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Neighbors: Old piece of wood has special meaning for Horace man

That piece of wood Donald Brennan is holding in the picture is a piece of history.It's from the cabin Don's grandfather built near Perley, Minn., from 1879 to 1881.Don, of Horace, N.D., says his grandfather, Johan Brennan, who went by "Hans," cam...

Donald Brennan of Horace, N.D., holds a piece of roughhewn lumber from a cabin built by his grandfather. Dave Olson / The Forum
Donald Brennan of Horace, N.D., holds a piece of roughhewn lumber from a cabin built by his grandfather. Dave Olson / The Forum

That piece of wood Donald Brennan is holding in the picture is a piece of history.

It's from the cabin Don's grandfather built near Perley, Minn., from 1879 to 1881.

Don, of Horace, N.D., says his grandfather, Johan Brennan, who went by "Hans," came to the United States from Norway with his brothers and sisters in 1870, when Hans was 18, and lived in the Spring Grove, Minn., area.

Hans married Kari Solberg in 1877. In 1879, the couple traveled by ox team to the Gardner, N.D., area, where Hans purchased rights to farmland and later homesteaded. Using logs made from area trees, he built the cabin about 2 miles northeast of the present Nora Lutheran Church.

The picture of the cabin was taken in 1991. Two pieces of wood from it, including the one held by Don in the picture, were removed at that time. The wood still has square nails in it

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The cabin burned down about 1995. The spot where it stood is now farmland.

Hans and Kari had nine children. One of them, Claus, was Don's father.

"Dad would never talk much about growing up other than having to walk about 2½ miles to school," Don says. "He had to quit school after the 6th grade to help on the farm.

"Maybe he didn't talk about Hans much because a cousin, Conrad Hilstad (deceased) stated that Hans left around 1915-1920 and homesteaded in Manitoba, Canada. He died in 1943; his wife had died in 1936.

"I don't know how long they lived in the log cabin. At some time, he built a new house about two miles west of the cabin.

"Other families lived in the cabin until about 1950, including the Lawrence and Tilford Aasen family.

"The newer family farm was repossessed by the bank in the spring of 1941. Two fires in the house and a tornado through the farmstead had caused a lot of damage. One of Dad's sisters died in one of the fires. The next daughter born was given the name of the deceased daughter, Hannah.

"Curtis Ellenson (deceased) told a story about Hans shocking for neighbors to earn extra money. When the operators of the grain binder would go home for dinner, Hans, not being a big man, would set the binder for smaller and lighter bundles. How long he got away with that I don't know."

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If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com .

Donald Brennan of Horace, N.D., holds a piece of roughhewn lumber from a cabin built by his grandfather. Dave Olson / The Forum
This is the wood cabin Hans Brennan built in the Gardner, N.D., area after he married Kari Solberg in 1877. The photo of the cabin was taken in 1991. Special to The Forum.

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