Kremlin Homesteader August Berg, 1911

This history of Kremlin Homesteader August Berg was written in 1994 by his Great-Granddaughter Anita Melby Solberg, based on an interview with August Berg's son Arthur Berg, her grandfather.

Kremlin Homesteader August Berg was among the earliest arriving
Kremlin homesteaders in 1911.

August L. Berg was born August 7, 1874 in Norway to Lars and Andrea Berg, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1883 with his parents. He farmed near Buxton, North Dakota, and had four children with his first wife, Martha: Carl Alfred, Leon, Alice, and Morris. Martha died in 1908 when Morris was only a year old. In 1910, a widower with four children, August was farming near Denbigh, North Dakota.

August married on September 30, 1910, Margith Skjoldhammer, who immigrated from Norway in 1909. They came to Kremlin, Montana with the four children to homestead in 1911. He and Margith filed on land southeast of Kremlin. August and Margith had six more children: Helen, Lilly, Arthur, Marvin, Margaret, and Vernon.

Arthur Myron Berg was born the son of August and Margith Skjoldhammer-Berg on the farm near Kremlin on July 8, 1917. He was born in the home, in fact in the bedroom, he still sleeps in. [written in 1994] Norwegian was the language they spoke at home and when Arthur started school he knew very little English.

A Year in Havre, Back to the Farm

In 1923, the grasshoppers took their crop so in mid August the family moved to Havre where August Berg took a job as a carpenter. Most of the household belongings were moved in a hay wagon, but Alice (Art's oldest sister) had a friend who had a car and they came out to drive Margith, who was in an advanced state of pregnancy, and the younger children, Helen, Lil, Art, Marv and Margaret to town. Vern was born just days after arriving in Havre.

Helen, Lil and Art went to school in Havre that year. Art was in the 1st grade. They stayed in Havre until August the following year when they returned home to harvest the crop. Alfred had stayed behind on the farm and put the crop in that spring. Morris was also there part of the time.

Arthur went to school in Fresno his 2nd and 3rd grade years. After that he attended school in Kremlin. They went to school in Kremlin with a horse and buggy until about November when the family would move into Kremlin for the winter, returning to the farm in about March. The home in which they lived was the home later belonging to Emmett and Laura Purdy.

Keeping Food on the Table

The family milked cows and had a milk route in Kremlin. They took 2 or 3 cows with them when they moved to town in the winter. It was Art's job (and sometimes Marv helped) to deliver the milk before school and after supper. Art remembers the milk selling for 10 cents per quart, delivered.

In the early years the Berg family raised all of their own meat and Margith always had a vegetable garden, when weather permitted. Art remembers sometimes hauling water from the small reservoir in the pasture (when there was water in it), for the garden. They filled barrels and hauled them home on a stone boat.

Margith also sold eggs and butter to Frank Horeish's store. The proceeds would buy a large portion of the groceries needed. They raised corn at that time to feed their cows. Art says if there wasn't sweet corn in the garden they ate the field corn too.

Their method of refrigeration was ice blocks cut from the reservoir in winter and then packed either in flax straw or saw dust and stored in the root cellar. Sometimes in the hot summer months Art's mother would have to go to the root cellar where it was cool to work her butter. Normally the ice would last as long as they needed it.

Farming and Harvest Time

Crops being raised at that time were corn, wheat, oats, barley and sometimes flax. Flax was hard to grow though because weeds easily choked it out so it was best grown on new breaking. It was also hard to harvest because the wind was hard on it and it would shell out easily.

They farmed with 2 to 8 horse teams. Equipment used were a Sulky Plow (one bottom), a 2 bottom plow, harrows, corn cultivators, a drill, a binder and a header. Their crop was hauled by wagon to either Kremlin or sometimes Fresno.

Harvest time was quite exciting. Art says "Us kids really liked it". There were lots of extra people around in the form of threshing crews. The threshers had their own men and teams for hauling bundles.

Art's mother, usually with the help of a neighbor lady, did all of the cooking. She, in turn, would help the neighbor lady with her harvest meals.

The crew would stay on the farm until they were done. They'd tie their horses to the hay rack and sleep either under the hay rack or in the barn. The kids thought it was a big social event, and in some ways it was.

The threshing crews were large outfits consisting of 5 or 6 bundle wagons (hay racks), 2 field pitchers, 2 machine pitchers and then the threshing machine or separator. The tractor that pulled the separator was an Altman-Taylor. This machine had a big gas engine.

Later smaller machines became available and harvesting was done on a smaller scale. The smaller machines became more plentiful and more affordable for the area farmers.

The Berg family started leasing a machine when Art was about 13 years old. Alfred ran the separator and Art ran one of the bundle wagons. He claims he always had the first load in because he could load his wagon the fastest.

In 1935, August sold a team of horses to buy a small tractor. He purchased a 10-20 International. Art says that the horses could farm more, but the tractor was "modern".

Art Starts Farming

In the spring of 1935 Art started farming on his own. He leased a quarter section of ground seeding 40 acres and summer fallowing 40 acres. This first year he experienced crop failure, so he "didn't get paid much".

In 1938, John Fenton asked Art to run his tractor and seed his crop for him. It was late in the season so Art, in order to finish faster, ran from 3 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. He was pulling a 10' drill. The crop was seeded and Art received 1/3 of the crop as payment.

Later that same summer Mr. Fenton offered to sell Art his farm. Art told him that he didn't have any money and John told Art that he didn't need any money. John wanted 2/5 of the crop for 6 years and that's what Art agreed to.

Anton Knutson, who was a special friend of Art's, extended credit for the first summer's fuel.

Andrew Severson was an old bachelor who lived about 3 miles or so to the west of the Berg homestead. One day his house started on fire and Mr. Severson was badly burned. He walked to the Witt place, which now belongs to Jim Reinowski, and Mr. Witt took him to the hospital in Havre. Mr. Severson did not survive.

Just a few months prior to the fire, Andrew Severson had taken a loan from the Federal Land Bank who in turn approached Art to see if he would take over the loan. Art assumed the loan and finished paying for the 1/2 section of very rocky land. Very little had been broke so he finished breaking it except for a 60 acre pasture that was too rocky.

The Army and Marriage

Arthur joined the Army in 1941. He was stationed overseas in England and France. He was Crew Chief in charge of crews assigned to repairing, overhauling and rebuilding shot up B17 airplanes. While Art was in the Army his Dad, Vern and Alfred farmed his land.

Art returned to the United States in October of 1945 and married Vera Campbell Jolley in Williamsport Pennsylvania on October 29. They, along with two of Vera's daughters, returned to Kremlin and settled on the "home place".

Art returned to his farming and also farmed his Dad's land after August retired. In 1954 or 55 August sold Art the 1/2 section which included the buildings and Art purchased the other 1/4 section from the estate after August's death in 1958. He also purchased 240 acres located just west of the homeplace and 80 acres on the south end of the home 1/4 from his brother Alfred.

Art and Pat (Vera) continue to farm in the Kremlin area. They were joined in 1976 by their daughter Marlene and son-in-law Charles Melby when they incorporated their farms to form the Berg-Melby Corporation.

Art and Pat are active members of the Kremlin Lutheran Church which Art's father helped establish in about 1911.

Lefse and Lutefisk

There's a couple of additional subjects that need to be touched on since this story is about a family of full-blooded Norwegians. Those subjects being, Lefse and Lutefisk.

Art remembers watching his mother make Lefse on a wood burning stove. He wonders to this day how she managed to get the stove top uniform in heat because the fire would be on one side of the stove but the Lefse she rolled out would cover the entire top of the stove, being about 30 inches in diameter. It would be browned perfectly every time.

She used a long stick to handle the Lefse, picking it up in the middle and rolling it out to the edge. When it was done she would fold it twice and that's how she would cut it making 4 triangular shaped pieces.

The Lutefisk was sent for from a fish outfit in Minneapolis. The fish was dried, so when it was received it was placed in a 20 gallon crock and covered with water. The water had to be changed everyday. This process went on for several days or as Art said "seemed like 2 or 3 weeks" but he was the one who had to carry the water.

Anyway, it was soaked until it was rehydrated and all of the lye, which was used in the dehydrating process, was out of it. Lutefisk was their Christmas Eve supper. The reason they got so much of it was because it was cheap and of course "We liked it".*

*Author's note: I understand the cheap part, it's the liking part I have trouble with, and they didn't even serve it with meatballs! (That's a different story though, isn't it?) Anita Melby Solberg

(Click on Photos)

Vernon, Arthur and August Berg With Their Portable Wood-Saw, abt 1940
Vern, Art, August Berg

Pat and Art Berg's Wedding, October 29, 1945
Pat & Art's Wedding

Art and Pat Berg's 60th Anniversary
Art & Pat's Anniversary

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