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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Gunhild (Pederson) Kjorlien
Date Posted: December 28/2011
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1870's to 1940's

Gunhild Pederson was born to Tollof and Ingeborg Pederson on August 1, 1870 in Iowa, South Dakota. She was born of Norwegian heritage; her Grandparents on her father’s side, Peder and Gunild Knutson, had immigrated to South Dakota from Numedale, Norway.

On March 25, 1891, Gunhild married Ole Kjorlien. Together they had three boys, though none survived early infancy. They then gave birth to a daughter, Ida on July 6, 1896. In April of 1898, they left South Dakota and ventured to Alberta to start a homestead where cheap and fertile land was promised by the government. They packed all of their personal belongings into a single railway box car, and left their families and home with $1239 from the sale of their property in South Dakota.

They arrived in the Vang area of central Alberta, 9 miles north of Wetaskiwin. Before they could move onto their own land, they stayed with Ole’s relatives, the Tosten (T.T.) Weflins for the summer while they built a two-room log house on their own property.

The Kjorlien’s land was heavily wooded, and had to be painstakingly cleared by hand for a place to build a house, and to make it back and forth from town, the trees had to be marked so as not to get lost in the thick bush.

Gunhild and Ole had seven more children, five boys and two girls. Oliver was the next eldest and he was born in 1899. Arnt was born in 1902, Bena, the next eldest daughter was born in 1904. Thorval was born in 1906, Clarence in 1908, Gladys in 1912, and Gordon in 1916. Sadly, Gladys passed away at the age of three from an infection. She was buried in South Dakota.

Ole Kjorlien was an experienced blacksmith and harness maker, and would exchange his work for help on his land. This made them very popular, so the Kjorlien house always busy with neighbours and visitors, and no one was ever turned away. Gunhild’s outstanding kindness would always step in making sure everyone was fed and properly looked after. Coffee was of main importance, and had to be served precisely at 10:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon.

Gunhild and Ole Kjorlien were two of the nineteen founding members of the Vang Norwegian Lutheran Church. Founded on May 18, 1899, the Vang Lutheran Church was the first Norwegian Lutheran Church located west of Winnipeg. Gunhild was heavily involved with the Ladies Aid, acting as Vice President and later as President. The Ladies Aid was established in 1900 and they called themselves the Busy Bees. They were responsible in large part for raising the funds to keep the Church open as well as cleaning the church and hosting meals.

Even after Gunhild’s husband, Ole, passed away on October 27, 1923 at the age of 56, she stayed on the farm for many years while her sons continued to farm the land. Eventually she moved to Wetaskiwin, about 1940, where she was able to spend time with her grandchildren.

Many of them remember visiting Grandma’s house and going out shopping with Grandma. They all recall her incredible kindness and sweet nature. Even in town, coffee was still of major importance to Gunhild. Coffee was not complete without the cream, and Gunhild always looked forward to receiving a jar of farm fresh cream to have with her coffee.

After a battle with cancer, Gunhild Kjorlien passed away in Wetaskiwin on July 5, 1942. Gunhild and Ole had eleven children, 17 grandchildren, 50 great grandchildren, 82 great-great grandchildren, and 31 great-great-great grandchildren, totalling 191 decendents. There are currently 168 living descendents.

Gunhild is remembered by her grandchildren as an incredibly kind, sweet, and resourceful women; a true pioneer. However, Gunhild’s life was not without hardship. She lost four children but helped to make a successful homestead. All the while, she cared immensely for her family and community most visibly in the historic record, through her dedication to the Vang Lutheran Church. However, she also acted as a midwife, and gladly greeted everyone who came to her door with a smile, food, and most importantly, coffee.

Information compiled in 2011.


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Blaine Kjorlien
Board Member - Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum
Webmaster - Wetaskiwin Online


Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum
5007 - 50 Avenue
Wetaskiwin, Alberta T9A 0S3


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