Recently I was stunned by a story. I suppose it will bug me until I write about it.
In 1859 a young boy was born in Sweden, his was named Edward Rulien but he was known as “Erik”. I am not sure when he came to the United States, it was before 1882. In 1884 he married Mathilda Johnson in New Richmond Wisconsin. They would have four children for sure. William born in 1884, Anna in 1887, Hulda in 1888 and Teodor who was born in 1890, his birth on February 8, 1890 would claim his mothers life two weeks later. Teodor would live but only for seven months.
Erik was widowed with children aged 6, 3 and 2 and a brand new baby. He quickly married his wife’s sister, her name was Augusta Johnson. In 1891 they welcomed Ellen, Herman in 1893, Lillie in 1895, Hildegard 1897, Judith 1899, Evelyn 1901, Agnes 1904 and finally Elizabeth Margaret in 1910.
In 1907 they moved to Minnesota, settling near Baudette. Baudette was a logging area. Big timber surrounded the area with a few small homesteads where cleared land would raise a garden and enough grain and hay for their animals. Most everyone cut and sold timber for a living. It was a summer of drought. In the Fall Typhoid was making the rounds. There were fires in the area, either from brush piles or sparks from the train tracks, on October 4, 1910 the towns of Graceton, Pit, Williams and Cedar Spur would be wiped out. On October 7, 1910 the winds would fan four fires into one burning tornado. The residents of Baudette and Spooner would have little warning. A few trains left with people, some survived by going into the river, the sick were taken down to the river on cots. Some people fled by boat.
Erik and Augusta would hide in a root cellar shielding their children from the flames, until it became too hot, then they would huddle together in an open area in their yard. It must have been like being in an oven. The seven youngest children would perish with their parents.
William the oldest survived because he was in Crookston or he stood in a river all night, from what I read there are conflicting reports. He never married as far I can can figure. The three oldest girls, Anna, Hulda and Ellen survived because they were working in Minneapolis.
Baudette and Spooner would begin rebuilding immediately, their lumber mills remained intact. The loggers may not have a home but they had a job. Canadians just across the border housed many of the fire victims until they could rebuild homes.
So what fueled my interest in this story? Remember those three girls that were working in the cities? One was married in 1908. I bought an old photo in an antique shop of her 50th Wedding Anniversary. I feature one photo a day on Forgotten Old Photos hoping that someone will claim a photo. Occasionally Iggy can track down the people if we have a name. In this case we had two first names Anna and Algot and a wedding date…no last name.
Algot and Anna Norrbohm
Looks like she was happily married for a good long time and had many children. Her second child was born just 12 days after the fire in 1910. She bestowed her maiden name of Rulien as Kirby’s middle name..perhaps as a way to honor her family.
One million acres burned back in 1910, the Baudette/Spooner fire ranks third worst forest fire in Minnesota. Because of that fire the Fire Commissioner urged the State Legislature to form the Minnesota Forestry Services which later became the DNR.
43 people perished in the fire, nine from Anna’s family. The three girls escaped because they weren’t loggers, Hulda never married as far as I can tell, she died in 1969 and is buried back in Wisconsin near her mother. Anna died in 1965 and I couldn’t find out anything about Ellen.
I am not sure that this photo will ever find it’s way home. But now at least the story or a bit of it has been told:)