Karle Reinke was my maternal grandfather and although I was just seven years old when he died, I still have clear memories of the man. I remember him holding a small garter snake so I could pet its cold smooth skin as he explained why I shouldn’t be afraid of it. I remember the big tire swing in his back yard on which he would send me flying high into the sky. I remember his patience and gentleness with a little girl full of energy and endless questions. I still wish he’d lived long enough for me and his other six grandchildren to know him better. Tracing Karle’s origins has helped me answer some of the questions about our genetic history. This project has also reminded me that what’s most important about a person is his legacy rather than his heritage. Karle’s legacy is alive and going strong today in the classrooms of his granddaughters.
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Karle Albert Reinke
ca 1961 | Faribault, Minnesota
After several years of genealogical research, and countless letters and emails exchanged with kind and helpful strangers and one sympathetic judge, the basic facts of Karle Albert Reinke’s beginnings can be documented. It is a story he never knew and those who did know apparently took it with them to their graves. The birth parents also never knew what became of the life they created since his birth records were sealed and were never meant to be unsealed. The facts are laid out here with very little embellishment and just a bit of speculation. We may wish to know more, but must remember that it is only since Oprah that people feel the need to bare their souls to the world. Karle grew up in Minnesota among a private people during a more private time than today. This may be as much as we’ll ever know about Karle Reinke’s beginnings. His legacy, however, continues in the lives of his daughters, grandchildren and countless students. Had they known Karle’s story, his biological parents could have been very proud of the man their son became.
Who was Thora Strand?
Who was Thora Strand? I posted this question on a Strand message board in May of 2001:
“According to his adoption papers, my grandfather was born in MN in 1905 and his birth mother was listed as THORA Strand. Does this name ring a bell with anyone?”
This reply from Carol Solheim of Crookston MN was posted in August of 2001:
“I have a Thora Strand in our ancestry. Born Aug. 28, 1880 in Tjøtta Norway. Lived in Crookston MN. Had two daughters, one born in 1911 and the other born in 1913.”
Carol is Thora’s great niece and the family’s genealogist. She also turned out to be incredibly helpful to someone suggesting that her Great Aunt Thora might have had a child out-of-wedlock. Our emails flew back and forth as each piece of the puzzle seemed to fit and we shared family pictures and common traits: lots of educators, some strong family resemblances and even TWIN TOES. (When Karle’s first daughter was born with her second and third toes joined to the second joint just like his, he cried because she was the first person he knew who was really related to him by blood.)
This is what I learned about Carol's Great Aunt Thora Strand
Thora Danielsen (Tora Berntsdatter) was born on August 28, 1880 in Tjøtta, Helgeland, Norway. She was the sixth of eight children born to fisherman (“Fisker, Strandsidder”) Bernt D. Danielsen and his wife Anna Pettersdatter. By 1900, twenty-year old Tora’s occupations were listed in that year’s Norwegian census as “Husgjerning, Kreatursetel, Tjeneste” (housekeeping, cattle keeper, servant.)
Below is an image of the Norwegian census of 1900 enumerating Thora and her family just before any of them immigrated to the United States.
Information on domicile
Data on domicile:
* Census year: 1900
* Municipality: Tjøtta
* Municipality number: 1817
* Name of domicile: Tømmervikstranden
Number of persons in this domicile: 9.
Name Family status Marital status Occupation Birth year Birth place Ethnicity
Bernt D. Danielsen hf g Fisker, Strandsidder 1845 Tjøtta
Anna Pettersdatter hm g No. 1's Kone 1853 Tjøtta
Tommas Berntsen s ug Fisker 1876 Tjøtta
Andreas R. Berntsen s ug Fisker 1878 Tjøtta
Tora Berntsdatter d ug Husgjerning, Kreaturstel, Tjeneste. 1880 Tjøtta
Ane Berntsdatter d ug Datter 1890 Tjøtta
Gjertrud Berntsdatter d ug Datter 1893 Tjøtta
Karoline Paascke fl ug Husgjerning 1880 Tjøtta
Borghild Andreasdatter No 8s d ug af fisker ? 12.07.1899 Tjøtta
The Norwegian Historical Data Centre
The Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø
The name of their farm was Tømmervikstranden and when her older brother Andreas R. Berntsen became the first of the family to immigrate to the United States, he changed his name to Richard Andreas Strand, taking the name their residence (Strand) in Norway as his surname, not an uncommon naming practice by immigrants of that day.
In May of 1902, Thora’s older brother Richard Strand landed at the port of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and moved to Crookston, Minnesota where he began working as a carpenter for the Great Northern Railway, where he worked until he retired in 1961. About one year later, in 1903 Richard’s 23 year-old wife Karoline, their two young children, his 27 year-old brother Thomas and 23 year-old sister Thora also immigrated to the United States. After much searching, I have found a 23 year-old Thora Myklebostad from who traveled on the Germanic to work for a farmer named Mr. Dahle [Dailey?] in Flandreau, South Dakota. I believe that this is our Thora and that she had recently worked on the farm Myklebostad, a larger farm near her home in Tjøtta. Thomas joined his brother working on the Great Northern Railway and Karoline moved to Crookston and settled in with her husband and their children at 316 Minnesota Street. Thora moved to South Dakota to work to pay off the cost of coming to the U. S.
Thora in South Dakota
1903 - 1905 | Flandreau, Moody County, South Dakota
After arriving in America, Thora moved to the Dailey Homestead at Lone Rock Township, Moody County, South Dakota, near Flandreau, a town with a large Norwegian population. In the 1905 South Dakota State Census, Thora was enumerated as a 24 year-old single Norwegian-born housekeeper who could read and write. In 1905, Thora was living with and working for the family of Will Dailey, a prominent and well-respected pioneer farmer and stockman in Moody County. The Dailey family was widely known to take in those in need, including children of neighbors who had fallen on hard times. (I do not know how Thora came to live with the Daileys, especially since the rest of her family lived in northern Minnesota. On the ship's manifest, which is hard to read, it looks like it says she came to stay with a "cousin's friend Farmer Dahle" There was a big Norwegian population in Flandreau. But will I ever be able to figure out who Thora's cousin was?)
The 1905 South Dakota State Census was recorded on index cards and each card was numbered sequentially, so all those in one household can be identified by their numbers as well as their address.
These were the people listed in the Dailey household at Section 32 Township 106 Range 47 in Lone Rock Township, Moody County, South Dakota in 1905 according the number of their index card:
#171 Will Dailey; 49 year-old farmer, born in Iowa and lived in South Dakota for 27 years.
172 Mrs. Will Dailey; 46 year old farmer born in New York (her card was hard to read)
173 Robert Dailey; 23 year old farmer, born in South Dakota
174 Lawrence Dailey; 21 year old farmer; born in South Dakota
175 Eddie Dailey; 22 year old farmer; born in South Dakota
176 Tora Strand; 24 year old housekeeper; born in Norway and had been in U.S. for 2 years
(This is the key piece of evidence which puts Thora and the father of her baby under the same roof at the same time, which would have allowed them to at least know each other.)
Thora's Life in Minnesota
1906 - 1951 | Crookston, Polk County, Minnesota
By 1906, Miss Thora Strand had moved to Minnesota and is listed in the town directory as living at 316 Minnesota Street in Crookston, the home of her brother Richard. By the 1910 census, Thora Strand is again working as a domestic servant, this time living with the David Miller family in Angus Township in Polk County, Minnesota. Also living with the family as a boarder with no occupation is Thora’s brother Thomas, who had been crippled six years earlier in an accident at work in which a rail car had fallen on him. (Thomas died in 1914 at age 38.) Thora married Conrad Johnson in 1910 and they had two daughters. Helen Alvina was born in 1910 and Cora Teresa was born in 1911. Thora died in 1951.
The Dailey Family
Flandreau, Moody County, South Dakota
Bill Phillips, great nephew of Edward Dailey, has put his family's history online: http://www.geocities.com/gewdunn/dailey.html
More Questions than Answers
Feb. 6, 1905 | St. Paul MN
Those are the facts, as both families—the Strands and the Daileys—knew them. There was another fact, however, that remained unknown for almost 100 years. This fact is that Thora Strand gave birth to a baby boy on Feb. 6, 1905 in St. Paul, Minnesota and on his birth certificate Edward Dailey from South Dakota was listed as the father.
UPDATE: In September of 2011, I finally found out what was located at 669 Jackson st. in St. Paul, Minnesota by searching the St. Paul City Directory for 1905. The organization at that address was the St. Paul Salvation Army Home for Fallen Women. Wow. So, there's the answer to the question of whether or not Thora and Edward had ever been married. As definitively as I'm ever going to get, I guess.
The birth certificate originally had “-Illeg- ” typed on it and that was later crossed out by hand. [Does that mean something? One official at the Children’s Home Society said that she believed that the parents of this baby were married. But I have found no evidence of a marriage in South Dakota or Minnesota. During this time period, many orphanages would not accept illegitimate children because they were considered unworthy for adoption by a good Christian family.] (see Ann Fessler's excellent book on the subject: The Girls Who Went Away : The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. )In order to get access to his birth certificate, my mother as a direct descendant had to formally petition a judge in Minnesota, who granted her request. Not all judges are willing to unseal such records, believing that to be a violation of a promise made to the birth mother to keep her secret. Luckily for us, this judge was sympathetic to our request. Does Edward’s name on the birth certificate prove for absolute fact that he was the father of Thora’s baby? No. She could have lied or been mistaken. It is, however, quite possible, that Edward Dailey and Thora Strand were the parents of this baby boy. But we will probably never know for sure what, if anything, really happened between these two young people. But whatever it was, it wasn’t meant to last.The baby boy was placed about five weeks later, on March 16, 1905, at the Children’s Home Society in St. Paul, Minnesota where he was recorded as Baby Boy Strand, Ill [illegitimate?] whose mother was Thora Strand, Norwegian and whose unnamed father was English sic. (In the CHS’s old Record Book, the baby’s date of birth is also different from the birth certificate and is listed as Jan. 31, 1905 and the parents’ ages seem to be completely wrong, too.) In a phone conversation with Janet Jenkins, a current employee of the CHS suggested that Baby Boy Strand was first “placed in May with a family and for a reason which was not noted, he was was returned and replaced in July with the Reinke family who later adopted him legally. (We are left with questions about this first placement since no record of that was given to me.) Here are Baby Karle's pictures. Wasn't he a sweet baby?
The Reinke Family
Karle Albert Reinke: The Man
Karle grew up in Fairfax, Minnesota and graduated from Fairfax High School in 1922. He went to Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota and majored in English. He graduated in 1926 and began his teaching career. He married Dorcas Mekkelson, a fellow student from Hamline University who also became a teacher and they moved to Faribault, Minnesota. He taught biology at Faribault High School for 34 years, reared two daughters and sent them both to excellent colleges. Janet worked as a social worker and as a writer and reared four daughters. Gretchen became a teacher and continues to tutor and train teachers during her official "retirement." She reared two daughters, both teachers, and a son.
In his summers, Karle found outside jobs, which allowed him to study and help preserve the natural beauty of local and national parks as well as supplement his meager teacher’s salary. He was instrumental in establishing Nerstrand Woods, a popular state park in Rice County, near Faribault. Karle’s influence is still being felt in the classrooms of two of his granddaughters who followed in his footsteps and are innovative and well-respected classroom teachers in their own rights.
Dorcas Reinke died in May of 1962 and Karle died of a heart attack the following August of 1963 at age 58. Their daughter Janet always believed that he really died of a broken heart because he just couldn’t bear to live his life without his beloved wife.
His daughter Gretchen recently wrote to me of her parents and their premature deaths , "That is definitely a sadness in my life to think that my children have no memories of their maternal grandparents....who were such great people. Whenever I go back for my high school reunion my close friends remind me of the good times they had at our house and many others tell me of their personal experiences with my parents as their teacher. Their memories mean a lot to me. ..."
Update to Karle's Story
August 2007 | Flandreau, South Dakota
Filling in the missing pieces of Karle Reinke's story would not have been possible without the extraordinary generosity and help of members of both the Strand and Dailey families. They sent me documents, pictures and memories as well as did research for me despite the fact that I was a stranger with a rather awkward story about families they thought were well-known and documented. During the summer of 2007, I was invited by two of the Dailey family genealogists, Denis Dailey and Bill Phillips to travel with them to Flandreau, South Dakota to meet several of their family still living in that area. We met the 92-year-old daughter of Edward Dailey who would be Karle's only living half-sibling. Unfortunately, she had very few memories of her father Edward who had died three days after her fifth birthday. She did share with us pictures of her family and everything that she did remember. Denis, Bill and I also attended the annual Dailey Bocce Bash which was held on the Will Dailey homestead, where Thora and Edward would have lived and worked 102 years earlier. We were invited into the home built by Will Dailey for his family. It was an amazing weekend.
During our visit, Bill brought out a large photograph taken at that farm in 1931, on the occasion of Will and Minnie Dailey's 50th anniversary. The wide-angle photograph shows everyone who had been at their home to celebrate with them, with names below to identify each person. As the guests at the 2007 party gathered around, friends, neighbors and relatives all, they were able to recognize their ancestors because most people in attendance had roots as deep in the community as do the Daileys.