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.

Benjamin Isakson
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.

The Benjamin Isakson Family - Photo obtained from Ruth Dudero

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 - Photo obtained from Ruth Dudero
Ben Isakson home in 1895
Through the years the farm prospered, with horses replacing the original oxen. The main crops were wheat, oats, barley and flax. After being threshed by custom steam-driven machines, the wheat was hauled eight miles in open wagons to a grain elevator in Verona. While grains were the major crops, the sale of eggs and butter furnished the money for the weekly groceries that were obtained in Fort Ransom. The trip to Fort Ransom was an all-day affair but for the children a worthwhile outing since the day usually resulted in a sack of candy that would be made to last until the next trip.

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 - Photo obtained from Ruth Dudero
Standing Rock Church
In 1910 Ben went to Norway and brought his sister Kristine and her husband, Peder Larson to North Dakota. His brother-in-law Ludwig Mehus came on the same trip [see My Father: Ludvig Johan Angel Mortensen Mehus] . Throughout the years the Isakson home was always open to the new immigrants and at times there were as many as fourteen people to accommodate, a good enough reason for Mother Isakson to bake bread every day and the younger daughters to bemoan all the dishes to wash!

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.

House in Fort Ransom - Photo obtained from Ruth Dudero
The Isakson home in Fort Ransom
Ben Isakson retired in 1917 and moved to a new home in Fort Ransom where he died April 30, 1946. The death of Ben Isakson inspired his daughter Ingrid’s husband, Telvin Kinneberg, to write the following words:

“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
Heavenly peace.'”

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 Isakson Grave Marker - Photo by Tony Hanson Ellerine Isakson Grave Marker - Photo by Tony Hanson
Benjamin and Ellerine Isakson Grave Markers
Compiled by Jon R. Miller, Great Grandson
from available records, and memory of Grandmother
Ingred Kinneberg and Aunt Ruth Sanco and Helga Langness

Benjamin Isakson: A Biographical Sketch