Peter Ernest Arnold (1893 -1964): His own land


Posted for Week #14 of the 2015 edition of the blog meme 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks hosted by Amy Johnson Crowe of No Story Too Small.

This week’s post supplements earlier entries about my paternal grandparents, Peter Ernest Arnold and Magdalena (Wehner) Arnold. As noted previously, Peter Arnold was listed in the 1918 Dickinson City Directory[1] as the owner of the southeast quarter of Section 12 of Township 139 North of Range 95 West of the Fifth Principal Meridian, North Dakota.

Frank Schiller, the original homesteader, completed the homestead process and was awarded the land patent for the property in June 1911.[2] Peter Arnold purchased the land from Frank and Magdalena Schiller on August 2, 1915, for $2,100 cash. In addition, he assumed a $1,000 mortgage the Schillers took out on December 1, 1914. The mortgage terms included a 10% interest rate and full repayment by December 1, 1916.[3]

In today’s dollars, Peter Arnold paid approximately $74,000[4] for the 160-acre property. Where did a young man only 22 years old get that kind of money? Part of the answer comes from an informal interview with uncles Frank and John Arnold during our family’s 2012 reunion in Minneapolis. I believe it was Frank who mentioned that Peter Arnold’s stepfather purchased the land from the original claimant. That corresponds with the legal record because Johan Schwar(t)z was one of the witnesses to the deed transfer from the Schillings to Peter Arnold. It’s nearly impossible to know, nearly a century later, whether the original purchase price was an outright gift, a loan, payment to Peter for work, or perhaps some combination of the three.

Peter married Magdalena Wehner in Scheffield, North Dakota on November 21, 1915.[5] Their first child, Anna, was born in December 1916. Peter and Magdalena were, at that time, living in a sod hut overlooking the Northern Pacific Railroad line. At some point in the early 1920s they built a modest 3-bedroom home in a valley below their original homesite. That house remained the family home until 1960 when Peter and his second wife Margaret (Pfeiffer) Arnold retired to Gladstone.

Arnold Farmstead cropped

The Arnold Farmstead, after the early 1920s.
The family home is at the center of the top image, Grandpas’s prized orchard is behind the house, the barn is at the bottom left, and the Green River is at the right of the image. The house and the barn are shown in the center and bottom images respectively.[6]

The Peter Arnold property, including two additional 40-acre lots acquired sometime after the initial purchase, was sold on August 24, 1964, to Henry W. and Arlene (Arnold) Koller.[7] Arlene was the daughter of Peter and Margaret (Pfeiffer) Arnold. The sale was the apparent result of a farm lease between Peter and Margaret Arnold and Henry and Arlene Koller, giving the Kollers an option to purchase the property for $10,770. Adjusted for lease payments paid by the Kollers and 1961 and 1962 taxes paid by the Arnolds, the final sale price was $9,240.75.

The initial cost of the property, as significant as that was, probably pales in comparison to the additional personal cost from a combination of never-ending hard work and risks from adverse events in many forms including drought, pests, floods, tornadoes, and severely cold winters. Nevertheless, this was the life Peter and Magdalena chose, probably because that’s what they knew and, to some extent, because there were few other opportunities in the area at that time. They persevered and made it work—despite (and perhaps because of) the hardship and heartache they endured—and, along the way, raised their children to be strong, industrious, and ingenious adults. I’m proud to be one of their descendants.

[1] 1918 Keiter Directory of Dickinson, North Dakota, microfilm reprint, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011, 151, Arnold, Peter.
[2] Frank Schiller (Stark, North Dakota), homestead patent no. 209010; “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records ( : accessed 5 April 2015.
[3] Stark County, North Dakota, Deed Record No. 34, p. 463, Document 35573, Frank Schiller and wife Magdalena Schiller to Peter Arnold, 02 August 1915. Deed obtained from Stark County Recorder 14 January 2015.
[4] Calculation made using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator for $2,100 from 1915 to 2015 and $1,210 (the original $1,000 mortgage plus two years of 10% per annum interest) from 1916 to 2015. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator : accessed 5 April 2015.
[5] Family record: marriage registration, St. Pius Church, Scheffield, North Dakota, and marriage license and certificate, obtained from Stark County Recorder 14 January 2015.
[6] Photograph obtained from album maintained by Clarice Arnold.
[7] Stark County, North Dakota, Guardian’s Deed, Book 123, Page 703. Deed obtained from Stark County Recorder 14 January 2015.

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