M.P. Madsen was born in 1878 to Hemming and Bodil (Bille) Madsen. Elvira C. Johnson was born in 1877 to Neils Peter Johnson and Eleanora Davidson.
Barn’s History Begins in Denmark
By Lester L. Madsen
A barn situated in Laketown township, Polk County, Wis., has as unusual history being the plans for it were drawn up in Denmark about 133 years ago.
My father’s father, Hemming Madsen (1849-1917), attended a vocational school in Roskilde, Denmark, in the early 1860’s. There he was preparing for what he thought at the time would be a career in civil engineering and surveying. Simultaneously, he had the intense dream of some day becoming a landowner in the Unites States under the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862.
The Homestead Act was passed by the U.S. Congress with the goal of accelerating the development of vast acreages of vacant land that the U.S. government owned. Some parcels of this land were available at a cost of $50 for 40 acres with a $13 down payment, plus pledge that the homestetters would live on that land for a minimum of 5 years and develop the parcels into operating farms.
This legislation was a magnet that drew thousands of Europeans to U. S. shores, because at that time, land ownership in Europe was a privilege available only to the very wealthy, or to the feudal land barons. So many Europeans homesteaded in various parts of Wisconsin…
Grandpa Madsen, while studying at the Roskilde vocational school compiled a 54-page meticulous notebook. I have this notebook in my possession. It contains many detailed geometric diagrams, charts and maps. Included in this very neat notebook are the elevations and the floor plans that he drew for the barn he hoped to build in America.
Grandpa Madsen’s dreams became realities because he became a naturalized U.S. citizen on June 14, 1887. We estimate that he built his dream barn in 1875.
The barn accommodated a herd of about 18 dairy cows, young stock, box stalls and draft horses. This was long before the advent of farm tractors…
The farm [Laketown Township, section 24] consists of 120 acres. Like many small Wisconsin farms, dairying has discontinued there. The farm is now used for cash cropping. The barn no longer houses livestock. It is now used for storage.
The silo (believed to be the first silo in Polk County) was built with studdings spaced about 2 feet apart and the space between them was filled with short pieces of lumber. A 1953 windstorm twisted it into an unsafe condition so it was torn down then.
The parcel of land is similar to many of those selected by the early homesteaders because it contains a flowing creek. This provided Grandpa Madsen with a source of water for his livestock; thereby saving him the cost of digging or drilling a well which he could water his stock.
Another similarity – the land included a natural marsh. This provided a suitable source of marsh hay that he could feed to his cattle and horses until such time when he could be growing tame hay crops such as timothy, clovers, alfalfa, etc.
Grandpa Hemming and Grandma Bodil Christine (nee Bille) – also an immigrant from Denmark – developed this tract of wild land into an attractive and productive farm. They built the barn, a stately farm home and several outbuildings. They raised a family of seven children: my father, Meds Peter (Sept. 26, 1878, to Jan. 18, 1952), plus my two uncles and four aunts.
Hemming Madsen designed his barn while he was still living in Denmark, and completed construction of the structure in about 1875 in section 24 of Lake town Township, Polk County, Wisconsin.
“M. P. Madsen was born in September 1878 to Hemming and Bodil Madsen who were among the first to homestead in what is now Laketown township. After his marriage to Elvira C. Johnson in 1906 of Balsam Lake, they set up housekeeping … across the street from the Luck High School. For several years he operated a large Watkins route, selling medicines, spices, livestock remedies and cosmetics door-to-door from horse drawn vehicles… Children were: Clifford, Lowell, Laura, Viola, Helen and Lester.”
Lester Madsen worked for the Production Credit Association in Luck, where he became general manager and worked for 25 years.