All in the Swedish Family – Pioneer Farm Family Award given to French Family

Burt County Ag Society President Dale Miller recognized the Aksarben Pioneer Farm Family during the opening evening of the Burt County Fair. Patricia French and Susan French Montgomery were on hand to receive the award on behalf of a long line of Swedish immigrants.

In 1866, Ed Olson & Lottie Lofgren were born in Sweden. Lottie was two when her family sailed to America in 1868. Ed was fifteen when his family left S.E. Sweden in 1881. Six years later the couple married and rented land on the West Side. Oakland’s “West Side” was more than a Church name -it was a village of predominantly Swedish immigrants and their children Miller shared at the award presentation. “Although this recognition is for 100 years, this quarter has been owned by three generations of Olsons for over 130 years. Today, we recognize the owners, all 100 percent Swedish,” Miller said.

On February 14, 1891, the couple purchased sixty acres located 1 mile East of Burt/Cuming County Line & 2 miles North of Highway 32 purchased on February 24, 1891 by Johann “Ed” Olson and wife Charlotta Augusta “Lottie” Lofgren. Farming Continues The couple’s son, Orville Olson, was born in 1888 and like many farm boys, Orville’s education at Rock School ended at fifth grade. Orville married Nina Johnson in 1925. Orville and Nina farmed and raised their only child, Patricia, on the West Side. Patricia clearly remembers Church services spoken in Swedish and when the farmers came into town with their eggs and cream on Friday night, she heard both Swedish and English being spoken.

In 1955, Orville Olson & wife Nina Johnson purchased the property from his parents’ estate. In 1974, Patricia Olson-French, President of French Farms, inherited the quarter. Patricia graduated from Oakland High School in 1947 and UNL in 1951. Pat was teaching vocal music in Wahoo when she met Merwyn French. They married and moved to Holt County. The couple were one of the first private owners of a Valley Center Pivot Irrigation System.

Ed & Lottie and Orville & Nina’s lives spanned times of drought, depression, and war. Orville and Nina transitioned from horses to tractors, saving seed, to buying genetic hybrids and oil lamps to REA electricity. Patricia Olson-French, now age 93, was honored to have her grandparents’ and parents’ farm legacy recognized at the Burt County Fair. The Aksarben Foundation Farm Family award is presented in partnership with the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers. These awards honor the families who have held same-family ownership of land for 100 (Pioneer Award) and 150 (Heritage Award) years. *Thank you to Burt County Fair Board President Dale Miller for helping to put this article together.