Theodore & Clara Finneseth

Theodore Finneseth filed on a homestead four and a half miles south of Norwich in 1901. He was the fourth of his family to respond to the offers of homestead land in North Dakota. Two older brothers and a sister were already there, their land joining each other in a row.

The original intention was to prove up their land, gaining title to it, then selling it and returning to Minnesota. Instead, Halvore and Theodore remained, with Halvor buying the land of the other two.

Theodore's first home had been built by Knut Stalsberg, a neighbor homesteader and carpenter. It was 16x16-feet, two stories high, and considered to be quite nice. Later, it was added onto to become a larger farmhouse.

On April 1, 1902, Theodore married Clara Skrukrud. There was no honeymoon. Instead, he loaded his cattle and possessions into a box car that was shared with another homesteader. He arrived in Norwich and herded his cattle on foot across the prairie to his new home.

A few weeks later, Clara came by passenger train. In her trunk, her father had put ten pieces of yard goods. He had given her a Singer sewing machine for a wedding present, and it lasted her whole life. Besides doing all of the sewing for the family, she used the sewing machine to make horse blankets and to mend binder canvases. The first summer, before the barn was built, Clara learned to milk the Black Angus cows by tying them to a post in the barnyard.

In February of 1903, Leonard Finneseth was born. The temperature was 49 degrees below zero. That morning a neighbor had come to borrow the bobsled in order to get coal from the mine. He left his open cutter in case this would be the day. The plan was that, when Halvor needed help, Theodore would go for it; and when Theodore needed help, Halvor would go. So that day, Halvor had to drive nine miles in an open cutter for a midwife, who was an elderly woman by the name of Mrs. Skarison.

The next child, Ruth, was also born in winter. She contracted pneumonia and died six weeks later. Still not planning to stay in North Dakota permanently, her body was taken back to the home church in Minnesota for burial.

On the prairie in those days, neighbors often worked together, and were frequently away from home from early morning to late in the evening. Often, Clara would be too frightened to remain in the house alone after dark, so she would hide out in a wagon box until she could hear her husband coming down the road.

In 1907, Kenneth was born. As the years passed, many of the farmers prospered. Their homes were enlarged, often by adding a house from a newly acquired quarter, purchased from another homesteader. Theodore added three quarters, one purchased with Clara's inheritance money.

In 1912, the family moved to Minot, returning to the farm in 1918, with three girls added to the family.

© 2012-2013