John Lars Modahl

by

Mandi Olberg

 

6th Grade 1993, Tri-County School, Karlstad,Minnesota

 

John Lars Modahl was born in Felemarken, Norway in 1873and came to America in his early years. He first came to Clear Lake, Iowa,then proceeded on to Hazel Run, Minnesota. John met and married Tina Thompsonin Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota in 1898. Tina was also of Norwegiandescent.

They then traveled north and homesteaded in 1903 in Section3, Poplar Grove Township, Roseau County, Minnesota. It was located fifteenmiles southeast of Badger. The community was called Benwood, one of severalsmall inland communities established in the early 1900's in Roseau County.

Poplar Grove Township was organized on July 21, 1904. The name was picked out of ten proposed names by the town voters. The firstelected officers were MN. Gullkison, Chairman; John Modahl and William Puttbrese,supervisors.

The Benwood post office was established on December 16,1904. Andrew Lang owned and operated the first general store and post officeat Benwood. It was located on the farm then owned by John Modahl.

The John Modahl family was one of the first families tosettle in Benwood. John purchased the store building, the stock and postoffice from Mr. Lang in 1918 and operated it until around 1930, when hesold the business to the Gulseth brothers. The post office was discontinuedon February 14, 1925.

In the earliest years, the freight was brought in on horseor oxen driven lumber wagons. The mail and freight were hauled in by severalcarriers from Strathcoma, Greenbush and Badger to the Benwood store andpost office. John's father-in-law, Tennes Thompson, was one of the earlycarriers to the Benwood post office. Mr. Thompson found the water on partof his route so deep in places that both he and the mail would get soakedin spite of the fact he rode horseback. Later, Mr. Modahl bought a truckto haul in the supplies.

Before any church was organized in that area, the settlers(mainly of Norwegian descent) met in one another's homes for religious servicesand other community events. They then established a Norwegian Lutherancongregation. They built Klondike Lutheran Church in 1928. The churchstill stands on Klondike Ridge, two and a half miles west of the Modahlfarm. John and Tina were charter members of this church. John also servedon the church board.

The first school in the Benwood community was held in thehome of the teacher, a man by the name of Sherman. The school, DistrictNo. 77, was built a mile south of the Modahl homestead. John served onthe school board for several years.

John and Tina worked hard to build up their farm. Theyraised small grains, flax, sweet clover and hay, cattle, hogs, chickensand used horses to plow and work their land. His married son, Leonard,farmed with them and continued to farm after John and Tina retired. Johnlived on his farm for nearly 50 years. He also served as insurance agentfor Roseau County Mutual Insurance Company for many years.

They built a new comfortable home in Badger, Minnesotaand moved there in the early 1940's.

They raised seven children. They were: Ethel, Alice, Leonard,Sarah, Cora, Milton, and Edith. Another child, Olga, died of typhoid feverat the age of eleven.

John Modahl passed away at the age of 89 in 1962 and isburied beside his wife, Tina, at Klondike Cemetery.962 and isburied beside his wife, Tina, at Klondike Cemetery.