In the early 1860’s, Swedish immigrant Frederick Erickson, a railroad builder, decided to become a farmer. He purchased 1100 acres in St. Lawrence Township, Minnesota, just beyond the end of the railroad line he had built. He called it Oak Farm. His family home was completed in 1862. Over the years, it has had many owners and many “looks” (see pictures below), and was even used for a while as a stagecoach stopover. This is what it looked like when we bought it.
Its walls are two feet thick and made of sandstone, with a front facade of brick. The foundation and cellar are made of giant granite boulders and huge timbers. The cellar resembles a castle fortress with its two small barred windows shaped like shooting ports. We surmise it served as a root cellar and place of safety in the event of an Indian attack - which never came.
The house originally had a large cupola on top. The third floor comprised the living quarters for girls who prepared meals and kept up the house. We’ve found evidence of at least three fires which occurred there.
The farming operation employed as many as 30 men, who lived in an adjacent two-story “menhouse.” A huge barn housed as many as 150 horses, and a building a city block long was needed to store all of the machinery. There was also a feed mill and blacksmith shop. Over the years, all of the buildings fell into disrepair, and all but the house have been torn down. The acreage was divided and sold to many different owners. We've put about 225 acres of it back together: 110 acres which we call Springwood, 80 adjoining acres which our son will use in an outdoor recreational business, and the 37 acre out-of-operation gravel pit across the street.
In 1915, a rock wall and two-story porch were added to the front of the house. We believe it was taken down in the 1950’s.
In 1953, gravel from land at Springwood and surrounding properties was used to build Highway 169. The gravel pits remain. We were thrilled to be able to "reclaim" this one at Springwood.
This is what the house looked like in the 1980’s.
St. Lawrence Township had three one-room schools, one of which is on our land just past the greenhouse. We lease it to the township (for $1 a month) for its meetings, and have assisted in upgrading the landscaping and parking lot.