Updated: May 27
Here is an article written by F. M. Einarson about the Borg Pioneer Memorial Home History. It is great to remember how our ancestors wanted to take care of the elderly in our community. The Borg Home and community still provide a great basic care facility in Mountain, North Dakota.
Borg Pioneer Memorial Home History by F. M. Einarson for the years of 1944 – 1949
The welfare of old people who no longer can care for themselves has long been a problem. The Icelandic communities throughout the country have had a problem of how best to take care of their aged people.
A Home for the Aged was a project suggested by Dr. B. J. Brandson, an outstanding Winnipeg physician and philanthropist, who was a native of the Gardar community. He was chairman of the Icelandic Evangelical Lutheran Synod Old Peoples Home Committee at Gimli, Man. In 1944, he submitted to Dr. Harald Sigmar, then pastor of the ND Icelandic parish, the idea that a Home for the Aged should be built somewhere in Pembina County. Dr. B. J. Brandson said the Icelandic Synod of Winnipeg would donate $15,000 out of the funds belonging to the Old People’s Home at Gimli, Man. As a result of this suggestion the seven congregations decided to sponsor the project. There was one member from each congregation elected to serve on a committee, to find out to what extent the people in the respective congregations would support such a project. After a thorough survey had been made, the committee was convinced that it was the desire of the people that a modern home should be built.
It took an unusual optimism, to say the least, to undertake such a project under the prevailing conditions, as the country was at war and a serious material and labor shortage coupled with the fact that the success of the project depended on voluntary donations of about $80,000.
At this point it was decided to make the present committee, a board of directors, and add the Upham Congregation of Bottineau County to the sponsorship, with one director representing them. The board of directors were instructed to organize and incorporate an Old People’s Home Association under the sponsorship of the following congregations: Vikur, Gardar, Hallson, Eyford, Vidalin, Fjalla, Peters, and Upham.
The following are the names of the directors chosen: Chairman F.M. Einarson, Mountain; Treasurer J.E. Peterson, Cavalier; Secretary Victor Sturlaugson, Langdon; Alvin Melsted, Gardar; Alli Magnusson, Milton; Einar Einarson, Hallson; G.J. Jonasson, Eyford; Asmundur Benson, Bottineau; Dr. H. Sigmar, an ex-officio member. F. S. Snowfield, Cavalier, was retained as attorney for the association.
During the next three years much time was spent in soliciting funds and planning for the general construction of the Home. Where to locate the Home was a major problem. Many favored Mountain; others favored Cavalier as the proper location. The city of Cavalier offered to donate the site. Locating the Home at Mountain seemed to be out of the question, as there was no water system there. To make it possible for the Home to be located at Mountain, the city council applied to the State Geological Department for a ground water survey to determine where and how much water would be available. The result of the survey showed ample supply of water, one-half mile west of the town. So great was the desire of the people of Mountain to have the Home located in the center of the Icelandic communities, that they authorized the city council to go to the expense of installing a modern water system for the town and Home. With the assurance that ample water would be provided, the committee selected a six-acre plot overlooking the beautiful Red River Valley. Five acres of this plot were later donated by Mr. and Mrs. Haraldur Olafson. Maria Olafson was the daughter of Mattusalem Einarson, an early settler of the community, and one acre was donated by Mr. and Mr. Walter Hannesson. John B Stephanson of Moosejaw, Sask., a son of Hensel, was given a cost plus contract for the construction. Carl Hanson, Winnipeg, Man., was retained as construction foreman.
June 24, 1948 was set for the construction to start. On June 22, a telegram was received informing the committee that the cement order had been canceled and could not be filled. The committee forthwith contacted lumber yards in Walsh, Cavalier, and Pembina Counties. In 36 hours, they had purchased and delivered 2,900 bags of cement and the work started on schedule. Men from the various communities volunteered their services in clearing the ground, pouring of concrete and hauling of material.
Fifteen hundred people attended the cornerstone ceremony Sunday, September 19, 1948. Among the well known persons present were Governor Fred G Aandahl, Attorney General Nels Johnson, and Clifford Williams, head of the Old Age Assistance Division, all of Bismarck, ND.
The program for the day with Reverend E.H. Fafnis, acting chairman, was as follows: F.M. Einarson, who was committee chairman, gave the address and welcome. Mayor M.F. Bjornson extended greetings. F.S. Snowfield, attorney for the committee then introduced the Governor. Personal greetings were then extended by Judge Grimson of Rugby, ND, Judge H.P. Thompson of Cavalier, Attorney Asmundur Benson of Bottineau, Arni Eggertson and Dr. B Olson, both of Winnipeg, Man.
A solo, “Drottin Vakir, Drottin Vakir,” was sung by Reverend Fafnis. The above title means in English “Bless This House.” (Translation means ‘The Lord Will Watch Over You’) Mrs. G.S. Goodman also sang the song, “Trees.” Music was furnished by the Langdon Band. The cornerstone ceremony was then opened by the singing of a hymn by all present and a Bible reading and prayer by Reverend Fafnis. Gamaliel Thorleifson, a pioneer of the Gardar community, and who was 83 years of age, then laid the stone and addressed the people in the Icelandic language. Congratulations and greetings from distant friends, who could not be present, were then read by Victor Sturlaugson. The singing of the National Anthem closed the program for the day. The stone was given by Carl Hanson of Winnipeg. The ladies aids of the respective communities had charge of the lunch, which was furnished by the women of the area.
In late October, the building had been closed in and work suspended for the winter. In January, we heard the shocking news – Thos. Jordan, the building contractor, had been killed in an aeroplane accident. Work, however, was started in the spring under the supervision of the committee. Graham and Son were given the contract for plumbing and Kyele Electric Co. for the electrical work, both of Grafton. W. H. Harris of HIbbing, MN, furnished the plaster, mill work, and roofing material at cost. John Axdal of Cavalier furnished Rusco Windows at cost. The following subcommittee of women were appointed to assist Mrs. B.F. Olgeirson, nurse in charge, in purchasing furnishings for the home: Mrs. F.M. Einarson, Mountain; Mrs. Victor Sturlaugson, Langdon; Mrs. Allie Magnusson, Milton; Mrs. Einar Einarson, Hallson; Mrs. J.E. Peterson, Cavalier; Mrs. G.J. Jonasson, Eyford; and Mrs. S.J. Olafson, Gardar. Dave Davidson of Cavalier offered to assist the committee in purchasing the necessary furnishing through a wholesale house at cost. The ladies aids and different organizations of the communities donated money to furnish a room apiece. Other rooms were furnished in memory of loved ones. S.J. Bjornson, jeweler of Devils Lake, donated a $300.00 clock. The Icelandic League donated money for the dining room furnishings in memory of Johannes Jonasson, Homeopath, who gave so much of his time and energy in administering to the sick in the early pioneer days. The living room furniture was donated by Mrs. Leonard Folson, Hoople; Mrs.. Harold Dougherty, Park River; and the daughters of Dan Laxdal, attorney, who gave much needed legal advice to emigrants who were bewildered by the language and laws of this country, and were often the prey of unscrupumen (promoters).
Mr. and Mr. Emil Walters of New York presented the Home with four beautiful pictures painted by Mr. Walter: “Land Blink in the Badlands of ND,” “Duchess County, New York,” “Kalfa Strund,” a residence in Iceland, and “Delphiniums.” In order to complete the building and pay for all material and labor, and yet avoid the necessity of putting on a drive for funds, the following men loaned the institution $16,500.00. Theo Thorleifson, Helgi Laxdal, Hall Bros., Alvin Melsted, and Joe Gestson, $1,000.00 each, all of Gardar; Melsted Bros., O.G. and H.G. Gudmundson, C.I. Gudmundson, Wm. Halldorson, and F.M. Einarson, all of Mountain, $1,000.00 each; Grimsi Goodman, Milton, $1,000.00; J. Snydal, Crystal, $1,000.00; Ted Vatnsdal, Eyford, $500.00. John Bjarnason had previously offered to loan $5,000.00 without interest at a time when construction money was being used up faster than donations were coming in and that offer was accepted with gratitude. Asmundur Benson, Bottineau, and C. Geir, Eyford, $1,000.00 each.
The Home was opened for occupancy with the following staff members in charge. Mrs. Gudrun Olgeirson, R.N.; Miss Olina Paulson, assistant; Miss Bertha Asmundson, cook; and Helgi Reykdal, janitor.
The names of those who had been admitted for residence January 1, 1950 are as follows: Gudridur Thorfinnson, Helga Bjornson, Adalheidur Sigurdson, Kristin Halldorson, Osk Johnson, Thuridur Johnson, Thorbjorg Oddson, Una Sturlaugson, Gudbjorg Snowfield, Thorbjorg Eyolfson, Johanna Thorun Johnson, John H. Bjarnason, S.K. Johnson, Ogmundur Swanson, Bjarni Peterson, and Sveinn Th. Gislason.
The dedication ceremonies were held Sunday, October 23, 1949. That brought 500 people, two hundred persons crowded the living-dining room. Three hundred listened in the halls and rooms through loudspeakers to the dedication ceremonies. Reverend E.H. Fafnis presided and led the dedication service. A community choir sang Icelandic and English hymns and anthems. Dr. H. Sigmar of Vancouver, B.C., pastor here when the project was originated, gave the dedication sermon in the Icelandic language. Dr. Richard Beck of the University of North Dakota Faculty, represented North Dakota Governor, Fred G. Aandahl, and as vice consul of Iceland, gave the official greeting of that country.
Victor Sturlaugson of Langdon, secretary of the building committee, gave the principal address. Other program features were a duet by Mrs. W.K. Halldorson of Mountain and Mrs. G.S. Goodman of Milton and a solo by Reverend E.H. Sigmar of Glenboro, Man., accompanied by his mother, Mrs. H. Sigmar. At the close of the program, Mr. and Mrs. F.M. Einarson were honored for their part in bringing the project to a successful close. Mrs. Einarson had been chairman of the building committee since its organization in 1944. He was presented with a gold watch by Rev. Fafnis on behalf of his friends, and Mrs. Einarson was presented with a corsage by Mrs. Fafnis. Judge G. Grimson of Bismarck, one of the community’s native sons, was introduced; he is now on the State Supreme Court Bench.
The community choir sang under the direction of Theo. Thorleifson, son of Gamaliel Thorleifson, who laid the cornerstone June 24, 1948. Lunch was served by a group of ladies aids of the Icelandic parishes. Thus there was brought to a successful close the erection of the Borg Pioneer Memorial Home, dedicated to the memory of the pioneers of North Dakota.