became enthusiastically involved in various aspects of Norwegian handicrafts, especially activity they all, and especially Norma, have continued since their return to Decorah.

Refsals are members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, avid fans of Public Radio, and regular participants in classes in Norwegian handwork offered by Vesterheim. Harley teaches weekend and week long classes in figure carving throughout the U.S., and regularly travels to Scandinavia, where he conducts carving classes and demonstrates. In 1995 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Augsburg College. He is on the faculty at Luther College, where he teaches Norwegian language and Scandinavian Folk Art. In 1996 Harley received the St. Olaf Medal of Norway presented to him by the Royal Norwegian Consul General Anfin Ullern of the Norwegian Consulate of Minneapolis for his cultural activities. Norma is a Certified Registered Nurse in College Health at Luther College, a seasoned gardener, and currently the owner of the largest dog in the Irish Wolfhound named Moses. Carl, a sophomore at Luther College in 1995-96, is majoring in vocal music. Martin also enjoys music, as well as woodcarving.

Relf-Whittier Family

(Janice W. Relf)

Bio Photo

Fannie Whittney Relf

Prologue: I, Janice Whittier Relf, will relate two stories of my ancestry. Story Number One is about the Relf-Whittier family beginning in Chatham, England. Story Number Two is about the Hanna-Hoyt family starting in Antrim County, Ireland and in Scotland. Several members of both families came to America and continued Westward to Decorah, IA and Winneshiek Co.

Bio Photo

James Thomas Relf

At the family home, which was built by grandfather James Thomas Relf at 309 Grove Street in Decorah, Janice Whittier Relf was born 15 Jun 1915. My parents were Roy Whittier Relf and Sarah Hanna-Hoyt, also known as “Sadie." I attended the Decorah Schools and was a member of the Decorah College for Women, which was later to be affiliated with Luther College, where I graduated in 1939. I became the Assistant Librarian and Financial Secretary of the Decorah Public Library. I was the first woman City Treasurer in Decorah. I was active in civic affairs in Winneshiek Co., chairperson for the Polio Foundation, and member of the County Agricultural Association promoting displays in the Hobby Hall.

I went to Minneapolis, MN and had a position as school librarian. I am a member of N.E.A. and M.E.A., and the State Historical Society. I continued my education with classes at the University of MN, the University of Northern IA and Mankato State College. When I retired, I received a citation from the State Library Association for my contribution to the Libraries and Instructional Media and Instructional Media Centers in the State of MN. I then returned to Decorah. I am a member of the Congregational Church, a 50-year member in Chapter GO of the PE.O. Sisterhood, affiliated with Decorah Travel Club, Luther College Woman’s Club and am a guide at Vesterheim Museum and the Porter House Museum.

In the writing of the following account I have used family records, diaries, scrapbooks, plus stories of my ancestors, as told to me.

Story Number One: James Relf was born in 1809 in Chatham, England. He came to America, where he became acquainted with Sarah Sophia Hoare and they were married at Newbury, NY They settled in Mt. Vernon, OH, where James Relf carried on his trade as a cabinet maker and made fine walnut furniture. He died 2 Jul 1877. He and his wife Sarah Sophia (1814-1862) are buried in the Decorah Phelps Cemetery.


Complete OCR transcription

See the associated scan to compare with the published information.

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this page was last updated on Monday, 29 March 2021