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19 Dec 1998
PIONEER MEMORIES OF WALDEMERS AND THE FIRST SETTLERS
by
C. N. Waldemer
(18 May 1863 - 18 Nov 1947)
(Ed.Note: Probably written about the time of death based on sixth paragraph.)


My father, P. Waldemer was supposed to have sprung from the royal Family of Denmark during the time the whole of Scandinavia was ruled by one King. At any rate, we derived our name from the Royal Family of Denmark.

P. Waldemer was born in Skåne, Sweden on March 11, 1822, and died at Kiron, Iowa in May, 1904. Hanna Nelson was born in Skåne, Sweden April 27, 1824, and died at Kiron, Iowa in August 1900. They were married April 27, 1850 in Skåne, Sweden and celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary April 27, 1930 at Kiron, Iowa.

They came to Swedebend, Iowa in 1865 and moved to Deloit, Iowa in 1867. With a team of oxen and a prairie schooner, before the C. and N. W. railroad was built to Denison, Waldemer brought the four oldest children, Nils, Ellen, John and August, with him to Deloit. Mrs. Waldemer and Charley, the youngest one, were left at Swedebend until the road was built to Denison.

My sister, Ellen, worked for Mr. and Mrs. Denison when the road was built through Denison. Ellen agreed to meet mother and me at the railway station, but she did not go in the car, and we did not know when we were at Denison, so went along to the next station. But they sent us back to Denison on the next train.

Mr. Denison was agent for a land company, so he brought a lot of people from the East to locate in this territory. Mr. Denison used to stop at our place for a good bath in our pond and to cool off when it was warm and he happened to come our way when he was out selling land.

Being the only one alive in this community of the first settlers where Kiron is now located, I have been asked by several parties to write a little about what it looked like when we came to this locality in 1867. There was nothing but prairie between Ida Grove and Deloit. There were a dozen or more families that squatted here the first year.

In the first place, my father, Waldemer, Star and Rodin made a trip through Western Iowa from old Swedebend with a team of horses. One had a spring wagon and the other two had one horse each. They meant business, as they had the intention of finding a good location for a Swedish settlement. They left Swedebend for Fort Dodge, then to Storm Lake. They liked the location up there but there was no timber for fuel or fence, and no railroad nearer than Fort Dodge or Sioux City. So they followed the stage road to Ida Grove and from there to Deloit and they came through where Kiron is now located. They located here on account of getting five acres of timber at Fourmile Grove with each 160 acres of land. At that time there was no wire for fence so they had to split rails for that purpose and the C. and N. W. Railroad Co., were grading for the road at Denison, so it was a sure thing.

The first child that was born this territory was my sister, Matilda Ellis, on March 1, 1868. The second one was W. M. Sandberg. The third one was Lydia Erickson, whose name is now Mrs. Swarts. After that they kept on coming so fast that I could not keep track of them anymore. The first one that died here was my brother, Nils, in 1868. He was buried on the hill where the old Kiron Cemetery was laid out. My father and Nils both worked on the C. and N. w. R. R. by the Missouri River when they were grading, They had nothing but the riley Missouri water to drink. Both came home sick. Nils died two months after. He was 18 years old.

The most of the first settlers lived in dugouts with nothing but dirt roof. After a heavy rain it would soak through and drip down for a day after the rain was over. We had to put crocks and pans in the beds to keep the clothes from getting soaked. We lived in the dugout the first year. The second year, 1868, my father built a pretty fair house, one and one-half story. We used stone for the first story and logs for the second, with a thatched roof made of bluestem. We had bluestem on our bottom land that grew 8 feet tall. We raked off all the fine hay and used only the heavy stems for thatching roofs on the buildngs.

I was only five years old when I helped my father to thatch the first time. My father nailed cleats on the rafters a foot or more apart that he put the bluestem on top in tiers and willow rods crossways to hold it down, and twisted small willows, sharpened at the big end, which he punched through the roof above the cleat. So I had to punch them back below the cleat. I had only a board to sit on that was laid across the joists. Once I got a little too far out on one end of the board, and down I went with the board. But I was in good trim so I did not get hurt much. When the roof was finished it looked nearly like a shingle roof but it was twice as warm and it shed the water as good as a shingle roof Ė not a drop got through.

We surely had a good swimming place in our pond. It was about 40 rods long and 20 rods wide, and deep enough so a man had to swim if he did not desire to go to the bottom. There was a clean, sand bottom. The water was clear so one could see the fish in the water. There were mostly bullheads. I used to catch the fish with a hook in summer. In the winter, before the ice was too thick, I went on the ice with an ace and pounded on the ice so it stunned the fish. Then I cut a hole in the ice and picked them up with my hands. We also had a lot of fish in the creek, so we had all we could eat.

We also had a dandy time skating in the winter and swimming in the summer. The boys and girls came from far and near for the fun of it. We had a home-made boat with oars on it, so we surely had a good time of it. We had a roan ox by the name of Buck that we had trained to swim from one end of the pond to the other end. The boys got on the oxís back, all there was room for, and the rest of them would hang on to the tail. The ox would go by order of "haw" or "gee." The ox got so used to it that he liked to cool off as well as the boys did. This all happened before the fields were plowed. Now it is all filled in and there is no sign of the pond any more.

The worst pests that we had to fight were flies and mosquitoes. At that time there were no screens invented to keep the pests out of the house. We used to have some trash burning all night at the door to make a good smoke to keep the mosquitoes off, or one had to chase them off while his partner was sleeping. So they had to change about all night when it was real hot so the door or windows had to be open to get some breeze. So it was not all fun. Once when they were breaking prairie, my brother, August, came home crying with a fly in his ear. It was impossible to get it out, so mother poured some oil in the ear and killed it.

In 1869 our neighbor, John Hoaglund, had two daughters drowned in Boyer River. Sometime after that they had a little girl killed by a rattlesnake. Later on, their baby girl was bitten by a rattlesnake but they doped her with whiskey so she lived through.

In the early days it was nothing unusual to see some snakes every day. I do not know how many snakes that I have stepped on with my bare feet, but I was lucky enough to get off before they had a chance to bite me. My father told me to kill every snake that I saw Ė "just give them a good whack and stun them" Ė and so I did. When I was only five to eight years old I killed many snakes that were twice as long as I was myself. I cut their heads off to be sure of it.

In the year of 1870 my father bought a sorghum mill. We made thousands of gallons of sorghum for our neighbors and our own use. It went all right until 1872 a neighbor said the mill was loose. My brother, John, was wedging the mill and got his head crushed between the mill and the pole. My mother felt so bad that she quit making sorghum. She was the main one to do the cooking. Mrs. Herman Erickson told my mother, "I donít see how you can live through." She did not have any idea that she would have to live through anything like that, but a short time after, she had a daughter dragged and kicked to death by a runaway horse. About the same time, Peter Nelson had a son killed from bleeding to death after his arm was torn off in a threshing machine.

Being the youngest boy in our family, it was my job to hunt the cattle on the prairie. My brothers had to work in the fields. I always had to go afoot as we had no spare horse, but we always had some steer trained to ride. When I found the cattle I jumped on the steer and frove the cattle home. We had a good dog by the name of Pollow who sure could chase the cattle. We had to cross the Otter Creek to get the cattle. Many times I had to swim across. I always went barefoot as soon as the frost was out of the ground, so I used to put my shirt and trousers in my hat and put it on my head and swim across so my clothes did not get wet.

We had a bridge across the creek, but many times the creek was flooded so the cattle had to swim across. When the last one crossed I was ready to grab the tail and go along. Once I was riding a steer when he got down a steepbank to drink and down I went, heels over my head in the creek. One time when I was about eight years old I tried to dump the dog in the creek and let him go under the bridge when the water was up to the planks with a terrible force, but the dog made a quick jerk and I went down head first under the bridge. But I succeeded in swimming to the land all right.

In August 1875 we had the worst flood I ever saw at Otter Creek. They had a cloudburst up north from our place. The water was even with the bottom land before the flood came rolling like a wall of water, about six feet high, and took everything along, bridges, fences, stacks of grain and hay and everything that was on the bottom land. We had a hog pen down by the creek with some fat hogs in it. I saw the water coming and I tried to get the hogs out, but before I got them away the flood was there and took the fence and hogs down in the pond, but they landed in a cornfield and I had to follow suit with the hogs. Mr. Hamren was drowned a mile north from our place. He was coming home from church at the time on dry land when the flood came and rolled over him.

We also had some terrible prairie fires sometimes but we never were burned out. We always had a fireguard and when the fire came we set out a backfire. Many times we had to fight the fire. When the fire came with hard wind it looked like a lake of fire. It jumped over the tops of the tall grass in a hurry and the whole bottom would be on fire at the same time.

My father cut the first grain we raised with a cradle in 1868. The first machine we used was a combined buckeye reaper for grain and hay. It took four good men to bind the grain. Some years later my father bought a Marsh harvester for two to stand on the machine and bind the grain. He paid two men $3.00 each per day and threshed 1000 bushels of wheat. Price was $1.00 per bushel that year.

Kiron did not exist until Mr. Andrew Norelius established the Kiron post office in 1873, when mail was received by horseback once a week from Deloit. He filled the position of postmaster for 18 years. Mr. Norelius organized the Kiron Independent mutual Insurance Association in 1879 and served the company as its first president. Mr. Norelius also organized the Kiron Cemetery Association and was president for 40 years.

The community of Star schoolhouse was built in 1869, one mile and one-half from our place and one mile and one-half south of Kiron. There I had my first schooling. Some of the boys and girls had several miles to go to school. At that time we never heard of any two-legged "kids" going to school.

I remember well when my father suggested Kidron for a post office. Of course they all had to vote for it, but through a mistake the "d" was left out, so they let it go at that. We had our post office at Deloit for six years before Kiron was in existence.

When we drove to Denison with the ox team we had to start out at about midnight to get there before it got too hot, and lay off until evening and go home in the night. My father was one of the first ones to get a horse team and a spring wagon in 1870. The most of the first settlers had nothing but ox team and an old lumber wagon to ride in to town or any other place, so they were all pleased to get a team of horses.

In 1867 land sold for $4.00 per acre. The most of the prairie sod was broken with ox team. One man had to steer the plow and another drove the oxen. The first corn was planted by hand and heel or toes. My father made a marker with four runners and marked the field both ways. Then we planted in the cross. We used to exchange help with the neighbors. A half dozen or more men, women and children were planting at the time. The first corn planters that were made one man had to drive the team and another chock the corn. The first cultivation was done with a two-shovel plow and one horse or ox had to make a round for each row of corn.

We did not se any Indians around here for many years, but we found some of their weapons on the prairie. There were plenty of wolves and coyotes. My father told me not to get scared of them, just run after them and they would get scared of you, and so I did, and they ran away. I saw deer in large flocks on the prairie, but the only way to get near them was to walk on a ridge when the deer were in a hollow. Sometimes in the winter when there was snow on the ground we had to chase the deer off from the haystacks as they would crawl through the rail fence used to keep the cows off.

We used to have some sheep on the prairie with the cattle, but one year the coyotes killed the most of the sheep, and the dogs were just as bad. Once my father found a dog with a sheep in the creek that he was sucking the flood from. That was the last sheep he ever got. Father made a dive for the dog and held him under the water until he was sure he was dead.

We found many elk and deer horns on the prairie. There were plenty wild geese, ducks, chickens and quail. When I became able to handle a gun I sure killed a lot of game. Once I killed eight large ducks with one shot in our pond. It was not unusual to kill two or three with one shot. I also did a lot of trapping in my young days. Many time I was out hunting when it was 25 degrees below zero and a blizzard so I could not see my hand if I stretched it out in front of my eyes. But it did not last long before it cleared off so I could find my way. I never got lost on the prairie, although I did not get home until late in the evening many times.

The first years we were here many people got lost on the prairie. Sometimes they could not find their way to the barn to do their chores. Some places they tied a string from the house to the barn to keep from getting lost in daylight. As a rule, the blizzard would last for three days. Many times when my father was coming from the timber or town and was lost he thought the oxen were going the wrong way but he did not dare to turn them around. After awhile he came to some mark so he found the oxen were on the right track. Once when he was in Denison they had a report that a blizzard was coming, so the Marshal ordered everyone home or they would get lost on the prairie.

In 1874 my father rented his farm to John Larson. Cederberg, an old friend of my fatherís, came from Moline, Illinois the same year and they both lived in our big house with their families, so we sure had plenty of company. Nels Cederberg, Otto Larson and I were nearly the same age, so I had some good playmates. We used to go in swimming nearly every day when it was warm. Once Otto and I were diving head first into the pond. I got up all right but Otto did not show up, so I had to dive down after him and bring him to the shore. He said afterwards that he got dizzy and was lying on the bottom taking in water. Another time it happened just the same way with Nels Cederberg but I helped him out all right. He forbade me to let his mother know anything about it for he said she would never let him go in swimming any more if she would find out about it. I was just like a fish in the water, so it never bothered me. I do not remember when I learned to swim. It came natural. Nels predicted in 1874 that he would die when he got 25 years old, and it came true. I could not understand how he could get that notion. I used to say that I would live to 100 providing I did not die before.

We had a terrible disease in the winter of 1877 and 1878. There were about 50 or more children that died during the diphtheria epidemic which claimed so many in this vicinity at the ages of from two to ten years. Many of our neighbors lost two and three in a few days in each family. We had it bad enough but no one died in our family.

Easter Sunday, 1878, we had the worst tornado in the history of Kiron. We say a dark cloud coming in the southwest with a funnel-like spout whirling to the ground. My father said, "If it comes here, we will go in the cellar; that is the safest place to go." But it passed one mile south from out place. I saw when it struck the schoolhouse west of Charley Sholorís place. It was picked up and twisted to splinters so there was not a thing left of the house. The second house struck was Sholerís, but they were in the basement so no one was hurt. But the third house, John Larsonís, was whirled up in the air with Mr. Larson, his son, Otto, and his daughter, Emma, and Anna Wick all in the house. They made the first air trip in this vicinity. Mr. Larson was killed and the others badly hurt. C. A. Larson, my brother, August, and Charley Nelson were in a dugout barn on the place so they were not hurt. The fourth place, Ole larsonís and the fifth place, Peter Nelsonís, and sixth, Sparfeltís, were all scattered over the fields but no one was hurt very badly. After that the twister disappeared in the East. It sure made a terrible roar and there was hail as large as goose eggs scattered for a mile on each side of the twister. We could hear it many miles away.

P. Waldemer was one of the first Baptists in Skåne, Sweden. The first Baptist church was built on his place in Skåne. He was one of the first Baptists in Swedebend, Iowa in 1865, and the first in this vicinity where Kiron is now located.

Mr. C. P. Frodig was the first minister in this locality. When they had their meeting in the dugouts in 1868, before they had the community school house built one and one-half miles south from Kiron in 1869. Mr. Frodig was a very fine man, willing to help everybody. If anyone got into trouble, Mr. Frodig always help them out. Mr. Frodig was the only doctor and undertaker in this locality for several years. When a person died, Mr. Frodig made the coffin and was ready for the funeral sermon. When anyone desired to be baptized, he was also always willing to do the job. If anyone wanted to get married, all they had to do was to go to Frodig and get the knot tied. About the first ones to get married in this vicinity were my sister, Ellen, and Gust Peterson, in 1870.

Andrew Norelius was minister and postmaster for several years in the early 1880ís. Mr. Norelius used to bring the mail bag with him to the school house Sunday mornings and distribute the mail the first thing. Then they had Sunday School and the regular morning sermon.

Andrew Haglund was our Sunday School superintendent for several years. It was all conducted in the English except the morning sermon. They had a crazy notion that the children could not learn English at the public school if they had Swedish Sunday School. One Sunday morning Mr. Norelius forgot to bring his Swedish Bible along, but it did not puzzle Mr. Norelius, as he was well posted in the English language. He read in the school Bible and translated it to Swedish and made a good speech just the same.

In the early 1880ís the Free Baptists seemed to get along fairly well, but it was not long before they got into dispute with the Seventh Day Adventists. A man by the name of Charley lee, and his wife, came here and had a series of meeting in the old schoolhouse. They had some great charts with terrible horned beasts hung on the blackboard that we read about in Daniel and Revelation. Lee and his wife were here for come time. They converted several families to keep Sabbath on Saturday. There were about twenty or more Sabbathkeepers at one time.

About 1875 and 1876 there were some great revival meetings in the old schoolhouse conducted by Hayland and Franson. About a hundred or more were converted and baptized in less than two years. About that time the first Free Baptist church was built, but it was not long before some commenced to backslide and split up. -Ė So it has not always been sunshine.

The End

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