The Norwegian Community in Havana and Aurora Townships

The Norwegian Community
in Havana and Aurora Townships

Steele County, Minnesota

Thompson family reunion on the occasion of Andrew and Anna Thompson's 50th wedding anniversary, 1915. Click here for larger image.


Owatonna is celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2004!
The link includes a timeline of Owatonna's history.


Do you have information about members of this community that you would like me to post here? If you write up your information, however short or long, and e-mail it to me I will add it to this web site. I would ultimately like to make this site one-stop shopping for anyone researching the Norwegians in this area.


Places | Cemeteries | Census | Immigrants | Church | State School | Links | Guestbook


The Earliest Norwegian Settlers

     In 1856 the first Norwegian settlers arrived in Havana and Aurora townships in Steele County, Minnesota. According to oral history, twelve families made the trip by covered wagon from the Koshkonong settlement in Dane County, Wisconsin. I have only been able to identify eight families and I suspect that if there were indeed twelve, the others were not Norwegians, or they settled somewhere other than in Havana or Aurora township, or they moved on after a short time, leaving little trace in this community. There are no church or county vital records before 1870, so it would be easy to miss people before then. The eight families I have identified were:

  • John and Guri Johnson with daughter Inga. John's mother Inga Svensdatter arrived from Norway a year later. Born in 1780, emigrating at the age of 77, I believe Inga Svensdatter to be the person born longest ago to have ever come to America from Lærdal.

  • Agrim and Guri Johnson with daughter Britha, son Jens, and Guri’s mother Anna Nilsdatter. Agrim was half brother to John Johnson. Guri was first cousin to Guri (Mrs. John) Johnson, both named after their mutual grandmother.

  • Johannes and Anna Nelson (later known as Quam) and daughter Metta. Anna was sister to Guri (Mrs. John) Johnson. It is possible Metta came with her grandparents the following year. This family moved to Kandiyohi County in 1878.

  • Lars and Veljer Thompson with Andrew, Barbra and Brita. There is some question as to whether some or all of this family arrived in 1856 with daughters Guri (Mrs. John) Johnson and Anna (Mrs. John) Nelson, or whether they came a year later.

  • Ole and Marta Johnson (later known as Broin). Ole was the brother of Agrim and half brother of John Johnson. They don’t turn up in any of the censuses or other vital records, but I have two sources that place them among the first settlers in the Havana/Aurora area. An 1893 newspaper article refers to Ole J. Broin as the original owner of the T.T. Nelson farm, but the family moved to the Holden/Kenyon area in Goodhue County at an early date.

  • Ole and Turi Hågenson with her 12-year-old daughter Katherine Endresdatter. I suspect Ole was half brother to Marta Johnson.

  • Lewis K. and Dora Johnson with sons Sever and John. Lewis had an adventurous pioneer spirit, and I envision him as possibly the leader of the group. According to one account, he wanted to push on further west, but the rest of the group was weary of traveling and decided to settle in Steele County.

  • Torsten Severson and Martha Olsdatter. They may have arrived in 1856 or 1857; they only appear in the 1857 census. I am guessing at the proper spelling of their names and assuming that they were married. He was almost certainly Dora Johnson's brother.

     According to The History of Rice and Steele Counties, Minnesota, the winter of 1856-57 was a harsh one, with travel nearly impossible. Deer could be clubbed to death in the deep and crusted snow. The immigrants spent the winter in dugouts near Rice Lake, on what would become the Kubat farm, before settling in Havana and Aurora townships. Many of the early settlers emigrated from Lærdal Kommune (county) in the fylke (state) of Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. The community grew as the first settlers were joined by others, many of them friends and family from Lærdal. Other neighbors were mostly from Germany or Denmark or elsewhere in the U.S.


The Places

     Here is some information about the relevant places in and near this community. For further information see Minnesota Place Names. Also, check out the 1897 plat maps for Havana and Aurora townships. Most of the Norwegians are clustered in the south-central part of Havana and the north-central part of Aurora.

  • Anderson was a Chicago and North Western Railway station in section 22 of Havana, almost certainly named after Thomas M. Anderson, on whose land the station was built and who served as storekeeper and postmaster there for a time. The village around it was sometimes called Anderson, sometimes Lysne, although technically Lysne was the name of the post office located at Anderson. Lewis Odegard ran the general store at Anderson and served as Lysne postmaster starting in 1907.

  • Aurora Lutheran Church was originally built in 1871 on the eastern border of section 32 in Havana Township. In 1886 a new church was built in the northeastern part of section 33. Today, Aurora shares a minister with Trinity Lutheran Church in Blooming Prairie, which was founded by the area's Danish community.

  • Aurora Township was first settled by non-Indians in 1856 and it was officially organized on February 17, 1857. The name was chosen in honor of the city of Aurora, Illinois.

  • Aurora (Village) was in section 17 of Aurora Township. The post office there was called Aurora Centre from 1857-66 and Aurora from 1868-94. When the it was destroyed by fire it was replaced by Bixby.

  • Bixby was a village in section 34 of Aurora Township. It boasted a Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad station, a post office and a general store. Bixby was founded about 1890 and was named for the Bixby family, who were among the earliest settlers in the township and on whose land the railroad station was built. Jacob S. Bixby was the community's first postmaster in 1889. The general store was run by Sam Ray from 1909 through about 1920. Before that it was run by Lewis W. Thompson.

  • Havana Township was first settled by non-Indians in 1855 and was officially organized on February 27, 1857. It was called Lafayette until September 1858, at which time the name was changed to Freeman. A month later the name was changed again, this time to Dover. In 1869 the name became Havana, after a city in Illinois.

  • Havana (Village) was founded in 1867 at the point where sections 17 and 20 meet. It had a Chicago and North Western Railway station and a post office that operated from 1869-1911. Havana was sometimes spelled with two Ns. Erick Theodore Erickson ran the general store at Havana and served as postmaster and town clerk from 1885-1891.

  • Lysne was the name of the post office at Anderson from 1897-1912 and an alternate name for the village itself. Lysne is a variation on Ljøsno, a large farm in Lærdal from which a number of the Norwegian settlers came.

  • Owatonna is the county seat of Steele County, first settled in 1854 and incorporated on August 9, 1858. It had a post office from 1855 on and it also had a station of the Chicago and North Western Railway. Owatonna was the Dakota Indian name of the Straight River, which runs through the city.

  • Pratt, in section 6 of Aurora Township, had a post office from 1879-1956. Named after a local farmer, it also featured a station of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad.

  • Steele County was established on February 20, 1855 and named in honor of Franklin Steele, a prominent Minnesota pioneer at the time.


The Cemeteries

Thompson Cemetery
Township 107 N, Range 19 W of the 5th Principle Meridian, NE Quarter of the NW Quarter of Section 27 (Havana Township)

Older and smaller than Aurora, the first burial in the Thompson Cemetery is said to have occurred in 1865. There is no office at the site, but there is a Thompson Cemetery Association that keeps it nicely maintained.
Aurora Lutheran Church Cemetery
Township 107 N, Range 19 W of the 5th Principle Meridian, NE Quarter of the NE Quarter of Section 33 (Havana Township)
6329 SE 38th St.
Owatonna, MN 55060

Originally built in 1871, the old church was torn down and a new one built in 1886. The graves from the old cemetery were moved to the new location, but no markers seem to exist from before 1888.


The Census

     I have been working on making abstracts of the state and federal censuses listing the Norwegians in Havana and Aurora Townships. The information is presented as it appears in the census, to the best of my ability to decipher the handwriting. I have not attempted to correct spellings or any other information that might be wrong.

1857 Minnesota Territorial Census   28 individuals in 6 households
1860 Federal Census for Minnesota    25 individuals in 5 households
1865 Minnesota State Census   51 individuals in 10 households
1870 Federal Census for Minnesota   145 individuals in 27 households
1875 Minnesota State Census   259 individuals in 47 households
1880 Federal Census for Minnesota   294 individuals in 53 households
1885 Minnesota State Census   335 individuals in 56 households
1895 Minnesota State Census   375 individuals in 70 households
1900 Federal Census for Minnesota   415 individuals in 79 households


The Immigrants

Information about many of these people will be found in my database at WorldConnect.

  • Who's Included:  Since I am concentrating on the first 50 years, I am trying to include on this list any adult born in Norway (with spouse, Norwegian immigrant or not) who lived in Havana or Aurora Township, or who attended the Aurora Lutheran Church, between 1856 and the early 1900s. Some of these people lived most of their lives in the community; some only passed through.

  • Sources:  This list is compiled from census records, Steele County vital records, obituaries, Aurora Lutheran Church records, and other sources. I am doing my best, but do not take this list as absolutely complete.

  • Alphabetization:  For simplicity's sake, I have chosen on this page to alphabetize by the most "American" form of the surnames by which these immigrants were known, followed by their "Norwegian" names where I know them. Within a surname, people are not strictly alphabetized by first name but instead are often grouped in families.

  • Borgund:  When I say someone is from Lærdal, I am including those from Borgund. At the time, Borgund was a separate kommune but today it is a part of Lærdal and is included in the Lærdal bygdeboker.

  • Children Out of Wedlock:  In the book "Between Rocks and Hard Places" by Ann Urness Gesme, she quotes another source stating that nearly half of the children born in Inner Sogn were born out of wedlock in the 1800s. That figure seems high to me, but I have frequently found cases where a couple didn't marry until after the first child was born. This was not unusual at that time and in that place, and both parents often remained involved in the child's life, even if they never married each other.

  • Cousins Marrying:  Up until the mid 1800s, when doctors began to be concerned about an increased risk of birth defects, this was a common practice. Our ancestors often lived their whole lives in small, remote communities and didn't travel much. There was a limited pool of marriage prospects, and after a few generations it was almost inevitable that you were going to marry a cousin of some degree. Again, this was not at all unusual in their culture at the time.

  • Institutions:  A handful of people in this community spent time in mental institutions. Bear in mind that years ago, people could be committed to an institution for anything from mental retardation to depression to alcoholism to senility, just to mention a few.

  • A Difficult Voyage:  Read about the 1873 voyage of the Valkyrie (Valkyrien in Norwegian). At least two families who settled in Steele County were aboard this ship.

  • Meanings of the symbols:
Link to biographical and family information
Link to photos
Link to obituaries or other newspaper articles
Link to passenger list or account of the voyage
Link to some other relevant web page, often one belonging to a descendant

Agrimson, Christine   Abt. 1823-?Kirsti Torstensdatter Hatleberg
Mother of Torsten Agrimson, she only appears on the 1885 census. Emigrated from Lærdal, possibly in 1873.
Agrimson, Torsten   1849-?
Agrimson, Anna   Abt. 1859-?
I believe Torsten to have been the out-of-wedlock son of Agrim Johnson and Kirsti Torstensdatter Hatleberg. He emigrated from Lærdal in 1872 and only appears in the 1885 census in Havana/Aurora.
Agrimson, Peder   1826-1905Peder Agrimson Stødno
He does not appear in any census or vital record in Steele County, but his obituary states that he lived at times with his daughter Anna Thompson.
Alacen,? Peter   Abt. 1859-?
Alacen,? Lena   Abt. 1865-?
I'm not sure of the spelling of the last name. I have only found them in the 1895 census so far, which states that they were both born in Norway and he came to Minnesota around 1880, settling in Havana around 1888.
Alvana, P.G.
Appears in 1880 census only, as a farm hand working for Ole Hogenson.
Anderson, Ole   1821-1898Ole Anderson Færestad
Anderson, Anna   1817-1905Anne Hågensdatter
Emigrated from Lærdal in 1873 aboard the Valkyrie with their four sons
Anderson, Andrew O.   1852-1926Anders Olson Færestad
Anderson, Bell   1865-1939Ingeborg Nilsdatter
He emigrated from Lærdal in 1873 with his parents Ole and Anna Anderson. She was born in Goodhue County, MN to emigrants from Lærdal, Nels and Gjertrud Nelson.
Anderson, Ole O.   1854-1934Ole Olson Færestad
Anderson, Barbra   1863-1948Barbra Lassesdatter Molde
The link is to the web site of their great-granddaughter, who is an entertainer.
Anderson, Albert O.   1858-1941Ingebrigt Olson Færestad
Anderson, Barbra   1867-1935Barbra Nilsdatter Eggjo
He came from Lærdal with his parents, Ole and Anna Anderson, in 1873. She also came from Lærdal, with her parents Nels and Anna Lee, in 1870.
Anderson, James O.   1864-1941Jens Olson Færestad
Anderson, Hannah   1867-1949Thea Johanna Nilsdatter
James came from Lærdal aboard the Valkyrie in 1873 with his parents Ole and Anna Anderson. Hannah was born in Steele County to Nils and Gjertrud Nelson from Lærdal. This couple moved to Amery, Wisconsin.
Anderson, Iver   1846-1914Iver Monsson Færestad
Anderson, Turi   Abt. 1845-?Turi Olsdatter Gjerde
Iver was the out-of-wedlock son of Mons Anderson and Anna (Mrs. Ole) Anderson. He came from Lærdal in 1866 and served as Steele County treasurer in the 1890s. Turi was born in Sun Prairie, WI to parents said to be from Balestrand. Iver was her second husband.
Anderson, Mons   1825-1898Mons Anderson Voll
Anderson, Martha   1833-1924Marita Torstensdatter Grøte
Immigrated 1861 with Martha's parents Torsten and Randi Nelson. First lived in Goodhue County, MN before coming to Steele County in 1866.
Anderson, Thomas M.   1859-1937Torsten Monsson Voll
Anderson, Anna   1866-1925Anna Halvorsdatter Rå/Mo
Thomas emigrated from Lærdal with his parents Mons and Martha Anderson in 1861. Anna also came from Lærdal, with her parents Halvor and Britha Moe, in 1878.
Anderson, Andrew   Abt. 1826-1887
Anderson, Caroline   Abt. 1817-1877Kari Sivertsdatter
Anderson, Agnes (2nd wife)   1848-1920 Ragna Knudsdatter Johnson
Andreas and Kari emigrated in 1856 and lived in Wisconsin until 1865. Kari is said to have come from Ringsaker. Agnes is also listed with her second husband Magnus Johnson. Their main farm was in the northwest corner of section 33 in Havana in 1879.
Anderson, Jens   1849-1923
Anderson, Ingeborg   1862-1929
Ingeborg was the daughter of Henrik and Mari Hågenson; Jens was the brother of Thomas Anderson. This family moved near Ulen, Minnesota in 1880 and used the last name Tinjum.
Anderson, Thomas   1851-1913Torsten Anderson Tynjo
Anderson, Rose   1857-1925Ragnild Olsdatter Erickson
Thomas came from Lærdal in 1872. Pure speculation: was Ragnild the daughter of Ole and Marit Estenson/Erickson?
Anderson, Gulbrand   Abt. 1854-?
Anderson, Marie   Abt. 1854-?Marie Christophersdatter
This family appears to have left the community between 1877 and 1880
Anderson, Peder
Anderson, MarenMaren Hansdatter
They were Danes, but one of their children was baptized at Aurora.
Anderson, Robert F.   1859-1935Rasmus Anderson Fagereng
Anderson, Mary   1859-1923Maria Andersdatter
Arrived in the community around 1881 and moved to Becker County in 1913. Robert came from Christiansund and Mary came from Molde in Møre og Romsdal. Both emigrated in 1881 and they were married in Steele County soon after. Likely related to the Hans and Anna Erickson family.
Anderson, Andrew   Abt. 1857-?
In the 1880 census only, apparently boarding with Henrik and Sigri Lewison.
Anderson, Englebert   Abt. 1855-?
Only appears on the 1875 census. He is in the household of Andrew Anderson, but he doesn't appear to be a son of the family.
Anderson, Ole   Abt. 1853-?
Appears in the 1885 census in the household of Thomas and Ragnild Anderson. Perhaps Thomas' brother, although the age is wrong.
Arnnuson, Chris   Abt. 1811-?
Arnnuson, Betsey   Abt. 1813-?
Possibly the parents of Martha Christopherson. They only appear in the 1875 census.
Astenson, Barbara   Abt. 1854-?
Appears as a servant in the 1870 census in the household of Lewis K. and Dorthea Johnson.
Bårdson, Ole
Bårdson, AnnaAnna Hansdatter
The only record of them I have found is the baptism record of their daughter Anna in 1877.
Bixby, Jacob S.   1840-1926
Bixby, Gertie   1856-1943Gertrude C. Laivson
Jacob was one of the early settlers in Havana/Aurora. He came from Vermont with his parents as a teenager. His second wife, Gertie, was Norwegian but I don't know how to connect her to anyone else in the community. They moved to Otter Tail county sometime after 1895, probably around the time he sold his land to the railroad for the new Bixby station.
Bjerkneth, Olaf   1882-?
Brother of Anton Larson, he emigrated in 1899.
Bjoraker, Lewis   1864-1935Lasse Iverson Selthun/Bjøråker
Bjoraker, Maria   1872-1952Maria Barsness
Lewis' parents were not married; his mother Kirsti Torstensdatter came from Selthun and his father Iver Iverson came from Bjøråker. He immigrated in 1883.
Bjoraker, Sven   1869-1920Sven Iverson Bjøråker
Immigrated with his mother Kirsti in 1900. His father is listed as Iver Svenson Bjøråker.
Bjoraker, Kirsti   Abt. 1829-1919Kirsti Torstensdatter Selthun/Bjøråker
She apparently never married, which was not uncommon at that time and place. Mother of Lewis and Sven, she came from Lærdal in 1900.
Boe, I. Ole   Abt. 1853-?
Only appears in the 1895 census, in the household of Nels and Anna Ray. Probably a relative of hers.
Boe, Iver   1867-1949
The brother of Anna Ray, he emigrated from Lærdal in 1884.
Broin, Louis/Lewis   1861-1918Lars Johnson
Broin, Ingeborg (1st wife)   1854-1890
Broin, Emma (2nd wife)   1876-1922Emma Hanson
Louis was born in Steele County to John and Guri Johnson. I haven't been able to determine whether Ingeborg was an immigrant or not. Emma was born in Steele County, the granddaughter of Louis and Emma Johnson.
Brown, George   Abt. 1851-?
Brown, Mary   Abt. 1852-?
Came to Havana/Aurora from McHenry County, Illinois around 1885 and they first appear in the Minnesota census that year. Harry was born in Illinois, but Mary (Maringa?) was born in Norway. I haven't traced this family any further than that so far.
Brudwick, Arnie   1883-?
First appears in the 1900 census, having arrived from Norway the same year.
Christopher, Charly   Abt. 1860-?
Only appears in the 1875 census.
Christopherson, Olaus   Abt. 1825-?
Christopherson, Martha   Abt. 1834-?
This family came to Havana/Aurora between 1865 and 1870, and by 1880 they had moved to Grant County, Minnesota
Christopherson, Ole   1856-1938Ole Christofferson Hauge
Christopherson, Inga   1856-1948
The daughter of John and Guri Johnson, Inga was born in Wisconsin and came to Havana/Aurora as a baby with the first Norwegian settlers. Ole emigrated from Lærdal in 1878, the son of Christoffer Olson Hauge and Kisti Nielsdatter
Davis, Mathias   1873-1958
Davis, Gurine   1872-1959
He immigrated in 1892 or earlier, she in 1899. Some of their children were baptized or confirmed at the Aurora Lutheran Church. By 1910 they were living in Owatonna.
Edwardson, James   1842-1920Jens Ingvardson Voll
Edwardson, Anna   1846-1919Anna Hansdatter Li
Emigrated from Lærdal in 1867 with infant son Ingvard. His parents were Ingvard Nilson and Jørond Simonsdatter; hers were Hans Nilson and Barbra Einarsdatter. Anna's siblings Nels Lee, Sigrid Lewison, and Mari Hogenson also lived in Steele County.
Edwardson, Edward   1867-1933Ingvard Jenson Voll
Edwardson, Andrina   1868-1907Andrina Lassesdatter Molde
He emigrated from Lærdal in 1867 with his parents James and Anna Edwardson. Her parents were Lasse Anderson Molde and Maren Johannesdatter Hunderi, who settled in Olmsted County. Simon Molde was her uncle and Barbra (Mrs. Ole) Anderson was her sister.
Edwardson, Nels   1837-1926Nils Ingvardson Voll
Edwardson, Julia   1841-1920Guri Monsdatter Ljøsno
He came from Lærdal in 1867 with his parents Ingvard Nilson and Jørond Simonsdatter; she came in 1868, the daughter of Mons Simonson and Anna Jensdatter. Nils and Guri were first cousins. They were married in Steele County in 1872.
Edwardson, Edward   1876-1942
Edwardson, Bertha   1874-1945Brita Halvorsdatter Mo/Rå
Edward (Ingvard) was born in Steele County, the son of Nels and Julia Edwardson. Bertha emigrated from Lærdal with her parents, Halvor and Brita Moe, in 1878.
Ellis, William   1850-1901
Ellis, Betsy   1858-1888Bergene Severson/Hemmerson
In 1870, she is an 11-year-old Norwegian girl living in the Ellis household, with no obvious connection to another family in the community. By 1875, she has married William Ellis Jr. and they have a baby daughter. William was born in Illinois to Swedish parents and was adopted by the Ellises. Bergene was 29 when she died in 1888 (probably of childbirth complications), leaving 7 children behind.
Ericksen, Borger   Abt. 1843-?
Erickson, Betsy   Abt. 1851-?Britha Andreasdatter
Their oldest son drowned on the Fourth of July in 1885. They were married December 15, 1871 in Steele County, and the record shows a surname of Lyster for him.
Ericksen, Erick Theodor   1854-1891
Ericksen, Agatha/Agnes   1860-1923
He came to America around 1866, the son of Erick and Anna Erickson. Erick and Agnes came from Fillmore or Olmsted County to Havana around 1885, where he ran the general store and served as postmaster and town clerk until his death. After Erick died, Agnes married Thomas T. Nelson, and after he died, she moved back to Olmsted County and married Knute Brakke. All five of the children she bore died young, the youngest drowning at the age of 22 months.
Ericksen, Erick (1st husband)   1829-1874
Ericksen, Dorthea   1837-1925Dorthea Olsdatter
Johnson, Martin (2nd husband)   1850-1925
Erick and Dorthea lived in Wisconsin prior to settling in Steele County between 1870 and 1874. Erick died when he was thrown from a wagon. Martin was Danish. He and Dorthea were married July 7, 1876 in Steele County.
Ericksen, Hans   1826-1875
Ericksen, Anna   Abt. 1833-1909
Arrived in the community in 1867, although Hans' death record says he came to Minnesota in 1860. Hans died of typhoid fever in 1875, burial place unknown. Hans used the surname Lyster when he and Anna were married in 1867. Anna probably came from Molde Kommune in Møre og Romsdal. After Anna died all three of her children moved to Becker County, Minnesota.
Erickson, Britha   1831-1906
Mother of Knute and, almost certainly, of Mary (Mrs. Rasmus) Anderson as well. She came from Norway with Knute in 1887.
Erickson, Knute   1865-?
Immigrated from Norway with his mother Britha in 1887.
Erie, Albert   1853-1936Ingebrigt Olson Eri
Erie, Jessie   1844-1916Gjæsa Lassesdatter Huso
Both immigrated from Lærdal in 1875, and the first thing they did upon arriving in Steele County was to get married, on June 30, 1875. She was the daughter of Brita Eriksdatter (who came to Steele County) and Lasse Henrikson, and the sister of Henry, Hogan and Erik Lewison. He was the son of Ole Hermundson Eri and Ingeborg Johnsdatter, who were not married. She was a widow and died the same year Ingebrigt was born, so he was raised by his father.
Eskra, John   
Eskra, Julia   Unni Nilsdatter Kvamme
Julia was a baby when she came from Lærdal with her parents, Nels and Carrie Quam, in 1878. John was from Bohemia. Together they lived in Clinton Falls Township but at least some of their children were baptized at Aurora Lutheran.
Estensen, Ole
Estensen, MaritMarit Hansdatter
This family lived here between 1870 and 1880, appearing in the 1875 census only, under the name Erickson. So far I have been unable to trace them further. Estenson may originally have been Østenson, and I am investigating whether they may have eventually used the name Austenson. I'm just guessing at this point.
Forberg, Hans
Forberg, MariMari Olsdatter Bjørkum
Mari immigrated with her parents Ole and Synneva Tollefson in 1854. This family appears in Marion, Turner County, Dakota Territory in 1880 and later may have lived in Iowa and Illinois.
Grass, JamesJens Didrik J. Grass
Grass, Emma
James was Danish and Emma was Norwegian.
Hågenson, Henrik
Hågenson, Mari
Immigrated from Lærdal together in 1871 and lived in Steele County until moving to Becker County in 1880.
Hågenson, Jens
Hågenson, Betsy
Håkonson, Ole
Håkonson, Dora
Halvorson, Jacob   1814-?Jakob Halvorson Kjørkevoll
Halvorson, Gjørand   1813-1888Gjørand Olsdatter Kjodnes
She was the sister of Randi (Mrs. Torsten) Nelson. They came from Lærdal in 1873 aboard the Valkyrie, which was damaged in a collision with another ship and had to put into Dover for repairs before their journey could continue.
Hendrikson, OleOle Henrikson Blåflat/Ljøsno
Hendrikson, KarenKaren Davidsdatter Odegard
Came from Lærdal together in 1883 and lived in Wisconsin before coming to Steele County around 1892. He was the brother of Tollef Hendrikson; she was the daughter of David and Anna Odegard.
Hendrikson, Tollef
Hendrikson, Brita
He came from Lærdal in 1874. She was born to Ole and Turi Hogenson, among the first babies born in the Havana/Aurora community.
Hillestad, Christopher N.   1858-1934Kristoffer Nitter Iversen Hillestad
Hillestad, Olena   1863-1956Olena Nelson
Christ emigrated from Hafslo in 1874; Olena was born in Wisconsin to Nils and Gjertrud Nelson who came from Lærdal in 1861
Hillestad, John   1860-1940Johannes Iversen Hillestad
Emigrated from Hafslo in 1882. He lived with his brother Christ for a few years before moving to Fosston, MN.
Hillestad, Ole
Hillestad, Barbra
Hogenson, Ole   Abt. 1819-1891Ole Hågenson Borlo?
Hogenson, Turi   Abt. 1817-Aft. 1895Turi Knudsdatter Tokvam?
This family is hard to pin down. I believe Ole emigrated from Lærdal in 1853 at the same time as John Jensen Tungeteigen (John Johnson). He and Turi were married in Wisconsin prior to coming to Havana/Aurora with the first Norwegians. I believe I have tracked Turi and her daughter Cathrine Endresdatter to Aurland, traveling from Bergen to New York in 1851 aboard the Minerva.
Hovland, Gullick   Abt. 1853-1917Gullick Jenson Hovland
Hovland, Ingeborg   Abt. 1855-1942Ingeborg Larsdatter
Iversen, OleOle Iversen Hauge
Iversen, GuroGuro Monsdatter Skjær
Emigrated from Lærdal in 1866; lived in Yellow Medicine County, MN prior to settling in Havana/Aurora.
Jacobsen, Halvor
Jacobsen, Anne
Halvor was the son of Jacob and Gjørand Halvorson. He emigrated from Lærdal with his wife and two sons in 1874.
Jensen, Ole   1864-1952Ole Jensson Mo
Jensen, Wilda   1873-1952
Ole was the out-of-wedlock son of Jens Johnson (listed below) and Maritha Olsdatter Mo. He came from Lærdal in 1880 at the age of 16. Wilda (aka Veljer) was born in Steele County to Andrew and Anna Thompson
Johnson, Inga   1780-Bet. 1865 and 1870Inga Svensdatter Tungeteigen/Eråker
The mother of Jon Jenssen Tungeteigen (John Johnson), she emigrated from Lærdal in 1857 at the age of 77. She may well be the person born longest ago to ever leave Lærdal for America and she was certainly the oldest member of the early Norwegian community.
Johnson, John   1821-1890Jon Jenssen Tungeteigen/Broin/Hegg
Johnson, Julia   1836-1925Guri Larsdatter Ljøsno
He came from Lærdal in 1853 with his half-brother Ole J. Broin and Ole Hogenson. John was half-brother to Agrim Johnson. Guri also emigrated from Lærdal in 1853, with her parents Lars and Veljer Thompson. Guri bore 13 children, 7 of whom died young. Four of the surviving 6 married and had children, but none of those grandchildren bore the name of Johnson.
Johnson, Agrim   1825-1894Agrim Jenssen Broin/Hegg
Johnson, Guri   1829-1903Guri Johannesdatter Grøto
They came from Lærdal in 1854 with their oldest daughter Brita and Guri's mother Anna Nelson. Along with son Jens, who was born in Wisconsin, they were among the first Norwegian settlers in the Havana/Aurora area. Of their 9 children, two died as children and three died as young adults. Of the surviving 4, only two married and had children. In 1879 their farm is in sections 21 and 22 of Havana township.
Johnson, John   1799-1875Johannes Simonson Bø
Came from Lærdal with his son Lars/Lewis in 1861. His daughter Guri (Mrs. Agrim) Johnson was one of the earliest settlers in Havana/Aurora and sons Andrew Johnson Moe and James Johnson settled here as well.
Johnson, James   1838-1917Jens Johannesson Rikheim
Johnson, Christie (1st wife)  1839-Bet. 1870-75Kristi Jacobsdatter Husum
Johnson, Susie (2nd wife)   1859-1943Synneva (Andreasdatter?) Larson
James was the son of Johannes Simonson Bø (John Johnson), brother of Lars Johannesson Bø (Lewis Johnson) and Andrew Johnson Moe, half-brother of Guri (Mrs. Agrim) Johnson and the father of Ole Jensen. He sired a total of 16 children and is also associated with the surname/nickname Springer. He came from Lærdal with his first wife and son Jacob in 1866. Synneva was born in Minnesota.
Johnson, Jacob   Jacob Jensen Rikheim
Johnson, Maria  
Jacob came from Lærdal as a baby with his parents James and Christie Johnson in 1866. He moved to Detroit Lakes around 1906. Maria was born in Germany and she may have been his second wife.
Johnson, Lewis (1st husband)   1844-1882Lars Johanesson Bø
Johnson, Mary   1849-1932Mari Torstensdatter Grøto
Odegard, Lewis (2nd husband)   1855-1939Lars Olson Ødegård
Lewis Johnson came from Lærdal with his father Johannes Simonson Bø in 1861 and he is said to have served in the Civil War. Mary came with her parents Torsten and Randi Nelson from Lærdal also in 1861. They were second cousins. Lewis Odegard emigrated with his parents as a baby from Lærdal in 1856. He owned the general store at Anderson Station/Lysne starting in 1907.
Johnson, Lewis K.   1823-1894Lars Johannesen Kvammen
Johnson, Dorthea   1820-?Dordei Sjursdatter Kvamsdal
I have recently received information that this couple emigrated from Eidjord in Hordaland aboard the Albion in 1847. Lewis was in the U.S. Civil War, with company E of the 4th California Infantry at the end but possibly with another unit earlier.
Johnson, Sever   1849-1907
Johnson, Bertha   1854-?
He was the oldest son of Lewis K. and Dorthea Johnson, born in Deerfield Township, Dane County, Wisconsin. Bertha was the daughter of Louis and Engeliv Johnson. She was born in Lærdal and emigrated with her parents in 1862. This family moved near Sabin, Clay County, Minnesota in 1883.
Johnson, John L.   1853-1907
Johnson, Bertha   1855-1934Brita Nilsdatter Grøto
He was the son of Lewis K. and Dorthea Johnson, born in Deerfield Township, Dane County, Wisconsin. Bertha was born in Lærdal to Nels and Gjertrud Nelson and emigrated with them in 1861. In 1906 they sold their farm in section 28 of Havana to Halvor Moe and moved to Amery, Wisconsin, where their daughter and Bertha's sister lived.
Johnson, Louis S.   1831-1917Lasse Johanneson Grøte/Ljøsno
Johnson, Engeliv   1831-1905Ingeleiv Nilsdatter
Came from Lærdal together in 1862 with their three oldest children.
Johnson, Torger   Abt. 1835-?
Johnson, Julia   1834-?Guro Johannesdatter Grøto
The sister of Louis S. and Peter Johnson, she came from Lærdal in 1866 with her son from a previous relationship, Ingvard Halvorson. Ingvard, who was deaf, was killed by a train in 1889. It appears that her other child, Anna Olsdatter, emigrated at the same time with her father and his wife, but I have no idea what became of her after that. I am investigating the possibility that Torger died in the Hastings State Hospital.
Johnson, Peter
Johnson, Kari
In 1879 their farm was in section 15 of Havana Township.
Johnson, Magnus   1872-1945
Johnson, Agnes   1848-1920 Ragna Knudsdatter Johnson
Both were born in Norway, but I don't know where. She emigrated in 1882, he in 1892. Her first (brief) marriage was to Andrew Anderson. After Ragna's death, Magnus moved to Faribault and married Anna Blackstead. Magnus and Ragna raised her son Karl as well as foster daughter Alice Raa, but they had no children together as far as I know.
Johnson, JohnJohannes Johannesson Forthun
Johnson, Bertha/Brita
They arrived in the community between 1870 and 1875 and moved sometime after 1885, probably to Decorah, Iowa.
Johnson, John P.
Johnson, Sina
Had a child baptized at Aurora in 1898.
Johnson, Ole
Johnson, Selma
Had a child baptized at Aurora in 1892.
Jorgenson, Even
Jorgenson, Anna
Had a child baptized at Aurora in 1877.
Jorgenson, Hans
Jorgenson, Elise
Had a child baptized at Aurora in 1886.
Jorgenson, Lars
Jorgenson, Caroline
They were Danish but five of their children were baptized at the Aurora Lutheran Church between 1884 and 1893.
Kirkebon, Sven   Abt. 1857-1908
Kirkebon, Maggie   Abt. 1861-1887Margrethe Hogenson
Margrethe was the daughter of Ole and Turi Hogenson and was born in Steele County. She died young, just a few months after their only child, Birgitte, died in 1887. Sven's death record says he came from Himesdahl (Heimdahl?), Norway and he left the community sometime after Margrethe died.
Larson, Anton   
Larson, Ingeborg   
Anton emigrated in 1893.
Lee, Hans   Abt. 1801-1897Hans Nilsson Dokki
Lee, Barbara   Abt. 1800-1884Barbro Einarsdatter Kvamme
The parents of Nels Lee, Sigrid Lewison, Mari Hogenson and Anna Edwardson, they emigrated from Lærdal in 1871 with Mari's family.
Lee, Nels H.   1843-1903Nils Hanson Li
Lee, Anna (1st wife)   1844-1885Anna Andersdatter Kjorrane Eggjo
Lee, Johanna (2nd wife)  1851-1918
Lewis, Ole   1840-?Ole Kristensen Mo
Lewis, Anna   1846-Bef. 1924Anna Torstensdatter Grøto
Ole came from Lærdal in 1856 with his father Kristen Larson Mo. Anna emigrated from Lærdal with her parents Torsten and Randi Nelson in 1861. They left the Havana/Aurora area sometime after 1886. In 1900 Anna is living with her married daughter in Owatonna, but I lose track of her after that. In 1879 their farm occupied 40 acres in the northeastern corner of section 21, Havana.
Lewison, Henry   1839-1908Henrik Lasseson Spangelo
Lewison, Sigrid   1837-1899Sigrid Hansdatter Li
Came from Lærdal together in 1866. They lost 5 children when their farmhouse burned down in 1885. Of the 11 children Sigrid bore, only two survived to adulthood. He was the brother of Hogan and Erik Lewison and Jessie Erie.
Lewison, Hogan   1851-1913Hågen Lasseson Husum
Lewison, Anna   1859-1926Anna Jensdatter Nese/Næsset
He came from Lærdal in 1871, the younger brother of Henry and Erik Lewison and Jessie Erie. Anna came from Lærdal in 1883 at the same time as her future mother-in-law.
Lewison, Erik   1842-?Erik Lasseson Husum
Lewison, Martha   1846-?Marita Pedersdatter
He was the brother of Henry and Hogan Lewison. Erik and Martha came from Lærdal together in 1874 with three children. They moved to Gorton, Grant County, Minnesota between 1878 and 1880.
Lewison, Lewis   1837-1913Lasse Lasseson Ljøsno
Lewison, Julia   1834-1916Guri Ingvardsdatter Bø
Came from Lærdal in 1867 with their two oldest children as well as Guri's parents (Ingvard Nilson Rå and Jørond Simonsdatter Bø) and siblings. Not related to the other Lewison families. Their farm was in sections 15 and 22 of Havana in 1879.
Louison, John   1805-1875Johannes Lasseson Grøto
Louison, Betsy   1806-1881Britha Hansdatter Grøto
The parents of Louis S., Guro and Peter Johnson, they emigrated from Lærdal in 1866.
Lysne, CarrieKari Helgesdatter Hauge
Mother of Gjertrud Monson
Lysne, Breta O.Britha Ovesdatter Ljøsno
Emigrated from Lærdal 1881, died 1888, never married.
Lysne, John   John Johannesson Lysne/Ljøsno
Johnson, Guri (1st wife)   Guri Johannesdatter Eri
Lysne, Anna (2nd wife)   Anna Halvorsdatter Selthun/Sælto
John came from Lærdal in 1871 with first wife Guri and son Johannes. Went by the name Johnson for many years. Eventually he and Guri were divorced and he married Anna.
Lysne, Ole J.   1844-1925Ole Johannessen Ljøsno
Lysne, Mary   1846-1937Mari Håkonsdatter Nedre Kvamme
They emigrated from Lærdal together in 1870, although it doesn't seem that they were married at the time. They went by the name Johnson until after 1900, and eventually moved to Blooming Prairie. The link is to the web site of the company their son founded.
McDale, Charley   
McDale, Randine   
She was probably the daughter of David and Anna Odegard.
Moe, Andrew Johnson   1831-1897Anders Johannesson Mo
Moe, Ingeborg Johnson   1831-1914Ingeborg Sollesdatter Rå
They used the surname Johnson for many years.
Moe, Erik   1857-1937
Moe, Anna   1863-1938
Erik came from Hafslo. Anna was born in Steele County, the daughter of Agrim and Guri Johnson.
Moe, Halvor   1828-1912Halvor Jokumson Mo/Rå
Moe, Brita   1838-1908Brita Andersdatter Glitre
Came from Lærdal in 1878 with 7 of the 8 children they had at the time. The oldest, Martha, came a year later and the youngest, Hannah, was born in Steele County.
Moe, Andrew   1861-1925Anders Halvorson Mo/Rå
Moe, Martha   1866-1953
Andrew emigrated from Lærdal with his parents Halvor and Brita Moe in 1878. Martha was born in Steele County, the daughter of Mons and Martha Anderson.
Moe, Ole
Moe, Mattie
Moe, Halvor Jr.   1871-1943
Moe, Randy   1871-1943
Halvor emigrated from Lærdal with his parents Halvor and Brita Moe in 1878. Randy was born in Steele County, the daughter of Thomas T. and Olena Nelson. They bought the John L. Johnson farm (Bertha Johnson was Randy's cousin) in the northwest corner of section 28 of Havana in 1906.
Moe, Knute   1877-1957
Moe, Agnes Caroline (1st wife)   1892-1921
Moe, Molly (2nd wife)   1883-1970
He came from Lærdal in 1878 with his parents Halvor and Brita Moe. His first wife was born in Steele County, the daughter of Nels and Johanna Lee. Molly (Malina) was also born in Steele County, the daughter of Thomas T. and Olena Nelson and also the widow of Andrew Thompson Jr.
Moe, Johannes
Moe, Anna
Molde, Simon   1842-1914Simon Anderson Moldo
Molde, Anna   1856-1934Anna Monsdatter Voll
Simon emigrated from Lærdal in 1866, the son of Anders Simonson Bø and Barbro Johannesdatter Moldo. Anna came from Lærdal with her parents, Mons and Martha Anderson, in 1861.
Monson, Mons   1812-1899Mons Simonson Ljøsno
Monson, Anna   1815-1890Anna Jensdatter Glitre
They came from Lærdal in 1875. Mons' brother Johannes (John Johnson) and sisters Jørond (Jennie Edwardson) and Veljer (Velda Thompson) had already settled in Steele County. Mons and Anna were the parents of James Monson, Andrew Munson, and Guri Edwardson.
Monson, James   1845-1921Jens Monson Ljøsno
Monson, Julia   1847-1919Gjertrud Jensdatter Mo
Munson, Andrew   1848-1908 Anders Monson Ljøsno
Munson, Betsie   1848-1944Brita Larsdatter Ljøsno
Monson, Lewis   1845-1931Lasse Monson Skjær
Monson, Ida   1852-1931Ingeri Monsdatter Voll
Both emigrated from Lærdal; he in 1866, she in 1861 with her parents Mons and Martha Anderson. They were married in Steele County in 1872 and lived in Yellow Medicine County from about 1880 through 1892 before returning to Steele.
Mork, William
Mork, Gunhild
She was Norwegian and he was Danish. They moved to Owatonna, probably in the early 1880s.
Mussmann, Frederick (Fritz)   1838-1898
Mussmann, Barbara   1843-1919Barbra Larsdatter Ljøsno
In the first known marriage in the Norwegian community, Barbra, the daughter of Lars and Veljer Thompson, married Frederick, a neighboring German immigrant, in 1863. In 1879 they are in the southwestern corner of section 13 in Havana.
Nelson, Anna   1801-1887Anna Nilsdatter Grøto
Anna never married. She came from Lærdal with the family of her only child, Guri (Mrs. Agrim) Johnson in 1854 and was among the original Norwegians in Havana/Aurora. Her "ex," Guri's father, Johannes Simonson Bø, also settled here with three of his sons.
Nelson, Edward   1807-1886Ingvard Nilson Rå/Voll
Edwardson, Jennie   1808-1904Jørond Simonsdatter Bø
She was occasionally listed with the surname Prestegard
Nelson, Nils    1830-1909Nils Torstenson Grøto
Nelson, Gjertrud    1829-1909Gjertrud Johannesdatter Yttri Rikheim
Emigrated from Lærdal with Nils' parents Torsten and Randi in 1861. Both died of natural causes on the same day in 1909. They had 80 acres in section 21 of Havana Township in 1879.
Nelson, Randi    1853-1920Randi Nilsdatter Grøto
Randi was a seamstress. She never married. Emigrated from Lærdal in 1861 with her parents, Nils and Gjertrud Nelson.
Nelson, Theodore
Nelson, ChristinaKirsti Håkonsdatter Grøto
He was born in Steele County, the oldest son of Thomas T. Nelson. She came from Lærdal as a child with her parents Hågen Olson Grøte and Anne Hågensdatter aboard the Valkyrie in 1873.
Nelson, Thomas   1804-1889Torsten Nilsson Saltkjelen
Nelson, Rosa   1802-1883Randi Olsdatter Kjodnes
Nelson, Thomas T.   1841-1901Torsten Torstenson Grøto
Nelson, Olena (1st wife)   1843-1896Olena Rasmusdatter Mellem
Nelson, Agnes/Agatha (2nd wife)   1860-1923
Thomas came from Lærdal with his parents, Torsten and Randi Nelson, in 1861 and he fought in the Civil War. Olena came from Hafslo to Crawford County, WI with her parents in 1854. Agnes is also listed with her first husband, Erick Theodor Erickson.
Nelson, Gunder
Nelson, Serine
She was born in Norway and he was born in Minnesota. They came to Aurora Township together around 1894, possibly from Rock Dell in Olmsted County.
Olson, LaurenceLorentz Olson
Olson, LenaOttelie Hansdatter
They arrived in the community between 1865 and 1870 and were gone by 1875. In 1880 they can be found in Becker County, Minnesota
Pederson, Nils
Pederson, Johanna
I believe they were Danish, but their daughter Karen Marie was baptized at Aurora Lutheran in 1873.
Prestegaard, Ole   1804-1893
Prestegaard, Ragnild   1806-1887
Parents of Kari (Mrs. Peter) Johnson, Ole and Peter Prestegard. They emigrated from Lærdal together in 1867.
Prestegaard, Ole   1840-1908Ole Olson Prestegaard
Prestegaard, Dora   1840-1929Durdei Ingvardsdatter Voll
Both emigrated from Lærdal with their parents and (some) siblings in 1867, and they were married in Steele County in 1868.
Prestegaard, Peter   1845-1918
Prestegaard, Ingeleiv   1843-1940
He emigrated in 1866, she in 1868, both from Lærdal. They appear to have lived in Crawford County, Wisconsin prior to settling in Aurora Township around 1876.
Quam, John O.   1847-1912
Quam, Unni T.   1841-1920
They came from Hafslo.
Quam, Lars
Quam, Augusta
Lars came from Hafslo. Augusta was the sister of Anna Thompson and Unni Thorson and daughter of Peder Agrimson. This family moved to Montana and later Washington state.
Quam, Hogan   1820-1899Hågen Jenson Ljøsno/Bø/Kvamme
Quam, Unni   1822-1905Unni Olsdatter
They came from Lærdal together in 1880 and came to Aurora around 1895 to be near their daughters Carrie Quam and Mary Lysne.
Quam, Nels
Quam, Carrie
Came from Lærdal in 1878 with their two oldest children.
Raa, John
Raa, Brita
Brita died young, in 1907, and the family appears to have broken apart afterward. In the 1910 census, John is working as a hired hand for Albert and Jessie Erie, while the three surviving children have been taken in by three different neighbors. In 1920, two of the three children are still living with those same families.
Ray, Nels   1853-1930Nils Solleson Rå
Ray, Anna   1855-1953Anna Sophie Iversdatter Bø
Nels emigrated from Lærdal in 1878. His half-sister, Ingeborg Johnson Moe, had previously settled in Steele County. Anna came from Lærdal in 1880. Iver Boe was her brother.
Selthun, Lewis   1862-1950Lasse Halvorsen Selthun/Sælto
Selthun, Jennie   1865-1955Jøraand Lassesdatter Ljøsno
He came from Lærdal in 1881; she also came from Lærdal, with her parents, Lewis and Julia Lewison, in 1867.
Thompson, Andrew   1840-1920Anders Larsson Ljøsno/Lysne
Thompson, Anna   1846-1928Anna Pedersdatter Stødno
Andrew emigrated form Lærdal with his parents (Lars and Veljer Thompson) and sisters in 1853. He was among the first Norwegian settlers in the Havana/Aurora area and it is said he acted as a lay minister to the community. Anna came, also from Lærdal, with her parents and siblings in 1855. They were in section 27 of Havana in 1879.
Thompson, Jens
Thompson, Ingeborg
Left little trace in the community -- they appear in none of the censuses in Havana/Aurora but they were Norwegian and they had a child baptised at Aurora Lutheran in 1880, at which time they lived in Owatonna. The Christ Hillestad farm may once have belonged to them.
Thompson, Lewis    1799-1883Lars Toreson Nedste Ljøsno
Thompson, Velda   1805-1902Veljer Simonsdatter Bø
Thorson, John
Thorson, Unni
Tollefson, Ole   1829-1908Ole Tollefson Ljøno
Tollefson, Synneva   1830-1925Synneva Olsdatter Bjørkum
Emigrated from Lærdal in 1854 with daughter Mari. Lived in Wisconsin for several years before coming to Goodhue County, MN, then Steele County between 1865 and 1870. In 1879 their farm straddled sections 27 and 28 in Havana Township.
Tonjum, Ole   Ole Olson Tønjum
Tonjum, Jorond   
Ole emigrated from Lærdal in 1892, at the same time as John Raa.


The Church

I plan to put a history of the Aurora Lutheran Church here.
I hope to put an article from the Owatonna (MN) People's Press about the church's 125th anniversary here.


The State School

     From 1885 to 1945, Owatonna was home to the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children. When children were old enough, they were often placed with families, where at best they found a safe and caring home but at worst were abused and treated as unpaid labor. I like to believe the best of the people in this community. The State School children listed below were all brought to the Aurora Lutheran Church and were baptized and/or confirmed there.

  • Willie Olson (b. abt. 1891), fostered by Martin and Hannah Munson
  • Willie Torkelson (b. April 3, 1892), fostered by Andrew and Sena Lewison
  • Floyd Allen (b. abt. 1895), fostered by Sam and Anna Prestegard
  • Ernest Hemquist (b. abt. 1897), fostered by Martin and Hannah Munson, he eventually adopted their surname
  • Harold Lewison (b. abt. 1902)
  • Lloyd Malus (b. December 1905), fostered by William and Synneva Thompson


Other Useful Links

Steele County GenWeb

Steele County Historical Society

Steele County Government

City of Owatonna

Owatonna Area Chamber of
Commerce and Tourism

Owatonna People's Press Newspaper

Owatonna Public Library

Minnesota Death Certificate Index

Social Security Death Index

1880 U.S. census at FamilySearch

Kulturnett Sogn og Fjordane Databases

Fjord Heritage Club


NorwayHeritage Project

Ancestors from Norway

Norway Genealogy

Norwegian-American Dictionary

How to Trace Your Ancestors in Norway

Norwegian-American Historical Association

Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum


Sign My Guestbook

     I intend for this to be a place for researchers to connect with each other. I don't always look at my guestbook on a regular basis, so if you would like a timely reply from me, please e-mail me directly.


Ancestors in this community:






Text copyright 1999-2004 by Chris Larson

Last Modified 2/24/04