The subject of this sketch is Mrs. Hilda Elfstrom, of Arlon township, whose experiences in life are marked by accident and coincidence, but she has gathered up the scattered threads of destiny and woven them into a beautiful combination. The woof of the busy shuttle in the loom of life is not always smooth and fine, or rose-colored in its line. "Mistakes she made not few, yet wove perchance as best she knew."
Mrs. Elfstrom is the widow of Gustaf Elfstrom, who came to Kansas in 1869, and settled on a homestead, their present farm in Arlon township. Mr. Elfstrom was born in the central part of Sweden in 1840. His original name was Alonson. His father died when he was a youth and his mother married a man by the name of Elfstrom. According to an established rule of that country a student whose name ended in "son" could not be admitted, consequently when Gustaf Alonson entered the Lund University, where he graduated at the age of nineteen years, he adopted his step-father's name. He has two half-brothers, one of whom is very wealthy, being proprietor of a drug store in Stockholm, valued at eighty thousand dollars. The other brother lives on the old estate, in Sweden.
Mr. Elfstrom began his career as first mate on an American vessel and for several years following was a seafaring man. He was in New Orleans when the south seceded and was filled with a desire to enter the army, but Captain Waite fell ill and Mr. Elfstrom, at Captain Waite's earnest solicitation and offer of a lucrative salary, became commander of the latter's vessel, remaining in that capacity for three years, sailing from Calcutta to New Orleans. His life at sea was an eventful one and during the ten years thus passed he experienced two thrilling ship wrecks. While on the high seas enroute from Calcutta to Australia they came in contact with a pirate vessel and at once raised the American stars and stripes, while almost simultaneously the robbers hoisted the black flag, and both ships prepared to make ready for warfare; but the plunderers' force was inferior and they withdrew. Mr. Elfstrom's vessel carried cargoes to Melbourne, Australia, and while in the city he and some friends went out with a guide who conducted them into the midst of a band of brigands. Mr. Elfstrom was a linguist and spoke Italian and French and several other languages fluently, and in this way discovered the plot, revealed the scheme to his comrades, overpowered the freebooters and made their escape.
Mr. Elfstrom finally grew tired of adventures at sea. He had read in the papers and various other literature that was scattered broadcast over the land, of the fertile fields of America, and more especially of the new state of Kansas, and of the productiveness of her vast acres that could be secured for a mere pittance - a land of promise where things grew without cultivation. With these alluring prospects he gave up his life on the "briny deep" and sought a home in the far, far west. - About the same time Mrs. Elfstrom's father decided to build a home for himself and family in, the far-famed western country, and the two men met in Junction City, the destination of many home seekers at that time.
In company with a guide, the tourists who were destined to later become mutually interested, journeyed together looking over the country in quest of homesteads, and upon arriving in Arion township they found their goal, the end of their final purpose. Mr. Elfstrom secured the homestead where his family now live and his wife's father, Carl John Reymers, filed on land four miles further north. Mrs. Elfstrom did not come with her father's family to their new home, but remained at Fort Riley in the family of Colonel Hamilton, that she might learn to speak the English language. Her father died the following autumn, September 15, 1869. A letter sent to Mrs. Elfstrom, apprising her of her father's death did not reach her for two weeks, but Colonel Hamilton sent her home under an escort of six soldiers and a sergeant. Soon afterward Colonel Hamilton was ordered by President Grant to change his quarters to Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, and Mrs. Elfstrom accompanied them, and through this association she gained an English education. Mrs. Elfstrom's place of nativity is Stockholm, Sweden, where she was educated in a private school and under a governess in her father's home. The Reymers were of German origin. Her great-grandfather settled in Sweden, where he died, leaving a large estate which became involved in litigation and was lost to her father, who was an intelligent and well educated man. He was an extensive farmer in Sweden and operated a brickyard and a tannery. She has two brothers who reside at Grant's Pass, Oregon, and are prosperous men - Napoleon, a fruit grower and shipper, and Victor, a gardener.
Mr. and Mrs. Elfstrom were married in Clyde, Kansas, in 1870, editor J.B. Rupe performing the ceremony. Their early married life was spent in a log house, but they had some finance and were comfortable, happy and sanguine of the future bringing them merited returns. Owing to the grasshoppers, the drouth and the high price of provisions, they saw their means vanish like snow under the rays of a warm sun, and like all the settlers of that period, they were reduced to very economical living, but by constant and assiduous labor, coupled with frugal domestic management, they had acquired a comfortable home, when, in 1880, the husband and father, in the prime of his full manhood was cut down by the "grim reaper."
Mr. Elfstrom was a powerful man and his love for sport frequently induced him to compete with his comrades and friends in a test of strength. On the fatal occasion which caused his death, several members of a threshing crew who were at a neighbors, engaged in pulling "hand-holds" and Mr. Elfstrom was matched against Julius A. Belo, another man of great strength. The strain of this test produced the rupturing of a blood vessel and he died as a result. Mr. Elfstrom was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, a rare conversationalist, spoke several different tongues, and having had early educational advantages, was a fine scholar, and through the knowledge gained by extensive travel in various parts of the world he possessed a broad fund of general knowledge.
Mrs. Elfstrom kept her little brood together, and although she met with many reverses, has been rewarded with prosperity. In 1883 they erected a large stone residence, one of the best in the vicinity, which was destroyed by fire the following year. With the assistance of neighbors and kind friends they built a small frame building. There were discouragements, but her boys were growing strong each day and the school of industry in which they were reared made it possible for them to manage the farm work early in life and as they grew to manhood, better days dawned until now they occupy one of the most beautiful country homes in the community. The sons are practical farmers and stockmen and are adding other lands to the homestead. Evar, the eldest son, bought eighty acres adjoining in 1897, and in 1901 he purchased one hundred and sixty acres near Maceyville. Harold, the second son, owns a quarter section in the same locality. The brothers also rent land and are extensive wheat growers, having on an average two hundred and sixty acres. They have made their money raising wheat, cattle and hogs. Besides the two sons mentioned, there is a third, Emile, who, like his brothers, is an industrious young farmer. The daughters, four in number, are prepossessing and refined young women. Annie is married to James Johnson, and they are the parents of three children, Ralph, Hilda and an infant. Olga is the wife of Frank Moore, by whom she has had two little daughters, Allie and Myrtle. Florence is the wife of Arthur Spicer; she was a student of the Concordia High school one year. Alice, the youngest daughter, is unmarried and lives at home. The children have been educated principally in district No. 17. Thomas Malone was the first teacher of this district and taught the term preparatory to drawing the state fund and was paid in pork, flour, sorghum and sundry other articles. All three of the sons-in-law are farmers of Arlon township. The Elfstrom boys are all Republicans of staunch tendencies and are sober, honest and trustworthy young men who will make life a success.
Mrs. Elfstrom is not a woman given to extravagant expenditure, but her home is one of comfort and suggests a peaceful, happy abode. Personally she is gifted with a bright intellect and is a woman of education and accomplishment.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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