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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Ida Eklund
Date Posted: September 21/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1870's to 1940's
Ida was born in Blekinga, Sweden, June 10, 1872. She arrived in New York, USA from Stockholm in 1884. The voyage took 21 days.
She worked as a maid for four years. While working for this couple Ida was introduced to 'marsh hare'. She initially thought that this particular dish was quite delicious, until learning later that it was muskrat. Not being able to speak English fluently, she would go to the store with samples in order to purchase what she wanted. One such item was pearl barley. She would go to the store, hold up the barley and say, "I would like a couple of pounds of this."
Hearing about the North West Territories from her second cousin, Mrs. Emil Hogstrom, and looking for adventure, she decided to visit. At this time her cousin also invited a popular bachelor to visit. His name was Oscar Mountain. It was not long until they were married.
Ida and Oscar lived in a one-room log house with a sod roof seventeen miles east of Wetaskiwin. On August 3, 1900 their first son, Wilfred was born. The rains came so hard that year and the sod roof leaked profusely. The only place that Ida could keep her baby dry was under the kitchen table. This was made possible because the table was covered with an oil tablecloth. It rained for days and Ida often cried, "Why did I come to such a God forsaken country?"
That winter, Oscar Mountain died of pneumonia, as did her son. Ida's neighbours all came to assist her with putting in the new crop. One of the helpers was John Dahlberg, who lived about four miles away. Eventually they were married and had a son, Carl, and four daughters, Evelyn, Alice, Esther and Ruth. In 1913, John became paralyzed and died within three days.
In 1905, Ida's second cousin's husband read that if a district could get twenty-seven homesteaders to apply for a post office they would qualify. He managed to get the required amount and gave the franchise to Ida. The mail came by wagon twice a week, and Ida would sort it and place the letters into the respective mail cubbies.
Often homesteaders travelling east from Wetaskiwin, in search of land, would stop at the Battle River Post Office. One night twenty-six people slept on Ida's kitchen floor. She made breakfast for all at no charge. She was well repaid with groceries for her kindness.
In the fall of 1913, David Eklund and his neighbor George Berg came east of Wetaskiwin selling jumbo white fish for $ .10 each. When asking where they could stay, they were directed to Ida's post office. After several exchanges of letters and trips by horse, sleigh and buggy they were married. This blessed event took place in 1915 and that year they had a son, Martin. Then another tragedy took place when David died of pneumonia in 1917.
Ida's half sister, Teresa, came from Sweden to help her raise her family. Ida continued with running the post office, raising her family and also assisted as a midwife to many mothers in her area. She assisted with the delivery of thirty babies.
Ida enjoyed her coffee and also continued to make many of the traditional Swedish dishes. At sixty years of age, she would go half a mile down to the river and pick and carry two sixteen-quart pails of cranberries. At this age she developed diabetes and passed away ten years later, in March of 1942, at the age of seventy.
Information compiled in 2002.
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