Anna's Lilies: A Legacy of Hope

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The email began, "Anna Edlund Peterson's orange lilies have come up and are in bloom this July. Her house is gone, but her flowers still come up." It was from Ron Johnson, the unofficial custodian of Swedish history in Clay County, South Dakota.

Anna Edlund Peterson is my great-grandmother on my dad's side. She would be lovingly referred to as "Ma". She was born in Sweden in 1866 and in the fall of 1870 immigrated to Clay County South Dakota with her parents.

In 1893 she would marry my great-grandfather August Peterson, a Norwegian immigrant who was a house painter by trade and well-known, locally, for his literary skills. He would one day author the book, "The Swedes Who Settled in Clay County," which is still the go-to book for Clay County Swedish history.

They lived in a village named Dalesburg in a little house on about two-thirds of an acre. In 1903 they would move to Vermillion, South Dakota, where August was the County Treasurer for four years. They would return to Dalesburg in 1918, where Anna would live for the rest of her life.

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August & Anna Peterson Family

Anna and August Peterson would have four children, one of which was my grandmother, Florence Bryanette Peterson, born November 1, 1896. My great-grandfather was a Democrat and an admirer of Williams Jennings Bryan, an American orator and politician from Nebraska. Bryan would unsuccessfully run for President of the United States against William McKinley in 1896 on the Democratic ticket. My grandmother was given the middle name of Bryanette in his honor.

Florence would marry an area farmer, E. Walter Lingberg on March 31, 1917. They would have four children, the youngest, Richard, was my dad, born March 22, 1928. He would marry Corrine Scheuring from Beresford, South Dakota, on May 7, 1951. I would be their first born on June 12, 1953.

"Yes, north of the Dalesburg Farm Supply, in and near the road ditch," was Ron Johnson's response to my query as to their authenticity and the location of Anna Peterson's orange lilies. That's where I found them, next to a corn field that was once the August and Anna Peterson's homestead. No doubt, she had planted them some time in the early 1900s. Thus, "Anna's Lilies" are the descendants of those original blooms, from over 100 years ago.

Orange lilies, sometimes known as Tiger Lilies or Day Lilies, bloom in mid to late summer, are easy to grow, and come back year after year. Tiger lilies are very hardy and resist disease well.

I could only imagine all the conditions Anna's Lilies have weathered for most of a century – flood, drought, wind, disease, frigid winters and sun- baked summers, and yet, not only have they survived, but they have also flourished in full bloom. If that is any indication, they'll continue to do so for years to come. That's hopeful. 

While admiring Anna's Lilies, it occurred to me how our family has also endured challenges and adversities through all these decades, and yet, like the lilies we continue to flourish. That's hopeful.

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Anna "Ma" Edlund Peterson died May 13, 1957 at 90 years of age. Anna's Lilies live today.