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lars and grethe anderson house

an 1866 norwegian home built in chippewa county, wisconsin

Further Information

The Journey to America

 

Staking a Claim

 

A Home on Big Elk Creek

 

Daily American Life

 

The House in Later Years

Related Reading

Farm Life by Frank Smoot, Chippewa Valley Museum Press

Contact Us

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MAILING ADDRESS:
Chippewa Valley Museum
PO Box 1204
Eau Claire, WI 54702-1204

PHYSICAL ADDRESS:
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STAKING A CLAIM

 

Lars and Grethe Anderson selected 120 acres in Chippewa Falls township. (The township would split in 1860, leaving their land in the town of Wheaton.) Like many Norwegian settlers, they chose acreage with a handy water supply. Big Elk Creek cut across a corner of the farm. The rolling terrain was mostly prairie brush with a stand of pine and a dotting of hardwoods. Lars had made a preemtive claim on the land as soon as he arrived in the area. His brother Jens shortly claimed an adjacent tract.

The Preemption Act of 1841 allowed farmers to settle on unowned land. Those who agreed to farm the property, improve it by building, and declare an intention to become citizens, could buy up to 160 acres for $1.25 an acre, if they paid for it within a year of settling.

The Anderson’s weren’t able to pay, and the land went to a Chippewa County land speculator named Andrew Moore. Lars and Grethe never moved, however, and Moore sold the farm to them in 1861. This chain of events, which allowed farmers extra time to get money together and made profits for speculators, was not technically legal, but it was a common practice.

The Andersons cleared their land by burning the brush cover and pulling stumps, then broke the prairie sod with a plow and smoothed a rough plowed field by pulling logs over it. Grethe brought her children out to the fields, where they could sit in the shade while she worked with Lars and Jens. Their first year on the land, the Andersons planted root crops and vegetables, which sustained both people and animals. Lars and Jens also hunted for wild game.

Like most farms of the era, theirs quickly became a diverse operation. By 1870, they had a team of horses, six milk cows, nine other cattle, five sheep and five swine. In 1869, they raised substantial crops of wheat, Indian corn, oats, barley, potatoes, and hay, and produced 150 pounds of butter and 10 pounds of wool.

“It is a fact well established among buyers that this valley produces a better article of wheat than any other section of the state. Straight lots from this place brought 5¢ more per bushel than any other section last fall in Milwaukee.”
— Eau Claire Free Press, c. 1863

 

Lars Anderson's citizenship declaration, 1855

Lars Anderson's citizenship declaration

1888 plat map detail

detail of an 1888 Chippewa County plat map showing the Anderson farm (upper left)

 

 

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