BJORN THORSTENSON was born in Mo (now Tokke), Telemark, Norway, on Nov. 24, 1849. SIGRID AANUNDSDOTTER DRANGSTVEIT was born Dec. 14, 1847, in nearby Morgedal, Hvideseid (now Kviteseid), Telemark, Norway. SIGRID was baptized, Jan. 9, 1848, at the family church in Brunkeberg. That would have been less than three weeks after the winter solstice. It must have been quite cold on that dark Sunday morning as they traveled the 8 kilometers from the Byggland farm to Brunkeberg.
Mo, Telemark, Norway
The little village where SIGRID was born has its own place in history. It is the home of Sondre Norheim, known as the "father of modern skiing." Sondre Norheim perfected the Telemark method of skiing. In his honor, Morgedal has been chosen three times as the site for the lighting of the Olympic torch for the winter games ... Oslo (1952), Squaw Valley (1960), and Lillehammer (1994). SIGRID was a distant cousin of Sondre.
BJORN and SIGRID married Jan. 23, 1872, at the Mo church in Mo (photo right), and then immigrated to America in 1881, with two sons and a daughter, and settled near Fergus Falls, Otter Tail, MN. SIGRID's family began emigrating about the same time, but settled some 300 miles to the east, in Trempealeau County, in southwestern Wisconsin.
On May 21, 1881, Bjorn received permission from the Mo church to leave Norway and immigrate to America. Six days later, on May 27, the family sailed on the S.S. Rollo from Kristiania (Oslo) to Hull, England. Ships left almost every week year-round (on Fridays) from Kristiania, stopping at Arendal and Kristiansand, before heading out to the North Sea for the trip to Hull. Hull is on the east coast, so from Hull the family took a four-hour train ride across England to Liverpool. At Liverpool, after waiting several weeks, they would have caught another ship for the 8-12 day sailing to America.
Their destination was already known, Fergus Falls, MN. Perhaps they had friends or sponsors there, but there are no such records in the Digital Archives. Bjorn's brother, Tallef, travelled with them, as did Gunlaug Eivindsdotter, Bjorn's first cousin and the future wife of Tallef. The group arrived in America on July 15, 1881, based on a declaration made by Bjorn when he filed his Intention of Citizenship in 1882.
In 1882 the rest of Bjorn's family would join them - parents and siblings, Kittel, Anne and Sigurd. Then, in 1883, Sigrid's parents would immigrate to Blair, WI.
On Nov. 4, 1882, BJORN declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States. In that record, filed in Otter Tail County, he stated that he arrived in the United States on July 15, 1881. The Naturalization Record was executed on Saturday, Mar. 4, 1904, in Crookston, Polk, MN. That document acknowledges the oath signed in 1882.
Shortly after arriving in Otter Tail County, Olaus was born in Tordenskjold township in 1881, followed by THEA in Aurdal township in 1887. The two sons, born in Norway, became naturalized citizens on April 5, 1906, in Crookston, Polk, MN. Both of the applications for citizenship were witnessed by younger brother, O. M., who was already a citizen because of his birth in this country.
A daughter, Julia, was living with her brother, Olaus (O. M.), in Aastad Township, Otter Tail, MN, at the time of the 1900 U.S. Census. They are both reported to have been born in Minnesota, while their parents are shown to have been born in Norway. Julia and Olaus were but 16 and 17 years old respectively. Julia was listed as overseer of the farm she rented.
photo courtesy Suzanne Sears
comparison photos (Sigrid/Thea)
Also living in Aastad Township, was T. B. Thorstenson (Thorsten). He shows up in the 1900 census just four entries prior to Julia and Olaus. T. B. was age 22 at the time, single, and listed as a boarder at the residence of Nels N. and Julia Aune. T. B. was born in Norway as were his parents.
Signe was already married by 1900 and was living with her husband and two children in the city of Fergus Falls.
BJORN and SIGRID are found in the 1900 U.S. Census in Red Lake County, MN. On Oct. 19, 1905, BJORN purchased 160 acres of farm land in the SE-1/4 of Section 15, township 151N in Range 40W. This is in Equality township, Red Lake County, MN. The land is about five miles northeast of Oklee, MN. His farm land was adjacent to that of his brother, Kittel, who had land in the southwest quarter of the same section. Another brother, Tallef, had farm property in Section 28 of Equality township.
It appears that BJORN had some indecision in deciding what family name would be used in America. In 1882, when he declared his intent to become a citizen, he used the name TORSTENSON. That same spelling was used in 1905 when he became a citizen, and again later that year when he obtained land in Red Lake County. At the same time, his children in Otter Tail County were using the name, THORSTENSON, which was the name that BJORN would adopt when the family moved to Montana. However, the family is recorded in the 1900 U.S. Census as SLETTEVEIT, their Norwegian farm name and the name permanently used by his brothers in Red Lake County.
In the Minnesota state census of 1905, the family is listed in Red Lake County as TORSTENSON. Seven children are listed, including Julia (spelled "Guline"). Immediately following is Kittel Sletvedt and family. The data collected indicates that BJORN immigrated in 1881, and Kittel in 1882. It shows that Kittel came to Red Lake County in July, 1899, and BJORN came in August, 1900.
BJORN and SIGRID, along with several of their children, came to Montana in 1906. In 1910, they came to Plentywood, Sheridan, MT, and took up land northeast of town.
In the 1910 edition of Telephony (Volume 59, No. 25), it is reported that Thorstenson & Thorstenson have a contract with The Dakota Western Telephone Co. of Williston, N. D., to build exchanges at Medicine Lake and Plentywood. Then, between 1912 and 1914, Olaus, Onon and T.B. purchased 800 acres of farm land in Sections 23-24, three miles east of Plentywood.
In the spring of 1919, SIGRID was summoned to Detroit. Amanda was sick, suffering with symptoms similar to those which had claimed the lives of Angela and THEA during the previous 12 months. CHARLES PETERSON's sister Augusta came from Duluth, and CHARLES's niece Elsa, with her family, came from St. Paul. Sadly though, Amanda died on June 26.
Old Plentywood Cemetery
An obituary in the Detroit News, June 27, 1919, following Amanda's death, lists her parents as Mr. and Mrs. B. Phorstenson [sic]. Her brothers and sisters are listed as Onon, O. N.[sic] , T. D.[sic] , Sarah[sic], Mrs. George McKinstry, Mrs. T. O. Scott, and the late Mrs. Charles Peterson (THEA). There were a number of typographical errors in the obituary. "Sarah" should be "Taral".
The 1920 U.S. Census for Sheridan, Montana, shows BJORN and "IDA"[sic] to be living on Jackson Street in the town of Plentywood. BJORN had purchased property on April 18, 1912, in Plentywood, at Jackson Street and Railroad Avenue. He sold the property on May 16, 1918. It is not known why they continued to live at the property after it was sold. The property is now the location of Lund's Auto Sales.
Onon (misspelled Onom in the census) was living on a farm outside Plentywood, according to the 1920 census. The census shows that Onon immigrated in 1882 and became a naturalized citizen in 1906 (matches the year given in the naturalization papers).
BJORN died Friday morning, October 28, 1921, of Bright's (kidney) disease. He was a member of the Plentywood Lutheran Church. Rev. Ludvig Kjer officiated at the funeral. He is buried at the Old Plentywood Cemetery.
After BJORN's death, SIGRID moved to Los Angeles, CA, to be with three sons living there. She died there in March, 1929.
At the time of the 1930 census, taken in April of that year, Onon, Thorsten, and Olaus were all living
in Los Angeles, within three blocks of each other. All were working for the telephone company as
linemen. On June 9, 1937, Thorsten completed a Social Security application, giving the WPA as employer, and giving his parents names. The brothers were listed in several of the Polk city directories for Los Angeles.
Signe went by the name Signa in America. She married George Henry McKinstry about 1896. They lived first in Fergus Falls, where their first two children were born. They then moved to Fargo, Cass, ND, where three more children were born. All of the family was accounted for in the 1920 census. George died Aug. 12, 1922, in Benson, Swift, MN, while working there as an electrician. Signe died Sep. 7, 1929, of cancer. Their oldest daughter, Maxine, is listed head of household in 1930, taking care of her two younger siblings.
George and the two oldest boys registered for the draft in 1918. Chauncey served for a short while, in the Students Army Training Corp. at North Dakota Agricultural College.
George was a lineman for the telephone company in 1900, and later an electrician. Maxine became a telephone operator, and James was a "combination man" for the telephone company, meaning he served in multiple roles.
James B. enlisted in the Coast Guard on Sep. 13, 1940, in New York. Then, on Jan. 24, 1942, He enlisted in the U.S. Army. He died Sep. 21, 1974 at Hicksville, Nassau, NY. He is buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY.
Thorsten died on Oct. 5, 1959. He died of bronchial pneumonia. He died at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, CA. According to the death certificate, Thorsten came to Los Angeles in 1926. His last reported occupation was as a carpenter for Union Hall. He was living at 639 So. Stanford, Los Angeles, at the time of his death.
Olaus was born Aug. 27, 1881, just days after the family arrived in America. They were living in Tordenskjold township, Otter Tail, MN. When the family moved to Red Lake County, Olaus remained behind with his sister Julia for a while. Julia was 17 years old and Olaus only 16, when they were enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Census. They were boarders at a farm in Aastad township. Later, Olaus joined his family in Red Lake County. In 1906, he served as witness when his older brothers, Onon and Thorsten, obtained their citizenship in Polk County.
Olaus moved with the family to Montana, where he worked as a telephone lineman along with two of his brothers. They tried farming there for a while, but then decided to move to Los Angeles, CA, where they all obtained jobs with the telephone company. They lived together or near each other for many years in Los Angeles.
Julia married Thomas O. Scott in 1904, in Minnesota, and their first child (Della Jane) was born there in 1906. They were living in North Dakota in 1908, when their second child (Melvin C.) was born. Their third child (Allen W.) was born in Canada in 1913. The family moved to Great Falls, Cascade, MT, about 1916, and was living there on 6th Street North, at the time of the 1920 and 1930 censuses. Thomas was a pipe fitter for a smelterer in Great Falls. Julia died of acute Bright's disease on July 11, 1934. Thomas died June 1, 1951.
Allen died in 1945, in Great Falls. He married but had no children. Melvin died in 1948, in Seattle, WA, unmarried. Della married Fred Hanneman. She died in 1950. Fred and his two daughters, Dolores "Torchy" and Theresa "Tess", left Great Falls in the 1950's. Fred and Theresa moved to Los Angeles. Dolores joined the civil service and was stationed in Okinawa.
Amanda was born Aug. 24, 1890, near Fergus Falls, Minnesota. While the family was living in Red Lake County, Amanda was confirmed at the Salem Church in Garnes, in 1906. She was known to be living at 606 2nd Avenue East, Williston, Williams, ND, in 1910, as found in the 1910 U.S. census. She was living in a boarding house with nine other boarders, all Norwegian. Her occupation was telephone operator.
Her three older brothers (Onon, Thorsten and Olaus) were also working for the telephone company. They were running telephone line from Culbertson to Plentywood. Sometime before 1919, Amanda moved to Detroit, MI, where she lived with her sister, THEA. She was a telephone operator there, working for the Michigan State Telephone Co.
Amanda died June 26, 1919, during the period of the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. She is buried at the family plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Detroit.
Old Plentywood Cemetery
Taral was born July 10, 1893, near Fergus Falls, Minnesota. He came to Montana with his parents in 1906. They farmed north of Plentywood and later moved into town where "Thor" and his brothers had a blacksmith shop.
Thor's brothers put up the first telephone line between Culbertson and Plentywood and also put up the telephone lines in Plentywood. With the ability Thor had as a welder and auto mechanic, he began working for Donaldson's Garage as a young man.
He served in the Army during World War I, after which he returned to Plentywood and back to Donaldson's Garage, where he worked for many years.
He became interested in flying and became a skilled pilot under the instruction of Lyle Strong. He eventually became a flight instructor. He was also a commercial pilot's examiner and an aviation mechanic. He managed the Plentywood airport for several years.
Thor was engaged in all types of flying - barnstorming in the earlier years throughout the United States, hunting coyotes by plane in the winter around Plentywood, aerial spraying of crops in the spring, and always instructing.
On Saturday, July 27, 1935, Thor was "hopping" passengers at Brush Lake, in the southeastern part of Sheridan County. A car drove onto the field and was headed toward Thor's airplane. Thor was concerned that the car was going to hit the plane. He raised his arms to motion for the car to stop, and inadvertently raised his hands into the path of one of the propellers. He was flown to the hospital in Plentywood, but three fingers had to be amputated.
He had accumulated almost 12,000 hours of flying time before he had an accident in 1963 which hospitalized him at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Cheyenne, WY, until his death on January 6, 1970.
He is buried at the Old Plentywood Cemetery, next to his father. Thor's obituary mentions his cousin, Edwin Drangstveit. Edwin was the son of SIGRID's brother, Sveinung Drangsveit, of Blair, WI. Edwin lived in Westby, MT, until 1959, when he moved to Plentywood. Edwin died April 12, 1971.
|1895 Minnesota State Census||-||BJORN, SIGRID, children - bottom pg. 12.|
|1895 Minnesota State Census||-||TILLY, more of family - top pg. 13.|
|1900 Equality, MN Census||-||BJORN, SIGRID, THEA, other children.|
|1905 Minnesota State Census||-||BJORN, SIGRID, THEA, other children, and cousins.|
|1910 Plentywood, MT Census||-||BJORN, SIGRID, and all four sons.|
|1920 Plentywood, MT Census||-||BJORN, SIGRID.|
|1895 Minnesota State Census||-||Signe "Torgerson" Thorstenson.|
|1900 Fergus Falls, MN Census||-||Signe, George McKinstry, and two children.|
|1905 Minnesota State Census||-||Signe, George McKinstry and two children.|
|1910 Fargo, ND Census||-||Signe, George McKinstry, and two children.|
|1915 North Dakota State Census||-||Signe, George McKinstry and four children.|
|1920 Fargo, ND Census||-||Signe, George McKinstry, and four children.|
|1920 Deer Creek, MN Census||-||John McKinstry and wife Josephine.|
|1920 Moorhead, MN Census||-||Mary McKinstry (wife of Chauncey).|
|1925 North Dakota State Census||-||Signe McKinstry (widow), and three children.|
|1925 North Dakota State Census||-||Mayme McKinstry (widow of Chauncey), and daughter Maxine.|
|1930 Fargo, ND Census||-||Maxine, James, Elizabeth McKinstry.|
|1930 International Falls, MN Census||-||Josephine McKinstry (widow of John).|
|1900 Otter Tail County, MN Census||-||Julia Thorstenson and Olaus.|
|1920 Great Falls, MT Census||-||Julia Scott, Thomas, and three children (Della, Melvin and Allen).|
|1930 Great Falls, MT Census||-||Julia Scott, Thomas, and two children (Melvin and Allen).|
|1930 Great Falls, MT Census||-||Della Hannemann, and husband Frederick.|
|1900 Otter Tail County, MN Census||-||TB Thorstenson.|
|1910 Williston, ND Census||-||Amanda Thorstenson.|
|1920 Sheridan County, MT Census||-||Onon Thorstenson.|
|1930 Los Angeles, CA Census||-||Olaus Thorstenson.|
|1930 Los Angeles, CA Census||-||Onon Thorstenson.|
|1930 Los Angeles, CA Census||-||Thorsten B. Thorstenson.|
|1930 Plentywood, MT Census||-||Taral Thorstenson.|
|1940 Plentywood, MT Census||-||Taral Thorstenson.|
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