andrew burke





Road Trip 2012: Minnesota - Land of My Ancestors

Posted on: 2012-08-27

In May 2012, my mother-in-law gave us her old car - but we live in Halifax and the car was in Edmonton. So we flew there and drove it all the way back to Halifax. We had great weather and I had a new camera. This is part 7 of a series of blog posts about the trip.

(All of the photos are hosted on Flickr - click on any to see bigger versions and browse the full set.)

After a restful morning in the Ramada in suburban Fargo (which has room service breakfast at a surprisingly reasonable rate), we drove over to Moorhead for special family-related business: My grandfather grew up here, and his house is still standing.

Although I had never been to this part of the USA before, I'm actually 1/4 Midwestern/Norwegian. My mother's father was named Herman Iverson, and he spent his first years on a farm in rural North Dakota. When his father died, his mother moved with him and his sisters into a large house in Moorhead. The house was near Concordia College and was large enough to take boarders, which I gather is the main way that they made it through the Depression years.

Several years ago, I discovered a scrapbook of my late grandfather's, covering his birth all the way to his first years away at college. In it I found report cards and medical reports with his home address on them - so I looked it up on Google Street View and it was clearly the same house as in his old pictures. So since we were nearby we just had to go see the place.

Here's what it looked like in 1930 or so:

Moorhead House ca. 1930

And here's what it looks like now:

Me in front of my grandfather's house in Moorhead Minnesota.

Here's my grandfather in front of the house some time in the early 1930s.

Herman Iverson - Moorhead ca. 1930

Here's a favourite of mine, where he's all dressed up for some fancy occasion - maybe it's just the kinds of movies I watch, but doesn't this just shout "gangster"?

Dapper Herman Iverson - Moorhead ca. 1930

(Quick bio: My grandfather was a good athlete and musician, as well as an Eagle Scout, and he went to medical school at Johns Hopkins, where he met an attractive nursing student who happened to be the daughter of my arctic explorer ancestor. They married and were posted in Los Angeles during the War, where they had my mother. After the war, they set up a lifelong ophthalmology practice in Eureka, California. He died in 1994.)

After a few pictures around the house (it was being renovated and nobody seemed to be home), we headed east across Minnesota, skirting past Minneapolis and passing through places like Rothsay, the self-proclaimed "Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota":

Rothsay: Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota

Then we entered Wisconsin, which is worth a post of its own.

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