Pequot Lakes Area Historical Society: The midwife of Pequot's early days

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Karen Bye, standing next to a switch board from the Arvig Telephone Company in the Pequot Lakes Historical Society Museum in the basement of the Cole Memorial Building, is president of the historical society. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

To my knowledge, as of right this minute, a comprehensive history of medical practice in Pequot Lakes has not been written. We know that doctors served the population in and around the town from very early days, but we lack an orderly picture of who those men were and how they met the town’s medical needs back then.

Doctors have been essential players throughout history, wherever humans have congregated and formed communities. Before the art of medicine gained sophisticated, scientific methods and practices, the village doctor cared for the people in his town with the help of technology at hand at the time.

The issue of gender inclusion or exclusion cannot be addressed here, in the absence of facts. We know that for centuries babies were born at home out of necessity, and we know that assistance with these home births came from women who lived nearby or were in the family.

This practice evolved into the local establishment of Maternity Homes, which operated at various sites over the years in Pequot. The following recollections come from the fond memories of a woman who taught school near Pequot for many years - Alma Christensen:

In the 1940s, Dr. Eyres had the medical clinic in Pequot and Erna Erickson worked as midwife for the women in town. She was a woman who had no children of her own, although after she arrived from Norway, she had married a widower with four children. During the time the family farmed a mile north of Pequot, Erna assisted neighboring women with their labor and birthing and formed close friendships with the mothers and children.


Just before World War ll, Dr. Eyres trained Erna to be his helper (a midwife, as they are called). They set up a Maternity Home in a house in northwest Pequot. It was a three-bedroom house with a dining room that would be for the mothers-to-be. Erna would make their meals. It was a very home-like facility and all mothers were happy and treated like queens. They stayed at the home at least a week before and after birthing (and Erna had her babies to share, too).

The Maternity Home was a valuable addition to Pequot at the time as it offered an alternative to home birthing or making the trip to St. Joseph’s in Brainerd.

Erna Erickson is representative of the caring love shown by all of the midwives who helped mothers and babies start their new lives in Pequot over the years. Midwifery is an art and skill that is currently enjoying a renaissance in many parts of the country.

We thank Alma Christensen for sharing this story. Christensen is a longtime resident of the Pequot Lakes area. She grew up here and taught in the Sunny Knoll School, which was located between Pequot and Breezy Point.

Karen Bye is president of the Pequot Lakes Area Historical Society.

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