Afton Historical Society

Afton Historical Society Location: The Afton Museum is located in the former Congregational church (1868) building in the Historic Village of Afton, St. Croix Trail So., Minnesota. Hours: Wednesdays 1:00-6:00 p.m. Thursdays 1:00-6:00 p.m.Phone: 651-436-3500
The Museum, located in a restored 1868 building that once served as the Congregational Church, has many displays including a turn-of-the-century kitchen and schoolroom, library, military artifacts, post office, telephone switchboard, fashions, and children's toys and games as well as an extensive photograph gallery of early schools and classes, early settlers, and historic events. The lower floor of the Museum is dedicated to displays of early agriculture and farm artifacts. Extensive files on area family information and photographs, census record information, and information about Afton's 7 cemeteries, including a Civil War cemetery are available for research purposes. President - Stan Ross Vice President - Ken Martens Secretary - Judy Steltzner Treasurer - Laurel Ross Office Manager - Carol Brotzler Board Members - Mike Thoemke, Julia Welter, Terry Clymer, Rose Kubiatowicz, Ken Johnson

07/18/2019

A TERRIBLE, AWFUL, VERY BAD SUMMER JOB

At the advanced age of 14 (1946), I learned about detasseling corn, which paid better than other jobs I'd been offered. However, the opportunity was available for a short window of time because pollination occurs only about 10 days of the maturation process.

As the green corn ripens in the field, it develops tassels which grow at the top of the plant. Those tassels produce pollen. Such planted rows are "male" rows. In order to make "hybrid" corn, female rows are needed to receive the pollen of the male rows.

To crossbreed types of corn, tassels need to be removed from designated rows to become those female rows that make the hybrid seeds. Three to four consecutive rows will have the tassels removed and now become the female rows. Those female rows are sandwiched between one row of the male on each side.

It sounded easy enough to simply walk through corn rows and pull out the tassels. My cousin, Betty, and I went together and applied. They were glad to see us coming for we were both tall for our age which would be helpful in reaching the tassels. We were also young; therefore we were naive to the challenges of the job. So together we went off to the corn field.

Our day started at dawn. We were told to wear sturdy shoes, long pants and long sleeved shirts. We needed to bring our own lunch and we should come to the farm implement store to begin our day. There we boarded a hay wagon which was pulled by an old pickup truck and driven by our "straw boss".

Let me tell you about that boss! She had the voice of a man, dressed like a man (bib overalls, blue denim shirt and straw hat) and looked like a man. She was, indeed, in command of this venture.

We sat on benches which lined the sides of the hay wagon. We were a happy group of teenage girls looking forward to our day of easy work, and we sang camp songs with gusto all the way to the field for the sun felt nice and we anticipated the big check we would receive for simply riding about the countryside.

When we got to the field, we were given our orders. We would enter the row assigned to us by the straw boss. ALL TASSELS were to be removed from our assigned rows; she expected each row to be over 99% free of tassels!

Now the fun began. Entering that very first row exposed us to some challenges we did not expect. The atmosphere within the confines of that row of corn was dark, damp, uncomfortable and smelled musty. There was not a chance the sun could reach the daily deposit of dew. Within minutes my clothes were wet and my shoes and socks squishy and uncomfortable. Pulling the tassels from the corn plant was not easy; my hands got tired from the task and my arms ached from constantly reaching upward. What did I get myself into!!!

The corn was taller than I expected; I really felt sorry for the shorter girls. The leaves of the corn plant were sturdy and the edges sharp. Care was needed to protect any exposed skin from getting cut and there were plenty of mosquitoes and horse flies looking for a taste of that skin. It did not matter if it rained because we were already wet from head to toe. Every sunny day made our faces a shade darker than the day before.

There were no assigned toilet facilities, nor were there water faucets. The hay wagon was our lunch room. It was imperative to bring a bottle of water or a thermos of beverage in our lunch box. I also brought gloves to make pulling the tassels a bit easier and a spare pair of socks in my lunch box to change into at lunch time.

Day after day we returned to the fields. Some of the girls quit but most of us stuck it out for the duration of the detasseling season -- about eleven ten-hour days. The pay check was not bad for a kid but, after our experience, we did not plan to return the next year.

My brother-in-law was the organist at our church. He had a rear view mirror by his organ in which he could view the balcony (to aid when the choir occupied that area). Betty and I attended church following our venture and sat in the balcony. He did not recognize our tanned faces and wondered who the two Indians were in the third row!

Respectfully submitted,

Laura W. Berglund
Copyright July 2019

04/29/2019

NEVER, EVER THE SAME!

It was a day like any other. It was February, 1944 (I was 12 years old), and I came home from school on the school bus as usual, wearing my warm green wool coat and carrying my trusty black book bag. My sisters had stayed in town for the night with my married sister so they could attend a young people's function at church. My mom was waiting at the back door to greet me as was her custom.

I put my book bag down but had not yet removed my coat when we saw a black car drive into the driveway. Then we watched as Dr. Nuetsman came toward the back door. He had treated my dad for some health issues but we were surprised to see him here, on our property. Mom asked him to come inside and he said in a flat voice that as the county coroner he was here to tell us that August (my dad) was dead and his body had been taken to the mortuary. With that, he turned and left!! Mom and I grabbed one another and wailed. How could this be? Dad had gone with a friend to watch the fishermen seine on a lake a few miles north of our farm. How could he be gone! We knew he had what in those days they called "hardening of the arteries" (high blood pressure), but no one had warned that it could lead to disaster! No one had told us what to expect; he was only 50 years old!

When we were able to minimally function, mom said she would need to make some phone calls and would I go out to the barn and tell Uncle what had happened. I vaguely remember going into the steamy warmth of the barn in search of Uncle. I found him tending the horses and I said, "Daddy is dead". That was it -- I did not stay to witness the shock that must have shown on Uncle's face -- I just ran back to the house.

It was not long and cars began driving into the driveway. There were friends and neighbors, relatives and onlookers. A couple of farmers told mom not to be concerned about chores or the cattle, they would be glad to help Uncle take care of things. People began bringing food. The table was set for anyone who might feel the need to eat. Neighbor ladies took over in the kitchen, mom just sat on a chair under the mantle clock (still wearing her apron) and cried.

A neighbor lady sat next to mom, trying to find a way to comfort her. When I walked by, mom cried even louder saying, "She's only a child, how will I take care of her alone!" I felt lost, confused and very, very lonely. I knew Dad was gone; how would we go on with life?

Someone had called my sisters and they all made it home to be with mom. We learned that Dad had felt ill while watching the fishermen and asked for help getting to his car. By the time they got him there, he was gone! It was unusual for him to go on such an outing, but Mom said he had been restless and wanted something to do besides chores, so he left shortly after lunch.

Someone had called our pastor; he came to pray and bring comfort. The mortician happened to be a friend of the family, so he came to talk to mom about tentative arrangements. He was the father of one of my school friends and he could not have been nicer to me in how he explained what would be happening in preparation for the funeral. He did not treat me like a kid, but gave me comfort by keeping me informed.

My mother just cried and cried. I was so glad there were friends there to help her. Fortunately, they were able to prepare her for the next steps. They talked about visitation times, the funeral and what she should wear. They assured her that someone would be in charge of the kitchen at all times so she would not need to think about it. She had concern for the chickens (that was her job always), and she was told there was a neighbor already in charge of those duties.

People were more than helpful; they were very kind and so concerned. I felt we were in good hands, but there were many, many questions in my mind. What would happen to us? How would we live? Where would the money come from? Too much for a kid to think about. I decided that all I could do was pray -- so I did.

Respectfully submitted,
Laura W. Berglund
April 2019

03/28/2019

It is with heavy hearts that we share news on the passing of Longtime volunteer, museum manager and early supporter of the museum Carol Brotzler last Sunday. The family has announced that a graveside service will be held at their family plot in Evergreen on Saturday, May 11th. We will gather around 1:00 pm, service outside at 2:00 pm (weather permitting) and reception to follow in the fellowship hall.

03/21/2019

ANNUAL SPRING CLEANING

Every spring, the farm home was cleaned from top to bottom (with the exception of the attics). When the snow was gone, mom had all the equipment ready and she solicited help from all her daughters to attain perfection (I was nine years old). Keep in mind that we still did not have electricity, which excluded a vacuum or a stove for heating water. Mom kept the "cook stove" fired up so we would always have water for cleaning and scrubbing.

How do you start? The basement was first; dad had the dirty job of cleaning the ashes from the furnace. After that, it was my job to clean the walls and floors in the corner room that had been the home of the wood for the furnace. The walls needed to be swept down and the floors also swept and swabbed with a mop. I did usually encounter some creepy-crawlers, but they squished nicely and became part of the dirt pile -- which I carried in a pail and emptied outdoors in the weed patch behind the trees. At the same time, my sisters were busy wiping down the shelves that had been home to the canned goods. By this time of the year, the jars of fruit and vegetables were almost completely gone. Next, they needed to sweep out the potato bin. Then, together we washed the basement windows -- one of us inside, the other out.

There were five bedrooms in the house, four of which had metal beds with mattresses filled with straw and hay. Each mattress made its way outside to be propped up against a tree. There it would get a good beating on both sides with a clean broom. Also, on each bed there was a feather filled mattress cover and a feather filled coverlet. My mother removed the washable covers, cleaned them in the little gas-powered washer, then hung them outside to dry. The insides were taken to the clothes line to get their beating and to hang for a while to air in the sunshine.

All the walls in the house were swept down and the curtains removed from the windows to be washed and hung in the sunshine. The curtains were all made of washable organdy or cotton lace. The spring air made them smell like sunshine and the fresh outdoors. Any furniture that could be handled by us was carried outdoors, placed on the sidewalk and washed with soap and water from top to bottom. If the kitchen chairs and table were scuffed and chipped, they would get yet another coat of paint -- ugly blue.

The remaining furniture would be washed or dusted in place. The floors were either hardwood or covered with linoleum. Every square inch of flooring was scrubbed with soap and water. If the linoleum was badly worn and scuffed, this was the time of the year uncle would replace it. The linoleum was purchased in town where it was sold by the roll in extremely ugly patterns and colors.

The very hardest job of all took all of us and uncle, as well. This was removal of the storm windows, washing both sides of each window pane and installing the screen windows. Some of the upstairs windows were accessible by walking on the porch roof -- which extended on two sides of the home. However, that left the windows on the other two sides to be reached by a tall ladder. This was before the days of self-store screens; the screens were not easy to put in place. Since I hate heights, I was always glad when uncle completed that job.

I must say it felt good to have a fresh, clean home. My mother was fortunate to have daughters to help her with all the work. Now we could get ready for spring planting and for the little baby chicks.

Respectfully submitted,
Laura W. Berglund
Copyright March 2019

02/15/2019

POST-DEPRESSION FARMERS

The farming occupation during the depression and the years following produced a special breed of men. They were tough, hard-working, sleep-deprived but full of hope for the future. Their day began at 5:30 a.m. and ended at 9:00 p.m. every day the whole year around. Most of them did not have a high school education because they were kept home from school to help their parents. They married women with multiple skills who were willing to work alongside them without complaint. All these guys wore the same uniform -- blue denim shirt, bib overalls and working boots. In the winter they added long underwear and lined denim jackets. My tall, handsome, brown-eyed dad was one of these men.

At the end of a year of hard work, these farmers could gain financially or they could suffer a loss despite their efforts. Their profit depended almost entirely on the weather during the growing months. One very bad hail storm could destroy an entire crop of mature corn or grain. A wind storm could flatten every plant that had been sown in the springtime. Since plant maturity took a full season, there was no way to replant or recover. All that could be done was to rely on the sale of cattle, sale of milk and the small profit from the sale of eggs. Those years my dad would fall into a depression of sorts.

And there were some heavy decisions regarding the farm; again the weather played a part in the final analysis. A diligent farmer would agonize over when to cut the hay, when to harvest the crops, or when to sell some of the cattle or hogs. In the fall, the decision needed to be made regarding the sale of grain; how much would the cattle and chickens need? Of course, a small amount would be set aside for planting the next spring.

However, when the weather was fully cooperative, the fields were lush and a wonder to behold. The grain would ripen to resplendent golden glory with the warm sun and soft rains. The corn grew tall with multiple tassels waving in the soft breeze. Those years brought the farmers together to enjoy some friendly times. We could hear their laughter into the evening hours on the rare occasions the neighbors enjoyed a game of "500". Some would bring their children along to play with us and we could smell the comforting aroma of coffee heating on the stove, which meant we would be treated with a cookie or piece of cake when the lunch break was served. Those were special, happy times.

But the good years did not mean more clothes or "things" for us. The profit was used to buy or repair machinery or purchase another cow, pig or horse. On the years we needed new winter coats (which was an item of clothing my mom did not sew), my dad would buy orphan lambs -- one for each of us. We, in turn, were then responsible for bottle feeding those babies until they were weaned. When they were ready to shear, my dad would sell them and the profit purchased our coats. One year my coat was blue with brass buttons. Another year, it was dark green with beige buttons.

When dad came in at the end of the day with milking completed and the animals taken care of, he would go to his rocker (I still have that chair in my home) in the corner of the dining room in front of the battery operated radio. There he would sit, listening to the news and reading the local daily newspaper. It was his "rest" time and we found it best not to disturb him then. But I do remember when I was allowed, on occasion, to sit on his lap.
Yes, those farmers worked hard; they survived.

Respectfully submitted,
Laura W. Berglund
Copyright February 2019

02/15/2019

Share Your Family Story With Us

The Afton Museum would like to include letters and photographs from your family story in our new Early Family History Exhibit that will open this spring. The items you submit will then become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Why did your ancestors settle in Afton? When did they arrive and what country did they come from? What was daily life like for them in those early years? Did they encounter hardships along the way? If your ancestors were Native American and living in the St. Croix Valley, can you tell us their story?

Please mail, email, or drop off your short story (one or two pages) and copies of photos and/or letters (if you have them, but not necessary) by Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019.

We will announce the grand opening of the exhibit soon. We look forward to hearing from you!

02/01/2019

The Afton Historical Museum’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce a new benefit for our members: unlimited use of Ancestry research software at no charge.
Are you interested in discovering your family history? Ancestry is the world’s leading resource for genealogy, providing online access to census data, birth and death certificates, immigration and military records, and much more. This software tool along with our newly reorganized Family and Institutional files can assist in your research. Our Ancestry account is available only at the museum and we can’t wait to help you get started.

We sincerely appreciate your continued support and hope you will find this new benefit valuable. If you are interested in learning more about Ancestry and the museum’s collections, or becoming a museum member please contact Vickie Winge at 651-436-3500 or email [email protected].

Address

3165 St. Croix Trail South
Afton, MN
55001

Opening Hours

Monday 09:00 - 19:00
Tuesday 09:00 - 19:00
Wednesday 09:00 - 19:00
Thursday 09:00 - 19:00
Friday 09:00 - 19:00
Saturday 09:00 - 19:00
Sunday 09:00 - 19:00

Telephone

(651) 436-3500

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