Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

C&S section foreman was early Berthoud photographer

July 16, 2020 | Then and Now

By Mark French

The Surveyor

One of Berthoud’s early photographers was Swedish immigrant and Colorado & Southern Railroad section foreman John Rydholm. In 1904, three photographs he had taken one year earlier were among the first photos to be published in the Berthoud Bulletin. Like Berthoud blacksmith A.G. Bimson, Rydholm dabbled in photography before turning his attention back to other enterprises.

Photo courtesy of Gary Elmquist – John Rydholm snapped photos of Berthoud agriculture that became some of the first camera images published in the Berthoud Bulletin. Later Rydholm worked for the Great Western Railway.

John Rydholm was born in Sweden in 1871. He immigrated to the United States in 1890, living in Fort Collins until coming to Berthoud in 1895. On December 30 of that year he married Miss Bertha Johnson in Fort Collins. Over the next few years, the couple added children Gustaf (1896), Emil (1899) and Lydia (1902) to their family.

During his early years in Berthoud Rydholm worked for the Colorado & Southern Railroad as a section foreman. In 1903 the local newspaper reported, “The C&S section men, under the supervision of J. Rydholm, have been replacing the light rails with heavy steel rails, which will considerably improve the track.” During that era the Colorado & Southern Railroad employed crews of section hands supervised by section foremen to maintain ten-mile sections of railroad track. These crews lived in a section house (no longer) standing beside the tracks on the river bottom at Old Berthoud. 

In 1903 Rydholm snapped three photographs of agricultural topics that would appear on the front page of the Berthoud Bulletin one year later. The first photograph appeared in the May 28, 1904 edition of the newspaper and was captioned “A Crop of Onions near Berthoud.” The photo showed some of the 900 sacks of onions that farmer J.B. Kauffman had harvested on his farm south of Berthoud.

Rydholm’s next photo appeared in the tabloid on June 4, 1904 and was titled “A Field of Sugar Beets near Berthoud.” Rydholm’s view showed beet workers on the George Wilson farm south of town. The photo caption noted, “the beets averaged over 20 tons to the acre … this year the yield will be larger and the price is $5 per ton.”

On June 11, 1904, a third photo, “Unloading Beets at Berthoud Beet Dump,” was featured on the front page of the local newspaper. The photo caption explained, “The beets are hauled from the fields in specially constructed wagon beds and by means of these dumps the farmer is enabled to unload his beets onto cars for shipment to the factory.” 

In 1904, the Berthoud beet dump was located along the Colorado & Southern railroad tracks at the north end of Berthoud. At that time the sugar beet industry was relatively new to Northern Colorado and operation of the Great Western Sugar Company’s dumping stations was considered worth viewing.

None of these Rydholm photographs are known to survive.

In early June of 1906 Rydholm and his wife Bertha packed up their young children and moved to Sweden. In the spring of 1908, they returned to Berthoud where Rydholm resumed work as a section foreman for the Colorado & Southern Railroad.

Voting records indicate that in 1910 the Rydholms were living in the rural district northeast of Berthoud where John’s brother Charley and relatives in the Elmquist and Swanson families were farming.

Tracks and trains ran through the lives of men in the Rydholm family. John Rydholm was a section foreman for the Colorado & Southern Railroad and later became a superintendent for the Great Western Railway. Eldest son Gustaf “Gus” Rydholm was an engineer for the Great Western Railway. Middle son Emil Rydholm was a streetcar engineer in Denver.

John Rydholm died in 1956 and was buried in Loveland Burial Park.

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