Andrew Ekblaw. For forty-one years Andrew Ekblaw has been a resident of Champaign County. The management and cultivation of the land and its resources have furnished him an occupation and business, and as a practical agriculturist he has few peers in this part of the state.
Mr. Ekblaw was born in Sweden in 1854, a son of Johannes and Charlotte Ekblaw. He was reared and educated in his native land and was eighteen years of age when with other members of the family he came to America in 1872. The Ekblaws first located near Springfield, at New Berlin. There were seven children, Andrew being the third in age. All these children were educated in the schools of Sweden.
In 1880 Mr. Andrew Ekblaw married Miss Ingry Johnson, also a native of Sweden, and a daughter of John ‘and Lena Johnson. When she was ten years of age her father died, and two years later, in 1872, she and a brother and her widowed mother came to America. Four of the Johnson children had preceded them to this country and had found employment in Chicago. Mrs. Ekblaw lived in Chicago until her marriage.
Mr. and Mrs. Ekblaw after their marriage located near Rantoul on the farm of John Collison. They were young, energetic, had the thrifty virtues of the people of Sweden, and by honesty of purpose have distinguished themselves as successful farmers and have reared a family of which any parents might well be proud. It is a growing practice among many farmers of modern times to handle land as managers rather than as owners. This has been Mr. Ekblaw’s course during his long and active career. For thirty-two years he lived on the Collison place and for the past five years he and his wife have had their home on the Battles place, now the property of Lawyer H. I. Green of TTrbana. During his entire career in Champaign County since 1876 Mr. Ekblaw has had only two places of residence and activity. He is a careful and methodical farmer, the well tilled fields giving every evidence of his ability, and his efforts have been liberally rewarded in the comfortable provision for themselves and in those means necessary to properly educate and train their children.
Mr. and Mrs. Ekblaw are the parents of six children, five sons and one daughter, named Walter Elmer, Carl John Theodore, Emma Irene, Eddie Lawrence, George Albert and Sidney Everett. Mr. and Mrs. Ekblaw from the start realized the advantage of good educational advantages, and sent their children to the district school of Pleasant Ridge. The children were all studious and attentive to their work, and all of them finished the course of the Pleasant Ridge school. Walter Elmer taught for three years at Harwood Center and in the Battles school for three years, after which he entered the University of Illinois, taking the regular scientific course in three years and two years later received his Master’s degree.
The name of Walter Elmer Ekblaw has perhaps been spoken with more frequency in Champaign County in recent months than any other one citizen. In fact his fame is well established over the state and nation. In 1913, as geologist and chief assistant, he joined the Donald B. MacMillan Arctic expedition in search of Crocker Land. The University of Illinois helped defray the expenses of the expedition, which was fitted out chiefly by the American Museum of New York. Mr. Ekblaw was the special representative of the state university. The purpose of the expedition was to locate the land claimed to have been discovered by Admiral Peary. In this they were disappointed and when the expedition returned in 1917 the announcement was given the world that Crocker Land was a “mirage.” Early in September, 1917, Mr. Ekblaw arrived at Champaign, having come post haste to his old home and his alma mater after getting off the boat at Sydney, Cape Breton Island. He was accorded an enthusiastic reception both at the university and in his home town of Rantoul and was paid such honors as few men of Champaign County have ever received. It is noteworthy that even the newspapers of the large cities, so completely filled in these days with war news, devoted a column or so to the arrival of the distinguished young explorer. The Chicago Tribune of September llth reported Mr. Ekblaw as saying in part: “While we were disappointed because Crocker Land, in whose existence Admiral Peary believed, turned out to be a mirage, we felt that the expedition accomplished a great deal. At times we were confronted with the hardest of difficulties, but in some way succeeded in getting around them. We did not find the life so hard, however, after we became acquainted with the conditions and ways of the country and people.
“The expedition left New York and went from there to Sydney, Cape Breton Island, where we were unable to proceed on account of our ship being wrecked. We fitted out another ship and the expedition again set out. This time we reached Greenland. It was along the last of August and by the latter part of September we had established our headquarters at a little village called Etah. Here we had built a house and other necessary buildings.
“The longest trip that I ever made was 1,200 miles. We discovered and explored three new fjords, after which we returned to our camp. All the time we were in Greenland we were about 750 miles from the North Pole, and the closest that I ever got to the pole was about 500 miles.”
“Ekblaw,” continues the Tribune account, “was a member of the Illinois football squad in his college days, and when he went North he put a football in his kit. This resulted in the organization by the scientist of the first Eskimo football team in history. ‘My quarterback could not see over the center’s head and all my men were built close to the ground,’ said the explorer. They had a fine disdain for the rules and used to pile up promiscuously, but they had a good working knowledge of the object of the game and liked to play it on the ice.’
“Just before Ekblaw sailed for the Polar Regions his engagement to Miss Augusta May Krieger of Peoria, a graduate of the University of Illinois, then teaching in Highland Park, was announced. Miss Krieger agreed to wait and she was on the dock at New York to welcome her fiancée.”
The second son of Mr. Andrew Ekblaw, Carl Ekblaw, graduated from the Rantoul High School, taught for two years at Prairie Star school and has since taken his master’s degree at the University of Illinois and for a time was an instructor there. In 1916 he completed further studies in Yale University. At the present writing he is professor of rural architecture in the Kansas State Agricultural College, Manhattan, Kansas. Carl married Miss Alma Heuman of Elgin, Illinois, also a graduate of the university. The only daughter, Emma, is still at home with her mother. The son Eddie is his father’s active assistant in the management of the farm. The fifth child, George, is a graduate of the Rantoul High School, taught two years at Wesley Chapel and also at Battles school, and entered the University of Illinois in the fall of 1917. The youngest child, Sidney, now fourteen, has completed the work of the grammar schools and is in the Rantoul High School. It is a source of pride not only to the parents but to all the people of Champaign County that the Ekblaw sons have so distinguished themselves in the work of teaching, scholarship and practical affairs.
Mr. and Mrs. Ekblaw are active members of the Lutheran Church at Paxton, still retaining the faith in which they were reared in the fatherland. Mr. Ekblaw is a Republican in politics.