For more biographical information (including 1862 Dakota War) read the extensive obituaries of Gunder and Gemine Swenson.
Immigrants Sven and Margit Gunderson Borgen and their three children arrived in the US from Numedal Norway in April 1857, having sailed across the ocean. Ragnhild was 18; Bergit was 16; Gunder as 12 years old. By compiling information from Dick Lindahl's book and information on the website norwayheritage.com, it looks like the sailing ship was named Balder, with Captain G.A. Haagensen at the helm. The sailing ship was a "Bark" class of ship which left the freshwater port of Drammen, Norway (southwest of Oslo in Buskerud County) in early May, 1857 with 220 Norwegian emigrants and arrived in Quebec Canada on June 26, 1857. After arriving in Quebec the family then traveled to Rock County, Wisconsin. Sven and his family settled in the same area as his two brothers Syver and Steen Gunderson who had sailed to the US and settled in Rock County in 1842. (Norwegian settlements near Beloit in Rock County Wisconsin date back to 1839.) While at Rock Island, younger daughter, Bergit married Thomas Osmundson in 1858.
The following 4 pictures are from the Borgen farm, located in Numedal Valley in Norway. Thanks to Patricia Medhus for these photos which she took on a recent trip to Norway. As you look at the furniture pictures, please take note of the log walls of the house and the beautiful rosemalling on the furniture.
According to local historian Gabriel Stene, Sven's daughter Bergit, her husband Thomas Osmundson and son Samuel, left Rock County, Wisconsin, in 1859 to travel to the Norway Lake settlement. The Osmundsons traveled with other pioneers would make Norway Lake home: Johannes Iverson and family, Hans Peterson, Nels Peterson. Thomas wrote to his father-in-law telling him of the "fine country, and of the water, fish, deer, muskrats and an abundance of game and good soil; that the land was to be had free, but if he intended to avail himself o the opportunities, to come at once, as the land went fast."
In 1860 Sven, Margit and their two children traveled 400 miles northwest to Norway Lake, Monongalia County (later Kandiyohi) settling south of Lake Mary where the family took a pre-emption claim, under the Pre-emption Act of 1841, in section 24 of present Arctander Township. They drove an oxen team and also brought one cow and a calf on this journey over poor roads or no roads at all, going around swamps and hills. They settled and farmed an area south of what would later be known as Jericho and before the first congregation was organized in 1868.
According to a biography of Gunder Swenson in the 1905 History of Kandiyohi County, they arrived during the summer of 1860 so there was no farming during those first months. They fished in nearby lakes and hunted prevalent game. They used a coffee mill to grind corn for bread. The first spring they plowed some land and planted wheat, corn and potatoes. Daughter Ragnhild went to St. Cloud to look for work; she married Christopher Engen in St. Cloud on May 11, 1861. They then settled on his farm, which he claimed in 1859 under the Pre-emption act of 1841. The Engen farm was located to the west of Norway Lake. Borgen, Osmundson and Engen built the log cabin for the Borgen family.
In the summer 1860, when he was 15 years old, Gunder left the farm and went east to Acton Township in Meeker County where he was hired to a farmer, Robinson Jones. Gunder built a rail fence and plowed the fields at a rate of $5 a month. He worked for Jones for a month and half until he realized that Jones did not have the money to pay him. Rather, Jones paid him with 15 bushels of wheat. (Two years later Jones was killed by Indians at the fence which Gunder built; Jones one of the first victims of the Dakota War in Minnesota.) There is more information about this story in Gunder's obituary.
Another story about Gunder involves borrowed dishes and sheep. The Borgen family was expecting threshers at their homestead. To feed many men Margit Borgen needed more dishes than what she had in her home. So she sent Gunder to the neighbor, Andrew Hedin, to borrow some. Gunder walked on the west side of Lake Mary, through Hedin's pasture to get to the neighbor's home. But this pasture had a ram known for head-butting . As Gunder returned home with the borrowed dishes tied up in a cloth he saw the ram and the ram saw Gunder. Gunder set down his bundle of dishes and as the ram charged Gunder side-stepped and then threw himself up and onto the ram. Gunder then managed to lift the front legs of the animal and laid them over the ram's spiral horns. The helpless ram was unable to lift his legs out of this unusual position. Gunder then picked up the sack of dishes and walked home. He returned a few minutes later and released the ram.
In August of 1862 the Norway Lake settlers received warnings that the Dakota Sioux in the area had killed Swedish settlers in the Monson Lake area to the west. Son Gunder, age 17, was not at home so he took refuge at the Knutson cabin north of the Borgen farm. (The Knutson cabin was rebuilt and is now part of the Norway Lake Lutheran Historical Association) When Gunder arrived at the cabin he found it full of men who had gathered there after searching for survivors at the Monson Lake settlement. Gunder stayed at the Knutson cabin overnight and the next morning he started for home. Along his route he learned that his family had already gone to the island near the southern shore of Norway Lake where many settlers had taken refuge. (The island later became known as the Isle of Refuge.)
A group of men decided to go to Monson Lake and bury the dead. Young Gunder joined the group. When the men had reached the Lundborg cabin at the settlement, Gunder, with his horse, was sent ahead to scout if any Indians were nearby. There were no Indians, so the group buried the dead while Gunder remained on guard. Very few settlers remained in the area after this outbreak--what was later called the 1862 Sioux Uprising or the Dakota War. The Borgen family went to Rice Creek, near Minneapolis, and remained there for 3 years, then returned to their farm in 1864.
In May, 1863, Borgen applied in Ramsey County Court to receive a Depredation Claim for his destroyed and lost personal property: farm buildings, crops, animals,and fencing. Son-in-law Thomas Osmundson was his witness. He applied under the name "Svend Gunderson" not Borgen. Claim #2122 was accepted and Borgen received $166.00 in October 1863. In the application documents, Borgen stated that he had
lived there 2 years before the outbreak, had a farm then owned at that time all the property...It was all destroyed during the outbreak...On 21st August 1862 on account of outbreak I left my home and all the property...The stable was 40 x 12 built of logs, was worth $23. I had 12 tons of hay in the stack, had 5 acres of wheat, 15 bushels rye, 1 acre of potatoes, 2 bushels beans, 1 acre corn, nearly 1 acre rutabagas. My garden was lost. I had 1 year hog and 5 spring pigs, had 8 hens, lost 200 rails [his fence]. They are burnt. The windows were broken in my house.Gunder's obituary contains more information about the family during the time of the Dakota War.
In 1914, Rev. Daniel C. Jordahl (1864-1947) wrote about the Norway Lake settlers, the Lundberg and Broberg families of Monson Lake, the Isle of Refuge, and events of August 1862 in an article published in "SYMRA". (DC Jordahl uses colorful language of the day which modern sensibilities may find a bit harsh.)
Kandiyohi County historian and Norwegian settler, Gabriel Stene, wrote an article about the settlers leaving the Isle of Refuge to travel east to safety, with their cattle:
After burying the thirteen victims at New Sweden (Monson Lake), and after (Thomas) Osmundson had trimmed the grave of his mother which was near the island, they spent the second night on the island. They dared take no more chances and on the following day, with a few loaded wagons drawn by oxen, they left for Paynesville and St. Cloud, driving their cattle before them.
Among those in the caravan were the mother and five children who had left the husband and father dead, and who had seen the girl, Mary, carried off on the back of an Indian pony. The mother was sad, but thankful that she had five of her children with her on the trail to safety. (note: This mother was the widow of Johannes Iverson.)
Arriving at St. Cloud after three days, they found only a ferry across the river, as there had been no bridge built at that time. The St. Cloud people refused to ferry them over, but told them to bunch up and they would be safe.
Mary Iverson, who had been carried off by the Indians and had escaped, had arrived at St. Cloud previous to the arrival of the caravan, and there joined her mother.
That same day a company of one hundred men on horseback buried Iverson's body. These men were all from St. Cloud...When the St. Cloud people refused to ferry the caravan across the river, Thomas Osmundson, Sven Borgen, Gunder Swenson and others with a little fighting blood decided to fight it out with the St. Cloud bunch rather than take chances with the Indians, but, the St. Cloud bunch gave in and ferried across everything but the cattle.
Three men were left with the cattle, and Osmundson, who had an ox which he had broken to ride, decide to swim the cattle across. He finally coaxed the ox into the water, and the rest of the stock followed. The caravan then proceeded to St. Anthony Falls, where they separated. Mrs. Iverson and children went with the Railsons and a few others to Rice County. Hans and Nels Peterson volunteered to go and fight Indians.
Sven Borgen and wife and son, Gunder, C(Christopher) Engen and wife (Ragnhild), and Osmundsons went up Rice Creek to Mahnomen where they found a little saw mill and a few cabins which had been deserted. Here they decided to remain over the winter, 12 miles east of Anoka, also known as Fridley Station. It was pretty late in the year to get winter feed for the stock, but a farmer up the river told them they could have all the grass they wanted from a marsh he owned, for 25 cents a load. Borgen and son, Gunder, each purchased a scythe and went to work, taking care not to step into water holes....
In 1864 Andrew Railson from Rice County hunted up Osmundsons and asked them to go back to the Norway Lake country and put up hay, with the intention of spending the winter there. Upon arriving there (Norway Lake) they found the country going through a terrible draught. Prairie fires in July had left the ground full of cracks wide enough to put your fist in. The so-called Norway Lake slough was so dry you could cross it any place with a team. there was no hay to be had and they had to return to the colony for another winter.
In 1865 the entire colony went to Norway Lake. Fires had ruined everything. Cabins and stables had to be built anew. The only cabins now standing are those of Eric Kapperud and Swenson's and Broberg cabin. The entire colony united in making dugouts and shacks, and log stables and dugouts for the cattle.
They were all husky men and because of the open winter they could work in their shirt sleeves until February. The men worked in a gang, one job at a time. They started at Andrew Railson's, and then went to Osmundson's Halvorson's, Borgen's, Engen's, Even Railson's, Eric Kapperud's, Ole Knutson's, Even Glesne's, Lars Iverson's and Helge Hillerud's. They were all done when the snow came in February.
Gabriel Stene wrote about an event at Monson Lake State Park (Swift County) held on August 17, 1930, 68 years after the settlers were killed. Gunder Swenson, by this time blind and almost deaf, was at this event. Stene writes:
I escorted my blind friend, Gunder Swenson, to the platform at the Monson Lake gathering, where the good people have provided a rocking chair for him. Mr. Swenson and myself have been neighbors and friends for 63 years. He has not only the affliction of being blind (three years now) but he is also very hard of hearing. "I can hear the voices, but the songs and music, but I cannot distinguish a single word or tune"....Mr. Swenson entertained many listeners with his early pioneer stories. He was a lad of 17, who was placed upon a horse as a lookout watching for any approaching redskins while the survivors were digging the grave large enough for the 13 massacred persons at this place. He is now 85 years old and blind but is the only one left who can tell the story of the rescuing of refugees and bringing them to the Isle of Refuge. Of the hurried flight, sleeping in the open, and fear of being surprised by the savages. With his nephew, then four months old, and Mrs. John Skare, then one year old, these three are the only ones left of the forty-three who were rescued and remained on the Isle of Refuge three nights--August 20, 21, and 22, 1862.
Orlynn Mankell wrote several articles about this time period, including how the Borgen family were affected by the Sioux Uprising of 1862, the drought of 1963-1864, and their return to their cabin along Lake Mary in the fall of 1864. In another article Orlynn writes about the killing of Lonely Gravestone Tells of Pioneer's Fate: Johannes Iverson, and how the family found themselves separated with three children seeking shelter at the Borgen cabin.
On August 20, 2012, three descendants of the Borgen and Swenson families canoed to the Isle of Refuge. Kurt Mankell, Grady Larimer and Bill Larimer camped on the island for 2 nights to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War and to honor the memory of their ancestors who stayed on the island 150 years ago, worried for their safety, families, friends, farms, and future.
In December, 1863, after his short visit to his farm and before the family returned in 1984, Sven Borgen applied for a homestead with the US government at the Land Office in St. Cloud. This Swenson homestead was the same location as his pre-emption claim, Section 24 of what was later called Arctander Township. When Sven, Margit and Gunder returned in 1864, they returned as homesteaders, ready to live on and develop the farm as required by the Homestead Act of 1862. He received the final certificate of ownership, dated 1869.
In March 1870 a legal contract was drawn by the Register of Deeds where Gunder Swenson agreed to take care of his parents Sven and Margit Gunderson Borgen, providing food and shelter during his parents' advancing years:
"that on or before the first day of December, each and every year, [Gunder] shall deliver to [Sven and Margit] eighty bushels of wheat, twenth bushels of potatoes, two hundred pounds of pork all of good quality, also six pounds tobacco, six pounds of coffee, six pounds of sugar, and one half a barrel of salt and one galf a gallon of alcohol....to furnish a sufficient good room as a living house and fuel..."Some of that tobacco was for Margit, because she smoked a corncob pipe, according to her great-granddaughter, Helga Swenson Lindahl.
Gunder Swenson and Gemine Negaard married in 1871. Gemine Negaard was a Norwegian who had lived on the Negård farm in Stor-Elvdal, Osterdalen Valley, Hedmark, Norway. (see maps) just as many generations of ancestors before her had done. Gemine's parents were Halvor O. Negaard (c1827-c1878) and Marthe (or Martha) Tharaldson (1828-1918). There are at least four "Negård" farms in Stor-Elvdal, with the mother-farm known as the North Negård. The mother-farm was divided several times so that land could be passed to younger family members. The mother-farm is first mentioned in 1520, though it is believed to have been quite old at that time. In 1528 Halsten Negård, the first recorded owner, paid a tax of 12 shillings on the farm. Following Halsten, generations of Negaard families have lived on the Negård farms. Several generations after Halsten, in 1816, Halvor O. Negaard's parents married. Mother Guri Olsdatter Negård grew up on the farm and married Ole Halvorsen. The couple remained on the farm, Ole took the farm name, so the family was known as Negård. (In America the spelling is Negaard.) For centuries it has been common practice for Norwegian families to take the farm name as their last name.
Halvor, Martha and their children left their home, the Negård farm, emigrated from Norway and settled in Arctander Township, Kandiyohi County, MN in 1870 when Gemine was 16 years old. The children of Halvor and Marthe Negaard were Gemine, Tomine, Ole H, Martin, Halvor, Gjorand, Martha, Hannah. Sometime between 1875 and 1880, father Halvor died leaving Marthe a widow. Ole H. Negaard took over the farm, located in far west border of Arctander Township. Marthe lived on the farm until the early 1900s when she moved to Puyallup, Pierce County, Washington to live with her daughter, Tomine Truedson, and her family. Marthe's granddaughter, Clara Swenson (daughter of Gemine) was living with the Truedsons at the time. At the time of her death in 1918, Marthe was back in Arctander Township, living with her daughter Gemine Swenson and family.
Gemine's mother, Martha Negaard died on January 19, 1918. Local historian and columnist Gabriel Stene wrote her obituary for the Willmar Tribune:
Another old pioneer, Mrs. Martha Negaard, responded to the call of Death Saturday morning, January 19, at the ripe old age of ninety years. She had been weak and feeble for some time, still Death came unexpected as she was seated in a rocking chair. Her steps over the threshold was to her like going into a natural sleep. Such ended the life of a noble woman, good neighbor, and a true Christian, loved and respected by all. She always had a smile and a cheery word for everyone. She was kind and would rather stand a loss than refuse a favor asked in time of need. Her memory will long live in this neighborhood.
Martha Negaard was born November 16, 1828, in Stor-elv dalen, Norway, where she grew to womanhood. In 1853 she was married to Halvor Negaard of the same place. The family emigrated to America in 1870 and like other frontier people, took up the struggles of pioneer life. Her husband died in February, 1876. Since then, she farmed with the help of her children and always made her home here with the exception of visits with some of her children. The union was blessed with eight children, three of whom have preceded her. These were (Hanna) Mrs. Erickson of Chicago, (Gjorand) Mrs. Bernhard Tostad of Norway and Martha of this place; those surviving are (Gemine) Mrs. Gunder Swenson with whom she made her home, (Tomine) Mrs. E.P Truidson of Puyallup, Washington; O. H. Negaard of St. Paul; Halvor Negaard of North Dakota and Martin Negaard of Kerkhoven. There are twenty-four grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren. All relatives were present at the funeral with the exception of Mrs. Truidson and Mrs. Berg and Horace Negaard of Washington, Mrs. Lempher [Lamphere] and Otto Swenson of Buffalo, S. Dak., and Mrs. O.H. Negaard of St. Paul.
The pallbearers were six grandsons, S.G. Swenson, Henry Swenson, Melvin Swenson, George Swenson, Clarence Negaard and Arnold Negaard. The remains were laid to rest by the side of her husband in the East Norway Lake cemetery. The casket was covered with flowers, giving testimony to the love and respect she was held in by all who knew her. Long live the memory of Grandma Negaard!
Stor-Elvdal, Osterdalen Valley, Hedmark, in Norway
Negaard farm (c1880) in Stor-Elvdal, Osterdalen Valley in Norway
Negaard farm (c1980) in Stor-Elvdal, Osterdalen Valley in Norway
Gunder Swenson and Gemine Negaard Swenson. These photos are undated.
Gunder, Gemine and children, c1885
Standing: Minnie, Henry, George, Swen
Seated: Gemine holding Anna; Gunder holding Clara
Gemine and Gunder were members of East Norway Lake Lutheran Church, located in Jericho, just north of their homestead. (Both are buried in the church cemetery.) In 1875 Gunder helped build the church when the congregation had outgrown the log church located near the Ole Knutson cabin. The congregation decided to divide into two separate congregations: West Norway Lake which served the families closer to Sunburg, and East Norway Lake which served the settlers closer to the Norway Lake settlement. The first worship service was held in the new church in early 1876. Gunder and Gemine's oldest daughter, Minnie, was the first baby baptized in the new building. Gunder was one of the first Trustees of the new congregation and by 1885 found himself in the middle of a contentious period in the congregation, part of the Norwegian Synod.
Beginning in 1870s the Norwegian Synod experienced several controversies, including the theology of predestination. The difficulties filtered down to the congregations, including East Norway Lake Lutheran. Pastor Lars Markhus, pastor at this congregation, found himself in the middle of the controversy during July, 1885. Here is the timeline of events, as described in "Keeping the Faith, Sharing the Faith", a history of First Lutheran Church of Norway Lake:
July 8, 1885: The Trustees of the congregation asked that Pr. Markhus turn over the keys to the church, which he did.
July 16: Pr Markhus and several men removed the locks to the church building, installed new locks, and took the keys.
July 17: Pr Markhus and the men locked themselves inside the church.
July 18: The Trustees retook possession, but the Pastor and men refused to leave.
July 24: The Trustees were again in control of the buliding and had keys to another new set of locks. The Pastor and men wrenched open windows and doors to enter the building. The pastor performed his ministerial duties of teaching a confirmation class and said that he would continue to enter the building to hold religious services.
July 24: The Trustees carried Pastor Markhus out of the church. Gunder Swenson is said to have been one of these Trustees.
According to Pr Markhus, the trustees "wrongfully, unlawfully and with force of arms, assaulted Pastor Markhus and then and there did violently...take and carry Pastor Markhus out of and away from the church edifice..." In their version of events, the Trustees stated that they "carefully lifted Pastor Markhus by his arms and by the seat of his breeches and gently carried him out of said church and most gently deposited him on the sward outside of said church."
November 12, 1885: a District Judge ruled that Pr Markhus could use the church for religious services on the first half of each Sunday until the courts made a final decision.
December 23, 1885: Pastor Lars Markhus died at the age of 43, leaving behind a widow and four children. He is buried in the church cemetery.
Quoting from the church history, "Thus it has been said that while most people are carried into church once (for baptism) and carried out of church once (at their funerals), Pastor Markhus had the distinction of being carried out of the church twice."
Members of East Norway Lake Lutheran split over the treatment Pastor Markhus received. The minority group did not approve, left this congregation, and formed another comgregation 2 miles away--First Lutheran Church of Norway Lake. The "Brick Church" was completed in 1892. The majority, including Gunder Swenson, remained at East Norway Lake Lutheran.
From "Keeping the Faith, Sharing the Faith, p. 39.
Gemine and Gunder lived at the Swenson homestead and had 14 children.
This is the second home on the farm (c1900).
Members of the Swenson family, c1900.
Standing in back: Clara Swenson Berg, George Swenson?, Anna Swenson Quale
Seated: Gemine Swenson, Helen Swenson Lamphere?, Gunder Swenson,
Sven Borgen, Henry Swenson
From Anniversary Album, 1859-1944, Lebanon Lutheran Church, p.65.
Gunder Swenson became a U.S. citizen on June 26, 1900. And by derivation his wife and young children also became citizens. Witnesses were neighbors C.H. Engen and C. M. Engen.
Four generations, c1902: Swen Swenson, Sven Borgen, Lena Swenson, and Gunder Swenson.
Gunder and Gemine Swenson Family, June 29, 1906
Back Row: Otto, Henry, Gerhard, Swen, Lydia, Melvin, Mabel
Front Row: George, Anna, Gemine, Helen, Gunder, William, Minnie, Clara
Gunder and Gemine had 14 children, oldest to youngest: Swen; Henry who died in infancy; Minnie, Mrs. Oscar Mankell; Henry; George; Clara, Mrs. O. M. Berg; Anna, Mrs Axel Quale; Otto; Melvin; Gerhard; Mabel; Lydia, Mrs. C. H. Bruce; Helen, Mrs. Fred Lamphere; and William. Helen Lamphere's grandson, Dale Lamphere is a sculptor in Sturgis, South Dakota. Gerhard Swenson's grandson, Rick Swenson, is a sled-dog racer in Alaska and has won the Iditerod competition a record-setting five times (1977-1991).
The wedding day of Clara Swenson and O.M. Berg, c1915.
Photo taken in front of the Swenson home on Lake Mary, in Arctander Township, Kandiyohi County, MN.
Four generations, c1917: Marthe Negaard, Alice Mankell, Gemine Swenson, and Minnie Mankell.
Gemine and Gunder Swenson (c1920) in front of their third home on the Swenson farm.
This home still remains on the farm.
Quam, Johnson, Swenson and Stene families, c1924.
Standing: Three men are (possibly) Henry, Swen and George Swenson.
Very tall man is Dr. Hans Johnson (husband of Estelle Quam)
Standing: Gunder Swenson and Gemine Swenson (3rd and 4th from left), Anna Swenson Quale (3rd from right),
Clara Swenson Berg (2nd from right), Ruby Swenson (far right).
Seated: Nels Quam (3rd from left), Gabriel Stene (3rd from right) Estelle Quam Johnson (2nd from right).
Photograph courtesy of Dr. Robert Johnson, great-grandson of Anna and Nels Quam.
One photograph featuring the three Swenson homes.
The original log cabin is in the foreground and was closest to Swenson Lake.
The second house is in the middle; the third and current home (closest to Lake Mary) is in the background.
The Swenson family had a large apple orchard. Swenson Lake is in the background.
Gunder's granddaughter, Helga (Swenson) Lindahl tells a story about Gunder and his apple orchard.After he quit farming, her would sort apples in the new house where he had put up shelves for storing and curing the apples. In the fall when Roy and I went to District 104 to school, we walked straight past Grandpa's and he would always say "Here is an apple for your teacher."
The graves of Gunder and Gemine Swenson at East Norway Lake Lutheran Church.
The homestead remained in the Swenson family until October, 1944 when Kermit Reigstad purchased the farm. The large white house (the third home built by the Swenson family) remains on the farm, looking over the south side of Lake Mary.
Swenson family reunion in 1932 at the farm. 95 people attended.
My father, Orlynn Mankell (grandson of Minnie Swenson Mankell), published articles which focused on local and family history. These stories involve Minnie's father, Gunder Swenson, her uncle Thomas Osmundson, and her grandparents Sven Gunderson Borgen and his wife Margit Borgen. The Johannes Iverson story tells of his death (and what happened to his family) during the 1862 Dakota War (Sioux Uprising) and their connection to the Borgen/Swenson family.
- Why the Dakota loved Kandiyohi County
- Gunder Swenson, Norwegian Settler
- Lonely Gravestone Tells of Pioneer's Fate: Johannes Iverson
- 1863 Drought in Kandiyohi County
- Norway Lake Pioneer (Sven Borgen) Endured Drought of 1863
- Thomas and Bergit Osmundson
Bibliography: Keeping the Faith...Sharing the Faith , Festskrift, 1905 History of Kandiyohi County, East Norway Lake Lutheran Church, Lindahl.