Aarbo Tom

AARBO - ANDERSON HISTORY 1reftext77_49.gif

By Martin Aarbo

Had you been a lad born in Norway, when you grew up, you'd have had a choice of surname. This is what happened to Dad. His father's name was Jens so he could have been known as Jenson. The name of the farm on Stord Island in Norway is Aarbo, so that was the name he chose. Tarald, known in the Elk Point District as Thomas or Tom, was born at Aarbo, near Fitzjar on Stord Island, Norway, on May 7, 1880. Stord Island is a beautiful rise of land approximately fifty miles south of Bergen and can be reached only by ferry. It is famous not only for its beauty alone but for the shipyards that supply Oslo with its boats that travel worldwide.

As families were large and farms were small, people having heard of America were emigrating. At the daring age of nineteen, my Dad, having a few savings, bid the other members of the family and his homeland good-bye, never dreaming he would never return. At Bergen he awaited passage on a cattle boat where he earned his way by caring for the animals in the hold.

Thea Caroline Anderson was born in the year 1881, in a log house which still stands on Odegarden at Ennebaick, Norway. Here, too, land holdings were small and living meagre. Ennebakk is west of Oslo thirty miles. Her father, of Swedish descent, had a shoe shop whereby he made a partial living.

Mom, with her brother Bert immigrated to Edmonton, Canada about 1901 where she worked at the Strathcona Hotel. It was there that she met Dad who had in the meantime come up from Calton, South Dakota.

Upon his arrival in South Dakota, he worked for a Swedish family as a farm hand. By then the land in South Dakota had all been homesteaded and was expensive to buy. Canada was advertising 160 acres of land as a homestead for $10. He had sent a boat passage to his brother Gilbert so now the two of them came north to Edmonton. Here Dad got a job working in the packing plant. About this time Uncle Bert, or Mom's brother, had filed on a homestead near Manville but later gave it up as the climate proved so harsh and unlike Norway. He eventually travelled to Vancouver where he made his home.

In the fall of 1904, Dad and Uncle Gilbert built a raft and with a few essentials like tea, salt, flour and butter, travelled down the North Saskatchewan River as far as the Myrnam Crossing. Unfortunately, it was an early winter so they were forced to dig a cave in the side of the river balik for shelter. He told us how he used the boards from the raft to make a door and frame. They used cloth over the window to let in some light. The men had obtained an old airtight heater upon which they cooked the rabbits, fish or whatever game they could snare.

In the summer of 1905 Uncle Gilbert and Dad worked for Boes of Mannvllle, who had quite a well-established ranch. In the fall of 1906 they came north of the Saskatchewan River to locate land. Later Dad filed on a homestead (North West 34, Township 56, Range 6, West of 4 Meridian) at the Lloydminster Land Office. That winter of 1906 - 1907 was a particularly hard one with lots of cold and snow. He and Ralph Boe spent the winter breaking seventeen head of oxen which were used to haul hay for cattle. For his work, he received three oxen! He took these north to his homestead in the spring of 1907. He and Gilbert started building a log house, after which Gilbert went back to South Dakota.

Thea Anderson and Thomas Aarbo had been married at Manville. In the summer of 1907, they moved north to make their home in the sod-covered log house. Mom always told about the scary ride fording the river with a few chickens, and a cow tied on behind. The sod house was deemed quite comfortable except when they got a three day rain after which it would rain for a week inside. The floor was partly of wood; the other section dirt which was swept with a willow. It was in this house that the children Jens, Martin and Lillian were born. They were delivered by a midwife, Mrs. Wolfe, who lived on the next homestead.


The Original Aarbo homestead log house with sod roof 1908.


LEFT TO RIGHT: Jens (3 years), Thea holding Martin (3 months), Tom Aarbo, in front of homestead home.

One of the highlights of those early days for Mom was the arrival from Norway of her daughter Alfield and her mother, Mrs. Maria Anderson who then took up residence with them.

Improving the land for cropping was no little job. The animals, the oxen, upon whose strength they relied, were often quite contrary. Working in the heat of the day, it wasn't an uncommon occurrence to have the oxen run away uncontrollably due to the heelfiles. They would head for the slough with the hand-breaking-plough flying and Dad after them cursing a blue streak.

At that time mail and staples had to be obtained by a long tedious four~ay trek to Vermilion. Once again the lowly oxen were hitched to a load of wheat for the long haul to Weibes Flour Mill. Upon many such occasions, Mom remained at home to hold down the homestead. The pioneer wife was the foundation, a steadying influence of the whole process around which everything revolved. In fact, if it hadn't been for the willingness, the hardiness, foresight and cheerfulness of women like Mom, life would have left much to be desired. Returning from one such trip to Vermilion Dad was within three miles of home when the load got stuck in the old creek near Lars Jolinsons. So in order to get it out he had to jump into the icy-crusted water, carry fifteen 100-pound bags of flour to a dry spot on the bank, move out the ox team and wagon, reload, and trudge on home.

An additional farm was bought from Gill Lindsay, a homesteader who'd had his fill. His house was constructed of upright logs. Helge Hesselgren renovated the house using lumber, laths and plaster. Mr. Jepson built the chimney. The folks moved here in 1917 where Rose was then born.

When Rose was slightly over a year old, she was afflicted with pneumonia and whooping cough and they almost lost her. A Doctor Smith was rushed from Vermilion by team to help a~minister care. In order to keep the baby warm, sad irons were heated and put in the crib. One little toe was very badly burned. Having suffered such as a child, Rose seems to have become immune to most viruses that travel around. Midwifery was one of Mom's commitments. She was called upon by Sweihems when Florence was born, by Markstads when ha came and by Jolinsons for Fred and Patrick, to name a few.

My Dad had a dream to fulfill, so shortly after World War I, when horses were being used, logs were taken out by horse, hauled to a mill near St. Paul and lumber was brought back. A barn 80' by 32' was erected by Helge Hesselgren as the main carpenter. In 1920 before hay was put up, a barn dance was held for all the neighbors. A Jay Parker who homesteaded out west of Elk Point played a saxophone and a fellow by the name of Gilbertson tuned up on the fiddle. The barn for some became rather a landmark. It was unique for that era. It had many labour-saving devices such as a narrow track through the extent of the loft upon which ran a dual-wheeled car that held a load of hay.The hay was brought up by two slings that were placed in the bottom and midway in the rack. Horses were attached to a rope system that hoisted it. When a load was in the proper position it was dumped by a trip rope. The front end of the barn had chutes from the loft down to six horse mangers. At the back of the barn, there were stanchions for twenty head of cows. Behind them was another track with a manually pushed manure bucket. It ran some forty feet out the back, where the loads were dumped in the winter and hauled away with a manure spreader in the summer for fertilizer. The central part of the barn had amaternity pen and calf pens. Numerous pigeons lived in the loft and still do, as the barn still stands.

Dr. F.G. Miller delivered Martha and Jeanette at the home. Many things took place at the home. Travelling ministers - a Lutheran Reverend Ahgartras held services at home and at Lars Johnsons. Our grandmother Marie died in 1922. The funeral took place in our front room on Christmas Eve. She was laid to rest in the East Cemetery where Mom, Dad and brother Jens are also buried. Phyllis was the only child born in a hospital, the first structure, near the F.G. Miller home.

In December, 1909, a trip was made to Vermilion to obtain supplies. One of the horses played out and Dad had to return to the homestead by horseback and get another horse to bring back the load. These very horses became as well loved as a true friend. Nancy and Nellie were loved for their trotting and racing ability. Faithful old Prince, the old workhorse, once driven in the cutter by Mom, came to the railway track, decided it was dangerous, turned around, and brought her home again. Another horse, Old Tim, a legend in his own time, often got what we called a toothache. Usually he was a docile, plodding old fellow until he started to run like all-hell had broken loose. With mane and tail flying, eyes wild, he'd gallop for a mile and the old cutter or buggy would clatter along behind. Then sometimes, very suddenly he'd stop dead at the railway track or right in the schoolyard and take a dump. Lacking hold-back straps it usually landed on our feet!

Dad was one of the first directors of the Agricultural Society formed in 1912. He was also a school trustee for a number of years but never did learn to write English. He did though, become very fluent in the oral language. Mom learned both to speak and to write English.

The first Elk Point school was just across the way, kitty-corner from our farm. Martin and Jens did the janitor work for 25c a week. The floor was scrubbed every Saturday. When the school was moved to Elk Point in 1928 and a new school built, Dad would travel to school meetings that were held at the back of C.A. Johnson's store. He'd go with a team and wagon or cutter. On one such occasion, after the meeting, he went to where his team was tied and found that both horse collars were stolen. He had to get the local hardware man to open his store so he could get new ones in order to proceed home. At a later date, some culprit stole a good set of lines. This time, in the 30 degrees weather he walked the three miles home and led the horses. These persons certainly did not show appreciation for services rendered to the public by the pioneers.

During the depression years there seemed to be many transients, bums, travelling salesmen, gypsies - all of whom looked for handouts. Many found their way to our threshold where they were met with kindness. Often a late straggler would find a haven from the elements, cook their rabbits in our boiler and sleep on our kitchen floor. Needless to say, a rather disturbing sleep was experienced by the housewife at these times. One time during the "dirty4hirties" a caravan of wagons found their way to our yard. Here they fed, watered and pastured their weary horses. The women cooked their suppers over campfires. These were the farmers from dried-out Saskatchewan making their way through our area bent for the Peace River District.

In 1933, cattle buyers were unable to offer farmers a price for their cattle as the freight was so high it ate up the profit. Dad, with the aid of his family strove to keep them a bit longer. Having wintered them and put them onto good pasture he sold them the following August. He shipped twenty fourteen to fifteen hundred pound steers and realized a mere $7 per head. Dad sat down and wept.

In 1929 Dad bought a Model T Ford. This facilitated the job of delivering milk to the Elk Point Hospital which the folks did diligently for many years at 7 cents a quart. One humerous anecdote took place on the evening of an early September snow storm. As yet the chickens hadn't been shut up for the winter. The snow was deep and still coming down but the milk would be needed for morning, so the two sons picked up the milk cans, headed out to the open shed, started the Model T and took off. Over the roar of the engine they thought they heard a swish, another swish. Upon investigation it proved to be Mom's prized Wyandottes that had roosted on the cartop.

In our family we had certain ethnic traditions. Christmas was always a time of great gravity with a deep religious a~ pect. We children would practice for weeks on a surprise concert of recitations, skits and carols. Then on Christmas Eve Mom and Dad would sit and be our audience as we went through our act. It was followed up by a supper of traditional Norwegian dishes. Then we hung our stockings for the Juli Nissen. Another custom was on May 1. This day stems from Mid-summer Day, in Norway. Everything was treasured. We used to get free wallpaper sample books and these were used to make baskets. Then they were filled with wild flowers like the crocus, violet, marsh marigolds, and hung on the neighbor's door knob as a good omen.

To obtain an Eaton Beauty Doll , we had to earn the money amounting to $1.98. Dad would pay 2 cents per gopher tail. Also, we dug and sold seneca root which when dried sold for SOc a pound.

In the ensuing years all the children were married Alfield to Uel Hand and she became an American citizen, Jens to Doris Young from Lindbergh, Martin to Ida Waltze from Landonville, Lillian to Frank LaGore from Hardisty, Rose to Harry Blacklock of Lindbergh, Martha to Donald Lorenson from Heinsburg, Jeanette to Mackay Dunsmore from Vermilion, and Phyllis to Wesley Scott from Elk Point.

To show what the mere span of one's life can create; two people of hardy Scandinavian stock having immigrated to beautiful America and lived for four score and more years leave 85 descendants.



LEFT TO RIGHT: Tom, Thea, Berji (Tom brother from Norway), Alfield, Jens, Martin, Lil, Rose, Martha, Jeanette, Phyllis taken at the family home.