My great-grandfather seldom missed a daily entry in his six-decade long farm. Many entries tell little more than the weather and what he paid for a pound of salt. But if you look hard enough, many entries are poignant, sometimes funny and always informative of what life was like on the farm more than a century ago. A case in point was 1870, when Dave was 30 years old, building a new house on his town of Lincoln farm, celebrating the birth of his third child, Sarah, working alongside his neighbors who came from back east and interacting with the “newcomers” who were pouring into the county from Northern and Central Europe. Among them was a young pioneer who settled in nearby town of Arcadia, Ole Hegg.
AUG. 13, 1870 — Made a dicker to sell my three year old steers to Mr. Haig (Ole Hegg) for two months work and fifteen tons of marsh hay, five of which is to be delivered. Work to commence on Mon. Sept 12.
SEPT. 12 — Mr. Hegg commenced work for me this mor. Is to work two months as pay for pr. of steers.
SEPT. 15 — Clouds all day. Broke (land) a little, drawed manure in fore noon. Took Ole Hegg with me to help thrash at Dewey (Parsons, Dave’s brother in law).
SEPT. 16 — Hazy, but cleared up to night. Ole worked for Dewey. To night pd for smoking tobacco .10.
SEPT. 17 — Fair & Warm. Thrashed for Mr. Duer. Had wet job of it. Ole dug potatoes. Has dug one day before. Has dug 32 bushels.
SEPT. 22 — Rainy all day. Ole H. and I built a cradle for Baby (Sarah) this after noon.
SEPT. 29 — Fair and warm. Mr. Story came this mor to put up my chimney and finish the cellar. Mr. Hegg & I worked mixing morter & fix for putting up the chimney.
SEPT. 30 — Fair and warm. Left Mr. Hegg & Mr. Storm making chimney & to point the inside of the cellar.
OCT. 3 — Fair and mild. Finished pointing the cellar. Mr. Strong charges for work on Chimney $10.50.
OCT. 10 — Lowry and cool. Worked on house with Turner (carpenter?). Ole Hegg not here. Left Sat. mor. last.
OCT. 11 — Raining most of the day. Worked on house. O Hegg does some little job at the workbench.
OCT. 12 — Rained some this mor. Made a door for the cellar. Ole plowing.
OCT. 17 — Cloudy. Painted some sash & Ole & I husked corn after dinner.
OCT. 18 — Fair. Had a hard frost last night. Fogy this mor. Lars (Skjonsby, another hired man) & I husked corn to day. Ole plowed.
OCT. 22 — Some clouds & cool. Went to Fathers & got stove (for new house) Ole is plowing this aft. While I went to Gale(sville).
OCT. 24 — Cloudy & mild. Husked corn with Lars. Husked 60 bushels. Ole plowed.
OCT. 25 — Rained a little this mor. Worked on the house in forenoon. Got a kick from a horse at noon & laid up for a while. Ole plowed this fore-noon.
OCT. 26 — Fair & cool. Thrashed for Lime (Lyman McNitt, a neighbor). Ole worked for him ¾ day.
OCT. 29 — Fair & cool. Ole sick. Gone home.
NOV. 8 — Rainy & fogy all day. Went to election. Ole worked banking house (with horse manure).
NOV. 10 — Fair &cool. Feel poorly. My lungs getting quite a fever. Ole drawing manure.
NOV. 11 — Fair & warm. Went up to (Coral) City to see Doc Shelton. Got a perscription of him and had it filled at Hodgkin’s. Cost .50. Ole hauled manure.
NOV. 12 — Fair & pleas. Ole drawed manure in fore noon and plowed in the after noon. I am quite sick. Have to keep to my bed half the time.
NOV. 13 — A little cloudy and chilly. Ole came to get his steers to day. He owes me 1½ days on his time & 1.25 on exchange of tools & a pr of boots he got of Father.
NOV. 14 — Fair & pleasant in the house bed most of the time. Heard to day that Ole lost one of his steers on his way home.
Dave never mentions the incident again, but no doubt ran into Ole in the years that followed. Despite the loss of his steer in the wilds of western Wisconsin, Oliver Ole Hegg survived. In 1882 he became Trempealeau County Clerk of Court and was active in politics for the rest of his life. His descendent, Reverend James Hegglon, along with another Trempealeau County native, Herman Ekern, was prominent in the creation of Lutheran Brotherhood Insurance Co. and later was president of Lutheran Mutual Insurance Co. The Reverend’s son was “Jimmy” Hegg, a basketball star for the University of Minnesota, a popular radio personality and entertainer, who was the owner of a fabled bistro, The Starlite Lounge, where the show biz elite hung out in downtown Minneapolis. Jimmy’s son Tom is an accomplished Guthrie actor, teacher and author of the bestselling Christmas book, “A Cup of Christmas Tea,” and several other books.
Turns out that Dave’s brother-in-law Shubal Breed’s family came all the way from Boston, where they owned an acreage called “Breed’s Hill, where the battle of Bunker Hill was fought. Lyman McNitt, Dave’s best friend, died young and Dave and his wife adopted his daughter Bessie, whose granddaughter made a slight, but very scandalous, splash in Hollywood, circa 1950. She was the starlet Barbara Payton who grew up in Cloquet, Minn.