Set in Stone: Olson House

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Olson family has owned limestone house near Courtland for entire 139 year history

By Cynthia Scheer Telescope News

European houses made of stone are 400-500 years old, Larry Olson said, so the fact that the estimated 139-year-old house he owns near Ada Lutheran Church is still in good shape shouldn’t be an impressive feat.

The two-story home, which has stayed in the Olson family through the generations, has been added onto, but the original stone portion remains mostly unchanged, Olson said. “The house has been in my family since 1876,” he said.

“I don’t know if it was built by my great-grandfather [Andrew Olson] or if my great-great-grandfather [Olaf Anderson] had it built for them.” Olson said Andrew Olson purchased 160 acres of land for $500.

The government gave Civil War veterans “patents” of 160 acres of land, and if they moved away, the land was sold. Andrew Olson made a permanent home on his parcel of land, which is descendants have continued to call home.

Eldon Larson, of Belleville, said that nearly a century ago the home’s main level had a kitchen and living room while the two rooms upstairs were bedrooms. His wife, Agnes, was born and raised in the house, which is located a half mile west and a half mile north of Ada Lutheran Church. She is a sister to Bertil Olson, Larry Olson’s father.

As Olson tells it, Andrew Olson, the home’s first owner, died in his upper 40s and his wife, Christina, kept it until her death three years later. The couple’s sons owned the property and farmed the 160 acres that have always gone with the house until one of the sons, Richard Olson – Agnes and Bertil’s father – bought the others out.

Upon Richard’s death, Bertil received the property. Olson, who grew up in the stone house, has owned it since his father’s death in 1989. He lives in Hebron, Neb., but stays at the rock house on occasion.

He said some tuckpointing, or mortar repair work, was done between the home’s stones about 10 years ago because some stones were beginning to chip away. The rest of the home’s original part, which houses four bedrooms now, is intact, Olson said.

“It’s a legacy,” he said of the home that has been in his family for more than a century. “It’s something I want my children to carry on.”

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