By ED ANDERSEN
My mother, Esther Thuesen Andersen, inherited one-fourth of the Slifsgaard farm in Fredsville, Iowa when her father, Erik Thuesen, died. Mother’s brother Jens was operating the farm when he died in 1936. His widow, Aunt Anna Thuesen, moved with her family to an apartment in Cedar Falls. During the depths of the Great Depression, my parents, Harold and Esther Andersen, took out a loan and bought out mother’s siblings to obtain sole ownership of the Slifsgaard farm in Fredsville just down the hill from the Fredsville Lutheran Church.
My first memories were in 1941 of our project to tear down the old barn where during past years they milked 100 cows by hand and milkmaids lived in the big white farm house. This is the house in which we lived until 1950. Uncle George helped bring running water into the old house and install a bathroom with a tub, stool and washbasin, and water tank that was heated by the wood-fired cookstove in the kitchen. We had a dial telephone on a party line. During the winter, an oil-burning stove was brought into the dining room and served as an additional heating source besides the kitchen cookstove.
During 1941, we built a new barn to house the cows, steers, horses, and calves in large ninety-foot barn with a haymow to hold all that loose hay for the animals. The barn was almost finished when a windstorm tore it apart. Bedstefar N. L Andersen came out to the farm and supervised us three boys as we pulled nails to help and reuse lumber to rebuild the barn. The barn was completed and filled with hay and animals.
The new barn stood one year and then on October 31, 1942, the barn with all its hay burned down. Dennis was able to get all the animals safely out of the fire. Fire crews and neighbors worked all night to keep our house and other building safe from the fire. As winter approached, we moved our milk cows to the barn of our neighbor, Arnold Mikkelsen. We hauled feed and milked the cows twice daily until the next barn could be completed.
Early in 1943 we began the process of building a new barn to replace the big barn that had burned down with all our hay. Since the country was in the midst of World War II, goods were rationed. Permits to buy materials to replace destroyed structures were given, but the value could not exceed the price of the destroyed building. The new smaller barn had room for twelve milk cows with newborn calves and four horses. It was built to accommodate an electric cream separator and milking machine and the large haymow had room for loose hay. When the barn was completed in early June, my parents held a barn dance in the new haymow to thank all the friends and neighbors who had helped with the construction of three barns on our farm. We three boys served cold pop out of the stock tank.
In 1944 we built the fourth barn to house our beef cattle. Permits were issued for $1000 of materials to buy cement, siding, and shingles. We cut down many cottonwood trees and had them cut into lumber and we tore down an old cedar wood stave silo for the ceiling timbers to hold up the hay.
Witnessing the work of building barns, especially in the context of a global war, made a significant impression in my childhood. I saw what could be accomplished when folks pitch in to help.
Bridget Lois Jensen