Walsh County, North Dakota

Christian and Berghild O. (Tollefson) Erickson

Christian Erickson, son of Erik Olsen Olsenbråten and Guri Aslaksdatter Vesledal, was born in 1844 near Nesbyen and was baptized in the Næs Stave Church. Christian grew up on the Olsenbråten farm and was the oldest in a family of nine children. In 1856 at the age of 13, Christian travelled to America with relatives on his mother’s side, departed from the port city of Drammen aboard the sailing ship Gefion and made his way to the city of Milwaukee. There they travelled overland and settled in Goodhue County near Holden, at a time when Minnesota was still a territory, being part of the great Norwegian emigration to the American West.

Christian purchased land of his own near Kenyon in Goodhue County in 1869 and resided on 80 acres. There he kept a number of livestock, had a variety of crops and put up a large amount of hay. In 1875 he married Berghild Oleifsdatter Tollefson in the Holden Lutheran Church, daughter of Oleif Tollefson, a local area blacksmith.  Berghild was born in 1856 in Ål parish Norway and came to America as a baby. Christian and Berghild’s eldest son Gunder was born a short time later and baptized at Holden.

In 1882 Christian joined the Great Dakota Boom on the Northern Plains of Dakota Territory and purchased 160 acres in Norton Township in Walsh County, next to his brother Lars who had taken out a homestead. Christian lived in a sod house with his family in Norton and in 1883 moved into the town of Park River when it started. There he built the town’s first livery stable, consisting of a sliding door and a loft, located near the old town well at the corner of what was later known as Brigg’s and Fourth Street. Christian’s livery stable was destroyed by fire, rebuilt a second time and then destroyed again when curtains from the nearby Windsor Hotel blew into a lamp and caught fire.  In later years Christian worked in the town as a teamster and draymen, until his passing in 1910 and burial in the Park River Memorial Park cemetery.  He lived through challenging times coming from Norway as a young man and facing the hardships of early pioneering settlement on the wild lands of Minnesota Territory.  He was a man of fortitude and perseverance to make a new life on the plains of Dakota Territory and be part of the early life of Park River.  His wife Berghild later moved to Portland Oregon until her passing in 1940.

Christian and Berghild produced eight children, of which one died in infancy.  Gunder married Florence Vance and moved to Saskatchewan where he worked as a farmer, blacksmith and harness maker. Charles remained unmarried and later moved to Oregon. Lena married Warren Strauser and also lived in Oregon. Anna married Albert Hans Sandstrom in Oregon and after his passing married William Busk and resided in California. Tormina married James R.B. Jones and lived in Oregon. Clara married Oliver F. Barnhart and lived in Spokane Washington. The youngest daughter Florence contracted tuberculosis at the age of 25 and is buried beside her mother in the Rose City Cemetery in Portland.

Of Christian’s siblings, Eli, Kirsti and Sonnev stayed in Norway. Ole travelled to America in 1869 and farmed in Goodhue, Steele and Polk County, Minnesota. Aslak (Eleck) travelled to America in 1873 and farmed near Olso in Marshall County, Minnesota. Anne came in 1880 and her husband farmed in Polk County near East Grand Forks. Lars made the voyage in 1874 and farmed in Norton Township in Walsh County, and was one of the founders of the Hoff Church, and later the Sarepta Church, and was an original director of the Security State Bank of Adams. Hans travelled to America in 1892 and settled in Roseau County, Minnesota.

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