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Fulfilling a "Family Commandment"

Posted: Tuesday, Jun 17th, 2014

Ole and his wife Vonnie, his mother Lucile Olesen and his brother Merrel and his wife Marie. In this photo from the Moody County Historical Society’s files, we find Ole Oleson and his sister Ingrid, who returned to Flandreau in 1957 and had this photo taken by the cornerstone, which bears their grandfather’s name as the builder. Laying the cornerstone, July 1914

Carleen Wild

Enterprise staff

"Ever since I was a little boy, my father had encouraged me to remember the story and plan on attending," said Ole Olesen.

Oleson was on the phone from his home in Northern Idaho, very vividly detailing countless conversations had over the years with his father about life in Flandreau. As he reminisced about the stories told, he talked about his grandfather’s role in helping establish the area and the community, his role in the construction of the now 100 year old County Courthouse, that his name is among those engraved into the side of the building.

And he talked about just how many family members will be joining him on an upcoming trip back to Flandreau this Fourth of July for the Centennial Courthouse Celebrations.

"The only thing that will keep me away is bad health or hospitalization," he added, chuckling as he said it. "It's pretty exciting when I think about it."

The Olesen family plans to gather for the big 4th of July party this summer along with quite a few others, many of them, descendants of the Commissioners of Moody County at the time our courthouse was built.

They are coming to celebrate the history here and learn more about their ancestors. They are also coming, along with many others, to satisfy a long held curiosity about just what is sealed in the time capsule buried in the cornerstone of the building at the time of construction.

"My dad was 5 years old when he was there for the ceremony with his father, my grandfather, O. C. Olson. He always said to me, I can't live that long, but you can and you must go back for the opening of that time capsule," Olesen said, with a mix of sadness and a deep sense of pride and family loyalty in his voice.

"I'm not sure how many family we'll have with us yet. But, we have three children and three grandchildren and they've all expressed an interest in being there. My brother (Merrel) who's the oldest and I'm the youngest, still remain. We both plan on coming. A cousin (Audrey) from my dads younger sister (Fern), she lives a few miles from us. We're probably going to bring her with us in the car. She has brothers who may or may not make it. I have another cousin (Tom) who's the son of my dad's younger brother (Don). He's planning on coming with his sister (Donna), they did their childhood years just outside of Flandreau."

The last time the (Ole’s) family was back, was for a reunion in 1991.

“Attending the July 4th ceremony at Flandreau will fulfill what is almost a ‘life-commandment’. Coming, as it will, so near my planned retirement, I suspect it will feel as if I’ve had the joy of experiencing one last dream my father planted in me.”

A little more about the family:

Ole C. (Christian/Chris) Olson was first of the Olesen family to be born in the United States. The family took a homestead in Dakota territory in 1876 after the family emigrated from Denmark.

Ole Olesen says his father, Raymond, was 9 at the time his grandfather, Ole C. Olson, died of stomach cancer. It was just few years after the cornerstone of the Courthouse was laid.

The Olson family made their first home in Trent. Jens Olesen, Ole's great-grandfather, was the founder of Sioux Valley Baptist Church.

Ole Olesen of Idaho and the subject of this article, is named after his grandfather, Ole C. Olson. Ole is a pastor of three 7th-day Adventist congregations in Idaho and Washington.

You may have noticed the two different spellings of the family’s last name above. Is it Olson or Oleson? Well, it’s both. They are the same family and should have the exact same last name. One family story is that it had been changed at one point over trying to get a home loan and not wanting the lender, a Swede, to know the family was Danish. Ole's father was born an Olson but changed it back to the original spelling as he had his own family.

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