If you ever happen to be driving over Highway 78 and see the Nordahl Road exit and Nordahl shopping center in San Marcos, know that it was named for the Nordahl family.
Andrew Nicholas Nordahl was born in Sweden in 1835 and went to sea at the age of 18, serving on sailing ships until he decided in 1870 to settle down on land in New York. But he wasn’t through wandering. After two years he headed for Nebraska, where he married another Swedish immigrant, Anna Maria Levin. Six children were born to them in the 21 years they homesteaded there.
In 1893 the Nordahls headed for California, settling in an area of San Diego County then known as Richland. When Andrew Nicholas Nordahl died in 1899, his oldest son, Andrew William, continued running the family farming operation. A 1913 county history book described Andrew’s operation as “general farming, specializing in raising grain,” and also “dairying on a small scale.”
Andrew also played a role in getting other farmers crops produced as well by operating a steam tractor and threshing rig. Threshing machines separated the grain from its cob or husk, cleaned the grain, then gathered or stacked it. The threshing machines of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were powered by steam tractors, which were large and often too expensive for the average farmer. So owners of such tractors, in addition to using them on their own farms, rented out their services to other farmers. The archives of the San Marcos Historical Society include photos of the “Nordahl steam engine and threshing rig” at work on various area farms.
Sources for this post included the archives of the San Marcos Historical Society and the 1913 book, San Diego County, California: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress, and Achievement, by the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
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