Adams Seed Co. until their marriages. Lula married Arne Reinsvold on 14 Dec 1919. They farmed in the area around Mabel, MN and later moved to Rochester. Their children were: Vernon, Marian (m. Bill Fishbaugher) Lyle and Alton. Christina married Irven Harris 23 Feb 1921. They farmed near Mabel and moved to Seattle, WA in 1943. Children were: Earl and Lois (m. Ken Hussey). Josephine married Roy Thornton 1 Jun 1922 and lived in Decorah where Roy had a Fender Body Auto Repair business. Children were: Evelyn (m. Telford Seegmiller), Lucille (m. Larry Eilers), and Lillian (m. Berwyn Yates). Ollie is married to Walt Timonen and lives in Billings, MT

Wennes, Ole Lewis and Caroline (Larson)

(Thilda W. Egertson)

Bio Photo  

Ole Lewis Wennes (O.L. Wennes)

To be born in a log cabin in America in 1856 was “no big deal” for Ole Lewis Wennes. This happened for many immigrants besides Peder L. and Tarine Gjerstad Wennes, his parents. They came from Trondheim, Norway; he in 1850, she in 1852, to Wisconsin, where they were married in the Muskego Lutheran Church. A year later they settled in Highland Twp., Winneshiek Co., in NE Iowa.

Because of limited circumstances, they lived two years in a dugout. Peder was a carpenter who barely finished the log cabin when their son was born 17 Jul 1856. As was the practice, Rev. Ulvik V. Koren of the Washington Prairie Lutheran Church made his yearly trip in Jun 1857 to a stone school house in Locust where he married 2 couples, served the Lord’s Supper to the adults and baptized 24 children, of whom Ole Lewis was one. Lewis had one sister, Ellen Johanna.

His mother first taught him a lesson in the Catechism each morning before he went out to play, as well as to read in Norse. At age 9 he entered the log cabin school at Knoff’s Corner, the first “real school,” in a building 18' x 24' with Prof. Berg as teacher. One winter there were 60 pupils there, with John Winjum as teacher. Such were pioneer days!

The State then looked favorably on moral and religious training, and permitted parochial schools to use 2 months of the 6 months of the public school time because so many Norwegians in Highland Twp. requested it. By now, Ole Lewis was called Lewis. He took a year of confirmation instruction from Rev. H.A. Stub in the Big Canoe Church.

Many children began work early. At age 15, Lewis hauled a load of wheat to Lansing by the Mississippi River, a 60-mile trip, with oxen. He started for home one morning at 4:00 a.m., in 30 degrees below zero weather - he rode one mile and walked one mile to keep warm. His parents believed in education. In 1874 he was sent to business school in Lansing, then Breckinridge Institute and Slack Business College in Decorah, where he graduated. In 1877 he drove a team for the Bersie Livery Barn to Sioux Falls, SD, about 280 miles one way through Austin and Albert Lea, MN, much of it only wild prairie, taking 6 days. Lewis was interested in community affairs, and at age 22 he was elected township constable, then township clerk and later assessor for 6 years.

Land was important; prices and interest varied. Lewis purchased 40 acres for $1,000.00, then another 40 and farmed for 5 years with his father on 160 acres with 4 horses. Later he added more acres to a total of 395. In 1886 he purchased the home farm and took the responsiblity of caring for his parents the rest of their lives.

On 15 May 1889 he married Caroline Larson (b. 11 Feb 1865), the-girl-next-door — a soft spoken brown-eyed brunette who left most of the talking to him. Like many, she made a career of home-making, managing a large, new house and family, akin to Proverbs 31:27, “looking well to the ways of her household.” Lewis now built a house for his parents next door.

They had seven children: Peter, Jennie, Edgar, Nels, Carl, Theo. and Thilda. All were married between 1914 and 1925. Two died in infancy.

Schools were scarce. In 1890 Halvor Bersie and Lewis contracted to build the Public School Dist. #4 at a cost of $563.50, later known as the Grindeland School...nearest neighbor. Lewis was township school clerk for 21 years and served on the building committee of the new Highland Lutheran Church in 1894-95. Time was spent improving his herds with high-grade livestock and adding buildings, when possible. Then came the elections to 2 terms as County Supervisor of the 4th District. A new court house was built in 1903-04 at a cost of $111,118.11. As chairman of the Board’s Building Committee, he asked the contractor to take off $7.00 to make it an even $111,111.11 so people would remember it. He did. The 5 County Supervisor’s names are carved on its cornerstone, but the family didn’t know that for 20 years.

By now Lewis was known as “O.L.” in business, such as director of the Norwegian Mutual Insurance and Winneshiek County Agricultural society (FairGounds), but elsewhere as Lewis. When neighbors banded together to ship livestock to Chicago, they usually delegated Lewis


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