Prepared by Lavonne Hookom
Edited and posted here by Gary Gauer March 27 2023
This is an on-line edition of a 24 page orange soft cover booklet published in the summer of 1964 by the Lake Lillian Crier. Some errors have been corrected and a few things have been added.
On the back cover:
Lake Lillian being built in 1923. This picture was taken from the top of the first elevator, looking northeast. White building in the upper center is the bank, in the same location as the present bank building. House at upper left is the present location of Mrs. Francis Erickson. At the upper right is the Petterson Blacksmith Shop. Near the middle is Strom’s Store in its first location. Lumber piles and a tent occupy the lower right hand corner.
About the front cover:
Whereas all the other pictures in this booklet are historical, those on the front page represent Lake Lillian as it is today in 1964, as a contrast. They were taken from the top of the elevator. The top photo looks due north, past the water tower to the lake. The smokestack of the creamery is barely visible in the bottom of the picture. The large roof just beyond the water tower, near the center of the picture, is that of Grace Lutheran Church. The bottom picture is just about the same view as the one on the back cover—only taken 41 years later, in July 1964. This booklet was published by the Lake Lillian Crier.
This booklet is sponsored by the Lake Lillian Civic and Commerce Association. It is dedicated to the memory of the early pioneers who so gallantly left their homes to cross the vast Atlantic so that they could enjoy freedom and liberty, both religiously and economically, and transmit them to their prosperity. To those who gave so much of themselves for future generations to enjoy, we are indebted.
In preparing this booklet, we know there are many important events and names that should not have been left out. However, we wish to give credit especially to Mrs. Muriel Madsen and Mrs. Helen Linn for their contributions, Kandiyohi County History by Victor Lawson has been a great source of information, the anniversary booklets of the various churches, the West Central Daily for the use of Eben Lawson’s cartoons, to Mrs. Margarethe Buxton for her untiring search for facts about the sailing vessel, Sleipner and finding a picture of it. Others who helped and given use of pictures: Mr. and Mrs. George Vick, Hemming Nelson, Lorinda Hanson, Emil Hedin, Raymond Erickson, Vernon Strom, Byron Nielson, Gertrude Lund, Mrs. Durba Norine, Mrs. August Johnson, and Mrs. Olga Petterson.
Clarence A. Lund
On May 23. 1862, a group of daring adventurous and freedom-loving Norwegians from Balsfjord, Tromsø, Norway left their home for America. The sailing vessel which set off from Bergen was called the Sleipner. It was a small brig of 350 tons, estimated length of 125 feet. The voyage took 71 days, arriving at a Chicago port on August 2, 1862. It was the first vessel to sail directly from a European port assigned to Chicago. The Sleipner made several voyages to Chicago (1863, 1864 and 1865). After that it was converted into a cargo ship or bark. It was last heard of after leaving Constantinople and was never seen again.
Rev. J.A.J. BOMSTA
In the northern part of Norway, as well as farther south, there were dissenters of the state church. They had followed the leadership of Gustav A. Lammers or more freedom in religious worship. The Rev. J.A.J. Bomsta, a fiery preacher, who had been assistant to Rev. Lammers, started a movement to emigrate to America. He became the leader of the group who became the first settlers in the Lake Lillian community. This group became known as the Tromso or Bomsta Colony. It was not religious freedom that they desired but the improvement of their economic conditions. As it was, they hardly had enough to live on often went to bed hungry. There was no hope of betterment in Norway at this time. They were a very pious group who had a religious service on the ship before departing from Norway. In coming to Chicago on a Sunday, many stayed on board that day in order to have a religious service on the ship.
They left Chicago for St.Peter, Minnesota, where they remained for a little over a year because of the Indian outbreak at this time.
Two of Rev. Bomsta’s sons, a brother and Andrew Anderson enlisted in Company B, of the Second Regiment Minnesota Cavalry. They did patrol duty through the Middle West. It was during their patrol duty that they happened to visit the Lake Lillian and Kandiyohi Lake area. They were amazed at the beautiful scenery. The lakes, and the wild life in abundance.
Returning to St. Peter they informed Rev. Bomsta of their discovery He wasted no time in making the trip to see for himself what had been reported. He was more than satisfied and decided to have his group leave for Lake Lillian as soon as possible.
Sedevart Nelson walked from St. Peter in the fall of 1862 and started a dugout on the East Shore of Big Kandiyohi Lake. He was discovered by the soldiers who patrolled the area and was told to leave the area because of the danger of the Indians. Lars Olson had ridden horseback to this area the same fall, and on the way back met Sedevart Nelson somewhere on the prairie. Earlier that year Lars Olson had a narrow Sedevart Nelson escape from the Indians at St. Peter. The horse that he was riding was hit in the neck. Olson had picked up a small boy who sat in front of him on the horse.
However, several families arrived at Lake Lillian on June 3, 1864. They were the Rev. J.A.J. Bomsta, Elias Anderson, Sedevart Nelson, Marit Nielsen (a war widow), and John Vick. A few of the families who came in the next four years were: Iver Aspaas, Gustaf Bjornberg, Peter Felt, Hans Gaard, John Gabrielson, Nick Gabrielson, Emil Hanson Sr., Erick Hogmo, Elias Johnson, John Klint, Erick J. Larson, Ris Lars Larson, Erick Livin, Ole A. Larson, Hans A. Johnson, Andrew Hakonsen, Erick Westling, Nels Nelson, Andrew Quist, Thomas Signal, John Gabrielson and Erick Wicklund. An Englishman, O.W. Hart, from Indianna came to Lake Lillian one hour after the Bomsta or Tromso Colony arrived. He homesteaded on section seven, East Lake Lillian. The first Post office was at his place. The mail came from Atwater by the pioneer mail carrier, Henry Jones, once a week. Mrs. O.W. Hart was the first school superintendent of the county, serving in 1867, From 187 to 1869 he served as county commissioner.
Mr. George Hart, son of O.W. Hart, homesteaded in Section 12, Lake Lillian Township (which later sold to Andrew Anderson.) He played an important role in the early history of Kandiyohi County. Elsewhere you will note that he helped to organize three schools. He served as superintendent of three schools from 1867 to 1869, he also was County Auditor after 1869 for several years. The commissioners had no place to meet at this time so the home of George Hart was the meeting place. Lake Lilian can claim to have been the county seat for a period of two years in its earliest origin. The Harts had their own lime kiln and made their own lime from lime stones which were found in abundance around the lake. Several small buildings were made from Lime, a round barn and house which still stands on the west shore of Lake Lillian.
The Rev. J.A.J. Bomsta cabin. Albin, Roy, Sina and Dr. Andrew Nielson
The Indians visited this community for many years in great numbers. The last group came to Big Kandiyohi Lake area in 1910. It was not unusual to see hundreds gathered by Lake Lillian with their canoes to do their fishing. A story told of Mrs. J.A.J. Bomsta who had just finished churning when a few Indians appeared. She gave them buttermilk to drink. When they were to leave they saw a grindstone that they thought they could use. Indians had a practice that, if they needed something, they could take it from another Indian. This was not stealing and this theory was used in taking the grindstone. Mrs. Bomsta took after them with a broom. They left the grindstone and laughed among themselves at the little woman.
The two Lake Lillian townships had one of the strongest Farm Alliance Locals in the county. It was organized in 1890. Dr. Andrew Nielson, John G. Flann and Sedevart Nelson served as presidents. The secretary was L.P. Owre. James W. Hanson and John G. Flann were leaders of the Populist Party which was also strong in Lake Lillian.
During the snowstorm of 1873, Erick G. Hogmo (whose home was where Arthur Portinga lives now) was lost for two days. His ox team froze to death, but Mr. Hogmo finally came to Olaf Trogen’s home without any serious consequences.
The Lake Lillian community was very fortunate during these pioneer days to have a prominent doctor in their midst who so generously gave them medical care in time of illness. He was very well educated in medicine in Norway. Dr. Andrew Neilson had practiced in Minneapolis with a Norwegian doctor named Bull. After leaving Minneapolis, he came to Lake Lillian where he lived the rest of his life, except for a short time when he had an office in Atwater. For his medical services he charged very little, and many times nothing was charged. He passed away in 1922.
The first child born in Lake Lillian Township was Mary Johnson, aunt of Elmer (Poik) Johnson. The first boy born was Dunkert Vick in 1866 who died three years later and became the first to be buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. The first marriage was that of Mrs. Marit Nielson to Wilhelm Lund. In East Lake Lillian, the first child was born to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Signal. The first death was Beata Anderson, wife of Elias Anderson. The first marriage was that of Isabel Nelson to Nils j. Bomsta.
Before the Lake Lillian community had regular stores, a few pioneers, Andrew Anderson, Sedevart Nelson and L.P. Owre would have a small supply of salt, sugar and molasses to sell to their neighbors. Often they would walk all the way to St. Peter to get their supplies and carry them back.
Bennie Anderson and Peter Westling, as partners, built the first store on the west shore of Lake Lillian in 1891. In 1893 a creamery was built on the banks of the lake. Bricks may still be found where the building stood. Mrs. Christina Johnson built another store. A blacksmith was also started, and this little town on the west shore of Lake Lillian became a busy commercial center. The creamery burned in 1900 and was never rebuilt. This caused the end to this thriving inland hamlet.
A creamery was then built in section 24, Lake Lillian Township. At this place, Lars Erickson started his store. This business has remained in the same family. The store is now operated by a son, Raymond Erickson. When the business moved to Lake Lillian in 1924, a new store was built and burned down in 1972.
The inland town of Thorpe got its start by having a creamery association organized in 1896 in N.E. Section 21 of East Lake Lillian. The creamery was moved to Lake Lillian and later a new building was built.
In Thorpe the first store was started by Christian Bomstad which later was sold to Elvin Strom who continued there in business until 1923 when he moved his store to Lake Lillian. Incidentally, his first customer was Arthur Johnson. Mr. Strom was the oldest private merchant in Kandiyohi County who had continuously operated his store until his death in 1962. Vernon Strom, his son, continues the business.
Hans Petterson had the first blacksmith shop in Thorpe. It was moved to Lake Lillian in 1923.
Mrs. Mary Anderson had a store at Thorpe and was appointed post mistress in 1903. She followed the trend by moving her building to Lake Lillian and became the first post mistress. She operated the first lunchroom in Lake Lillian.
The Atwater Republican Press noted the following on June 15, 1923:
The First State Bank of Thorpe has been moved to Lake Lillian. The cashier stayed right on the job and attended to business all the way although he did stay on the bridge a long time.
The Farmers’ Cooperative elevator was organized in 1923. The first board of directors were: Edward Flann, John Leeberg, Nels Lund, Hemming Nelson. Frank O. Berg, Edward Lundahl and Adolph Vick. Three elevators have been destroyed by fire, in 1925, 1931 and 1951. The present concrete structure built in 1952 is the largest in West Central Minnesota.
The village had two lumber yards, Streater and Stearns Lumber Company. The former bought out Stearns Lumber Company and later it was sold to Alton Olson.
William R. Johnson and Richard Johnson had the first Ford Agency. Later, William R. Johnson became the sole owner. Besides Ford cars, he handles farm machinery and repairs.
Two hardware stores are found in the town: Johnson Hardware owned by Albert Johnson and Flann Hardware owned by Ellsworth Flann. Myron Flann has a mobile feed-grinding business.
The K-M Funeral Cooperative Association organized in 1939. It is one of few such establishments in the state and the only one in the county. Arthur Nordin is the present president and Alvin Berg, the secretary-treasurer.
Andrew E. Anderson
Lake Lillian was well known for its good hunting. Hunters from Minneapolis and the east would come out in the fall to hunt. There was no hotel for them to stay in or livery barn for their horses so they would stay at the O.W. Hart farm. Thomas Marshall purchased the Hart farm and catered to the hunters by having a livery barn built and a house which served as a hotel.
The Lake Lillian area proved to have some of the best soil for farming. When the low areas were drained, the soil was improved. The early pioneers raised cattle and wheat. Hemming Anderson and Andrew Anderson were breeders of registered shorthorn cattle and Percheron horses. In later years, dairying, corn and soy-beans have taken the lead. Sugar beets, peas, sweet corn and cucumbers are also raised.
The citizens of Lake Lillian have always taken interest in their government. As has been mentioned before, the Harts and Rev. J.A.J. Bomsta took a leading part in township government. The Rev. J.A.J. Bomsta was also a candidate for the legislature. John G. Flann and Andrew Hedin served each one term as a county commissioner. Andrew Quist, son in law of Rev. Bomsta, was an early sheriff of the county.
Some of the members of the second generation who have honored the community by holding important positions are: W.D. Fredrickson, superintendent of schools for ten terms; Hemming S. Nelson served four terms in the state legislature, several terms as Vice President of Minnesota Farmers Union and Vice President of the Farm Holiday movement; Walter Hanson, sheriff in South Dakota, Johannes Vick, pioneer school teacher and sheriff of Renville county, two terms; Wilhelm Johnson, county commissioner, three terms; Myrtle Nordin Huerta, a pioneer missionary in Mexico.
The emigrants who enlisted during the Civil War have already been mentioned except Gotfred Nielson who died in camp in Missouri. The Spanish American War had several recruits from Lake Lillian: three of Soren Johnson’s sons, Nils, Edwin and Ben; and Nels E. Nelson. The two world wars have two boys who gave their lives in service for their country. Max Bomsta, son of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Bomsta, died from wounds suffered in World War I and Lloyd Johnson, son of Mr. and Mrs. August Johnson, was killed in the Aleutian Islands against the Japanese in World War II.
According to history, Lake Lillian received its name from the lake which was named in honor of Mrs. E. Whitefield whose husband accompanied the first exploring party to Kandiyohi Lake in 1856.
The first Swedish settlers came here in 1869, settling in Sections 2,4,8.14.18,20, 22, 24, 28 and34 coming from Kopparberg, Lan, Sweden. The first one to come to Kandiyohi County was H.P. Olson. His letters telling of the wonderful opportunities in America to friends and relatives in Sweden, started the immigration. Many claims were filed but were cancelled. After the homesteads were exhausted, they purchased the cheap lands in the settlements.
The first religious serviced held for the Swedish settlers were conducted by Rev. Peter Beckman and Louis Johnson which led to the organization of the Christine Swedish Lutheran Church in 1875. The name Christine is supposed to have originated from the Christine church on the city of Fahlun, Sweden, which may be called Queen Christine.
The Midsummer Festival which has been celebrated on June 24 each year, or on the most convenient date close to the 24th, was started as far back as we have record of—in1895 or 1896. This celebration was held at the Ole Erickson farm for many years, and is still celebrated in the First Lutheran Church of Lake Lillian, formerly the Christine Church. Starting out as an all-day celebration, we now have a supper and program in the evening. Roy Kenny lives on the Erickson farm now.
There were a few Swedish settlers in the Lake Elizabeth Township, settling around the lake in the spring of 1858. They had to flee the Indians but returned when safety was assured. The families were: Erick Eastlund, Samuel Peterson and Peter O. Olafson. The families of Abigail Higgins, Charles Lewis, William Jones and Ward Seagitt preempted Section 11 in June 1858 and secured title to the land but none of the Swedish settlers ever heard from them.
All of these settlers lived through many a tragic year to accomplish their goals, establishing many beautiful farms, schools and churches. We are thankful to God and them for our heritage.
In the good old days of plenty water, it was possible to sail from Lake Lillian to Willmar. In the spring time, especially, when the marshes and sloughs were clear of rushes, it was fairly easy to make this trip by sailboat for those who knew the art of sailing.
James W. Hanson, Willie Gabrielson and Lars Johnson, better known as ”Lille Lars,” three well known Vikings of Lake Lillian, who were noted for their skill in handling a sailboat. They were not only experts at sailing, but they made their own boats and rigging, as well. James was really the captain of the gang. Many a thrilling adventure did he have in crossing either Lake Lillian or Big Kandiyohi Lake. The rougher the weather, the more his joy.
Once in a while races across the lake would be staged, and, according to the stories told, James would generally win.
On their trips to Willmar, often a large group would go along for a merry excursion. They would start at Lake Lillian, enter the creek to the west, follow it to Big Kandiyohi Lake, cross the Johnson creek, then follow the big sloughs to Lake Fanny, from there to Lake Waconga, crossing to the north into Grass Lake, and from there following the sloughs until they reached Willmar, making their landing about where the Zim’s cabins were located. Willlmar Avenue and 1st street
After having seen all the sights of Willmar, they would return home by the same route, maybe doing some fishing along the way.
Hemming S. Nelson told us that back in 1883 he and Hans Larson sailed from Big Kandiyohi Lake to Willmar. They tied their boat to the pasture fence on the Glarum farm. Only at one place did they have to drag their boat across—the road by the southeast shore of Lake Waconga.
Big Kandiyohi Lake can boast of having a steamboat plying its surface for many years. This steamboat was owned by Willie Gabrielson, who lived by the east shore of the lake.
Not only did Gabrielson own the boat, but he was the builder. Everything about the boat was home-made. Even the engine that propelled the boat was built by Gabrielson. And don’t think it was a crude bungling piece of workmanship. It was not. Mr. Gabrielson’s mechanical work is high-class workmanship. The boat was run on Big Kandiyohi Lake from 1905 – 1919. On the 3rd of July, Willie steamed his boat from Big Kandiyohi Lake down the slough to Lake Lillian to be ready the next day to haul passengers back and forth between two Fourth of July picnics on opposite sides of the lake.
Willie Gabrielson, amateur astronomer, built this telescope
George W. Hart and others petitioned for a district and one was established in 1866. At first it was No. 4, later renumbered No. 40.
March 26, 1870 was the date of the first business meeting at the home of J.A.J. Bomsta residence. J.A. Johnson was elected clerk; J.A. J. Bomsta, director; A.P. Quist, treasurer. J.M. Pitman, the first teacher taught two terms in Reverend Bomsta’s log house.
The schoolhouse was built in the spring of 1872 at a cost of $900. It was located on two sites, and was burned to the ground accidentally in 1930.
A new building was erected and served as a school until reorganization in 1953 and then sold at public auction and moved southeast of Lake Lillian. It serves as a residence.
George W. Hart and others asked for the establishment of a district on January 14, 1875.
The organizational meeting was held February 1, 1876 at the Erick Westling home. Elected were Peter Anderson, director; Erick O. Linne, treasurer, George W. Hart, clerk.
The first school was held in the fall of 1876 in the Erick O. Linn home. Laura Owre was the teacher. In succession school was held in Erick Westling, Jonas Johnson and Peter Anderson residences.
In 1878 a building was erected at a cost of about $500. This building burned accidentally in the twenties.
A new school was erected at a different site. After the reorganization in 1953 it was sold and is now a residence near Blomkest.
On May 25, 1865, a petition was made for the establishment of a district but it was not granted until January 6, 1866.
The organizational meeting was held January 21, 1886. Hemming E. Anderson was elected director; Nils A. Nielson, treasurer; Hans Owre, clerk.
The first school was held in the H.E. Anderson home in the fall of 1886 and the spring of 1887. The teacher was Jennie L. Gunner.
In 1887 a school was built for approximately $600. In 1902 this district was divided into 81 North and 81 South. The 81 North building accidentally burned some years later. A new school was built.
When the reorganization took place in 1953, the East Lake Lillian Township purchased the building and grounds for a township hall.
This district was established June 7, 1869 as Dist. No. 7. It was renumbered Dist. 43 at a later date. The district was organized at a meeting at the home of J.J. Vick, March 26, 1870. The first school board consisted of Nels. A. Anderson, director; John M. Johnson, clerk; Emil Hanson, treasurer. George Washington Hart took an active part in establishing and organizing this district.
The first school was taught in the spring of 1870 in the Wilhelm Lund log house. Henry Baker of Greenleaf was the first teacher with a wage of $20 a month.
A schoolhouse was built in 1871 at a cost of $700. This building was located at three different places during the years it served the public. After reorganization in 1953, the schoolhouse was sold at public auction and is now a residence in Willmar.
In 1925 a two-room school house was built in the village of Lake Lillian. It was known as Dist. 110. The first teachers were Mildred Tatting and Raymond Westerberg.
The first school board was: August J. Johnson, clerk; Lars Erickson, treasurer; and H.R. Mattson, chairman.
In July, 1953, the area around Lake Lillian was reorganized and Districts 40,43,5, 81 and105 united with District 110 in Lake Lillian to form a new district –No. 113.
District 110 schoolhouse was sold and dismantled and the materials used on a farm. By 1955 a find modern school building was constructed to accommodate eight grades.
Since the state of Minnesota renumbered all school districts, this school is known as District 344.
Many meetings preceded the formation of this church. Bishop Murray met with interested Catholics and the first authorized mission church began with the celebration of Mass in the Lake Lillian Railroad depot in February, 1936.
A small house was purchased on Main Street. Fr. Murphy was appointed acting pastor. Wm. Kasal was a trustee and the families of Clem Huebsch, Mrs. F. Dulik, Joe Wallenta, Emil Olson and Art Meyers participated in establishing the parish.
A fire in 1941 resulted in temporary services being held in Wm. Kasal’s home. A basement church was constructed. The growth of the parish necessitated the building of a new church with dedication July 8, 1958.
The present pastor is Rev. Merle Monnens who resides in Raymond, Minnesota.
This church was organized May 21, 1898 following the work of a traveling missionary, Rev. Knute Nelson. The building was erected in 1889 at the cost of $1200. Ole A. Larson was the leader and elder. The deacons were Rev. K.J. Vick, Ole Larson and Christopher Johnson. The trustees were Enoch Gunner, Ingebregt Johnson. First secretaries were L.P. Owre and John Carlson. The latter also served as treasurer.
The tornado of 1933 completely destroyed the church. The Minnesota Baptist Conference gave the Lake Lillian congregation a church at Nevis, Minnesota. This was dismanteled and incorporated in a new building at the Lake Lillian location. The Christmas program of 1933 was presented in the new church.
Rev. William Smith is the pastor.
The Norwegian-Danish Methodist Episcopal church was built in 1890 at a cost of $1200. A notice was posted on the church door Feb. 1, 1891 calling for an organizational meeting to be held Feb. 21, 1891 for the purpose of organizing a religious corporation.
Rev. Ludvig Anderson was chairman; A.M. Hanson, clerk and the trustees were A.E. Anderson, A.M. Hanson and Christopher Johnson. Rev. Ludvig Anderson was the first pastor.
The Norwegian Methodist Episcopal church of Lake Elizabeth was organized about 1866 and a church was built by 1870. The early ministers of this church served the needs of the Lake Lillian Methodists. The membership of the Lake Elizabeth church dwindled and the doors were closed.
A basement was added in 1921 and other changes have been made to the Lake Lillian church.
Rev. Gerald Domonoske is the present pastor.
The Tromso congregation was organized August 16, 1885 mainly through the efforts of Erick Larson and J.J. Vick. This meeting was in the Erick Larson home under the leadership of Rev. A.N. Kleven. The first officers elected were: Erick Larson, chairman; Solomon Solomonson, secretary; J.J. Vick, treasurer; Hans Haakensen, N.A. Mathiason and J.J. Vick, trustees.
A church was erected in 1885 at a cost of $850. At the annual meeting in 1946 it was voted to change the name from Tromso Lutheran church to Grace Lutheran church.
The last service in the Tromso church was held December 3, 1946. On November 23, 1947 the cornerstone was laid for the new church in Lake Lillian. The new educational addition was dedicated in the early part of 1964.
Rev. M.A. Thompson is the present pastor.
The forerunner of this church was the Christina congregation which organized March 8, 1875 under the leadership of Revs. Peter Beckman and Louis Johnson. The first recorded meeting was held December 3. Rev. Louis Johnson was chairman; Ole Lundquist, secretary; E.O. Linn and E. Westling served as deacons.
On January 18, 1886 it was decided to build a church. It was completed before the close on 1889 at an approximate cost of $1500. In 1925, John E. Leeberg and Lars Erickson reported that the sum of $8000 had been subscribed for a new church in Lake Lillian. The cornerstone was laid September 6, 1925. Various major modernizations have been added in recent years.
Rev. V. Eugene Johnson is the present pastor.
MIDSUMMER PICNIC, June 23, 1912 at the O. Erickson farm.
These Photos of the 1964 celebration are not included in the original publication of the "orange book" above
John L Hanson, 1898- 2001.and Bill Peterson.
John's brother, James, 1896- 1982 built the yoke and wagon and trained the oxen.
1 2 Pastor Arnold Hedin 4 5
names on back