Torkel T. Fuglestad

Torkel T. Fuglestad was born March 13, 1856 at Fuglestads, a mountain community in Western Norway.  When he was eighteen years old, he went to military school.  He married Abigail Osland on June 15, 1880.  He did not want to take over the family farm, so he worked in a foundry building steamboats.  He found himself jobless one day, after being laid off with one hundred other men and so he applied for the position of city gardener in Stavanger, since he had a love for trees and plants.  Because he had little hope of obtaining that job, he decided to go to America.  Just as all plans were ready, he received word that the job was his, but he felt he should go ahead with his plans to leave Norway and he turned down the job in Stavanger.  So in the summer of 1883, Torkel and Abigail, his sister, Mrs. Endre Aarestad, and her two children left Norway for America.

They traveled by steamboat from Rotterdam, Holland.  After fourteen days of travel they landed in New York.  They went on to Buffalo and from there traveled by boat for a week through the Great Lakes to Duluth.  It was a very uncomfortable trip, for they were moved around during the nights to make room for cargo and livestock.  After a month's travel, they were met by Endre Aarestad in Valley City in August of 1883.  They followed the work train to Hannaford where the tracks ended and a railroad worker drove them with his oxen and cart two miles to the Aarestad homestead where they stayed part of that winter.

The next day, Torkel filed on the Southwest quarter of Section 10, Township 145, Range 59, with the help of Jens Bull's 10-year-old daughter as interpreter.  Jens Bull had earlier filed on the same Section as had Elling Froiland and were Torkel's new neighbors.

Next he needed a house on his claim.  He bought a shanty, which was on Froiland's land belonging to a man named Nelson, using a Meerschaum pipe as payment.  He had been advised to bring such a pipe to America where it would be possible to use it for purposes of trade.  Froiland pulled the shanty over to Torkel's quarter with his oxen.

Since it was too late in the year to work the land, Torkel helped complete the railroad to Cooperstown.  During this time he suffered from Typhoid Fever.  Later that fall of 1883, he helped build a grade to a bridge that was to be built five miles east of Cooperstown over the Sheyenne River, He contracted to supply dirt for this grade from a piece of land near the bluff for 150 per yard.  He used only a spade and wheelbarrow, but earned $3 a day, which was enough to live on through the winter.

A few days before Christmas of 1883, Aarestad and Torkel lost their way coming home from Cooperstown.

There was no moon nor stars and they went west instead of south.  Toward midnight they stumbled across an old empty shanty.  They burned floorboards started with the last of three matches.  This saved their lives (It later belonged to Peter Larson, Section four, Bald Hill).

Through the New Year in 1884 they stayed at Ola Stokka's.  They were happy to be near a place where church services were held by a, layman, Ola Westley.  The early settlers organized a community church named Elim, of which the Fuglestads were members.

They moved to their own land in the spring of 1884 and lived in the shanty.  They had two oxen, a cow and a small calf.  That spring Torkel used his oxen to break up the first 14 acres of his land, and that summer he built a sod house, which was warm in winter and cool in summer.  They needed no fire at night and still the water didn't freeze.  The three eldest children were born in the sod house: Stephen, 1884; Inga, 1887; and Gudrun, 1889.

In October of 1885, a three-day prairie fire burned all of Torkel's grain stacks except one by the house and barn where he had plowed a firebreak the summer before.  That one stack was his first crop, which amounted to 50 bushels.  On August 12, 1888, a hard frost killed their crops except for 12 acres, which Torkel had planted early in the spring.

In 1890 they built a log house with a good supply of elm logs, which Torkel hauled from R.C. Cooper's brother-in-law's quarter.  He had gone bankrupt so Torkel bought the logs for 75 a load.  The six youngest children were born in this house: Lisa, 1892; Bjorn, 1894; Thorwald, 1896; Ralph, 1898; Edwin, 1901; and Thelma, 1905.  The log house was replaced in 1905 with the present house.

Both Torkel and Abigail lived on the homestead all their lives after coming to America.  Torkel died on June 24, 1954, at the age of 98 years.  Abigail died on January 5, 1956, at the age of 96 years.  When she died she left seven children and thirty-four grandchildren.

The present owners of the homestead are: Dr. and Mrs. Vercel Fuglestad and Dr. and Mrs. Roald Fuglestad, sons of Edwin Fuglestad.  The farm passed to Bjorn and then to Edwin.  The surviving children are Inga, 94; Gudrun, 92; Lisa, 90; Thorvald, 85 and Thelma, 76.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 75

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