Tobias, Cecelia and her son Walter
Tobias Eurenius Gustafson was the second oldest
of a family of five, born in Karlstad, Varmland, Sweden on 2 November 1876.
Tobias went to sea working on a ship on 25 June 1890, then again 5 June 1892, eventually settling in Minnesota. The first record of his doings in
this country appears when he was in business in Duluth, Minnesota. He is listed in the 1907
Duluth city directory as a "Broker"(stocks?) under the name of Boden & Gustafson. This is the
same year he married Signe Cecelia Holmberg, who had a 5 year old son,Walter, from a previous
marriage. After that, he is found in the 1915 Duluth directory, listed as a real estate dealer, this
time with his residence given as Bain, Aitkin co., Minnesota.
In 1918, Tobias ran for County Commissioner, and lost the election by a vote of 202 to 211, in favor of a Mr. Heft.
In 1918, Tobias had a home in Palisade, which was totally destroyed by the 1918 fire which swept through the area. In his campaign
advertisement in the Aitkin Republican newspaper, he states:
"Owing to the serious calamity that has befallen the people of this immediate community, I deem it unwise to at this time embarrass them with
any extended political campaign for the office of County Commissioner for the first
commissioner district, so I am taking this means of calling your attention to my candidacy. But
even would time to permit, I still would be unable to solicit your support, because in the fire that
swept over this county I was one of the heavy losers. My home, together with it's contents(sic),
which is located about one-forth of a mile east of Palisade, was completely destroyed, and I shall
be busy for the next month or so in rebuilding it.
"In seeking this office I have but one purpose in view, and that is in being of service to the people whom I represent. Therefore, before I ask for
your support I believe that I should briefly state the position I shall take in the handling of the
county's business, if elected.
"I am of the opinion that during the duration of the war that no new expensive undertakings should be commenced by the count, but that we should
try and confine ourselves to finishing up work which is now uncompleted. In other words, I
believe that owing to the extra duties and burdens imposed upon the people of this county by the
war and our recent fire, that taxes should be kept as low as possible. It will always be my purpose
to see that every dollar that is spent shall be in the best interests of the county.
"I believe that my business experience amply qualifies me for the position, and I wish to say that I shall at all times carefully listen to
suggestions from my constituents and try to be honest, faithful, and courteous in the performance
of my duties."
Tobias' business as a real estate agent was apparently quite profitable, as he owned several homes and pieces of land around the state. His
work ethics also was taught to his step-son, Walter. While Walter never knew the financial
success of his step-father, he always believed in self-sufficiency and hard work. This trait was
passed on to Walters sons as well.
There does, however, seem to be a bit darker side to Tobias. He and 3 of his friends were not especially liked in Palisade. It is not exactly clear who
the other three were, but one of them is believed to have been the bank president in town.
Anyway, Tobias was shot and killed on 10 August 1922 by a local farmer, Eli Corey, over a land
dispute, as Tobias sat talking with another fellow in front of the blacksmith shop owned by Axel
Franzen. One newspaper article says it was Axel that Tobias was talking with, but two other
articles say it was a Mr. Lester Berglund. Eli had come into town that morning with his family in
the car and stopped at the gas station across the street. He saw Tobias across the street in
conversation, walked across the street, said "good morning, gentleman", then pulled out his gun
and started shooting. Tobias was killed instantly with the first shot in the chest, the second shot
hitting him in the arm. Then Eli shot at the other man, who had taken off running after the first
shots,but missed him. Eli then walked across the street to the gas station where he had been
fueling his car, reloaded his gun, stepped out on the sidewalk and shot himself in the head. Eli
lived for a few hours afterwards, but then passed on.
According to the Corey family descendants, there's another reason that Eli was after "the four." One of Eli's sons had gotten some bad
moonshine from one of them, and subsequently died in a Duluth hospital. This fact proves out
the suspicion of the Gustafson family that Tobias may have been involved in moonshine, since
that was during the Prohibition and a lot of people found easy money in the production and sales
of illegal liquor. It is said that much of the town felt that Eli did the town a favor by killing
After the death of Tobias, his widow, Cecilia, lost most everything by way of land and homes. The family has always held that the remaining three
were responsible for this. She really didn't know anything about her husbands business dealings,
and probably didn't have a way of holding on to everything. She shortly afterwards moved to
McGregor and lived there for a few years. in 1931, she received $10,000 from the state in
settlement for the losses in the 1918 fire, which she apparently gave most or all of to her son
Walter. Walter purchased a farm in Wright, Carlton county with the money. Shortly after that,
Cecelia moved there to live with them until health forced her into a rest home in the 1950's. She
passed away in 1963.
Tobias is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery outside of Palisade. There is a large black stone with the name GUSTAFSON on it, right along
the lane that passes through the cemetery. Behind that is his headstone which says Eurenius, Aug
10, 1921. The year for some reason is wrong. He died in 1922. Eli Corey and his son are buried
across the lane from him.
Tobias Gustafson standing in front of his home in Palisade.
Not sure if this was before or after
the 1918 fire.
Tobias Gustafson standing in front of the Palisade post office.
He is leaning on the car.
years of these pictures are not known ~ probably around 1920
This biography was submitted by Richard Gustafson
AITKIN CO. BIOGRAPHY PROJECT DIRECTORY
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