Edwin Swanson Oral History
Edwin O. Swanson was a storekeeper, farmer, and community leader in Freedhem, MN. He was born on August 8, 1903 in Freedhem to Alfred and Anna Swanson. Swanson was one of six children—two boys and four girls. Swanson established the Freedhem Telephone Co. and was the first chairman of the Board of the Consolidated Telephone Co. of Brainerd for 30 years. In addition, Swanson served as Belle Prairie Township Clerk for 23 years, Belle Prairie Fire Department treasurer, Freedhem Cemetery Board as secretary, treasurer and maintenance and member of School District 89 Board, Freedhem Creamery Board, and Bethel Lutheran Church. On June 12, 1929, Swanson married Elvira Johnson and they had one son. Swanson died on August 13, 1985 and buried in the Freedhem Cemetery.
In an interview conducted on May 15, 1978, Swanson discussed the growth of the town of Freedhem, the various ethnic identities of the town’s inhabitants over time, his family history; the history of the town’s churches, the town’s first mail and telephone systems, and business and farming practices in the early 1900s. Around 1898, his parents immigrated from Sweden to pursue economic opportunities, rather than escape religious oppression, and established the Lutheran church in town.
In 1902, Swanson’s father and one of his older sons opened a general store in Freedhem and sold groceries, clothing, and hardware to the local farmers. The family also farmed 80 acres of land. Swanson’s mother died in 1911 and his father died in 1914. An uncle, who previously had come from Sweden to be a cook for the family, cared for the children. All of the children assisted with the running of the family’s small dairy farm, the general store, and a community co-op creamery.
In 1929, Swanson married and began farming on his own. He discussed the dire Great Depression era conditions, their impact on farming, and government subsidies for agriculture. He ceased farming and purchased the family’s general store in 1943, when his uncle could no longer run it. Swanson sold the store in 1974, due in part to advanced age and competition from JC Penney, but he continued to work there until his death.
Swanson also chronicled establishing the Freedhem Rural Telephone Company in the early 1930s and discussed its growth over time. It was still in operation at the time of the interview.
Interviewed by Calvin Gower and John Ladoux
St. Cloud State University, "Edwin Swanson Oral History" (1978). General. 16.
Image ID: 13667
See additional files below for full transcript.