At home in Oliver County: Matt & Jo Erhardt
By Annette Tait
There’s no need for Matt and Josephine “Jo” (Shafer) Erhardt to “Come Home and Celebrate” Old Settlers Days -- the Erhardts and most of their children already live here, or at least close by.
Matt Erhardt Sr. is descended from Germans from Russia who settled in Oliver County. His parents, Kasper and Lokraze (Messer) Erhardt, immigrated from Russia with their parents in the early 1900s, settling on farms about a mile apart just south of where BNI Coal is now.
A few years after Kasper and Lokraze married, couple moved their growing family to the farm they purchased east of Center. Matt was the fourth youngest of 13 children, 11 of whom survived to adulthood.
Matt went to country school at Center Consolidated for grades one through eight. But he wasn’t a big fan of school work.
“I wasn’t dumb in school, I had some of the highest marks,” he said. “I just didn’t like it.”
Matt and his siblings worked hard, and did a lot of “picking” -- rocks out of the fields, beetles off the potato plants, and mustard out of the corn fields. He helped cut hay and rake with a team of horses, then pushed the hay up with a buck rake and stacked it by hand, and helped to harvest grain, following the binder to stack the bundles before coming through with the thresher. The family also had pigs, chickens, horses -- “we always had horses,” and cows, and Matt helped with milking.
“We worked hard, and got into a little mischief once in a while,” Matt said with a twinkle in his eye.