John P. Skjold

by

Connie Nordstrom

 

Peter Johnson Skjold married Sigurlauger Bjornadotter. They both came from Iceland. To this union three children were born: Nina,John, and Bjorn. Following Icelandic tradition, the first son was namedJohn Peterson. His grandfather was John Peterson, his great grandfatherwas Peter Johnson. This continues as far back as the name can be traced.

John was born December 17, 1892. As a small baby, he hadpneumonia. The doctor dipped him in hot water all night and saved his life.

One of John's adventures as a young boy was to travel 60miles from Mountain, North Dakota to Pembina in a buggy drawn by a horse. The purpose of the journey was to see a Ringling Brothers Circus. Theyhad to get up very early in the morning, come all the way to Pembina andwatch the parade and circus and then start for home.

One night the neighbors barn caught fire. John was veryworried because their own barn was dangerously close. The young boy wasable to save all the animals in his barn, but by the time he finished, theother barn couldn't be saved. Nevertheless, he was somewhat of a hear atan early age.

John had a white rooster that he had sent all the way toIowa for. He was really proud of it. When the fire came, he took his roosterand put him in the cellar of the house. Then he forgot all about it. Thenext day, John's sister, Nina, went down there and the rooster took herby surprise. She had never been so frightened in her whole life!

In those days, the railroad workers used handcars. Johnand some of his friends would get together and "borrow" one. One day they were going up and down the tracks in a borrowed handcar whenthey saw a train coming. They started to lift the push car off the tracks,but John fell and drove a spike through his knee. He was on crutches fora long time after that. The scar on his knee was a life time reminder ofthis incident.

When John lived at Halson, North Dakota, his grandmotherlived close by. One day he and his friends went to visit her. On theirway they saw a skunk. The dogs began chasing it. John's got to it on thetop of the bridge and they started fighting. The dog and skunk fell offthe bridge into the river. John thought the skunk was going to kill hisdog so he took a stick and kept hitting the animal until it was dead. Afterthis smelly ordeal, they went to John's grandma's and she let them comein for milk and cookies. The grandma didn't even comment about the strangeodor. But after they got home, John's mother wouldn't let them in the housebecause they smelled too much like a skunk. His grandma didn't even notice.

When John was very young, he was very intelligent in school. He even skipped 2 grades. His father ran a General Store in Edinburg andwhen John was about 14 or 15 the store went broke. As a result, John hadto cut his education short and go to work to help support his family. Heworked for farmers and took whatever pay they could give him.

John was in the army from 1917 - 1919 during World WarI. He was overseas for one year, and was reported missing in action whichwas a very trying time for his parents. His lungs were damaged by poisongas and, as a result, he suffered a lung problem the remainder of his life. He also lost his sense of smell.

John worked in Minneapolis when he was discharged fromthe army.

In 1923, he passed a Civil Service examination and wasappointed to work at the United States Customs Bureau at Noyes, Minnesota. He lived above Green's Store in St. Vincent. (It was originally a departmentstore, then a store was downstairs with apartments upstairs. Part of itwas torn down later and it became the Evangelical Free Church.) At thetime he lived in St. Vincent, he rode the train from Noyes to Winnipeg asa customs inspector. Later, he worked at Maida, where he met and marriedHazel Gradwell. They moved to Winnipeg where he resumed his duties as inspectoron the Winnipeg-Noyes train. Their first child, Nina, was born in Winnipeg. They moved from Winnipeg to St. Vincent and bought a house and land. Theirsecond child, Hazel, was born there. One of their neighbors was an oldIndian man who couldn't read or write. John would write letters for him,and the old man told him stories about the buffalo hunts and tribes fightingeach other. John was transferred to Northgate where their first son, Peter,was born. They lived in the Custom's house in that little village in westernNorth Dakota. One time some people crossed the border illegally. Johnchased them and caught them and checked the car for liquor. Finding none,he let them go. A few weeks later, the men told him they had thrown theliquor out the window, and the bottles didn't break so they were able todrink it after all. John had to keep all the liquor he confiscated forthe Customs. One day his sister came and thought it was John's liquor. She became angry and broke it all. John had to cross the border and buymore to replace the bottles that were broken. John didn't like living inNorthgate so he applied for a transfer. When he was refused, he quit hisjob and went back to St. Vincent. He lived on his cattle, raised his ownvegetables, meat, milk, butter, eggs. They sold eggs and cream and shippedsome of the cattle. Five years later he was reappointed to Customs Service. He was Deputy Collector for several years and then Entry Clerk. He servedas Justice of the Peace in St. Vincent. He had court in his living rooma few times, but they were just small quarrels.

Gas was used for a cleaning unit for clothing at that time. One day a member of the family was using it and a box of matches ignitedand the kitchen caught fire. John attempted to put out the fire and wasseverely burned as a result. His hands were very badly crippled and limitedhis abilities all his life.

In addition to working for the government, John had a smallfarm which helped to provide for his large family. He managed very wellfor a man with such heavy responsibilities even during the depression. He had 9 children, Nina, Hazel, Peter, Bjorn, Harris, Thorun, Sigrid, andSteve. He retired from Customs Service in 1958.

John Peterson Skjold passed away on July 19, 1969, butlives on in the memory of his wife, nine children, and 30 grandchildren.

Bibliography

Interview: Mrs. Hazel Skjold, 1115-18th Avenue South, GrandForks, North Dakota 58201, January 2, 1974

Interview: Steve Skjold, Noyes, MN, January 2, 1973

Interview: Sigrid Nordstrum, Noyes, MN 56740, December27, 1973 January 2, 1973

Interview: Sigrid Nordstrum, Noyes, MN 56740, December27, 1973