Anderson family to celebrate 150 years on Lake Park farm, July 17
Bryan and Dawn Anderson are inviting the lakes area community to come join their family at the Anderson farm north of Lake Park on Saturday, July 17, for an evening celebration of the family's 150-year tenure on the original homestead purchased by Bryan's great-great-great grandmother in 1871. The festivities get underway at 6 p.m., with food and live music from Tim Eggebraaten. There is no cost to attend.
A century and a half is a very long time for any business to stay in the same family — let alone one with as many ups and downs as farming.
"It's so humbling," says Lake Park's Bryan Anderson, who is the sixth generation of his family to farm the original homestead purchased by his great-great-great grandmother, Randina Christianson, in 1871. "To think this farm has survived six generations of livelihood, it's hard not to be humbled. It's made it through world wars, the Depression, the Dust Bowl..."
"I think about what it must have looked like when they first had a sod house out here," he added, noting that Randina was a recent widow at the time.
In 1867, Hans and Randina Christianson along with their two sons, Mathias and Ole, set sail for America from Norway. As they arrived at Ellis Island, New York, Hans fell ill and died; he was buried there. After his death, the family traveled across the frontier, by prairie schooner with a yoke of oxen, arriving in Cuba Township in June of 1871.
"There were no roads," said Bryan of that trip.
All of the tilling, planting, weeding, etc., for those early crops on the Christianson farm was done by old-fashioned horsepower — as in, with equipment pulled by horses, he added.
"They worked so hard, just to survive, to feed themselves," Bryan said.
Ole, Randina's son, and Christina Potter were married in 1880, and they purchased the farm from Ole’s mother in 1886. Their daughter, Lettie Christianson, married John Anderson in 1905. John and Lettie subsequently bought the homesteaded property from Ole and Christina, in 1910.
The family's original sod home, which featured a stable, was located on the north side of the Buffalo River. This house continued to be lived in until John and Lettie built their new home in 1917 across the river from the sod house.
"They built it for $6,000," Bryan said. "It had electricity (via a 32-volt generator) and indoor plumbing."
Such modern technological innovations were quite unique at the time, he added.
Today, 104 years later, that home is still being lived in by the current generation of Andersons, though it's been added on to a few times, Dawn said.
John and Lettie Anderson had seven children: Ruby, Orlo, Leslie, Wendell, Eunice, Victor and Chester. The two oldest children, Ruby (Berland) and Henry Orlo, were born in North Dakota, while the other five were born at home on the farm. Wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, corn and flax were common crops raised by the family, mostly to feed the livestock and themselves.
Orlo Anderson married Doris Johnson in 1939. They bought the farm in 1943, when John and Lettie retired and moved into Lake Park. Orlo and Doris raised four children on the farm: Lois, Linda, Charles and Wesley.
It was during Orlo and Doris’s time on the farm that the first tractor was purchased during the 1940s. Horses were still being used to farm well into the 1950s.
Recently, Bryan has been working to restore that original tractor, a Farmall M, to its original glory. The process is 99% complete, with just a tail light and some decals yet to be added.
"It runs great," he said. "It's more than just a lawn ornament."
In 1966, Charles Anderson married Carolyn Davidson; the wedding took place at Lake Park Lutheran Church. They bought the family farm in 1975, when it was time for Orlo and Doris to retire and move into town. Charles and Carolyn had three children: Bryan, Darcie and Alyssa.
Many changes were seen on the farm during the time Charlie and Carolyn lived there. During that time, farming underwent major changes, from sustenance farming to the cash crop farming that happens today. Cattle still played a role in the farm until the late 80s, when Charlie transitioned to all cash crops.
"There's been a little bit of everything here," said Bryan, adding that the Andersons raised chickens, sheep, dairy cows and more over the years. "They raised what they ate."
"Today, we have beef cattle, corn, wheat and soybeans," he continued, adding that their small herd of Australian Lowline Angus cattle was added to the farm operation in 2004.
The farm's crop land has also expanded considerably since the original 240-acre homestead was first established; today, they farm around 1,200 acres, Bryan said.
Before Bryan came back to Lake Park, he had been living in Des Moines, Iowa, where he attended Drake University before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He became a medic during his time in the military, so when he went back to civilian life, he worked as an IV technician at Mercy Hospital — which is where he met his future wife, Dawn Adams.
"I was a manager at McDonald's — there was one right there in the hospital," Dawn said.
They were married in 1993, and four years later, they moved back to Bryan's hometown.
"The opportunity came for me to farm, and called me back home," he said. "I dragged Dawn with me.
"It was kind of a scary jump to make," he admitted — but it was the right one. "Now, I can't imagine not farming."
A few years after returning to Lake Park, Bryan and Dawn moved back to the family farm, and they've been there ever since. In 2015, Bryan and Dawn purchased the property from Bryan's parents.
While enduring many hardships over their 150-year tenure on the farm, the Anderson family also found many reasons to celebrate along the way.
"We have grown up with stories of dances in the attic, card parties, family reunions, golden wedding anniversaries, and afternoon lunches brought to the field," Bryan said. "While farming looks completely different than it did in 1871, and families are more scattered across the country, the family continues to carry on the tradition of great memories made on the farm."
Bryan and Dawn raised three children there: Daughter Maegan, who married Mitch Reller, and their sons Clay and Jacob, who are as yet unmarried.
Jacob is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, while Clay makes his home in Austin, Minn., and the Rellers live in Big Lake. Maegan and Mitch have one daughter, Maiya — Bryan and Dawn's first, and currently only, grandchild.
"The eighth generation has been born," said Dawn with a smile.
Bryan said that both of his sons have talked about coming back to the farm to work with him, but "right now they need to go and see the world a little bit. The farm will be ... it's been here 150 years, it should still be here in 10-15 years."
Over the years, the Andersons have been an integral part of the Lake Park community. Every generation of the Anderson family has served on the Lake Park Lutheran Church Council, as well as on the local school boards, from the original country school to today's combined Lake Park-Audubon School District.
Ole and Christina Anderson gifted School District 12 with an acre of land for the establishment of the first schoolhouse in Cuba Township. The schoolhouse's original location is at the intersection of Becker County Road 12 and 150th Avenue.
After a few years that location was given back to the family and a new school was built on County Road 9, one mile east of the farm, where it still stands today as the Cuba Town Hall.
Bryan himself served on the Lake Park-Audubon School Board for eight years, and he also coached both baseball and softball when his children were attending school at LP-A.
Both he and Dawn admit that since they have become "empty nesters," they have largely stepped back from their community leadership roles.
"These days, we go to things (like school activities) to enjoy them," Dawn said.
As they have been getting ready to celebrate 150 years on the farm, Bryan and Dawn have found some interesting stories. They are eager to share those stories during the celebration, which is set for Saturday, July 17.
They say they are preparing to host a family reunion during the day, to be followed by a community celebration in the evening. Local musician, singer and all-around entertainer Tim Eggebraaten will be performing from 6 to 10 p.m., and there will be a meal served from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
"We have no idea how many people to expect," Bryan admitted, but they are hoping for a nice crowd.
"One hundred and fifty years is a long time," he said. "A lot of people have memories of this place, of helping out on the farm."
"We just want everyone to come and celebrate with us," Dawn added.
If you go
What: Anderson Farm 150th Anniversary Community Celebration
When: Saturday, July 17, 6 p.m.
Where: Anderson Farm, 25781 150th Ave., Lake Park
Details: Tim Eggebraaten will perform from 6 to 10 p.m., with a meal to be served from 6 to 7:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend.