One of the reasons this column never seems to end is that people tend to ask questions, and in searching for answers we find tiny snippets of information that remind readers of people or stories they once knew. The phone call last week came from Minnesota, asked for me by name, and mentioned someone “at the court house” told him to call me. He had contacted them about land his grandfather had homesteaded “in the 1880s” and told me their maps did not go back that far. Maps go as far back as land had been surveyed, but the person he had spoken with might have started with a printed atlas with slightly newer land owners.
So, I asked his name and the township where they had lived. The grandfather had been John Stivland and had come from Ringebu (also Ringebo or Ringebue) in Norway and had settled in Loam Township after first living in Fillmore County, Minnesota. He did describe Ringebu as south of Oslo and near Lillehammer. I found both Oslo and Lillehammer but not Ringebu in my atlas. The grandson now lives in Plymouth, a suburb of the Twin Cities, and told me he had grown up in Fillmore County (southern Minnesota) and attended agricultural school at Crookston “before the ag school was part of the college”. It sounded like he had not been to Loam Township in Cavalier County (yet!), however, thanks to Kathy Muhs who watches for centennial books at sales, he now had an Osnabrock book which listed some of his relatives. One of the relatives he had contacted so far was Harvey Jacobson who compiled their family story for the Langdon book but had not sent a copy to the Osnabrock book. Families with ties to more than one community could chose the book or books where their story would be included. Some families chose between two books because they might have submitted the only family picture they had to go with the story and had to wait until the book was printed to have the picture returned.
If you wonder how the Jacobsons feature in this narrative, it is because Harvey’s grandmother was Karin Stiveland Jacobson, a sister of John J. Stivland (both spellings appear to have been used). There were at least two other sisters who married men who came to North Dakota and those connections have not yet been sorted out. What I did learn by Mr. Stivland’s phone call is that there were other family members who came with them from Ringebu to Minnesota and then to Loam Township but who used different last names so the relationship is not always clear. The surnames he gave me were Kampen, Vollum, Enger or Engen and Nelson. He was particularly interested in descendants of Christ Nelson because he felt that there were no descendants left of the other families. While the names may no longer be on mailboxes, but that does not mean that no descendants exist.
Being a person who has an interest in internet research, Mr. Stivland had contacted the Library of Congress and found the collection of pioneer photographs assembled by Fred Hultstrand who had taken the glass negatives of pictures photographed by John McCarthy, Job Harrison and others (all black and white negatives) and colorized them for showing at historic celebrations. One of these pictures Mr. Stivland found was listed as the sod house of Christ Nelson and he was sure it must have been taken in Loam Township. Loam Township originally had trees which many of the prairie townships did not so early settlers there often built log houses or claim shacks.
Fortunately, Mr. Stivland had copied down the names of the people pictured on the photograph:Erickson, Haugen, Gjevre etc. Yes, they were good Norwegian names but not the same names routinely found in Loam Township. The solution was to go on line to the Library of Congress and see if they had additional information. They did. The pictured sod house had been photographed at Soper, ND before 1900 and was owned by Christ O. Nelson. Possibly an ancestor of some people reading this column,but not the one who settled in Loam Township.
Another problem came when Mr. Stivland went to check the maps (the reason for his recent call to the court house) because the original land records showed his grandfather having title to land which the 1912 map in the Osnabrock book showed belonged to someone else while the Stivland claim is marked two miles to the east.
The only help I could give the caller would have to come from the clipping file which did have some gems. One was the old settler’s form filed out for Mrs. Jacobson. Her husband had died some years before so we found no obituary for him and nothing at all listed under Stivland. She gave her birthplace as Ringebu plus the name of her parents, sisters and brother John who by that time lived in Preston, MN. These forms were often filled out at the county fair and stored at the newspaper office where they were used when compiling obituaries.
That same source provided an obituary for Christ Nelson which opened doors to additional connections that might answer a few more questions. Christ Nelson’s parents were Mr. and Mrs. Nels Kampen. There had been earlier memories of people who changed their names when they got to America and the Kampen/Engen/Vollum group were known as brothers who all chose different names. Some original names might be Olson, Knutson, or Peterson and they would use the original name as a middle initial because in Norway your surname is your father’s first name followed by son or dotter. This Christ Nelson chose to use his Norwegian name, or maybe not. Among the Kampen families coming to North Dakota and applying for naturalization we found no one with the first name of Nels.
Another person Mr. Stivland was interested in was known to him as Ole Overby. The only Overby family who showed up in pioneer listings was Anton Overby, ancestor of the Overby families who have lived in Cavalier County for many years. At one time there was an Overbye family near Nekoma, but they did not appear on pioneer maps or listings and had no clippings of obituaries or other reasons for being in the newspaper. But just thinking over the names he was interested in some vague stories seemed to surface. In my mind I was remembering a white-haired lady at the Osnabrock Home around 1980 who told stories of long ago Mona and Loam Township.
This was not Hattie Rude, but someone who had been Hattie’s neighbor years before and had a connection to the Mostad family. While reading about South Pembina Church and Cemetery where several Loam Township families are buried I kept running across the name Johannah Pederson. She did not have a personal story in the Osnabrock book but while checking for another obituary on this research, I found her obituary. Her first husband was a John Pederson who died around 1901, and she had given land for the cemetery and the building of the South Pembina Church, possibly as a memorial. In 1904 she married Ole Kampen who died the following year. Could this possibly be the Ole Mr. Stivland was thinking of since members of this family used various last names? Mrs. Pederson-Kampen had three Pederson sons, and it appears she was sometimes known as Pederson after the death of her second husband. Two of her sons married Mostad sisters. The oldest son died in the flu epidemic leaving his young wife and four children who then lived with the grandmother on the original farm in Loam township. Eventually some of the children and their mother moved to Osnabrock so the children could attend high school. When I knew her, the children were grown and their mother had moved to the Osnabrock home bringing many stories and memories with her.
The information known to date is far from complete, but as readers think about the names some may come up with links which we can pass on to Mr. Stivland to help with his research. I am hoping readers know lots more than I do.