Listen to the Weekly Radio Readings by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member
Recorded June 2021
June 6, 2021: We don’t think so much about them these days, but in 1944, cattails became an important crop here, and men, women, and children were going out into lowlands to pick the free crop. Harvesters were gathering good wages for their efforts and helping the war efforts. Here’s an article that appeared in the Roseau Times-Region on February 3, 1944:
It might look like it that folks should be able to pull the wool over the eyes of Albin Helstad, merely by crowding him in his buying of cattails at his station at the former Forslund filling station, but they don’t.
He may look a little fuzzy, but he is not excited, and he handles a large amount of the stuff each day.
Cattails, a weed that grows in damp places and has had no use except to please the little boy and girl who think it’s fun to play with it, has grown up and is going to war. The fine down that makes up its top is used in making life preservers and in aviators’ suits and also goes into airplane construction. It is light and warm.
When asked about the business, Mr. Helstad stated yesterday that he started buying cattails ten days previous, but that his contract expires that evening. At that time, he did not know whether he could renew the contract and continue buying. He hoped he would be able to do so.
On Monday he had a big day. Farmers were coming in with sacks upon sacks of the stuff. He bought and paid pickers $1200.00 that day for 30,000 pounds. The pickers get 4 cents a pound, and they do not have to pay any taxes on the land they pick from nor do they need to pay any rent for it. Up to last evening, he had bought 135,000 pounds of cattails and had paid pickers …listen for the rest of the story.
June 13, 2021: Every once in a while, I badger people to write their own memoirs and the stories of their ancestors if those ancestors didn’t take the time during their own lifetimes. Many people have contributed binders full of information to the Roseau County Museum for future genealogists and interested relatives to read and gather history. One of those people was Bonita Couper who contributed the records she had collected about Lars Nilsson and Brita Larsdotter. They homesteaded in Sprague, Manitoba, in later life after first moving to Roseau County, but some of their children remained in Roseau County. Her stories tell a lot about the determination of early settlers to make America their home no matter the obstacles. While you might not believe your own story is of interest to anyone, you will be providing interesting details about normal life that others will enjoy. Don’t worry about it becoming a rambling story. Often one thought will lead to another. Things that were memorable or significant to you will also be significant to your descendants, who might not have the opportunity to interview you if they’re busy raising their own families and making a living. If you’re willing to share a copy for the museum, we’ll be grateful.
Now here are some details from Bonita Couper’s story of the Nelson family she was related to:
Lars Nilsson and Brita Larsdotter were considered squatters on land in Sprague, Manitoba, that was originally designated as “swamp” and was to be turned over to the Province of Manitoba. Lars’ wife Brita became known as Betsy after immigrating. She died at her home in Sprague in 1910. She could not speak English, and the census says she could read and write, but probably only in Swedish. Lars could read, write and speak English. He received his final patent on his land in Sprague after his death at 79 years old. He had only lived in Canada a few years. He died at the home of his son, Peter Nelson in Stafford Township in 1911, the year after his wife died. His obituary in the Roseau County Times of November 3, 1911 tells that he had 5 surviving children: Nels Nelson at Sprague, Andrew Nelson at Grassy River, Ontario, Martin Nelson of Roseau, Peter Nelson of Stafford and Mrs. Lars Nordstrom of Sprague. His funeral was held at Peter’s home and he was buried at Stafford Cemetery. The obituary says this about Lars: ”The deceased was a man of strict integrity of character and always enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his neighbors and acquaintances.” The son, Peter Nelson, was born as Per Olof Larsson in Sweden in 1876, and came to America with his parents …listen for the rest of the story.
June 20, 2021: Last week I told about a pair of Swedish immigrants, Lars Nilsson and Brita Larsdotter, who arrived in Roseau County in 1880. They came with 8 children and two of those lived their lives in Roseau County while several others moved to Canada with their parents. I read from a history compiled by Bonita Couper, a copy of which she gave to Roseau County Museum. I told you about their son Peter last week who died in Stafford Township. His brothers Martin and Andrew also lived part of their lives in Roseau County. Today we’ll talk about Martin.
Martin married Bettie Dahlgren at Warren on June 6, 1893. He operated sawmills and farmed. In 1900, they sold their first farm to Tom Reine Senior and moved to Stafford township, where they again homesteaded, continuing to farm and operate sawmills.
In those pioneer days, there were no roads, the country was wet and the bull flies and mosquitoes and the shortage of ready money made life difficult. During the summer months, Martin tended to the farm work, and during the winter months, he engaged in logging and in operating a sawmill in Falun township. Because of lack of transportation, he made his weekly home visits by walking the fifteen miles from mill to home.
Martin was active in community affairs and held many positions of trust. He was elected the first clerk of School District 51 in Jadis, and later became treasurer of School District 19 in Stafford. In 1901, he was elected County Commissioner from the Second District and held that office until his death in 1936. For more than 32 years, he was the chairman of that board. He held that position at the time of his death, having never missed an annual meeting of the board until January of that year.
In 1905 in the Roseau County Press, a small paragraph said this under the heading of County Correspondence of Stafford: “Martin and Peter Nelson made a trip to the king’s domain (meaning Canada) the first part of the week, to visit their parents located there.” King Edward VII, called “Bertie” was the King at that time.
In 1905, Martin formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, T. C. Petterson, going into the blacksmith business in the Village of Roseau. They set up shop at what is now 119 Second Street SW. The following year, the family moved into town..listen for the rest of the story.
June 27, 2021: This story comes from a family history submitted to the Roseau County Museum by Bonita Couper. She has compiled a history of the family of Lars Nilsson and Britta Larsdotter. I’ve read parts of Bonita’s story the past two weeks telling about two of their sons, Peter and Martin. Today I’ll read about Andrew, the third oldest child in that family.
Andrew Nelson was born Anders Larsson on March 12, 1862, in Sweden. When they arrived in Minnesota in 1880, they settled in Meeker County, south of Dassel. It is thought they changed the spelling of their name from Nilsson to Nelson at this time. Anders became Andrew, Per Olof became Peter, etc.
The family farmed there until 1888 when they moved to Roseau County and Andrew’s parents settled on a homestead.
In 1885, Andrew was “set apart” for Evangelical service, which brought him to experience many things. He was ordained in the Baptist Church and was often known as “Preacher Nelson”. His preacher work began to take the form of a missionary because of his traveling amongst the newly built areas in northern Minnesota.
In 1888, Andrew came to Roseau County in Minnesota. He had preached in the area the year before and had liked the area very much. He took a homestead and stayed as a minister. During his career, Andrew would travel throughout northwestern Minnesota, the District of Rainy River, Ontario, and a great deal of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Christina Erickson was born Kerstin Ersdotter on December 16, 1860 in Uter, Malung, Dalarna, Sweden. She was given permission to emigrate to America on the 24th of May, 1888, when she was 27 years old. Her brother Magnil …listen for the rest of the story.
Thank you to for letting us share the history of our county with your listeners.