I can’t walk away from the story of A.G. Brodd’s desertion from the Swedish army without a follow-up story about the great kindness this man showed to his kids and which they, in turn, showed to each other. Get your hankies ready.
Going back to the desertion story, I’m left asking myself what lengths I would go to for my family’s well-being. The family lore is that it was really Gustafva who most wanted to come to the United States. But she couldn’t have done it without the full support of her husband. At some point, he himself agreed that leaving Sweden and deserting his army duty was the best course of action for his family. Obviously, all of us Brodd descendants in America are glad he did that! But it leaves you thinking, especially during a time when illegal immigration is in the news, what lengths you would go to for your family. Would you break the law in the country you are leaving? Would you break the law of the country you are going to? There are no easy answers.
But I can’t tell the story of A.G. Brodd’s desertion without also telling you what kind of a hero he was. And that brings me back to a story I left hanging almost two years ago. I published a series of posts about P.W. “Will” and Clara Pearson – his cancer diagnosis and eventual death, and then Clara’s tenuous efforts to hold onto the family farm. I’ve re-tagged those posts so that they appear in the sidebar at right, in case you want to go back and re-read the story. When I started out, the series of posts was supposed to be about Will Pearson’s probate file, but as I dug deeper it turned into a much bigger story about how the family survived Will’s death and kept the farm going.
I left the story hanging in a final installment that told about an extension on her loan from a bank in Wahoo. I kindly old widow agreed to extend a loan to Clara, but the widow died shortly afterward and her estate called in the loan. Luckily, Clara was able to get financing from the Federal Land Bank. This type of financing had a longer-term payment plan and, finally, a mechanism for starting to pay down the principal.
But that was only one piece of Clara’s debt, having to do with land ownership. There was another big chunk of debt having to do with Will’s cancer treatments, building improvements on the farm, and some operating debt that appeared to have accumulated over time. That debt amounted to $7,000 and it was paid by her parents, A.G. and Gustfva Brodd, when Clara finally settled Will’s estate.
Okay, so where did her parents come up with the money? Did A.G. and Gustafva have this kind of money just lying around? Well no of course they didn’t. The probate records for A.G. Brodd tell the rest of the story.
Gustafva died in 1930 at the age of 89. A.G. outlived her by three years (he was eight years younger than Gustafva); he died in 1933.
A.G. Brodd died “intestate”, meaning that he didn’t have a will. When that’s the case, the court has more of an oversight role to ensure that the deceased person’s assets are distributed to the next of kin according to State statutes. However, rather than having the court appoint an administrator for the estate, the next of kin got together and decided to take matters into their own hands (this is actually pretty typical). They filed a “Petition for Letters of Administration”. This document generally describes the circumstances and the deceased persons assets and next of kin. Here’s an excerpt:
…said deceased left as hi next of kin and only heirs-at-law, the following named persons to-wit:
Anna M. Walin, Daughter, Ceresco, Nebraska
J.A. Brodd, who is also known as J. August Brodd, or John August Brodd, son, Ceresco, Nebraska
Clara Pearson, daughter, Ceresco, Nebraska
Carl Herman Brodd, son, Ceresco, Nebraska
Heirs of Augusta C. Nilson, a daughter deceased, as follows:
Alma Jones, Osceola, Nebraska
Melvin Nilson, Stromsberg, Nebraska
Florence Moline, Ceresco, Nebraska
Irene Peterson, Davey, Nebraska
Rudolph Nilson, Scottsbluff, Nebraska
May Allen, Lincoln, Nebraska
Raymond Nilson, Stromsberg, Nebraska
On the following page, we get our first peek at some family dynamics:
…at a meeting of the heirs of said deceased, your petitioner [J.A. Brodd] was asked to serve as administrator of said estate, which he has consented to do.
At this point in time, A.G.’s kids range in age from 63 (Anna, the oldest) to 53 (Herman, the youngest). It’s nice to see that they were all able to agree on a course of action, along with the children of their deceased sister Augusta Charlotta, who had died 17 years earlier.
Most of the probate file is the usual stuff – income and expenses for the farm in the months after his death. His farm had been rented to Theodore Anderson, Anna’s son-in-law. We also see that Clara is making periodic payments on the loan she had received from her parents after Will’s death.
And then we find out some more detail about Clara’s money. In the summary of disbursements, we find this:
…the John S. Clay mortgage recorded in Book 53 at page 657, mortgage Records of Saunders County, Nebraska, covering the land belonging to this estate, was given to secure the repayment of money borrowed and delivered to Clara Pearson; that she has paid the interest or advanced money for the payment of the interest up to April 16, 1934, and has executed and delivered an assignment of all her share and interest in the estate both real and personal, to apply upon the amount due from her to the estate, which assignment has heretofore been filed in this court.
Translation: Gustafva and A.G. mortgaged the farm to help Clara! Can you imagine!!
The next thing we find is that all of Augusta Charlotta’s kids (the Nelsons) have decided they’d just as soon have cash, so they all sell their interests to John August. So now John August will will get both his interest and his late sister’s interest.
Reading on, we find out some more about the loan to Clara:
That on March 22, 1926, Anders G. Brodd and Gustafva Brodd, his wife, father and mother of Clara Pearson, borrowed from John S. Clay the sum of $7000.00 for Clara Pearson and turned it over to her and secured the repayment of same by executing a mortgage on the real estate hereinabove described…; that Clara Pearson paid $3000.00 of the principal of said note and has paid or furnished the money for paying the interest thereon up to April 16, 1934, leaving a balance of $4000.00 principal with interest thereon from April 16, 1934, said loan having been extended for the amount of $4000.00 for a period of five years from April 16, 1931…
Wow, Clara has made great headway against this debt! To pay down $3000.00 in principal in the midst of the depression is really something. I noticed that the loan from Mr. Clay was dated 1926, but Clara actually got money from her parents in 1921. I suspect that there was an earlier note from 1921, and that Clara must have only been able to make interest payments for the five-year term of that note.
…Clara is unable to pay the full amount due to this estate on account of said indebtedness, but has executed and delivered to this estate an assignment of all of her share in the property belonging to this estate both real and personal; that she is unable to pay anything more and the other heirs who are now entitled to the assignment of the residue of the estate, are willing to accept the assignment so made by her as settlement in full of her indebtedness and to have the balance thereof cancelled and the real estate assigned to them subject to the balance due on said mortgage.
Translation: it sounds like Clara’s share of the estate isn’t enough to pay off the debt to her parents, so she gave up her share and her siblings have forgiven her debt. But the debt doesn’t go away – they have assumed it! They are the ones making the payments from here on out!
Again, this is during the height of the Great Depression!
The ownership of the farm ends up being split into fourths. There were five kids and Clara’s out; Anna got one-fourth, Herman got one-fourth, and J.A. Brodd got one-half (one-fourth was his, the other one-fourth was Augusta Charlotta’s share that he bought from her children).
But they’re not just nice to Clara, they’re nice to Ted Anderson, Anna’s son-in-law, too. He’s renting the farm and had committed to $660 in rent for 1934.
That in view of the drouth conditions existing in this county for the year 9134, and the small amount of crops raised for said year and the lack of pasture, the offer to pay $300 as rental for the land belonging to said estate described in the petition instead of $660.00 according to the terms of said lease and also to pay in cash $260.00 balance due as rental for 1933 is fair and reasonable and just, and ought to be accepted.
The reduction in the rent was only allowed after a hearing in front of the judge; John August couldn’t just wave his hand and make it happen. He had to go to a bit of effort to extend this goodwill to his niece’s husband.
After they divided up the household goods, Herman and Anna got their share of the cash, which amounted to $156.94 each, and John August got twice that amount. The three of them ended up a 120-acre farm still saddled with Clara’s $4000.00 debt.. How much do you suppose 120 acres was worth in 1934? I couldn’t find anything specific to Saunders County, but based on some general statistics I believe it may have been worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 per acre. That means the whole farm may have been worth as little as $6000.00.
Clara received a great kindness from her siblings. I think kindness was a virtue they learned from their parents, don’t you?
Here are some photos of the Brodd siblings during and after this time period. Click on photos to see them larger.