Jessie Beverly Rolfsrud

I was born in a small house on upper Main Street in Hettinger, North Dakota. Named Jessie Beverly I was called exactly that by my father throughout all the years, and I guess he deserved to use the full name in honor of my mother and since he was the person who delivered me into this world. (The doctor was indisposed that day.) It was Sunday, May 23, 1920.

Jessie (mother) did not expect to survive this one, but struggled to and did.  Her strength was tried severely in caring for me for after only three weeks I contracted whooping cough. Then it was my life that was in question. Father and mother took turns nursing me through the days and nights of the entire summer. 

In 1922 we moved to Aberdeen and stayed there for two years. Then to Sheridan Avenue South in Minneapolis for two more. The stories have it that I ran away frequently. I do remember being found down at the 43rd Street fire station where I enjoyed playing with the fire dog. I toured the outer fringes of the city looking for the chickens which I knew to be out there.

My four older siblings have often reported that my foibles had a way of interrupting their schooling and fun with friends because they had to take their bicycles and spread out looking for me. They never said that they called the police, however.

Father's business in the city did not do very well, so he, mother and I returned to Hettinger. The others have said that they stayed behind in order to complete their high school education to a point. They joined us in Hettinger later. Bayard came first. We lived in small houses in town. I learned to read and write early, so that I entered school in the second grade, at age 6. Mother was an excellent teacher - my very best.

Ralph, Dorothy, and Richard joined us eventually.  They renewed friendships from before and I remember that any old thing served as an excuse to get up a party with them.  This continued into the next years, which we spent on "the farm" two miles north of town. Father built up a Holstein herd, raised crops, eventually selling milk to the store in town. We became pretty well wiped out as a result of the economy of the times plus a dreadful drought.  I didn't realize how poor we really were.  We had such a happy surprise in 1930 when Kaye arrived, and I was happy anyway to be living near so many animals.  The old love for chickens died, though when I had to feed so many of them and then become Chief Picker when it was time to prepare the beheaded ones for dinner.

In the early thirties, Dorothy was with us.  She taught in the local high school.  We were losing everything on the farm it seemed.  In 1933, Father found work in the County Agent's office in Steele, Kidder County North Dakota.  While he was gone Dee, Kaye, Mother, and I lived together in one of our "rentals" in town the winter of 1933-1934.  Dee got a job teaching at Wheaton College in 1934-1935, so Kaye, Mother, and I then lived in Steele with Father.  I spent one school year there, then Father got an advancement to the State Office (same AAA setup) in Fargo.

Before moving to Fargo, Father very generously sent his four girls in his new car to visit Aunt Kate in Santa Ana.  The whole summer was a holiday for us, except that Dorothy took courses at UCLA.

We drove back to North Dakota then and took up residence in Fargo.  Dorothy and Clarence were married the next week, on September 7, and I went to school my Junior and Senior years there.  We used an apartment briefly and then moved into a nice house on Tenth Street South, housesitting for a Dr. Hotchkiss.  Kaye started school.  Mother obtained voice lessons for me.

About the time I graduated in 1937, the AAA was declared unconstitutional and Father had no job.  He finally got into the North Dakota Welfare system that he served until his retirement at age 70.  In late 1937, I somehow got a job myself with the AAA as some part of it must have been reinstated!  I could save money for college and in 1939 I entered Wheaton College, continuing to work my way.  Incurring no debt whatsoever (easy as nobody could or would loan me a single cent).  I had earned over two thirds of my credits toward a degree and felt free to marry.

By taking correspondence courses from UND and some applied music at Concordia College, I did receive a BA from Concordia College in June 1944.  All this and welcoming Rebecca Beverly in 1942!  We lived first in Fargo, then in Moorhead--no car and it was wartime.  The five years (1941-1946) were extremely difficult.  Linda was born in 1945.  I had a severe breakdown from which by the grace of God I recovered well (bootstrap-type operation) and never had it happen again.


Erling Rolfsrud

Born September 3, Keene, North Dakota to Nils and Rebecca (Heide) Rolfsrud. Baptized at farm home, October 13, by Rev. I.J. Buckneberg (See "Prairie Cleric" in EXTRAORDINARY NORTH DAKOTANS and "Plank-Riding Preacher" in NOTABLE NORTH DAKOTANS.) Sponsors were: O.E. Olson, Mrs. Marie Sundblad, Bertin Moe and Martha Moe.


After a bumper flax crop, Nils Rolfsrud took his family to Norway intending to buy a "gaard" and live there. Plans did not materialize. Erling learned to walk in Norway.

Erling's mother, Rebecca Rolfsrud, with her Norwegian parents.


Nine months later, the Rolfsrud family returned to McKenzie County. The farm having been rented to Kittil Skavanger, Nils built a frame hotel in Watford City, the town being established that year at the end of a new railway branch. For several years thereafter, the family lived on the farm spring and summer and early fall, and moved to town to operate the hotel during the winter months.


Erling started school (three weeks at Olsen School, which was 1 1/2 miles south of the farm in the Blue Buttes School District. Then transferred to Watford City where Miss Mae Scollard as teacher (of whom I was so terrified I could not learn).


Back on the farm a few weeks with Miss Mabel LeVang at the Olsen School. She taught me that school could be enjoyed. STONE JOHNNY SCHOOL is dedicated to her.
Toy fire engine Erling enjoyed>


Keene Consolidated School with Miss Magnhild Haugen, a teacher I adored. First grade again as I had learned very little the first year. Nils Rolfsrud died of "heart trouble" on July 5, 1920, and was buried in the Clear Creek Cemetery.


Second grade with Miss Haugen. She promoted me to third grade mid-year.


Fourth grade with Miss Elizabeth Lala.


Fifth grade with Miss Synnove Ness.


Sixth grade with Miss Ida Enstad. (Mrs. Ida C. Grotenhuis, 401 Maurice, Albert Lea, MN)


Seventh grade with Miss Linda Peterson.


Eighth grade with Mr. Edgar W. Gunderson (See THE TIGER-LILY YEARS). Graduated, May, 1926, from eighth grade.


Freshman, Watord City High School. Roomed with Haakon Gryte, boarded with my sisters who had a room in the Rolfsrud Hotel. Member of the first class to be confirmed at the newly-constructed Clear Creek Lutheran Church.


Could not afford to go to high school. Stayed home and drove school bus and studied high school subjects in the basement of Keene Consolidated School along with John Larson and Orville Anderson (also bus drivers and former classmates). Passed state board tests in May but refused credit because we had not had instruction in a classroom under a teacher. Also took correspondence courses in Poultry Husbandry and Swine Husbandry from the Extension Service, North Dakota Agricultural College, Fargo.


Watford City High School, taking six subjects. Miss Anne Holey, English teacher, triggered my interest in writing. Wrote features for LONE WOLF HOWLS, school paper printed in THE WATFORD GUIDE.


Graduated from high school in May. Double wedding that same month when Agnes married Sidney Veeder and Rena married Bennie Veeder at our farm home.


Summer rural teacher training course at Minot State Teachers College. Also worked on the novel I had started when I was sixteen. In September began teaching at Rocky Glen School, 8-month term at $76.96 per month, lived in schoolhouse. Bought a reconditioned Underwood typewriter for $25 from a Chicago firm, taught myself to touch type. Worked on my novel.


Sold my first children's story to a Sunday School story paper. During the summer, worked on the farm, slept in the granary and worked on my novel at night. In September began teaching at the Olsen School, 8 months at $80. Wrote at the schoolhouse early mornings.


June 12, Halvor married Martha Braaten at Keene parsonage, Rev. Haktor Moe officiating. I was witness along with Margit Braaten (later, Mrs. Oscar Jonsrud). Spent summer tending cattle and milking ten cows 10 miles north of our farm, living in a deserted claim shanty. A correspondence friend typed my novel. Free


Second term at Olsen School, $65 a month because of worsening economics in Depression. Sent novel off to a New York critic, paid $15 reading fee and was informed the novel would interest no publisher.


Stayed with Bennie and Rena that summer, tried to write short pieces and sold some.


Concordia College. Dwindling funds, so did light housekeeping in a room at private home with Norval Hegland (later known as "The Flying Pastor of Alaska"). Did professional typing for a few authors. Worked on home farm during the summer.


Washed dishes at Coffee Shop, north Broadway in Fargo, midnight until 3-4 a.m. Got fired just before Christmas because I got sick and with approval of the cook did not come to work one night. My indignant landlady, Mrs. Milton Lawrence (room on Sixth Avenue North, Fargo) procured a better job for me at Herbst Cafeteria afternoons, a job I kept the rest of my college career.


Mama died May 7. I stayed in Fargo that summer, working at Herbst, and writing.


Senior year at Concordia, completing requirements in three years. Student teaching at Kindred, North Dakota, during worst of extremely cold weather. Mona Spielman (later Mrs. Carl Holm) taught with me. Ear trouble resulted, bedridden three weeks after getting back to private room in Carlson home. Graduated in May, 1936. Class poet. Halvor and Martha came to commencement in their pickup truck, and my belongings and I rode in the truck box out to McKenzie County where I worked that summer and sent out applications for teaching positions.


Principal and teacher of seventh and eighth grades, Lockhart, Minnesota. Taught five piano students. Organist, Lockhart Lutheran--pay was a chicken dinner every Sunday at the parsonage. In spring, bought first car, a secondhand Ford V-8 sedan at Ada. Worked that summer on a Lockhart farm until a cow kicked me, injuring my knee so I could not work. Recuperated at home of Ernes and "Ma" Huffman (my Herbst Cafeteria boss) at Fargo. Offered job with North Dakota Education Association, Fargo. Canceled Lockhart contract.


Associate editor, THE NORTH DAKOTA TEACHER, and general secretary. Started writing "The Top Drawer" column (continued for 22 years). Took seven organ lessons from Eunice Plann, practicing at Concordia chapel organ early mornings. Took commercial courses at Fargo Secretarial School and Fargo Business College to earn a major in business education. Piano accompanist for a male octette. Summer substitute organist at First Baptist Church, took choir conducting course at Concordia Conservatory of Music, Fargo, and there met Miss J. Beverly Brown.


Instructor, Division of Supervised Correspondence Study, NDAC, Fargo. Became principal of experimental high school there. Had a tonette band of high school students!


High school commercial instructor, Cottonwood, Minnesota. Organist, Silo (now Christ) Lutheran Church.


Summer graduate school, State College of Education, Greeley, Colorado. September 6, married Beverly Brown at Washburn, North Dakota, parental home.


Head, department of business education, Concordia College. Starting salary, $110 per month. First lived in an upstairs apartment in south Fargo, near St. John's Hospital. Sold car. Joined Olivet Lutheran, Fargo. Faculty secretary. Edited THE RECORD. CONCORDIAN advisor. Inter-society council advisor. Two years organist, First Presbyterian, Moorhead. Spring of 1943, purchased house at 710 Fifth Street South, Moorhead. Spring, 1944, drafted; classified 4F. Taught at Concordia summer school each year.


Rebecca Beverly born November 13 at St. John's Hospital, Fargo.


Linda Brownell born March 5. Beverly negatively affected by birth. Linda kept at Children's Home, Fargo; Rebecca by friends, chiefly that summer at John and Agnes (Strand) farm near Hannaford, North Dakota. Beverly okay by end of summer.


Resigned Concordia position in June. Bought a used Buick car at Mayville--cars were hard to find following World War II. Sold Moorhead house. Bought 120-acre lake and woods farm 5 miles southeast of Deerwood, Minnesota. Moved there in August.


The Deerwood years. Beverly taught piano and voice in nearby towns to help with meagre earnings from writing. I wrote in leanto storage shed attached to garage, also summers in small poplar-log cabin (which was later moved to Alexandria, Lake Andrew). GOPHER TAILS FOR PAPA first published as a serial in a Baptist Sunday School story paper, 1948. During those years I served as Deerwood Township clerk, assessor, census enumerator, school clerk, and member of the Crow Wing County School Reorganization Committee.


Stanley Hilding born at Miners' Hospital, Crosby, Dr. Wingquist, physician.


Solveig Agnes born at Miners' Hospital, December 15, with Dr. Wingquist attending.




Stephen Paul born at Miners' Hospital, October 16, Dr. Wingquist, attending. LANTERNS OVER THE PRAIRIES, Book Two published. CHURCH ETIQUETTE FOR THE LAYMAN published by Augustana Book Concern, Rock Island, Illinois. Later reprinted by Fortress Press.


GOPHER TAILS FOR PAPA published by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis. I qualified for membership in the Authors' League of America. We left Deerwood (place unsold) and moved to Lake Andrew farmstead -- 17 acres purchased from Mrs. Agnes Rooney. Remodeled attic for writing quarters. Razed an old chicken coop, and later the barn. Made a shed into a playhouse.


Augustana published WHITE ANGAKOK. (This had been written at Deerwood.) Published BROTHER TO THE EAGLE which had also been written at Deerwood. Went on a Lyceum lecture tour of 175 North Dakota schools --- October, 1952, through March, 1953. Virgil Reed born September 28 at St. Luke's Hospital, Alexandria.


Augsburg published THE BORROWED SISTER (written at Deerwood).


First Sunday in January began playing organ at First Lutheran, Alexandria, and continued for thirty years.


Ghost-wrote FIFTY YEARS OF COUNTRY STOREKEEPING for M.A. Johnson of Larimore, North Dakota. (See "Prairie Town Merchant" in EXTRAORDINARY NORTH DAKOTANS and "Store Flunky" in NOTABLE NORTH DAKOTANS.) Built the studio cottage.


Augsburg published BOY FROM JOHNNY BUTTE (written in three weeks in the house attic) and HAPPY ACRES (another attic product). CREATIVE WRITING was written for and published by the Division of Supervised Correspondence Study, NDAC, Fargo. I taught the course for about 15 years, getting $1 per lesson that I processed.


The income from writing proving inadequate, I took a position as English teacher in the Evansville High School. Senior play coach. School paper advisor. Purchased a 9-passenger 1958 Edsel Villager from Noonan Motors in Alexandria.


Augsburg published FAMILY ON MAPLE STREET.


Hired by Ephphatha Missions to write EPHPHATHA MISSIONS HISTORY. Book was published by Ephphatha Missions, Faribault, Minnesota, with Rev. Ingvald Thvedt, mission head.


English teacher, Central Junior High School, Alexandria.


Augsburg published ONE TO ONE, an adaptation of research done for Ephphatha Missions. No royalties.


Published THE STORY OF NORTH DAKOTA. It was used as a history text in three North Dakota colleges until Dr. Elwyn Robinson's college text was published in 1966.


Hired to write COBBER CHRONICLE for Concordia College.


Wrote and taught "Red River Land" which was video taped and broadcast from Station KFME, Fargo, for nine years. In conjunction with this, I wrote THE STORY OF RED RIVER LAND and RED RIVER LAND TEACHER'S MANUAL. All of this was done under the auspices of the North Central Council for School Television.


Toured Europe on my own that summer, five weeks of the time in Norway.


"The Little White Schoolhouse " segment of "Red River Land " won the Ohio Award.


Published INDIANS OF THE UPPER MIDWEST. HAPPY ACRES was reprinted in an anthology, GREAT STORIES FOR CHILDREN, by Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois.


Retinal detachment, April. University of Minnesota Hospital.


Concordia College Alumni Achievement Award and Red River Valley Historial Society's Pioneer Historian Award.




Pulmonary embolism, August, Douglas County Hospital.


Retired from teaching. Began writing newspaper column for Alexandria ECHO/PRESS.


North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo, acquired bulk of my manuscripts and research materials for their archives. Sold Lake Andrew home and began building Lake Rachel house in late September.


Cancer surgery, March, Douglas County Hospital. Published STONE JOHNNY SCHOOL that fall.








Published NOTABLE NORTH DAKOTANS (first book written on computer word processor).




Published FLICKERTAIL STORIES. Inducted into Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame at Norsk Hostfest, Minot, North Dakota October 12.