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March 20: Ole Hertsgaard, Kindred Founder

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It’s a long way from Norway to Kindred, ND, yet deep connections between the two locations still remain. The key link involved the Hertsgaard family.

The story began in Gol, located in the Hallingdal valley, where Jorgen and Ingerid Hertsgaard farmed on a small patch of land. They were not prosperous. Yet, they had 7 children in 19 years of marriage. The oldest child, Ole Hertsgaard, was born on this date in 1842.

Ole’s father Jorgen died in 1860. A few years later, widow Ingerid and five of the children emigrated to America, seeking new opportunities.

The Hertsgaards first went to Rock County, Wisconsin, joining a colony of immigrant Norwegians before deciding to find less crowded lands farther west. They journeyed to Spring Grove, in southeastern Minnesota, but the land available for farming was already filled with Norwegian families.

And so, Ole Hertsgaard, as the oldest son, went forth as a “scout” to find land in Dakota Territory. In the spring of 1871, Ole, accompanied by Ole Iverson, reached Fort Abercrombie. From there, the two Oles walked 25 miles to the Sheyenne River and found a good place for homesteading, with woodlands along the river for shelter. Here they could put down new roots.

That summer, the rest of the Hertsgaard family arrived via an oxen-drawn covered-wagon to make land-claims. Widow Ingerid, with sons Ole, Knut, and Peder; and daughters Barbara, Olaug, and Birgit, thus became the first settlers in the vicinity of what would later become the town of Kindred.

Nineteen Norwegian families followed the Hertsgaards in 1871, and others arrived for years thereafter. Their faith being central to their lives, these families established their own Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1872, meeting in a settler’s home, with the liturgy, hymns, and catechism being in Norwegian.

The town of Kindred was founded 9 years later, when the Great Northern Railroad laid tracks there. Named for Fargo’s William A. Kindred, a land-agent, the town, almost all-Norwegians, grew gradually.

Kindred’s history books credit Ole Hertsgaard as its pioneering settler and remember the Hertsgaards as its “first family.” Ole lived to age 59, dying in 1901. He and his wife, Kari, had 6 children.

The word “kindred” means ‘kinsfolk,” or “group of related persons,” and even today, Kindred has a strong Norwegian-heritage, with plenty of Norwegian kinsfolk in town and on adjacent farmsteads. Indeed, it is no coincidence that its sports-teams are the “Kindred Vikings.”

Dakota Datebook by Steve Hoffbeck, retired MSUM History Professor


  • “Ole Hertsgaard,” Normanna Township, Cass County, ND, 1900 Federal Census, ancestry.com; “Ole J. Hertsgaard,” U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current, birthdate: 20 March 1942, ancestry.com, accessed February 12, 2024.
  • “History of Kindred,” Kindred Diamond Jubilee (Kindred, ND: Kindred Jubilee, 1955), p. 6-8, 11, 12-19.
  • “Kindred,” Rural Cass County: The Land and People (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1976), p. 585, 598, 619, 621.
  • “Church History,” Kindred Diamond Jubilee, p. 26.
  • “Ole J. Hertsgaard,” and “Knud Hertsgaard,” Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota (Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co., 1900), p. 511, 508.
  • Odd S. Lovoll, The Promise Fulfilled: A Portrait of Norwegian Americans Today (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), p. 10, 13-14, 47.
  • William C. Sherman, Playford V. Thorson, eds., Plains Folk: North Dakota’s Ethnic History (Fargo: N.D. Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, 1988), p. 188-191.
  • William C. Sherman, Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota (Fargo: N.D. Institute for Regional Studies, 1983), p. 90-91.
  • J.P. Hertsgaard, “Norway as Seen by the Special Correspondent of the Forum,” Fargo Forum, August 30, 1906, p. 9.
  • “Death of W.A. Kindred,” Washburn Leader, May 16, 1891, p. 1.
  • Mary Ann Barnes Williams, “Kindred,” Origins of North Dakota Place Names (Washburn, ND: Bismarck Tribune, 1966), p. 66.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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