Winneshiek County IAGenWeb

 Bruvold Farm Burial Site

this page was last updated on Friday, 23 December 2016

This spot needs a Bruvold Farm entrance picture, If you have one please contact your county coordinator

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Sunday, March 13, 2005, Ross Hanson became an Eagle Scout at the Ossian Lutheran Church after a two-year project of restoring an old cemetery located in a neighbor's field. He remembered how crops were planted and harvested around disheveled tombstones. In early summer 2003, Ross and his parents, Greg and Dianne Hanson, checked out the cemetery located on top of a field hill, barely visible from County Road W 42 south of Nordness.

Ross received permission from landowners, Lillian, Paul and Sue Bruvold to restore the Pioneer Cemetery, and he began his project. He also contacted the Winneshiek County Pioneer Cemetery Commission and they agreed to work with him on his project.

Ross completed plans for his project and while waiting for project approval, he revisited the site. He discovered two tombstones, one broken in half. Ross realized he needed to work around the farmer's crops of corn and soybeans, so he completed research during the summer months.

Susan Jacobsen of the Winneshiek County Pioneer Cemetery Commission helped Ross with his project. Because of a lack of funding, the number of cemeteries the group can restore is limited. The "Bruvold" cemetery was on their list for future projects. Ross learned about a  large number of pioneer cemeteries in the county.

Ross' Grandpa Schwartz had been restoring cemeteries for years in Benton County. He was pleased to learn his grandson had similar interests. The first job was to locate the missing part of the broken gravestone. Schwartz suggested probing the ground around the graves. Ross began by randomly probing and when he hit a fairly large rock, he began digging. His first attempt produced the missing half of the stone completely intact under a foot of dirt. Ross took the piece home, and after a lot of soap and scrubbing, left the stone outside to bleach. Grandpa Schwartz brought epoxy  for gravestones, and he and Ross were able to mend the marker and reinforce it.

The inscription on the two stones are legible, and Ross discovered the two graves were for children, Laura Garden born August 17, 1855 and died May 9, 1857 and William Opdahl born September 26, 1855 and died May 13, 1857. Both markers were written in Norwegian.

More research determined that Laura was the daughter of Pastor Halvor Garden and Ingeborg Opdahl. Pastor Garden was one of the first ministers of the Washington Prairie Methodist Church built between 1863 and 1868.

Ross was not able to find information about William Opdahl's family. Through information obtained from the Decorah Genealogy Society in the Decorah Library, Ross learned that Knud Guldbrandson Opdahl, Laura's grandfather, owned the farm where the graves are located.

Ross believed there could be two other graves at the cemetery and again called on his granddad for help. Schwartz brought dowsing or witching rods and taught Ross how to search for the unmarked graves with them. The rods are L-shaped pieces of metal that will cross over each other when held outright in front of a person. Through this process, Ross determined there were indeed two more graves, most likely graves of children.

When the next spring arrived, Ross and his dad returned to the site and installed a chain-link fence with the help of fellow scouts, Devin Brincks, Michael Zweibahmer and Derick Nesvik. The area was seeded with grass and ,although impossible to maintain in the middle of the field, Ross feels this will help keep the weeds down.

Ross turned in his paperwork and participated in an intensive interview with the Boy Scouts board of review, necessary to receive the Eagle Award. The entire project took about 50 hours and was funded from a share of popcorn sales and from various donations. Ross said he learned several things from his scout project, including how to research, write good reports and the art of "witching." He has discovered that descendents of the deceased have since visited the pioneer cemetery.

Several articles were written about Ross Hanson because of his efforts. The above information is based on those articles.

Please, contact the County Coordinator to submit additions or corrections.

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this page was last updated on Friday, 23 December 2016