Carver County Historical Society

The Andrew Peterson Farm

Preserving an International Treasure

For more information on Andrew Peterson, visit our Notable People page.


“21 of May 1850. Almost calm wind, but the Brigg was rolling much off the waves. Less sea sickness after passing Skagerack. We saw a little of Far Sund point Norway – that was the last we got to see of our old Scandinavia.” Andrew Peterson Journals

Andrew Peterson and his farm have received their fair share of publicity over the years. For some, the farm is a destination location. For others, it is just an old farm that has been in the news a lot. The significance of the farm has more to do with Andrew Peterson and his diaries, his work with apples and the formation of the Scandia Baptist Church, than the land itself.

Between 1820 and 1920, 1.3 million Swedes immigrated to the United State in search of a new life. In 1850, Peterson joined that mass exodus. In his home Kommen of Ydre, ¾ of the people emigrated. What made Peterson stand out from the millions of other immigrants is that he kept a journal from the time he left Sweden until the day before he died in Minnesota.

Peterson would have been lost in the wave of other Petersons if it wasn’t for a Swedish author. Vilhelm Moberg discovered Peterson’s journals at the Minnesota Historical Society, and used them as the basis for his Emigrants book series. These books were later named the most influential books in Swedish history by the Swedish government. The Swedish Andrew Peterson musical was released in 2011. Even the band ABBA wrote songs based on Andrew Peterson. And to think, most of the book took place in Carver County.

Peterson worked substantially with the development of apple trees. His farm was one of the first research stations for what would become the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. He was recognized several times by the Minnesota Horticultural Society for his work.

Scandia Church

“It is also clear that Andrew Peterson, the layman, would become the backbone of the Scandia Church with its ever changing pastoral ministries.”
–Dr. Truett Lawson

The Baptist church, which was the core for many Swedish emigrants, began in Peterson’s home. It was here that the first meetings were held. Later, a church was built near present day Island View Golf Course. The building was eventually moved to the Bethel Baptist College campus in St. Paul.

Scandia Cemetery

Cemetery within a Golf Course? Check it out at Island View Golf Course

Island View Golf Course has a unique neighbor; in fact, this neighbor is completely surrounded by the golf course property. The Scandia Baptist Cemetery sits nonchalantly between the driving range and the Maintenance building. This little cemetery was established as a part of the Scandia Baptist Church in 1855, while Minnesota was still a territory by Swedish emigrants. It was in Carver County that the Andersons, Petersons, Brobergs, Lundstens, Tidemans, Peltz’, Swansons and others homesteaded with their families. These families were grateful for this opportunity to have a fresh start. Andrew Peterson, assisted with organizing Scandia Baptist Church, kept detailed diaries of daily life in Carver County. From these diaries, Wilhelm Moberg wrote the book The Emigrants. With the Civil War looming, the 4th Minnesota Regiment called on these Swedish settlers to join the militia and head to Georgia, leaving behind their women and children to be cared for by the elder settlers. These stories have been passed along from generation to generation.

Now this little cemetery is under the care of the Scandia Baptist Cemetery Association, whose board members are descendants of those first settlers now buried therein. They carry a lot of pride in their heritage and work to keep this little cemetery as a memorial to their ancestors. The Board members come from Roseville, St Paul, Eagan, Minneapolis, and even Waconia. They are interested in finding other descendants of those buried in this cemetery to hear their family stories. If you are a descendant of these early settlers, please consider contacting the Carver County Historical Society for further contact information.

Submitted by: KJ Bach, President, Scandia Cemetery Association and great-great granddaughter of Peter Daniel and Caroline Anderson.

To find the cemetery: from Highway 5 travel north on County Road 92 about 2 miles, then turn into the driveway for Island View Golf Course. You will find the cemetery on the south side of the road about 100 yards from County Road 92.

Documentation and Preservation

The incredible documentation of the property can be credited largely to two people who dearly loved the property. Specifically, Jo Mihelich, author of Andrew Peterson and the Scandia Story, and the property’s last owner, Ward Holasek.

In the early 1980’s, Mihelich decided that a book needed to be written about Peterson. Her drive and commitment saved countless documents and artifacts that would otherwise have been destroyed or sold at auction. The book, Andrew Peterson and the Scandia Story, is currently out of print but plans are in the works to reprint, with all proceeds dedicated to the upkeep of the buildings on the Peterson property owned by the CCHS.

Ward Holasek

Ward Holasek; Photo courtesy of the Chanhassen Villager

The other person who recognized the historic value of the property was Ward Holasek. Holasek, unaware of the historical value, purchased the property and later worked with Mihelich to preserve countless artifacts and helped place the property on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1978, he enlisted the help of the Minnesota Historical Society’s State Architect, Charles Nelson. Nelson reviewed the property and commented on Holasek’s commitment to the property and saving its history. He advised that history organizations should work with Holasek as Holasek was committed to saving the history of the farm.

In 2013, Holasek died, leaving his 51 acre portion of the land to the Carver County Historical Society. Unfortunately, his portion only consisted of one historic building, the north barn. WRH Properties owned the twenty acres where the other historic structures stand. The two organizations worked together to find a mutually beneficial agreement. The CCHS would keep 12.5 acres and all the historic structures. In exchange, WRH Properties kept the larger portion of land.

Current Status

Long range planning has begun for the use of the property. It is known that the property will need to generate an income, therefore a variety of options are being explored. A final restoration grant for the north barn will be written in the summer of 2015. What is certain is that the Peterson Farm is a property worth saving and one that is important to all emigrants from all countries.

For more information please contact Wendy Petersen Biorn at wbiorn@co.carver.mn.us

Preserving an Important Piece of Carver County History

The House

The Peterson farm has been saved "by the skin of its teeth" not once but several times. At the time Ward Holasek purchased the property, there were two homes located on the property. In order to build a new home, Ward and his wife Georgine were faced with the conundrum of demolishing the old Peterson home or the house built in 1960 to meet zoning regulations. They chose to demolish the newer home, thereby saving the original Andrew Peterson home.

The Granary

The granary was also nearly lost. On October 11, 2006, four Swedes traveled 4,000 miles to replace the roof of a granary. As you might guess, this is no ordinary granary.

The granary in question was built by Andrew Peterson, a Swedish immigrant who was known by his contemporaries for his experimentation with Russian varieties of apples. He was an important contributor to the establishment of Minnesota's apple industry. But what he is best known for historically are his diaries which span nearly 50 years, with the last entry just days before his death in 1898. These diaries served as an important resource for famous Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg while he did research for his classic series The Emigrants.

For Sven Lindfors, Olle Karlsson, Pertti Skillermark, and Mikael Karlsson, Peterson and his diaries are important links to understanding Swedish emigrants and their pioneer lives in America. They belong to the Andrew Peterson Society in Sweden which, amongst other goals, wants to help preserve Peterson's farm in Carver County. After two years of fund raising, the Society was able to buy four plane tickets and pay for part of the building materials.

During their 17 days in Minnesota, Sven, Olle, Pertti, and Mikael had to face snow, below average temperatures, and wind. No one heard them complain. They were thrilled to be there, working on Peterson's granary. Sven, at 88, has a very steady hand and was working to repair granary windows. The rest were working on the roof, but they had many interruptions, primarily in the form of people coming to see them work and wanting to meet them.

For more information about the Swedish Andrew Peterson Society, please visit www.andrewpeterson.se.

Finishing Work

While Mikael cut the trees down with a chain saw, the finishing work was done with old hand tools

Finishing Work

Mikael and Olle shaping a new rafter for the granary. Mikael was granted permission by a couple of local landowners to cut down a few trees that would work for the project. While most of us were amazed at this level of authenticity, Mikael simply responded, "That's how Andrew would have done it."

Carver County Historical Society

A group from the Carver County Historical Society listens to Mikael explain their work. Many visitors stopped by to talk with the men once the Star Tribune ran a story about the project.

Mikael

Mikael, who is fluent in English, was generally the spokesman when visitors arrived.

Notes on log

Inside the granary are notes, like this one, from generations ago. Before they left, the Swedes left their own mark. They signed one of the new rafters with their names, the date, and a message in Swedish that reads, "They came from Sweden."

Dinner/reception

Sven Lindfors, Pertti Skillermark, Olle Karlsson, Mikael Karlsson

John Eklund

John Eklund provided entertainment

Olle & Sven

During the reception, Olle and Sven look at a map of Sweden with Gene Johnson, a trustee from the American Swedish Institute.

The Carver County Historical Society Board of Directors held a dinner/reception in honor of the Swedes and John Eklund provided the entertainment. During the program, John told the crowd that his ancestors, the Justus family, arrived in Carver County in 1856 and likely stayed with Peterson or one of his Scandia neighbors before settling on Swede Lake near Watertown. He jokingly mentioned that he too has a Swedish granary from the 1870s that is in need of repair if they had any time to spare.

The North Barn

July 2010 is a time period that will long be remembered. It was during this month that not one but two storms hit resulting in the east wall of the north barn collapsing. A number of people from the Friends of the Andrew Peterson Society, the Carver County Historical Society and one County Commissioner, Tom Workman, responded by removing items inside the building, reducing the stress on the structure.

In October, the CCHS received a grant from the Legacy Fund for emergency stabilization of the building. Thank you to Hansen HomeTech and all the CCHS volunteers who gave their time. A second grant was received for an assessment by Thorbeck Architects Ltd, to determine if the property could be saved and if so, to create a work plan that the CCHS could use. It was determined that the structure could be saved. With this document in hand, the CCHS proceeded to the next step, foundation work.

granery

The barn as stabilization and cleanout are in progress.

The CCHS applied for and received a grant to begin working on the North Barn to restore the foundation, in the Fall of 2011. Patrick Sieben spent many hours working on the foundation with wonderful results.

In 2012, the CCHS received two grants for structural restoration of the North Barn. These projects have been financed in part by the State of Minnesota through the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. A final grant is still needed to complete the structural restoration work.

What next?

Long range planning for the property is currently being implemented by Thorbeck Architects, Ltd. After the winter of 2014/2015, a grant will be written for the final structural restoration of the barn. Once complete, the building will become an interpretive center for the public. The entrance will be relocated to Parley Lake Road for safety reasons.

Ward Holasek loved his land and its history. He told the CCHS on several occasions that his gift was a gift to the community and was to be used for betterment of all. Agricultural history was to be taught in addition to Andrew Peterson. He entrusted the CCHS with his beloved property, knowing we would do all we could to implement and follow his wishes.

To honor Holasek’s request, we at the CCHS would like to hear your ideas of how the property can best serve the community. Please mail us at historical@co.carver.mn.us

granery

Restoration of the foundation completed

granery
granery

The foundation after restoration. Thank you, Patrick Sieben for all your hard work.