These stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Look Back in Time” program. Each week’s radio story will be posted here on our website.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
May 28, 2023
Last week I read from a family history written by Wayne Melby, former Roseau County resident, twin
brother of Alice Halvorson. He wrote about his ancestors who immigrated, and I read the part about
Thorvald Melby’s family. Thorvald’s wife was Dorothy Larson. Her father was Hans Larson. Hans’ wife’s
sister was Karena who married Jens Holter. Jens was their first relative to emigrate, then sponsored the
moves of Hans Larson and Thorvald Melby’s family. Today I’ll read a little about those past generations
from Wayne’s history book. You can see the whole book at the Roseau County Museum. It’s full of
genealogy charts, photos, and stories of many local families.
First today, I’ll read about Dorothy’s father, Hans Östli Larson. Hans was a shoemaker by trade and was
one of the first Melby relatives to immigrate from Norway to the USA. In Minnesota, he first settled at
Madison, then moved to Sacred Heart, and finally homesteaded northwest of Badger. After he had
worked in Minnesota for three years, he sent for his wife and son to join him.
Born at Bjerke, Norway on March 9, 1833, Hans worked as a cobbler before he immigrated to the USA.
Not much information is available about Hans during his time in Norway, but he did marry Anna Maria in
April, 1863; Anna was born in 1845. Hans and Anna had three children while they lived in Norway: they
included Lena, Inger Dorthea and Lauritis. Lena passed away before they immigrated to the USA and
Inger Dorthea married Thorvald Olsen Melby. Earlier, Hans’ sister-in-law’s husband, Jens Holter, had
immigrated to Minnesota and he later sent for Hans. When Hans left Norway in 1883, he was 50 years
old. He left his family in Norway while he established himself at Madison, Minnesota. In 1886, Anna and
Lauritis joined him at Madison. While they lived at Madison, the Larsons had two more children: they
included Carl and Lena. Carl was Hans’ step-son and Lena died when she was one year old. Thorvald and
Inger Dorthea left Norway in 1889 and joined the Larsons at Madison. In approximately 1894, Hans and
his family decided to leave central Minnesota and homestead in Roseau county.
Hans established his homestead northwest of Badger on the land currently  owned by Arthur
Kjersten. The home site was located approximately ½ mile south of the Kjersten home. Here he farmed,
resumed his business as a shoemaker and raised his family. Apparently Hans had limited success at
farming but he did maintain an active shoe business. He had a regular route around the farming
community where he and Anna took orders and made shoe repairs. His grandchildren remember how
intrigued they were with Grandpa Larson’s shoe box. They would sometimes open the box and snoop
through the assorted contents; however, Hans really didn’t appreciate the grandchildren messing with
his cobbler tools They also told of Hans’ Sunday habit of cutting wood. Each Sunday morning, Hans
would head for the woods and return with a bundle of split firewood. Hans remained on his homestead
until he died on June 24, 1908.
After Hans passed away, his wife, Anna, moved to Dahlton, Saskatchewan. She left Badger in June, 1909
and joined her sons, Lewie and Carl at Dahlton. While in Canada, Anna cooked for her sons and helped
with the home chores. Anna was born in 1840 at Bjerke, Norway and died in Dahlton during September,
1919; she was buried at Dahlton.
In Wayne’s book he also tells a little about Jens Holter, the brother-in-law of Hans’s wife. Here’s what
Jens was the first Melby relative to immigrate from Norway to the USA. He was born in Norway in 1829
and married Karena there; she was the sister of Anna Maria Larson, wife of Hans Larson. Jens and
Karena had seven children: Ole, John, Carl, Julius, Marit, Edward and Clara. Julius married Ida Melby, the
daughter of Thorvald Olson Melby.
Jens was 32 years old when he immigrated to the USA in 1861 and settled at Madison, Minnesota. While
at Madison, Jens borrowed money from a local merchant and sponsored Hans Larson’s immigration to
Minnesota. In 1889, he again borrowed money from a local businessman and sponsored Thorvald
Melby’s immigration to the USA. Jens was described as an extremely reliable person and this reputation
followed him when he moved to other areas in Minnesota.
Later, Jens established a second homestead at Sacred Heart, Minnesota. In 1906 he sold this farm and
bought the Hans Larson farm northwest of Badger, Minnesota. Jens later gave this farm to his son, Carl;
however, Carl apparently did poorly managing the farm and charged too many accounts. Jens took the
farm back from Carl and gave it to his daughter, Clara who was married to Helge Kjersten. Jens built a
small addition onto the house and lived there until he died in 1926 at the age of 97. Arthur Kjersten, son
of Clara and Helge, acquired the farm from his parents and currently  he lives there.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.