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"An Untold Story"


Joan Lommen

It would be almost impossible to tell all the many storiesinvolved in the history of the Red River Valley. Every person who oncelived here, has made a great contribution to it's development, and to it'sgrowth into a rich and prosperous land. The immigrants from Europe madeup a large majority of the early settlers in the Red River Valley. Theyneeded great courage to leave their own home and family and come to Americato find a new life for themselves. The sudden change of customs, food, climate,and family was hard to make, but the adjustment had to be made in orderto survive. But along with all these adjustments and hardships, came theexcitement of discovery and adventure, and possibly even the building ofyour own new family. One such untold story is about my grandmother, Petra(Lande) Rust, an immigrant from Norway. Her story, and the many otherslike hers, show how their strong willpower and longing for a new and betterlife helped to build the Red River Valley into what it is today.

Petra Olivia was born to Hans and Petrina Lande on March24, 1883 at Sjoholt, Sondmar, Norway. Her family was large, with four boysand four girls including herself. The Lande home was located in the country,near a fjord, where many boats could be seen out on the water fishing.

With such a large family, the dining facilities could notaccommodate them all, so meals were eaten with most of the children standingaround the table. The main meal usually consisted of flour-milk porridge,milk and bread, and once in a while, fish. When special celebrations andholidays came around, special preparations were made in baking. Food madethen was considered a big treat to Petra and her sisters and brothers, becausethey did not have them often.

Petra's family was very religious. They read the Bibleregularly and lived accordingly. They were members of the Orskig Church,where Petra was both baptized and confirmed. She also attended school foreight years at the Stenholt school in Sjoholt.

The Lunde family was poor but very ambitious. Petra'sfather built bridges, which did not bring in too large an income, so thechildren started work at an early age to help make a living for the wholefamily. Petra's earliest job was tending sheep up in the seaters, or themountain sides, a job that took up the greater part of the summer. It waswhile she spent those many hours up in the mountains alone, that she usedto dream about coming to America and starting a new life.

At the age of twenty-seven she began the most excitingexperience of her life. It was then, in 1910. that she said goodbye toher family, and journeyed to the United States. She left her family halfknowing that she would never see them again, but her dream of coming toAmerica had come true, and this great excitement helped to soften the sadnessof leaving. She traveled with two friends and planned to meet friends whohad gone to North Dakota two years before and had started farming.

It took two weeks for the ship the Danish Line to reachNew York. From there Petra traveled from Dowes Township, in Cass Countyin the State of North Dakota. She worked hard as she had been taught asa housekeeper for some of the well-to-do farmers of the area. On June 28,1912 a new light shone on Petra's life in America for it was on this datethat she married Edward C. Rust who farmed in partnership with his fatherand two brothers. Her father-in-law was a stern man and saw to it thateveryone worked and kept busy. Petra did her best to please him and becauseof her hard work: he would often give her a five or ten dollar bill whichwas to be kept a secret between the two.

After one year of marriage Petra and Edward moved to theirown farm near Galesburg, North Dakota. Their first child was born in Mayof 1913, a daughter Ruby; and in l915 in November, another daughter,Helen, was born. These were the only children they had but life was busynevertheless. Petra was an early riser and spent the morning helping milkthe cows feeding the chickens, cleaning the house and preparing for themid-day meal. Ruby and Helen would do the dishes and straighten the kitchenwhile Petra would read her Bible and take a short nap.

Petra and her two daughters would spend the afternoon sewing,knitting, crocheting and mending. Lunch time came in the mid-afternoonand after an hour of relaxing Petra would go outdoors and do the necessarychores while Helen and Ruby cleaned the house and prepared supper.

When the evening meal was finished and the kitchen cleanedup once again the family would sit either together on the porch or outdoorsin the summertime go for walks, visit neighbors or entertain company themselves. In the winter the evenings were spent in sitting together in one room asmuch as possible to utilize the brightest lamp and light for reading, andto sit close to the stove which always provided the warmest area. The radiowas the very choice entertainment after they were invented. Making candyand popping corn was also a family enjoyment; as well as listening to recordson a phonograph.

Petra loved to bake and sew. She was a wonderful seamstressand although she had no formal training in sewing she made quite a few ofher daughters clothing. She carded her own wool for all the quilts shemade for her family. She could also knit beautifully.

She never had many of the modern conveniences of today.The family owned a battery powered radio. The house was not electricallywired until the later years of her life so she, did not have electric lightsfor too long a time. She owned a refrigerator for just a few months andshe never saw or heard of television. She never complained about anythingand accepted the hardships of life bravely. She suffered the heartbreakof the death of both her father and mother in Norway, and also her husbandsparents whom she had grown to love.

On August 22, 1950, Petra Olivia passed away after a briefillness. She had lived a life full of experiences few people will everhave, and I'm sure, experiences all people would like to have Petra wasa dearly loved and much admired person, and will never be forgotten by thepeople who knew her.

Petra Olivia (Lande) Rust never did anything text bookswould consider heroic, nor was she a great discoverer. But she played amajor role in the history of the Red River Valley as did all the other immigrants. Their courage, faith, and fortitude, aided the growth and development ofthe Red River Valley to make it the strong and rich land that we enjoy today.

"The greatest man is he who chooses the right withinvincible resolution, who resists the sorest temptation from within andwithout; who is calmest and most fearless under menace and frowns; whosereliance on truth, on virtue, and on God, is most unfaltering." - -Channing (1)


(1) Channing, William Ellery, Leaves of Gold, Coslett PublishingCompany,1948,P.56



Ahrland, Mrs. C.J., Grandin, North Dakota, Interview byletter, February, 1969.

Channing, William Ellery, Leaves of Gold, Coslett PublishingCompany, l948, p. 56.

Lommen, Mrs. C.J. Humboldt, Minnesota, Interview, February,1969.

Rust, Mrs. Pauline, Galesburg, North Dakota, Interviewby letter, February, 1969.

Soholt, Mrs. John, Galesburg, North Dakota, Interview byletter, February, 1969.

Soholt, Mr. Ole , Galesburg, North Dakota, Interview byletter, February, 1969.


Ole , Galesburg, North Dakota, Interview byletter, February, 1969.