The very first settler was Ole Willicksen, some would say,
was a true representative of the Norse Vikings of old. Ole had sailed
the seas under the flags of Norway, England, Greece, Russia, and the
United States. When he decided to settle down and live the balance of
his live on land, he did so in Iowa. Ole is remembered for his
dramatic sea stories and the length of his tobacco spitting ability to
hit a fly sitting 12 feet away. Mr. Willicksen broke the first sod in
Norway Township in July 1869 using a team of an ox and a heifer. In
the spring of 1870, he planted the first seed.
1869 – Ole Williksen, not a settler of 1869, but
located a claim and broke sod. He settled in 1871.
1870 – Ole S. Tang located and broke ground upon
Section 31. Built the first house.
1878 – Hamlet of Verbeck located one mile east
and one mile south of present town of Thor, corner north of East
1880 – Verbeck post office established by U.S.
government, June 2, 1880.
1881 – Town of Thor laid out by the Western Town
Every town or community has that one individual that is, well shall
I say, eccentric? Coffee Ole was one of those individuals. A hundred
years ago the Norwegian wandered across Humboldt, Kossuth and Wright
counties. He said he "wouldn’t go to work until he ran out of brew."
Ole seemed to delight in sticking by his words. He was a familiar
sight with his coffee pot in one hand and his bundle stick over his
shoulder trekking over well-worn pathways from farmhouse to farmhouse.
All of his treasures were in those bundles; old rags and used coffee
Ole would gladly dance a jig for a penny
or two. He’d stand on his head in a mud puddle for a nickel. When he
wasn’t able to make any money with his tricks to buy fresh coffee he
would dig into his bundle of treasures for some of the ancient grounds
that he had hidden away.
Sometimes the urge for fresh coffee would
over take him and he’d have to do a little work to satiety the urge.
Then he’d even work a whole week for a farmer to earn 50 cents. There
were families that would offer Ole a free meal. He was sharp and
looked to the further. While he was filling his stomach with food he
was also filling his pockets for later.
Ole didn’t trust people and he probably had good cause. A person as
‘unique’ as Ole was going to have a pranks played on him. It was a
considered a good joke to be able to relieve Ole of his coffeepot.
Many people tried and a few succeeded. Ole would fume and threaten to
lose his temper, but he rarely ever did.
Maybe it was his hardy Norwegian blood that made him comfortable in
the cold. The only time he bathed was in the dead of winter. Then he’d
take his annual "tubbing" by way of a hole in the ice. Ole would chop
a hole in the ice, then slop frigid water all over himself. The water
would freeze as it fell, thus making him a living icicle.
If his idea of bathing was unusual, so was his idea of what was
eatable. He thought nothing of storing deceased poultry in haystacks
in July and he didn’t much care just how the birds had met their
Ole had a marvelous talent. He always attended church on Sunday, no
matter where he had wandered. He would sit in church and intently
listen to the minister’s sermon. Then all through the next week Ole
would preach the minister’s sermon, word for word without and error.
Around 1896, as Ole was getting along in years, Mr. Halgrim built
Ole a small house on the Halgrim farm near Thor. Coffee Ole settled
down there and seemed to be content. He would sit outside of the
little house in the evening and sing Old Norwegian folk songs. Then
there were evenings when his imagination created unseen beings that
were intent on scaring Ole. He would then rush outside and beat the
walls of his house in order to frighten the beings away.
It wasn’t always unseen beings that tormented Ole. Young men and
boys came from several miles away to tease him. Just like in the past,
he would fume and acted out in defense. All this accomplished was to
upset Ole and provide great sport for the young men.
Mrs. Halgrim persuaded Ole once to clean up. One day he submitted
to a shave, haircut and clean new clothes. The next day, he reverted
back to the old ragged clothes.
In 1902, Ole had become such a nuisance that he was sent to the
State Hospital in Cherokee. There he spent his last four years
drinking coffee, and I imagine dreaming of the open road.
1900-274; 1910-271; 1920-285; 1930-257; 1940-264; 1950-271; 1960-234; 1970-212; 1980-198; 1990-205; 2000-174