Report on a visit made to Howell County, Missouri, August 19, 2005, in
search of the place where Victor Anderson and family lived March to
Here is Victor’s account of their time in Howell County, Missouri,
taken from his autobiography -
Lake View [a community in Chicago, strongly Swedish in
character - ed] was becoming very closely settled, so we traded this
place for a home in the beautiful suburb of Rodgers Park, three blocks
from the lake on Estes Ave., and remodeled this place somewhat.
This property was on the
beautiful corner of Estes and Perry Aves. This was shortly after
World’s Fair, which was followed by a never forgotten depression, and
was then impossible at that time to get work of any kind. I had
suffering for several years with catarrh and dyspepsia and decided it
be best to try a change of climate, so we traded this property for a
in the southern part of Missouri, near a town called Olden.
was the name of our R.R. Station and Village. Our farm was a
fruit farm of 140 acres [160 acres according to the deed - Ed],
3,000 peach trees about seven years old and 2,400 apples at a good
age. This was a very pretty place and a beautiful country with a
climate. We arrived in March. The plum trees were in full
but that summer turned out to be an unusual dry summer, and every one
there were entirely dependent on rain water for their water supply both
their own personal use and for the stock. We would then have to
a barrel and drive two or three miles for water. All the farmers
were cisterns as wells were very scarce around there. In spite of
draught, we had a very good peach crop, as the ground was a heavy clay
and held moisture. The potato crop was a failure. I planted
bushels and when I tried to dig them in the fall, I had to use a pick
to chop the ground because it was so hard, and we only managed to get
a small basket of very small potatoes. The apple crop was also
good. There were no good schools and no Swedish Church. Our
were just at the school age, and these things had to be taken into
We also found out that they did not look for a fruit crop more than
every seven years. We did not know how the fruit should be taken
of, packed and shipped, as there were no fruit growers association down
I went to the Howell County Courthouse in West Plains, Missouri,
explained my mission, and was directed to the archives. I did not
find a record of Victor’s purchase of the farm, but I did find a record
of the sale of
That summer a man from Des Moines came around there to buy up fruit for
shipping and inquired about our fruit, but we could not agree on the
price, so then he asked us if we wanted to sell the farm with the
fruit. Taking all things into consideration we said we would for
$3,500. This man had seven lots in Des Moines he valued at $300
apiece. He offered us these lots and $1,500. in cash. I
wrote to Rev. Paul Hallin in Des Moines
asking him to look up these lots and inquire as to their value, which
did and wrote me that they were worth $250 or $300.
In the Abstracts of Deed, #3764, Book 75, P. 383, I found that, on Sept
10, 1901, Victor Anderson sold to Milton Davis a 160 acre parcel
described as SE ¼, Sec 9, Twp 35, R 9. Unidentified
personal property (perhaps
farm equipment) was also included in the sale.
Knowing that I was interested in the circumstances of my grandfather’s
time in southern Missouri, the man in charge of the archives sent me to
Dorothy Reaves (pronounced REH vis), a woman of about sixty, who
over an office in the Circuit Court, and who had an encyclopedic
of the history of Howell County. She gave me some background
of the area.
She told me there were a lot of Swedish people in Howell County
(however, I saw almost no Scandinavian names in the Abstracts of
Deeds). A man named Michael Brand, who owned a brewery in
Chicago, sold his brewery and used the proceeds to buy thousands of
acres of land in southern Missouri.
He invited people to buy land from him and settle in southern Missouri,
and he especially encouraged immigrants to come. The town of
Brandsville, about ten miles southeast of West Plains is named for
him. A Col.
Tory also bought large tracts of land to sell to settlers.
Howell County became a premier place for growing peaches, regularly
wining honors at the State Fair. Peach growing is a risky
business, particularly dependant on the weather. Occasional late
frosts in spring, or dry
summers, would destroy a crop. One year a strike by railroad
caused the loss of a large part of the crop en route to market.
Since Victor bought an operating farm with mature peach trees, he could
not have been among the immigrants who first came to the area (Howell
County began to be settled before the Civil War. Michael Brand
moved to the area in the 1890s), but there may well have been knowledge
of the area from immigrants who had moved there earlier and Victor may
have learned of the farm from Swedes he was in touch with there.
Victor mentions two towns: Olden, which is the town nearest his
farmland, and Pomona, which was his railroad station. Olden is
about ten miles north of West Plains. Mrs. Reavis told me there
was once a fruit cannery in Olden, which would have processed fruit
from the farms around.
I visited Olden. It now consists of about a dozen houses along
main, and only, street. I found the railroad track which served
cannery, but there was no longer any sign of a cannery.
The main street of Olden, from the east. Hiway 63
at the far end. Though not visible here, there are about a dozen
houses on this road.
I found Victor’s farm, drove down a long lane and knocked on the door
of a house, obviously recently built. I was kindly welcomed by
Lon Vetter, current owner of the property, who received me and my
mission most graciously and gave me about two hours of his time.
He owns the southern half
of Victor’s property, the northern half now being a part of Mark Twain
National Forest. He built his house in 2002. There was an
old house on the property when he bought it (perhaps the house Victor
and Hannah lived in). He tore the house down and used wood from
it for support posts and roof framing in a shed he built (see
photo). The house was near the road, just off Lon’s lane.
It had been added onto many times.
It had a large cistern, which he had filled in (note Victor’s comment
the importance of cisterns to local farmers). There are very few
of a house there now. There was a slight depression where the
was. A woman who lived in the house for a year in her teens had
Lon stories about her life there. Lon has notes from his talk
her but he could not locate them while I was there.
Some of the wood in this tractor shed came from the
old house in which Victor and Hannah may have lived.
He has walked all of his land. There are numerous small peach
trees around the property, easily spotted in the spring when they are
but hard to pick out in August when I was there. They are
descended from the peach trees in the orchard Victor bought, but they
deteriorated in quality as they went wild. The trees do not get
big and do not live very long. There are also many pear trees,
probably descended from earlier orchards. They grow quite large
photo) and produce round pears that are very hard until after a frost,
they turn grainy. They have many small seeds, and the squirrels
them for the seeds.
Wild pear tree on Victor and Hannah's Missouri
probably descended from a pear orchard.
The ground is hard and whitish from chert in the soil. It can be
cultivated only after a rain. When it is dry, agricultural
will not penetrate it, they just skip along on top of it (see Victor’s
on the soil).
Lon showed me little ridges in a woods near to his house, parallel and
about 15 feet apart. He thinks there were was probably an orchard
there, that the trees were between the ridges, and that the ridges
have gathered and channeled rain water. They seem to be on
and some of them terminate in a small low area where there is sometimes
Lon had found about ten old horse and mule shoes. He also had
some pieces of iron implements, one clearly from a shovel cultivator,
may have been part of a plow. I would like to think a few of them
from Victor’s time there.
On the northwest corner of his property there appears to have been a
house or other building. There is a depression there which might
have been a cistern and some evidence of foundations and walls.
He has aerial photos from the 70s, 80s and 90s which show that a lot of
Scotch pine was planted at some time.
The terrain around the area is rolling, and there are not many
The county roads I saw, including the road past Victor’s farm, are
The road past Victor’s land was on a section line, but some roads are
not on section lines and many section lines have no road. There
are open fields and wooded areas. I saw cattle but no field crops
near Victor’s farm.
Road past Victor and Hannah's Missouri farm
Local tradition says that Pomona, the town nearest Victor’s land, was
named for Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and fruit trees. The
word for fruit tree is pomum or pomus
Dwight Ericsson, Investigator and Scribe for the