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Norwegian descendant returns to Colfax 100 years later

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — One hundred years after a Norwegian family left Colfax to go back to Norway, a descendant of that family from Norway visited Colfax.

Hermod Korsvik and his wife, Asborg, along with assorted American relatives, came to Colfax September 7 to visit the graves of ancestors, see the churches where they worshipped, tour the properties where they lived and see the village of Colfax.

Hermod is a descendant of the Nils Jarnes family.

The Jarnes family lived in and around Colfax in the early 1900s and returned to Norway in 1914.

The Jarnes family is related to Valborg Kressin, the mother of Colfax resident Roger Kressin, and his sister, Marilyn Kressin-Liesch.

Jim Puhl, a cousin to Roger and Marilyn, and his wife, Shirley, researched the properties, arranged an itinerary, and took the entire group on a tour of Colfax and the surrounding area.

Property records

When asked about the process of finding the properties where the Jarnes family lived, Jim Puhl said the people who worked at Dunn County Register of Deeds were incredibly knowledgeable and took the time to look up old records and locate those properties on current maps.

According to information from the Register of Deeds office, Nils and Hilda Jarnes purchased 160 acres in Section 18, of the Town of Grant, on March 30, 1904, for $750 plus $300 of assumed mortgage payments.

They sold the 160 acres on September 29, 1905, for $1,000 plus assumed mortgages of $600, and Nils reserved the right to half of the crops of oats, straw and potatoes. The property currently is owned by Chris Menard.

On March 8, 1909, they purchased a parcel of land in Section 16 in the Village of Colfax for $400 and sold part of it March 8, 1910, for $200. They sold the remainder of the parcel in Colfax July 24, 1911, for $500 of assumed mortgage payments.

On November 10, 1913, Nils and Hilda Jarnes purchased 120 acres in Section 13 of the Town of Colfax for $4,500.

On June 29, 1914, they sold real estate and personal property in Section 13 in the Town of Colfax for $6,300 plus $352 in mortgages. The personal property included three horses, eight cattle, machinery, crops, harnesses and tools valued at $1,200.

American adventure

The entire Colfax adventure began earlier this year when Mark Sewitsky, who was born in California but married a Norwegian woman and has lived in Norway for 40 years, called Roger Kressin to ask if he was related to Valborg Kressin.

Mark Sewitsky’s brother-in-law is Hermod Korsvik.

As Shirley Puhl discovered through her research, Roger, Marilyn and Jim are related to the Jarnes family through their grandmother, Henrietta Trandum.

While they lived here, the Jarnes family were members of Holden Lutheran Church north of Colfax on county Highway M. Hermod’s father was baptized at Holden. An uncle of Hermod’s, Georg Jarnes, the son of Nils and Hilda, is buried at Holden.

Georg Jarnes was born in Norway in 1901 and died in Colfax in 1904.

Hermod is the only member of his family to have visited the grave of Georg Jarnes and was very moved by the experience.

While the group was at Holden, they had a chance to see the inside of the church and said that it was quite lovely and was extremely well kept.

They also immediately noticed the Norwegian phrase written above the altar.

Nils Jarnes came to the United States in 1902, and the rest of the family arrived in 1903.

From 1904 to 1905, the family lived in the Town of Grant, Section 18, at a property with the current address of E7897 1100th Avenue.

The family lived in Colfax at 718 University Avenue (the current home of Joyce and David Bates) from 1909-1911.

Prior to returning to Norway in 1914, the Jarnes family lived in Section 13 in the Town of Colfax (current address of N8780 county Highway A).

An uncle of Nils Jarnes’s, E.K.O. Holm, lived near Holden church in the Town of Grant and paid the passage back to Norway for the entire Jarnes family — all ten of them.

The group visited Colfax Lutheran as well, where members of the Jarnes family also were baptized.

Other sights

In addition to visiting the properties where the Jarnes family lived, Jim and Shirley Puhl took the visitors to Running Valley to see the Henrietta and Ole K. Trandum farms and burial sites as well as the church and the schoolhouse.

September 7 was, of course, the day of the Colfax Firefighters’ Ball Parade.

The Norwegian visitors joked that it was nice of the village to have a parade in their honor, Jim Puhl said.

Mark Sewitsky pointed out that it was quintessentially Midwestern to have farm tractors in the parade.

Susan Hill, curator of the Colfax History Room in the Colfax Municipal Building, gave a tour to the visitors.

“Our guests enjoyed seeing the Norwegian-related items, especially including the replica ships (of Roald Amundsen) and the picture of the Gjoa,” Jim Puhl wrote in an e-mail.

Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer and the first to reach the North Pole and the South Pole.

Amundsen visited Colfax in January of 1908.

Theodore Moe, also a Colfax resident from Norway, built replicas of Amundsen’s ship.

Prior to their trip to the United States, Hermod had visited the Village of Colfax website and had noticed the sign pointing out that Colfax is halfway between the North Pole and the equator.

“He wanted to have his picture taken by the sign — so we got that done,” Jim Puhl wrote.

All these years later, however, no one knows why the Jarnes family left Colfax and returned to Norway.

Jim and Shirley Puhl were hoping that Hermod might know why they left, but he did not, so the mystery remains.

The news items included in the July 10, 1914, edition of the Colfax Messenger states, “Nils Jarness and family, ten in all, left last Saturday night for Norway, and go on steamship of the Allan Line, E.K.O. Holm furnishing them the necessary tickets.”