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August 13, 2014
Four generations of Benson's
The Benson farm passed from father to son three times
|Standing, Andrew, Josh, and Matthew. Seated Erik and Angie Benson. Photo courtesy of Joel Alvstad Cottonwood County Citizen.|
|Joel alvstad photo|
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- westbrook — When Peter Benson, a clockmaker, immigrated from Sweden around 1894 the farthest thing from his mind was to go into farming. After his arrival he met Charlotta who also immigrated from Sweden. They wedded in New York where Peter plied his trade as a clockmaker.
The couple found out that they had lived just a few miles apart when they were in Sweden, but they had never met until they arrived at Ellis Island. When she was in Sweden Charlotta was a lady in waiting to one of the princes in Sweden.
Carolyn, Roger Benson’s wife said, “I remember grandma Charlotta was a really nice person.” Carolyn knew her as a young girl growing up.
Both Peter and Charlotta came to America for a better life. At the time there was a lot of disease and famine in Sweden.
When the industrial revolution was in full swing, the air around New York became highly polluted. This caused Peter to become quite ill and his doctor told him if he wanted to keep living he should move to the mid-west where the air was cleaner.
He and his wife Charlotta and their son Anton, who was born in New York in 1900, packed their belongings and moved to Storden where he tried farming.
According to Roger Benson, his grandson, “he really never liked farming, and when his health improved he decided to move his family back to New York.”
Peter and Charlotta also had a daughter while in Minnesota, Esther who married Merle Bruning of Westbrook. Merle Bruning was a brother to Floyd Bruning of Westbrook.
After living back in New York his health began to fail, and he was diagnosed with “consumption,” and he moved his family back to Minnesota in 1914. He then purchased a farm owned by Paul Weld, 156 acre farm west of Westbrook just across the Murray County line.
At the time the farm had a log cabin, an old barn, and a combination chicken and hog house. They purchased the farm from Weld on contract for deed for $12,000 on June 27, 1914. The contract was satisfied in 1923. Peter’s great grandson Erik now lives on the original homestead.
Peter’s brother Milton and his wife Tennie farmed to the south, just across the road from them.
Peter and Charlotta operated the farm, using mostly horses until 1939, when they sold the farm to their son Anton. At that time they moved to a place across the road from the home place.
Anton married his wife Amy Nelsen in 1930. She was a school teacher. Anton and Amy had their first son Roger in 1932, and his brother Ronnie was born the following year in 1933.
Anton bought his first tractor, a ‘D’ John Deere from Albert Cohrs, in the early thirties, but they also continued to farm with horses. Roger recalls mowing hay with horses, but his dad had a mounted corn picker which was fairly new at the time.
Roger grew up on the farm, and served in the Army during the Korean War from 1952-1954. After returning from the service, Roger continued farming with his father Anton.
Modernization was coming to the rural area as electricity became available. Roger remembers getting electricity in about 1947.
Roger remembers digging post holes by hand with a post hole digger and a dipper spade. Rogers son, Erik, who now lives on the home place said, “today we would just do it with a post hole auger on the skid loader.”
In 1961 Roger married Carolyn Busswitz at that time Anton and Amy moved to Westbrook and Roger and Carolyn moved onto the home place.
At that time Roger and Carolyn began purchasing the farm from Anton and Amy.
“We still had a variety of livestock, chickens, hogs, and a small dairy herd with milking machines,” said Roger. He milked about a dozen cows after his dad quit farming, and he increased the herd to about 15-20 cows.
Benson remembers building an opening by the natural spring by the creek to store the cream cans for the truck to pick up. “Land-O-Lakes would pick them up about three times a week,” He said. he also remembers Ron Sletten picking up their eggs and delivering them to Ernie Cohrs grocery store in Westbrook.
Roger had made a lot of changes on the farm place. They remodeled and added on to the house. The old machine shed was built in the 1950’s, and updated and he added several other out buildings. Roger purchased his first new tractor, a WD 45 Allis Chalmers from Arlow Carey in Storden.
Roger and Carolyn had three children Shelley, Tammy, and Erik.
Shelley remembered having to pick eggs as a young girl. “I hated those chickens!” She said.
Carolyn recalls when they had Erik tested for allergies, he said, “I think I’m allergic to pigs!” Providing a good chuckle for the family.
Erik remembers when his dad was milking cows he would grab a teat and squirt the milk at the cats.
Erik remembers one time when the bull knocked his dad down. Roger said, “it knocked the wind out of me.” After he got up they wrapped an ace bandage around him, and that was that. “Now a days, you would go to the clinic and they would do a CT scan, Xrays, and several other tests,” chuckled Erik.
Canning of garden goods has been a big part of the Benson generations. Peter and Charlotta were very self sufficient, they had a large garden, and grew most of their vegetables that would last them through the winter.
Shelley says, “I canned with my mom until I moved away in 1997. She and Carolyn still can some meat every year.
Growing up Erik also had the farming thing in the back of his mind. But at the time farming was really not that good, so he decided to go to welding school, because he felt he need something to fall back on in case “being a cowboy didn’t work out,” he chuckled.
In 1986, after graduating high school, he met his wife Angie at a college cross country meet while he attending the University of Minnesota Waseca for landscaping.
At the time he was running cross country, a stress fracture ended his running career.
He then moved to Marshall where he worked for HyVee foods for a year before attending welding school at Canby Vo Tech.
After they married in 1990 they moved into the home place and worked with his dad farming until they bought the home place. He also continued to work at several other jobs until he went full time farming. The couple have three sons - Josh and twins Andrew and Matthew.
Since Erik took over the farm he has made a lot of upgrades in farm machinery.
“Everything dad used was much smaller,” said Erik. Today all of Erik’s equipment is much larger. He said, “dads loader tractor was 65 horsepower, mine is 135 horsepower. His largest tractor was a 1486 International 145 horsepower, mine is a T-840 New Holland 305 horsepower front wheel assist. His digger was 29’, mine is 36’, his planter was 8 row wide, mine is 16 row narrow.
Today, Benson farms roughly 900 acres.
Anton's first picker was one row. Erik’s combine has a 30 foot bean head and 8 row picker. Grandpa Anton, had a 12 foot pull type bean combine.
Erik and Roger restored a 1969 4020 John Deere tractor which they had painted by Doug Kirchner. But he commented, “we still use it to run the feed wagon.”
At the time Peter farmed mostly corn oats and hay in addition to raising a variety of livestock including chickens, geese and beef steers. Erik said, everything Grandpa Peter did was either with horses or by hand.”
Erik said, “we are very proud to receive the Century Farm designation.
Erik says, “I am proud that almost all of the work done here is done by our family. I am also proud that this farm has been passed down from father to son over four generations. I also hope that will continue to the next generation.”
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