For Better or Worse ~ 3 Betrothals: 2 Weddings and 1 Success

10.16.2022 [archived ~ originally published 10.16.2016]

Miss Alice Pauline, Miss Ella Kiernan and Miss Emma Bjorklund may not have known each other, but they did have a few things in common.  First, their birth names began with a vowel; second, they were young women at the turn of the 20th century; and third, they all desired to marry men in the communities of Deer River or Bigfork during the new decade.

In fact, each did accept a marriage proposal with interesting circumstances.  Emma read of Axel’s predicament in the local paper, Ella corresponded with a widower, and Alice believed her beau was as smitten as she was.  Alice, Ella and Emma or their betrothed was considered newsworthy and an article about each was published in the local papers.   I will also provide you with the “rest of the story” deduced from the facts I uncovered.

A Betrayed Girl ~ Itasca News 5-3-1902

“The following article in this morning’s Duluth News Tribune has caused speculation in Deer River today as to who the white-aproned ‘gent’ referred to:

‘Miss Alice Pauline, aged 23, called at the office of the county poor board yesterday with a sad tale of duplicity on the part of the man who she said, had promised to wed her, but who had deceived her.  The man, she said, was a barkeeper at Deer River and he had sent her to Duluth several weeks ago with the promise that he would follow soon and take care of her.  The girl was in a delicate condition and without friends in Duluth and went to the poor board for assistance.

‘After hearing her story Mr. Cook told her that she did not belong to St. Louis County and that he could do nothing for her.  He advised the girl to proceed to Grand Rapids, the county seat of Itasca County, in which Deer River is situated, and apply for aid at the auditor’s office.  Mr. Cook also wrote a letter to the auditor setting forth the girl’s story as she told it to him.

‘Mr. Cook said that this was but one of many such cases that come to the office of the poor board.  The girl said her parents reside in Manitoba and that she went to Deer River to work in the North End hotel.  She soon made the acquaintance of the man who promised to marry her but who failed to do so.  It is expected that the Itasca County authorities will take up the girl’s case against her betrayer.  She will leave for Grand Rapids in the morning.’”

The Rest of the Story:

There was no follow up on this article and I could not find enough information on the censuses to determine if Alice Pauline stayed in the area.  Perhaps when she got to Grand Rapids, she decided to look for employment there, rather than return to her acquaintances in Deer River.  And as far as the unreliable groom, folks probably had a guess in 1902, but since at that time Deer River had about a dozen employing at least two bartenders, your guess is as good as mine as to who the betrayer of Miss Alice Pauline might have been.

Cooling Oe’r Big Fork Way ~ Itasca News 1-10-1903

“The bride was from Missouri but was shown her lord-to-be for the first time Sunday in Deer River and was married Monday.  Kenneth McLean, a bachelor homesteader of the Big Fork valley is the happy man.  A lady of about thirty-five, wearing glasses and somewhat nervous inquired at the Northern hotel if Kenneth McLean was around.  He was, and had been for two days, evidently waiting for something to happen.  The twain were introduced and it happened just as the matrimonial paper had designed it should.  No justice of the peace or minister happened to be in town that day so the newly met but acquainted lovers went to Grand Rapids the next day and Rev. E.L. Jaquish united them with the tie that binds.  The bride was Miss Ella Kiernan of Ward, Mo.  The happy couple departed Tuesday over the Itasca Road for the Big Fork.”

The Rest of the Story:

Ella Kiernan apparently responded to an advertisement Kenneth had placed in one of the many matrimonial papers of the time.  He was twice married, the father of six children and a widower. He and his children had moved from near St. Cloud to the area shortly after 1900.  Ella was the daughter of a prominent doctor, received a good education and was a teacher.  Based on the 1905 Minnesota census and the 1910 Federal census we can surmise that the marriage was not consummated. In 1905 there is no Mrs. Ella Mclean listed with the McLean family, and in 1910 Kenneth McLean is enumerated with his two youngest children and identified as a widower. 

Ella Kiernan is enumerated in Huntsville, Missouri as a single woman, teaching in the public school and residing with her sister.  Maybe Ella changed her mind on the rugged train ride to Bigfork, or when she saw the small log structure that was her new home.  Or perhaps, Kenneth had not given her a truthful picture of the place he lived, and she balked at the primitive log structure and rudimentary kitchen.  It couldn’t have been because the only child he had mentioned was three-year-old Basil and had neglected to say she was to cook and clean for four other nearly grown sons, could it?

Bachelors Ready to Settle Down ~ Bigfork Settler 7-4-1907

“If there are any ladies in or about Bigfork who are single and are looking for a chance to change their name and occupation they might do well to write to or call on Axel Damgren or Sam Torgensen as both these gentlemen are tired of living alone and have made known their desire of having seine one of the gentler sex take pity on them and make their homes brighter.  Both of these men are well-to-do and honest farmers who are tired of living on baking powder biscuits and hoe cakes; and they will undoubtedly make kind and loving husbands.  Now girls ‘do not let your chances like the sunbeams pass you by.’”

The Rest of the Story:

Axel was considered an eligible bachelor at the age of 25, but 46-year -old Sam may have been thought of to be too old for most of the young women who had settled in the remote community of Bigfork.  Emma Bjorklund was one of these women.  She had been born and raised in Wright County, but when so many others her age moved north to the Big Fork Valley, she did too.  Emma may have had her eye on Axel before the newspaper article appeared, or he may have asked her to a dance or two.  After all, it was the editor who took it upon himself to mention the bachelors.  At any rate, Axel and Emma married shortly thereafter and had a son in June 1908!  A daughter was born to them several years later.  The couple remained married, residing near Bigfork until Axel’s untimely death in 1923.

1 Comment

  1. Vickie says:

    Interesting. So much of being a person and wanting a family and a home doesn’t change.


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