Effie Lerner Memoirs








CHAPTER ONE: The Characters and The New Life

The following is the draft of the manuscript written by Effie ECKLUND LERNER, specifically regarding the early years of her mother, Emma OLSON ECKLUND, and her family's life on the farm near Charlevoix, Michigan.

Emma Christina OLSON was born in 1865 on a farm on the island of Oland, which lies in the Baltic Sea and is visible from the city of Kalmar, on the east coast of Sweden. She was one of a family of five children, two boys and three girls, of which she was the eldest girl. She was denied the privilege of attending school, as her brothers did. She was kept at home to help her father. Nevertheless, she learned to read and write at an early age, because of her determination, obtaining help from her father and brothers, after work was finished, during the long, dark evenings of fall and winter in that northern land. Instead of a blackboard, she wrote with chalk on a wooden chair seat. The state church of Sweden is Lutheran, and all children are required to take an examination in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Emma passed her tests with ease.

Her father, whom she loved more than her mother because he was kinder, died when she was thirteen years old. After her mother remarried, Emma went to work on other farms until her nineteenth year. By that time her eldest brother, Alfred, had imigrated to the United States, and was in Minnesota. Emma traveled alone to join her brother there.

On the ship she met other Swedish girls. Some of them had learned to say, "Sure, alright!" There were also young men on board who spoke other languages, who seemed to be making propositions to the girls, and they would answer, "Sure, alright!" Emma counseled them not to answer with those words.

Having arrived in Minnesota, she soon left to go to Chicago, where she engaged in house work and cooking for some of the wealthy families of that period. Thus she learned American ways, and especially cooking, housekeeping and sewing. She attended a Swedish Church, and eventually met her future husband at a Sunday School picnic in Jackson Park.

Adolph Frederick Ecklund was born in 1862, in the province of Ostergotland, which is the eastern part of the land of the Goths. His father died when Adolph was six years old. Since his mother was unable to support him, he was taken by an uncle whose name was Quarsell, who was not kind to him. An ancestor from Germany immigrated to Sweden in the early part of the eighteenth century, to help in the establishement of the steel industry, and Adolph, city bred as he was, followed in the family tradition, and learned the steel trade. He was entered early in an apprenticeship in the smith trade. He was put to making tacks before he was tall enouhg to reach te bench. He was placed on a high stool in his uncle's shop, working at night and going to school in daytime. He studied by the light of the furnace in the shop at night when he was not working. He was abused at home and at work. He had a marked kyphosis which was probably caused by tuberculosis. In 1883 he immigrated to the United States, where it was natural that he sought and found employment in the Illlinois Steel Mills of South Chicago. Shortly afterward he applied for and received United States citizenship.

Emma and Adolph came to America during the peak immigration from Sweden, when most of the emigrating people were entering the United States. More than one million Swedes emigrated between 1860 and 1910, most of them to the New World.

Emma and Adolph were married on February 15, 1889. A son, Ernest, was born in February; 1890, a daughter, Valencia, in June 1892; a son Fabean in November 1892; and another son, Joseph, in October 1894. During the financial panic of 1893 and '94, the Illinois Steel mills ceased to operate for a period of seven months, thereby leaving their four thousand employees, including Adolph, without a means of earning a living for themselves and their families. After several months of waiting for this situation to improve, Adolph and Emma finally decided to move to the country. The old Viking spirit of adventure, and a desire for independence and freedom from the noise, soot, and congestion of the city urged them onward. They traded their home, consisting of two five-room apartments for a farm of eighty acres in Northern Michigan, with a house and barn, and a mortgage of five hundred dollars.

With great hopes and anticipation, but with very little realization of the hardhships which they were to experience in their new abode, they started their journey. They took with them their four small children, the furnishings of their home, and fifty dollars... all that was left of their savings. The old associations, made dear by pleasant memories, their friends and comfortable home were left behind... in exchange for what? They were not certain.

It was early April, 1895, the grass in the city parks was green, the trees were beginning to show signs of spring. As the train moved mnorthward, the surroundings gradually took on the appearance of winter, until, as it wound in and out among the northern hils and lakes, the passengers saw great drifts of snow and miniature icebergs, which, they learned, had lain there all through the winter, and which now showed the first evidence of thawing.

Alighting at the station in the small town of Charlevoix, where lumber and flour mills comprised the chief industries, they were met by Emma's brother, Alfred Olson, whohad preceded them by a few months, in making his home in the sparsely settled wilderness surrounding this village. After the excitement of meeting and greetings were over, Alfred assisted the children and parents into a lumber wagon and bade the horses go, whereupon the bumping and rattling of a seven-mile trip began. The wagon skidded to and fro over the icy road, occasionally striking a snowbank in such a manner that it was nearly overturned, and the occupants were in peril of being thrown into the ditch. At last they came to a log cabin in a valley surrounded by evergren trees... a picturesque place, which was home to Alfred and August and their children, and where the travelers were to remain temporarily.

On the following day, Alfred and Adolph went out to buy a team of horses, each of them planning to pay half of the cost, their intention being to use them in common. They soon found a suitable pair, for good horses were plentiful in those days, but the problem that now confronted Adolph was how to pay his share, since thep price was one hundred and forty dollars. However, Alfred, who was more fortunately situated financially, bought the horses, while Adolph had to content himself with buying a cow for twenty-five dollars and half a dozen chickens for a dollar and a half.

As they went home, Alfred attempted to give Adolph, who had never lived on a farm, his first lesson in riding a horse. The instruction ended in failure, as Adolph could not keep on a horse without a saddle, and after this experience he could never be persuaded to try again.

At the end of the week, the shipment of furniture arrived, and the Ecklunds proceeded to move into their new home, which was located a mile and a half from Alfred and Augusta's home. The furniture was taken by wagon over hills that seemed to rise perpendicularly. When the last hill was reached, the drifts of snow were found to be impassable. After an opening had been dug through the snow, the pieces of furniture were carried, one by one, through the passageway to the house.

To arrange the furniture and add the last touches so as to make the cottage inviting, was indeed a task which required patience and even artistic genius. There were two rooms on the ground floor, with an attic above. The walls and ceilings were finished with rough boards, over which newspapers had been pasted. Emmas, as soon as possible, covered them with wallpaper. This together with the things brought from the city, and the housewife's loving attention to the comfort of all, transformed the rude structure into a home. The outside was originally more pleasing in appearance, being neatly sided and painted white.

The barn, situated about a hundred feet behind the house, was one which, at that time, was considered of fair size, although at present it would seem quite inadequate for the average farm. There was no cement foundation, so that the stable was at one end of the building, while the remainder of the space was used for storing hay, straw, and tools. The outside was unpainted and weatherbeaten... well-suited to its primitive surroundings.

These buildings were in a picturesque location, standing, as the celebrated "Cottage Home," on the brow of the hill, in other words, on a small plateau, half way up the incline.

The farm in the vicinity of the buildings was called bush land, having had all of its valuable timber removed, but was uncleared except for about twenty acres, where the bush had been cut down and burned, and the land cultivated, though, even there, the stumps remained. Emma, with her accurate observation, noted that there were exactly twenty-two stumps between the house and the barn. Planted near the house were about two dozenyoung fruit trees. Without horses, there was no mode of transportation, so that the newcomers were quite isolated from the rest of the workd, save for occasional callers. A kind neighbor picked up their letters once a week and brought the mail from Charlevoix, together with such provisions as they needed. From the neighbor's house, these were carried on foot over rough trail by Adolph, and in spite of the difficulties of travel he did not neglect his right of franchise. On election day, as Adolph was going to Charlevoix to vote, he met several neighbors whohad recently moved from Canada. They called to him, "No use to go to vote today. They are allowing only those who have proof of citizenship to vote." Adolph laughed and siad, "I have my papers, don't you have yours?" He was proud of his Swedish heritage, but even more proud of his citizenship in his adopted land.

Surrounded on all sides by hills covered with trees and bushes, and with no house in sight, the solitude and rustic beauty of the place was almost perfect. Here my parents took up their new and strange life, rearing their children and finding contentment in work and communion with God and nature. As the parents became accustomed to the life and duties of the farm, the children, too, became brave, self-reliant, and considerate of one another, like true pioneers. At one time, when their father was away, and their mother was in the stable milking the cows, the children were alone in the house. Fabean, the mischievous black-eyed boy of nearly three, clambered up on a chair and took some matches from a shelf. After lighting one of them, he became frightened that he might burn his fingers, and dropped the flaming brand. It fell, unnoticed at first, upon the hem of baby Joe's dress. Then Valencia, who was barely four and a half years old, detecting the odor of burning cloth, discovered that the dress had caught fire. Instead of running in terror to summon her mother, she quietly gathered the dress between her hands and smothered the flame. When Emma returned and saw the hole in the baby's dress, she was both alarmed and relieved by Valencia's explanation of what had happened.

On another occasion when, anticipating rain, Adolph and Emma had raked the newly-mown hay together in the evening, they returned to the house to find an interesting sight. Joe was sleeping in a rocking chair, where he had been gently tied with a shawl. Valencia and Fabean slumbered on the couch, while Ernest lay on the two chairs, drawn in front of the couch in order to keep the other children from falling.



Ecklunds in Charlevoix - Effie seated, leftL-R: Leroy Smith, Alice, Effie & Harry LernerEDITOR'S NOTE: Effie ECKLUND was born on March 6, 1901 at the Ecklund family farm in Charlevoix, Michigan. (Her mother Emma OLSON ECKLUND and father Adolph had followed Uncle Nels Alfred OLSON to Michigan.) Much of her memoir relates childhood memories of growing up in pioneer-like conditions with a large, loving farm family. Effie grew up to become a chiropractor living in Hyde Park and the Englewood district of Chicago, eventually setting up a practice there. She later attended Rush Medical College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago Medical School. On January 8, 1941, she married Dr. Harry Lerner, whom she had met as an intern at Walther Memorial Hospital. During the war years she increased her medical experience with general practice. Later she studied ophthalmology and otolaryngology and became an eye-ear-nose-throat specialist. She and Harry Lerner remained childless, living and practicing medicine in Oak Park, Illinois; enjoying the symphony and dinner parties with family and friends. After retirement, Effie served on the board of the Newberry Center, and did volunteer medical work with children at the Marcy Center. From the early 60's they had attended the music festivals in Aspen, Colorado; eventually they would make it their summer home. Effie Lerner died in December 1995. Her love and devotion to her family was a great motivation for the writing of Effie's memoir, which remains in draft form and to my knowledge has never been published before. - RGZ