Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 382-86.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Henry Jacobson

Henry Jacobson is a self-made man who has met difficulties with resolution, who has conducted his affairs with honor and who has in the end gained not only a good competence but also the merited esteem of his fellowmen.  He was born in southern Norway in 1844, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kjensrud, who in 1856 crossed the Atlantic with their family.  They landed first at Quebec and went to Lansing, Iowa, where they arrived on the 6th of August. 1856.  The mother had become ill on the ocean and only lived for a short time after reaching Lansing, her death occurring when she was about sixty years of age.  The father continued to reside at that place until

his demise.


The sons and daughters in that family were as follows:  Hawken and Engebert came to America but are now deceased.  Ole, who had preceded the family to the new world, acted as their interpreter when the parents and other children arrived, meeting them in Quebec after waiting there for three weeks ere the ship brought them to harbor.  He then escorted the family to Lansing, Iowa, and two weeks later he went west, being among the first to go to Pike's Peak, and when last heard from was in Australia.  Syver was a farmer and landowner of Allamakee county, Iowa, for a number of years and then removed to South Dakota, where he died in 1905.  Levi, who had also preceded his parents to America, lived in Allamakee comity, Iowa, for some time and was then employed by the government to act as a teamster in Utah.  Finally he arrived at Pike's Peak and when last heard from, about thirty years ago, was in Montana.  Amund, who resided for a time in Allamakee county, became interested in the gold discoveries of the west and went to the mining regions.  He enlisted in the Second Regiment of Colorado Volunteer Infantry and was killed in Mexico in a skirmish with bushwhackers.


Henry Jacobson, the youngest of the family, was twelve years of age when he came with his parents to America and in his youthful days he was thrown upon his own resources, after which he was employed on various farms until twenty years of age.  Thinking that he could find more remunerative and more congenial labor than the work of the fields, he began clerking in a dry-goods store at Winona, Minnesota, where he remained for a year and a half and then returned to Lansing, Iowa, where he again clerked in a general store for about three years.


On the expiration of that period, in company with two fellow salesmen, John Halverson and Gus Gilbert, he started for Buena Vista county and together the three young men opened the first store in Sioux Rapids in 1869.  This was then a pioneer district, in which the work of development had scarcely been begun.  The nearest railroad was at Fort Dodge and from that point they had to haul their goods with ox-teams.  There were but few settlers between Sioux Rapids and Fort Dodge—a distance of sixty-five miles across the wild prairie, which was intersected by numerous deep sloughs.  They used four yoke of oxen in transporting their goods and when crossing a bad slough would put their teams together, thus transporting a load over a particularly bad district, after which the four oxen would be hitched to the other load.  Mr. Jacobson recounts that on one day's travel they made only four miles and it usually required the greater part of a week to make the entire trip of sixty-five miles.  By the time they had their store and goods ready for business the settlers, who had been patiently waiting, gave them all the trade they could attend to and their ox-teams were kept busy in hauling stock from the distant market.  Sugar sold at the rate of five pounds for a dollar, tea at two dollars and a half a pound, coffee at fifty cents per pound, flour at seven dollars per hundredweight, salt at ten dollars per barrel, kerosene at seventy-five cents per gallon, bacon at twenty-five cents per pound, butter at thirty-five cents per pound, while calico brought from eighteen to twenty-five cents per yard and all other commodities sold at equally high prices.  The trade came from a wide radius of territory, extending as far as Sac City on the south and Spirit Lake on the north.  The "three Norwegian boys" as they were called, soon built up a prosperous business and the partnership was continued for about six years, when it was dissolved by mutual consent.


Mr. Halverson first withdrew and later Mr. Jacobson bought out Mr.

Gilbert's interest, while subsequently Mr. Halverson again became a partner of Mr. Jacobson under the firm style of Jaeobson & Halverson.  They remained in business together for about four years, when Mr. Jacobson purchased his partner's interest, Mr. Halverson starting in business for himself.  Mr. Jacobson continued to carry on a general mercantile establishment until 1882 and throughout the years enjoyed a liberal patronage because of his large and well selected line of goods, his earnest efforts to please his patrons and his straightforward business methods.


About two years before he closed out his store he had become interested in other business enterprises, including the establishment of the first creamery in the county.  This, however, did not prove a financial success.  At the beginning of the season Mr. Jacobson had contracted for cream at fourteen cents per pound but, the price going down, he was obliged to sell in New York at thirteen cents per pound. In 1881 his store and almost his entire stock of goods was destroyed by fire and he had no place to shelter the little that remained.  He was therefore obliged to close out the creamery and utilize the building for a store.  This caused a great loss and damage to his business interests and, moreover, when the Northwestern Railroad was being built through the town he extended credit to many of the contractors, who afterward were unable to pay, thus augmenting his losses.  Other complications arose that eventually caused him to close out his mercantile business and he then turned his attention to farming on a tract of land of one hundred and sixty acres which he owned near Sioux Rapids.  Here he again met with a fair measure of prosperity and here remained until 1907, when he sold his residence and took up his abode in Sioux Rapids, where he is now living practically retired, occupying a comfortable home and enjoying well merited rest.


On the 11th of July, 1869, Mr. Jacobson was married to Miss Mathea Hanson, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Hanson, who were natives of Norway.  Mrs. Jacobson was only two years of age when brought by her parents to this country.  By her marriage she has become the mother of seven children:  Stella, the wife of L. A. Torkelson, who is mentioned elsewhere in this work; Emma, a teacher in the public schools; Julia, the wife of T. T. Thompson, who is residing in Provo, Utah, and who is a traveling salesman for the Moline Plow Company of Moline, Illinois, with headquarters at Salt Lake City; and Madeline, who is a teacher in the public schools.  Three children of the family are deceased.


Mr. Jacobson is a stalwart republican and has always voted that ticket with the exception of one occasion when before he had attained his majority and while living in a democratic community, he was compelled to vote illegally and against his wishes.  This set him to investigating the principles of the two parties and the result was that he has since been an ardent republican.  Such in brief is the life history of Henry Jacobson, a respected resident of Buena Vista county, who started out on his own account at a salary of thirty dollars per year. While not all days have been equally bright, he has nevertheless enjoyed a goodly measure of prosperity and in every relation of life he has commanded the esteem and good will of his fellow townsmen by reason of his unfailing integrity.