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We Made Baldur


Farmer Sigurdur Christopherson



Sigurdur was born on July 9, 1848, at Neslondum, Myvatn, Iceland. As an adult he worked for a neighbouring farmer, but wages were poor. Late every fall he went up the mountains searching for sheep that had not been found the first time of fall roundup. These trips were fraught with danger and hardship. Any sheep found so late in the fall and winter were equally divided between the owner (all sheep are marked in Iceland) and the one who found them. In this way he made more money than his wages. When he was 25 years old, he managed to save enough to pay his passage to America. He saw it was not possible to live in Iceland except in poverty and he thought how much better it would be to live in a country where grain, fruit and vegetables would grow. No one from that part had emigrated from Iceland and everyone thought it a foolish move.

A few days before Whit Sunday, 1873, he bade farewell to family and friends who had accompanied him to the seaport town of Husavik. There he boarded a small sailing vessel called 'Hjalmar', that was leaving for Norway. Among those who took passage on the same boat were Gudrun and Gudfinna Aradottir (sisters of Skafti Arason), and Jon Halldorson.

On June 30, 2 a.m., they arrived at New York. It was a dark night, but the city was shining with lights, the most beautiful sight Sigurdur had seen in his life. The young Icelanders then had their first taste of railway travel from New York to Milwaukee. From there the men set out looking for work. Sigurdur was hired by a farmer for $18 a month. He found the weather unbearably hot and found it hard to sleep at night; he became ill.

In July, 1875, Skafti Arason and Kristjan Jonsson arrived in Milwaukee from Kinmount. They were on their way to Manitoba to look for land. Sigurdur joined them and after deciding on the Keewatin district north of Manitoba for the Icelandic Immigrants, the three men took work on the C.P.R. in East Selkirk until October when the Icelanders from Kinmount joined them.

Caroline Taylor was born May 11, 1856, the daughter of William Stuart Taylor and Isabella Slimmons. Her early childhood was spent in Kingston, Ont., later, the family moved to Lansing, Michigan. When Caroline was nine years old, her mother died, leaving five daughters. There followed a sad period when these five little girls in heavy mourning (black dresses trimmed with black crepe) lived with their grief-stricken father. Strangers would stop them on the street and ask them whom they mourned, and the girls would burst into tears. Carrie, in later years, had a strong aversion to mourning, especially for children.

Carrie’s uncle, John Taylor, had become involved with a group of Icelandic settlers, including, Sigurdur Christopherson, who were arranging to settle in Manitoba. Through him she met Sigurder in Winnipeg and they were married Jan. 22, 1877. Because the Icelanding settlement was under a smallpox quarantine the happy couple stood on one side of Netley Creek (the quarantine boundary) while the Metis minister stood on the other.

Sigurdur had taken a homestead and named it Husavik (just south of Gimli), wherethey farmed for four years until moving to Argyle Municipality in the spring of 1881 the move Their new homestead of 'Grund',  was on NE 10-6-14. Their household effects, stove, dishes, and a precious box of books, were shipped to Portage la Prairie, but were lost in transit. They lived in a tent and Carrie cooked over a campfire all summer until a small one-room cabin was built.

Sigurdur was on the first town council of Baldur, and it was Carrie who suggested the name for the town. 'Carrie Ave.' was named for her. Both took an active part in community life. Their doors were always open to friends and strangers. Many families would stay with them or on Sigurdur's pre-emption (Little Baldur) until they could get their own homes built.

A new house was built in 1896; in 1904 a large barn. Sigurdur continued much colonization work, making more trips back to Iceland, and also some into the Swan River area of Manitoba. He had also built up a real estate and insurance business, with Carrie working as his secretary, well able to carry on his business when he was away.

In 1903, Sigurdur was finally struck down by ill health and was confined to bed for months. The following winter he suffered a relapse, so on his doctor's advice, he and Carrie travelled to the west coast. On a previous trip, Sigurdur had bought a piece of land on the seaside. One day when the west coast climate had made him stronger, they walked up to this property, a beauty spot with an overgrown orchard, they fell in love with it.

Sigurdur died on Easter Day, March 27, 1921. Carrie died on Dec. 9, 1923. The day of her funeral was like a summer day, sunny and warm, 'just like Carrie's character', it was said. Both are buried in the Grund Cemetery here in Argyle Municipality.

Adapted from Come into our Heritage, page 335.

Our Heritage  People / Index