Archived Story

Hans Knatvold and the new Tacoma gig

Published 8:44am Friday, August 12, 2011

Column: Between the Corn Rows

When museum volunteer Anita Lotts did her research on the connection between Albert Lea and the communities of Gig Harbor and Tacoma, Wash., in the late 1880s, she came up with three reasons why some Norwegian immigrants actually moved further west.

The first reason was the lure of making more money and plenty of free (homestead) or cheap land for farming.

Puget Sound with its complex of bays, inlets and plenty of trees reminded those Norwegians of the fjords and scenery back in the homeland.

The third reason mentioned by Anita was the Scandinavian love of adventure. Back in the 1880s part of this adventure was being able to get on a Great Northern passenger train and travel across the prairies and mountains to the Puget Sound region of Washington state.

One of those Scandinavians who went west from Albert Lea was Hans E. Knatvold. He was born during September 1848 in Drammen, Norway, At the age of 14 he came to the U.S. and three years later moved to Hayward Township. From 1867 to 1877 he was a clerk in an Albert Lea store. He then started Knatvold Bros. Hardware.

In 1883 or ’84 Hans and several local residents made a trip to the Puget Sound region. He then decided in 1884 to leave Albert Lea, dispose of his interest in the hardware store and move to New Tacoma.

Anita used the name New Tacoma in several parts of her research material. And right at this point I want to make a few comments.

The use of the word new could imply Tacoma was then a freshly conceived town and also imply there was an older Tacoma somewhere else. Now the new prefix can certainly apply to localities like New Prague, New Ulm, New Germany, New London and New Richland here in Minnesota. Yet, I can’t quite figure out the New Tacoma name. Anyway, the newness of that name soon faded away.

By the way, there’s a locality named London in this county. Could it be considered as the “old” London and the inspiration for New London north of Willmar up in Kandiyohi County?

Now, let’s get back to Hans and his new life out west.

He soon became involved with real estate, mining, farming and the Gig Harbor Lumber Co. In 1892 Hans became the cashier of the newly organized Scandinavian American Bank. This bank expanded and soon had a branch in Seattle, Wash.

In January 1921 the Scandinavian American Bank, by then a major financial institution, ceased operations when its president was indicted on several charges of embezzlement. Luckily, Hans was by then involved in a hardware store and a clothing business. He died on March 21, 1924, in Tacoma.

We’ll conclude this series of columns with the names of the folks Anita called the “Albert Lea Colony” and their connections with Gig Harbor and Tacoma.

Cornstalk comment

Several of the alleged news channels on the cable and satellite television systems are really warping the definition of the word next.

For example, the announcer might say, “Next on the lineup will be an update on today’s top news item from Dinkystan.”

Yet, what comes up next on this channel is a commercial message, followed by another commercial message, plus maybe five or six more commercial messages.

Finally, the news reader comes back on the screen with a report or update based on an entirely different topic. Maybe sometime within a half hour and after more commercial messages, the original Dinkystan update will be telecast.

When will these television folks learn that one of the dictionary definitions for next is immediately following?

With just three exceptions, Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.