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Deming Library to digitize historic photos from Nesset family farm

The Nesset farm barn in South Fork Valley, with its strikingly lit interior is part of the early farmstead whose history will be preserved when Nesset family photos are digitized for public access by the Deming Library.
The Nesset farm barn in South Fork Valley, with its strikingly lit interior is part of the early farmstead whose history will be preserved when Nesset family photos are digitized for public access by the Deming Library. COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A hundred or more photos tied to the historic Nesset homestead in South Fork Valley is the latest batch of rural Whatcom County images to be digitized and made accessible to the online public.

Deming Library, a branch of Whatcom County Library System, has received a $6,790 grant to preserve and make available the Nesset photo collection.

The grant is from Washington Rural Heritage, a Washington State Library program that helps small and rural libraries develop online digital collections of historical materials. The money will pay for a scanner, computer and hard drives, and for library staff to digitize the photos, with the work to be finished by September 2015.

"We'll develop the resources to make this unique collection of photos accessible to researchers, family history buffs, and future generations," said Katrina Carabba, Deming Library's manager.

The photos will be viewable at Washington Rural Heritage's website, where people can already see historic images from Lummi Island and Nooksack Valley.

The Nesset farm is a key part of South Fork Park, a 603-acre county park under development near Acme.

Born and raised in Norway, Lars and Anna Nesset arrived at the 106-acre farm in the early 1900s and bought the land on the south fork of the Nooksack River from a relative who had already built a cedar-log farmhouse. The couple raised five children, including Tom Nesset, who took many of the photographs to be digitized.

Tom Nesset died in 1992, but not before Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt, a relative, talked to him, as well as to other relatives, about the contents of the photographs. Pfeiffer-Hoyt, a trustee of the Nesset Family Trust, is providing the photographs to be digitized, and will work with the library to indentify the photo subjects.

Many of the photographs show daily farm life, while others are photos sent to the Nessets from relatives in Norway.

"They represent that tie between the Old World and the New World," Pfeiffer-Hoyt said.

There are pictures showing a relative working at a whaling station in Alaska, and pictures from when Tom Nesset hiked across the North Cascades to work in Chelan apple orchards in the 1920s.

There are pictures of crops being harvested, stumps being pulled, a barn being built, and guys in suits during Prohibition using long straws to drink from a keg. Tom Nesset talked about life on the farm, but never mentioned anything about making moonshine, Pfeiffer-Hoyt said.

"After he died, when we were restoring the barn, I found the parts to a still," he said.

Many of the farm buildings, including the farmhouse and barn, are being renovated and will be open to the public once South Fork Park is completed. The buildings and property will developed as "interpretive" attractions so visitors can learn about early farm and immigrant life in the valley.

"We don't live like that anymore," Pfeiffer-Hoyt said. "That era of Whatcom County, I think most people wouldn't know it existed."

HERITAGE ONLINE

To see Washington Rural Heritage collections, including materials from Lummi Island and Nooksack Valley, go to washingtonruralheritage.org.

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