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Knudson family farm has 150th anniversary

By Staff | Jul 7, 2017

Janet and Harold Knudson are the current owners of the Knudson family farm. They will be presented their Heritage Farm award this summer at the Iowa State Fair.



ESTHERVILLE – Piece by piece, Harold and Janet Knudson have been putting the family farm back together.

The Knudson family farm dates back 150 years to 1867 when Mons and Jane Knudson, Harold Knudson’s great-grandparents, purchased 120 acres for what is believed to be a mere $1 an acre.

Harold Knudson said his great-grandfather came from Norway and settled in Wisconsin for a short time before making his way to Emmet County. Knudson said he is not exactly sure what brought his great-grandfather here, but in addition to the 120 acres, his great-grandfather later purchased 80 and another 120 acres that all bordered what is now the Knudson Family Heritage Farm.

Knudson said the house that he and his wife, Janet, live in was built in 1867, right after his great-grandfather purchased the land.

“The original house was just a kitchen and a small room at first,” said Knudson.

The house, which has been remodeled and updated several times over the last 150 years, still features a large log underneath the home from the original structure.

The farm, he said, was surrounded by what used to be East Swan Lake before dredge ditches were installed in the area.

“That’s why the house is set so farm back from the road, even though there weren’t roads, then it is on what used to be a penisula and they built the farm up there to be surrouned by enough water to help avoid prairie fires,” said Knudson.

Mons and Jane Knudson had three children: Knut Knudson, Secvert Knudson and Tena Knudson. Each of the children were given parcels of land, with Tena Knudson receiving 120 acres that was eventually sold off, and her brothers inheriting what is now the Heritage Farm in 1899.

Knudson said, shortly thereafter, Knut Knudson sold his half to Secvert and Carrie Knudson (Harold Knudson’s grandparents).

He said before his grandparents moved to the farm, they lived 1 1/2 miles away on West Swan Lake, in what some people would consider peculiar living conditions these days.

“They had a 15 by 15 foot home with a dirt floor and their bed was a grain sack full of grass and they had one cow they kept in a straw shed,” he said. “They lived there until they bought the homeplace from Knut.”

Knudson said his grandparents were unable to have children, so they adopted his father, Gus Knudson, at the age of 9. When Gus Knudson was only 17, his father passed away, leaving him and his mother to care for the farm. Even prior to his father’s death, Gus Knudson focused primarily on the farm work and was given very little education.

“Dad only schooled for a few weeks a year because he needed to help on the farm,” said Knudson, adding that a neighbor would come by and tutor him.

Knudson said his grandmother and father worked together to help save the farm.

He can recall his grandmother telling stories of having to bag their oats and wheat and take them south to Fort Dodge to be ground. This, he said, must have taken some time, as they made the trip via oxen and a wagon.

Gus and Lucile Knudson, Harold Knudson’s grandparents, were the third generation to own the family farm.

Harold Knudson believes his father took over the farm sometime in the early 1900s, but prior to 1925, because he thinks his father owned the land before he was married.

Knudson said he always helped his dad farm and his dad, in turn, furnished machinery to help him get started farming.

The pair also worked together raising an Angus herd of cattle that he eventually purchased from his father.

Knudson said he and Janet officially purchased the land some years ago, only after purchasing other ground that had originally been in the Knudson family, as the Knudsons said they have worked hard to get the land that Mons Knudson purchased so many years ago back together.

The Knudson family is looking forward to being awarded their Heritage Farm award at the Iowa State Fair this summer.

“We are very proud of the farm,” he said. “We are the fourth generation to own the land and we have owned it the longest.”

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