Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Wedding 104 Years Ago, June 22nd 1910




The bride, Selma Thompson,
 in her wedding dress.
June 22nd was a Wednesday in 1910, but among the farming community of Park River, North Dakota, apparently marriages took place on various days of the week as long as it didn’t interfere with plowing, planting, or harvesting.  The invitations were formally engraved and that invitation was very likely the most coveted of the summer, and possibly the year, in Walsh County, North Dakota. The parents of both the bride and the groom had tried and tried again to find a match between each of their nine children, yet only Ingvald and Selma married,

The fathers of the bridal couple, Thomas Thompson and Ingebret Birk (which was Birkedal/Byrkjedal before he left Norway), had partnered in business ventures for many years. As the scope of the Birk-Thompson empire spread across the North America, they sent their sons out their stead, to oversee the farthest flung operations and to learn the business.

During this period of time, Ingebret’s wife, Inger Field (Fjelde) Birk, died, leaving
Parents of the groom, Inger Field (Fjelde) Birk
 with her husband,
Ingebret Birk (formerly Birkedal/Byrkjedal)
Ingebret at loose ends. Since the Spanish American War had ended shortly before this, Ingebret was curious about the tales that he had read in the newspapers regarding Cuba. Cuba and the Spanish American War had been the focus of a publishing war between newspaper magnates, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. In their efforts to sell more and more newspapers, they urged reporters to dramatize and romanticize this war, with much of the widely-fabricated tales taking place on the island of Cuba. Thus, Ingebret, ripe for distraction, took a trip to Cuba looking for investment opportunities. After buying and selling a banana plantation, he purchased a massive cattle ranch there that had once been a Spanish Land Grant. Returning home to North Dakota, he cajoled Thomas Thompson into reluctantly joining him as his partner in this new business venture.

Soon after, Thomas’ sons joined Ingebret’s sons on the ranch in Cuba. Thomas never seemed to be that interested in Cuba and soon after the purchase of the ranch in Cuba, Ingebret found a new passion. He married his second wife, Mary Larson.

Meanwhile, between two their younger children, love was finally blossoming. Ingvald Birk and Selma Thompson became engaged. Invitations were engraved and preparations made.

Meanwhile, something must have been brewing in Thomas Thompson’s mind. He really had been reluctant to leave his wife to deal with the ranch in Cuba and he wasn’t as enthralled with the tropical climate. The marriage of his daughter to his partner’s son gave him the perfect opportunity to clear up his problem without losing money. You see, he and his wife, Burget “Betsy” Torkelson Thompson
Parents of the bride,
Burget Torkelson Thompson with
husband, Thomas Thompson
had set a tradition with their older children that upon each child’s marriage, they gave their child and their child’s new spouse the same wedding gift. Each child and their spouse received either a farm, or the equivalent in cash, a plow with a team of horses, or the equivalent, and their child received a gold watch.

As my grandmother, Selma Cornelia Thompson, the bride in this story, told me, her father, Thomas Thompson, went to his business partner, Ingebret Birk, father of my grandfather, Ingvald Birk and the groom in this instance, and urged him to match the gift that the Thompson’s were giving their daughter, Selma. Thus, Ingebret agreed and upon their marriage on June 22nd 1910, Ingvald Birk, and his bride, Selma Cornelia Thompson, became the owners of their fathers’ ranch in Cuba. One hundred four year have passed since then, and the ranch transitioned out of our family long ago.

Ingvald, or Ike, as he was called, and Selma lived happily together in matrimony for sixty-two years. They lived in Cuba, Kansas City, Miami, and in Montana, producing four children, three of whom grew to adulthood. Ike died in 1972 at the age of 84, and Selma passed away in 1994. Although her death certificate does not list the cause of death as “boredom,” we all know that that was the cause. Her 106th birthday party was clearly  not as exciting as her 105th. Six days after her 106th birthday, she left this earth.
The wedding party of Selma Cornelia Thompson and Ingvald Birk, June 22nd 1910 in Park River, North Dakota. Members of the wedding party included Cena Ordahl, Maid of Honor; Helga Thompson, Jorand Thorsen, Cora Torkelson, Leonora Rinde, bridesmaids; Ragnild Fjalstad and Elinor Rinde, flower girls; Olga Hendrickson of Chicago, soloist; Messrs. Levin, Hadland, (Leo) Birk, and (Joe) Thompson, ushers; with Almer (A.B.) Thompson serving as best man.


So today, 104 years after their marriage, I say, “Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa, wherever you are!”