to go to town to trade eggs, butter and cabbage for which he got flour sugar coffee and other staples. At one time Dad took a load of cabbage, nice hard heads into town. He took a dog along to watch the load while he went into the stores.  Apparently there were cows hanging around the country store and the cabbage smelled good to them. The little dog wouldn’t let them get near the load. The meat market was a part of the store and the dog smelled the meat and begged but the butcher poured boiling water on the dog’s back. The poor animal really suffered but she protected the load. All this happened in the later years when I was a teenager. There was another episode I remember when we were homeless and staying with a neighbor while Dad worked on the house for us. My oldest brother, Carl, became very ill and Dad went over twenty miles to get the doctor. When he came he said Carl had appendicitis so he put him on the kitchen table and performed an appendectomy. The doctor could not possibly come back to see Carl so he had to be taken to Ashland to the hospital. Dad built a little house above a horse drawn sled. He lined the little house with skins of deer and cattle and bedded Carl down inside and hung kerosene lanterns to keep him warm for the long ride to the hospital. Mother was working at a hotel in Ashland to earn needed money so she got to visit him. He was a very sick young boy. One evening the doctor gave mother a little white pill and told her to give it to him if he got worse but she didn’t do it. He recovered. My younger brother, Albert was not a very well boy either during his growing up years. Neither of them grew to be robust men.

Dad made his own hot beds to grow tomato and cabbage plants from seed. The beds were built of logs with a hole through the center in which Dad would put other logs in and build a fire to keep the seed beds warm. It had a flat roof, which was hinged at the back and slightly higher so the rain would run off. He opened them in the day time and closed them at night. There was a small deep lake near the seed bed so I presume he got water from the lake to irrigate it. We children were not allowed to go to the lake for fear we would fall in and get drowned. I guess I saw it once but I think my brothers may have seen it more often. It would have been a good place to skate but we never did. We lived on a river that made many turns. I skated once on the river and fell and never tried again. Albert and Carl skated often. They also made home made skis and I did ski a little but it wasn’t much fun going alone. Once when I was small I fell into the river but my brother grabbed me by my long hair and pulled me out.

As we grew a little older we would go the  community dances. I was a very good dancer and was never at a loss for partners because I was so light on my feet and I enjoyed it so much.

I lost my hearing so was sent to a school for deaf children. I lived with
(unknown)….I was one of the older ones there and when my hearing began to come back she had me help her with the others. She bought me my first pair of ladies shoes and I think they were too small and that might be what started my bunions.

I don’t remember what happened to house number three. Maybe Dad planned to turn it into a cowbarn because he had purchased finished lumber from the sawmill for the fourth house. We got it half finished but he got very sick and it was too much for him to continue.  My brothers and I shingled it. That was fun. The family was beginning to leave the homestead so he never did finish it. By that time Anna had gone to the city to make a living cooking. Victoria went to Duluth to work in a hotel. My two brothers were always home because they were needed.

Later Anna married Ben Peterson and they moved to Oregon. When I was seventeen Victoria and I decided to move to Oregon also. Ben was supposed to meet me at the train station but he wasn’t there so I tried to find my way by streetcar. I don’t have all the details straight but apparently Ben and Anna had become concerned about me and had contacted the police and had described how I looked. A policeman walked up to me and looked at my white hair even though I had my hat pulled down as far as I could because I hated my hair. He asked me who I was and directed me to their place.

When I was eighteen I went to Alicel in eastern Oregon to work for the Rule family. They raised pigs. Victoria  worked in the hotel in Elgin. The family I worked for was named Rule . I loved the animals and had always wanted to harness and work with them and be allowed to drive. One day Mr Rule let me take a team and a wagon and go to town but after awhile the horses ran away and I tried my best to pull back on the reins and make them stop but they wouldn’t until they ran into a fence and a farmer came out and grabbed the reins and got me turned around to go back to Rules. Rules were good about feeding hobos that came by asking for work and food. A few years ago Lorraine took me to the old Rule house where a granddaughter still lives with her family. I recognized some of the house, especially the long windows facing the porch. I worked there through the winter and earned enough to buy a nice wool sweater. I had to wash the  windows every week.

I met Henry and we got married and had Albert. Some time after that we moved back to Wisconsin to help Mother and Father at the homestead but that didn’t work out so we moved to Superior Wisconsin where Henry worked on the ore docks. In Superior is where we met the Pearson family who became out friends. Mr. Pearson kept asking Henry to come to the Billy Sunday meetings so after a while he went and was saved. Our plan was to go on alternate nights to the meetings but on the night that I had decided that I was going to go forward Henry decided to go so I had to wait a day. Evalyn was born in Superior. I don’t remember exactly when we moved back to Portland. Mother and Father could not take care of the farm any more because he was not well so in 1919 they let the bank take back the homestead for what was owed on it and they moved out to Portland. By that time all the family had left back there and were out here.

The first place we lived was in a rented house on Willamette Blvd across the street from Miss Rundle who was the dean of girls at Roosevelt High School. She may have just been a teacher then. Melvin Peterson stayed with us for awhile. Mother and Father built a house on N.  Leonard street and we stayed with them for awhile when Margaret was a small child and Evelyn started first grade at Sitton School. About two or three years before that we lived in a house on Smith Street where Albert got very sick with whooping cough and pneumonia and died. That was a sad time. While we lived on Swenson  street I left the children at home while I went shopping and when I come home I could not find them. They had gone into a closet and the door had slammed shut and was locked and they couldn’t get out. They were screaming and crying. When we lived on Central street Bud got polio and we were quarantined. We liked that house because it had a toilet and bathtub on the back porch. Bud had just  learned to walk when he got sick so he had to learn all over again. After that we bought the house on Hudson Street near Sitton School. The street was unfinished so it was a mudhole most of the spring and winter. We bought milk from Abrahams.  Our Neighbor, Mr. Zimmerman gave us apples in the fall.