Settler and local historian Gabriel Stene, lived about 1/2 mile west of the Mankell homestead. In the 1920s he wrote articles about his recollections of pioneer settlers of Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, for the Willmar Weekly Tribune. Here are excerpts which focus on HW and Elizabeth Mankell.
Allow me a review of some early pioneering. A child reasons like a child who once was a little boy with a big puzzle confronting me. What kind of a makeup are the Swedes? Are they white, something like us Norwegians? Back east where we lived, where I was born and there were no Swedes. Never saw one. Never came in contact with any, but learned of them in a roundabout way connected with some clash between the Norwegians and the Swedes some time ago back in the old moss grown forgotten times. I had heard about the pioneer life and struggles, Indian massacres, etc. and had it fixed in my mind that the Swedes were a tribe something like the Indians.
Allow me to present the picture of the first person giving me the first impression of the real Swede. It thrills me yet and I shall never forget October 28th, 1867, when a caravan composed of two families, three covered wagons drawn by oxen, a bunch of cattle, a flock of sheep, and a blessing of kids, myself included, slowly heading for a little lumber shack on the wild prairie, with not a bush or a twig to indicate trees, on a northwest corner of Section 20, Lake Andrew. It was built that same summer from rough lumber. The home of HW Mankel (sic) was our destination. Lumber was not then available nearer than St. Cloud. Out on the prairie, long before reaching their home, we were met by a lady with a smiling and sunny disposition, heartily greeting us and welcoming us to Norway Lake. She asked how long we had been on the road. The answer was three weeks. Her eyes then moved in tears. It was her style and makeup. She was all sympathy. Introducing herself as Mrs. HW Mankel, she was a genuine Swede. We were escorted to the shack. Pioneer Mankel became busy throwing out hay for our hungry stock. This was a rare treat to them as the prairie we had come over was scorched black by prairie fires. Mrs. Mankel was busy getting acquainted. A little girl, Jennie, their oldest daughter, (my age, now Mrs. AH Gordhammer) was managing the stove. There was to be a real welcoming feast. And it was, in the fullest sense of the word. Six grown persons and a bunch of kids of 15, theirs included, marked the gay party. Mrs. Mankel was the leading spirit, not only that day or a few days or 50 days. But for 50 years she was the same unchangeable good natured and good neighborly Mrs. Mankel. A good sister, wife, mother, grandmother and mother-in-law! Missed when her place was left vacant.
It thrills me yet to hear the names Stockholm and Goteborg, Sweden, mentioned. From the way she pictured them I had it fixed in my mind that it must have been there where old Adam and Eve were courting and pioneering.
Now add the whole Lake Florida colony of Swedes, all of the same caliber and good neighbors. I soon arrived at the conclusion that this would be a miserable lonesome country if it was not for the Swedes. There was a complete reverse in the Swedish theory of mine. The Danes never mixed with us at Norway Lake but they hold their third faction of the Scandinavians with honor and respect. The Scandinavian nation reflects greatly upon the rest of the world. Long live the Scandinavian nation! In making a roll call there is a quiet sadness. Where are all those pioneers, good neighborly Swedes? I wend my way to the Lake Florida Swedish Mission church and there I find the names missing and so familiar to me. The old Swedish pioneers are at rest. The granite blocks with their names carved into them so declare. Among others I read on the granite slabs: Mrs. HW Mankel, 1836-1914; her sister, Mathilde, 1841-1914, and following names of early pioneers: Johan Nord, Benson, Nordins, Hokanson, Hedin, Norman, Bratlund, Nicholas, Blom, Warholm, Axel Hedin (California), PA Odell, Eliasson, Nygren, Schodin, Danielson, Monson, Lars Hedin, John Lungstrom, Skoglunds, Rodlunds, Sundquist, Larson, Knutson, Erickson, Nyman, Ole Johnson – all of the Lake Florida Mission church.
A better bunch of Swedish neighbors could never be selected but at roll call now they are silent.
Sorry not to have the picture of Pioneer Mankel but shall relate how nicely we got along in 1868.
STRIKING A HORNET’S NEST
I will conclude my former article by saying the intentions not to belittle any special nationality within the borders of the United States. Neither is it the intention to give Scandinavian nations any preference to any other nation. But to follow the trail blazed by their forefathers and prove that they are chips from the old block. In this our United States we are not a certain special nation. We are all United States, supported and protected equally under the Star Spangled Banner, The Stars and the Stripes. The most beautiful emblem ever planted anywhere on the globe. A nation that well may challenge any flag in the world because our emblem never saw defeat and hope it never shall.
In 1868 a breaking company (ed. plowing the prairie for the first time) was being formed, the job being assigned to Mr. Mankell and myself. Altho (sic) a lad of only 12, I was an expert in handling oxen, so they said. I was to handle the four oxen and Mr. Mankell the plow. I found Mr. Mankell an exceptionally good partner, with a peculiar way of touching the chord which so pleasantly pleased the inquisitive youth. Straight and honest in his dealings, strict on principle and discipline and rather inclined to go the limit. He was a lover of his smoke, always carrying his pipe and wanted, as he termed it, “a pipe minute” now and then. One day at noon he had lost his pipe, but had, as he said, a parlor ornament, a porcelain pipe presented him by a friend and which was not on the market for many dollars, but now it had to be used. He took it along out on the prairies. Those days we frequently found nests of wasps or bumble bees which were very annoying. The first round we turned one of those undesirables. Without knowing it, but found it out in due time. At the second round he wanted that ‘pipe minute,’ filled his precious pipe, gave me a one-eyed wink and smile to testify to his pride. I had the oxen just started when they all four of them stuck their tails straight up and unanimously decided on a spin of their own, having walked right into the indignant swarm of hornets. Having only the whip in my hands, no halters, no lines, I was helpless. The oxen ran away, the plow followed the oxen, Mankell followed the plow, the plow struck a stone, and the plowhandle smashed his pipe, and Mankell went headfirst right into the nest of the enemies which were swarming around him by the dozen. He was just about uttering something about reckless driving when he all of a sudden went into a fighting mood. Hat in one hand and arms swinging like the wings of a windmill, he did not stop to consider road laid out by town supervisors or paved and graveled roads, but like the oxen took a spin of his own at the rate of about 20 miles an hour. I know it was impolite to laugh at older people especially in so critical a moment, but got a silly spell and laughed until I was rolling on the ground. Mankell coming back laughing himself, I felt more free for another good laugh. No more breaking that afternoon as he was nursing a double face, in other words, a face swollen beyond recognition, and had to take hold of eyelids with both hands to open up to see the difference between day and night.