Hans Eriksen Myhre
b.20 JUL 1869 Ringebu, Oppland, Norway
d.12 JAN 1952
m. 15 APR 1869
Facts and Events
Hans Erikson Myhre
Born in Tromsnes, Fåvang Parish, Ringebu
Romsås, Myhre, and Segelstad Family Names (Myhre also spelled Myre and pronounced like mirror but with an a at the end) The name is derived from myr (peat swamp) and indicates moist ground.
Hans Eriksen Myhre emigrated to the USA at the age of 19 leaving behind his ancestral home and family. His family can be traced as far back as the 1300's, living on various farms in the Fåvang/Ringebu area and neighboring communities throughout the Gudbrandsdalen Valley. One of his ancestors on his mother's side was Kristen Listad, the famous woodcarver from Sør-Fron.
Hans took advantage of the education he received both in Norway and the US, married, raised a family and became a prosperous businessman and banker during a time when the upper Midwest was rapidly growing. Then hard times fell on the bank during the early years of the Depression and Hans had to start over, spending his final years operating a gas station in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He was born July 20, 1869 in Tromsnes, Fåvang Parish, the oldest of five siblings. Tromsnes is a very small town in Fåvang Parish. His father was born Erik Hansen Romsås (from framigard Romsås) but after Erik's father bought Øvre Myhre their surname became Myhre. His mother was Eli Guldbransdatter Segelstad. In 1869 Erik built a general store at Tromsnes where Hans was born, and since this was not a farm, they kept the Myhre name.
When Hans emigrated to the US he used the family name Myhre. He left May 18, 1888 on the S/S Angelo from Christiania to England and then to his final destination, Black River Falls, Wisconsin. He had received an education at the County or District School as a young man and must have seen an opportunity to use this education in the US. There was also an opportunity to join a number of cousins and uncles from the Melgard family who had emigrated earlier. His uncle Lars, who was Erik's twin brother, married Ane Melgard, purchased Sygard Melgard, and took the Melgard name. Many of his sons and a daughter emigrated to the US. This would be the same family that Leif Melgard is connected to. Another uncle, Jacob Myhre, settled on the Rørivg farm in Binford, ND.
One of the Melgard cousins and an uncle had come to Black River Falls, Wisconsin in 1876 and this is where Hans first lived. He entered high school to learn English and took a business course.
He then went to Madison, Minnesota where he was employed in the local lumberyard and met Emma Brecto who was visiting her sister. They married February 15, 1894 in her hometown at Spring Prairie Church, Columbia County, Wisconsin. Her parents were among the early emigrants in that part of Wisconsin, having come from Telemark in the late 1840's.
After their marriage they moved to Badger, Iowa, where Hans became manager of the J. H. Quell lumber company. All four of their children, Eva, Hazel, Ernest, and Erick were born there. After ten years in Badger they moved to Newfolden, in northwestern Minnesota, and met up with several of the Melgard cousins who by this time had a chain of banks in the area.
In 1904 Hans became the cashier of the newly chartered Farmers State Bank. At the time Newfolden was pioneer territory and Hans was among the early settlers and a community leader. He bought a track of land which became the town site and had cattle shipped in. He had to have the cattle hauled by oxen to Newfolden from Thief River Falls, the nearest railroad town at the time. Once the railroad came through the town began to grow and Hans was among a group of individuals who founded the first Norwegian Lutheran Church, was a Village Trustee of the newly incorporated Newfolden Village, and Chairman of the School Board. When he and Emma built their home on the riverbank it was said that people came from miles around to see it. All the farmers lived in log cabins and many had never seen hardwood floors. It was a beautiful home on the riverbank.
During this time the town and the banking business were growing and the Farmers State Bank merged with the People's State Bank to become the Farmers and Merchants Bank. The bank was robbed by seven men who used nitroglycerin to break open the bank and escaped by handcar on the rails. The bank was hit by hard times when farmers could not pay their debts and with the panic during the early days of the Depression the bank was forced to close. Hans lost everything he had and sold his home and holdings in an attempt to satisfy the creditors. The bank never reopened. Today both the original bank building and their home are still standing and in use in Newfolden.
He was now nearly 60 years old and thankfully his family was all grown. It was hardly a time to start over but he and Emma, after living for a short time with their daughter Eva and her family, moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where Hans operated a gas station in downtown St. Paul with the help of his son Erick. Eventually daughter Eva and her family moved to nearby Forest Lake, Minnesota so that she could also be nearby. Both their home and the gas station were near the St. Paul Cathedral. Their son Ernest had passed away in 1932 at the age of 30 and daughter Hazel married and was living in Chicago.
Grandchildren remember visiting Hans and Emma along with their mother Eva in St. Paul and could never understand what was being said as they spoke Norwegian. Hans loved to smoke his pipe and did not have much to say in these conversations except Ja, Ja! He was remembered as a very nice and quiet gentleman.
Hans died in 1952 and Emma in 1951. They are buried along with their son Ernest at the Oakwood Cemetery just north of downtown St. Paul. Their daughter Hazel died in 1951.
Back in Fåvang, Norway, shortly after Hans left for the US his father bought his wife's family farm, Nedre Segelstad and took the name Segelstad. Hans had four siblings, Emilie, Marit, Marie, and Gudbrand who all took the Segelstad name. Gudbrand took over the farm in 1926 and then after his death Marie became owner. But she took over the farm in 1942 only on the condition that if Hans wanted to return and settle on the farm she had to sell it to him as he was the oldest and rightful person to inherit the farm. But he never returned to his homeland.
One sibling, Emilie, became a teacher and was the main link in Norway for Hans and his family through letters and she sent some beautiful handwork to their daughter Eva. Sadly she died in the flu epidemic of 1918 in Narvik. Norway.
In 1951 Marie sold the Nedre Segelstad farm to one of Eva and Erick's second cousins living in Norway. Gudbrand and Marie left no heirs and after their death Eva and Erick received a small inheritance from the sale of the farm. From the inheritance they donated a number of items that came from the farm to the Maighaugen Museum in Lillehammer. There were also a number of items that had previously been donated from the Segelstad farm to the museum in 1923 including many items of the previously mentioned woodcarver Kristen Listad. The Segelstad farm was said to be the oldest home in Gudbrandsdalen. One item from the collection, a birch tankard, was then given in 1927 to the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa and is part of the Luther College collection.
The general store built by Han's father, Erik, in Tromsnes remains and has gone through many remodels.
Unfortunately neither Hans nor any of his children visited his homeland. International travel was a luxury at that time that many could not afford. Daughter Eva spoke Norwegian and carried on many of the Norwegian traditions mainly through her cooking and the Christmas holiday.
It was not until 1985 that any of Han's direct ancestors traveled back to his homeland. Granddaughter Aileen (Eva's daughter) Melbostad and husband Merton visited Norway and spent a couple of days in the Ringebu area. Jon Ødegård, Lief Melgard's nephew, was a gracious host, showed them the farms associated with Han's family and introduced them to family members. Aileen remembers being served a meal that reminded her of the food we have for our Christmas Eve meal. They also toured the Maighaugen Museum where the staff kept pointing to items, telling them that these are from her family.