Town History





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Sod Houses


Thor Map



Humboldt County Town Histories

Thor, Norway Township

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 Ullensvang.

1880 – Verbeck post office established by U.S. government, June 2, 1880.

1881 – Town of Thor laid out by the Western Town Lot Company.

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 grounds.

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 demise either.

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.

Thor's population:
1900-274; 1910-271; 1920-285; 1930-257; 1940-264; 1950-271; 1960-234; 1970-212; 1980-198; 1990-205; 2000-174