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Consecration of Cemetery on the original Peder Larson Tjernagel farm
A Store Per Celebration
(click on pictures for enlargement)
About 80 people attended the Store Per celebration June 28, 2008 at Mark Maggio's "Fairview Farm" to consecrate the Norwegian pioneer cemetery on the property. Fairview Farm, founded in 1858 by Peder Larson Tjernagel (Store Per), is not far from Story City and Follinglo Farm. The familiar Tjernagel concrete posts mark the entrance to the "house yard." In 1859, Helga, the six year old daughter of Store Per and Malena,was burned to death in a prairie fire. It is likely she is buried in this little pioneer cemetery, which is located not far from the site of Store Per's original log cabin and near the existing old white farmhouse. There are no specific records of who else sleeps in this cemetery, reportedly used from 1857 to about 1900, but Maggio pointed out depressions in the ground where he believes there are 7-8 graves. He said he "witched" the space withsticks and determined these depressions have even edges as would be cut with aspade, rather than the uneven edges created by the roots of a falling tree. Waving tallprairie grass stood sentinel on the other side of a little white picket fence that Maggio set up to designate the outer limits of the cemetery.
Mark O. Harstad conducted a historic commemorative service to consecrate the burial ground. Maggio had set up 50 white folding chairs on the uneven ground, and the older attendees in particular appreciated his consideration. Cousin Jim Olsen sang the first verse of "Behold a Host, Arrayed in White" in Norwegian and I was struck by how much he resembles the Norwegians that settled this part of our land. As I sat there listening to Jim's strong tenor voice waft out over the crowd, I could imagine a similar scene occurring around a newly dug grave many decades ago, only that would have been a sad event. Mark created a very effective service which ended with the entire gathering singing the last verse of "Behold a Host" in English. This is the hymn that likely was sung at Store Per's funeral after he died on that cold wintry day in February, 1863 after digging to restart the flow of water in his well. By the way, that well (which has since been filled in) can still be seen as a depression near the current cistern at the back of thehouse. (Store Per was not buried on his farm, but in Boe Cemetery, anothernearby Norwegian resting place on the Skunk River).
Maggio purchased a nice gravestone to mark the cemetery. NORSK UTVANDRERGRAVLUND (meaning Norwegian pioneer cemetery) is engraved on the stone as well as Grunnlagt 1858 AD referring to the founding date of Fairview Farm byStore Per. Maggio told us he dug down 4 1/2 feet (where he hit standing water), built a big rectangular frame and poured several tons of concrete into the frame. There was so much weight, the frame buckled and part of the concrete began to create a river towards one of the existing graves near the fence. Fortunately he was able to contain it. As the concrete hardened, he set the new gravestone onto the top where it resides, tightly held by the concrete. He subsequently painted all that concrete white. I suggested he might like to think about enlisting someone do some decorative rosemaling on the "huge white block" but I am not sure if he thought that was a good idea. And let me assure you, that Maggio monument will never move! I think it will still be there when the trumpet sounds . . . .
Maggio had a table laden with gallons of cold milk and plates of big, chewy cookies. He had 10 gallons of milk in his "summer kitchen" sink covered with bags of ice and unfortunately at least 8 gallons were left when all the guests had driven off down the long gravel driveway. It was a very windy day and the sun ducked in and out of the lowering clouds. No rain, but the temperatures demanded sweaters and jackets, so perhaps milk was not the drink of choice.
Once the cemetery commemoration concluded, guests gathered in the old farmhouseand listened to toe-tapping authentic pioneer tunes played by Mark (violin), Adie and Herm (guitars) and Linda (flute). Percussion was provided by using the jawbone of an ass as well as by striking a hard animal shell that Adie got in Peru. We all sang the Ballad of Store Per, written especially for the occasion by Carolyn and Mark, and set to music by Herm and Cheryl's son Eric in China! A neighbor from the next farm said his grandfather told him that long ago this farm was where all the neighbors gathered to sing, dance and listen to music – and as I listened to the lilting strains of music that emanated from thatliving room yesterday, there was no doubt that the Tjernagel's musical talent has continued down through the generations.
Maggio was persuaded to give a little information about the restoration of his house and the history of the property. When he purchased the property, it had fallen into total disrepair and he was advised to demolish the house, but he decided to restore it. There is still much to be done, but he has made amazing progress. After Store Per's death, Malena married Knute Phillops and the old cabin was replaced with the current old white farm house built between 1872-74. Knute was a Norwegian veteran of the Civil War, a cousin of both Malena and Store Per, and was obviously quite an entrepreneur. The huge barn onthe property, which unfortunately has disintegrated beyond repair, once held 50 horses and over 20 cattle. The farm was known as a 22 position farm which meant it took 22 men to do the necessary tasks during grain harvesting season. Maggio described a complex feeding system for the animals in the barn. There are still pipes that go out from the house to carry water to the barn and the slough beyond. His Amish friends fashionedfloor boards from wood on the farm, including ash, maple, birch, walnut, pine, so the hardwood floors throughout the house were striking, especially the multicolored floor in the newly restored summer kitchen. The living room wood ceiling was removed because critters had taken up residence in the attic (where corn had previously been stored) and refused to vacate. Now those ceiling boards have become the floor of the front porch, the critters are gone, and the living room ceiling is plastered, as are the walls. The restored plaster walls were made with three colors of horse hair. The upstairs was originally divided into two sections, each inaccessible from the other except by the back or frontstairway. Evidently the family slept in one part containing the parent's bedroom and a smaller bedroom. Some of the hired men stayed in the other section that had two bedrooms. Maggio has since removed that dividing wall so now there is access between the two sections. He said that the original bathrooms did not have toilets but pots--which my mom always referred to as "thunder mugs". Maggio has put in a full bathroom off the master bedroom and a half bath by the two guest bedrooms upstairs as well as one off the kitchen.
Mark, Peggy, Pete and I stayed overnight at the house Friday night. Mark and Peggy slept in the big 4 poster bed in what was reportedly Malena and Knute's bedroom. Peggy and I arranged Maggio's home canned jars of fruit on his kitchen shelves while Pete, Mark and Maggio worked in the summer kitchen where they set up a baking table, a historic table scale, and assembled a very nice antique black Alcazar wood stove that Maggio purchased from an individual in North Dakota. Maggio said there is a picture of an Alcazar stove in an original photo of the Phillop's kitchen so he when he found it onEbay he "had" to have it. There is also an old light green wood stove in the kitchen with those familiar warming ovens above. On Saturday morning, Maggio zipped off to buy decorative gravel to spread around the perimeter of his front porch and later he and Pete borrowed a pickup from a neighbor to get the white folding chairs. Maggio made sure he turned off the electric wire around the dirt floor chicken pen in another barn (installed todeter marauding raccoons, fox, possums, etc. from gobbling up his chicks. He also has installed chicken wire to the top of the ceiling so the enterprising animals cannot climb up and over the top for lunch.) Guests began arriving just before 10 AM. Peggy and I were the official parking attendants and directed multiple drivers to park diagonally along both sides of the driveway. Pete, Mark and Maggio greeted guests and chatted with everyone as they arrived. People were encouraged to tromp through the entire house, peek into the aging barn, look at the hefty ewes and their babies, and enjoy cookies and milk.
There are a number of trees now thriving on the property including two full grown heavily laden pie cherry trees planted by Maggio, with tart red fruit that gleamed in the sun tempting everyone who passed. However it is likely that when Store Per arrived in 1858, there was only prairie grass and wildflowers as far as the eye could see except along the rivers and streams. Pioneer records relate that a man on horseback might have to stand in the stirrups to be able to see over this ocean of grass that stretched across early Iowa. And it was the deep roots of these prairie grasses that created the rich black soil ofthis midwestern state and tempted so many Norwegian families to settle here.
It was a delightful occasion. The commemoration of a cemetery was a novel experience for most of us, and it was enjoyable to walk in the footsteps of ancestors, imagining life at that historic farm so long ago. Best of all, it didn't rain!
Photos by Norman Teigen