The Old Homestead

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God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

- Romans 5:8


    Ole Christophersen lived in the region of Hordaland in Norway during the early 1800s. (1)
    Married Britha Jensdatter – possibly on April 5, 1809, in Kvinnherad, Hordaland. (2)
    Soren Olson, born April 10, 1832.
    The family appears to have lived at Skånevik at the time of Soren’s birth.
    (1) Information comes from the record of Soren’s birth, which is available at “Norway Baptisms, 1634-1927,”  (2) Soren’s mother’s name is listed in his baptismal record.  The marriage record for a Ole Christophersen and Britha Jensdatter in Kvinnherad, where Ole later lived, can be found at “Norway Marriages, 1660-1926,” If this is the correct couple, Soren would probably have been among the youngest of many children.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to turn up any other births for this couple among the listings at

    Soren Olson was born April 10, 1832, to Ole Christophersen and Britha Jensdatter in Skånevik in Hordaland, Norway. (1)
    Married Anna Johnson in June 2, 1857, at Kvinnherad, Hordaland.  She was born Aug. 25, 1832, to Johannes Torkelsen in Norway. (2)
    Children: (3)
    Torkelanna Olson, born June 29, 1857.  Married Peter Lund.
    Birthe Arlette Olson, born April 8, 1859.  Died young.
    John O. Olson, born May 24, 1863.
    Bertha Mette Olson, or Bertie, born Aug. 8, 1865.  Married George Munson.
    Anna Serina Olson, or Sarah, born April 19, 1868. Married Ole Paulson.
    Inger Alethe Olson, born July 11, 1870.  Married Magnus Sandven.
    Severin Olson, born Oct. 30, 1872.
    Lizebeth Johanne Olson, or Lizzie, born April 2, 1875.
    Soren grew up in the Hordaland region of Norway.  He was baptized in Skaanevik.  He and Anna were married in Kvinnherad and their daughter Torkelanna was baptized that in 1857.  The family moved to Fjelberg later in 1857, according to parish registers.
    The Olsons emigrated from Norway on April 12, 1860, according to the Fjeldberg parish registers.  Soren became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1866. (4)
    The Olsons settled in Illinois sometime before 1863, when their son John was born.  John’s obituary says that he was born in “Lee City, Ill.”  There’s a Lee in Fulton County. (5)
    The family moved to Benton County, Iowa, sometime before August 1865, when Bertha was baptized at Benton Lutheran Church.  The 1870 Census shows the Olsons living in Florence in Benton County.  Soren is listed as a tailor with personal property valued at $500 and no real estate.  In addition to Soren and Anna, the household contained their children: Ann, age 13, born in Norway; John, age 7, born in Illinois; Bertha, age 5, born 1865 in Iowa; and Annis (Anna Serina), age 2, born in Iowa.  The household also contained the family of John Brown, who is listed as a laborer.  That family included John’s wife Susanna and daughters Arvilla, 4, and Mary, 2.
    The family lived in Benton County until about 1877, when they moved to Norway Township in Humboldt County, Iowa. (6)  The 1880 Census of that township lists Soren as a 48-year-old farmer.  The household also included Anna, age 47; John, age 17; Bertie, 14; Sarah (Serina), 11; Ellen (Inger), 10; Christ (Severin), 7; and Elizabeth, 5.
    The agricultural schedule of the 1880 Census shows that the Olsons rented the farm for a share of the produce.  The farm included 125 acres of tilled land, 335 acres of pastureland and 100 acres of unimproved land, valued at $4,000.  He also owned $325 worth of farming implements and machinery.  He owned livestock valued at $485. He paid $25 in wages for farm labor over a period of four weeks in 1879.  He owned four horses, eight milk cows and 12 “other” cattle. His cows dropped 10 calves and he sold eight head of cattle during the year.  His cattle produced 800 pounds of butter.  Soren owned 95 swine, 30 barnyard chickens and six “other” poultry, which produced a total of 60 dozen eggs.  He also harvested Indian corn, oats, wheat and hay.  The estimated value of “all farm productions” was $1,095 in 1879. 
    Soren took an active role in the community in Norway Township.  On June 19, 1890, The Humboldt Republican reported that Soren Olson was one of four Norway Township representatives at the county’s Republican convention, which selected delegates to the state, congressional and judicial conventions.
    It seems possible that Soren was involved in the local schools.  The Humboldt Independent of April 18, 1894, reported, “Mrs. Holroyd has begun school under sub director Soren Olson’s regime.”  A sub director was a school official below the superintendant.  The newspaper item seems to indicate that a Mrs. Holroyd started a job as a teacher and Soren was the school official over her.  Mary Holroyd is listed in the 1900 Census in Dakota Township, but she is not listed as having an occupation.
    The family worshiped in Lutheran churches.  The children born in Iowa were baptized at Benton Lutheran Church in Norway Township, Benton County.  John was confirmed at Ullensvang Lutheran Church in Thor. (7)
    Soren was a farmer until the late 1890s, when he appears to have retired.  The Oct. 10, 1895, edition of The Humboldt Independent reported that “Soren Olson, one of the eldest settlers, of Norway township, has sold his farm, one mile north of Thor, to J.M. Anderson for a sum of $8,640.”  Soren appears to have held on to some of this produce for sale a few months later.  The Feb. 6, 1896, edition of The Humboldt Independent reported that “Soren Olson loaded two cars of corn for New York this week.”  The Humbold Republican reported on June 4 of that year, “Soren Olson, of Thor, has quit hauling milk from Beaver.”
    About 1899, Soren and Anna moved into the village of Thor.  The Humboldt Independent of Sept. 29, 1898, reported that “Soren Olson will build a house on the lot north of the creamery.”  And on June 29, 1899, the newspaper reported, “Soren Olson is having a new coat of paint put on his new house.”  However, there seems to have been some sort of problem regarding the new house.  On Nov. 9, 1899, the newspaper lists Soren Olson among scores of property owners who owed back taxes to the county and were threatened with sale of their land.  He owned Lot 27 in Thor.
    The Olson family appears to have been well liked, judging from a newspaper account of the wedding reception for their daughter Lizzie.  The Humboldt Independent of Oct. 28, 1897, reports, “The double wedding of Mr. Rhinard Orre to Miss Lizzie Olson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Soren Olson, one of the oldest settlers, and Martin Watland to Miss Brita Lund, adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lund, was a great success in every feature, nearly the entire county being present.  Rev. Gregerson officiated.  After the ceremony all partook of a grand dinner served in a temporary building fitted up for the occasion.  The Thor Cornet Band was present and furnished some very choice music which was much enjoyed by all.  Many valuable presents were given the newly married pairs.”  The Mrs. and Mrs. Peter Lund mention here were probably Torkelanna and her husband since the only other Peter Lund appearing in the county in the 1900 Census would have been only 3 years old at the time of the wedding.
    It’s difficult to determine what to make of the references to Soren being the “oldest” and “eldest” settler.  A check of the 1900 Census shows about 30 people older than Soren living in Norway Township, which had a population of a little more than 1,000.  The 1880 Census indicates that at least 512 people were living in the township.  Perhaps he arrived slightly earlier than others who lived there in 1880.
    In 1900, Soren and Anna are listed in the census of Norway Township.  Soren worked as a day laborer, but had been unemployed several months during the year.  The census indicates that Anna gave birth to nine children, but only seven survived at the time.  Birthe Arlette probably died during the 1860s.  She was alive when the family departed Norway but is not listed in the 1870 Census.
    Anna died Oct. 28, 1907.
    The 1920 Census shows Soren living with his daughter Torkelanna in Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.
    Soren died July 30, 1921 of a hemorrhage.
    The Olsons are buried in Lot 39 at Ullensvang Cemetery in Norway Township, near Thor, Iowa. (8)

    (1) “Norway Baptisms, 1634-1927,”  Much of my early information on this family came from Marcy Schramm.  (2)  Date of marriage and Anna’s father’s name come from “Norway Marriages, 1660-1926,”  Her birth date is listed in her emigration record in the Fjeldberg parish register, which is available at the National Archive of Norway’s website at  (3) The birth dates for Torkelanna and Birthe are listed at “Norway Baptisms, 1634-1927,”  Birth dates for Bertha and the younger children appear in the records of Benton Lutheran Church of Norway Township, Benton County, Iowa, which are available “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” at  John’s date appears in his obituary in The Humboldt Independent of Sept. 26, 1869.  The names of spouses appear in an unpublished genealogy of the Olson family supplied by the Humboldt County Genealogical Society, as well as obituaries in Humboldt newspapers.  The name of Torkelanna’s husband comes from the 1920 Census of Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.  (4) The immigration year is provided by the 1920 Census of Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.  The 1900 Census provides inconsistent information.  It mentioned that Soren was born in Iowa but lists an immigration year, obviously a mistake.  Another possibility is that the census information is incorrect and Soren was actually naturalized in 1869.  The naturalization index from the Northern District of Illinois lists the naturalization of a Soren Olsen who was born in Norway about 1834 and went to the court in Benton County, Iowa, on Oct. 7, 1869.  The index is available through  (5) John’s obituary appears in the Sept. 26, 1959, edition of The Humboldt Independent of Humboldt, Iowa.   The 1925 Iowa Census for Norway Township, Humboldt County, indicates that Anna Lund – Torkelanna Olson – had lived in the United States for 45 years and in Iowa for 43 years.  While the overall totals are off by 20 years, it probably indicates that the family spent only a few years in Illinois.  (6) Severin Olson’s obituatary in the May 7, 1948, edition of the Humboldt Republican states, “He moved to Humboldt county at the age of five years, and since that time has lived in the community of Thor.”  Severin was born in Benton County, Iowa, in 1872, according to the obituary.  (7) Baptisms for most of the children are found at “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” which is available through  Severin’s obituary mentions that he was confirmed at Ullensvang.  (8) Dates supplied by Marcy Schramm and year for Anna confirmed by cemetery listing.  The Humboldt County Genealogical Society also provided Soren’s death record from the Humboldt County Courthouse.