This is a story that might never have been told and it will always be missing many key details. It does, however, have a happy ending. It is a story that needs to be told for those who knew and loved Karle Reinke and, more importantly, for those who never had the privilege of meeting or knowing this remarkable yet humble man. This is the story of a man who never knew his biological parents and heard rumors of his adoption from young cousins when he was just a child himself. As far as we know, he learned officially of his adoption upon his engagement and then only the bare facts. He discovered his adoption papers when cleaning out his father’s desk after his death, and they were found by his daughter Janet upon his death. Janet passed them along to me, Karle’s oldest granddaughter, about ten years ago. We’ll never know what range of emotions he experienced about being adopted and his parents’ secrecy about it except that as an adult, he referred to the Reinkes as “those kind people who took me in.” [i]
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.
Thora Strand: Karle’s Biological Mother
Karle’s adoption records list Thora Strand as his birth mother and that her baby was born on January 31st, 1905 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His adoption by Otto and Mary Reinke became official on September 20, 1906. [ii]
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?”[iii]
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.” [iv]
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.) The name of their domicile 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 part of the name of their farm (Strand) in Norway as his surname, not an uncommon naming practice by immigrants of that day.[v]
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
In May of 1902, Thora’s older brother Richard Strand emigrated from Norway and landed at the port of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He moved to Crookston, Minnesota where he began working as a carpenter for the Great Northern Railway, where he worked until he retired in 1961.[vi]
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 emigrated to the United States.[xii] (Thora is on the left, Karoline Strand is on the right in the photo below.)
Finding Thora’s immigration record was a real challenge! Carol thought she’d come over sometime in 1903, but there was NO record of that. Finally, on the Ellis Island website, I finally found her on a ship’s passenger record. Rather I found a woman who came from the right area, at the right time, who was the right age and who had the correct first name, but an unfamiliar last name:
Last Place of Residence:
Date of Arrival:
Jun 12, 1903
Age at Arrival: 23
Marital Status: S
Ship of Travel:
Port of Departure:
Manifest Line Number:
This “Thora Myklebostad” was a 23 year old single woman from Norway whose passage had been paid by a Mr. “Dheli” and who was going to work for said farmer who was a cousin’s friend and who lived in Flandreau, Moody County, S.D. (the rest of the description was on the far right side of this page of the ship’s manifest.) BINGO!
But what about the last name? This is where it helps that I’d learned something about Norwegian surnames. Briefly, Norwegian’s didn’t have standardized surnames until a law passed in the early 1900s required them to do so. Before that, they took their farm’s name or their father’s name and added “-son” or “-datter” to their father’s first name, which explains why Thora was listed as “Berntsdatter” in the 1900 census, since her father’s first name was Bernt. She was literally “Bernt’s datter.”
So where did Myklebostad come from? Thora’s older brothers took “Strand” as their last name from part of the name of the farm they had been living on: Tømmervikstranden. Strand means beach in Norwegian. But Myklebostad was a puzzle that even Google Maps wasn’t able to help me solve. Luckily, in the late 1800s a fellow named Oluf Rygh cataloged all the 45,000 farms in Norway and some good people posted these names with a search engine online (http://www.dokpro.uio.no/rygh_ng/rygh_info.html)
There I learned that two of the farms in the region of Tjotta were called Tommervikstranden and (ta da!) Myklebostad. So, I made some assumptions that after Thora’s brothers left for America, she must have gone to work at another nearby farm. Then when she traveled to the US, she took the name of that farm rather than the name Strand which her brothers had taken earlier. I will probably never know for sure if this is what happened, but it’s my working hypothesis until I am able to verify it.
Thomas joined his brother working on the Great Northern Railway [viii]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 for Mr. Dheili (AKA Will Dailey) to repay him for the cost of her passage to the U. S.[iv]
Thora in South Dakota
After arriving in America, Thora moved to a large farm 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.[x] The Dailey family was widely known to take in those in need, including children of neighbors who had fallen on hard times. [xi](I do not know how Thora came to live with the Dailey’s, especially since the rest of her family lived in northern Minnesota. I suspect from the entry in Thora’s ship manifest, that Will Dailey was a friend and neighbor of Thora’s cousin. Which cousin? More to research!)
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 (the microfilm of the index cards was very hard to read. This was the most legible I could make them):
#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 putting 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.)
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.[xii] 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,[xiii] 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.) [xiv] 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
The Dailey family was a large, well-known and prosperous family in South Dakota and they clearly valued higher education. Both Will Dailey and his brother had been educated after their high school graduations in Iowa seminaries and Will went on to become a teacher in Iowa before moving to establish a homestead in South Dakota in 1876.[xv] After his sons graduated from high school, Will sent them to the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture before they set out to farm on their own. Edward Dailey graduated in 1905 from the university which was located in St. Paul and moved immediately afterward to Canada where he lived until 1916 when he moved back to the family farm with his Canadian wife and their four children.[xvi] (One wonders if there was any connection between Thora’s pregnancy and Edward’s move to Canada. Another question which may never be answered.) Edward died in 1920 of pneumonia at age 37, leaving his widow and four young children.
More Questions than Answers
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.[xvii] 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.] In order to get access to his birth certificate (shown below), 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.
A new piece of information I discovered seems to discredit the notion that Thora and Edward had ever been married. The birth certificate below says that Baby Boy Strand was born at 669 Jackson St. in St. Paul MN. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what was located at that address in 1905 and today it’s the location of a huge spaghetti bowl-type freeway intersection. In the summer of 2011, I found online the St. Paul City Directory which listed the St. Paul Salvation Army Rescue Home for Fallen Women was located at 669 Jackson! Wow. Nothing like rubbing salt in a wound! Here is a copy of that page in the St. Paul City Directory:
St. Paul City Directory
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].[xviii] (In the CHS’s old record book for Baby Boy Strand [see below], 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 later replaced with the Reinke family who later adopted him legally. I am left with questions about this first placement since no record of that was given to me.)
The Reinke Family
Baby Karle Reinke, ca 1906
On September 20, 1906 Otto and Mary Reinke of Fairfax, Minnesota became the legal parents of Baby Boy Strand who they had named Karle Albert Reinke. He would be their only child. Karle was reared in Fairfax amidst a large extended family that enjoyed frequent gatherings and Karle remained connected to them even after he moved away. He enjoyed hunting and other outdoor activities with his father who could be a stern disciplinarian. Otto was a licensed mortician and worked in a furniture store/funeral parlor in Fairfax. In the 1930’s he moved to Northwood, Iowa where he owned and managed a variety store with his niece Esther Reinke. Although Karle’s mother Mary’s health was frail and she was a somewhat nervous woman, she had strong opinions about Karle’s actions even after he was married. At one point, Karle had been offered a job as a forest ranger in the far north woods of Minnesota and Mary let him know in no uncertain terms that he should not even consider taking the job and dragging his young wife and babies into the distant and dangerous northern Minnesota wilderness. Dutifully, Karle turned down the job offer. He did find many ways throughout his lifetime to enjoy time in the outdoors as a conservation officer during his summers off from teaching.
Otto and Mary Reinke shown below:
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 reared two daughters 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 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 in August, 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.
It seems especially appropriate to post this story once again today which is the 106th anniversary of Karle Albert Reinke’s birth.
Here I am with my beloved Grandpa:
[i] Telephone interview with Janet Reinke Jenkins; February 26, 2006.
[ii] Decree of Adoption; County of Renville, State of Minnesota; 12th Judicial District Court; September 20, 1906
[vi] Declaration of Intention for Richard Strand, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization; Department of Commerce and Labor; State of Minnesota, County of Polk. May 14, 1908. Minnesota State Historical Society files.
[vii] Richard Strand, Longtime City Resident, Dies; Crookston Daily Times, April 1, 1966; p. 2.
[viii] Thos. Strand Passes Away; Crookston Daily Times, November 12, 1914; p. 1.
[ix] Mrs. Arness Dies in City; Crookston Times Obituary, January 19, 1951.
[x] South Dakota State Census, 1905; Lone Rock Twp., Moody County, SD; SD State Archives. (“The enumeration of each individual was collected on a 3” X 5” index card. The cards are arranged alphabetically and stored at the SD State Archives. They been microfilmed alphabetically and are available via interlibrary loan.)
[xi] Email from Bill Phillips, Edward Dailey’s great nephew who lives in Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org
[xii] Crookston City Directory, 1906.
[xiii] U. S. Federal Population Census; 1910 Angus Township, Polk County, MN; Series:T624, Roll: 715, p. 17. Images online via HeritageQuest.com.
[xiv] Thomas Strand Passes away, ibid.
[xv] Memorial and biographical Record: an Illustrated compendium of biography, containing a Compendium of Local biography, Including Biographical Sketches of Prominent Old Settlers and Representative Citizens of South Dakota…”: Chicago: Ogle & Co., 1898, pp. 482 – 483. Found online at Bill Phillip’s web site: http://geocities.com/gewdunn/dailey
[xvi] Edward W. Dailey Family; Moody County Historical Book; 1986; pp. 76 – 77.
[xvii] Birth certificate for white male born February 6, 1905; certified by Jennette M. McLaren, M.D. and filed March 9, 1905.
[xviii] Record Book; Children’s Home Society of Minnesota. Sent by Linda Kuhlmann, LSW to Janet Jenkins on August 21, 2001.