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Fenstad (farm number 14/2), by Kristoffer Rein

[Kristoffer Rein's Stadsbygd bygdebøker are mainly comprised of the stories of Stadsbygd's farms and the families that lived there since the Reformation period (16th century onward). Some stories are very brief and factual. Others display drama and subtle humor. I picked the following one to translate into English (with apologies for my ineptitude in that task) because it is very typical of the stories. Per and Ingeborg Anna were my father's maternal grandparents.  --Dennis Haarsager, ed.]

The main farm of Lower Fenstad, farm number 14/1, was in 1859 divided into two approximately equal parts, and it provided for a new Fenstad farm. Brothers Andreas and Per [Peder] each got his part, but Per had to build a new house.* He got the northern part. It had the best ground, but the main farm got to keep much of the cultivated outlying field.

The area of the newly divided part, 14/2, was 100 decare [about 25 acres], and practically all of it was comprised of good fully cultivate land. At the time of division, the farm also got half of the outlying field property at Vatngård [another farm in Stadsbygd] that belonged to the main farm. It became a new farm number 36/9, Karevika. The area of it is 257 decare [about 66 acres], . . .100 decare [about 25 acres] are average wooded thicket, and 117 decare [about 29 acres] are low quality.

I.  Farmer from 1859-1880, Per Kristensen Fenstad (1826-1877) and Ingeborg Anna Knutsdatter Myhr (1841-1879), married 1860.

The 19 year old wife of the new small farm was born at Upper Myhr (see farm number 12/1). She and Per took to work with fresh vigor. A house was to be built and uncultivated land was to be brought under the plow. They spared it not. But it became apparent that the work tore hard at their vigor. Both died at ages as normally would be their best, he was 50 and she was 39 years of age. Nevertheless, they had cultivated up most of the area and raised farm building and cottage. These were, under the next farmer, some extended and restored in the pure style of the trønder long building made for continued good service. The children of the farm were:

  1. Anne Kristine, born 1860. She was in 1881 married to Ole Jakobsen Vårum, see farm number 8/9.
  2. Kristen, born 1862. He went to the USA in 1880 [the story of his homesteading is given below].
  3. Anne Bergitte, born 1865, to USA in 1882, was married to Andreas Jensen Hårsaker, had farm at Litchville in North Dakota and had ten children. She died in 1936.
  4. Knut, born 1868, traveled to America in 1884. Married and there were born several children.
  5. Kjersten, born 1868, twin, went over the sea as 15 year old and was right away married to Elias Jensen Hårsaker, the brother-in-law, who also had a farm in the same district. They bore 16 children. She lived until 1946, he died in 1926.
  6. Johanne, born 1871. She was just 12 years old when she took the same trip as the sisters, and she was 15 years old when she was married to the third brother from Håssåker, Ole, born 1857, see farm number 9/1. They bore 10 children.
  7. Inga Pauline, born 1875. Followed her brother Kristen to the USA when he was on a visit at the home township in 1893.

As a bachelor, Per had a daughter Ellen Maria, born 1856, with Beret Anna Rasmusdatter Myrstrøen, see farm number 11/12. Ellen Maria was married to Morten Askjem and lived for over 100 years. See farm number 19/2.**

Notes from 1865 show that already after a year the new farm "of stall and bin" had two horses, four cows, ten sheep and one pig. Crops were ten barrels [about 40 bushels] of barley, sixteen barrels [about 48 bushels] of oats and 50 barrels [about 200 bushels] of potatoes. High crops were 50 loads. About 70 decare [about 17 acres] were under cultivation.

The hardworking family was well established, then rather suddenly there was crisis. In 1877, the husband died and two years afterward the wife died, their small and medium-sized children were distributed among relatives. But then Kristen, the eldest brother, as an 18 year old, emigrated to America, followed up the path by the younger sisters rather quickly. Family and guardians grieved for then the farm was sold to whoever was willing to pay the most.

*Andreas (1822-1861) and Per (also known as Peder) were the two oldest of seven children born to Kristen Pedersen (Flyta) Fenstad (1787-1857) and his wife, Anne Andersdatter (Sund) Fenstad (1799-1862). –ed.

**Rein's volumes have many examples of people having children before marriage, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, so this was not at all unusual. –ed.

Information from Christen (Kristen) Fenstad's Homestead File, by Carol Sliper Hirabayashi (great-grandniece of Christen)

[Christen lived only until March 7, 1893.  He married Dina Ellingson in 1887, and they had no children.  Dina then married Christen’s brother Knud (twin of my grandmother, Kjersten).  They had eight children.  Dina died at age 100, January 30, 1968. –ed.]


Christen Fenstad lived in Otter Tail County, Minnesota before moving to the 160 acres of land he homesteaded in La Moure County, Dakota Territory on May 15, 1883 at the age of 22. While in Otter Tail County, we worked for a farmer. The land he homesteaded was prairie farmland with no trees. He paid $18.00 to file his original claim May 1, 1883.


Christen was not a United States citizen in May 1883, but he had declared his intention to become a citizen. Christen became a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 13, 1888.


In 1889, with 60 acres under cultivation and 25 acres fenced for pasture, he estimated the value of the land at $300. Two neighbors estimated it a $2,000.00. Notice of Christen s intention to file his "final proof" for the land was published in the "La Moure County Chronicle" for six consecutive weeks from March 29 to May 3, 1889. Christen filed his "final proof" or final affidavit for his homestead on May 13, 1889 in Fargo. The "receiver" who took the testimony on the final affidavit was paid by the word. He got $2.19 for 1,462 words. Christen also paid $8.00, the balance of payment required and received a patent for the land.


Christen built a frame house on the land in May 1883. It was 12 feet by 14 feet with a 6 by 9 foot lean-to. By 1889, it was sided with boards, paper and siding outside and flooring and ceiling inside. It was painted inside and out. It had a shingle roof and "matched" floor. It had two windows, two doors and a cellar. He also owned a stable, 26 feet by 30 feet, made of stone, sod and boards and a frame granary 12 feet by 14 feet. In 1889, he estimated that the house was worth $150.00; the stable $50.00; the granary $25.00. He had a well, 41 feet deep, curbed and worth $50.00, and about $60.00 worth of wire fencing. A neighbor stated that Christen "made these improvements himself, as he was able."


The first winter (December 1, 1883 - March 1, 1884), he went back to the woods of Minnesota to work for 3 months in the "pineries." The second winter (December 15, 1884 - February 15, 1885), he lived and worked for a "near neighbor" for two months to earn his board. After those first two winters, he lived in his house year round.


In 1883, the only farm implement he owned was a breaker. By 1884, he acquired a wagon, drag and cross-plow. He added a seeder and rake in 1885 and a binder in 1886. Two years later, in 1888, he owned a sulky plow.


In 1884, he had 15 acres in wheat that yielded 306 bushels. He doubled his acreage the next year, reaping 735 bushels of wheat on 30 acres. Progress was slower the next few years, but steady. In 1886, he harvested 770 bushels of wheat from 40 acres. In 1887, he harvested 840 bushels from 50 acres. He diversified a bit in 1888, planting 55 acres of wheat, yielding 684 bushels and 5 acres of oats, yielding 181 bushels.


Christen and Dina were married August 1887. She moved to their home right after the marriage. By 1889, their home included a stove, bed and bedding, table, chairs, a clock, a sewing machine, dishes and cooking utensils.


Christen and Dina also owned 2 horses, 3 oxen, 3 cows, 5 steers, 2 heifers, 1 pig, 20 hens, 1 dog and 6 cats.


Their friends and neighbors included:


Torjus Sjulli who lived ½ mile from them, "within sight of their place." He had to cross their land to go in to town. Torjus settled there in 1883, the same year as Christen.

Jens A. Egge who lived 1½ miles from them and could see Christen working from his farm. Christen and Jens exchanged work during harvest and threshing. Jens also settled on his land in 1883, the same year as Christen.

Albert Kvern,

Ole Kasseth*

Elias J. Haarsager* and

Andrew J. Haarsager.


*Ole Kasseth and Elias Haarsager were among the group of staværinger who emigrated together to Minnesota from Trondheim May 26, 1880. –ed.

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