November 27, 2020 — On this date in 1908, the Bottineau Courant announced that Ole Vinje had died. Ole was one of the interesting early immigrants from Europe who came to Dakota Territory. He was born in Norway in 1858. He grew up in Snaasen where he lived with his parents and four brothers. After his father died in 1885, Ole’s mother and brothers immigrated to the United States, but Ole stayed behind. He joined his family in 1892, and in 1900 was issued a certificate on a piece of land southeast of Bottineau.

But Ole sold his homestead in 1902 to return to Norway with his brother Lorentz. He bought a farm near Snaasen. It may have been romance that brought Ole back to Norway. The 44-year-old married 21 year old Anna Johansdatter the same day his brother Lorentz got married. The weddings were performed at the Domkirken Cathedral in Trondheim.

Ole and Anna’s family began with the birth of twin boys, Olaf and Theodore, in 1903. Ole was prosperous as a farmer, but his thoughts kept turning to the United States. In 1905, Ole said good-bye to his brother and returned to Bottineau with his family. He gave up farming and worked as a carpenter for the Bottineau County Bank and the School of Forestry. He built a home on Bennet Street in Bottineau. A daughter, Selma, was born to Ole and Anna in 1907.

Ole Vinje was only fifty years old when he got sick and succumbed to Bright’s disease, a form of kidney failure. Ole wasn’t famous and doesn’t hold a place in any history book. But his life was one of a solid citizen who helped to build a young state. He was representative of the many pioneers who left old lives behind and ventured to the frontier. Ole’s obituary, which appeared on page one of the newspaper, was perhaps as good as anyone can hope for. It noted that Ole “was a good citizen and neighbor and had many friends in the community.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.

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