The Borgstrom House
The Borgstrom House Museum in Upsala contains a wealth of local history, in artifacts as well as memories. It was built in Upsala in 1913 by Carl Hugland, Erick Johnson and Albert Johnson, about three years before the city was incorporated. Mrs. Ericka Swedback had owned the lot, which was the site of Upsalas sawmill, on the south side of Two Rivers. The house became the home of newlyweds Axel and Carrie Borgstrom in 1914 and there they lived for sixty-seven years.
Born in 1888, Axel had emigrated from Sweden with his family in 1893. His father, John S. Borgstrom, became one of the founding fathers of the Swedish settlement of Upsala. Carrie, born in Sweden in 1886, lived in Hallock, Minnesota for a short time before coming to Upsala. She had a millinery and made hats for a few years. In 1914 Axel became a cashier at the new bank his father helped create, eventually taking over the bank, not retiring until he was 88 years old.
Axel and Carrie had no children of their own but in 1917 Axels uncle, Charlie Wedin, died in Michigan, leaving a widow with five young children. Stella Wedin went to live with Axels parents; Helen and Pearl went to Axels. Then the mother died and in 1921 Clarence and Mamie went to live at Axels. Tuberculosis claimed the life of Pearl in 1930 and her children, John and Phyllis Olson, went to live with Axel and Carrie as well.
Built originally in the shape of a cube, the upstairs of the Borgstrom House was used for bedrooms and storage. The main floor had a large kitchen, pantry, formal dining area and a sitting room. An extra bedroom was used to store clothing and other items. Besides the furniture you would expect to find, Axels desk and bookshelves took up space, as did a piano. There were a couple of small stained glass windows and later swinging French doors were added.
Over the years the house was expanded and remodeled several times. A porch on the east side overlooked the community band stand in the 1920s and early 1930s. From this porch could be seen their vegetable garden and trees that Axel brought back from trips up north, some of which are still standing. Axel could also see his parents home across the street, as well as the house of their good friends, Gust and Ida Olafson. This porch was eventually enclosed and later remodeled again and added on to, becoming Axels office, a living room with large picture window, a bedroom with a closet and a second bathroom.
There was also a porch on the west side of the house early on which overlooked a pine woods and meadow, often used for picnics. The woods are now overgrown but include a few towering white pine on the hillside and some monstrous cottonwoods along the river. From this porch could also be seen their outbuildings, including a large shed, brooder house and poultry house, for large flocks of chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. The west porch was later removed and onto that side of the house was eventually added an entry and a summer kitchen with a wood stove. In 1958 a single car garage with lots of storage became the last addition. The basement was also remodeled over the years, lastly with paneling and a false ceiling.
In 1979, Axel and Carrie were among over 100 individuals who formed the Upsala Area Historical Society. In a very short time the Society began to accumulate a number of historic artifacts in need of a home, including the towns retired 1928 Reo Speedwagon fire truck, the initial focal point of the group. Axel and Carrie had the answer. In 1981, although both were in their nineties, Axel and Carrie moved into a brand new house, across from the Farmers State Bank. In April, 1983, the Borgstroms donated their old house, along with about 35 acres of mostly lowland, to the Society.
In June of 1983 numerous Society members began the task of sorting, organizing and cleaning what the Borgstroms had left behind. It proved to be a huge but extremely exciting and rewarding task. They had taken most of their furniture but the Borgstroms had left much of the house as if they were simply gone for the weekend. The refrigerator was still stocked; the root cellar was full of canned fruits and vegetables. Some cupboards and drawers were empty but many held household items from the past several decades, as well as historical items of great significance. The garage and sheds were also loaded with trash, trivia and treasures, ranging from common tools to the dress Axels mother had worn on the trip across the Atlantic in 1893.
Following countless hours of volunteer time that included work to clear an overgrown arborvitae hedge from around the house, the Borgstrom House Museum opened to the public on June 1, 1984. Approximately 275 visitors toured the house that day and no one was disappointed. The house contained ten rooms that portrayed the communitys Swedish heritage, Upsalas history and artifacts of state and national interest.
The Upsala Area Historical Society has continued to maintain the Borgstrom House and share its contents through arranged tours or during occasional planned events such as the annual Pioneer Work/Pioneer Art Day held the second Saturday in August. Axel and Carrie Borgstrom continued to stop in at the gathering as long as they lived. Carrie died in 1987 at age 100; Axel died in 1995 at the age of 106 but the memories of their lives and the lives of countless residents of the Upsala area continue to exist in the Borgstrom House.