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 http://www.herronfamily.org/navigation_Fosmark.htm
with text and pictures on their activities. The second graphic below is from their site.
David L. Scheie
The Fosmark history
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
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.
Katrina 1810 1850
Marta 1815 1838
Jon 1821 1821
Jon 1822 1892
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
Jon received his United States citizenship March 21, 1846, in
Madison as John Olsen. We do not know when he adopted the
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
Brita 1803 died 1803
In 1819, Jon Sjursen started farming the Vaksdal BNR 28 farm and in 1824 married Synneva
Jørgensdatter Aldal who lived there. Their children were:
Marta 1829 or 1830
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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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–
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 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.
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.
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.
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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