History Is … Celebrating the history of the Livdalen cabin

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 9, 2003

According to the History of Freeborn County, 1822, page 274, “[In 1853] … Ole Gulbrandson, whose name reveals his nationality, with his family, entered in and took possession of a moderate portion of this goodly land in section thirty-three in the township of Shell Rock, and rolled up some logs in the form of a cabin, which still stands on the farm of P. J. Miller, who is himself a well known old settler. Mr. Gulbrandson went to work, and when the next settler came along, two years afterwards, he had provided for himself and family, and could also supply his neighbors with the necessities of life. A passing notice should be made of the courage of this man, to thus plant himself so far beyond the confines of civilization, where, for aught he knew, they were liable to be devoured by wild beasts, and where the savages might have blotted him and his family from the face of the earth, with no one to follow on the avenging trail … In the fall of 1854, a daughter was born in their little log house, which must have been the very first, whatever rival claims may be put in.”

The article on page 529 states, “This township witnessed the first actual settlement ever made in Freeborn County, and contained for about one year the only inhabitant of the same. The settlement first began in the southwestern part of the town, the first man being Ole Gulbrandson, or, as he was often called, Ole Hall, a Norwegian, who, through the influence of a brother in Northwood, was induced to come to this locality in search of a place, arriving in June, 1853, and locating upon a large farm in section thirty-three.”

An article on page 532 says, &uot;Early in the spring of 1854, the first child born in the county came into existence at the log cabin of Ole Gulbrandson the first actual settler … The youngster was a girl, christened Bertha, and at last accounts was living healthy and robust.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

According to the History of Freeborn County, Minnesota, 1911, pages 58-59, “The spring of 1853 dawns in Freeborn County in all her solitude, but it is the beginning of a new era. Never before has civilized man disturbed her quietude, but a change must now come. Her sparkling lakes shall be turned into power for the factory, and her beautiful hills into fields of ripening grain, while the Indian must give way to enlightenment and civilization.

“In July of this year a Norwegian of Rock County, Wisconsin, Ole C. Livdahlen, known to the first settlers as Ole Gulbrandson, with his family took up his home one-half mile southeast of Gordonsville, in Shell rock township, he being the first white settler in Freeborn county. He remained until the spring of 1856, when he sold out to William Beighley and left the country … As a souvenir of the early days, this old log house has been removed to the county fair grounds in order that future generations may see a typical pioneer home.”

And on pages 66-67, “About the middle of May, 1853, Gulbrand Mellem and his brotherin-law, Ole Colbjornson Livdahlen, moved from Rock Prairie, Wis., to St. Ansgar, Mitchell county, Iowa, on the Cedar river and came across the prairie to Shell Rock river. G. Mellem settled on the south half of the town site of what is now Northwood, in Iowa. Mr. Mellem was the first white man to settle in Worth county, Iowa. Ole Colbjornson Livdahlen moved four miles further north, just over the line into Minnesota, into Yankee Grove, later called the Beighley Grove, and that summer he built the old house, (now rebuilt on the Freeborn county fair grounds). Mr. Livdahlen sold his claim in 1856 and moved to Winneshiek county, Iowa and bought 120 acres of land on the Waterloo ridge. There he lived with his wife and two sons, Ole and Colbjorn, four years, but sold in 1860 and settled on a quarter section in Kandiyohi county, Minnesota, and died there a well-to-do fartner. His wife with her two sons, never went with her husband to Kandiyohi. Her brother, 0. Mellem, gave her a quarter section of land four miles north of Lake Mills, Iowa, and she lived there until her death.”

I’m confused.

Other resources say that Ole’s wife had been married to a gentleman who died and she and her daughter, Christi or Chersti Quarve, was the “family” that Ole Livdalen brought to Minnesota. If that’s the case, then the first child born in Freeborn County was Astri and Ole’s son. One source refers to Ole’s bravery, and another says that Astri’s brother gave him a ” ‘h— of a lickin’ for treating his wife so.”

Was Ole a good guy? Adventurer? Con-artist? Why did he leave this beautiful, fertile, southern Minnesota farm site? No matter what the real story, the Livdalen history is our history. What we do know, (we think), is that the oldest cabin built in Freeborn County was moved to the fairgrounds in 1909 and eventually made its way into our historical village. If only its walls could talk. That humble little cabin, built in 1853, should have tumbled down years ago, but thanks to preservationists, it is still standing, and we think that’s worth celebrating.

On Saturday, Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., we’re going to have a party.

Square dancers, spinners, magician, storytellers, corn expert, fur trader, musicians and a multitude of other historians (and good cooks too) will be there to help us celebrate our history. You can even purchase some stationery or a Livdahlen cabin postcard and have the postage canceled with a special stamp made for that day.

Be watching for more information as we near the date. Mark your calendar and join us. It promises to be a terrific Livdalen cabin sesquicentennial celebration.

(Bev Jackson is the executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.)