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The Langseth legacy: Lake Ocheda farm has stayed in family since 1901

WORTHINGTON -- The Langseth roots run deep on properties located around Lake Ocheda. Ole Nelson Langseth -- a Norwegian immigrant who first came toLa Crosse, Wis., brought his family to Nobles County in the early days of its settlement.Three of h...

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Al Langseth (center), his daughter Jami (left) and aunt Phyllis Langseth Doeden stand on the steps of the house where Al and Phyllis both grew up on the shore of Lake Ocheda. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - The Langseth roots run deep on properties located around Lake Ocheda. Ole Nelson Langseth - a Norwegian immigrant who first came to
La Crosse, Wis., brought his family to Nobles County in the early days of its settlement.
Three of his sons - Nels, Jens and Martin - are the original owners of the land - purchased by them in 1901 - now owned by Melba Langseth that runs along the shore of Lake Ocheda. The township road dissects the properties, with the home where Melba’s son Al and his family now live located in Lorrain Township, and Melba’s house and the family cabins in Indian Lake Township.
Nels, Jens and Martin co-owned the Indian Lake parcel for only one year, before Jens took full ownership. From there, it passed to his son, Clarence (also known as “C.C.”), who owned it for 59 years; and then Melba’s husband, Rodney, for 32 years before he died.
The Lorraine Township land was owned by Nels for 11 years; passing to Jens for two years, then on to Clarence and Rodney. Al and Carol Langseth have lived on the Lorain property since 1977; prior to that it was a rental.
But Al and his siblings - Randy, Kathy, Paul and Roger - grew up on the lakeside farm, as did their father, Rodney, and his sister, Phyllis Langseth Doeden, who now lives about 5 miles to the south on the farm she also inherited from their father, Clarence Langseth. 
The Langseth clan is also intertwined with another well-known name in the Ocheda region - Nystrom - with many marriages between the two families, including two brothers who married two sisters.
In preparation for making application for the Century Farm designation, Al got out the family scrapbooks of photos and gleaned some interesting pieces of information from the archives. 
From a 1937 newspaper clipping: “The Langseth brothers in Indian Lake Township have threshed out over 3,200 bushels of oats of their own; the average yield being about 47 bushels to the acre.”
Al also remembers flax being a big cash crop for the family.
“When it blooms, it gets blue flowers, and they are just beautiful waving in the wind - it looks like water,” he described.
Another item of note: Al’s grandmother (Phyllis’ mother), Ida Langseth, was one of the charter members of the Worthington Garden Club, formed Sept. 11, 1939. 
“I grew up weeding gardens,” said Al, remembering the extensive flower beds his grandmother planted along the lakeshore around the house that C.C. and Ida shared with Rodney and Melba.
Weeding the flower beds was only one of many chores for Rodney and Melba’s kids, of which Al was the oldest.
“I grew up with cattle hogs, chickens,” Al said, adding that the place was a “menagerie.”
But with the tempting lake so close by, the chores were quickly done so the kids could have some fun in and around that water playground.
“I remember everybody getting sunburned,” recalled Al. “We were either in the field or out on the lake.”
There was also a game refuge, he added, and there is still a small parcel of land that has never been tilled, as it was always used for pasture.
While they have owned the land for well more than 100 years, the Langseths have often found evidence that they are not its first inhabitants - arrowheads and other artifacts of native peoples and animals. Al and Carol’s son, Jared, is an archaeologist and maintains a dig site on the property, and buffalo bones are often found along the Lake Ocheda shoreline.
But the main activity on the property in the most recent century has been farming - both livestock and crop - and the family is proud of its agricultural heritage.
As a young man, Rodney Langseth took part in the International Farm Youth Exchange program, spending three months in 1948 in Norway. He continued to be involved in the program throughout his life, hosting exchange participants from around the world, and his family’s summer vacations were spent traveling to IFYE conferences all over the United States.
There are now two cabins on the property - one owned by Phyllis and her family, the second by the Langseths. In the Langseth cabin, a plaque commemorates Rodney’s IFYE involvement.
Over the years, there were toboggan slides located on the property, which drew great crowds of people from town during the winter months. Now, due to liability issues, such a thing would never be possible.
“It was booked every weekend,” recalled Paul Langseth. “There would be three or four groups out here every weekend.”
Phyllis remembers her mother having enough bowls and cups to feed chili and cocoa to the throngs of sledders who descended on the lake each winter. 
The current Langseth residents no longer farm the surrounding land. Al is employed by Nobles County as a feedlot officer, while Paul is in the tree/nursery business, and their other siblings have moved out of the area.
Al and Carol’s second daughter, Jamie, and her son, Ethan, are back on the home place due to some health issues. While living in Michigan, Jamie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and a few months later, Ethan with epilepsy. 
“I am so grateful we could come back home,” said Jamie. “I got sick, Ethan got sick all at the same time. It’s so peaceful out here, and he can ride his bike, and I don’t have to worry about him. There are so many things he can do out here.”\
Ethan likes to fish in the nearby lake, and Jami has planted a large garden and oversees the current “menagerie,” which includes chickens, a few pigs and a new litter of puppies.
The Langseth family has a lot of history to reflect upon this summer, as matriarch Melba will have a 90th birthday in addition to some sort of observance of their land’s century status. They will celebrate the roots that were planted deep by Ole Langseth on the shores of Lake Ocheda and continue to branch out through more generations.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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