Olav Alfson

Olav Alfson was born in Vinje, Telemark, Norway on May 5, 1850.  He became a proficient skier in Norway where he participated in skiing competitions and won some awards.  He continued to ski throughout his entire life.  He even skied for mail and groceries during the last winter that he lived.  He made his own skis and also made skis for his children, grandchildren and friends who so desired.

Olav came to Farmington, Minnesota in 1868.  He married Kari Osmundson at Farmington on February 6, 1873.  Kari was also a native of Vinje, Telemark where she was born on July 15, 1854.  They had three children:

1.     Albert

2.     Ingeborg

3.     Henry - before leaving Farmington.

In 1881 the Alfsons moved to Pilot Mound Township, Griggs County to homestead.  Wife, Kari, with the three children boarded a passenger train while Ole went with their possessions on an emigrant train.  Kari was bound for Mayville, North Dakota.  When she disembarked at her destination, she found herself and children at the end of the unfinished railroad three miles from Mayville.  She started for Mayville on foot.  With the help of a youth, they reached a shack one half mile from Mayville.  They stopped to rest and were offered lodging until the emigrant train would arrive, which was three weeks later.

When the Alfsons had unloaded their possessions, Olav drove the transport wagon with the load, and Kari, with the children, drove the covered wagon.  They felt wealthy with two teams of horses, two wagons, plus a plow and supplies to set up farming and a home.

Arriving at their wooded homestead near the Sheyenne River, Olav cleared the land and built a log cabin.  They were given housing at the Rollef Johnson home until the cabin was complete.

The next spring Olav set out for Mayville to replenish the food and other supplies.  Seventeen- year- old Ole Rue was to do the farm chores during his absence.  While he was gone, the spring flood came.  On Easter morning, the river had risen so high that Kari found one foot of water in the house.  Ole Rue carried stumps and laid planks across the floor.  Kari managed enough fire for a scrambled egg breakfast while the children were kept in bed.  Young Rue swam to the barn and brought the stock to safety.

Ole, in the meantime, hastened for home but found the Goose River crossing washed out.  Undaunted, he unloaded the wagon, swam the horses, made makeshift oars and rowed supplies across in several trips.  He found the family safe at neighbor Odegard's.

The first year potatoes were planted under a sod furrow.  The flattened appearance of the potatoes due to the hard soil were the brunt of many a family joke.

In 1881, the Alfsons moved up on higher ground four and-a-half miles to the western edge of Pilot Mound Township.  This was obtained by pre-emption.  A log cabin was built and soon a stable and a blacksmith shop.

That spring it was so dry that the wheat did not sprout.  Discouraged, they decided to go back to Minnesota.  Then the rains came and their wheat became a bumper crop.  When the Alfsons heard the good news, they returned to harvest it and decided to stay in North Dakota.

The central location, hospitality shown, and good size of the cabin, made their home a social, church and parochial center.  Neighboring children were kept so they could attend parochial school.  Teachers stayed there.  The pastor held confirmation classes and stayed over for Sunday services in this home.  In a few years a school was built east of the Alfson farm.  Here church services were held until West Prairie Church was organized, and built on two acres of land donated by Ole Alfson one-half mile east of his home.

Several years later this farm was chosen as a suitable location to bring mail out from Cooperstown.  It was named the Cottonwood Post Office and son Albert became the postmaster.  Olav stocked coffee, tobacco, sugar, flour and other supplies to help his neighbors in their regular weekly visits to the post office.

The Alfsons had three more children: 

1.     Alfred died in infancy,

2.     another Alfred

3.     a daughter, Ruth.

The Alfsons retired from the farm in 1904 and built a home in Binford where they lived until their deaths.  Olav lived until 1931 and Kari died in 1932.

They remained active members of the West Prairie Church where they were charter members.  They are buried in the West Prairie cemetery where they were contributing members.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 Page 19

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