Martha Bakken grew up on a farm several miles southwest of Luverne and attended a one-room school in District 13 in Rock County. She attended high school in Luverne, staying “in town” during the week and going home on weekends. She is pictured here for her high school graduation photograph in 1929.

oldest known resident in rock county martha bakken dies at 104


Martha Ingeborg Lunde Bakken, the oldest known resident in Rock County, died Thursday, May 28, at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls at the age of 104 years and 16 days.

Martha was born to Nels and Emma (Rossum) Lunde in Luverne Township May 12,1911, and was a lifelong resident of Rock County.  

Martha grew up on a farm several miles southwest of Luverne, attended a one-room school which was in District 13 in Rock County, and attended high school in Luverne.

She would stay “in town” during the week and go home on weekends. After graduating from high school she attended Normal School, which was a one-year program in Luverne.

Here are some memories Martha recalled in 1994 of her teaching experiences in the 1930s.

“I graduated from Luverne High School in June 1929 and then enrolled in the Teachers’ Training Department in Luverne. There were 12 to 13 girls,” Bakken recalled.

“The first two weeks were spent visiting and observing rural schools in the county. The school day was from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no study period. We studied all the subjects taught in rural schools, including music and physical education. We even went out on cold winter nights to find the constellations.”

She said they had classes in education subjects, then called pedagogy, and followed Minnesota Course of Studies.

“Another thing we had to do was to write drills from Palmer Method Writing Book,” she said. “We did practice our penmanship.”

In the spring the teachers in training began to apply for a school.

“In those days there were more applicants than schools,” Bakken recalled. “I was fortunate to know the members of the school board in District 4. This is how I got the school in 4E.”

She stayed with a family that lived a half-mile north of the school.

“I walked morning and night. The house was so cold that water in the kitchen froze overnight,” Bakken said.

“I slept upstairs under a feather bed. That was warm. The first year I got $90 a month. During the Depression years the salaries went down.”

After being there six years Bakken said she thought she needed a change.  

“I got District 13, which was the school I went to as child. This was a small enrollment with only eight or nine students,” she said.

“I had to be the janitor as well as the teacher.”

Bakken went to Mankato Teachers’ College two different summers for six weeks. Two sessions of six weeks each in five years was required to renew certificates.

In 1941 she was united in marriage to Obed Bakken and the couple lived on a farm 10 miles west of Luverne, near the Palisades Lutheran Church. They had two sons, Howard and Richard.  

Martha’s hobbies were gardening and needlework.  

Martha enjoyed traveling to visit her sister, Nora, and family in Whitewater, Wisconsin. She also enjoyed trips to Yellowstone, Colorado, Florida, the Smokey Mountains, Mackinac Island in Michigan, Chicago and Connecticut, where she attended her son Howard’s graduation and wedding.

Before her marriage she traveled to the World’s Fair in New York and Chicago with close friends Tilda and Margaret Vegge.

The ladies’ trip to New York was for a month and they rented an apartment.  A childhood friend, Sylvia Salvesen, formerly from Luverne, who had married a New Yorker and lived in Brooklyn, served as their tour guide.

In 1997 Martha and her husband, Obed, moved to The Oaks in Luverne. When Obed’s health declined they moved to the Tuff Village and Obed passed away in 2003.

Martha continued to reside at the Tuff Village until 2011 when she transferred to the Tuff Memorial Home.


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