Updated: Jul 26
Ásta Jónasdóttir Skagfjörð was born in Iceland in 1830. They came to Dakota Territory in the spring of 1879, from Gimli, Manitoba.
They came by boat to Pembina then by wagon and ox team to their homestead 9 miles west of Cavalier, North Dakota. The "flat" between Pembina and Cavalier was almost a lake so the Skagfjord's tried to get a farm on higher ground, which proved to be very poor sandy soil, but it looked good to these pioneers as they had left floods and pestilence in Manitoba.
This pioneer mother had just gone through a great trial. She had only two children, a boy 11 and a girl 9. Both died the same week from smallpox which ravaged so many homes in the Gimli settlement in 1876-1877.
In her deep bereavement she was glad to make the change and come to a new country and in the adjustment mend her broken heart. She befriended a young girl and her fatherless son. Later this girl had a second son. She died when these children were very young and Mr. and Mrs. Skagfjord adopted these two little boys. The love them like their own. They felt God had helped them reconcile the loss of their children.
Mr. and Mrs. Skagfjord had some money when they homesteaded in Pembina County and built their home of lumber. This was the only frame house in the community. Today it would be considered small and inadequate. It was 14 x 16' with an upstairs room with two windows at either end. The down stairs room had three large windows of 12 panes each. The room was lined with ceiling boards. Then a lean-to 8 x 16 was added and used as a summer kitchen.
Mrs. Skagfjord was a cheerful neighbor and a good friend. She loved the family of her niece who lived on an adjoining farm and enjoyed the children in the home. In 1903, the family moved back to Canada much to her regret as she felt in the evening of her life she should enjoy peace and ease. She died there in 1906 at the age of 76 and is buried at Swan River Manitoba. The husband died there also and is buried beside his wife. The adopted sons also died there and are buried there.
Reprinted from the Pembina County Pioneer Daughter Biographies. They were compiled by George Freeman in 2007 and made available for purchase in three volumes. They are a great resource.
What this story leaves out or has incorrect is that Ásta Þóra was born 03 May 1836 in Bakka, Svarfaðardal, Eyjafjarðarsýsla. Kristján Kristjánsson Skagfjörð was born in 1842 at Borgargerði, Norðurárdal, Skagafjarðarsýsla. This couple also had three other children that were all born dead in Iceland. A boy in 1864, a girl in 1871, and another girl in 1871. Each family had their share of tragedy and loss in Iceland, too. Two of her brothers did not make it to their second birthdays. Ásta´s father had drowned in the early winter of 1842 when she was just 5 1/2 years old. But this story tells that she kept going on and trying to always make her life the best that it could be. Nonni Jonsson has a wonderful website on the Swan River settlement.
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Fairdale Cemetery at Swan River, Manitoba, Canada