By Rita Maisel
This is the third try on a column that has been sabotaged by an uninvited health issue recently making the rounds in a lot of Langdon homes. The main symptoms are all night coughing, a runny nose and, after a few days, extreme tiredness. Readers who find this happening might want to make an appointment with the clinic!
After several days of this nonsense, I made it to the clinic Monday morning and then found an e-mail message (possibly from last week) about the upcoming visit of Sid Stivland and his wife planning to arrive in Langdon this coming week and hoping to meet with their possible relatives who they have been trying to contact by e-mail or phone for the last two or three years. The family name has various spellings including Stiveland, Stulen (an original spelling in Norway) and others. With the help of Harvey Jacobson’s earlier book and information located on a 2017 trip to Norway, Sid had published a book titled “The Stulen Family in America” which he sent to the Cavalier County Library along with instructions for me to “read Harvey’s book first”. In trying to follow instructions I read the two books together in the winter of 2018 and wrote recommending them to descendants of Loam Township homesteaders who would find many ties to their own heritage. It could be the people most interested have not yet read either book completely, but they are still available.
Partly due to my cloudy memory and the haze of not working on all cylinders, I had trouble trying to remember the details of previous research and conversations. Sid mentioned a list of people living in this area who might help him (but did not list them) and suggested I could help him locate them when he reached Langdon. In going through a Long Ago column I did find the original names of homesteaders whose descendants he was interested in locating: Pederson/Peterson, Nelson, Paulson/Paalsen, Kampen, Engen, Vollum, Jacobson and anyone who now farmed former Stiveland land. His grandfather had been John Stiveland, who owned various properties in Loam Township at different times.
On the second day of trying to locate information for his visit, I went back to the two books mentioned above and took his advice in reading Harvey’s first book. The first part is composed of maps, charts, excerpts from bygdeboks with long lists of Norwegians who followed the traditions of having a different surname for each generation and sometimes two or three surnames for brothers and sisters. Some of this is Harvey’s own research, and some had been researched by Leland Johnson whose work I was also a bit familiar with. Leland has other books on the shelves of the North Dakota Room which have been read in the past, but since I was still on Harvey’s book, they would have to be read at a future date.
Following the more formal portions of Harvey’s book came the individual family stories – some read a year or two ago and some appearing to be the first time I had ever seen them. Certainly, I remembered Harvey who had attended Langdon High School, graduated in 1948 with honors and is remembered as possibly a band member, editor of the first LHS annual and other notable achievements. But the realization surfaced that until meeting Marjorie Jacobson when she owned and operated Langdon Floral, Harvey was the only member of the Jacobson family I knew even by name or sight. I had never met any of Harvey’s parents, grandparents, brothers or sister or any of their spouses. In actual fact, I learned to recognize many names from that neighborhood while doing the 1976 school directory. A cousin, who had taught and lived in Loam Township, suggested Elaine (Peterson) Koehmstedt and Lois (Welsh) Peterson- who not only knew all the LHS alumni from Loam Township but the addresses of where they were in 1976.
Harvey’s book gives dates his grandparents came to America which I want to include in this column because they form an interesting pattern which readers will enjoy. Some came on sailing ships (wind driven), some by steamship and most had to bring their food with them since meal service was not available for the passengers. Various family members had a wooden trunk often painted in bright colors with their name, sometimes their birthday and sometimes the date they left their homeland. Many families still prize these small chests.
In 1846 paternal grandfather Torkel Jacobson, age 12, came to America with his parents Ole Jacobson Fjermedal and Anne Aas Fjermedal, and other siblings. Fjermedal was the name of the farm they lived on in Norway. Harvey, as well as some later descendants, have been there. Torkel lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota and, at least briefly, in Iowa before coming to Dakota Territory in 1882 which is the same year the Tollefsons (who he knew in Iowa) also came and settled in what is now Hay Township. Torkel’s parents died and are buried in Minnesota.
In 1859 maternal grandmother Augusta (Alfson) Swenson, less than a year old, came to the U.S. with her parents and siblings and settled in Minnesota. Her parents were Kittle and Helge (Krosso Thompson) Alfson. Several other families who would settle in Cavalier County also have Alfson ancestry including Brudahl, Magnus, Bowles and at least one Dunford family. Their stories are in the Langdon Centennial Book.
In 1861 maternal great-grandparents Svennung amd Helvig Neirson came to Minnesota where their son, Ole Bjorn Swenson, was born in 1862- the only grandparent in the family born in America. This couple (Augusta and Ole Bjorn) were married and had children in Minnesota before coming to homestead in the Swenson Coulee area of Cavalier County where part of their claim is still owned by family. They were also the grandparents of Leland Johnson who compiled their family histories.
The fourth of Harvey’s grandparents, Karen Stivelen, came to the U.S. in 1875 at the age of 29 along with her parents, John Peterson Stivelen (also known as Stulen or Stiveland) and Karen Svensdatter Stivelen, and her siblings. Karen came from Ringebu which was also the birthplace (or near it) for numerous other Cavalier County settlers. She married Torkel in Minnesota, and it is my understanding some of their early land is still in the Jacobson name.
When Harvey went to Norway he visited the original home communities of all his grandparents so some of his journeys were also traced by Leland Johnson, Sid Stivland, Martin Jacobson, and Marjorie Jacobson – who went with her daughters, Kathy and Melissa, and granddaughter Britt in 1987 – and most recently by Terry and Janet Jacobson in 2018. Until they reach Langdon next week, the Stivlands will not personally have met any of the other local travelers to those Norwegian homelands.
In the meantime, I hope to finish reading both books more carefully in order to correctly send the visitors down the right roads to meet the people they have come to visit. On this visit they will also be attending a class reunion at Crookston where Sid graduated from the Agricultural College.