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Bob Lind, Published January 27 2014

Neighbors: Family that worked together, married together

Here’s an update on an old store that sold, among other things, two brands of gasoline.

It was the Isabel Community Store, located about 15 miles northwest of Maddock, N.D., which was mentioned in this column last year.

Information about the store, published in the Maddock centennial book, was sent in by Gene Reierson, Esmond, N.D.

As the article said, many country stores were located on a railroad. But not the Isabel; it was located on North Dakota Highway 19.

Paul Stenhjem started the store in 1937 as a grocery store and a gas station, with one gas pump.

Paul sold the store to Ed Smith in 1939. Ed added a cream receiving station for the Maddock Co-op Creamery in 1942.

Then Peter O. Stenhjem, Paul’s son, took over the store and operated it until 1951, when Elmer Toso ran it. In 1961, Elmer closed it.

But before it closed, a second gas pump was added, and the store sold competing brands: Farmers Union and Pure.

One more thing. Neighbors recently carried a story about two sisters marrying two men who were cousins.

Now, Gene writes that three offspring of the Jens Toso family from the Isabel area married three from the Bernhard Johnson family of the Baker area: Ernest Toso married Addoris Johnson, Luela Toso married Clarence Johnson and Jewel Toso married Roy Johnson.

“They just didn’t get too far from home in those days,” Gene rightly observes.

Now, here’s more information on the store, thanks to Peter D. Stenhjem, Mesa, Ariz.; he is a grandson of the Peter O. Stenhjem who used to run the store.

The family name used to be spelled Stenehjem, but, he says, “My grandfather thought there were too many ‘e’s’ in the name, so he dropped one.”

Peter D.’s grandmother died in 1956 while his grandfather died at age 93 in 1973 in Spring Grove, Minn.

The building that once housed the store burned down in the 1970s. Peter D.’s father Peter A. Stenhjem, tried to donate the land to the state or county, but they turned him down, so the land is still in the name of Peter D.’s grandfather.

“My father passed away in 2001,” Peter D. writes, “and I have again started his goal to donate the land to the county or state, with no luck yet.

“We have been paying the taxes every year since 1972, since Dad did not want Grandpa’s name in the paper as being delinquent on his taxes.”

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