Adam Pracht and Caroline de Filippis were recently hired to boost the presence and import of the Lindsborg Old Mill and Swedish Heritage Museum. Pracht is marketing and communications director; de Filippis is director of community development.
When the news of their hiring came out, recollection kicked in and quick as a snap, up popped the old cabin and how, long ago, Emma Sundberg’s baby sister was born there in a terrible blizzard.
Many stories linger at the Mill and Museum. They impress the fabric of community, its early footings. They are from a cache of old times, of living long ago and the lessons it tells. Lenore Lynham, the Museum’s director has been telling them for decades; Pracht and de Filippis are here to advance the message.
The cabin, built in 1870, sits west of the Roller Mills and the Museum’s main building under a canopy secured with huge posts and concrete pilings. The canopy was finished in June 2006. That was when Emma Sundberg and her cousins Lois Howe and Bob Lundstrom and a friend, Don Heline, met me there to talk about it, a place where they had begun. It is one of the earliest surviving structures from the settlement of the community.
Emma ‘s youngest sister, Bonnie Jean, was born in the cabin during a terrible blizzard in early March, 1931. Emma’s mother Anna had five children at home, two boys and three girls.
The cabin is one room and smaller than an old garage. It was built of hand-hewn logs with dovetail corners, and secured with wood pegs. The cousins’ grandparents, Almond and Emma (Flohr) Palmquist were the third couple to move into the cabin, in 1904, two miles west and 3½ miles south of Lindsborg.
Almond and Emma had 12 children, six boys and six girls. Emma’s father, George, was the first. Bob Lundstrom’s mother, Anna, born in 1883, was the second. Lois Howe’s mother, born in 1905, was number 11 and was named Elva which, Lois explained, was Swedish for “eleventh.”
Don Heline’s mother (Esther) taught at Harper School in the late ‘30s and the Helines lived in the cabin, about a mile west of the school. Lois, Don and Emma were among his mother’s students.
Emma said the blizzard on her sister’s birth day was full blown by mid-day and blinding; her father called Doc Blake at Marquette and told him mother was ready to deliver. Doc was worried about the seven-mile trip and called Wally Hawkinson, who maintained the roads in Harper Township. Wally got out in his machine and graded the way for the doctor.
Wally stayed at the cabin until Bonnie Jean was born. Then he went ahead of Doc to break the drifts for Doc’s return to Marquette.
The old cabin was abandoned in Harper Township not long after Don’s family moved away in 1940. Earlier, there were additions to the cabin but by 1955 the place was long abandoned, the additions deteriorated and torn away, the original one-room cabin left to the elements.
The cabin was scheduled for demolition but in 1960 the McPherson Lions Club saved it, put it in a park and in 1963 the cabin was moved to Lindsborg and the Old Mill grounds. Over time the structure suffered the wear of nature and the cruelties of vandals. In the early 2000s, Emma Sundberg and her cousins and Don worked to resurrect the cabin, protect it with the canopy, amplify its significance.
A collection of old tools from the era lies a clearing behind the old cabin. Farms were small then. The implements now seem pocket-size. Among them a seven-blade disc, one and two-bottom plows, sickle bar mowers, a scraper, cultivator, drag harrow, hay rake, seed planter, parts of an old wheat thresher, and more. The tools are from a time even before doctors – if there were doctors – could motor in a storm to a woman in labor, when blizzards froze men in their wagons, when drought cracked skin and soil.
Bob Lundstrom,86, died in 2012. Don Heline died a year later, age 88. Emma, 92, died in 2015. Lois Howe died last May at 96.
Their old cabin lives on, a place from times of shelters rising on the plain, of moving up from the settlers’ dugouts and sod huts. It’s one of history’s parcels at the Mill and Museum, a rich storehouse of heritage in Lindsborg and the Smoky Valley.
Adam Pracht and Caroline de Filippis, and Lenore Lynham, the Museum’s director, will care for that history, help us to understand more of its lessons.