Editor’s note: Former Colfax resident Margaret Christianson lived on 20th Street in the Town of Howard for 77 years. Margaret moved to Tennessee this summer to live with her daughter. Some readers may remember Margaret’s book, “A Do-It-Yourself Life.” Here is a story that Margaret wrote for the Colfax Messenger.
In 1934, during the depression years, my parents lost their big beautiful farm near Sand Creek. They bought a small farm on 20th Street, seven miles west of Colfax, in the Town of Howard. I was about seven years old when they moved there.
A friend of my dad’s, who was homeless, came to live with us. He and my dad worked together building houses and barns and did other carpentry jobs to pay for the farm. While the men were out working, we did the chores and much of the farming using horses.
The original house had a kitchen and dining room downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. Dad’s friend had the small bedroom, which left only the other bedroom for my mother and dad and us four girls.
Dad took out the hallway wall and put three beds in a row. My dad and mom slept in the big bed, my two youngest sisters Betty (Iverson) and Laila (Melgaard) in the twin bed, and me and my sister Gladys (Knutson) and I in the third bed.
My dad wanted to build a house like the one they had on the farm near Sand Creek. It took him five years to build it because he didn’t want to borrow any money again. Once we moved into the new house, he turned the old house into a garage. Harvey and Audrey Dreger live on this farm now.
In 1947, Jack and I were married, and we lived north of Sand Creek on my grandparents’ farm for two years and one year in Bloomer when our son Dale was born. In 1950, we moved back on 20th Street to farm with my parents. We lived with my parents and farmed with them for three years.
In 1953, we bought an 80-acre piece of land from Fred Wright on County N and farmed together with my parents. Later that year, we bought a rundown 80-acre farm with buildings from Florence (Delbert) Dahl, a mile and one half south from my parents’ farm on 20th street joining the 80 acres.
When I say rundown, I mean it. There was no electricity, the roof leaked on the house, some of the floors were rotten, no insulation, broken or bad windows, no running water or plumbing in the house or barn. But we were so happy to own our own place.
With a lot of repairing for a number of years, we made the house new except for the inside of the walls. In 1964 we had paid off the mortgage. However, because the tornado in 1958 had moved the barn four inches off its foundation, we mortgaged the farm again to rebuild the bottom half of the barn and extended the length by 22 feet.
In 1966, we bought 80 acres of woods from Harvey Peterson that joined the farm on the north side for a total of 240 acres. We farmed there for 30 years with dairy cattle and 12 horses. Colleen and Donald Schwartz currently own this farm.
In 1979, our son and his wife bought the 40 acres northeast of the farm and built a house on it. They lived there for four years and decided to move to Eau Claire. So in 1983, we sold half of the farm and the buildings and bought the land back and their new house on it. We added a big shed with a horse barn inside for four horses. We lived there for 12 years until Jack developed emphysema and couldn’t go up steps anymore. My niece Lana and her husband Bob Christoffel now own this home.
I decided to make plans for a berm home that was wheelchair accessible, at the end of the farm. Jack lived there six years, until he passed away in August 2001. Dale and his wife moved in with me. He wanted to own his own semi because he was laid off his job after 30 years of driving for them. He built another driveway in back of the house and cut down the bank on the west side of the house and built a big shed. That’s when I had to build a 220 foot rock wall to hold up the bank for the house.
Dale taught me how to run a backhoe, and I hauled rock from five nearby farms. Dale couldn’t help me much because he was driving truck seven days a week to help pay for the shed. A year later, he got a semi driving job in Arizona, and they moved out there where he still lives. I lived in the berm home for 13 more years.
My back has been giving me so much pain that I just couldn’t take care of the place anymore, so I had to sell it and moved down to Tennessee (near Knoxville) to live with my daughter Marsha and her husband, Dan. That was probably one of the hardest moves I have made because of all the friends and wonderful neighbors that I had throughout all my years on 20th Street.