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Bob Lind, Published May 20 2013

ND attorney general’s family has long history in area

Information has come in concerning the ancestors of North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, including Wayne’s grandfather Martin Stenehjem.

Ray Kornkven, Bottineau, N.D., writes that he knew Martin in 1938.

Martin’s son, also named Martin but nicknamed “Buck,” is Wayne’s father.

Ray writes that he and Buck worked together, hauling bundles on a horse-drawn hayrack to the threshing machine operated by Ray’s father.

Ray was 18 at the time, and he thinks Buck was the same age. “He was a pleasant fellow and often had a good story to tell,” Ray says.

“Martin would come to our farm Saturday evening and pick up Buck, then bring him back Sunday evening, as Sunday was a day of rest,” Ray say.

Ray adds, by the way, that he, like the Stenehjems, is Norwegian. His father and his nine siblings all emigrated from Norway to the United States, as did Ray’s mother.

According to a history of the Stenehjem family compiled by Albert “Con” Posz of Golden Valley, Minn., who lives on Lake Lida, Minn., in the summer, it was Wayne’s great-great-grandparents, Amund and Kari (Qualey) Stenehjem, who emigrated from Norway in 1849, settled in Houston County in the far southeastern corner of Minnesota, and founded the Stenehjem family in the United States in a big way: They had 12 children.

Con found information on most of them. Here’s what he learned about one of them, listed here because of his connection to the area:

This was John, Amund and Kari’s sixth child, who was born in 1861 in Houston County.

Eventually Kari (presumably after her husband’s death) filed a homestead at Kindred, N.D., and she and John, when he was 17, moved there in 1878.

In 1888, John bought his brother Peter’s farm and lived there the rest of his life, except for 10 years in Fargo.

“John often remarked,” Con learned,” of walking most of the distance from Spring Grove, Minn., to Fargo, as he came with the Qualeys (his mother’s side of the family) and they brought along some cattle (which) had to be herded. He also walked from the farm at Kindred to Fargo, a distance of 22 miles, for groceries.”

This branch of the family dropped the middle ‘e’ from the Stenehjem family name.

John married Karen Sorenson in 1888. She’d come to the U.S. from Norway when she was 19.

Karen was less than 5 feet tall, so when she had grandchildren, they called her “Little Grandma.”

John, Con says, helped build up Cass County, including roads, telephone lines, a church and other buildings.

He like horses, and bought and sold many to his neighbors.

“As with many early Americans,” Con says, this family “lived in what we today would call primitive conditions. Cooking had to be done on a wood stove in the kitchen. That stove had a tank at one end for heating water. The main heat source for the house was a pot-bellied stove in the parlor.”

John and Karen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1939. John died in 1943, Karen in 1958.

They were the great-uncle and- aunt of Wayne Stenehjem.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com.