When Anna Christine Bolsta, my great-great grandmother, died in 1927 at the age of eighty-six, her son, Alfred Leonadis Bolsta, wrote this tribute to her. It’s a revealing portrait of the unimaginably hardscrabble life of a pioneer woman who birthed ten children and was the very epitome of selfless service.
PROLOGUE: Ole Bolsta was a blacksmith, having learned the trade from his father in Norway. Ole had come to the United States in 1862 at the age of twenty-one. He met and married Anna in St. Peter and had two sons with her there to join the two daughters Anna had from a previous marriage. In April 1869, Ole and three other men left St. Peter, Minnesota, and headed west on the old Brown’s Trail looking for “wood and water.” They found both in Artichoke Township. Ole walked the 110 miles back to St. Peter, and in June 1869, brought his young wife and four children to Artichoke in an oxen-drawn covered wagon.
THE MOTHER OF BIG STONE COUNTY
Alfred Leonadis Bolsta’s tribute to his mother, Anna Christine Bolsta, following her death on March 23, 1927
After nearly fourscore years and ten, of a life of struggle and sacrifice, thrift and economy through fearsome necessity, the tired body of the mother of Big Stone County lies in peace and rest in her last earthly resting place, in the Ortonville cemetery, not twenty miles from the spot where her then tireless feet first touched the green sod of the virgin soil of Big Stone County fifty-eight years ago.
Anna Christine Bolsta was the ‘first white settler” of Big Stone County and while her life’s story is written with honorable mention in gold upon the pure white page of the scroll of Heaven, her passing, with scarce a mention of tribute, tore terribly at penitent hearts suffering in poignant bereavement and brought tears and sadness to a few friends. With some others their tears and sadness were deceit and mockery—things hated loathingly to the depth of the great, forgiving heart and understanding soul of the mother of Big Stone County.
She sleeps today—at rest—free from strife, worry, heartaches and pain, under the green sod in the clean, sweet, purifying earth of the county she loved, and on the little mound above her are many beautiful flowers, of which, if she could speak to us, she would say, ‘They are beautiful, but there are so many I wish you would put them on the other graves—just leave me that little geranium.”
The ebb-tide of her life of human adventure, such as few women have ever known, reached slowly through the rough breakers of discomfort and suffering toward the sublime beauty of the setting sun which heralds a refuge of peace and rest, just beyond the bar of the Great Adventure. And in that final travail of moral dissolution which she was well aware of, her thoughts were, as always, for the welfare of others, and she said, “I am sorry you have to bother (more…)