From The Rutland Leader, October 1, 2006


Sigvart Susag is a Great Uncle of  Walter Edwin Johnson.

The following is a memorial to Sig Susag written by June Susag

The research and biographical sketch for this memorial was done by the original contributor "Thala June".

Sigvart "Sig" Susag died in St. Mary Hospital, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota following a head injury suffered in a fall in the nursing home. Johannes Sigvart "Sig" Susag, son of Edvard Susæg and Gustava Elise Johannesdatter Bedsvaag, was born 18 Oct 1887 in Namsos, Nord-Trondelag, Norway.

At the invitation of his uncle, Anton Severtsen, Sig left his job in a bank and immigrated to Sargent County, North Dakota, arriving at Cayuga 11 May 1909. He told Lloyd when he stepped off the train and surveyed the flat land around him, he would have gotten back on the train and returned to Norway if he had been able to afford it. Sig took over management of his uncle's farm while Anton was away, searching for a farm to purchase in Alberta, Canada.

Sig also helped care for Andreanna, his widowed grandmother, who was also living on Anton's farm. She moved to Canada with Anton and his wife and died there.

In later years, Sig Susag purchased and placed the grave stone on the Nordland Cemetery grave of his grandfather, Sivert Jonsen, who died in 1902 in Sargent County.

Sig Susag met a young schoolteacher, Mabel Cora Hoflen, (1888-1966) who was teaching in a rural school near Anton's farm. In the winter, he would get up early and fire up the coal-burning stove in the one-room school building before
Mabel arrived. They married on 15 Nov 1915 in Forman, North Dakota. Their two children were born near Rutland, Sargent County, North Dakota. Grace Margaret (Susag) Pfau (1917-2003), and Lloyd George Susag (1919-2013).

Sig Susag had a marvelous singing voice, and was often called on to sing at local funerals. Lloyd remembers, when the road to Rutland was impassable due to heavy snow, his father would trudge through the drifts on foot to sing at his neighbors' funerals. He would sing hymns in the Norwegian language as well as English.

Sig and Mabel farmed near Rutland. Son, Lloyd, joined his father in farming and in the mid-1950s bought his share. Lloyd expanded the farm, as well as adding custom harvesting to the farm operation, harvesting wheat from Oklahoma to the Canadian border.

Lloyd and wife, Beulah (Donaldson) Susag, raised their eight children on the farm. They were active in the Rutland Baptist Church, and often sang duets in services. The church was established as a Swedish Baptist Church, and an early member was Mabel's mother, Anna Martha Hoflen, who was born in Sweden.

Under pressure from the United States Department of Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service, the farm was deeded in 1972 to the government, and added to the Tewaukon Game Preserve established for migratory waterfowl (Canada geese).

After World War II ended, Sig was able to visit his siblings in Namsos, Norway. His parents were deceased. Sig's father, Edvard, died 22 Jun 1942 during Nazi occupation of Namsos, a deep water port. Namsos was bombed heavily. Edvard's blacksmith shop was bombed out. Friends of Edvard's said he worked late each night, rebuilding his business. It was bombed again and Edvard died soon after.

Two of Sig's sisters, Aasta and Ingrid, were taken captive 10 Aug 1943 and held until 12 July 1944 at Falstad, a Nazi concentration camp south of Namsos. No reason was given for their capture in Falstad records; however, their family believed it was because they refused to reveal the location of their brother, Joachim, who was a suspected leader in destroying the Nazi heavy water plant.

Sigvart Johannes Susag
Sigvart Johannes Susag was born October 18, 1887, in Namsos, Nord-Trondelag, Norway.  His father, Edvard Sivertsen Susag, was a blacksmith in Namsos.  Sigvart left Norway as a young man.  He emigrated April 18, 1909, from the Trondhjem Port on Ship Laurentia, debarking at Port Huron, Michigan on May 19, 1909.  His uncle Antonius had sponsored Sigvart's immigration.  Sigvart's grandfather & grandmother, Sivert & Andreanna Johnson, along with his uncles, John Sivertsen, Antonius Sivertsen and David Susag, had immigrated from Sparbu, Nord-Trondelag, Norway, to Dakota Territory in 1880 & 1881 and taken up homesteads south of Cayuga, on land that is now owned by Harvey & Judy Bergstrom and by Edith Pherson. 


Sig arrived by train at Cayuga on May 11, 1909.  Upon stepping off the train, a wave of homesickness struck, and he wished he had enough money to get back on the train and return to his home in Norway.  There was a solitary hill on the south side of Cayuga, a gravel deposit left on the prairie by the receding glaciers of the last Ice Age, and Sig recounted that he hiked up to the top of that hill, gazed over the prairie in every direction and there was not a tree to be seen from where he stood on that hilltop, all the way to the horizon.  "My eyes filled with tears,"  he said, "and if I had any money at all, I would have gone back to the depot and bought a ticket to go back to a place where trees grew"

Antonius Sivertsen to Canada
He (Sigvart) took over the management of his uncle Antonius Sivertsen's homestead, in April of 1910, while his uncle went to Canada to look for another farm.  Antonius and his wife, Ellen, moved to New Norway district, Canada, in the summer of 1910.  Antonius' widowed mother, 
Andreanna, accompanied her son to his new farm in Canada.  Sig's grandfather, Sivert Johnson, had died in 1902 and is buried near Rutland in the Nordland Cemetery.  His uncle John sold his Sargent County homestead and moved up to the Tioga, North Dakota area at about the same time. Sigvart's uncle David, farmed near the town of Comstock, Minnesota. 

Sivertson or Susag

Sivert, John & Antonius had observed the old Scandinavian practice of children taking their father's first name as part of their last name.  Sigvard's father, Edvard, who remained in Norway, and his uncle David, however, took the name of the farm on which they resided in Norway as their last name.  The name of that farm was, and still is, Susag.  (Sivert Johnson (Jonsen) and sons: Antonius Sivertson, Edvard Susag, John (Johannes) Sivertson, and David Susag.)

Sigvart and Mabel

Sigvart met his future wife, Mabel Hoflen, while she was teaching at the rural school located near the farmsteads of Sivert Johnson and Antonius Sivertsen, in southeastern Ransom Township.  Mabel Cora Hoflen, daughter of Andrew Hoflen and Anna Martha Johnson, was born December 17, 1888, in Fulk County, Dakota Territory South.  She married Sigvart on November 15, 1915, in Forman, North Dakota.  After their marriage, Sigvart and Mabel continued to live in Sargent County, establishing a farming operation with their son, Lloyd, who later purchased their share of the farm.  The Susag farm was 1 mile west of the town of Rutland, on the south side of County Road #3.  A nice grove of trees was planted around the farmstead.

Sigvart' Powerful Bass Voice

Sigvart had a beautiful singing voice and was called on to sing at events and funerals throughout the area.  He was always happy to oblige.  One of the hymns well suited to his powerful bass voice was the Norwegian language version of "How Great Thou Art" and he was often called upon to sing that number at the funerals of pioneer Scandinavian homesteaders.  Sigvart first returned to Norway to visit his boyhood home in 1947 and made three more visits over the years. One of the visits was a reunion of the Norwegian male chorus group he sang with before immigrating to America.

Mabel's Parents
Mabel's parents were Swedish emigrants who homesteaded in Dakota Territory, Faulk County, in 1885.  Statehood was granted to North and South Dakota November 2, 1889.  Mabel's father, Andrew Hoflen, was born in 1863 in the province of Jamtland, Sweden.  Her father lived initially in a sod hut on the prairie.  About 1900 the family moved to Sargent County.  One of Andrew Hoflen's grandsons, Andrew G. Hoflen, currently owns and operates the Hoflen farm northeast of Rutland.

Sigvart and Mabel's Children

Sigvart and Mabel had the following children:  Grace Margaret, who was born January 11, 1917, and died April 3, 2003; and Lloyd George, who was born April 14, 1919, and is still going strong.  Mabel died June 30, 1966, and Sigvart died October 23, 1978.  (Since the writing of this article, Lloyd passed away on July 15, 2013).


Grace married James Pfau on January 13, 1954, and the couple spent most of their married life as school teachers in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone, returning to Lake Cormorant, Minnesota, following their retirement.  


Lloyd married Beulah Donaldson September 20, 1945.  Beulah was the daughter of Iver Donaldson and Sofie Pedersdatter.  Her father, Iver, was the Standard Oil Co.'s bulk oil dealer in Rutland.  She was born in Rutland on June 24, 1923, and died November 5, 1982.  They had eight children:  David; Ivan; Mark; Joel; Ronald; Carolyn; Wayne; and Sandra.  The Susag farm was taken by eminent domain in 1972, becoming part of the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge.  Lloyd married Thala June Aleshire on February 19, 1991, in Austin, TX.  

Sigvart Susag Family History