A 1933 Gale College Program

Five of Emil and Gina Borreson’s children attended Gale College, an academy of the Norwegian Lutheran church, located in Galesville, Wisconsin. Here’s a graduation program for three of them who graduated in 1933. (The program was 15 inches long so I scanned it in two images. My thanks to cousin Carol for the copy.)Gale graduation program 1933aGale graduation program 1933bEdgar, Ednar, and Garven were graduates in this class of 1993. Edwin and Gilbert were Gale College grads in the 1920s. I am guessing that Rolf Christopherson (-sen) may be Pastor Einar Christophersen’s son. The latter served for a time on the board of Gale College. (I recognize the Engelien name from French Creek, Hoff from Whitehall or Pigeon Falls, and Schilling from Galesville.) Gale College was an important place in the life of many Lutherans, operating from about 1901-1940, even briefly as a junior college in the mid-thirties. Through the years I have been surprised how often I have heard people refer to it.

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Add Another Distant Relative

If you have followed my account of Adolph Borreson (second cousin to Emil and Gina’s children), you have read that this previously-thought-to-be-single man had been married three times. And by his second wife Nina, he had four children. Here he is pictured with her (my thanks to the Rossin family for this photo).

Adolph Borreson and Nina BooksWell, there’s more. For some time I thought he may have had a child by his first wife from the Galesville area, Herbertina Dettinger. Herbertina showed up in the 1930 census married to Jewitt Lund, and with them was a daughter Helen whose age was 8 years, dating her birth to the time Herbertina and Adolph had been married.

After several twists, turns, and dead ends, I learned that the family was living in Holmen and that Helen may have been confirmed at Holmen Lutheran Church. I was pastor for that very church before I retired, and we continue¬† to live in Holmen, so I “ran right over” there to check the confirmation records.

Sure enough, I found her confirmation record – June 21, 1936 – and her parents were listed, not only Herbertina who’d remarried, but also Adolf Borreson as her father. I’d found the evidence I was after.

As I researched, I found a lot more. Helen was an exceptional student at Holmen High School, including winning second place for an essay in a state contest of the American Legion Auxiliary. She went on to nurse’s training in Madison. For a time, she was married to Norman Blume (a doctor), from whom she was later divorced. Subsequently, she married Richard P. Schubring of Madison. With her first husband she had at least one child, and with her second several more. After she and Richard retired, they appeared to have lived in Land ‘O Lakes, Wisconsin.

I thought for a time she was still living and I could make contact with her. Not so. She died in October 2002, and I found her obituary in a Madison newspaper. So Adolph’s family line continues here as well as with the Rossins, but I have not tried to be in touch with Helen’s children.

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A Old Prediction Come True

One of my favorite sources for both genealogy and local history is the large, nearly-100-year-old volume, History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, published in 1917 (although its not very helpful in researching Borresons and Estensons).

As I was perusing the book a few days ago, I noticed the pastor for the Emil Borreson family, Einar B. Christophersen, had written an article entitled “Whitehall and Pigeon Creek Congregations” (pages 833-835). He told briefly the stories of these churches, including the division in 1885 that resulted in two Norwegian Lutheran congregations in Pigeon Falls. (The same schism happened many places.)

After he wrote of the June 9, 1917 merger of three Norwegian groups (synods) which brought the two Pigeon Falls churches back into the same national body, Pastor Christophersen concluded his article with this interesting prediction:

“Locally the two congregations continue as two separate organizations, but the future will undoubtedly see them united in one congregation” (page 835, emphasis mine).

Undoubtedly united. That was his prediction in 1917. I wonder what folks in Pigeon Falls thought of his prediction at the time. And I wonder how distant Pastor Christophersen himself thought that united future would be. Only after lightning struck and one of the churches was damaged beyond repair August 1, 2011, did that one-congregation-prediction come to be. That was nearly 100 years and perhaps four generations later. Pastor Christophersen was correct, of course – if you were willing to wait long enough. It’s good to remember that history often has a very long arc.

[P.S. Type “Pigeon Creek Lutheran Church” in the Search box on this blog for articles about this congregation, including the fire.]

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An Old Confirmation Certificate

One of the special aspects to doing this blog is that occasionally I get surprised by message that I wasn’t expecting. A couple days ago, the surprise was an e-mail contact from Carson Taylor, a great grandson of Pastor Emmanuel Christophersen. He sent me this 1901 copy of his grandfather Andreas Gerhard Bjorn Christophersen’s confirmation certificate (which I received permission to post to this blog). Our grandmother Gina’s sister Emma (Mrs. Arne Torud), born in 1888, was just a year younger than Andreas.

Christophersen confirmation certificate

This certificate reminds me what a big deal confirmation was. Not only were confirmation certificates such as this one large and suitable for framing, but they were small works of art attesting to the spiritual importance of the occasion. Andreas’ certificate has reproductions of four pieces of art plus the four small items in the corners (two partly cut off here). Of course, there are Bible verses (John 8:31-32) and a hymn verse (what hymn I’m not sure). My thanks to Carson for sharing this.

The two Christophersen pastors would have signed many baptism, confirmation, and marriage certificates or records for the Borresons and Estensons. Maybe a few of my cousins have baptismal certificates signed by the younger pastor, Einar. I wonder if any of the really old certificates still exist with in our family, such as for Emil or Gina. They surely would be a family treasure. Does anyone know?

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The Norwegian Crop

This Saturday evening (Nov. 14) I am going to Black River Falls to present a program on tobacco raising to the local Sons of Norway lodge (at the Masonic Lodge building, 7 p.m.). Our Borreson family history led me to pursue this “politically incorrect” path, and I came to discover – and will make the point – that tobacco is “The Norwegian Crop.”

Two areas of the state were especially important for tobacco beginning in the (late) 1800s – Dane county and surrounding area, and Vernon County. But of course it went beyond these. Wherever there were Norwegians, it took root, or at least was tried. Some locales had better conditions to make it happen. Remembering that four generations of Borresons were tobacco growers, I did another search (in Winona, MN newspapers) for tobacco news in Trempealeau County over the years.

In 1920, for example, a cashier at People’s State Bank in Whitehall stated that a quarter of a million dollars of tobacco was handled locally (double that in the county). There were two resident buyers, E. A. Sorenson who had a large warehouse and R. H. Holton of the Holton Tobacco Co. In marketing season, the town would see buyers from another dozen companies.

By 1924, Trempealeau and Jackson Counties were District No. 3 of the Northern Wisconsin Co-operative Tobacco Pool, a successful effort by farmers to get some control over the marketing of their product. In April the office in Independence reported that 654 members grew 1,400 acres in 1923, yielding two million pounds. Business men in Independence backed the building of the district’s warehouse there, 45 x 100 feet in size, and local growers brought their crop in for storage. The news article reported that “on receiving days Independence resembles the old wheat days. Wagon lines over a block long form at the warehouse” (Winona Republican-Herald, April 4, 1924, p. 8).

By the early thirties, depression had taken hold and the federal government was making contracts with farmers for acreage reduction. The decade was a tough one. In fact, the same Winona paper reported that all of Trempealeau County had raised but 115 acres of tobacco in 1939 (they could have raised a maximum of 160 acres). Quite a contrast, it was noted, from the tobacco-laden caravans of horse-drawn rigs at Whitehall in years past.

Uncle Sid, of course, told us of raising tobacco in the forties, and here’s a nice photo of Bennie in his tobacco field around 1952. Other family members continued to raise the crop as well.Bennie's tobacco Big Slough ca 1952I came across what cousin Dan mentioned about his FFA raising tobacco in 1965. In a Winona Daily News article May 27, 1965, where Dan’s mentioned as elected chapter secretary, we read, ” Juniors have decided to raise an acre of tobacco to finance [their] trip. Members are renting land at the Wilmer Johnson farm in Vosse Coulee.”

One last find. The Trempealeau County Health Care Center, where my brother Phil was superintendent, was raising 3 1/2 acres of tobacco in 1975. The farm owned by the health care center was unique in providing “therapy and work experience” for some of its patients by helping out on the farm, and tobacco surely required labor (as anyone knew who raised it).

But this is was about the end of tobacco raising, for good reason, of course. As a bit of irony, the beginning of the end came in Dane County when the country’s first anti-smoking regulations were passed¬† (this in the same county where commercial tobacco raising has its start).

Well, that’s all, except to say, that on Saturday, I get to talk about the Norwegians who raised this “weed” at a time when it helped them, if not succeed, at least survive.

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Fitch Coulee Deer Hunt

Since November brings the great Wisconsin deer hunting season, I thought I’d share this photo that Bennie had tucked away in the family album – and which Carol shared with me. Even if our grandfather Emil was not a deer hunter (so far as I know), some of his sons and grandsons took up the sport with enthusiasm.

There are six fellows here happy to pose with their “trophies.” The only words recorded on the back side of the photo are “Fitch Coulee 1974.”

Deer hunt Fitch Coulee 1974Assisting my eyesight, cousin Lesley filled me in on the names of the hunters, from left to right: her cousin Dale Borreson, brother Brian Borreson, uncle Sid Borreson, father Odell Borreson, brother Greg Borreson, and husband Richard Gillingham. As she said, “Great hunters!” (Aunt Irene adds that she was the photographer for this photo.)

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Some Borreson and Estenson Photos

Recently, I met with cousin Carol who was willing to loan me some photos her dad Bennie had collected. Some of these were new to me, and so I thought they might be good to share on this blog as well. (If you want to close-up of the photo, just click on it.)Elias and Kari BorresonElias and Kari Borreson, pictured here in their advanced years, immigrated to America in 1869.

Emma BorresonEmma Borreson was Emil’s sister who married Carl Olson in 1907, moved with him to the Dakotas, and died there in 1909 when she slipped into an open well and drowned. (The photo seems another mystery: the photographer is Raven in Ashland, Wisconsin. Why?)

August Pederson Selma BorresonSelma Borreson, another sister of Emil’s married August Pedersen in 1902. They moved west to Oregon where the family remained. I was in touch with one of their descendants by e-mail a few years ago.Bertinus Estenson ca 1916The photo of Bertinus Estenson was noted as taken in 1916 or 1917.

Maria Estenson 80th B-dayThis photo of Maria, Bertinus’ wife, was taken on or for her 80th birthday (which would have been in 1930, four years before she passed away).

Gina Estenson confirmat'nThis picture of our grandmother Gina Estenson is for her confirmation in November 1894. My brother Phil received it from Harriet Tomter (who in turn got it from Pastor Christopherson’s granddaughter).

I have a few more photos to post, but that’s all for today. (NOTE: If you want a copy of any of these for yourself, just ask me to e-mail you a digital copy and you can have a print made.)


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