Swedes Find History Worth Repairing

Leanne Brown, Waconia Patriot (Minnesota), Nov. 1, 2006

Andrew Peterson built his granary nearly 150 years ago, but he did not build it alone. Like all large projects during those early years of Carver County, the granary was built with the help of friends and neighbors. Generations later, a new group of friends and neighbors have come together to begin repairing Peterson’s granary, located just east of Waconia near Parley Lake Road.

There are many old farms in Carver County but Peterson’s is historically significant because of the diaries he kept for nearly 50 years. The famous Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg used the diaries as a primary source for his classic series, The Emigrants. Since then, Peterson’s diaries have been the subject of extensive research on immigration, horticulture, and pioneer life.

Many of Peterson’s buildings still stand, but they are in need of repair. Replacing the granary roof was of the utmost importance. Gaping holes were clearly visible and many wondered how many more storms and winters the granary could endure without replacing the roof. That is where four Swedes come into the picture.

Sven Lindfors, 88; Olle Karlsson, 69; Pertti Skillermark, 67; and Mikael Karlsson, 41, are members of the Andrew Peterson Society in Sweden. The Society aims to increase knowledge of Andrew Peterson and the importance of his diaries to understanding Swedish emigrants, as well as assist in the preservation of his farm buildings in Minnesota. Jan Hemerlin and Hans-Goran Saldner, from the Society, visited the site in 2004 and recommended replacing the granary roof as a top priority. The Society began raising funds to help pay for a portion of the roof material costs as well as the four plane tickets, although no definite dates were set until a month before their arrival.

The granary, and most of Andrew’s historic buildings, are on private property owned by brothers Wade and Rick Holasek. They plan to own the property for the foreseeable future but were understandably hesitant to spend a large amount of money, or time, to repair the roof of a building that’s been storing odds and ends for decades. However, they do appreciate the historic significance of the farm and were willing to allow the Swedes to work on the granary. In addition, Wade cleared the site of trees and underbrush, provided part of the funds for roofing materials, and hired additional roofers to assist the Swedes with the project. Although everyone was excited to see that the granary would finally have a solid roof, there were some questions about how the roof would be replaced.

Since all of Peterson’s historic buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, repairs to structures need to follow Secretary of the Interior guidelines. These guidelines are an important tool for understanding appropriate methods for preserving historic materials and features in National Register properties. With little time to prepare and organize for the Swede’s visit, and a language barrier to boot, would the work meet the guidelines?

Mikael, who speaks English quite fluently, said that a number of the granary’s original timber rafters were rotten and had to be replaced. The moment of truth; what was used as replacements?

Standard lumber that was forced to fit into the old structure? Mikael received permission from two nearby property owners to wander through their woods and cut down a couple of trees that would suit his needs.

“That’s how Andrew would have done it,” Mikael said with a grin. He did admit to a modern concession, however; he used a chainsaw to cut the trees down.

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It was difficult for many area residents to say good-bye to Sven, Olle, Pertti, and Mikael. It was easy to connect with four men who traveled thousands of miles to fix a roof on a historic building. They are passionate, dedicated, and very friendly. “This has been a golden time,” Olle said.

To Learn More About the Peterson Farm

* The Peterson Farm (aka Rock Isle) can be seen on the north side of Highway 5, just west of Parley Lake Road. The northern portion of Peterson’s original farm is used for hay and sleigh rides (and you’ll drive within feet of his barns to get to the loading area). Contact Rock Isle Hay and Sleigh Rides for 952-442-2688 for reservation information.

* More photos from the Swede’s visit will be posted on the Historical Society website at www.carvercountyhistoricalsociety.org

* Learn more about the Andrew Peterson Society at www.andrewpeterson.se

* The Carver County Historical Society will do a presentation about the visit as part of a program on the 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Minnesota on Sunday, November 12 at 2:00 at the Museum in Waconia. Call 442-4234 for directions.

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