Rustad, Herman Thoresen
B: 25 Jun 1850
D: 07 Nov 1907, from the effects of fighting a fierce prairie fire
M: Anne Helene Christens Heier. Anne's father was Christian Halvorsen (1799-1874), a farmer from Enebakk, Norway. Her grandfather on her father's side was Halvor Hansen and Berte Kristoffersdattor. Anne's grandfather on her mother's side was Otter Thomassen and her Grandmother, Gunhild Hansdattor. Anne's Mother's name was Seline Ottersdattor. Seline was borne October 31, 1816 at Kilstad, Akershos
FN: Johannes Thoresen
MN: Anna Madsdatter
Children of Herman Thoresen Rustad and Anne Helene Christens Heier:
1. Joseph Henning Thoresen
B: 06 Oct 1877
D: 20 May 1929
M: Marie Pedersen Rydning b. 04 Jun 1882 d. 06 Oct 1934
2. Osta Sophia Thoresen
B: 11 Dec 1878
D: 02 Jun 1966
M: Cornelius Highland b. 02 Oct 1862 d. 12 Feb 1945
3. Gudrun Kristine Thoresen
B: 08 Jul 1881
D: 21 Nov 1967
M: Nels Highland b. 05 Mar 1860 d. 07 Oct 1948
4. Ole Arnt Thoresen
B: 30 Jul 1882
D: 17 Oct 1968
M: Hanne Petersen
5. Karl Edvart Thoresen
B: 24 Apr 1884
D: 21 Sep 1951
M: Aagot Alette Heier b. 21 May 1889 d. 09 Feb 1974
6. Marta Gudvda Thoresen Rustad
7. Alfred Gudfast Rustad
8. Gunda Marie Rustad
B: 03 May 1890
D: 19 Feb 1936
M: James Campbell
9. Alfred Hagbart
B: 17 Apr 1891
D: 27 Aug 1972
10. Maren Bergitte
B: 21 Jul 1895, Oslo, Norway
D: 26 Nov 1985
M: Benjamin Franklin Helm
11. Marian Thoresen Rustad
12. John Rustad
B: 11 Oct 1911
Herman Thoresen Rustad was a master architect and builder. The last building that he designed was a large office building in Oslo, Norway built shortly before emigrating to America. Herman suffered a devastating financial loss during a depression. His business setbacks and threat of insolvency drove he and his family to America.
Herman Thoresen Rustad was the last member of his family to immigrate to America, other than Maren. All of Johanes' and Anna's other children had left for America shortly after the civil war. Herman's older children were the first to leave for America. Osta came to the United States in 1900 followed by Ole in 1901. Ole and Osta were able to find employment on their Uncle and Aunt's farms. Karl, Joseph and Gudrun joined the others in 1902. The final wave of Thoresen-Rustads came in 1904. Herman and his wife were joined by the younger children, Gunda, Bergetta and Alfred. Olaf Heier, a cousin, joined brother Joseph who had found employment as an architect in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The story of the Thoresen-Rustad family might have been the subject of Ole Rolvaag story's such as Giants in the Earth or Bergman's The Immigrants Herman, Anna, Ole, Karl, Gundrun, Olaf Heier and another recent immigrant, Marie Rydning, set out for Western North Dakota to make homestead claims. All of the homestead claims were established during March of 1905. Each of the immigrants were permitted to stake individual claims. Ole Thoresen Rustad staked his claim in Orthell Township near Zahl, North Dakota. The rest of the family staked out claims in Scorio Township, which is also in Western North Dakota near Williston. Much of the account of what life was like for the family is drawn from Ole Rustad's 1967 essay. Ole wrote: "In early March of 1905, my Dad got me and Karl, Gundrun, Olaf Heier and Marie Rynning, who was later to become my oldest brother's wife--to come along and homestead...We did the best we could not knowing the country regarding climate or anything else.
Obtaining a reliable water supply was a first priority for the homesteading Thoresen-Rustad's. Ole wrote in his 1967 account of early life in Western North Dakota: "We tried hand digging wells and augering with a post hole digger, but our efforts were not successful." We finally decided to contact a well-digger and he said he would drill the well for us if we would obtain the heavy machinery for well digging. We transported this machine and casing all the way down on the Nesson Flats about twenty miles east of Williston. We then had to haul it back to Williston after the well was dug. We paid the well digger a dollar a foot for the drilling. It took us three days using six horses to get the machine home. It tooks us one day down and two days hauling it back, but the results were worth it. My son, Herman, who lives on my Dad's Homestead, is still using the same well, the same casing, and has never run out of water!.
The early years on the homestead claims were marked by unusually harsh weather and primitive living conditions. The women lived and cooked in sister Gudrun's shack. The men lived in a big tent, until the last of November, while racing against winter in constructing a family home for Herman and Anna. The home was a twenty-by-twenty-eight foot structure with a full basement.
The walls were lined with stones found on the prarie. Before the basement was finished, the men faced a fierce snow storm with below zero temperatures. Ole wrote about how difficult it was to work in such unrelenting cold. He noted how his mother would come and watch them work and shake her head at the men complaining of the conditions. Anna told them that in Norway, "houses were put up with praise and song!" The men finally finished the basement walls and put on the house floor. They installed a wood floor and the family was able to move in once the walls were white-washed. Ole described the house as quite cozy, though it had an outside stairway. The rest of the house and the shell was completed by early winter. The basement had four small windows. Most of the members of the family slept upstairs, except Anna who preferred the basement. She would often comment that in the basement she did not "have to listen to that everlasting wind." Ole describes how Anna and Herman "left three of their babes in the soil of Norway" and were used to difficult conditions.
Each of the homesteaders had to "prove" their claims. A standard way of proving up your land was to make improvements or build structures. Olaf, the Thoresen-Rustad cousin proved up his land and went to Sacco. Ole noted that Olaf did not stay long and moved on to Minneapolis. Olaf eventually made it to Long Beach, California, after a brief stint as a lumber jack in what was later to become Lake Tahoe Resort. Olaf's son, Clarence, later became the Police Chief in Long Beach. The family operated a grocery store and meat market.
Karl was another Thoresen-Rustad to move on after homesteading in Section 35 in Scorio. Karl mrried Aagot Heier, another homesteader in Orthell Township. Karl and Aagot moved to Noyes, Minnesota in Kittson County. Aagot was the postmistress at Noyes and Carl operated the Noyes store. The Kittson County Enterprise reported that a number of Norwegian writers and poets stayed with the Rustad family Carl and Aagot were well respected Kittson County merchants and well known by the immigrant community. Carl and Aagot moved to California, where Carol was killed in a car accident on September 21, 1950. Many of their descendents are living in California. Ole Rustad characterized his brother as a person of unusual energies. Karl chopped out coal by hand during the winter of 1906 and hauled it throughout the county on a stone-boat to sell to homesteaders. The next year, he was hired as a mail carrier. Karl's route was from Marmon to Zahl to Stady North and then back to Rudser, North Dakota. This was a route of approximately 60 miles, then a considerable distance. Karl gained a great deal of business knowledge working for A.B. Lizotte in the Bank at Stady, North Dakota. One of his task was selling hail insurance. Carl could be seen on his bicycle riding all over the county selling insurance policies to fellow Norwegian immigrants.
The account of Alfred Hagbart Thoreseon Rustad's life is drawn from Jamie Rustad Meagher's Humboldt-St. Vincent High School essay entitled, "Alfred Rustad: Early Red River Valley Resident. Young Alfred was only 12 when he immigrated to North Dakota with his parents and siblings. Alfred helped his brothers build the family homestead. Alfred recalled that: "The first year we lived near Williston, our only shelter a tent, our only source of warmth--a kerosene stove." He remembers that his brothers dug a hollow in the side of a hill, and lined the floor with sandstone. This primitive room was where his mother baked the bread for the family. Fortunately, rabbits and prarie chicken were quite plentiful. It was often teenage Alfred's job to shoot a rabbit for dinner and he was proud that he could be a provider for his family. His fondest memory from that period was arriving home with a big jack rabbit hanging over his shoulder. Alfred went to busness school in Minneapolis, operated a feed store in Iowa, but returned to North Dakota to help his brother Ole run the family farm. Ole's wife, Hannah was seriously ill with a goiter condition and had to be hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic. Hannah recovered with the help of her younger sister, Margaret. Margaret Peterson, born in 1889 in Denmark, came to the United States as a four eyar old. Margaret attended St. Cloud Normal School and taught several years in rural schools before coming to North Dakota to attend her sister.
Alfred and Margaret became engaged shortly before Alfred entered the army and fought with the 313 Engineers 91 Regiment during World War I in France. Alfred returned safely and married Margaret in 1919.