Ruth Dudero, a granddaughter of Benjamin Isakson, provided me with a copy of this biography of Benjamin Isakson written by Jon Miller, his Great Grandson. I have re-typed it, added the pictures (most of them obtained from Ruth) and provide it below with the permission of Jon Miller.
1860 – 1946
A Biographical Sketch
Compiled by Jon R. Miller, Great Grandson
In the latter part of the 19th century a large number of Scandinavians immigrated to the United States from their native homeland. Settling mainly in the upper Midwestern states, these hardy individuals combined a rugged pioneering zeal with an overwhelming faith in God and literally dug and carved an existence out of the stubborn prairie. Enduring drought, locusts and the unfamiliarity of a foreign tongue, these people prospered and left a lasting influence on the American culture. One of these early Midwestern pioneers was Benjamin Isakson.
Born in Nesne, Helgeland, Norway on June 27, 1860, Ben Isakson was originally destined to continue in the tradition of the Norlanding fishermen. He married Eilerine Kristine Ingebrigtsdatter on September 4, 1887. In 1889, when the prospects of a viable livelihood seemed dim for his growing family, Ben left his wife and two young daughters, Anna and Karen, and journeyed to North Dakota; his passage was paid by Iver Iverson. In North Dakota Ben worked for his sponsor Iverson, saving money and learning enough English to get by when he ventured out of the Norwegian settlement.
After working and saving for two years, Ben sent for his wife and daughters and established a homestead in the Bear Creek district of LaMoure county, North Dakota. A house was fashioned out of the sod of the prairie. The sod was broken with oxen and a single share plow. It has been said that Isakson walked twenty-five miles to Lisbon to have the plow-share sharpened.
Benjamin Isakson Family
Back Row: Cora [Karen] (1889 – 1963), Helga (1899 – 1991), Emil (1895 – 1990), Ingval (1897 – 1988), Anna (1887 – 1951), Ingrid (1901 – 1998), Inga (1893 – 1978)
Front Row: Richard (1908 – 1952), Benjamin (1860 – 1946), Ellerine (1864 – 1946), Ruth (1905 – 1988)
Just when some sense of continuity was begun to emerge in the new land, tragedy struck hard. On Easter Sunday, 1895, the Isakson house and belongings were destroyed in a prairie fire. The growing family, father, mother, Anna, Karen, Inga and baby Emil were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs; however, this would not discourage someone of the character of Ben Isakson. Aided by the strong community of Norwegian immigrants, the family began again. They moved in with their neighbor John Brekke. Elias Peterson gave Isakson some precious seed wheat with only one stipulation – that Ben return the sacks which had Elias’ name stenciled on the side. Ole Guttormson donated a 100 pound sack of flour and others contributed other necessities. With money earned that summer, cutting grain with oxen and binder, and with the contributions from his neighbors, a new frame house was constructed near the Ransom county line, southeast of the original dwelling.
Ben Isakson home in 1895
Ben Isakson was also a pioneer in community and church affairs. He received permission from the Ransom county school board to hold summer church school in the school building. During the year the Norwegian-Americans attended regular classes taught in English but the summer church school classes were taught in Norwegian. The church school instructor always roomed and boarded in the Isakson home. The Isaksons were charter members of Standing Rock Lutheran Church in Fort Ransom.
Standing Rock Church
As time progressed the Isakson farm prospered with the final accumulation of land being 260 acres. A parlor and downstairs bedroom were added to the house and the number of children increased to nine, six girls and three boys. The number of people on the farm was always greater than the immediate family as it was a frequent gathering place for friends and relatives in the surrounding area.
The Isakson home in Fort Ransom
“Said the Angel, ‘I now call you, Ben,
From the rank and file of pioneer men.
You have served your God, and man, well,
It is time for you in heaven to dwell
Your fruitful labors on earth now cease,
Your soul shall rest with God, in
Benjamin Isakson’s life was devoted to service and his efforts were fruitful indeed. Through his efforts, the difficult transition to the new land was made much easier for many Norwegians that followed him to North Dakota.
Benjamin and Ellerine Isakson Grave Markers
from available records, and memory of Grandmother
Ingred Kinneberg and Aunt Ruth Sanco and Helga Langness