History of Eidem Farm, 1905-1920
In 1905, Brooklyn Township and the Eidem Farm were entering a new period of transformation. By this time, the local land had been farmed for fifty years. The first generation of settlers who had arrived in the 1850s was beginning to die, and the “pioneer ways” were long gone. Brooklyn Township’s economy was rapidly evolving in response to the national and international markets.
Transportation, communication, and technology changes were making the world smaller and faster. The Great Northern Railroad had built a line to Osseo in 1882, and by 1912, local farmers like the Eidems were using autos to transport their goods to the market. Rural Free Mail delivery began in 1901, and by 1907, telephone service had reached most of the farms in the area. In 1914, the construction of the Coon Rapids Hydroelectric Dam was completed, and electricity soon reached into nearby farms.
Meanwhile, the United States was undergoing a wave of “new immigrants.” Between 1900 and 1915, more than 15 million immigrants came to the United States. Unlike the 19th century immigrants, many came from southern and eastern Europe. As these immigrants arrived, they faced prejudice from the existing population. Most immigrants settled in the cities, which continued to spread out. In 1911, nearby Brooklyn Center incorporated as its own city in order to prevent Minneapolis from annexing it.
At the John and Lectie Eidem Farm, dramatic changes were underway, too. After purchasing the home in 1894, John and Lectie were working to complete a large expansion to the house. With Archie being 12, and Leland (Lee) being 8, they needed the additional space. In January 1906, the house was completed. Photos show the Eidems embraced the new technologies that were available.
Like most of their neighbors, the Eidems were “market farmers.” Located at the fringe of a growing Minneapolis, Brooklyn Township’s farms were perfectly placed to provide fresh produce to the city residents. These farms specialized in growing fragile produce like lettuces, berries, and tomatoes that did not ship well long distances or by rail. While some produce (like potatoes and onions) was transported to the depot at Osseo, most were transported by wagon to the Minneapolis market or to specific buyers.
By 1914, when World War I began, Brooklyn Township’s fortunes were closely connected to the broader world. Though many of their contemporaries went to war, Archie was deferred because of his role as a farmer, and Lee was never called up. In 1918, Archie and Lee purchased the East Farm from their great- Uncle Silas Merril’s estate. World War I created a boom for the sheep and wool industry, and by 1920, the Eidems were raising sheep on the farm.
One hundred years ago, life at the Eidem Farm was very different than it is today, but many of the major factors that impacted life were the same. Today, visitors can come to learn about this history and our shared heritage of agriculture, community life, immigration, and sustainable land use.