Too many Olsons! That’s what Ole Olson thought when he came to America in 1870.
A six week ocean voyage with five young children, two of his own and three of his brother’s, must have been trying for Ole, the young widower. When in America, Ole Olson took the name Walden for his family name. Ole Walden had a son named Gilbert and soon Gilbert had a son named Ancil, the Ancil Walden we know.
Gilbert Walden’s first home was what is now part of Wild Marsh golf course. He farmed in the summer and worked in logging camps in northern Minnesota during the winter. In 1922 Gilbert built his homestead and barn along the road we now call State Highway 25.
It was in this house that Ancil was born and baptized. (Ancil can’t recall if the pastor baptized him in Swedish or Norwegian.) It was in this house, just 1 ½ miles south of the present Zion church, that Ancil and his sister, Marian, lived all of their lives. Marian died in 2005, thus making Ancil the only living member who can trace his history through Marysville church, the two town churches, the country church (site of the Zion cemetery) and the present Zion church.
As a small child Ancil remembers his father storing the model T in the barn and the family using a sleigh to go to church in the winter. One snowy, blowy night as the horses, Baldy and Charlie, pulled the sleigh up a hill, Baldy and Charlie decided the snow was too deep, the wind was blowing too much, and they turned around and headed back to the barn. That was the end of church that night. Over the years, Ancil was an usher and Marian was the church financial secretary. Often the offering was taken home where Ancil and Marian counted it.
Ancil remembers 1934 – 1936 for being the driest years. He remembers a day in 1936 that the temperature reached 106. Electricity came to their house in 1928 and in 1935 the Walden farm was able to get a Minneapolis radio station – WCCO! In 1931 what is now County Road 25 was being “improved” using a wagon and two mules. One time in the 40s, there was a fire in the Catlin Hospital, which was above what is now J’s restaurant. Patients were taken out of the windows and carried across the roof to the building next door. In the 50s, a Soo Line train derailed in front of the depot. A car with a load of telephone poles crashed through the depot starting a fire, killing one man.
Graves were dug by hand by Zion member John Moody. Moody also played the organ and rang the bell. Zion cemetery has many unmarked graves. Money was in short supply and babies often died.
For 40 years, Ancil recorded the daily moisture for Wright County and once a month he sent the record to the DNR in St Paul. In the 60s, Ancil went from farming to raising chickens. He built a 160 foot chicken house and raised 6000-7000 chickens. Trucks picked up eggs every week and Ancil delivered some to nearby towns.
There isn’t another living Zion member whose 90-year membership spans the history of Zion from Marysville, the town church, the country church and our Zion. Ancil is still present every Sunday thanks to Roger Hessedal. As I left him, I could hear him softly say, “Ain’t nobody comes anymore. I haven’t seen anybody in a long time.”
Sadly, we neglect too many lonely elderly seniors. Their useful days are over and we put them out to pasture. Please be aware of our elderly brother sand sisters and visit them more often.