Erickson sisters celebrate Westbrook farm's 100 years
WESTBROOK -- There's plenty of pride in the Erickson family due to the fact the same 80 acres has stayed in their name for 101 years to date. Even though it's been roughly 20 years since an Erickson personally worked the land, sisters Marlys, Mar...
WESTBROOK - There’s plenty of pride in the Erickson family due to the fact the same 80 acres has stayed in their name for 101 years to date.
Even though it’s been roughly 20 years since an Erickson personally worked the land, sisters Marlys, Mary Ann and Arlene retain ownership of their Murray County property located in Dovray Township, about three miles west and one mile north of Westbrook.
“There was a house there until 2004, and that’s where we all grew up,” shared Marlys, a retired teacher. “But nobody needed to live there anymore and it wasn’t in good condition, so we had it demolished.
“A lot of memories went down with it, but as one of our aunts pointed out, ‘That’s just the way it is - they have to do what they have to do.’”
Peter and Florence Erickson, paternal grandparents of the three Erickson girls, bought the farm in 1914 after renting it for about two years.
“They moved to Minnesota from Algona, Iowa, and shipped a lot of things by boxcar, including livestock and machinery, to the Westbrook depot,” said Marlys.
“We don’t know for sure, but it could be they herded the livestock to the farm,” she noted. “One of our aunts remembered herding cattle in the road ditches at times, and she also herded cattle to a farm south of ours that they rented for grazing, so it’s possible.”
Peter Erickson was born in Wingoker, Sweden, but immigrated to the United States in 1903, living at first with relatives in Illinois.
“When others headed west, so did he,” said Marlys.
Peter met Florence, who was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry, in Iowa.
“Florence’s parents died young so she was living with an older brother,” Marlys explained.
The exact motivation for Peter and Florence to choose their particular plot of land in Murray County is unknown to the family, but Marlys does know this: “Peter’s goal was to resell the land after a while and take his bride on a trip to Sweden.
“But that never happened.”
Instead, Marlys’ father Raymond was born in 1912; three daughters (Hazel, Ruth and Florence) followed.
“They raised chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, hogs and milk cows, and they grew alfalfa and oats - and later, corn and soybeans,” listed Marlys. “Now it’s all in corn and soybeans.”
Raymond took over most of the farming when he graduated from high school because his father was in poor health.
“We know he wasn’t very healthy for the last eight years of his life in particular, and Grandpa Peter died in 1946,” said Marlys.
Raymond, meanwhile, married Mary Risius. Mary was born in Germany but came to the United States as a 10-month-old in 1912.
“Mary (mother to Marlys, Mary Ann and Arlene) was the oldest, and her mother had a baby on Halloween, I think in 1926, and she died on Christmas Day,” related Marlys. “That left Grandpa Risius with eight girls to raise, so Mom had to help with them.”
Mary and Raymond met while Mary was nursing in the Fulda area with one of Raymond’s sisters.
Marlys, Mary Ann and Arlene - now all in their mid-60s - helped with some traditional farm chores as girls.
“We baled hay, and there was silage to throw down for the cattle,” Marlys recalled. “There were pigs to take care of and a few cows to milk, and there were always the chickens and eggs.
“But I didn’t do as much as my sisters; I was the ‘inside’ person, plus I had a job as a teenager in the school lunchroom so mom and dad didn’t expect me to work as much at home.”
Gardening was also important to the family, and with apple trees and rhubarb and strawberry patches also on site, “We had just about everything you needed to survive - it was a basic little farm, and we sold eggs, and sometimes cream, in town, like the previous generation did,” said Marlys.
Mary Erickson died of breast cancer in 1983, and Raymond died in July 1996 after having a stroke in May of that year.
“He always said, ‘I was born on that farm and I’ll die on that farm,’ but he had to go to the nursing home at the end - but not for very long,” said Marlys.
Marlys reflects that her father watched farming advance from the days of horse-drawn plows to the times of 16-row planters operated with high-tech equipment.
“It was quite a change he witnessed in his lifetime,” she expressed.
Marlys and Mary Ann (who worked in banking for many years) both make their homes in Westbrook; sister Arlene, recently retired from a career in the insurance industry in the Boston, Mass., area, is in the process of returning to live in Westbrook as well.
“We aren’t planning to sell the farm anytime soon, and our renter is content to be farming it,” said Marlys. “We’re happy to keep it in the family - it’s pretty special to have had it for over 100 years - and we like Westbrook.
“We all grew up here and enjoyed it, and everything we need is here - so why not stay?”