Friday, October 17, 2014

Great-Grandpa John Erickson (1875-1968) (52 Ancestors, #34)

John Erickson > Daniel Erickson

John Erickson, also known as Per Johan Erikson, was born on March 1, 1875 in Borgsjö, Västernorrland, Sweden and was the eldest son of Erik Person and Juliana Marta Persdotter. John came to America on June 2, 1893 with 2 of his siblings. Their immigration was arranged by their father’s brother, Nels Utterberg of French Lake, Minnesota. John and his siblings traveled from New York by train to meet their uncle and his family. I wonder what thoughts were going through John’s mind as they set out on their voyage. He was only 18 years old and responsible for his 16-year-old brother, Erick (aka Conrad) and 14-year-old sister, Anna. They were traveling to an unknown land to meet an uncle they probably hadn't seen in over 10 years.

John worked his first American winter as a logger near Deer Creek, MN in order to raise money. Using the money he earned, in 1896 he purchased an 80 acre farm from Andrew Johnson of French Lake. The following year, John sent for his parents and siblings, Edward, Julia and Ella, and they joined him in French Lake. The original house on his farm was just a two-room log home. In 1910, John built a framed home and also built a home for his parents. The land John farmed has been in the Erickson family ever since. John lived on his farm until he was 89, when he moved in with his sons Clarence and Lawrence.

John's wife, Emma Larson, was first married to Edward Erickson, John's brother. Edward died of tuberculosis in 1907 and Emma married John on July 2, 1908. John and Emma’s household included their 8 children and 2 children from Emma’s first marriage. Sadly, Emma died following the birth of son Edwin in 1923. Being left to raise an infant, along with his 9 other children, John decided to have Edwin raised by John and Hazel Larson (Emma’s brother and sister-in-law). Although he wasn’t part of the immediate household, John made sure Edwin was often included as part of the Erickson family.

Although he only attended school for three years in Sweden, John worked to educate himself and loved to read. He was first received to the Grace Lutheran Church on May 13, 1900 and was an active member. He taught Sunday School (and one of his young pupils was his future daughter-in-law, my Grandma), and he served as Sunday School Superintendent for a number of years. He also served on a number of boards including creamery, school and town boards.

John died on September 20, 1968 and is buried alongside wife Emma in the Grace Lutheran Cemetery. At the time of his death John had 43 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren.

Following the death of Emma in 1923, John placed a “thank you” in the local paper to thank the community for the $549 that was presented to the family. He wrote, “May God help me bring [my children] up for Him and His Kingdom, and to be worthy citizens of this great country of ours.” I like to believe Grandpa John would be proud of his Erickson descendants. I know I am.

Sources: Grace Lutheran Church Records, Cokato Museum; Newspaper clippings, Cokato Museum and Wright County Museum; family recollections and photographs


  1. A great post...nicely adds life to dates,facts and photos. The pictures are wonderful and in great condition! You are inspiring me to start my own genealogy blog on the Matsons and Utterbergs! Happy New Year! Your Utterberg cousin, Terri

    1. Hi Nellie - Want to hear a complicated story of relationships in Wright County?

      My husband Gordy Kotila is your dad's second cousin. Your great grandmother, Emma Larson Erickson was the sister of Gordy's maternal grandfather Louis Larson. This makes your grandpa Daniel a first cousin to Gordy's mother.

      The “twist” in all of this...

      The John and Hazel Larson that raised Edwin Erickson were BOTH blood related to Gordy. John Larson, was, as you wrote, Emma's brother. Louis and John marrried sisters, Mrytle and Hazel Erickson, daughters of Erick and Selma Erickson. (NO relation to brothers John and Edward Erickson - your ancestors). Confused yet? Two Larson brothers, married two Erickson sisters. The Larson SISTER, Emma also married an Erickson but NO relation to the sisters.

      To further mix it up...Edwin Erickson, who was Gordy's mother's first cousin married Della Kotila, Gordy's father's sister! So Edwin was Gordy's first cousin once removed and his uncle. Edwin and Della's children are first cousins and second cousins to Gordy.

      Back in the day the horse didn't travel far making for really interesting family trees! The amazing one ever seemed to marry blood least not that I've found. Have you ever heard this story before?

    2. Hi Shannon,
      Sorry about not relying earlier - I didn't get a notification about your comment.
      I had some of the information you shared, but hadn't put it all together. (Still don't know if it is all straight in my head!) I love it when a tree ends up looking more like a plate of spaghetti :)

  2. Definitely a plate of spaghetti! It took me a while to figure it all out.