Column: He’s the lad who came to Albert Lea in a pony cart

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2002

Thanks to Mike Olson of Albert Lea, I have a nice article from the Jan.

Friday, February 22, 2002

Thanks to Mike Olson of Albert Lea, I have a nice article from the Jan. 2, 2002, issue of the ECM (East Central Minnesota) Post Review of North Branch.

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This article, by MaryHelen Swanson, is based on a former Albert Lea resident who is certainly worth being the subject of a column or two. So, with the permission of MaryHelen to quote from her article, and a little more research, here is the saga of John P. Larson.

John was the son of Anton and Amelia Larson, Danish immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1885 and settled in Hamilton County, Iowa. He was born on Oct. 12, 1886, in or near Webster City, or maybe another locality in Hamilton County.

In 1897, John’s parents decided to move north to Albert Lea where there was a neighborhood called &uot;New Denmark,&uot; and where they had some relatives. (This fact will become obvious later in the narrative.)

John’s father, a carpenter, prepared to move the family and household goods from Hamilton County to Albert Lea on a railroad train. Because of the costs involved, this meant that some of the items accumulated by the family would have to be left in Iowa.

However, this created some unhappiness. John had a favorite pony. His mother was concerned about leaving behind some treasured household items. Right about here keep in mind that John then was just 11 years old.

To make son John and his mother happier about the move to Albert Lea, Anton devised a solution. The rest of the family and most of the household goods would travel on the train. John would make the move alone, in a cart filled with his mother’s valued household items, being pulled by the pet pony.

John was told by his parents to go north on what were then very rough roads. His mother specifically told him to look for a farm place each afternoon where the people would give John food and a place to sleep for the night. One can assume the 11-year-old boy was given breakfast and directions for the route to Minnesota.

After 10 days or so, and a hundred miles on the road with the pony cart, John arrived in Albert Lea.

One of the farms in north Iowa where the young lad spent the night had what Swanson’s article said were &uot;many young girls and a couple of boys.&uot; One of those young girls was named Ida Anderson. And years later, in a really unusual coincidence, they met again here in Albert Lea and were married in 1919.

Anton became a carpenter and stone mason in Albert Lea. In 1907 he started the North Albert Lea Concrete Works. Two years later Anton incorporated a firm named the Albert Lea Construction Co.

The key word in the previous paragraph is concrete. John worked with his father for a few years. During this time he purchased a book with the title of &uot;Concrete and How To Use It.&uot; This book, according to Swanson’s article, &uot;… was a very important first guide in building forms, mixing aggregates, pouring and finishing. It was a cherished book he held on to for the rest of his life.&uot;

In 1903 John Larson formed a partnership with a cousin, Walter Simonson. The result was the Larson-Simonson Concrete Construction Co. Their first big project was to install concrete street curbing for the City of Albert Lea.

Within a few years the cousins were kept busy with other projects in Albert Lea and elsewhere in the area.

After the nation became involved in World War I in 1917, John became a member of the U.S. Army and served overseas in France. After his return to Albert Lea the Larson -Simonson firm resumed their concrete construction projects.

On Nov. 25, 1919, John married Ida Anderson, the person he first met years earlier on an Iowa farm during the pony cart journey from Hamilton County to Albert Lea.

In the next column we’ll continue the concrete career of John Peter Larson and his relocation from Albert Lea to Rush City, north of St. Paul, to start a new business.

Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.