Merry Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas, cousins and all who read these increasingly rare posts I make on this blog. Enjoy this coat-of-arms from Tynset, the municipality from which some of our ancestors came.

Tynset coat of arms

I thought this particular coat-of-arms would make an appropriate Christmas greeting since, as I recalled, it featured a reindeer. So much for that: when I went to look at it again, I was reminded it was a moose! Not exactly a candidate for a part in “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Nevertheless, it’s the best I can do at the moment.


As I reviewed the description of Tynset, a northernmost municipality in the landlocked county Hedmark, I definitely thought it sounded like a Borreson kind of place: a snowy realm for skiing, hunting and fishing. It’s also the home to a company that makes “kicker” sleds – and a giant sled’s pictured here. Maybe it also has a moose that wants to be one of Santa’s reindeer.

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Where Emil Was Baptized

As I was perusing again the history of Onalaska, Wisconsin, From Sawmills to Sunfish, I discovered a photo that should have been included with one of first posts I made on this blog.

Our grandfather, Emil Borreson, was baptized October 6, 1872, by Pastor Wollert Frich (also spelled Wallert Frick) before the congregation had its own church building. In 1856, Pastor I. B. Frich began conducting worship services in Onalaska homes while he was serving at Halfway Creek Lutheran east of Holmen. At some point after 1866 Pastor Frich began conducting services at the Methodist Episcopal Church which is pictured here.

Meth Episc Church Onalaska

So Emil would have been baptized in this church building, unless the baptism took place in an Onalaska home. First Lutheran was organized as a congregation on October 31, 1870,  just two years before Emil’s baptism, with eleven charter member families. The year was 1884 before the congregation had its own place of worship at the corner of I and Fourth Streets. I still smile every time I see his baptismal record, number 8 on the first page of the old Ministerialbog.

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WMH article: From Telemark to Tamarack

Five Borreson brothers, sons of Emil and Gina, were competitive ski jumpers in western Wisconsin, from Westby in the south to Cameron in the north, from St. Paul in the west to Racine in the east. And two more of the eight sons in this family were recreational skiers. A 1919 photo of Pigeon Falls ski jumpers included the two who skied the longest: Gilbert who was a downhill skier well into his seventies even in the mountains of Montana, and Bennie who ski jumped within four decades. Quite a legacy!

After I began this Borreson Cousins blog, I started researching the greater history of ski jumping in western Wisconsin. Pigeon Falls and Whitehall were part of that story for many years, and with those places, the Borresons, the Johnstads, and the Strum’s Nelsons just three families of the many who were high flyers in this sport.

As the result of my research, I wrote an article, “From Telemark to Tamarack: Ski Jumping in Western Wisconsin,” which was just published in the Winter 2013-2014 issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History, the periodical of the State Historical Society. In addition to the greater story, the article includes a photo of Bennie Borreson and Karsten Linnerud and several Borreson references (Bennie, Sidney, and Garven). I love knowing that our family is now documented within this chapter of Wisconsin’s history.

I encourage you to go to the Wisconsin Magazine of History’s website to read a summary of the article, even more to purchase your own copy. You can obtain a copy by calling the magazine’s online store at 888-999-1669. The cost is $8.95 for the issue plus postage and handling. The Wisconsin Magazine of History is an award-winning publication and you’ll enjoy other articles equally well.

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Farming in Fitch Coulee

Here are three more photos from cousin Carol, grouped in this post because all are glimpses of farming in Fitch Coulee – maybe around 1940. Enjoy them.

Horses at Flikkeshaug copy

In this photo of farmers and horses taken at the Flikkeshaug farm, our grandfather Emil Borreson is the third man from the left.

Threshing season lunch time 1940 copy

This threshing scene includes a good glimpse of grandmother Gina on the left, Ednar (Red) pouring coffee, and uncle Bennie in the front and turned toward the camera. In a busy day, it’s time for lunch brought to the field by Gina. Others in the photo are Archie Stendahl, Bernard Moe (or Moen?), and Clifford Sween. Bennie wrote 1940 on the back of the picture.

Silo filling 1941 or 1942 copy

Silo filling is the action here on the Fitch Coulee farm with Emil’s old Fordson powering the silo filler. Bennie noted that Norman Hallingstad is unloading his team’s wagon, Ednar (Red) is at the silo filler, and that he Bennie may be out in the field getting another load. The year is 1941 or 1942.

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Uncle Sid in Old Photos

Already more than a month has passed since Uncle Sid’s funeral, but a recent day when cousin Carol showed up with old photos and scrapbooks, he was at the center of my attention again. The photos and other memorabilia Carol showed me over a couple hours included several that featured Sid or led me to think of him.

Fitch Coulee farm copy

This first old photo of the farm was new to me, and I included it because of the foreground: there’s the stream that Sid, Conrad, and other family members would dam up to make a swimming hole (and a person next to it, I think). In fact, somewhere on my blog, there an “old swimming hole” photo. You can search it out, if you wish. Notice also the simple bridge over the stream, bottom left.

Back to Chicago copy

The second one apparently is a light-hearted gathering as Carl and Mabel, with children Conrad and Gertrude, are preparing to leave for Chicago after a visit to Fitch Coulee. Sid, I understand, is that young lad next to Gina in the front. If he’s about eleven years, that would make this 1934. As you can tell, Emil and Gina are not joining in the frivolity of other family members tipping the bottles, for example.

Sidney at hard work ca 1950 copy

The third picture is of Sid working in the woods somewhere, and it bears a brother’s teasing line written by Bennie, “Sid at hard work.” Maybe it’s around 1950, or perhaps Irene would know more exactly. Enjoy these old photos, thanks to Carol – and her father who’d saved them.

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The Cigar Maker’s Wife

There it is: Amelia Borreson, cousin of Emil, was definitely married in 1898 – to a Scottish cigar-maker from Minneapolis! Not exactly what you’d expect of the daughter of Norwegian immigrants. The typical relationship would have been another Norwegian, maybe a farmer from the same community. Yes, we get surprised now and then.

Shirley speculated (see the Comment to my last post) that Amelia may have been pregnant and Harry Mitchell did the honorable thing: he married her. Maybe. In any case, Harry didn’t stick around long: he was gone by 1900.

A bit more on the marriage. I also find it interesting that Amelia and Harry were not married at her church in South Beaver Creek, which raises questions in itself. Did they choose not to marry there, or did the pastor refuse the two of them? I could imagine either possibility. Harry likely was not Lutheran, no small matter in 1898, and there may have been embarrassment over what’s-the-rush. So Amelia and Harry were married thirty miles away in La Crosse, a distance these folks would have thought twice about traveling.

In La Crosse, Amelia and Harry were married by a Harvey E. Hubbard. Through several sources on, I have discovered Mr. Hubbard had been an attorney at law in the city at least since 1884. He had been born in the state of New York in 1830, and by the age of 30 was postmaster in La Crosse. Ten years later, the 1870 census identifies him as a “police justice.” His law offices were downtown, in 1884 on the second floor at 331 Main, in 1900 at 107 North 4th Street. At the time he performed the legal ceremony for Amelia and Harry, Mr. Hubbard was 68 years old.

If I were a writer in the romance genre, I might give this story the title, “The Cigar Maker’s Wife.” And there would have been more drama than I can give you.

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Married or Not?

Elias Borresen, our great-grandfather, had a brother Andrew (Andreas) who homesteaded a farm in South Beaver Creek beginning in May 1885. (I found the document.) They had four children – Josephine, Ole, Amelia, and Anna – all first cousins to our grandfather Emil. It was interesting to learn that, of the four, only Amelia both married and had children.

Well, “married” was the question – even for our Aunt Clara whose family history was remarkable in its detail. According to her, Amelia had a son out-of-wedlock in 1899 – Adolph, by name. Along the way of my research, however, I kept finding hints that perhaps she was married. In the 1900 census, for example, she and her son have the surname Mitchell. However, I couldn’t find the marriage record.

Only within the last two weeks did I find irrefutable evidence that she had indeed married. From the State Historical Society of Wisconsin I received a copy of her marriage record. On July 9, 1898, in La Crosse, she was married to Harry Mitchell, the son of Henry and Lucy Mitchell. Amelia is listed as born in Ettrick in Trempealeau County to Andrew (Andreas) and Mary (Maria) Borreson. I am convinced I have the right people.

Nevertheless, finding this record raises other questions. How did Amelia meet this Harry Mitchell who had a Minneapolis residence in the marriage information? He was a cigar maker, according to the record: did he travel as part of his business, maybe as a salesman?

The next question is: why did he leave Amelia? By the time of the 1900 U. S. Census (June 16), Harry is no longer around. Amelia and her one-year-old son Adolf, with Mitchell as their surname, are living with her parents at their South Beaver Creek home.

So where was Harry Mitchell in 1900? Searching the 1900 census again, I think I found him living with his parents in Farmer City, DeWitt County, Illinois.  The item that seems a definite clue is that he’s listed as married two years, but no wife appears on the census form with him. For me, this separates him from the crowd of Harry and Henry Mitchells that come up on an search.

In the end, yes, Amelia had married Adolph’s father, but learning that has raised only more questions about this relationship. (If I were a creative novelist, this would probably get my imagination working overtime!)

Some years later, Amelia was divorced (details unknown to me) and then in 1912 married James Thomas Bryant in Winona, Minnesota (“Ole” Bryant in Clara’s history). Ole and Amelia had twins and that family line continues today.

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