Mortrude, Charles Christian (1856-1935 )

  • By Frank Newman
  • Posted 6/25/2002
  • Essay 3858
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This biography of C. C. Mortrude, who came to America (eventually to Seattle) with his family from Norway, was submitted by Frank Newman of Kirkland.

Charles Christian Mortrude

Karl Kristian Andreasson Mortrude (C. C. Mortrude) was born to Andreas Knudsen Mortrude and his wife, Julia Martine Hansdatter Rogsvolden, on July 2, 1856, in Faberg, Oppland, Norway. Andreas was a widower with a 2 1/2 year old daughter when he and Julia married.

Karl's parents were both relatively wealthy when they married. His mother Julia's parents were wealthy people in the shipping business and Andreas was part of his father's (Knud Svendsen) successful building and manufacturing business in Lillehamer. Over the next 10 years, Andreas and Julia had 5 children. Karl was the first of these children and during his first nine years, the family was able to live in the manner to which Julia was accustomed. Among many enterprises, they built the Victoria Hotel which still stands (in 2002) in Lillehamer.

In 1865, when Knud and his son's company went bankrupt, it caused even more un-employment in the area. Bankruptcy was also an absolute catastrophe for Julia who was now, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, responsible for all of the cooking, shopping, cleaning, washing, etc., involved in running a household which included a husband and 7 young children and she had no training or experience to prepare her for this responsibility. It was probably a trauma for the whole family.

From Norway to America

Because of the poor economy and resulting lack of opportunity in Norway, many residents had emigrated to the United States. Karl, along with his siblings, Christine (Andreas' daughter by his deceased first wife, Lynn), Mary, Anna, Inga, Oggat, and Haakon, came with his parents in June, 1866, to Quebec, Canada, and from there to Bloomingdale in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

While they were living in Bloomingdale, Andreas Americanized the family's names. Andreas became Andrew Mortrud while all of the children took Mortrude (with an "e") as their American name. Karl Kristian became Charles Christian. Andrew's cousins, Christian, Simon, and Lars Morterud had already settled in Vernon County. Andrew applied for U. S. citizenship in September, 1867. C. C.'s younger sister, Sena, was born while they lived in Bloomingdale.

Andrew and Julia homesteaded near Rice Lake in Barron County. They added Dora, Martin, and William to the family while living there. At age 16, C. C.'s younger sister, Anna Christina, married her school teacher, Thomas Jackson, and they homesteaded there.

Farming in North Dakota

When C. C. was old enough, probably in 1874, he went to North Dakota and homesteaded land outside Valley City, in Barnes County. Shortly after that, C. C.'s parents, along with all of their unmarried children, moved to Barnes County.

As the years passed, the farm increased to 1280 acres (2 sections). Occasionally, Charles visited back in Bloomingdale and met his future wife there. On March 13, 1883, he and Anne Christine Hansen Gihle were married. Anne had come from Norway to Bloomingdale in 1881 with her parents. They lived on the farm outside Valley City and as the years passed, Anne gave birth to Albert in 1883, Julia (Judy) in 1884, William (Bill) in 1888, Clara in 1889, George in 1890, and Harry in 1896.

In the winters the snow got very deep. The home on the farm was built in a spot to miss the worst drifts, but they still had to make a tunnel to go to the outhouse. C. C. was very well known in Valley City and used to go there for supplies and to sell whatever he had grown on the farm. He carried a pistol on his many trips to and from Valley City. That pistol is still in the family. He took turns taking one of the children to town with him. The children were very proud because everyone in the town came out to talk to him. When he didn't take a child, he brought gifts home to them.

His sister Inga married Henry Nelsen and they lived on a farm near by. His sister Oggat married E. K. Myhre, and they had a saloon, general store, and post office in Valley City. They lived in a home near the college and it was still there in 2002.

In 1890, the Jackson family, Thomas, Anna Christina, and their 10 children, visited her family in the Valley City area on their way to settle in Texas.

Andrew died January 28, 1898, in Oakes, Dickey County, North Dakota. He is buried in the Church by the River Cemetery in Barnes County, North Dakota.

Westward to Idaho and Washington

Younger brothers Haakon and William had gone west and had taken up land in Idaho and then in the Moses Lake area of Washington. Haakon later farmed in Snohomish County, Washington, and then he and his wife Mattie ran a lodge with a restaurant for people waiting to take the ferry across the Columbia at Vantage. William married Cora Prudhomme from Valley City and they lived in Seattle. Their son Donald designed automobile bodies for General Motors and then designed Chris Craft boats.

In 1906, C. C. became the head of an irrigation project in Mountain Home, Idaho, and made many trips back and forth. During the period when C. C. was head of this project, it was possible to homestead the land being irrigated. Anne, along with her children, Albert, Judy, and William (those who were old enough to file for a homestead), took a train through Salt Lake City to Mountain Home, Idaho, and took up land. After completing the homestead paperwork, they continued on to Seattle for a visit with Haakon and Mattie Mortrude, who were living there. They took a train through Canada to go back to Valley City.

Shortly after arriving home, Anne bumped her leg on something. It developed into a sore and she became ill. The doctor operated on it and she was doing better, but complications set in and they had to operate again. According to her death certificate, Anne died of cancer of the hip on July 3, 1907, in a hospital in Valley City, North Dakota. She is buried in Woodbine Cemetery there.

Second Marriage

Now a widower, later in 1907 C. C. married Vene Opplinger, a woman from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who was the secretary of the Idaho irrigation project and they moved to Seattle to make their home. The children all came to live with them except Albert who was staying behind to finish college. They first lived in a home high on Queen Anne hill. A year later they moved to a new home a couple of blocks away. They had only been there a few hours when the doorbell rang. A man said that a young man thought to be Albert Mortrude had been killed by a train in St. Paul, Minnesota, and C. C. was needed to identify him. He left immediately and, indeed, it was Albert. He is buried next to his mother in Woodbine Cemetery in Valley City, North Dakota.

Sometime between 1907 and 1910, C. C.'s sister and brother-in-law, Sena and William Murray, moved to Winlock, Washington. Their daughter Molly, who married a Myers, had a baby, and remained in Valley City, North Dakota.

By 1910, C. C.'s mother Julia was living in Winlock, Lewis County, Washington, (just west of Mt. St. Helens) with her daughter and son-in-law, Sena and William Murray. Julia died there on February 5, 1912, and is buried in the Winlock Cemetery. C. C. had a tall, monument-type tombstone put on her grave. He requested that when he passed away, he be cremated and his ashes put in his mother's grave.

Haakon and Mattie ran a lodge with a restaurant for ferry passengers waiting to cross the Columbia River until 1920, when a bridge was built. Their son, Edwin, owned and operated the Mortrude Floor Company in Seattle for many years. After Haakon died, Mattie ran Lemola Lodge, just outside Poulsbo.

Seattle Entrepreneur

C. C. was an entrepeneur who had an office (Room 431) in the Pioneer Building for some time. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was held in 1909. The Expo was on the site of the University of Washington. He anticipated growth and expansion in this area after the close of the A-Y-P Expo so he bought some acreage in the area now known as the Montlake district. There he built a home for Vene and himself, one for his daughter Judy and her husband Ralph Blackwell, and one for his son George and his wife Lavonia. All of these houses were still there in 1999.

As another investment, he bought 10 sections of virgin timber on the north end of Vancouver Island. The timing was such that he lost it during the Depression in the early 1930s because he couldn't keep the taxes paid currently. (Quite common in those days.)

In the 1930s, Inga and Henry Nelsen moved from North Dakota to Wenatchee, Washington, where C. C.'s daughter and son-in-law, Clara and Frank Freeman, had an apple orchard.

C. C. Mortrude died on March 27, 1935. He was cremated, and his eldest daughter Judy took his ashes on a train from Seattle to Winlock, Washington, and had his ashes buried in his mother Julia's grave.



By Frank Newman, June 24, 2002

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