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Manuscripts by Subject - Politics / Government - #10039

Title:  Thorwald Mostad (1881-1973)

Dates: 1915-1965

Collection Number: 10039

Quantity: .5 ft.

Abstract: The collection contains correspondence, papers from Minot Farmers Bank and the 1917-1919 North Dakota State Legislatures, printed material, and miscellanea. The correspondence spans from 1916 to 1959 and consists of Nonpartisan League mailings and letters to and from Mostad concerning political affairs, appointments, and elections. Subjects of other letters include resolutions written by Mostad, the Mill and Elevator Association, and the convening of special Senate sessions. Correspondence peaks during election times and Legislative sessions. 

The Minot Farmers Bank subject file has check, receipts, pamphlets, letters, and stockholder membership materials.  The 1917-1919 Legislatures file hold directories, committee and officer’s lists as well as calendars, Gridiron Club banquet programs, a journal of the House of Representatives. 

Literary productions consist of speeches, addresses, and notes on state and vote issues by Mostad from 1919 to 1965.  He also wrote a history of the NPL and there is an anonymous response to a letter to the editor. 

The legal and financial documents include an auditor’s report, checks and receipts for the NPL, Progressive Emancipation bond certificates, and the NPL’s 1924 campaign financial statement. 

Mostad’s NPL membership and senatorial certificates, political brochures and pamphlets, and legislative and NPL hand-outs make up the printed materials.  Posters, candidate promotional cards, Bank of North Dakota mailings, programs, press releases, song sheets, and letters to the editor are also included in the 1915-1960 span of printed materials.  A large amount of newspapers and clippings concerning the NPL, and local and national news and politics also make up a portion of this category.  The Miscellaneous file has Senate letterhead, unattached postmarked envelopes, a map, Ward County election results,  a list of enumerators, a list of NPL expenses relating to card peddlers, 1924 and 1934 campaign contributor lists, and voter memos.

Provenance:  The collection was donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota by Thorwald Mostad on September 1, 1959.

Property rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to the collection.

Copyrights:  Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation:  Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

From Thorwald Mostad’s obituary, July 23, 1973

Mr. Mostad was born April 16, 1881, in redwood County, MN to Mr. and Mrs. Thorsten Mostad. In 1888 he moved with his parents to Sundre Township, Ward County, where the family farmed. He homesteaded in the Sundre Township and farmed there the remainder of his life.

In 1916 he was elected to the North Dakota senate with the endorsement of the Nonpartisan League faction of the Republican party. He was Deputy U. S. Marshal from 1914 to 1916 and supervisor of the federal census in 1930 for 10 counties in North Dakota.

He was president emeritus of the Ward County Old Settlers Association and Ward County Pioneers, a member of Sons of Norway and charter member of Thor Lodge, No. 67, Minot. As member of the State Senate in 1919 he helped to enact the Industrial Program of the Nonpartisan League, the Industrial Commission, the State Hail Insurance Act, the Bonding Department of the State, and County Officials, and other labor legislation. He spent three years from the spring of 1942 to the fall of 1945 working ont eh Alaskan Highway on the Commissary Department. For the last few years he resided at the Lutheran Home in Minto.

Survivors include three sisters: Mrs. Martha Saugstad, Mrs. E. R. (Tillie) Smith and Mrs. Sophie Korsrud, all of Minot; five brothers: Edward, Alfred, Chris and George, all of Minot, and Theodore of Anaconda, Montana.

“Valley Lore Comes Natural to Mostads; Thorwald Reviews Family’s Early Years”
(MSS 10644 box 2)

Men saturated with lore of Ward County and the Mouse valley are two now elderly brothers, Thorwald and Ed Mostad, the older male members of a large family of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Torsten Mostad.

Thorwald, president emeritus of the Ward County Old Settlers Association, has been devotedly active in the past decade, to a labor of love, that of collecting historical material and anecdotes from lives of the early settlers.

More or less a silent partner in these activities is his brother Ed. Silent as far as the public side of their hobby is concerned; Ed nevertheless has made his contribution. His penchant for remembering personalities, places, family relationships makes him a valuable member of the team. “His memory is better than mine,” says Thorwald.

It is Thorwald who has penned the following brief account of the coming of the Mostad family and of early Ward county happenings, but Ed’s store of recollections has entered into it also:

“I was born in the township of Swedes Forest, Redwood County, MN on April 16, 1881, on an 80-acre farm. It was in the Minnesota valley, eight miles south of Sacred Heart. My parents were Torsten Mostad and Gunhild Mostad, who was of the Rudi family and who had arrived in Minnesota in 1867.

My father was dissatisfied with his small farm, and was offered $1,200 for it. he accepted, and paid off the mortgage he owed on it, and pulled out for northern Dakota in the spring of 1888, to look for free land. He had corresponded previously with Johannes Kopperdahl, who had stirred my father’s interest by his articles in the Norwegian newspapers of those days, The Decorah Posten and Amerika. Kopperdahl was urging his Scandinavian readers to come out and take up land around Villard post office, where he himself had located. This post office was at or near the mouth of Wintering River, where it joins the Mouse, some 12 or 15 miles southwest of Towner, McHenry County.

Father arrived at Kopperdahl’s in April, looked over the vacant land around there, and decided it was too sandy to suit him. Then he came into Minot, some 40 miles farther west on the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Manitoba Railroad. There a city had already sprung up of some 1,200 inhabitants, and the county seat was about the be moved to Minot from Burlington.

He looked over the country, and filed on the NE ¼ of Section 22 in what is now Sundre Township, some eight miles southeast of the city. This was Father’s pre-emption. Three filing rights could be used at that time, homesteads, preemptions and tree claims, each 160 acres if the law was complied with.

Father, however, never did file a tree claim, which required that at least 10 acres of trees be planted.

He sent for Mother and the four children. They included myself, aged 7, brother Ed, 5, sister Martha (Mrs. Oliver Saugstad), 4, and sister Tillie (Mrs. E. R. Smith), who then was 2. We arrived by train late at night on May 17, 1888. We stayed that night at the Norgard rooming house in Minot.

The next day Father took us out to the prairie claim, where he had built a small tar-paper, one-room house. The rest of the Mostad children were born in Ward County.

The neighborhood settled up quickly with people on almost every quarter-section. They all tried to break up some sod. My father bought a team of oxen and broke up some small strips of land, and seeded them. In 1888 there was very little rainfall.

The years 1889 and 1890 were almost rainless here during the summer. So no crops were raised. The new settlers began leaving almost as fast as they had arrived. Some headed back for the places they had come from. Land on the Sisseton Reservation was opened up just at that time, and quite a number of settlers who had dried out in North Dakota went there and took claims.

This withdrawal of settlers made the prairie Land of Ward County attractive for livestock raising, for the few settlers who remained. Some went into ranching on a large scale. During these dry years the Mouse river valley settlers were hard-pressed to provide feed for their livestock during the long winters, and many used to go out to the hills for hay. It was a trip of 12 or 14 miles, both ways, out to the hills, which was a hard trip for a team or horses to make in a day. I remember these loads of hay, being hauled in, were a familiar sight.

I particularly remember Jack Oswald, a big rancher and farm operator, perhaps the very first big-scale farmer in Ward County. He had come here from Owen Sound, Ontario, either in 1884 or 1885, and had settled in the Mouse valley at the so called Mill Timber, west of the present site of Logan. His buildings were on the place more recently owned and occupied by Andrew Dubovy. Oswald and his two sisters, who kept house for him, took up level prairie quarters of land north of Logan. These he broke up and farmed. In those early years he could hire cheap labor, $20 per month being a big wage and very few hired men were able to get that much.

Probably $15 per month was the average wage paid during spring work and haying. During the six winter months Oswald was usually able to get lots of help just for providing winter board.

He (Oswald) must have had some money when he came here from Canada. He stacked his grain crops and had the grain threshed out by horse-power threshing rigs usually after freeze-up in the fall.

The neighborhood horse-powering in our neighborhood was owned by Nils Olson, father of Gustin Melby.

Oswald used horses and mules in his farming operations, and Nils Olson, too, usually had some fine teams of horses for work on the horsepower rigs.

Oswald also raised cattle in a big way, and had to go out to the hills for hay. He would take his crew out there, and put up the hay in June or July, then haul it in the fall, which was the job of hired men. One load would be hauled a day. I think Jack Oswald hauled in more hay for feed from the hills than anyone else, but he also hauled hay from the North Prairie around Norwich. The hired men would get up at 5 a.m., and start for hay before daylight, and return after dark. The teams would have to be alternated, as one team could not stand these trips every day for very long.

Always on the lookout for the best men to be hired, he paid Amund Kamp an extra $5 per month for the summer seasons. The pay for extra help during haying or harvest was $1 per day, and Oswald was a hard driver.

In 1889 when North Dakota entered the Union, Father’s place, being centrally located, was named as the polling place for what then was St. Carl Township. The election for delegates to the Constitutional Convention was held at our home, as well as the first state and county election after statehood.

My father had been township clerk of Swedes Forest Township in Redwood County, before coming to Dakota, and was the township clerk of St. Carl Township. (This township later was dissolved and was included in the first commissioner district in Ward County when the exodus of settlers occurred as the result of crop failures.

I can still remember the electioneering that went on outside our house at these early elections. You must remember there was no Australian ballot then; only one long slip of paper with either the Republican candidates on it, or the Democrats, which candidates previously had been chosen in precinct caucuses or county conventions or state conventions. In order to vote a split ticket you had to rub out the name of the candidate listed on the ticket you had, and write in the name of your own man. I can remember Nick Deegan handing a slip of paper with candidates’ names on it to C. S. Gregg, who was an old Confederate veteran. This old fellow, who was an early day resident on what is now the Regina Beeter farm, was of course a hot Democrat, as were the Deegans.

The first county officials that I personally can recollect were Peter Fund, auditor, and County Judge William Murray. Funk, in 1890, had opposition from H. E. Kristick, who was a sort of roving evangelist up and down the valley. Funk beat him badly in the election. A. C. Nedrud was in the treasurer’s office and register of deeds office during those early years, and Gunder Reishus, and a time or two Rev. T. S. Reishus, also served in the register of deeds office.

From statehood through the 1890, and up to 1904, the State of North Dakota and its politics were run, and policies determined, largely by the Alex McKenzie-Jud LaMoure political machine. North Dakota then as now was predominantly a Republican state. I recall that Major J. S. Murphy was the boss of this machine in Imperial Ward County. Among Murphy’s lieutenants were Martin Jacobson, Jim Scofield, Jim Johnson and others. I remember Major Murphy spoke with a stutter and was a large man, and had what would be called a domineering personality.

During the 1890s there was no serious challenge to the “Murphy Gang” as they were called, in county politics. There was an exception when Neil McDermid ran for county treasurer against Jim Scofield, one of Murphy’s main lieutenants, and McDermid (the Democratic candidate) won out by three votes when the votes were counted. This was of interest to us, for he was from our neighborhood. But McDermid held office only one term, and in the next election, after a spirited campaign, Scofield emerged the victor. I think this was in 1896 or 1898.

Anyhow the campaign of 1896 was a hot one everywhere, between Bryan and McKinley, and here in Ward county, it was the same. I remember Gunder Reishus was a candidate for commissioner of agriculture and labor on a fusion ticket (Democrats and Populists) , and was defeated in Novebmer. However, he stirred up quite a bit of interest locally, and he often visited with my father, who was a strong Bryan man.

On election day in November there was a howling snow-storm that started up in the morning, and continued for three days. However, most of the voters were interested enough to get to the polls in spite of it.


Box 1:
1 Correspondence, 1916-1959 & n.d.
2 Minot Farmers Bank, 1917-1918
3 1917-1919 North Dakota Legislatures, 1917-1919
4 Literary Productions, 1919-1965 & n.d.
5 Legal & Financial Documents, 1915-1924 & n.d.
6 Printed Material, 1915-1960 & n.d.
7 Newspaper Clippings, 1918-1962 & n.d.
8 Newspaper Clippings, 1918-1962 & n.d.
9 Miscellaneous, 1916-1934 & n.d.

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