Minnesota: One family´s story

The story is continued by Todd E. Lindahl

Edited by Lennart Elg


The Elg family, October 16, 1906 in Brainerd, Minnesota

A number of Pål Larsson Turpoinen´s descendants followed the millions of Swedes who emigrated to the US in the second half of the 19th century. One of these families was Gustaf Elg and Maria Sofia Bork, with eleven children.

Great-grandson Todd E. Lindahl tells us about life in the new country:
"I have a newspaper article dating to October 19, 1906 that tells a little of Gustaf Elg's past. It says that he was a foreman for 22 years in three of Sweden's largest Iron Works. He was married to Maria Sofia Bork on October 18, 1856 at Liljendahl, Vermland, Sweden. He arrived in America in April, 1892."

"A copy of a letter written by Aaron Elg (brother to my grandfather) contains some information on where the family worked and lived. In 1874 he states that he worked with his father, Gustaf Elg, running a 30 horsepower stationary engine. The engine powered an air compressor for the 6 Lancashire Iron Furnaces at the Skillberg Iron Works in Sweden. "

"In the spring of 1876 the family moved to Fagersta Iron Works where he went to work in the Bessemer Iron & Steel Machine Forging shop. Aaron ran the steam hammer for a short time and later a stationary engine. In 1877 he started as a machinist apprentice and worked the next six months as a blacksmith helper. Aaron then moved to Eskilstuna to finish his apprenticeship. At the same time he also worked for the Theo Munktells Foundry & Machine Works."

"In 1882 Aaron Elg immigrated to the United States. He was the first one to come over here."

"Adolph Elg arrived in the U.S. in May of 1886. He immediately went to work as a machinist for the St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Ry. at Barnesville, Minnesota. In April,1889 Adolph and a cousin named Kurt Gustaf Bork traveled to Glasgow, Montana to work in the St. P.M. & M RR machine shop being built there. At this time Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota were not yet states. They were all part of "Dakota Territory." The end of track was a little west of there and progressing across the plains."

"When Adolph and Kurt arrived in the new town, they found that were no rooms available for the night. That night they slept under a wagon parked in the street. Sometime during the night it began to rain hard and both men became soaked. Kurt came down with pneumonia and died there in Glasgow on April 22, 1889. He was 25 years old at the time. Adolph stayed in Glasgow for a year before returning to Minnesota."

"By 1892 the rest of the family had arrived. Gustaf was now retired, but the five sons went to work for the St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad at Barnsville, Minnesota. This railroad later became the Great Northern Railroad built by James J. Hill ( known as the "Empire Builder")"

"Hanna Elg (her actual name was Johanna, born in Sept. 16, 1862) and her sister Alma moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where they worked as a cook and maid for a fellow named Rank who was the treasurer for the Great Northern RR. In later years Alma became both deaf and blind. Hanna took care of her and was able to communicate with her by writing in her hand with her finger. Neither of the sisters ever married. Alma died in 1934, and Hanna in 1943."

"When the second half of the family immigrated in 1892, Ellen (Eleonora) was 11 years old. She married a fellow named Swanson who owned a grain elevator in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. When accidental fire burned the elevator down Ellen and her husband moved to Fargo, North Dakota. From there they moved to Minneapolis and finally Seattle, Washington."

"Three of the boys, Adolph, Aaron, and my grandfather Franz Gustaf (called Gust),eventually moved to Two Harbors. All three were machinists for the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad here."

"My grandfather Gust (Franz Gustaf but preferred to be called "Gust"). The picture was taken in the Duluth & Iron Range back shops in 1901. Gust is standing on the running board of the locomotive just to the left of the bell. The locomotive is number 70, a 4-8-0 mastodon type engine. When these engines arrived in 1893 they were the largest freight engines ever built."

"The Elg Brothers Store in Brainerd, Minnesota. John and Aaron went into the grocery business from 1901 to 1904. The business failed and the boys went back to being machinists."

"This photo is of Emma Elg and her husband Harold Soderquist. The picture was taken in Fergus Falls, Minnesota in 1902. Emma was the oldest living child of Gustaf and Maria Sofia Elg. Undoubtedly, she was the first one to own a automobile in the family. Emma was the first child and was born in 1857. She died here in Fergus Falls in 1915."

"A family reunion at Gust's house, which is four houses to the west of my present home. The picture was taken in 1911 before the house was remodeled and enlarged considerably. Warner is the small baby on the left and his sister Irene is sitting at ground level. My grandfather Gust is in front of the large window with my grandmother next to him. "

"Eleanora Elg was the 14th. and last child born to Gustaf and Maria Sofia Elg. She also went by "Ellen" or "Elna." When the second half of the family immigrated in 1892, Ellen was 11 years old. She married a fellow named Swanson who owned a grain elevator in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. When accidental fire burned the elevator down Ellen and her husband moved to Fargo, North Dakota. From there they moved to Minneapolis and finally Seattle, Washington."

"Ellen was the first telephone operator in Fergus Falls. Salo Deske was a merchant in town a short time after the phone system was put in. He had received word that a call would be made to the phone exchange at a certain time and day. When the call came in, Ellen pointed to the wooden phone booth on the other side of the room. Apparently Salo had never used a phone before. He walked over to the booth, bent over, and yelled "hello" into the door knob. Ellen then showed him how it really worked."

"The first time that Ellen and the family went to Minneapolis by automobile was in 1912. The trip took 4 days one way. Roads were in poor shape and the farmers, who traveled mostly by train, had no idea where the roads went beyond the immediate area. They also had to endure several flat tires along the way. Whenever they met a horse team, they had to pull the car off of the road and turn off the motor. Perhaps Ellen always had an adventurous spirit. "

"Hanna Elg (her actual name was Johanna, born in Sept. 16, 1862) and Alma were cook and maid for Mr. Rank, the treasurer of the Great Northern RR. In later years Alma became both deaf and blind. Hanna took care of her and was able to communicate with her by writing in her hand with her finger. Neither of the sisters ever married. Alma died in 1934, and Hanna in 1943."

"On August 27, 1914 one of my grandfather's brothers (Charlie or John) was scheduled to come to Two Harbors for a visit. He was to arrive on the morning train from St. Paul at the Duluth depot. There, Adolph, Gust, Aaron, and Dave (Aaron's son) were to meet him. There was a considerable amount of time between the arrival of the St. Paul train and the one that ran between Duluth and Two Harbors. For this reason the brothers decided to drive Adolph's car to Duluth to pick him up. Dave Elg was elected to do the driving. "

"Just before the Talmadge River, there was a steep down grade. The car gained speed as they proceeded down the hill. At the Talmadge river bridge there was a large water puddle in the middle of the road. Dave swerved to the left to try to avoid it, but the left front tire went off of the edge of the road, and hit a log. The car went out of control and flipped over as it tumbled down the steep embankment. All four men were thrown from the vehicle as it rolled over. The three brothers were badly injured, but Dave only received some serious bruises."

" The car ended up in the river about 40 feet below the road. This was between the highway bridge and D&IR RR railroad trestle. Dave checked on the injured and then ran down the railroad tracks to the Lakewood depot. At the depot he told the agent to flag the passenger train and tell them to stop on the trestle to pick up the crash victims. The brother waiting at the Duluth depot decided to take the train to Two Harbors when the Elg auto did not show up. That train stopped on the bridge and the victims were brought into the same coach that the arriving brother was in. He failed to recognize his brothers because they were covered with blood. About the time they reached Two Harbors, he discovered to his horror, the identities of the injured men. Adolph, who was seriously hurt, suffered the consequences of his injuries throughout his life. He was the last surviving brother and passed away at age 96. "

"The car, I believe was a "Mitchell." Notice in the photo that the steering wheel is on the right side. Aside from the radiator, the car was in amazingly good condition. It was repaired and was soon back in service again."

"Troops marching in the street in front of the Elg house in 1917 during World War I. Grandfather's house is the second one, or to the right of the one with the diamond shaped windows. It is hard to see in the picture, but there are three kids sitting on the fence in front of the house. They are Warner, my mother Mabel, and their sister Irene. There used to be a hospital across the street from the house and the troops used it as a barracks during the war. The troops are there to guard the railroad facilities from sabotage. The hospital had been built in 1899 by Dr. Knauff. He was the son-in-law of General Herman Haupt who organized and ran the U.S. Military Railroad for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. "

"My grandmother's sister's name was Shipstead. Her sons were Eddy and Roy were about the same age as Warner. On occasion the two families would get together, usually in the summer months, for reunions and picnics etc. Warner always stayed in contact with Eddy and Roy even after all three had moved to California in later years. After some time Eddy and Roy told Warner that they had an idea about starting a new business. They wanted Warner to go into partnership with them and invest his savings. They told him of their plans to develop an ice skating show that they would call the Ice Follies. Warner told them that they were crazy to think anyone would pay money to watch someone skate. He turned them down, so the Shipsteads invited a friend by the name of Oscar Johnson to join them. Mr. Johnson agreed and they began to put together a program. After a slow start, the show eventually grew in popularity and then became a great success. The Shipsteads and Johnson became millionaires and Warner went on to a career as a meat cutter."

A photo of Gustaf Elg, taken in 1906. Take special notice of the picture on the wall, to the right of Gustaf !

"The people in the picture are as follows: Emma (Elg) Soderquist, son Herbert, Harold Soderquist (husband to Emma) and Gustaf Elg on the right. Emma is sitting in a chair given to the Grandparents on their golden wedding in 1906. It is one of a set of three, but the only one with armrests. (Chairs with armrests were for men and ones without were meant for ladies so they could sit in them with their big dresses or hoop skirts. )"

An enlargement of the picture on the wall - as you can see it is a copy of the1860 photo of Liljendal, where Gustaf and Maria first met..


Created by Lennart Elg. Last updated 02-09-27, 17.36