Asp, Emma (Swanberg)

(1885 - 1973)

Emma was born in Mankato, Minnesota March 8, 1885. She was the only child of Alinda (Westman) and John Swanberg. Her father was a stonemason and placed the cornerstone in the Swedish Lutheran Church where Emma was confirmed and taught Sunday school. While growing up in Mankato, she would go on vacation with her family to visit her mother's relatives at Kansa Lake.

Emma met and married (Rhode) Harding Asp in Mankato on September 10, 1904. They farmed at Long Lake near Mankato and moved to Wetaskiwin in 1905. Harding's older brother was living in Wetaskiwin and together they operated the Star store. Emma and Harding were very active, community-minded people, with tireless energy and enthusiasm, as were many of the pioneers that founded this nation. They were long-time members of the Swedish Lutheran Church and Emma baked, canned, sewed, knitted and crocheted items for the many craft, bake sales, community functions and groups they supported. She also hosted many lawn parties. She was a founding member of the Scandinavian Welfare Society from 1909 to her death in 1973. The society started the first hospital in Wetaskiwin, located on 48 Street. The Asp family lived across the street.

Emma and Harding had eight children, Sidney, Milton, Marie, Rehelda, Theodore, Clarence, Margaret and Jean. Sydney was handicapped and passed away at the age of eighteen years and a second child, Milton, passed away from diphtheria. Emma also became very ill with diphtheria and had a very slow recovery. The whole family was quarantined.

Emma became a farm wife when they lived on a farm east of Wetaskiwin, known as the 'Miller' farm. From here Emma would drive the team and buggy into town to attend various functions. The horse would be stabled at the livery barn next to the Beehive Store (present Co-op Site). The livery manager once remarked on what a smart horse she had and when Emma asked "'why?", he replied that the animal didn't even have a bit in his mouth.

In 1917, Emma and Harding moved back to town. Emma cared for her children and many others. She was fortunate to have help at home from the time of Rehelda's birth. They went on many trips and picked berries in the fall. In 1919, the Asps moved to Camrose where Harding bought Standard grocery store in partnership with Mr. Fucar.

Emma did a lot of entertaining, Halloween parties, birthday parties, etc. Emma was an accomplished seamstress and sewed all of the girls' clothes. She also sewed slipcovers for her chairs and sofa. In 1924 the family moved out of Camrose to a farm in the Verdun district. They had no running water, no bathroom facilities, no electricity and the farm was in need of repairs. At Verdun, Emma found very little in the way of women's organizations for socializing, so she and Lillian Sears started the Ladies Sunshine Club for the farm women. She washed clothes in a granary fitted up with two stoves where she also cooked. Wild game and chickens were often on the menu. Card games were a favorite pastime and neighbors would gather there for entertainment. Ice cream was often made with pudding and whipped cream, which was frozen, in a snow bank.

In 1929 they rented out the farm and moved back to Wetaskiwin. Emma took in boarders while Harding became a partner in a sawmill. In 1934, Harding became ill and they returned to the farm in Verdun. During this period Emma often went back to Minnesota to care for her childless aunt and uncles and parents during illnesses, until their passing away (John) 1930 and (Alinda)1938. Upon her return to Canada after her mother's death, Emma bought a house in Wetaskiwin.

When all of her children were either married or in the army, she rented out the house and moved into a suite in the Criterion Hotel with her daughter, Rehelda. Harding preferred to stay on the farm. After the war Emma, Harding, Clarence and Rehelda moved to the 'Ward House" across the street from the Queen Elizabeth School. Emma rented out the upstairs, Clarence lived in a basement suite while Rehelda and Emma lived on the main floor. Harding was admitted to Rosehaven in Camrose where he passed away December 1, 1952. Emma remained in her home until her death November 1, 1973 at the age of 88 years.

Category: Wetaskiwin