Everything served a purpose on a 1900 farm, and this included animals. Farm families didn’t keep animals as pets, but rather as a valuable asset for work efficiency and resources; they provided food for a family and helped field work get done faster and better.
The Eidem’s main livestock were sheep, which came in to Osseo on trains from Montana every fall. Brooklyn Park farmers would send out potatoes, and Montana farmers would send back sheep. They were then herded from Osseo to Brooklyn Park, walking through the streets all the way back. Sheep were first brought to Osseo in 1893 by a man named Edward Egan who purchased 100 of them from a farmer north of Anoka, who fed them during the winter before returning them to Montana. As the years went by, word spread about Egan’s success, and soon winter sheep-feeding became a common practice for Hennepin County farmers.
Known for their meat, wool, and quality fertilizer, sheep were a common part of any Midwest farm. Wool was a valuable resource, especially in the long, cold Minnesota winters. In the spring, the sheep would be skillfully sheared by a farmer, and then the wool was spun into yarn. Before being spun, wool had to be “carded”: brushed out with two special brushes in order to be straight enough to put on the spinning wheel. Women would have “spinning bees,” large social events in which the women of the community would gather together at one house with their wheels and wool, spending the day making yarn. They then used the yarn to knit hats, scarves, mittens, sweaters, stockings, and anything else used to keep warm in the winter. Not only is wool incredibly warm, but it’s also waterproof, so snow didn’t soak through it, making it easier to work outside during the winter months.
Sheep are still a beloved part of Eidem Homestead today. Children love to see the animals, feed them corn, and pet their soft wool. The spinning wheel, wool pieces, and carding brushes are still an important part of every tour, and we still have spinning demonstrations at events from time to time. The Eidems have left their legacy in many ways, and we are proud to continue to carry it out.