Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Petersons celebrate family's Century Farm


Lois E. Johnson

Gerald and Glenna Peterson proudly display their Century Farm sign.

Carl and Anna Peterson lost most of their buildings when the flames came roaring through the land on October 12, 1918. They had just moved to their homestead, located west of Moose Lake, in 1911, and were raising a family and farming on the 120 original acres they had purchased in Carlton County, and the 83 acres they had purchased in 1915 in nearby Pine County. They had seven children.

The couple had moved from Rock Creek, located south of Pine City.

"The family survived the fire by lowering blankets in the well to get them wet, and then they went out to the potato field and pulled the wet blankets over them," said their grandson, Jerry, in a recent interview.

"Grandpa had taken the cows to Sturgeon Lake. That area didn't burn so they were safe. They probably had four horses, like everyone did in those days, and they took the horses to the potato field with them.

"We always heard the story about how the horses circled the family as they lay on the field. They would tighten the circle, and Grandpa would holler at them so they would move out. But they still circled the family."

The family lost a dog in the fire. Larry Peterson, Jerry's brother, said that the dog was very protective.

"Dad told the story about the dog faithfully staying outside the door when the family was gone," he said. "He stayed right there until they came home. That's where they found the dog's remains."

The Petersons lived in the pig house, which didn't burn, until they built a new home on the foundation of the old home in the following year or two after the fire, Jerry explained.

The barn was built in 1922.

John, Jerry and Larry's father, met the Minnie Smith and they got married. They lived about a mile away at first but later bought a farm across the road from John's parents' farm.

"First they built the barn and moved the cows over there, and then they built the garage, where they lived until they moved into the house in the spring of 1954," said Larry. "I was born a month later."

Two bachelor uncles lived on the Peterson farm after Carl and Anna died.

"Grandpa had died first (1943), and then Grandma died a couple of years later (1945)," said Larry. "Roy and Volney owned the farm fifty-fifty."

Several in the original family lived nearby and they shared farm equipment.

"They had one baler and one combine," Larry explained. "Each had their own tractor, mower and rake. They would cut in the morning and bale hay in the afternoon."

That was in the early days of hay balers.

"Dad always said that they had the first hay baler in the country around here," said Jerry. "That hay baler went all over the country to bale square bales for people. It probably baled 25,000 bales. It ended up on the rock pile when it wasn't used any more. I remember pieces of it laying there. It was part wood and part metal.

"After that baler wore out, they had a baler with a cast iron motor on it. They would start it in the morning and never shut it off. There were belts on it that could take your finger off."

Missing fingers was common at the time, especially for the Peterson family.

"'You're not a Peterson unless you are missing a finger,' they used to say," said Jerry. "I'm doing pretty good, I still have all of my fingers."

Roy married and Volney remained a bachelor. Volney died at the age of 47 from cancer, said Larry.

The farm was rented out for a few years but the time came for Jerry to make a life-changing decision.

Jerry, who is a few years older than Larry, had gone to vocational school in Pine City to learn to be a truck driver, and then drove long-haul trucks and saw the country. Larry 's life was about to go in another direction - he graduated from high school in 1972 and went on to college.

Jerry made the decision to return home in 1973 and buy the farm from the heirs.

"I had to buy out my aunts and uncles," he said. "My dad just had owned one-twelfth of the farm."

Jerry brought his first wife, Sharon, and her two children with him when he moved back to the farm.

John and Minnie were getting to the point where they couldn't keep on farming, Larry explained.

"I took over my folks' cows and built my own herd out of their cows," said Jerry. "As their cows got older, I sold them and gave the money to my folks. I kept my own young stock."

Jerry said he used his folks' farming equipment in the first year he was back on the farm. And then he bought his own equipment.

Besides Larry and Jerry, there is a sister, Fay, who lives at Swan River, and they lost Jerry's twin brother, Jim, a few years ago.

Jerry and Sharon were married for 19 years and had two children of their own, Jeremy and Shawna. Jerry and Glenna will be celebrating their 19th anniversary in November.

"We went to the courthouse to pay our taxes and got married at the same time," said Glenna. "Farmers have to work something like that in between haying and other chores."

Glenna and Jerry don't have any children of their own but she has two sons, Andy, who lives in Barnum, and Adam, who bought John and Minnie's farm across the road.

Currently, the Petersons have 40 dairy animals and 45 beef animals, plus a donkey and a horse.

Glenna works in the kitchen at the school, and Jerry works for the city of Kettle River three days of week and drives the groomer for the Moosehorn Rod and Gun Club during the winter.

"I love grooming," he said. "I see country that I wouldn't see otherwise."

They share fond memories of good times on the farm.

"We played baseball in front of the barn," said Larry. "If the ball landed in the manure pile, it was a ground rule double. Uncle Roy always wanted homemade ice cream so we would make that after we played ball."

Larry has fond memories of the family on the farm and playing with cousins and their children, many who still live in the neighborhood.

"When I was driving out here, I was getting nostalgic," he said. "I remembered stories from 50 years ago. It's really neat that this property stayed in the family."

Glenna enjoys living on the farm and the peacefulness of the country and the wildlife.

"I talked to a bald eagle the other day who was three feet in front of me," she said. "A family of fox has lived under our pole building since the flood. We see little fox running and playing around the yard real often. And we like to sit on the porch and watch the birds."

"In evenings, we get on the golf cart," Jerry added. "It doesn't make noise, so we can drive out on the fields and watch the deer and the turkeys."


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