‘Hottest in the summer, and coldest in the winter’
Stone house sheltered Larson through childhood, early marriage
By Cynthia Scheer Telescope
News Eldon Larson said he remembers his childhood home as being cold and small. The one-and-a-half-story “simple rock house” had a “company” door on the south side that almost no one used and a full basement with wood
Eldon Larson said he remembers his childhood home as being cold and small. The one-and-a-half-story “simple rock house” had a “company” door on the south side that almost no one used and a full basement with wood floor where his mother did the laundry. Larson and his wife, Agnes, lived in the now 116-year-old house for 10 years after they were married, but the house has been empty since they left in 1956.
The house, located three miles south of Scandia and three-quarters of a mile west, is often referred to as the Almquist place. According to Kelly Larson, of Lincoln, who researched in 2003 several stone houses in Republic County, the Almquist place was originally a timber claim homestead – timber claims allowed homesteaders to get another 160 acres of land if they planted trees on 40 acres of that land – and had a grove of catalpa trees that were good for making fence posts.
According to Republic County land records Erick Almquist received in 1874 a government patent for the land where the Almquist house stands. The limestone house was built in 1898 by an unknown builder and was built in the American architecture style called Gable Front and Wing, which means it featured a gable-ended upright section that was one-and-a-half stories and a one-story wing section.
Kelly Larson, who recorded the history of some of the limestone houses in the county, said that during the time the Almquist house was built there was a covered wagon trail on the north end of the farmstead and two large buffalo wallows near the farmstead. Several probates, or land transfers after death, were not recorded because the next listed owner of the Almquist place was in 1931 to a man with the last name Nywall.
Eldon Larson, who was born in the stone house, said that both he and his parents rented the property, although he didn’t know who owned it. His uncle, Aaron Larson, lived in the house for a short time before his parents, Carl D. and Nellie Larson, moved there in what he estimated was March 1912. The homstead’s cave Larson stayed in the house after his mother died and his father moved away. The house was the first home for Eldon and Agnes Larson after they were married. There was a rock cave about 150 feet northeast of the house in the hillside, Eldon Larson said. The cave, which had rock steps, was used by his mother when she hatched chicks in incubators.
Eldon and Agnes Larson, of Belleville, who have been married for more than 69 years, never used the cave after they were married because Larson said there were often many bull snakes down there. But the fear of snakes didn’t deter school children decades before. District 88 school was located across the road from the Almquist house, and Eldon Larson attended the school.
“When I was in grade school we would have dust storms, and one afternoon the teacher became nervous during one storm and asked if I thought my parents would mind if we went down into the cave,” 93-year-old Eldon Larson said.
“So we all went over there and went into the cave.” Cold house The family spent a lot of time in the home’s kitchen, Larson said, which was a wooden addition that was already there when his parents moved in. The kitchen is now gone; only the original stone house remains. The kitchen stove was the home’s heat source, Eldon Larson said.
Agnes Larson said she spent a lot of time in the small kitchen with her children on cold days. The children would sit at the table and play with their trucks, she said, adding that she tried to keep the children off of the cold floor. Babies would lay in a bassinet in the kitchen. “That house was the hottest in the summer and the coldest in the winter,” Larson said, adding that the home had no insulation. Larson kept busy caring for the livestock and farming. The family had a small herd of registered Holstein cows.
Larson said he tried to keep seven cows in milk, and the daily milking chores kept him busy. He said the stone house had a front porch that was about eight feet wide, though he spent very little time out there.
“When you’re farming and milking cows and raising chickens and kids you don’t sit much,” he said. Small spaces The stone house had a living room and dining room on the main level, although all of the rooms were small, Larson said. The dining room, which he estimated was about 12-foot square, had six doors. The doors lead to the pantry, upstairs stairway, porch, kitchen, bedroom and living room.
The upstairs featured three small bedrooms and a clothes closet. The basement had two rooms. Kelly Larson said that because the farmstead was located so close to a covered wagon trail, pioneers often stayed in the basement of the Almquist home in the years shortly after it was built. Eldon Larson’s mother and wife both used one of the basement’s rooms to store preserved fruit and vegetables. The other room, which Larson’s mother used to wash clothing, had steps that lead to the outside. Larson and his wife built a wash house shortly after they were married and didn’t use the basement for doing laundry.
The Almquist place also featured a 40-by-50-foot rock barn, which had a hay loft. A rock extension came off the east side of the barn and provided shelter for the livestock. The barn has been gone for decades. “The barn deteriorated and fell down,” Larson said. “The south wall was starting to lean when we had the farm sale,” he said, adding that he sold his farming equipment and livestock in 1956 when he and his family moved to Kackley.
“I’m so thankful God got us out of there when he did.” Close to school Unlike most youth of his time, Larson didn’t have a long walk to school. The school house was located about 30 yards off of the road directly across from the Almquist place. Eldon and Agnes Larson’s oldest son attended his first year of school there before the family moved. Living near the rural school was relatively uneventful, Agnes Larson said.
“Kids came over to use the telephone every once in a while if they were ill or whatever,” she said, but added that the school children kept mostly to their side of the road. A stone marker is all that is left of the school.
Most of the Almquist farmstead has met the same fate. The house, which has been vacant for nearly 60 years, is surrounded by crop land. Dan and Marsha Ryser, of Boerne TX purchased in February 2003 from the estate of Carolyn Heters a quarter section of land that included the Almquist house.
The land is farmed by Dan Ryser’s brother-inlaw, Thayne Larson. “At one time we considered refurbishing the house,” Ryser said. “But time gets in the way of all things.” He said the wooden kitchen addition had fallen down by the time he purchased the land, and the outbuildings were “broken down” also.
The Rysers “cleaned the place up,” he said, by removing trees and crumbling outbuildings. The stone house is all that remains.