The Family History of Ole Nielsen Reton and Gunhild Jonsdatter Sønsteng of Gudbrandsdalen, Norway

Gudbrandsdalen, Norway
Ole Nielsen Reton's Ancestry
Gunhild Jonsdatter Sønsteng's Ancestry
Descendants of Ole Nielsen Reton and Gunhild Jonsdatter Sønsteng

Ole Nielsen Reton

Ole Nielsen Reton was born on the farm Reton (the farm is now spelled "Reiten"), near the village of Follebu, Norway in 1836, to Niels Gundersen Skjeggestad and Rønnaug Jacobsdatter Reistad.

(Clockwise, from upper left) Farm in Gausdal, church in Follebu (where Ole Reton's ancestors attended church), Follebu with surrounding farms, Ostre Gausdal

Follebu is a community in Gausdal, at the southern end of the Gudbrandsdalen valley. He was the youngest of six children. His father died at the farm when Ole was 17. His oldest sister, Marthe, married, and emigrated with her husband and son to New Hope, Portage County, Wisconsin around 1850. Rønnaug stayed in Norway - she married and had several children, but apparently the children died young, and she died without descendants. Helene stayed in Norway, never married, and died in 1875. Gudbrand, the oldest son, maintained the farm for some years, but eventually sold the farm and lived and died in Drammen, Norway. Johan emigrated in 1849 - the last clue to his whereabouts is a letter written by Johan from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin in 1852 (and he had taken on the name John Nelson).

(Clockwise, from upper left) Church in Vaage (built about 1630), Vaage and church, waterfall near Vaage, the lake next to Vaage.

Gunhild Jonsdatter Sønsteng was born on the farm Sønsteng (the farm is now spelled "Synsteng"), near Vaage, Norway (now "Vågå"), in 1845. Her parents were Jon Jonsen Sønsteng and Gunhild Olsdatter Siem, both from Vaage. Vaage is located at the northern end of the Gudbrandsdalen valley. Gunhild was an only child. Her father was a soldier (a Sergeant when she was married, and when he died, in 1870). Her parents were married in 1828. It is possible there are other children, but they were not born in Vaage. Gunhild's mother died at the farm Sønsteng when Gunhild was only seven years old, in 1853.

Four views of the church (built 1742) and surroundings in Selsverket. Likely the church where the Reton boys were baptized.

Ole and Gunhild were married in Vaage in 1865, and lived at Kræmmerodden near Selsverket in the Vaage parish. Selsverket was a copper works starting in the 18th century. Ole was listed as a "handelsmann" and "frihandler". A "handelsmann" is a merchant. A "frihandler" is a merchant without a store, usually a man who carried his goods with him, and travelled the area, often selling useful things to farmers. Ole and Gunhild had two children at Kræmmerodden - Niels in 1865, and Johan in 1867.

(Clockwise, from upper left) Selsverket, copper works in Selsverket with waterfall, another waterfall in Selsverket, a re-created farm scene in Sel.

It's unclear exactly where Kræmmerodden was located. However, the godparents for both children were primarily from the farms Klevmellem (now Kleivmellom), and Blækkestad, and several of the Klevmelloms were married to Blækkestads. Those farms today exist just south of Selsverket. The Reton family bible was acquired from a family that lived on the Klevmellom farm.

SS Claus Hefty

In 1868, Ole and Gunhild boarded the SS Claus Heftye in Bergen with their two children, bound for Detroit. They lived in Amherst, Portage County, Wisconsin, where they had their youngest child, Regina Marie, in 1870. Gunhild's father died at the farm Nordre Holen (owned by a nephew) near Vaage in 1870, and Ole's mother died at the farm Reton in 1873.

Son Niels married Alice Marion Claflin in 1887 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. They had one daughter, Leora, who married and had no children. Niels had a drinking problem, and divorced his wife sometime before 1905. He died in Stevens Point in 1941.

Johan (John) married Elizabeth Malone in 1895 in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Ten months later, their only daughter, Mabel Jean was born. John and Elizabeth died within six months of each other, in Stevens Point in 1936. Mabel married William Henry Badten and had four children, who each had families.

Regina Marie married William J. Gavin in 1891, in Stevens Point. They had five children, and at least four were married and had children. William died in 1924, and Regina died in 1948, in Stevens Point.

Gunhild died in 1897 in Stevens Point, at the age of 51. She is buried in Forest Cemetery, in Stevens Point. Ole Nielsen was heart-broken, and left Stevens Point. He possibly visited Norway, and then moved to Martinez, California. He died there in 1907.

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