Tonnessen Family

O.J. Tonnessen came emigrated from Norway to Bottineau, North Dakota in 1889. He was followed two years later by Anna Olsen, his fiance. They were married in the fall of 1890 by his brother, the Reverend Theodore Tonnessen. They made their home in Bottineau, where O.J. had a watch repair and jewelry shop for about four years.


They left Bottineau to move to Manistique, Michigan, where Anna gave birth to Theodore, Borghild, and Olaf. O.J. worked as a watchmaker and jeweler there, as well.

In 1901, they moved back to North Dakota, this time to Towner, where O.J. continued in the same business. The building where O.J. had his shop also contained the family's home.

In 1906, O.J. Tonnessen filed a homestead claim in Riga Township 156, Range 78, Section 14. Theodore, their oldest son, died a few days after they moved onto the farm.


The children attended the rural, one-room schoolhouse a couple of miles from their home, which was known as the White Rock School. Some of the games the children remembered playing were hide-and-go-seek, dare base, fox and geese, ring around the rosy, the-last-one-who-squats-down-has-to-tell-who-he-loves-the-best, and skating. They walked to school, except in the winter, when they would be taken to school or were sometimes allowed to ride a horse.

The towns nearest them were Riga and Denbigh.

In 1913, the moved into a house on a farm that one of the older children was going to operate. Shortly after they moved in, Sigrid, one of the children, contracted scarlet fever. They learned, too late, that a hired hand who once worked on the farm had scarlet fever. The house was quarantined, but Sigrid survived.

O.J. Tonnessen died in 1923, and Anna Tonnessen died in 1954.

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