While in Iowa M. N. Johnson was a Hayes elector. He served one term as a member of the State Assembly of IA and one term as member of the Senate of IA.
In 1882 M. N. prospected for land in the Dakota Territory and in 1883 with his wife and 2 daughters moved to a homestead adjoining the town of Petersburg in what was to become ND.
Along with farming, M. N. continued his political career in ND. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1889. He was State Attorney of Nelson Co. for one term, and in 1890 was elected Representative in Congress from ND taking his seat in 1891 and serving in Congress 8 years.
In 1909 M. N. was elected United States Senator from ND, serving about 8 months covering the Special Session of that year. In Oct 1909 he had a surgical operation from which he died 21 Oct 1909 at Fargo, ND. He is buried in the little cemetery at Petersburg.
Stella and Martin had 4 children: Edith, Nellie, Ralph and Florence. Edith Helen and Nellie Salinda were born in Decorah. Ralph Kellogg was born in the sod house at Petersburg, and Florence Anna was born in Washington, D.C. during the 1896 session of the legislature.
Stella spent her last years in CA with Florence, dying in Bakersfield, CA in 1925.
Johnson, Nelson (Kaasa)
(Jane K. Woodward)
Nelson Johnson was born in Hitterdahl Parish, Nedre Telemarken, Norway 17 Oct 1818. He came to America in a sailing vessel in 1839, settling first in Milwaukee, then buying land in Yorkville (now Norway), Wl. He married Anna Nilsdtr Selheim who had come from Voss, Norway in 1841. Four children were born in Wisconsin—John W, Betsy Philena, Martha Ann and Martin Nelson.
Because of continued attacks of fever and ague every summer in Wisconsin, they made up their minds to seek a new home in Iowa. In 1850 they started west with several other Norwegian families. Nelson Johnson had three yoke of oxen and two wagons. The larger wagon had been used to transport military supplies and carried farm tools of all kinds, furniture and supplies. Besides his oxen, he had nine cows, fifteen sheep, two swine, an old mare and a colt. He had three men to drive the loose cattle and ox teams: Abraham Jacobson (later Rev. Jacobson of Decorah), John Olson (later a merchant at Forest City) and John Thune (who settled on a farm in Decorah Twp).
When they came to Wingville within 45 miles of the Mississippi River, Nelson and another man left the wagon party and went ahead to prospect. They crossed the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien to McGregor, IA and continued west about 15 miles to west of Monona. Here they were on the rolling prairie with timber mixed in between, and plenty of living springs. The grass was almost as high as a man and so rank one could hardly walk through it. They stopped on one of the high elevations of the prairie and stood there and looked toward the setting sun. Finally one of the men broke the silence and said, “There is no use going farther. This is good enough for me.” The other agreed.
The caravan crossed the Wisconsin River by ferry at Bridgeport. The ferry was a crude affair propelled by one horse on a treadmill and could take only one wagon and team at a time. The loose cattle had to swim across, all of which was accomplished without accident. They crossed the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien. The ferry there was larger and propelled by four mules, but the water was high and the Mississippi was nearly two miles wide. Much time was needed to get all the wagons and animals across safely.
Accompanying Nelson and his family on this trip were his brother, Gjermund Johnson, his wife and children; also the party included Aslak Simonson Aae, Jacob Abrahamson, Tollef Simonson Aae, Knud Gulbrandson Oppedal and some other families from Valdres, Norway. At Prairie du Chien half the party went up the east side of the Mississippi and settled in Coon Prairie. At Monona the party divided again and about half of them struck out to the south and settled near Elkader in Clayton Co, IA. Nelson and Gjermund Johnson, Aslak and Tollef Simonson Aae, Jacob Abrahamson and Knud Gulbrandson Oppedal went west and settled on Washington Prairie, a little southeast of Decorah, Winneshiek Co, IA. They arrived on 2 Jul 1850. Here they found John J. Quale, A.C. and O. Lomen, Mikle Omli, Erick Anderson, Ole and Stahl Tostensen Hougen, who had arrived about two weeks earlier.
Nelson Johnson broke up about 13 acres that summer. Next he built a house of poplar logs, of which there were plenty on his new land.
Prairie fires came early in the fall. Fortunately they could see the smoke in the west for several days, which gave the new settlers time to plow rings one outside of the other around their homes and haystacks. The grass inside and between these rings was burned off, so the fire when it came could not jump over into the hay and buildings.
Besides the Norwegians there were three families in the county when they arrived in 1850: John Day, William Painter, and John McKay. There was an influx of settlers in the latter part of the summer, and a convention was called for organizing the county. It was held in Nelson Johnson's log house. Settlers came in hickory shirts and overalls tucked into their boots—on foot and horseback from all directions. The Norwegians took little part in the hotly contested campaigning.
Three more children were born to Nelson and Anna Johnson in Washington Prairie: Lewis Cornelius, Mary Helena, and Salinda Fredrica.
Nelson Johnson had attended Methodist meetings when he first arrived in Wl, and was probably the first Norwegian west of New York to join the Methodist Church. His wife was a follower of Elling Eielson of the Lutherans and the Johnsons joined the Lutheran organization. Later both Nelson and Anna joined the Methodist church. In Winneshiek Co. Nelson Johnson was instrumental in calling the Rev. O.J. Peterson to come to Iowa in the fall of 1851 to serve as minister to the growing community. He was recalled to be sent to Norway, whereupon Nelson
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this page was last updated on Sunday, 28 March 2021