These stories can also be heard on 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.
February 11, 2024
Today I’ll finish reading the autobiography of Olaf Holdahl published in several parts in the Roseau Times-
Region in early 1939. Last week he was telling about his brother Bendix and his work in the mercantile
business. I’ll share the rest of the story as told by Olaf in his autobiography.
In 1894, Bendix bought out the interest of Mr. Larson and in 1896 took in as partners Olaf Holdahl and A.
H. Foss, who had worked for the firm since 1892. This became the firm of B. Holdahl & Company. It was
at this point that I found myself as a partner in a business, with a limited understanding of what it was all
about and yet willing to put my name to a note for a large sum. About all I could understand was that it
required hard work and economy on my part, and I accepted it as such because I had learned to master
both of these subjects. I have before me at this writing the original contract of this partnership, which
provided that none of the partners could withdraw during one year to exceed $200.00 for his individual
use. Another thing the contract provided for was that it should be optional for my brother whether to
devote his time to the business or let the firm have the store and lots free of rental. In case he should
decide to devote his time to the business he was to be paid $40.00 per month salary. It was provided of
course that the business should pay the hotel board for all who devoted their time, and this was, as
custom had established, $10.00 per month per person.
My brother chose not to devote his time to the mercantile business, but after taking a vacation, he
associated himself with H. Thorson and established the Roseau County Bank in the spring of 1896. In a
few years the Roseau County Bank was incorporated to form the First National Bank, of which Bendix was
in charge until 1903, when he sold out on account of poor health. It was after his return from the west in
1905 that we again associated ourselves together in the banking business.
In the early years that my parents lived in this country, Bendix was of great help in guiding them and
helping them to get a home. He would write encouraging letters to brothers and sisters, urging them to
learn the language of the country chosen as their future home, and assisted many of them in acquiring
It was not only within the family that Bendix was a favorite. He seemed to have a special gift to get
acquainted with people and a desire to render service, whether it was financial or in an advisory capacity.
I recall many instances when he would sacrifice time and contribute liberally to a friend only to be happy
to have had the chance to render service.
When I first came to Roseau I was introduced to the Indians and settlers as Ben’s brother, and I was
referred to as Ben’s brother the greater part of all the time we were associated in business, but I cannot
recall that this ever served as a handicap to me. His methods and practices in business were so impressed
upon me that they have served me as a guide in many a decision.
At the end of that part of the story, the newspaper has written (continued next week), but I could find no
further chapters in the next few months of Roseau Times-Region issues.
There are biographies of the three Holdahl brothers (Bendix, Soren, also known as Sam, and Olaf)
mentioned in Olaf’s autobiography in the publication, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”, which was compiled and
published by Roseau County Historical Society and the Warroad Centennial Committee through Hazel
Wahlberg’s organizing of committees that covered the county, and her solicitation of stories. Two other
brothers are also written about in that book, Albert and Thorbjorn, both of whom lived in Roseau during
some parts of their lives. Thorbjorn also worked in the Holdahl store and in the Citizen’s State Bank and
had a daughter with his wife Mildred Holmstrom. Albert was born in Pierce County, Wisconsin in 1891
and grew up on the farm there. He came to Roseau and worked for his brothers in branch banks in
Wannaska, Salol and Greenbush. He had two sons with his wife Olava Austin. Soren married Clara Oie in
1905 and they had three sons. Bendix married Amelia Anderson at St. James, Minnesota in 1898 and
their only son Theodore was born the following year. The Holdahl brothers had a sister named Sigrid who
married Lars Odegaard, a store owner in Ross, Minnesota. She died the year after their second son was
born. She and Lars are buried at Moe-Rose Cemetery. Another sister, Anna, married Gustave Mattson,
and both are buried in Hope Cemetery in Roseau. So of the 13 siblings, more than half of them lived in
Roseau County at some points in their lives. You can see photos of many of them on the FindAGrave
They were important contributors to the new county of Roseau.
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.