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My Ancestry and Early Years in Rushford, Minnesota, by Homer Eggen



My Ancestry and Early Years in Rushford, Minnesota by Homer Eggen Anders Anderson Eggen, my great grandfather, was born at the Holm Farm near Stordal, Norway in 1807 and died in 1883 at the age of 76. Beret Andersdatter Burstad married him on April 14, 1834. The name indicates that Beret was Anders' daughter and came from the Burstad farm. In 1837 they moved from Stordalen to Skogn and purchased a farm the following year. At that time they took the name Eggen, which was a common practice to take the name of the farm. Anders and Beret had six children. Anders, being eldest of their sons, gave up his normal right to the farm and entered the Hardware business in Trondheim. His two great-grandsons, Olaf and John Eggen, own and operate the Hardware store today. The farm then was sold to the second son, Daniel A. Eggen, for 1200 Kroner (the Norwegian dollar) on August 3, 1886. On November 2, 1897 Daniel's widow sold the farm to their son Olaf for 2500 Kroner. Olaf's grandson Arild owns and rents out the farm today while living in Bergen. Mary and I visited the farm in our first visit to Norway. Anders' and Beret's other children were Andreas (who also came to Rushford,) John, and Karen Anna Eggen. At age 19 my grandfather, John, left the farm at Skogn and boarded the SSS Franklin for America. The trip took 66 days and he eventually settled in Rushford. He married Olena Emella Colberg in Rushford in 1871. Olena was born in Levanger, Norway and left there in 1867 to come to America with her parents and two siblings. John and Olena had 11 children, five of whom died very young. The other six were: Alfred, Conrad, Ambrose, Daniel, Edgar (my father), and Florence. The first son that John brought into the business was Conrad. Later Daniel and Edgar joined the business now known as John Eggen and Sons. John and his sons always took an active role in the affairs of the city and they were always known for their farsightedness and honest dealings. I was born at the Lutheran Hospital in LaCrosse, Wisconsin on August 23, 1924. My father was Edgar Henry Eggen and my mother was Ruth Tollefson Eggen of Rushford, MN. At this time I had a brother, Paul Roger Eggen, who was born June 19, 1923. We lived in a one story home next to the Joseph Bendel family in the section of Rushford called Jerusalem. The Bendel family had four older daughters who provided my parents with babysitting services. I do not have many recollections of these early years other than what I was told later. The Bendel sisters always expressed with great delight the fact that Paul and I were model babies as preschoolers. I was also told that I got my arm stuck in the wash machine ringer and broke my wrist at age one. My parents wrote a song to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" about this experience and sang it to me frequently even into later years. Paul and I would get baths every Saturday in a large Copper Tub. In the summer the water was heated by the sun and the baths would be outside in the yard, with neighbor girl, Beulah Johnson standing by watching the process. My father had now joined with two of his brothers in their father's business known as John Eggen and Sons. John had been a Farm Wagon builder and Plow manufacturer and this evolved into the automobile and tractor business after the turn of the century. Prior to my birth, Grandfather John was offered $1,000 and a home to move his wagon business to Moorhead, MN. He accepted the offer, but after spending a winter in the cold plains country, moved his business back to Rushford. John died in 1928 when I was four years old. I do not remember my grandmother, who preceded him in death. Life in Rushford was very happy and peaceful. Rushford was as described in Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not, a city completely surrounded by a village which contains another village. It was nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains or, as we later called them, bluffs. The Root River wend its way from west to east along the western border of the city, while Rush Creek came from north emptying into the river at the southeastern edge of the city. These waters provided swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. The creek and the river caused many discouraging times for several residents and many businessmen during the years of flooding. The hardest hit areas were Jerusalem, Brooklyn, and the downtown business area. I do recall our father carrying us out of the house in flood waters to take us to higher dry ground. Fortunately we never had water on the first floor but had a basement of water on many occasions. As youngsters we enjoyed these floods as it provided us with the opportunities to build very fine rafts and explore the backwaters of the creek and river. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had nothing on us as we visualized, imagined and experienced great moments of challenging trips on the water. Snow had to be shoveled prior to our great ice hockey games and this horrible task was generally left up to my brother Paul, Francis (Tupin) Johnson, and myself. When the rink was readied, players were always available and raring to go. The bluffs provided many, many hours of exploring and excitement for the children of the community. The caves and caverns held many mysteries along with the Indian graves and arrowhead discoveries that allowed our imaginations to run wild and our games to take on real life experiences. The city water supply was located halfway up Magelssen's Bluff directly above our third house in Rushford. I first learned to ski on the bluffs behind "silk stocking avenue." The skis were wood and the bindings were cut from old rubber inner tubes. I recall the first ski jump I attempted on a hill near our home. I approached the jump with great confidence, took off, and proceeded to land on my back, hurting only my pride. Later I learned how to jump and land safely on the skis. As a youngster 1 skied quite a bit. We toured many of the bluffs searching for good ski runs. Our best jumping hill was the bluff in Brooklyn on the east side of Rushford. It was here that we built our biggest jump and recorded our longest jumps. Other areas that provided us with early opportunities for play were the Railroad Depot, the railroad bridge that crossed the creek, and the school playground. We spent many hours walking the railroad rails and would have contests to see who could walk the farthest without falling off. At age five years of age, we received a box from Luther Tollefson for Christmas and upon opening the box a black and white puppy jumped out. The dog was part spitz and part shepherd. He remained in our household until my senior year in high school at which time he died and we buried him in our back yard. I cried all the time while digging his grave. I always felt that "Jip" imprinted deeply with me and we had great times together. In those years Jip would always go to the meat market with me. When I would pick up our family's meat order, I would request bones for the dog. They would always wrap up a package of free bones and place them in the dog’s mouth. We would then head for home with Jip leading the way with his tail wagging and a smile on his face as he carefully transported the package home. I could not keep up with him and I would always arrive home well behind him and find him on the back porch, tail still wagging with the still wrapped package waiting to be opened. Even knowing that this was his very own meal, he never tried to break open the package until I gave the command. 1 always felt that he lived only to please us and at this he truly succeeded. The city dump used up many hours of my early life as I scoured it weekly for empty cigarette packages. I would take the inside of the package and peel the aluminum tin foil off and press it tightly into a ball. Over the years I built this into a rectangular shape approximately 10" x 6" x 5" weighing about 10 or 12 pounds. My original plan was to sell the tin foil and become rich, but I just couldn't part with it. My mother later gave it away with all of my toy possessions when 1 was overseas during World War II. One of the toys was a bow and arrow made by a Chief of a tribe that was traveling from community to community putting on dances and shows. The Chiefs young son (my age) stayed with us for two weeks while the parents traveled the show circuit. The bow was a show of his appreciation for my friendship. Some of the early year games that we played were the normal type ball games. We played many games of cowboys which included homemade wooden guns that were equipped with clothes pins banded to the back of the handle. Tire inner tubes were cut in strips and placed at the tip of the barrel and stretched back to the open clothes pin. The rubber band would then be fired at a dangerous bandit by pressing the clothes pin. Sometimes the fire power was able to project the rubber strip at an injury-inflicting speed. However hard you were hit, you were considered dead and out of action. Marble games on the streets were very popular, and the better shooter you were the more marbles in your possession. I had to become a good shooter because marbles were very expensive to buy. Some of the popular evening games that required no outlay of scarce money were Starlight- Moonlight, and Pump Pump Pull Away. We had to play these games fast because we had to be in by 9:00 P.M. to complete our homework and be in bed by 10:00 P.M. I have always appreciated that my parents spent time with Paul and me reading routinely from encyclopedia books and having us share in the reading. We did this on an almost daily basis during these early years.

Linked toWallace Homer Eggen

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