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History of the Farm

The farm’s history goes back over 150 years!

Eidem 1

Eidem 2

For 82 years, the farm was owned by the Eidem family; however, its history can be traced to 1856, when the United States deeded 40 acres of land to John D. and Mary Berry. The next year, Berry sold the land to Silas Merrill, who also owned an adjacent 40 acres.

According to plat maps, there was a house on the property by 1879. This was probably the rear two-thirds of the house which stands today. In 1888, the Hennepin County Assessor valued Merrill’s farm at $1,000 for the land and $500 for the structures on it.

In 1890, Merrill Silas sold 39 acres to William Bragdon and established a new farmstead on the east half. From 1890 to 1894, the farm was owned by members of the Bragdon family. Then, in May of 1894, John J. Eidem, Jr. and his wife, Electa, bought 39 acres, including the house, barn and granary, for about $80 an acre. They worked the farm until 1956, raising potatoes and other crops. During the period from 1910 to 1940, a Queen Anne style addition to the house and several outbuildings were added to the property. Two sons, Arthur and Leland, grew up on the homestead. In 1918 the property known as the East Farm was sold to Archie and Leland Eidem. Electa died in 1950, and John Jr. in 1956. The Eidem grandchildren rented out the house until it was sold.

In July, 1976, the house and its 10 acres of land were purchased for $40,000 by the City of Brooklyn Park, using a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Eidem Homestead Brooklyn Park Historical Farm opened to the public in September 1979.

Restoration projects

In March 1998, the 106 Group Ltd., and Thorbeck Architects Ltd. prepared a Historic Structures Report and made the following determinations.

The site

A row of tall poplar trees lined the west edge of the driveway, and trees of various species flanked the front yard on the north and west. They provided an enclosed feeling in the yard. Today, new poplar trees are maturing where the original ones were in 1900.

The front lawn remains as it did although the area bordering the poplar trees was left as tall prairie grass a hundred years ago. Flowerbeds still line the north side of the house and tiger lilies Electa Eidem planted in the circular bed at the center of the front yard are carefully maintained today. The lilac shrubs near the northwest corner of the house may be original or, at least, are in keeping with the appearance at the turn of the century.

Although no vegetable garden is visible in photographs, there would have been one, and the most reasonable place is southwest of the house, where the garden is now planted.

The house

We do not have specifics on who built the house, and when. Here is what the 106 Group Ltd., and Thorbeck Architects, Ltd. propose as a possible scenario:

The earliest section of the house, the rear two-thirds, dates to the late 1870’s when Silas and Margaretha Merrill owned the property. It conforms to a common Midwestern farmhouse type, from the mid to late nineteenth century – the “upright and wing.” This L-plan design generally consists of a two-story, gable-roofed core building with a single story kitchen wing perpendicular to the main gable. In this house, the brackets over the east side bay window show a hint of influence from the Italianate style.

As owners of the property, around 1905, Electa and John Eidem Jr. added on to the house on the north end, giving it a stylish Queen Anne appearance. Elements included a hip roof with a cross gable bay; diamond-patterned siding and decorative millwork in the gable; columns with Ionic order capitals supporting a full-width porch; and a balustrade with decorative spindle work.

The foundation is granite in the older portion and limestone under the addition, giving ample evidence of two construction dates.

Another alteration made some time, it is thought, during the Eidem years, is the second story over the kitchen, which may have been used by Electa’s father, or by hired hands.
Another possibility is that the farmhouse was constructed as a “kit home,” which was a common type of homebuilding in the late nineteenth century.

Or a rough map of the property during the Merrill’s occupation shows a structure in a different location. That could mean a small home was used by the family until all or part of the current farmhouse was built. During restoration of the south shed (toolshed) – which had been plastered at some time – we found newspaper from the 1860s behind the lathes. Could this have been the first home on this property? We just don’t know.

Farm buildings

The barn is a fine example of nineteenth century agrarian architecture and may have been built by Silas Merrill in the 1880s.

It is unknown exactly when the windmill was installed, but given the wide availability of such agricultural equipment by the late nineteenth century; it is quite possible it was operating in 1900.

John Eidem, Sr. wrote of building a wood structure windmill on his farm back in 1889, so John Jr. would have seen the utility of that device before buying his own farm.

The windmill, manufactured by the Aermotor Company in Chicago, rests on a steel tower. There is a pump centered in the base of the tower and resting on a platform, which covers the well. The Aermotor Company began manufacturing windmills in 1888 and, by the turn of the last century, had captured half of the windmill trade in the United States. By 1910, Aermotor had put approximately 400,000 windmills into service.

Between the barn and chicken coop was a gable-roofed, wood-frame corn crib, with wood-slat siding and sides, which slanted outward toward the top. It no longer remains.

In 1900 there apparently was a small out building, possibly a privy, along the east edge of the farmyard, where the Admissions Building now stands. The current structure was moved onto neighboring Archie Eidem’s farm in the 1940s and was relocated to its current site in 1976. This building is said to have been the first store in Brooklyn Township, but its date of construction is not known. Currently it is used as an entrance to Historic Eidem Farm, and as a gathering area for tours, workshops and demonstrations.

About the windmill

Eidem Windmill

At the turn of the 20th century, the windmill was a very important invention. This machine harnessed the power of the wind to pump water for the farmer’s livestock, vegetable gardens, and home. The windmill greatly reduced the amount of labor needed to provide water for the farmers.

Eidem Pump

The Eidem windmill was made by Aermotor, a very prominent manufacturing company of steel windmills around the turn of the 20th century, inventing the design in 1888. Only 24 windmills were sold in the first year; in 1892 Aermotor sold 20,000 units. The company became one of the most widely-sold windmill brands and is still producing windmills today in San Angelo, Texas.

Ownership timeline

1856 United States deeds land in the N 1/2, NW 1/4 of Section 10 to John D. and Mary Berry.
July 1857 Berry sells the 40-acre parcel to Silas Merrill, who also owned an adjacent 40 acres.
1879 Plat maps show there was a house on the property.
1880 According the 1880  Federal Census Records, Merrill was a farmer who was born in New Hampshire around 1831. His wife, Margaretha, was from New Brunswick. They had one son and two daughters. At the time they owned four horses, three milk cows, two swine and 30 chickens. In 1888, the Hennepin County Assessor valued Merrill’s farm at $1,000 for the land and $500 for structures on it.
May 1890 Merrill sells the N ¼, NW ¼ of Sec.10 to Willard H. and Rosa Bragdon.
August 1893 The property passes to Julia M. Bargdon for about $45 per acre.
May 1894 John J. Eidem Jr. and wife, Electa purchase 39 acres, including the house, barn and shed for about $80 an acre.
1950s Electa dies in 1950, and John Jr. in 1956. After that the land was no longer farmed. The Eidem grandchildren rented out the house until it was sold.
July 1976 The house and ten acres of land are purchased for $40,000 by the City of Brooklyn Park, using a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
September 1979 Historic Eidem Farm opens to the public.

Family history

John and Electa (Lectty) Eidem

John J. Eidem Jr.

Son of Ingeborg and John Eidem Sr., he was born September 11, 1869 in Brooklyn Township. In 1894 he purchased a farm on 100st Ave N, Brooklyn Township. John died on November 21, 1956 at the age of 86. The farm is now the Eidem Homestead. John is buried at Mound Cemetery, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Electa (Cotton) Eidem, nickname Lectty

Daughter of Delwan and Sarah Cotton, she was born on April 29, 1872 in Hennepin Country, Minnesota. In 1892, on her 20th birthday she married then 22-year-old John Eidem. Two years later, in 1894, they moved to the farm where she and John raised two sons, Archie and Leland. Lectty died in May 1950 at the age of 78. She is buried at Mound Cemetery in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Parents of John and Electa (Cotton) Eidem

Parents of John Eidem

John Eidem, Sr. Born in Selbu, Norway in 1842, Eidem Sr. came to the U.S. in 1866 at the age of 24. In 1887, he and his wife Ingeborg, purchased 100 acres of fine farming land in Brooklyn, Minnesota where they raised nine children-six boys and three girls. He belonged to both the Lutheran Church and the Republican Party. Eidem Sr. died in 1928 at the age of 86 and was buried in Mound Cemetery, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Ingeborg (Hanson) Eidem

Born in Selbu, Norway on April 16, 1846, she came to the U.S. in 1866 at the age of 20 with her husband John Eidem, Sr. She had eight surviving children, 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren when she died in 1921 at the age 75. She is buried in Mound Cemetery, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Editor’s note

It is understood that in Norway the family name was Johnson, but was changed to Eidem upon arrival in America.

Parents of Electa (Cotton) Eidem

Delwan Nelson Cotton

Born near Fort Ticonderoga (Winton County), New York, on September 18, 1826. At the age of 24 he married first wife, Katherine Riley. In 1850, the couple made their way to the pioneer town of St. Paul. Ten years later he purchased land in Hennepin County. Katherine and her baby died in childbirth. Delwan married again in 1862 to Sarah Jane Merrill. Together they had seven children- three boys and four girls.

Delwan died May 16, 1917, at the age of 90, while visiting a son and two daughters who made their homes in Glasgow, Montana. At the time of his death, Delwan left 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. During the last nine years of his life, he lived with his daughter Lectty Eidem. His family calls it remarkable that he was able to stop smoking a year before he died, since he had been smoking for more than 80 years. Family members maintain it demonstrated his strong will power. He is buried at Mound Cemetery, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Sarah Jane Merrill

Born on October 3, 1838, she was the second wife of Delwan Cotton. She raised seven children, three boys and four girls. She died on January 7, 1896 at the age of 57. She is buried at Mound Cemetery in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Children of John, Jr. and Electa Eidem

Archie (Arthur) Eidem

Born on March 16, 1893 in Brooklyn Township, Minnesota to Lectty and John Eidem, Jr. He began farming with his father until he saved enough money to buy the farm next door, where from 1916-1943 he raised onions, and potatoes after that. He and his wife Anna Sachs (1893-1974) had a son, Tyrus, and a daughter, Marlys. Archie died January 24, 1977 at the age of 83 and was buried along with his wife in Mound Cemetery, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Leland Eidem

Born May 1897 to Lectty and John Eidem, Jr. He purchased the farm just west of his father’s where he too grew onions and potatoes. Leland’s wife’s name was Beatrice. John, Jr. and both his sons farmed their adjacent land together. Leland died in 1977 at the age of 80 and is buried with the rest of his family in Mound Cemetery, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Grandchildren of John, Jr. and Electa Eidem

Marlys (Eidem) Johnson

Daughter of Anna (Sachs) and Archie Eidem. Wife of Robert Johnson.

Tyrus Eidem

Son of Anna (Sachs) and Archie Eidem. Tyrus lived in Brooklyn Park his entire life. He died August 1999.

Lee (Bud) Eidem

Son of Leland and Beatrice (Bea) Eidem.