Wednesday, July 31, 2013

His roots were in McKenzie County, North Dakota

Watford City, North Dakota will celebrate its centennial next year and the committee wants help. They're putting together a book and web site with biographies of its original families, pioneers all. Our father was born there, so we were asked to write something about him. Stan's sister Sosie took up the project and here it is, ready for publishing. She did a very nice job on this. It honors our father.

Erling Nicolai Rolfsrud

Erling was born September 3, 1912, on a farm near Keene, North Dakota to Nils Halvorson Rolfsrud and Rebekka Johanna Heide Rolfsrud. He was baptized at their farm home by Reverend I. J. Buckneberg, who would appear decades later in two of Erling's books, Extraordinary North Dakotans and Notable North Dakotans.

On Tuesday, July 29, 1913, Erling went with his older brother Halvor and sisters Rena and Agnes to Norway. Per the McKenzie County Farmer, “They expected to sail from New York on Tuesday, August 5 on the Kristianiafjord, arriving at Bergen about eight days later. From Bergen they will travel by rail to their destination.” Erling learned to walk in Norway. The family returned to America in 1914.

When Erling was 7, his father Nils died on July 5, 1920. Erling remembered little of his father, but admired him as gentle with animals and thus able to harness horses that others could not. Erling loved the little wooden rocking horse that Nils bought for him and rocked it all about the first floor of the Rolfsrud Hotel.
Erling with his older sisters outside the Rolfsrud
Restaurant and Lodging House.
After graduating from Watford City high school in 1930, Erling took his training at the Minot State Teachers College rural teachers’ session and then taught rural school for three years in McKenzie County. He sold his first children's story while teaching at Rocky Glen School.

His mother Rikka rejoiced when Erling went off to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, for it had been her dream that one of her children would attend that college. He graduated with a BA degree in June 1936, with a major in English and minors in history and Norse literature. He completed additional coursework at various colleges, taught in secondary schools, and then headed the department of business education at Concordia College for five years.

Erling married Beverly Brown September 6, 1941, in Washburn, North Dakota. They lived in Moorhead, Deerwood, Alexandria, and Farwell Minnesota. Daughters Becky and Linda were born in Moorhead, Stan, Solveig, and Stephen were born in Deerwood, and Virgil was born in Alexandria.

While his vocation was writing books about North Dakota, his working years included teaching English in Alexandria for 18 years, church organist for more than 40 years, lyceum lecturer, writing and teaching the 1966 Red River Land series for television, and accompanying his wife Beverly on concert tours. October 12, 1989, Erling was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot in recognition of his achievements as an author.

By age 78, Erling had published 27 boooks; 15 of them were about North Dakota. A couple years later, he reflected on his life. "I've been a teacher, an organist, and a writer. And I must say it has been the writing that has enriched my life more than the other two."

After a courageous and lengthy bout with cancer, Erling died on Sunday evening, August 21, 1994.

Books by Erling Rolfsrud:
Lanterns over the Prairies (1949)
Lanterns over the Prairies, Book Two (1950)
Church Etiquette for the Layman (1950)
Gopher Tails for Papa (1951)
White Angakok (1952)
Brother to the Eagle (1952)
The Borrowed Sister ((1953)
Extraordinary North Dakotans (1954)
Boy from Johnny Butte (1956)
Creative Writing (1956)
Happy Acres (1956)
Family on Maple Street (1958)
Ephphatha Missions History (1959)
One to One (1961)
The Story of North Dakota (1963)
Cobber Chronicle (1966)
The Story of Red River Land (1967)
Red River Land Teacher's Guide (1967)
Great Stories for Children (co-author, 1971)
Indians of the Upper Midwest (1971)
The Tiger-Lily Years (1975)
Stone Johnny School (1983)
Cutbank Girl (1985)
Scandinavian Moses (1986)
Notable North Dakotans (1987)
With the Wind at My Back (1988)
Flickertail Stories (1989)
Story of the Peace Garden State (1990)
Girl of the Tumbleweeds (1991)
Petticoat Pioneer (1993)
Close the Door Gently (posthumously 1995, co-author Rebecca Rolfsrud Jerdee)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The three of you Rolfsruds I have read are all such wonderful writers!