7/14/2017 11:08:00 AM Grand Marshals well-known for their heritage promotion
The Karl Oskar House in Ki Chi Saga County Park wasn’t always in that spot.
The house-on-the-bluff became a featured site for fans of Scandinavian lore only after a local group, led by Alice and John Mortenson, had put in hours and hours of hard work.
The Lindstrom Historical Society has been heaping their labors of love upon the site ever since the home was re-located, about 1995.
The society got a 99-year land lease from Chisago County to help make the project happen. The Mortensons explained that a lease was the way to go for ease of insurance and to not add the financial burden of paying property taxes on the site. Thousands of visitors have come through the homestead since. The group tries to have volunteers on site to interpret its role locally and how it helped in the creation of iconic literature by author Wilhelm Moberg.
The Mortensons, who are 92 and 86, have stepped back from years of dedication to developing the “Karl Oskar House” but they are still very proud of work the society has, and is, doing.
The Mortenson’s reward is being named the Karl Oskar Days Grand Marshals for the downtown Lindstrom parade this Saturday, at 6 p.m.
Their favorite memory out of many adventures at Ki Chi Saga County Park is when the King and Queen of Sweden toured the house.
Also known as Nya Duvemala, the house was created to be a historic destination, because the Swedish writer Wilhelm Moberg referenced the house as providing inspiration for his novels about Swedish immigrants, and serving as a physical symbol of the “good land” available for their new home here. Moberg is comparable in stature in Sweden, to Ernest Hemingway in the U.S. The Swedish royals also stopped at the artwork depicting Moberg and his ubiquitous bicycle, in Chisago City.
Alice Mortenson explained that over the last 20 years, the Lindstrom Historical Society has put on maypole and midsummer celebrations at the K.O. House in the park, in cooperation with Ki-Chi-Saga Swedish Club. Club members keep traditional dance and customs alive. Historical society volunteers are frequently asked to open the house for special travelers and Sunday is the summertime public day at the site, when volunteers are at the site.
John and Alice were also involved with improving the small barn into a shelter for refreshments, etc. At first it was meant to be “Karl Oskar’s workshed” and stocked with primitive tools, etc. but tours needed a place to regroup and partake in Swedish afternoon coffee. The main tool inside now is a heavy duty coffee maker.
John Mortenson still speaks a version of Swedish he learned from his parents, as a first generation American. There’s only a few left using the language, he says. He and Alice have seen so much change over their 55 years living on South Lindstrom Lake. John commuted to work in the cities on old highway 61 before I-35 was even built.
They don’t get left in the dust though. Alice got hooked on history through pursuing genealogy, she said. She is amazed with the Internet’s massive wealth of information. She really first became hooked when she brought her elderly father, to see his homeland in the 1970s.
Her Swedish ancestors originally put down roots in South Dakota, before coming to the Twin Cities around The Great Depression. One day a South Dakota bunch were visiting Nya Duvemala while she was volunteering, and they got to talking. “...they knew my relatives in Langford, South Dakota better than I did,” she laughs.