A.J. Nygaard: Early homesteaders endured severe conditions

FLAXTON – Anders Jorgen Nygaard, known as A. J. Nygaard, came to America from Denmark. He worked on a farm in Nebraska for a time before coming to Flaxton where he filed on a homestead in Richland Township, Burke County, in 1899.

He and Margrete Andersen, who also emigrated to America, were married in 1904 and had three children: Norman, Helmer and Margaret.

Homesteaders endured severe conditions. Many left because of dry weather and cold climate, poor crops and poor prices. Ground water for wells was hard to find in adequate quantities. A good well was hard or impossible to find on many farms. A.J. dug for water many places on his farm but he finally like many others had a well drilled, It was 365 feet deep. Besides giving up water it also gave much trouble; it had to have new leathers installed in the cylinder once a month the first year and later not so often.

A. J. Nygaard died in 1946. Margrete Nygaard died in 1924.

Norman Nygaard related stories he heard about the early years. They are as follows:

There was tall grass cover seen by the first homesteaders. Fire, however, burned it off and this had no doubt happened every now and then in the past. The year 1906 is remembered as the year of unusual snow. Much snow around buildings and covering smaller shacks or buildings was not unusual. Sleigh tracks drifted full, building up higher and higher where there was much travel. Near town they became so high that rigs could not meet without risk of tipping over or getting stuck. The unloaded outfits tried to find a turn-off or take a chance and get off the track. When spring came, these roads were slower to melt so they looked like bridges or something.

Dry years were not unusual. The years 1912 and 1915, however, were very good crop years. In 1916 there was a very bad hail storm in Richland Township. There were crops lost and windows were all broken on the west sides of buildings.

Our cows and horses were driven before the storm towards the east and through the pasture fence. Chickens were dead in the yard. The years in the early ’20s were poor. There were more Russian thistles than grain in the bundles.

At the age of 14, I and others my age, hauled bundles to the threshing machine. We were not good bundle haulers, but worked hard at it and stayed on the job with blisters and sore places here and there.

In 1916 my father bought a quarter of land for $5,300. It took until 1929 to have it paid for and then the Depression came and we lost it for taxes.

In 1932 my brother and I went to Ambrose, North Dakota, and hauled bundles for 25 days. We got $2 a day. Wheat was 32 cents a bushel and it cost the farmer 8 cents a bushel to have it threshed, not to mention other costs. We came out with more than the farmer.

Norman and Helmer farmed the place what had been their parents’ land one and a half miles north of Flaxton. Norman and Mereith Urton Nygaard and their four children lived on the farm.

The Nygaard Farm was designated a North Dakota Centennial Farm in 2005.

Marcia Olney and Connie Ann Nygaard, Norman and Mereith Nygaard’s daughters, now own the farm.

– Information from, story written by Norman Nygaard for “Pioneers and Progress Vol. I.”