Hawick man moves into his third century

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 1/3/00.

Ed Schwandt Living in three centuries takes a little luck and a lot of longevity.

Ed Schwandt was born at the right time to achieve this feat, on Oct. 29, 1900. He lived for two months in the 19th Century, before the 20th Century began on Jan. 1, 1901. He lived through the entire 20th Century.

As most people entered their second century of life on Monday, Jan. 1, 2001, Ed entered his third, the 21st Century.

Ed was born on a farm a mile east of Paynesville. The second oldest of four brothers, Ed spent the first decade of his life around Paynesville. His family moved to northern Minnesota and then to a farm between Comfrey and Springfield.

Ed attended school through the sixth grade. "I didn't get to go to high school," he explained. "I had to work. I had to help my dad on the farm."

Ed remembers cultivating corn by hoe, picking corn by hand, and plowing with horses. "When I first started to plow, I had to reach up to the handles because I was only 12 years old," he said.

Moving back to Paynesville while still in his teens, Ed worked for some 20 years at the North American Creamery.

He bought a 123-acre farm for $4,000 in the early 1940s. Only six acres were arable when he bought the farm, but in the next 30 years he cleared half the farm. He used dynamite to blow up the stumps, but couldn't buy it during World War II.

He grew corn and oats, raised chickens, milked dairy cows, and sold firewood.

Ed remembers burning hard coal to heat the house as a kid, and then soft coal when they couldn't get any hard coal during World War I. (Ed was too young to serve in WWI, but his brother was drafted and shoed horses.) Then, in the 1940s, Ed sold firewood from his farm to people living in Paynesville. He charged $2 for a sled load.

Having lived through 100 years of the 20th Century, Ed remembers 3 letters, $1 a month party line phones, the introduction of power milking machines, and one-row, horse-pulled cultivators. He recalls powerlines being strung to his parents' farm, and the radio his parents borrowed.

When he was barely a teenager, around 12 or 13 according to Ed, his parents bought a Model T Ford shortly after it came on the market. They still used horses to farm. "I suppose it could travel farther," said Ed of the virtue of the car versus the horses, "but I wouldn't say it was more reliable." His brother trained as a mechanic and kept the car running.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Ed stood up and prayed for rain in church. "It was so dry we had to sell the cows," he said. "We had to take some of them up north and let them loose. I guess they were running loose there for a couple years."

Ed married Olga Thorson, a Hawick native, in 1944. They sold the farm in 1973 and moved to Hawick. Olga died in 1985, and Ed learned to cook at the age of 85.

A cow kicked Ed when he was young, requiring a house call by a doctor, but Ed's first trip to the hospital came at the age of 90.

He still lives alone in Hawick and keeps a nearly 6,000 sq. ft. garden in the summer. He borrows land from his neighbors to garden.

"In the summer, he's usually too busy even to go buy groceries because he's working in the garden," said his neighbor, Kathy Gerding.

He grows corn, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, onions, peas, and carrots. He still cans some, but now he freezes some, too.

He drove a car well into his 90s, and rode his bike around the block last summer at 99. "At 95, he gave me piggyback rides," said Kathy's son, Steven.

"When you get up you might have a lot of aches and pains," said Ed of hitting 100, "but when you walk around and get moving the aches and pains go away."

A member of Crystal Hills Assembly, Ed likes to read the Bible. He once read it cover to cover three times in one year. "I've kind of given up on television," he said. "I listen to the radio some."

Ed had three parties in October to celebrate his 100th birthday, pretty fitting for someone who has now lived in three centuries.

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