The Fosmark family


Once again, I am indebted to my cousin, Paul Scheie, for virtually all the information on this

branch of the family. I have borrowed liberally from his booklet and from a number of his letters.

Also, in recent years, we have established friendly contact with other American members of the

Fosmark family. They created a website

with text and pictures on their activities. The second graphic below is from their site.


David L. Scheie

July, 2005


























The Fosmark history


fosmaer.jpg                                     Fossmark



The family name comes from the Fossmark farm which is located

along the Sørfjord about 20 miles northeast of Bergen, Norway,

in the Hordaland fylke or county. It is just south of Stanghelle and

north of Vaksdal.


The farm lies on the east side of the Sørfjord and slopes sharply

toward the west and thus toward the fjord which is one to two

kilometers wide.


The first known reference to Fossmark occurs in1535 in the

records of a Vincents Lunge of Bergen. He was a Danish

nobleman married to a Norwegian woman landowner.

At that time the farm was called Ffossmarwigh.

Starting in 1563, the farm is referred to as Fossmarck, then as Fossmarch in 1667 and as

Fosmarch in 1723.

The name is formed from the masculine word foss, meaning waterfall, and the feminine word

mark which refers to a boundary between two pieces of land.

There was a waterfall on the river which runs from nearby Fossdalsvatnet to the Sørfjord. But

since a hydroelectric plant was built in 1917, water goes over the falls only when there is an


The farm borders on other farms named Stanghelle, Jamne, Skreien and Helle.

Both the railroad and the highway connecting Oslo and Bergen cut through Fossmark. Marge

and I have traveled on the highway knowing we were at least in the vicinity of the farm.


The story of what became the Fosmark family is complicated by divorces, marriage of second

cousins and more. It might be helpful to follow the story on the family tree diagram.


The first known inhabitants of Fossmark were Nils Johannessen and his wife Sigrid who lived

there in the mid-1600s.


The farm owners are believed to have been two sisters. One sister had no heirs and did not want

her sister’s children to inherit her portion, so she gave her share to the local church.


Nils then became the tenant on the portion henceforth called Fossmark 1 which had previously

been known as Joane.


Nils and Sigrid had a daughter, born before 1645; a son, Nils Nilsen, born in 1647; and another

son, Johannes Nilsen, (1650-1714).


At the same time, Besse Tørressen Vaksdal (1624-1693) and his wife Barbo ( -1693) rented the

other part, Fossmark 5, which had previously been called Olane and then Monsane.

The houses on these two farms were built next to each other and had the same design. They were

13m by 8m and were located about 20m from the water.


Besse and Barbo had four children including daughter Ingebjorg and another daughter Marta.

Ingebjorg Bessesdatter married Johannes Nilsen and had six children including Anna Johannesdatter

(1672-1730) and Brita Johannesdatter (1679-1722), of whom more later.


Anna married Mons Johannessen (1662-1756) who left Fossmark 5 and lived at Helle 1. They

had twelve children including Kari Monsdatter (1697-1782). We'll come back to Kari in a



As we noted, Besse Tørressen and Barbo had four children: Ingebjorg who had married Johannes Nilsen

of Fossmark 1, and three other children including Marta Bessesdatter who married Jens Nilsen (- 1699).

Jens purchased Fossmark 5 and became one of the first farmers in the area to own his own land.

He had some difficulty convincing a priest that he therefore did not have to pay any more rent.


Jens and Marta had two children. The oldest was Sigrid Jensdatter ( - 1709) who married Olav

Fabianssen Fokstad (1677-1718). Olav inherited the farm in return for providing his mother-in-law

Marta with a pension, keeping her clothed and fed and giving her a decent burial.


Olav and Sigrid had four children. The third (and their only son) was Olav Olssen (1704-1786)

who moved to Helle for a time, then returned.

When Sigrid died, Olav married a girl named Magdeli from a wealthy family at Mjelde.

Then Olav died, Magdeli married twice more, finally moving to Helle. Normally the farm would

have gone to her heirs, but somehow, stepson Olav Olssen acquired title to Fossmark 5.


Olav married Kari Monsdatter (1697-1782) who, as noted earlier, came from Helle and whose

father came from Fossmark 1 and whose mother was from Fossmark 5.

Since they had the same great grandparents and, therefore, were second cousins, Olav and Kari

had to obtain special permission to marry.

They lived first at Helle where Olav had been a tenant before acquiring Fossmark 5.

They had six children, the fifth of whom was Anna Olssen (1730 - ).


Anna Olssen married Nils Mikkelsen Songstad who lived at Songstad. Their son was Olav Nilsen

 Songstad (1762-1852) who inherited Fossmark 5 from his grandfather, Olav Olssen, in 1781.


Olav Nilsen Songstad married Anna Katrina Jensdatter Romslo in 1791 and had seven children.

His second wife came from the Fossmark 1 side and we'll locate her in a moment.


But first we go back about one hundred years.

Anna Johannesdatter's sister Brita married Lars Anderssen Stamnes (1673-1720) who farmed

Helle 3 with her father, Johannes Nilsen. But Brita and Lars split.

She then married Olav Simonsen Dale (1689-1747), the next tenant.

After the divorce, Lars first married Dordi Larsdatter Stokke, then the widow Brita Batesdatter Garnes

and finally Agot Gulleiksdatter (1714-1786), a widow from Oyo 1.

Agot then married Johannes Jonssen Dale (1726-1802, the next tenant.

They had seven children including three named Brita, all of whom died in infancy. Their fifth

child was Marta Johannesdatter (1754-1833), whose twin brother died at birth.


Marta married Jon Olssen, the next tenant from Olsnes 5. Their fourth child was Ågota Jonsdatter

(1780-1863) who became the second wife of Olav Nilsen Songstad, from Fossmark 5.

They had seven children, the last of whom, Jon, was our ancestor.


                                    Born                            Died

Katrina                        1810                            1850

Johannes                     1812

Marta                          1815                            1838

Nils                             1816

Ingebjorg                    1818

Jon                              1821                            1821

Jon                              1822                            1892


fosmhome.jpg                           Nils’ and Jon’s home

We do not know how many of the family came to America,

but we do know that Nils, then 29, and Jon, then 23, came

 here in 1845, sailing on the bark "Kong Sverre." Ingebjorg

 came in 1871 with Nils Johnssen Saeterdal.


Nils, Jon and some other young men from their area in

Norway settled at Spring Prairie, Wisconsin, just north of

Madison. There they built a house for themselves on land which

Nils later bought; Jon was the housekeeper. In time, Jon

acquired a farm of his own next to Nils' on which they both

built homes.


Jon received his United States citizenship March 21, 1846, in

Madison as John Olsen. We do not know when he adopted the

Fosmark surname.


A few years later, John helped build a church at Koshkonong, about forty miles southeast of Spring

Prairie, near Whitewater. Among the members of that church were the family of John Johnsen

Bjørgaas who had lived at the Bjørgaas farm at Vaxdal, very close to Fosmark, before coming to

America in 1849.


Among the family members were daughters Marta, then 20 or 21, and Brita, about 16. It is quite

possible that the Fosmarks had known the Bjørgaases in Norway.


The Bjørgaas family

An early ancestor was Marta Sjursdatter of Evanger born in 1767. Paul says her family came

from a farm called Røydland which can be traced back to the 1600s in the Vaksdal bygdebok.

Marta married and was widowed, then in 1797 married Sjur Knutsen Eide of Voss, a grenadier,

born in 1768. They had six children:


                        Jon                  June 10, 1798

                        Anna               1800

                        Brita                1803                died 1803

                        Knut                1804

                        Sjur                 1808

                        Brita                1813


In 1819, Jon Sjursen started farming the Vaksdal BNR 28 farm and in 1824 married Synneva

Jørgensdatter Aldal who lived there. Their children were:


                        Sjur                 1825

                        Jørgen             1827

                        Marta              1829 or 1830

                        Brita                1833


Synneva died in 1834 and the following year Jon married Maria Knutsdatter Aldal from Voss.

They sold the use of the Vaksdal farm in 1839 and bought the Bjørgaas farm at Evanger. John

and Maria had seven children.


In 1849, the family sold Bjørgaas and, with eight children, sailed for America on the ship

"Bjorgvin," leaving Bergen May 12 and arriving in New York July 6, eight weeks later..


Accompanying them on the trip across the Atlantic were 36 year old Ingeborg Haldorsdatter

Kvilekval, an unmarried woman, and her 7 year old son Knud Helgesen. Jon Sjursen helped

pay for their passage.


Sometime after arriving, Ingeborg married Nils Olsen Grotland who had accompanied the

Fosmarks when they came to America. Her son Knud changed his name to Knut Nelson and in

time moved to Alexandria, Minnesota, where he entered politics--with some success. He became

Governor of Minnesota, a U. S. Representative and, finally, U. S. Senator for 28 years.


On arrival in America, Jon Sjursen Bjørgaas bought a farm near Koshkonong, Wisconsin, and

changed the family name to Johnson. He died March 15, 1882.


His daughter Brita married Nils Fosmark and, on June 30, 1851, his daughter Marta, who soon

anglicized her name to Martha, married John Fosmark.




john@40sepia(2).gif                         John Fosmark
marta@40a.jpg                           Marta Bjørgaas






















Joh n and Martha Fosmark settled on John's farm at Spring Prairie and had twelve children

including my grandmother Marie:


        Aagot                   July 24, 1852              1930

        Ola                       February 26, 1856

        Synneva               May 24, 1857             1884

        John                     September 23, 1858    1882

        Marie                   November 11, 1861    August 24, 1954

        Johannes              March 19, 1864

        Caroline (Lena)   June 25, 1871             September, 1944



        (and three others who died in infancy)

During these years John was notably active in church affairs. He helped organize the new

congregation at Spring Prairie and was a trustee as long as he lived there. Each Christmas Eve,

he visited the Spring Prairie parsonage to pay the pastor his salary for the year. Martha would

send along a little Christmas tree made of butter and primost.


John was on the first board of trustees of Luther College when it was formed at Half Way Creek,

near Holmen, Wisconsin, in October, 1861, and made frequent trips there, a journey of 135 miles

each way.


One of the Scheie girls wrote that he was a "delegate to the assembly that organized the Lutheran

Church in America." She perhaps referred to the formation of the United Norwegian Lutheran

Church in 1890.


The Scheie girls' account says that on the "Naadevalgatrid" (predestination?) controversy, John

was on opposite sides from Rev. H. A. Preus, the pastor at Spring Prairie and later a President of

the Norwegian Lutheran Synod. The dispute caused two families to leave the Spring Prairie

church, but the congregation did not split. For whatever reason, John changed his mind on

predestination after leaving Spring Prairie and came to adopt Preus's views. (For more on this

issue, see The Predestination controversy.)


Martha suffered from varicose veins and was a semi-invalid for many years. Oldest daughter

Aagot kept house when she became old enough and then Marie took over when she was 12

Seeking a trade if not a career, Aagot took a three-week course with a tailor in Madison. Sewing

machines were new then, but when she returned home, John bought her a small machine which

she used to make clothes for the family.


Rev. Preus's daughters Anga and Sina would sometimes visit while Aagot sewed white shirts for

their father


She made dresses for the women in the family and suits for her father and brothers. She made

caps, jackets and even underwear from worn-out suits.


In 1881, when Marie was 19, John decided to leave the farm, because none of the boys was

interested in farming, and moved to Fergus Falls, Minnesota where he built a new home.

marieatsto.jpg                         Marie at St. Olaf: second row, third from left



That fall, Marie enrolled at St. Olaf College,

Northfield, Minnesota. Luther College,

of which her father was a trustee, did not then

admit women students. The Predestination Controversy was heating

up at the time and St. Olaf was on the

opposite side from Luther College

and the Missourians.

Marie remained at St. Olaf for only the

1882-83 school year.















Sometime after July, 1882, the widowed Iver Scheie became pastor

of the parish in Whitewater.

He had probably met Marie Fosmark sometime between 1878 and 1881 when he was

a seminary student in Madison and had borrowed money from her father to pay

expenses. After her year at

St. Olaf, they married on September 19, 1883, in Fergus Falls,

Minnesota, where the Fosmarks had moved.

On the marriage license, Marie gave her address as Spring Prairie,

Wisconsin, the family’s previous address. She was 21; he was 35.

The ceremony was performed by Rev. H. K. Preus.

(For the story of their life together, see Scheie history.)




john@50.gif                      John Fosmark

John and Martha Fosmark lived in Fergus Falls only two years. Then,

because "she could not stand the climate," they moved to Minneapolis in 1883.

John worked as a carpenter when he could find work, but finding it was not easy.


About 1890, they moved to Robbinsdale where John built a new house.

Two years later, in April, 1892, he died of cancer of the liver at the age of 70.


At his funeral. Dr. J. Ylvisaker, the pastor, said, "John Fosmark had many

trustworthy positions, but it did not go to his head. He was calm and

reserved always."


Marie said both her parents were very calm and composed at all times.

She could not recall they ever said an unkind word to each other.






As for the other children in the family–

aagotfosmark72.jpg           Aagot Fosmark




Aagot married Michael Borge in 1873 and they had ten children: Bertha, Olga, John,

Sunniva, Olaf, Daniel, Martha, Aagot and twins Dagny and Daisy.

Aagot died in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1930.








ola.jpg            Ola Fosmark




Ola married Gunhilda J. Bestul whom we knew as Aunt Hilda;

after Ola’s death, she lived at the Ebenezer home in Minneapolis

for many years and was frequently a dinner guest when Marie and

her daughters lived on Fifth Avenue South.. Ola and Hilda had

one child, Synneva, who died as an infant.






synfos~1.gif         Synneva Fosmark




Synneva married a man whose name is given as either Ingvar Monson or

 Rev. J. G. Monson. On the other hand, one account

says his real name was Gröthe. He was said to be a carpenter

and a bank clerk who later took up the ministry--and was also

"somewhat of a press correspondent on controversial matters."

They had one child, Johannah, in 1884. When Johannah was five

months old, Synneva died. Monson (or Grothe) then married

Emma Bestul, Aunt Hilda's sister, and they had several children.





johnnie2.gif          Johnnie Fosmark






John or Johnnie died of typhoid at 23 while working with a

threshing crew in Milnor, North Dakota. He was buried in

Minneapolis where his parents were buried later..











Johannes died at 18 of injuries from being kicked by a horse.


lena.gif                  Lena Fosmark







Caroline, known as Lena, worked as a dressmaker,

sewing for the Consul Hobe family of St. Paul and other

wealthy families. She also took care of her mother

Martha and after her death in 1915, worked at children's

homes in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Chicago and Ottawa,

Illinois. She died in 1944.





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