"Our Friends on the Acres"
Mr. & Mrs. Dorf Opperud
South of Postville in Marion township, Clayton county, live Mr. and Mrs. Dorf Opperud. On July 12 they observed their golden wedding anniversary, but Mr. Opperud has another achievement which is believed to be a record in this vicinity. He has lived over 83 consecutive years on the same farm.
Since this column was started last November, the Herald has presented many veteran farmers. Many of them have lived on the same farm for over 50 years; a few of them have over 60 years to their credit; one has 70 years, but none can come close to the 83 years of Dorf Opperud.
Mr. Opperud is in good health and although he has long since retired from active farming, he still does the chores about his farm and does many jobs which tend to "keep him young." When the Herald reporter called on the Opperud farm, Mr. Opperud was out in the field doing some work but the reporter soon found out that he was doing a job that most farmers like to put off. Mr. Opperud was fencing. He continued his work for a while, then decided he could spare a few minutes and went to his home to give information on his past history.
"My parents were born in Norway, but that country was over-populated and in their youth they decided to come to the United States." he explained. "Wages were very poor in Norway and I can remember hearing my father say that he had often worked from 4 a.m. until after sundown for 5 cents a day. Their trip to this country required 11 weeks and three days. During the trip my father assisted the ship's surgeon and after the ship docked in New York about one-third of the 300 passengers contracted cholera and died. There were quite a few people on board who came with my parents to the Gunder community. Torgrim Bilden, Engebret Bilden, Jacob and Jim Paulson, Engebret Brorby, Jacob Winden are a few of the names I recall."
"My father and mother first located in Wisconsin, living about eight years in the Paint Creek vicinity. They came to Iowa in a covered wagon, pulled by oxen. That was in 1856, the year I was born. My folks often talked about their first winter on this farm. Some of the people who had come over from Norway with them stayed with them that first winter. Although the log cabin was only 18X26 feet, 18 people lived through the winter in that one room. They slept on the floor and had rules and regulations in regard to work which they all followed. "Getting food was quite a problem and the men spent a good share of their time hunting deer. They ate a lot of deer meat and also shot numerous rabbits."
Mr. Opperud's parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson. He was born on January 22, 1857. In his childhood there were no schools in the Gunder neighborhood and he spent all of his time on the Johnson farm. His father purchased the property from a Mr. Clark of West Union, who had just purchased it from the government. At that time the property consisted of 286 acres.
When Mr. Opperud was 11 years old the old Brorby school was built. He attended school regularly and studied diligently. "We only had a few books in those days and we used them year after year," he laughed. "After I had studied the same books about the tenth time, I decided to go to Clermont and attend high school. Their books were different and it was quite a treat to study different things. I went to Clermont high school three years. You can't say that I graduated, because nobody seemed to graduate that many years ago."
Mr. Opperud's father decided to retire at this time and Dorf and his brother, Julius, took over the ownership of the 286 acres. It was a gigantic task as the farm was in debt and the two boys worked "like slaves." "Mother and Dad continued to live with us," Mr. Opperud reminisced. "Julius and I gave them $200 a year and paid off the farm debt besides. When father passed away he was 90 years old. Mother was 76 when she passed on."
"I was 18 years old when I took over the farm with Julius. After a time we built another house and split the property up into two farms. Julius took the 120 acres to the north and moved into the new house. I stayed on the south farm of 166 acres. Julius farmed his property for several years, then sold it during the World War for $200 an acre and moved to another farm near Clermont. He is living today in Clermont. His old farm is now occupied by P.K. Peterson."
When Mr. Opperud was 33 years old he was married to Miss Gunhild Peterson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Kittel Peterson. The ceremony was performed July 12, 1890, at the home of the bride's parents in the Gunder vcinity. After their marriage they moved to their own farm and went about the task of improving the property. "I tore down all of the old log buildings and for two summers my hammer and saw were hardly out of my hands." Mr. Opperud remarked.
At this point Mrs. Opperud interrupted her husband. "Remember that year you were busy filling silo?" she asked. "You were so busy that I decided to continue your work on the hog house. With the help of our two oldest girls we mixed the cement and laid the concrete floor." Many other buildings were erected on the property. A barn, corn crib, tobacco shed, machine shed and a granary were a few of them. They also built a new two-story brick farm house to replace their old log house.
Mr. and Mrs. Opperud became the parents of six children: John M. Opperud of near Minot, No. Dak.; Clara (Mrs. Albert Scheel) of Clermont; Peter E. Opperud of Charles City; Jessie Loftsgard of Clermont; Etta Opperud and Irene Opperud of Cedar Rapids.
In the fall of 1923 they decided to take things a little easier so they erected a new farm house up the hill about 80 rods from their old home. On December 31, 1923, they moved into their new home during a blizzard and have since been located there. The old house is occupied today by Mr. and Mrs. Rex Medberry and family who rent the farm. The location of the new Opperud home is on the highest point in Marion township. On clear days they can see Postville, Monona, West Union and Luana from their house. The Opperud home is one of the most beautiful in this vicinity. They welcome visitors and everyone who calls on them receives a cordial welcome.
As Mr. Opperud's parents were named Johnson, the Herald writer asked for an explanation. "Our mail used to get mixed up something terrible," Mr. Opperud answered, "so in 1900 I decided to take the name of the farm my father and mother used to live on in Norway. It cost me $6 to get my name changed, but it was worth it because our mail doesn't get sent all over the country any more to a lot of other Johnsons."
Mr. and Mrs. Opperud each came from families of 11 children. Mr. Opperud has one brother and one sister living today, Julius Johnson of Clermont and Mrs. Anna Baumgartner of Ossian, Ind. Mrs. Opperud has three brothers who are living, Hans Olson of Berthold, No. Dak., Ole K. Peterson and Henry K. Peterson in the Gunder vicinity.
~Postville Herald, July 31, 1940
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