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Letters from the Past

Imagine yourself leaving America tomorrow, saying goodbye to all of your friends and family and starting a new life in a foreign country. You are unfamiliar with the culture as well as the native language. You have no promise to find a job, and no way in knowing where you will live, or how you will afford your next meal, but you do have hope. Hope in your ability to work hard for what you dream possible. This is the type of adventure many sought when immigrating to the U.S. in the late 1800’s…

This section of the website was found in our own CCHS archives and depicts through letter form the struggles of a Norwegian immigrant, Olaf Kolseth. Ole came to America in 1880 and settled in the Cloquet region around 1894 where he stayed until his death in 1946. A beautiful story is told through the casual and somewhat blunt words of Ole as he makes his new life in America, from his first struggles with the English language, to the fires that ripped through the area, and the devastating effects of the depression and war. Experience the adventure and struggles that Ole faces through these “Letters From the Past.”

Letter #1

Minneapolis, Jan 30, 1881

Dear Sister:

I will now take my pen and write a few lines to send you, as I have not heard from you since the time we said farewell at the harbor. I apologize for not having written to you and I hope you have greetings from Marie.

I am well and like it very much here, which is needed if one wants a future here in the New World. As long as one stays well then everything is fine, but if you lose your health then everything is lost, whether you be in Norway or America. But it is worse here if one does not have any relatives to go to.

As you know I came to Minneapolis on October 11th last fall to find a job and to go to school to learn some English. I went to a

public school for 4 weeks before Christmas. The school was free for those under 21 years, and for those who were older it cost 1 dollar per month. The teacher was English and spoke so fast that I did not have time to understand the words, and the same happened to others, and when you do not understand what is said, then it is useless. I quit school at Christmas and have since attended a private school and pay two dollars per month. A Norwegian is a teacher there. Now I plan to quit school and get a job to make some money, but that is difficult so early in the year for a man. Girls have no difficulties in getting work any time of the year and well paid too, generally 2 ½ - 3 ½ dollars per week, so it is better for the girls than for the men. The widow Bye, I have worked for this winter, leaves next week and the house will be empty. If I want to continue in school I can get board at a doctor J. H. Bissell… I have greetings from Peder and aunt. I talked to Peder yesterday, and everything is fine. Aunt has, last winter, been reasonably well, but has too much to do. Christian is at Maple Plains as a store clerk for Benjamin Drake… Christmas is so very different here. One may say there is no Christmas at all. If Christmas Day falls on day in the week still all stores are open and everybody works as usual. It is different if Christmas day is on a Sunday.

I did not have any enjoyment at Christmas, and Martin Andersen says the same. I think it is the most quiet Christmas we have ever had.

We have had an unusual hard winter, so one would not think that the winter could be so cold when the summer is so hot. We have also had more snow than usual, but not so much as you get in Norway.

I wrote my letters to Norway last fall but have only received one, namely from Marie. When one comes to America then one forgets to write they say in Norway. It is quite the other way around.

Greet all relatives and friends and best of greetings to you from your brother, O. Kolseth.

Write as soon as possible and send the letter to : O. Kolseth, 1904 Washington Ave. So. Minneapolis, Minnesota, America. Give the address to Jorgen Benningstad and Edward Kolseth.


Letter #2

Clearwater, June 12, 1882

Unforgettable Sister Mathea (Martha):

Finally I have to send you a few lines, my dear sister, even if I do not have any news for you. I assume you get from the letters to Eline the news about me so it is not necessary to write about the same things. I received your letter with the enclosed photo. You have to excuse my laziness. I thank you very much for it. It is such a fun to see your picture, be it ever so much on paper, and not that we really see each other.

I am, thank God, in good health and I hope the same goes for you. I am now working at a place called Clearwater, it is about fifty miles west of Minneapolis at the Mississippi River. The wage is 1 and three quarters dollars per day since January 1. Before that we only had 1 ½ dollars. For the food and board we only pay 3 dollars per week, so that is very cheap. The income often goes up to 25 - 30 dollars per month after food and board has been paid.

We have had a very cold spring. In the month of June it became warmer, but we have not really had any warm weather, which is good because then we do not sweat so much. We have not had any rain for 3 weeks, but now it looks like it will be coming down.

Forgive me these lines. I will try to do better next time. When you work everyday it is not easy to write letters in the evening. I have heard that you are going to move, but I am sending the letter to Granberg. Please, write soon to me. Greetings to the family and friends and above all, best of greetings from your absent Brother Olaf Kolseth.


Letter #3

Port Arthur, Sept 1, 1883

Unforgettable Sister:

More than one year has gone since I last wrote to you, so you might think I have forgotten you, but that is not the case. The reason is that I thought you had left Granberg, but I could not in any way find out where you were till I received your welcomed letter of April 29, and I see you are back at your old place again. I am reasonably well, and hope the same goes for you. Last winter I was with Soley (Sorli) till the beginning of April. Then I left Minneapolis and went about 1,400 miles west, namely to Canada to work on the railroad. I was close to some immensely tall mountains, which in English are called the “Rocky Mountains,” in Norwegian I believe they are called the Andes Mountains. I left two weeks ago, and then the mountains were completely snow covered. I will never go back there again, because it was very hard to live there, where you do not find white people within 5-600 miles. 2 weeks ago I came to city named Winnipeg in Manitoba, from there I went 450 miles farther east, to Port Arthur at Lake Superior, where I now work. The wage is 32 dollars a day and board we must pay 4 ½ dollars a week. I have planned to end this wandering life, because there is never anything left if one works one time at one place, another time at another one. You are then losing money all the time. America is not like what so many think it is here. So many people come here that it soon will be difficult to find work. I have not heard from Peder Soley (Sorli) the whole summer. I have written twice to Christian. M. Andersen who was sick for a long time last spring. He had pneumonia. I do not have any photo of me right now, but will try very hard next time. Greet friends and best of greetings to you from

Your O. Kolseth

Letter #4

Maple Plain, Minnesota, April 3, 1887

Unforgettable Sister Martha:

You may have thought that I have completely forgotten my sister, but that is not the case at all. I have so often thought about you and decided to write next Sunday, but that Sunday never seemed to come. There is one reason I have not written, namely that I heard you moved to Remmen and I was not certain about your address. This winter, through a letter from Helga, I heard you had come to Lukas Balke in Loiten, and now I will use this opportunity to write to you. Do not expect too much news, because I assume you hear from the other siblings when they get letters. You know of course that I worked for aunt last summer. This winter I have worked in the forest for about 4 ½ months and began again on March 17. The winter was very hard since November 18 last year. We have had a warmer weather lately, but it is still cold. We have plenty of snow so the spring harvest can not begin before Easter. Christian was also in the forest this winter and aunt and Peder were alone about all the work. That is, take care of the horses, sheep, pigs, etc. They have way too much to do, their ages considered. I will be staying with aunt again maybe the whole summer, but have not quite made up my mind yet. I am in reasonably good health, except for that old stomach trouble, which I do not seem to be able to get rid of. Peder and aunt are also well. 2 days ago they lost one of their horses. They found him dead in the morning when they came to the stable. Last Monday Peder and Christian were in Minneapolis and bought a mare for 190 dollars. It is 5 years old. Helga’s brother told me that aunt Holen was very sick, maybe she is already dead. If she was prepared for that then it was good for her, but it would be hard for Lars with so many motherless children. We must all take fate as it comes and hope God’s hand will rule to the best for us. I enclose a photo, taken one year ago and has been in my suitcase all this time. It comes late, but better late than never as they say. I also heard that you have money coming at Granberg. How are things now Anders is bankrupt? Summer ‘83 I worked with Ole Balk, brother of Lucas. Ole now stays in Michigan with railroad work. I end this letter hoping it will find you in good health, write soon. Greetings to all siblings and other relatives and friends. Greetings from your absent brother.

Ole Kolseth

P.S. I had a letter from Edward telling that Aunt Holen was already buried. Sister Helga has gone to Laurvik again.


These pictures were taken at the Cloquet Lumber Co., which earlier was known as the Shaw Lumber Co. Ole was referenced in his obituary to have   worked for Shaw Lumber Co. early in his Cloquet settlement.


Letter #5

Cloquet, MN, October 15, 1894

Dear Sister,

I received your letter of 9/27 yesterday, and thank you for it. It is nice to know that you are doing fine. A sad thing happened to Bernt Benningstad, and it must be hard for his parents. I hereby send my deeply felt sympathies to his sorrowing parents. I will not wait too long to answer your letter this time, as you may believe I was killed in the terrible forest fire here not long ago. I am, thank God, still among the living, even if it was a close call. Hinckley and Sandstone were the 2 towns having the biggest losses. Everything burned down and it is sad how many people were killed, maybe between 5-600. It would be too difficult for me to describe this tragedy. You have maybe read about it in the newspapers, Cloquet is about about 100 miles from Hinckley, but the smoke was so heavy that one could not see twenty yards ahead. All the millworks had to be stopped due to the daytime darkness. It was just like Doomsday. We have now had some rain so the forest fire danger is reduced. I hope it will never happen again, a big fire like that. I see that Ed has moved back to Kolseth again. Did he have any profit selling his farm? Or is he forever tied to Kolseth? How is Helga? Are they doing well? Let me know in your next letter. You want to know if I will ever come to Norway again. I have not made up my mind about that. I wish I could take a trip home, but I have said that so often without any result. I now have a good job so it is best that I keep it as long as possible. You want to know about my annual wages. It might be a private matter, but since you ask I will tell you on the condition that you do not tell anyone about it. My wage is 40 dollars and board per month, or 480 dollars a year. Are there people home from America in your neighborhood? Have not heard from Soley (Sorli), but I have heard they are doing fine. Morten Andersen says he has not heard anything from Norway during the last 7 years. I have greetings from A. Kolseth. He works for a liquor deal in West Superior, Wisconsin. I was there on August 24 and talked with him. I do not believe he writes home that often. I was there at Barnum’s circus. I enclose a card written with the left foot. That is quite clever when one is an invalid, right?




These pictures were taken after the Cloquet fire of 1918. As one might observe Ole’s letter is dated 1894, before the 1918 Cloquet fire. The fire that Ole makes reference to in his letter is probably the Hinckley fire. One may assume that the pictures provided are similar to the fire that Ole writes about and portray the severe destruction that took place.


Letter # 6

Cloquet, Nov. 20th, 1905

Dear Sister:

Many thanks for your letter which I received some time ago. Plague from Sanna has also arrived, and thus we remember our mother and sister who have passed away. May they rest in peace. Blessed are their memories. I should have answered your letter long before now. My neglect seems to be the only reason for this. First I have to tell you that we are all in good health and hope the same goes for you. My letter comes a bit late, but better late than never. Then we take the liberty to introduce our daughter Evelyn. She was born on April 19, so she is seven months old today. Enclosed you will find a photo of Olga, Clara, and Madeline, all three on one card. Olga has begun in school and she is so busy with that that she has almost no time to sleep. Clara is up 6 in the morning. They both also attend Sunday school in the church we belong to. We have a housemaid as it is too much for Marie. We have built a new store, which we moved into three weeks ago. The building is 70 feet long and 40 feet wide, with 2 floors and a storage house, 22 x 50 connected with the store building. The store looks very elegant with 30 electric lamps. The building cost us 4,000 and everything is paid for. We now have 7 men and 2 women in the store. We also have horses and wagons for freight of the goods around town. We now have a big load of beds, mattresses, and bedclothes on the second floor. The business has been fine, particularly this summer. The sawmills have been operating night and day during the whole summer. We have 5 big sawmills here in Cloquet during the last 3 years. There are more lumber handled here annually than any other place in America, and that says quite a lot. The population is only 7,000. We have 3 schools, 8 churches, 1 bank, and 4 drugstores, and also many stores and shops of all kinds. Now we enjoy the most beautiful fall weather with plenty of sunshine, President Roosevelt has proclaimed Thursday November 30 as Thanksgiving Day, and that day all stores are closed. Can tell you that we plan to have lutefisk that day. The fish is very expensive this year. It costs from 20 - 25 cents per pound.

We will get and sell from now and till Christmas about 1,400 pounds Lutefisk. So we really get lutefisk in this country too. Norwegian herring costs 13 dollars per barrel in Chicago and is sold here for 10 cents per pound. We also sell old cheese and goat cheese. We just received 5 barrels of fat herring from Chicago and it is fine. I must say I like herring and potatoes, when the potatoes have not been peeled. Chas ______ Solie visited us last summer. His wife was with him, we live only 200 miles away from each other. We can leave at 9:15 in the morning and arrive at Solie’s at 7 in the evening, when we go. Does Aunt still live? We have not heard from Martin since last year so I do not know where he is. We have one Helsen here who was with W. Sten in Hamar. He told me that office manager Olsen is dead, also A. Jolstad, who I worked for the first time I came to Hamar. I wonder if I will ever see my old birthplace again? That would have been nice… Now I have written so much and perhaps about something that does not interest you. But it is so seldom that I write letters of this kind. I do not know if I ever have learned Norwegian. I have forgotten so much of it. Now Norway has finally got her own king, and I hope King Haakon will rule wisely. Dear Sister, have you planned to come, then I will send you the ticket and if you should like it here I might perhaps be able to get you the return ticket too. Now I have to end for this time and hope these lines find you in the best of health. A merry Christmas and a happy New Year for all of you from us. Greet all my other siblings from their absent brother. Let me hear from you soon. I send the cards under a separate cover. Best of wishes for all of you,

Your Brother Ole.

Kolseth & Co

This picture shows the inside of the Kolseth store. Ole is the man standing on the far left.


This is one of the wagons for the Kolseth store. On the side of the wagon you can see the store name written “Kolseth and Anderson.” The name of the store before the 1918 fire.


This is a picture of the outside of the Kolseth store, before the 1918 fire. It was built in 1902. The building burned down on Good Friday 1918. After it was rebuilt as Kolseth’s and Company. The address is 1402, Cloquet ave.


Letter #8

Cloquet, Jan 9, 1931

Dear Sister Eline and my other siblings:

I wish you all a Happy New Year. May it be for all of us a blessed year of the Lord. Yesterday I sent a parcel to you containing three of Kolseth & Co. 1931 calendars, one for sister Helga, and Martha together, one for you Eline, one for brother Edward. It is not much of a New Year gift, but please accept it and look at the windmill now and then, and then your thoughts will to me who has been away from you for 50 soon 51 years. I sent you a Christmas gift and hope you have received it. Soon it will be my birthday, and your birthday too, so I want to wish you many happy returns. May we all use our life here on earth worthy of the Lord till he calls us. Hope to have a letter from you soon. Please accept the small gift. May the Lord bless you all now and forever.

Ole Kolseth.


This is a picture of the new Kolseth and Co. building after the 1918 fire.


Letter #10

November 24 about 1932

( To Sister Helga: )

Tomorrow, Thursday, November 24 is a holiday here. Thanksgiving which is celebrated all over the country. There are services in almost all churches. As for the family I can tell you that I am still in charge of the store. It is not an easy job right now. Everybody is to be paid and business brings loss in times like these. I have now had big losses a couple of years.

We pay our debts but goods are cheap and our inventory runs into many dollars. Our net value three years ago was $44,000, right now it is down to $33,000. I own the store building and get rent for $150 per month. I have 3 male and 3 female clerks in addition to myself and my partner.

We have had up to now fine weather, but it has been very cold. Christian Sorli (Soley) with wife and one of his sons visited us last Saturday and Sunday. They left Sunday morning at eleven. They live 175 miles from here. We wish you a Merry Christmas. Helga, please write to me.

Your Brother,

Letter #13

Jamestown, N.Y. August 7th, 1933

Dear Sister Helga,

Your letter of July 10 was received in Cloquet on July 22 It only took 11 days. Thank you very much for the letter. It is so nice to hear from you. All is well and fine with us. We left Cloquet 2 weeks ago and have been to Jamestown in New York State. Around 1,100 miles from Cloquet. We arrived on July 22 at 9 in the evening.

I, my wife, and my daughter, Madeline and Jennie, and the son Raymond are here visiting with our daughter, Klara, who lives in Jamestown, a city with around 45,000 residents.

We are going to go through Chicago so Madeline and Jennie will probably stop there for about 2 or 3 days. They want to see the World’s fair. I don’t believe we will stay there for such a long time.

We want to go on. It is such a long way, altogether 1,114 miles. Would like to tell you that daughter Klara now has a son, born May 7, so now he is 3 months old. Mother and son are doing well. The son was baptized last Sunday. He was named Ralph Raymond and Berggren. Please pardon me for writing with a pencil and on the paper of the company. I send you these lines so you do not have to wait so long before hearing from me. I will write more when I come home.

I will send you power-of-attorney if he should need it. It was so sad what was happening to Brother Edward. What really happened to him? Let me know. I understand Knut is running Benningstad. Must Brother Edward pay for it? Rent to Knut and work for it. I’ll write again. Greetings to you, brother and others, relatives and acquaintances.

From Brother Ole

Excuse please this unclear letter, written in the evening of the 6th



Letter #14

Cloquet, Feb. 3, 1936

Dear Sister (Helga):

I received your letter for my birthday. Thank you very much. Good to know that you are reasonably well. When one is well, everything is well. All of us here are also doing fine. It was a surprise to receive a letter from Brother Edward, both letters from Norway came at the same time, at 8 in the morning on January 31. We get mail at our store 3 times a day, at 8, and at 11, and then at 3 in the afternoon. You ask about our daughter who got married last summer. She lives here in town so we see each other often. Before I got your letter, I wrote to Knut Benningstad, so Edward will get a greeting through him this time. We have had a hard winter, very cold the last two weeks and much snow. Yesterday, Sunday, we drove [to] Ostgaard. [Does] Benningstad [have] a car? Heartfelt greetings to you and all of you from Brother Ole.

 P.S. Do you get your mail out in the countryside, or do you have to pick it up at the post office? Here each farm gets the mail daily. There are mailboxes along the road where the driver can put the mail. Outgoing mail is placed in the boxes and picked up by the driver. It is very easy in this respect.


Letter #15

Cloquet, Jan 1st, 1937

Dear Sister (Helga):

Yesterday morning, December 31st, I received your letter of December 15th at 8 in the morning. I wonder if you have received my letter dated December 1st, with enclosed 20 crowns as a Christmas gift, you do not mention the money.

I thought you had first received my letter containing that amount. You say thank you for the letter, it might have been a previous one, I hope you received the letter with enclosed two 10 crown bills. I sent Brother Edward the same amount at the same time. I hope you as well as our brother have received the letters. Edward also got 2 10 crown bills for Christmas. The year 1936 has ended and 1937 just arrived. We are all in good health. Klara and her husband (Berggrenn) will be with us for Christmas. We wish you a blessed and happy New Year, and brother and their sons and daughters.

The store is closed today, New Year’s Day. I am still in my office when these lines are written. The letter will be sent tomorrow at 8 a.m. You should have it around the 15th. Does Knut Benningstad have a car?

Edward and Anna visited you. Did they come by horse or car? Write often and ask Brother Edward not to forget me. With best of greetings and may 1937 become a blessed year for all of us.

Your Brother

Ole Kolseth


Letter #16

Cloquet, April 17th, 1939

Dear Niece Helen Odegaard, Oslo Norway

Thank you for your letter of 9/14/34, which was answered with a few lines by me October 24. I have not heard from you since the letter of 9/14/34. No wonder I am forgotten. We have never seen each other. I hear from my sister Helga, your mother, now and then. I take the liberty to send you a few lines and hope you will receive them and that you are in good health. I understand you are happy with your work, and that is good and may God bless you in your daily work. We are all in good health and doing fine, I was 80 years old last January 31. I am still in the store, even if not so much I would want to. We have 5 men and 2 girls all working in the store. I hear from your sister Hilda now and then. On April 13, 1938 I had a letter from Ole Ilseng, Dannevigsvei 10, Sagene, Oslo.

I wrote to him on April 29,’38, and again on December 12, ‘38, but have not heard from him since his letter on April 13 Maybe he is dead. He would be around 85-86 by now, your mother knew him, I think Mr. Ilseng is not married. He says in his letter that he lives in an old age home in Oslo. I wonder if it was possible you could try to find out about Mr. Ilseng, if he is alive or not, forgive me for asking you.

Yes, Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha will be visiting us 16-17-18 next month in Duluth, Minnesota. We live only 20 miles from Duluth, Minnesota.

I would be very happy to hear from you, if you have the time to write. Your uncle sends you his most heartfelt greetings.

Ole Kolseth

May 18, 1880 I left Kolseth

Ole Kolseth
U.S.A stands for the United States of America, or in Norwegian:

Forenede Stater af Amerika

Minnesota has around 2 ½ million people

All the 48 states have together 122 million people

This is a clipping from the Carlton County Vidette showing the arrival of

Norwegian Crown Prince Olav and Princess Martha to Duluth.

Letter #17

Cloquet, 6/5/1939
Dear niece Helen Odegaard, Oslo, Norway
I received your letter dated 5/23/39 today, June 5. Here we use the month first, and the date last, thus: May 23 becomes 5/23/39. Thank you for the letter. I was happy to hear that all is well with you and my sister, your mother. It was sad to hear about the passing of Anna and Anders. Yes, the end comes when least think it will. I had a letter from Mikkel Kolseth who, I understand, works at Bunnengstad (Benningstad). I also had a letter from Edward’s daughter, Marie Holen. I have not heard from sister Helga concerning those two’s passing with such short interval. I have written to Helga and hope to hear from her soon. Thank you for the greeting from Ole Ilseng. So he is still alive at the age of 86. Last January 31 I was 80. Soon the Norwegian Crown Prince Couple will be coming to Duluth, on June 15. It takes ½ an hour to drive to Duluth so they might come through here. One day in Superior, Wisconsin and one day to visit the open iron ore mines in Hibbing, Minnesota. It is 75 miles from Cloquet to Hibbing Minnesota. Daughter Madeline is a school teacher for 8 terms and has also a contract for the next one. Is the state hospital under the government’s control? Excuse my spelling errors. Yesterday it was 59 years ago I came to New York, on June 4, and then to Minneapolis on the 10. Came to Cloquet in the fall of 1888. Was in 1883-1884 in Canada, where I worked at the Port Arthur Canal.
A heartfelt greeting to you and your siblings, and do not forget my sister, your mother.
Ole Kolseth
It is so nice to hear from you. Write soon again.
Letter #18
Cloquet, Sept. 16th, 1939
Dear Sister (Helga):
I received this morning your letter of 7th this month. I thank you for it. The letter was postmarked Loten the 8th, so it took only 8 days to reach me. It is the fastest one that ever came.
These lines might perhaps surprise as a quick answer. I am happy to hear that you are well. When your daughters visit you they might maybe have time to send me a few lines. Maybe these lines reach you when you are home. All is well with us. I do not work any longer. I have a weak back and I cannot take long walks. Otherwise, I have no pains and eat and sleep well.
Greetings to Lisabet Vestgaard from me. Tomorrow, Sunday, we plan to take a 225 mile long car ride visit the brother of my wife who lives out in the countryside, about 110 miles from here.
Heartfelt greetings to you all,

Ole Kolseth


Letter #19

Cloquet, Nov. 27th, 1939

Dear Niece Helene Odegaard,

Oslo, Norway

I wrote to you on June 5, but have not heard from you since your last letter of May 23, 1939. I take the liberty to send you a few lines to let you know that we are alive and doing fine.

I have not been working in the store since the beginning of March. My son, Raymond, has taken over. My blood is weak and the same goes for my strength. I have no pains, just the blood for several months. My back is also weak and I have to walk very slowly. My appetite is fine and I sleep well, so I must be grateful anyway.

We have not had any snow yet and the weather is partly warm. I would be happy to hear from you when you have the time to write.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas from all of us.

Your uncle,

Ole Kolseth

Address: Ole Kolseth, Cloquet, Minnesota, U.S.A.

If Ole Ilseng is still alive then wish him a Merry Christmas from me. Tell him that I would like to hear from him.


Letter #21

Cloquet, Feb, 21, 1940

Dear Sister (Helga):

A letter was sent to you this morning so you will receive it within a few days perhaps.

This afternoon I received your letter written January 12, 1940. It is postmarked Loten, January 15th, so it took 5 weeks to reach me. It takes a longer time for mail to America than in peace time.

I am sending you these lines so you will get this and also the one sent this morning.

Heartfelt greetings to you and your family from all of us here. Wishing you all the best.

Your Brother,

Ole Kolseth


RESPONSE LETTER From K. Benningstad friend of Ole’s

Benningstad, Loiten, Nov. 23, 1940

Dear Old Friend:

I apologize for not having written (for 3 years) to you. After April 9 (invasion) everything have been so changed here, the mail connections go for instance, quite different ways. Your letter dated March 9, only arrived here in the beginning of November. As for health, we are, by and large, doing fine. We did not have too good a harvest. The dryness in early summer was too intensive. So it will not be too much hay or grains. The outlook for the winter is not too good. There will be some pig slaughter, but the number of pigs has been quite reduced. We do not have too much of fodder. It is said that oats have some feeding value. We had anyway quite a lot of potato harvest and also of rutabaga, which is of course helpful. We have been ordered to cut quite a lot of timber this winter. That is due to the reconstruction. I wonder if the whole world will be in the same boat of destiny. There will be no kind of peace before all look to God, as I have understood that all of you have done.

Mikkel Kolseth quit here this fall. He is now at the farm Luseth, elverum and he is doing fine. I and my wife visited together with your sister, Helga. She is unbelievably well. She is now alone, and she has a pig and chickens. It is almost 2 miles from here. We were biking, because you cannot find gas for a car. Lately, we have had many cold days, with much rain, but not much snow left. You will remember Klevfoss Paper Factory. It is now expanding.

I would like to end with all good wishes for a Merry Christmas and the hope that next Christmas will be a much better one.

Heartfelt greetings from all of us,

K. Benningstad.

(Fodder: 1: something fed to domestic animals; especially : coarse food for cattle, horses, or sheep)


Response Letter from Helga

(her last letter before she died)

Alfri, 10/10/1941

My dear brother,

Many thanks for a welcomed letter I received long ago, but time goes so fast. I am well but the strength grows weaker. It is not much one can do about that. One can only be happy that one can get up and do some work. Daughter Hilda is now back home. The woman she worked for 23 years, died last June, and now Hilda will stay here I suppose, which is good for me, because I cannot be alone any longer, and it is difficult to hire someone who is suitable for an old person. Hilda came home last August. She has been to Odegaards and helped with the harvesting. They use machines for the potatoes. Now remains the threshing. We have had a fine fall weather in September, almost without any rain, and that was not too good for the grain. Spring was dry so there was not much hay, but still it has been a good year so we have much to be thankful for, even if times are serious. It is not much to tell you form Sobygda since Edward passed away. At Benningstad it seems everything is fine. All of Knut’s children are now grown up, and one daughter is married and came to the Igulstad farm. It is said she is a very capable wife. Daughter Helene in Oslo came home last August for vacation. She has plenty to do because there are so many patients all the time. Greetings to all of you. Hilda will write next time, and it will not be long before you will hear more news.


Letter #24

Cloquet, June 11th, 1941

Dear Sister Helga,

I wrote and sent a letter to you on April 15, 1941. You might not have received it yet as your letter of January 9, ‘41 did not arrive before March 10, thus it took 2 months. I and my family are all well and doing fine. I hope you too are well. Please send me a few words soon. If you have a phone then perhaps you will call Benningstad, Holen and others who might remember me. Today is June 11. Yesterday, on the 10 it was 61 years ago I came to Minneapolis, came to Cloquet, Minnesota on November 5, 1888. The population of Cloquet is now 7,304 according to the 1940 census. Minneapolis is a big city with 492,000 inhabitants. Minnesota has 2,792,300 as of May 1, 1940. The census takes place every 10 year. The United States has 131,409,881. Charles Sorli (Soley) lives in the state of Wisconsin about 130 miles away from here. I hear from Soley from time to another. Christian has a nice farm. You and I cannot mention the conditions of Norway. I see from the Scandinavian press, hear news about Norway. Hope to hear from you now and then. Greetings from all of us.

Your Brother,

O. Kolseth


Letter #25

(Last kept letter written by Ole)

Cloquet, Dec 11th, 1941

Dear Sister (Helga):

Your letter of 10/10/41 has been received today. I thank you for it. It is so nice to hear from you and that you are doing well. We on our side can tell you that everything is fine. I will soon be 82 years old and am fine, but cannot do much work. I thank God for my good health. I do not suffer from any pains. I have to stay away from work. It is now 2 ½ years since I stopped working in the store. My son, Raymond, has taken it over. I eat and sleep well, and I also take a ½ hour rest in the afternoons. I take a small few walks, but have to walk slowly. It is good to know that your daughter is at home with you and I will be happy to have a letter from her. On August 10-12 I had a visit by Karl Gamester ( Charles Sirley Exeland, Wisconsin).

Cloquet is a town of about 7,000 people. We have a big building, 38 x 40 feet. We have 5 rooms on the 1 floor and 4 bedrooms, bath and clothes closet. We have also a stoker room downstairs, electric stove and a refrigerator in the kitchen.

I hope simple lines will reach you and I hereby wish you a happy New Year, 1942.

I also wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Greetings to family and old friends. It will be 62 years on May 18th since I left Kolseth. A heartfelt greeting to all of you.

From your brother,

Ole Kolseth


Response Letter from K. Benningstad

(Norway after the war )

Benningstad, Nov. 30th, 1945

Dear old friend:

Several years have passed since our correspondence was interrupted by this terrible war. I have several times thought about you, and how you were. It seems to be unsafe for many, but this fall I had a greeting from you through Marie Larsen in Holen, and I now feel need to write and I hope I will hear from you as soon as possible, as I hope this letter will find you well.

Finally the war ended. Who would have believed that it would last this long with all the terrible weapons and destruction machines which now exist. Inventiveness seems to be the greatest when it comes to find things to kill and destroy with.

The war actions as such did not really last long, two months in the spring of 1940 and much was destroyed during that time, including Elverum which was heavily bombed. The Germans thought they would hit the King and the government, but luckily enough they failed, but the houses were very much damaged. The King and the government drove from there to Trysil where the Germans also came with their bombs. It is said that the King threw himself down on the ground and also here was unharmed.

The worst destructions in this country took place in the fall of 1944 when the Germans were forced to retreat in North Norway. They burned everything to the ground in the whole of the Tromso Province and also Finnmark. The people had to be evacuated to the south and we here at Loiten had about 70-80 of them for a period. There are still some of them here and will have to stay till spring of 1946. What happened in Finnmark was the saddest part of the war here in Norway. Maybe you know about this from the newspapers?

Now we are facing the big task to rebuild everything the Germans had razed. It will take a long time and our monetary system was also very hard hit. The forests were cut down. In almost every field much was destroyed, and our cattle considerably reduced.

I have to end for this time. I hope this letter finds you in good condition, and when it reaches you it will soon be Christmas again, so I will send you my very best Christmas wishes and also for the New Year. Let us in God’s name hope for more peaceful times ahead than we have had during the last years.

Wishing you the best for you and your family!


K. Benningstad


Ole Kolseth’s Obituary

Pine Knot 9/13/46

Ole Kolseth Is Mourned Here

Ole Kolseth, 87 years old, well known resident and highly respected business man of Cloquet for many years, died at Raiter hospital Thursday, September 5, following several weeks illness. Funeral services were held on Monday afternoon at 2:30 at Zion Lutheran Church, with Rev. O. Leonard Nelson officiating. His body lay in state at the church on Monday from 11:30 - 2:30. Interment was in the family lot at Hillcrest Cemetery.

Pallbearers were: Fred Yungren, William Youngren, Carl Lind, George Carlson, Ed Tan and Ed Erickson.

Mr. Kolseth was born in Norway on Jan. 31, 1859. He came to the U.S. in 1880 to Minneapolis. He lived for a short time at Maple Plain and in the fall of 1888 he came to Cloquet residing here for nearly 60 years.

He was employed by the Shaw Lumber Co., later joined with the Weyerhauser interests. In 1902, Mr. Kolseth went into business for himself as one of the owners of the Kolseth and Anderson Grocery and Department store. Following the fire of 1918, which wiped Cloquet, Mr. Kolseth, resumed his business, known then as Kolseth and Company. Because of poor health he retired from active management in 1939.

He was married to Miss Mary Granquist at Spring Lake Minn. On January 22, 1898. Surviving are his widow, one son, Raymond, Cloquet, four daughters, Mrs. Harold Berggren, and Madeline, Short Hills N.J, and Mrs. Paul Wegiskjold, and Eva, Cloquet. There are five grandchildren.