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Emotional, surprising encounter as Guri Endresen remembered

Descendants of Guri Endresen gather to have their photograph taken Saturday on the steps of Vikor Church on Solomon Lake north of Willmar during the annual memorial. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

WILLMAR -- Lovise and Rune Holmedal and their daughter Kaia left their home on the west coast of Norway for a holiday in America, taking in sites from Chicago to the Grand Canyon.

They stopped Sunday at the Guri Endresen historic cabin on Lake Solomon north of Willmar to check out some of the family stories about the ancestor who had left Norway for America, only to lose her husband and a son when attacked during the U.S. Dakota Conflict of 1862.

The Holmedal's Norwegian accent was a giveaway to Kim and Debbie Larson of rural Willmar. They had also stopped at the cabin on their way to the annual Vikor Memorial Association memorial event for Guri Endresen that day.

"Divine intervention, I guess,'' said Rune Holmedal as he joined 21 descendants of Guri Endresen on the steps of the Vikor Church building.

The descendants of Guri Endresen's daughters had come to join members of the Vikor Memorial Association to honor the woman remembered in Kandiyohi County as a heroine. The descendants included local residents along with relatives from North Dakota, Oregon and Alaska.

The annual memorial follows the June 7 opening of the time capsule that had been placed in the Guri Endresen Memorial on the church cemetery grounds 105 years earlier.

The Norwegian visitors had no idea about any of this.

"It was a little bit overwhelming,'' said Lovise Holmedal of the coincidence that brought them to the small prairie church, and united them with relatives they had never met.

They were not the only celebrants to use emotional terms to describe the day. Linda Swalin of Spicer had attended the earlier opening of the time capsule, convinced that its contents would be little more than dust when opened.

Instead, the newspapers, photo and other memorabilia found in the capsule had looked nearly new when opened, although they are now discoloring quickly in the air.

"It was moving,'' Swalin told those who gathered again on Sunday. "It was an event to remember.''

This one will be too. A program in the church included a reading of Guri Endresen's letter that told of her ordeal on Aug. 12, 1862. She hid in a cellar with infant daughter, Anna and watched as the attackers shot her husband Lars and sons Endre and Ole. They captured daughters Guri and Brita.

Ole survived the shooting and played 'possum.

Endresen, with infant and injured son, later hitched two oxen and transported two badly-wounded neighbor men to Forrest City under the cover of night. They stopped at other settlers' homes to help them on the two day journey. In Forrest City, she was re-united with her two daughters who had escaped their captors.

After hearing her written account, participants gathered at the Endresen memorial in the cemetery to place flowers and to sing along with guitarist Ronny Roseland of Oregon, a descendant.

Those who gathered also used the occasion to discuss what should be placed in a new time capsule to be sealed in the monument for another century. Aerial maps of the area, a digital collection of photographs, and the photo and story of Guri Endresen were among the suggestions.

The time capsule will likely be sealed in the monument later this summer, according to Larry Hanson of the Vikor Memorial Association.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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