Down Memory Lane In The Rislov Family

By Mabelle Nelson and Olga Thompson
(Edited by Steve Thompson)

The text of this family history page has been put together and written years back by Mabelle Nelson and Olga Thompson. With the encouragement from family members, I have done some editing and added the pictures from Mabelle's and Olga's collection. Please read and enjoy the experiences of the older generations of the Rislov Family.

In a quiet little Norwegian village in Vik i Sogn, on February 21, 1841, Sjur Johnson Rislov was born to Leva Sivle Rislov and John Rislov. This a happy occasion as their other child was a daughter, Ingeborg. Leva and Jo lived in a typical Norwegian home and community, and this is where he was to spend his childhood and early manhood. In the years Sjurí arrival, three sisters and one brother joined the family. As these young members of the family grew they were given times for play, but also had their specific jobs around their home. In the winter they were taught the skill of skating and many of the long winter days were spent skating. The barn was connected to the house and they had to help keep it clean.

It was scrubbed each day in order to keep the floor white. Grandpa Sjur used to say that he believed the barn was cleaner than the house. When Sjur was eight years old, he went to the local school and studied from the "lasse bok" and other subject matter books. Grandpa enjoyed school very much. His religious training was started at this time also. In the home, the children received instructions in singing and in organ playing. Grandpa was the one in the family that took the most interest and enjoyed music. They were all taught to sing parts by their parents, and the family would often sing together for special occasions. Sjur was educated to be a schoolmaster in Norway. He had been trained to sing with a bass voice and sang well with or without an instrument. His work as a layman in the Lutheran church, made him well known outside his own community. Sjurís cousin, Per Sivle, was a lyric poet in Norway. The King would pay him to write patriotic poems, picturing history of the country. He is mentioned in Norwegian literature section of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Sjur and Per spent much time together discussing books they had read and exchanged books. He enjoyed his association with Per.

When Sjur was sent to a neighboring city to attend school, this was a higher education than he could receive in his own community, his mind would go back to the times in Norway when he was sent to the mountain pastures in the summer, with the cows. It was a job he had to undertake, he had to camp on a distant hill. Other boys from the community were doing likewise, so together they had a good time. Sjur would spend a lot of time reading books. New books were brought to him when his brother or sisters would come to the hills to replenish his food supply. Several months were spent in the hills, this was sometimes broken up when his father would go up into the hills to relieve his son for brief periods of time. Now that Sjur was perusing further education, he spent more time practicing the organ and was an ardent member in the choir. This young man was now old enough to take military training that was required and while he was among the trainees he learned about the opportunities awaiting ambitious people in the United States. He was in training for sometime and during this time the desire to go to America, grew stronger. He was very surprised the day when he returned home, when his father said to him, in Norwegian words, "Sjur, would you like to go to America?" This young man was very shocked to hear this, but finally answered, "Father, I would be very happy if I could go. I wish Hans (his brother) could go with me, but I suppose you'll need him here," John Rislov looked at his son intently and said," Well, son, we are all planning to go." Sjur was very happy and surprised to here this, he enjoyed being with his family.

The days of preparation soon passed and the family were on their way to Stavanger. Here they were able to board a boat with another family from Ovri and set off for the untold riches of our America in 1864. Everything went fine until one day they encountered a storm. Their boat was damaged and it took two weeks to get to Hull, England. They spent another two weeks there while the boat was being repaired. They were soon off on their long journey. They were soon to encounter another storm. Everyone was frightened as the boat tossed, the captain pleaded with them to have courage. It was with thankful hearts that they watched this storm subside. Their troubles did not end when the storm was over; the captain in- formed the people that the boat was lost. They had been sailing with other boats, and during the storm had been separated from the rest. At once they to ration the food as the supply on hand was for an ordinary voyage across the ocean. They drifted around for several weeks, finally the captain realized they had gone to the south of the course they had planned to be on. The food supply was getting scarce and the supply of salted fish would soon be gone.

Some of the children became ill because of lack of nourishment. Some of the younger men gave up their rations for the children and older people. During the sixth week of their unfortunate trip, they sighted a boat; it seemed to come closer all the time. Everyone was excited and wondered if it could or would come to help them out. It did come and they were told they were several hundreds miles off their course, to the south. They shared their food with them and furnished some repairs that the boat needed; then they accompanied them on their journey to New York. Sjur remarked about this in his native tongue by saying, I never realized land could look so welcome to anyone. When I get off this boat, I will not want to get on another one for a long time." (And this was the last trip for him.) The family spent very little time in New York before starting on their journey westward. They first settled in Illinois and later moved to Iowa in the spring of 1866, afterwich they lived for another eight years. A few other families from Norway had settled in Iowa and had written back to Sogn, Norway, urging others to come. On their way west the family stopped at a brother of John Rislov, Ivar who had come to America earlier, and lived in the Chicago area. While there Sjur went to Springfield, IL and viewed the body of President Lincoln.

Sjur, with his parents, sisters and brother, settled in Winneshiek County, in the area of Decorah, IA. Sjurís father bought eighty acres of land that had some rough buildings on it. The men folk of the family fixed the old buildings and built a better house. They tilled the land with oxen and crude machinery and felt their efforts were fruitful. The community did not have a church, and being aware of their need of communication with God, who had so graciously seen them through all their trials and needs, they started to have prayer meetings in different homes. Sjur or Severt as he was called, organized a choir and they would sing at these meetings.

Late in 1870, the people decided they should start a school nearby for their children. Sjur was asked to be the teacher, and he accepted the challenge. He had been educated in Norway and prepared for teaching in that country. While Sjur resided in Iowa, he taught for six years. He taught in the Norwegian language, reading, Bible study, arithmetic and writing. The school terms were three months and later five months. Altogether Sjur taught school for thirty years, including his later years in South Dakota. After coming to Iowa in 1866, Sjur had met many new friends. One special one was Ingeborg Wemark. This young girl was born March 1st, 1853, in Racine County, Wisconsin, near Muskego. Her parents were Ole Leiffson Wemark and Gro Nisdatter Rue Wemark. Her parents had come to America with a group of friends from Norway, and had settled in Wisconsin, the first Norwegian settlement in the west. When Ingeborg was two years old, the family moved to Winnisheik County IA, where they purchased a farm near Ridgeway, IA. Here they built a log home (where they built a larger home this was used for a kitchen). Ingeborg was soon made a kitchen helper as seven more children were born on this place to Ole and Gro Wemark. Ingeborg was baptized in the first Lutheran church (Norwegian) in America. It was called the Muskego church and is now on the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, MN. Her education was received at home, and through associations with friends. Early in 1871 Sjur asked for her hand in marriage and she accepted. Severt and Ingeborg were married on May 22, 1871 in the home of her parents. The first three years of their married life was spent on his fathers farm in Winneshiek County, IA. On March 5, 1872 their first child, Josephine was born and on November 11, 1873 they greeted their first son, Ole Andreas.

Grandpa Sjur "Severt" and Grandma Ingeborg Rislov

For sometime, Sjur had noticed articles in the news papers, praising the land in Minnehaha County, in South Dakota. This is what encouraged him to go west and homestead. Ingeborg was willing to make the trip with their two year old daughter and an infant son. As they prepared for this trip, several other young men decided they would also make this move, too. In June 1874, they started their journey westward with a team of oxen pulling a prairie schooner. There were six schooners in the caravan and each one carried a few essentials of furniture, food, and the families. Sjur's schooner had three cows tied behind. Land was available for homesteading near Sibley, IA, but these young men had made up their minds to make Minnehaha County, South Dakota their home.

After traveling 23 days, they started to feel their destination, at this time they arrived in East Sioux Falls, SD. They camped there for three days and during this time the men went north of the city to look for land. Sjur's choice was in the northeast part of the county; that was just the place for his timber claim and homestead. In 1874 he homesteaded the northeast one-half of section 21, Highland Township, Minnehaha County. He also took up a tree claim and located 160 acres for others of the party that came to South Dakota with him. He returned to Sioux Falls for his family. There were different incidents that happened along the way that caused concern and worry and accidents that were averted but their faith kept them going. They purchased food and lumber and started for their new home. They lived in the schooner until another place could be provided. This took some time as they had to travel to Sioux Falls, SD for everything they needed. Each trip took several days.

By that fall, they had a house and a barn on their place. The main part of the house was built in the ground like a basement; it had some kind of cement walls and floor and was divided into two rooms. The walls were whitewashed and Ingeborg made curtains for the windows and bought some furniture, together with what they improvised, the rooms were made cozy. The barn was made in the side of a knoll; three sides were of dirt and the front side was made from heavy planks. The roof was made of rough planks topped with large blocks of sod. These buildings, as rough as they seemed, proved to be very warm when the blustery winter season rolled around. All of their farm land that was tilled and was turned over by oxen that they had brought with them from Iowa. Sjur was able to buy a few more head of cattle for his farm. His farm was splendidly improved and was a source of a good annual income.

Sjur also planted some trees on their new farm. His interest in trees was a continuous one as every year he would try to add to the trees he already had. Sjur had fruit trees, bushes, grape vines, coniferous trees, (some of these were imported from Norway). He also spent a lot of time grafting trees. Two of these grafted trees, one on each side of the entrance into the yard, were called the family trees. One of the trees was a maple and the other of these was an elm. Sjur also planted six young trees together in single group or clump. As these trees grew, the bases of their trunks were growing into a treasured hiding place for the Sjurís later grandchildren. Within a decade, their homestead looked like a farm of long standing. During this time, their first son, Ivrin was born on December 2, 1875. When he was about three years old, he died from pneumonia on 0ctober 27, 1878. Then on December 6, 1878, a daughter, Gina was born.

Ingeborg made most of her families clothing, so her time was spent carding, spinning, and knitting. In the evening the whole family would work together, twisting long dried grass (hay) for fuel. They went to Sioux Falls for their supplies until the village of Luverne, MN was started. Luverne was about ten miles closer to their farm than was Sioux Fall and ten miles in those days was a great distance. In 1880, they built a room upstairs, the size of the entire basement area. This room was the upstairs bedroom for the older children. It was in this now new addition of their home where the second Ivrin Rislov was born on January 17th, 1880. Fifteen years later, the family was very happy to move into a new big eight room house from the basement house they had been living in. This was in 1895.

On October 23, 1883, Gustav Luther Rislov was born. It was during this early period in South Dakota Territory, everything wasn't the best; they had trouble with the Indians. It seemed they would like to come at night and steal young calves. Sjur was always kind to them in earlier contacts and this might have motivated them to try this bit of thievery. The community was growing rapidly and there was a need for a school and a church. The settlers worked diligently until they had both. The church was built in 1884 and Sjur served as "Klokker", when there was no traveling preacher available. He was organist and also organized a choir. He remained the choir leader for 25 years. He also was the Norwegian teacher for eight years. On November, 2, 1886, Johannes Rislov joined the family; his life was short, as he passed away when he was only three days old.

S. J. was the first assessor of Highland township and for years served as secretary of the school board. His long experience as a teacher, well qualified him for directing the affairs of the public schools of the township and he was influential in securing many improvements. He aided much in the development of the Minnehaha County along several different lines, his work as a farmer identifying him with agricultural interests, his service as a teacher, and member of the school board being of great value to the educational growth of the county, and his connection with the Farmers Elevator Company at Sherman placing him among those who were actively concerned in the business life of his locality. He was a stockholder and one of the organizers of the last named enterprise, which had proved very successful. S. J. never regretted coming to America and has proven himself a valuable and public-spirited citizen of his adopted state.

Sjur enjoyed telling about the snowstorm of 1888. He and his boys went out the upstairs window and shoveled the snow away from the windows and the doors. There was a lot of shoveling to get to the barn. In the late 1800ís, the Black Diphtheria spread over this area and community. Sjur made many trips to Worthington, MN to get a Doctor to come out, or to get medicine. These trips were made by horse and buggy, and many times the sick had passed away before he would get back with some help. This dreadful disease took its toll at this time, but Sjur's family was spared at this time. Josephine Lenora was born on August 10th, 1889.

Troubles struck often sometimes for the Rislov family. The typhoid fever struck this area and at this time the family of Sjur had the fever also. Lenore Rislov was born in 1882 and died at one month of age. Sarah Louisa was born August 21, 1890 and died February 22, 1891.The second Sarah was born the following March 29, 1892. Sjur's parents (John and Liva), his two sisters (Lena and Brita), and a brother, Hans had come to South Dakota to be near Sjur and family. They settled in the Flandreau area of Moody County, South Dakota. Hans later married and lived on his fatherís farm after he passed away May 18, 1887. Hansís wife, Liva passed away Sept. 3, 1885. They were buried in the Rosendahl Cemetery on the Erick Elverson farm near Sherman, SD, but years later the contents of their graves were moved to the Highland cemetery north of Sherman. Sjur's sister Brita married into the Anderson family from Chicago and they had one son, Leonard, who was left an orphan. Aunt Lena, went to care for Leonard, and later they both came to SD. Lulla Berthine joined the family on May 10, 1893. She was joined by a brother, Sigurd Ingeman on Feb.21, 1898 this little one lived only a year and he passed away on March 3rd, 1899. In 1899 on June 6th, another son was born into the family and was given the same name, Sigurd Ingeman.

As Sjur grew older, his interests in horticulture grew, his place was a showplace to many in the community. Not only did he have trees around the house but he also enclosed his cattle shed yard with two rows of trees. Early in 1900 he built a large barn on the farm. This was really appreciated as the old one was so far from the house.

Ole Rislov, Sjur's son was married in 1910, to Bessie Opstadahl. He was working at the elevator in Corson, South Dakota. He passed away September 22, the same year from a ruptured appendix. Their daughter Olive, was born on May 1, 1911.

Grandpa Sjur Rislov was a man of short height with reddish hair and a bright red mustache. He was said to be a bit stern, which I'm sure he had to be at times. He was now called Severt most of the time, but to the older grandchildren and the immediate family he was called "far", which means father in the Norwegian language. In 1920, Severt and Ingeborg moved to Jasper, Minnesota. Grandpa would make regular visits to the farm, his reason was that the trees needed some attention. His youngest son, Teddy was home and would bring him out to the farm in his car.

Grandma Ingeborg Rislov always kept busy with her chicken chores on the farm, her garden, the many household duties, and caring for her family. They cared for fourteen children but only seven grew to adulthood. Grandma always seemed happy and cheerful in spite of all the sorrows she had to endure. She is remembered by those who knew her as a chubby figure, sitting on a chair outside her house by the "summer kitchen", peeling potatoes. She would toss the peelings aside and call "commano". The chickens knew what Grandma words meant and would come rushing out of the trees to her side. In 1921, Sjur and Ingeborg celebrated their "Golden Wedding" anniversary at the farm that had been a big part of their lives. Just two years later Grandma Ingeborg died at the age of 70 years. A year later, Grandpa Sjur died. He was eighty-three years old. Even while he was ill, he would ask about some of his favorite trees that he had planted on his farms.

Ivrin S. Rislov was born to Sjur (Severt) and Ingeborg (Wemark) Rislov, on the Rislov homestead near Sherman, SD in Minnehaha County, on January 17, 1880. He grew up on the family farm and attended the rural school near his home. Ivrin liked to participate in the activities around his home and in the community where he lived. In the winter, skating was a favorite sport, when he was nineteen years old he skated up the Split Rock Creek to Jasper, MN with some other boys. They spent some time up there without realizing that the temperature was dropping quite rapidly. On the way home they realized the change in the temperature. Ivrin had the longest distance to travel and like a foolish young man, he spent more time skating than he should have. The result was, two frozen feet and because of this, he was under medical care and confined to his bed for nine months. His sister was given credit for the recovery of his feet. Ivrinís toes were deformed some and he also had trouble, occasionally, with his feet, but in spite of it all he was a great walker. He was an enthusiastic member of the baseball team in that area every summer for many years. They were a super team and provided the area with entertainment for this time of the year. Ivrin enjoyed singing, and was a bass singer in the choir his father directed. He enjoyed playing the violin. In earlier years he would entertain at house parties. Their means of transportation was horses and buggies, so when they traveled some distance they had to allow hours to travel.

Sarah Louisa Rislov was born with birth problems and was diagnosed as having ďwater on the brain". She had "fits" and at times would be helpless. The doctor said she could become feeble minded, etc. Sarah was musically a master, she never could attend school. She didn't walk until she was six years old. Sarah could play any music after she heard it once and would always use the right notes. When the choir would meet at the Rislov house for practice, she was always listening and would call her fatherís attention on mistakes the singers would make. Sarah taught her youngest brother Sigurd to play the organ and he became a great musician. Irene, her niece was with her when she fell down the stairs, during her sisters wedding. Sigurd Ingeman never married. He was born in 1900, contrary to earlier reports on the old homestead near Sherman. South Dakota. When he was a young man, his sister, Sarah taught him to play the organ. This interest in music never wavered and when Sigurd was about twenty, he took some lessons to learn proper fingering. He played for services in church and became a choir leader, in this he continued for many years. Sigurd gave piano, accordion and organ lessons.

Sigurd Rislov at the organ

Sigurd Rislov loved semi-classical music and taught his pupils to appreciate fine music. He was always a beautiful whistler and would often present whistling solos with his own piano accompaniment. WLS radio station in Chicago, IL tried to get him to be a part of their radio personnel, but being the "home" boy he was, he declined. He just loved South Dakota too much. He was a postman in Flandreau for a short while, but found that didn't allow enough time for his one love, music. Sigurd had a stroke, in January 1950, while playing the organ in the church in Flandreau, and died a few days later. So his death at 50 years was a big loss to many, he had more than 80 music students at that time. "As nieces and nephews, we really missed him so very much, as he was always doing something for us," thoughts from Olga Thompson.

Josie and Jon Oihus were married November 26. 1913, at the Severt Rislov farm place. It was on this same day that Sarah Rislov fell down the stairway and suffered a fractured skull. She passed away a few hours later. Josie and Johnny lived on Grandpa Rislov's place for two years and than moved to the Ole Oihus farm and later to Jasper, MN. Six children were born in this family: Orville, Nadeane, Fanebust, Milton, Doris, Robert, and Eugene (died as an infant).

On December 29, 1909, Ivrin Rislov was married to a neighbor girl Lydia Docken, who he had been courting for some time. She was the daughter of Halvor and Kristi Docken, they lived across the South Dakota border in Minnesota only about five miles apart.

Lydia and Ivrin lived in the Sherman area for many years. Ivrin at one time had the urge to go to Montana, where his brother Gust was, but it was decided that they should stay closer to the homes of their parents. The older girls had the opportunity to become acquainted with their grandparents, which they have many precious memories of. Gustav was married to Ida Crowfoot. They homesteaded in Montana and after many years they moved to Great Falls, Montana, where Gust worked at the Post Office until he retired. Ida passed away in 1959, in Montana. Gust and Ida had married in 1917.

Number of visitors to this site:


The last update for this page was on May 13, 2004.

Click your mouse on the following link to go back to the main Rislov page:

    If you have any comments on this page you can E-Mail me at: