Young Icelandic Woman Killed Instantly in 1889

Updated: Jul 26


This story begins with an 1889 newspaper article. My friend, Jim Benjaminson sent the article, which is certainly not the entire story of this young woman.

"A Runaways Fatal Result

Jona Goodmanson, aged 26 years, was instantly killed here Saturday. She, in company with friends, had started for Cashel, where she intended to spend the Sabbath and attend divine services, as there was to be preaching in her language, Iceland(ic) on Sunday. While seated in a lumber wagon, and on a loose seat, a runaway team from behind plunged into the rear end of the vehicle and the concussion threw her out and she was instantly killed, her neck being broken.

She has no relatives in this neighborhood. The team that ran away was a pair of bronchos driven by Mike McGrath, who, with George Finkle, were thrown out. The bronchos afterwards became detached from the buggy.

~ Grand Forks Plaindealer newspaper article from 17 May 1889."

Here is a photo of a Lumber Wagon used during this time. This is just an illustration. We do not know the look of this lumber wagon used by the friends of Jona Goodmanson.


Now for a little part of Jona Goodmanson's REAL STORY. Her name is Jónína Guðrún Guðmundsdóttir and she was born in northeast Iceland. Even though her story is too short and her demise very sad, I have to believe that she had many good days and her outlook on life was one of optimism and hope. In her case, there was no family to bury her so the neighbors must have taken care of her services. Are other family members out there that wonder about Jónína Guðrún? This was a good mystery to solve – just for Jónína Guðrún. At the very least, here is her story. Maybe a family member will learn about her last day in America or you, the reader, can just learn one more story about a young Icelander in Vesturheim. The family lived in northeast Iceland where many left for North America.


Iceland area marked

Jónína Guðrún was born as the 5th and youngest child of the family 15 Mar 1860 on the now abandoned farm, Svalbarðsseli í Þistilfirði, N-Þingeyjarsýsla in Iceland (white circle below). At the age of 13, her father died. Jónína Guðrún moved from the family farm to find work at Skinnastaður (teal circle below) in a nearby parish in the Öxarfjörður.


Her only surviving sibling, Gísli Guðmundsson, lived at Ytra-Lón (red circle to left). Her mother died in October of 1885 at 57 years of age in their home area of Svalbarðssókn. Two years after the death of her mother, in 1887, Jónína Guðrún was in Vopnafjörður (yellow circle to left) to leave for America. She left on the ship Camoens. I wonder how she traveled and what adventures she had along the way. Who was there to see her off? Did she bring any precious items from her family in a special trunk?

Jóna´s parents are the farmer, Guðmundur Gíslason (1802-1873), and his wife, Sigurlaug Jónsdóttir (1827 - 1885). Guðmundur became a father to a baby girl and a baby boy born within 5 days of each other with two different women. Baby Matthildur was born 21 Jul 1850 to his wife, Sigurlaug Jónsdóttir. Baby Gísli was born 26 Jul 1850 to Guðb