ESTHER ASPLUND, ida's sister





compiled and edited by





June 2000






J. Ludvig Engdahl arrived in the United States from Sweden in 1889 before his 18th birthday (b. Dec. 26, 1871).  Several of his siblings were already living in America at the time and he no doubt first went to their homes, the location of which is unfortunately unknown.  Ludvig is the only one of his family who stayed in America all his life.  His siblings all returned to Sweden where he saw them once again in 1925 on his visit to his home area of Dalsland.

It is not known how Ludvig ended up in Great Falls, Montana.  There he married a Swedish-American girl named Ida Sabina Asplund (b. May 28, 1876; date of marriage is unknown).  She had immigrated as a child about 4 or 6 years of age in 1880 or 1882 with her parents and aunt and uncle from Norra Råda, Värmland.  Her father Jan Goran Asplund worked for anaconda Copper Mining Company and later had a dairy farm on the banks of the Missouri River in Great Falls.

Ludvig and Ida homesteaded on land behind Belt Butte outside of Great Falls, about seven miles from the town of Belt where all of their six children were born.  English was spoken at home with their children so that they would grow up as “real American citizens”.  Ida’s youngest sister, Esther Asplund, was 11 years younger than Ida and lived with the Engdahls.  Esther grew up there like a big sister to Ida's children.  The reason the Asplund family reunion is called Asplund and not Engdahl is to include Esther’s descendants.

Ludvig and Ida’s six children were:

·        1. Esther Marie b. Mar. 13, 1894, d. Mar. 12, 1970

·        2. Percy Ludwig b. Sept. 20, 1895, d. Oct. 12, 1953

·        3. Audrey (Nora) Elenor b. Aug. 8, 1898, d. Aug. 1, 1980

·        4. Edythe Adeline b. Oct. 21, 1902, d. May 11, 1927

·        5. Gladys Kathryn b. Dec. 12, 1904, d. July 20, 1966

·        6. Harold Lincoln b. Apr. 1, 1907, d. Dec. 15, 1965

·        Esther Asplund (Ida’s sister) b. May 16, 1887, d. Aug. 19, 1979

It seems that Ludvig was not the farmer type and the family went through hard times, but they loved him just the same.  Sometimes Ludvig would leave his family evidently to find work elsewhere.  In December 1905 he wrote a letter to his brother-in-law Larenz Jansson in Sweden from Peshtigo, Wisconsin where he worked in a railroad car manufacturing plant.  In the letter Ludvig mentioned that his family was with him in Wisconsin.  There is some uncertainty in this statement since his daughter Nora never mentioned that she had ever been in Wisconsin.  If his family were there, they probably weren’t there long.  During the school year, the family lived in Belt, instead of on the farm, so their six children and Esther would have access to school.

The following chapters describe the lives of the seven young people who grew up together in Belt on Ludvig and Ida’s farm.


1. Esther M. Engdahl

The famous Montana Methodist minister, Brother Van (Rev. W. W. Van Orsdail) baptized Esther as a baby.  She married Ben Buehler Mar. 11, 1917 in Belt, Montana and had two children.  After Ben's death in 1943, she married Rice Harmison.


2. Percy L. Engdahl

Percy married Lanora Bramlette on Apr. 15, 1917 in Belt, Montana.  Lanora had an identical twin.  They had three children.


3. Audrey (Nora) E. Engdahl

Nora grew to be only 4 feet 10 inches tall.  She was very petite with a dark complexion and hair.  Nora was also left-handed as were some of her descendents.

She preferred the name Nora and once even told the census agent that the Audrey on the list had died and that her name was Nora.  No wonder that a mistake occurred with her birth date (Aug. 8, 1898) allowing her to receive social security one year earlier when she reached age 64!  Apparently, as a child she felt small, dark and different (odd) and didn't want to be called Audrey (Oddrey).  She knew a beautiful woman named Nora and wouldn't answer to Audrey.  After her marriage, she used Audrey only on paper.  She used to joke that she was petite and dark because the Swedish Norsemen used to steal their women from France!

She and her two oldest siblings, Esther and Percy, sold butter around Belt to earn money.  Her first real job was demonstrating cooking stoves in Belt.  She would make sugar cookies to show the stoves features.

It is possible that she never finished high school.  In spite of that, she started nurses training which was against her father's will.  He believed that Nora was too small for such work.  (He did have a point there.)  It was World War I when she started her training, but in the first year she got appendicitis and had to quit.  After this she helped a country doctor during the 1919 flu epidemic and helped delivering babies at Belt.  It wasn't until 1921 that she went back to her nurses training which she completed in 1923 at the Great Falls, Montana Deaconess Hospital.  She told many exciting tails about her training days.  Her friends called her "shrimp" due to her small size.

As a young nurse she cared for a woman with cancer at Glacier Park and meet Charlie Russel the famous western painter there.  In about 1924, she traveled with her patient to California on the train.  She was impressed to see oranges growing and also got to fly in an airplane; the type where the passenger sat in an open cockpit in front of the pilot.  While she was in California, her own mother, Ida, became sick with a kidney disease.  Nora traveled by train from San Diego to Kelso, Washington to take care of her.  She and her father, Ludvig, took Ida by train back to Great Falls where Ida died November 4, 1924 of this illness.

She then stayed in Great Falls and by the time of her marriage to Ralph K. Miller on December 4, 1925, she was head nurse on the medical floor of the Deaconess Hospital in Great Falls.  Her brother Rev. Harold Engdahl married them.

Nora rented part of their house (6th Ave. house) to expectant mothers during the depression since they lived near the hospital.  For many years she acted as a sort of midwife.

In later years she and Ralph were interested in lapidary work (stone working).

She lived some years alone after Ralph died in 1965.  Then she married an old Belt acquaintance, Tom Noble, a retired farm machinery salesman, in August 1974 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  They lived together in Nora's house (6th Ave., Great Falls) in happiness for a number of years, their age related incapacities complementing each other.  Later, Nora was almost blind (she could only see shadows) and Tom had some mental problems but could see well.  He could read the medicine bottle labels out loud to Nora and she would tell him what to take and how many.  They lived their last year in an apartment at a nursing home in the Spokane Valley near her daughter, Idabelle Stallard.  Nora died there Aug. 1, 1980 shortly after Tom at the age of almost 82.


4. Edythe A. Engdahl

Edythe married Rasmus Nelson but the date is unknown.  They had only one child, Edythe Roberta Nelson who married Vernon Winship.  Edythe became sick with lung inflammation (pneumonia?) at her country home Dec. 1, 1926.  Her father Ludvig visited her and helped to care for her.  She could not be taken to a hospital.  At one point she was already over the worst and predicted to recover but she died May 11, 1927 in Great Falls.


5. Gladys K. Engdahl

Gladys was a school teacher before her marriage to Wayne W. Brown on July 7, 1923 in Great Falls.  In later years she returned to teaching.  She taught piano, was active in the Sunday School and Women's Society of Christian Service.  She also directed the choir in several of the churches in which Wayne served as Methodist minister.  Gladys and Wayne had 6 children.  They both died in a car accident on Highway 138, Douglas Co. Oregon July 20, 1966.


6. Harold L. Engdahl

Harold grew to be six feet tall with a broad, deep chest.  He was a Methodist minister in Montana and California.

There was quite an age difference in the Engdahl children.  Harold's oldest three siblings were 8½, 11½ and 13 years older than him; Esther Asplund was 20 years older.  When Harold was born (Apr. 1, 1907), the older siblings were quite enchanted with him because he seemed like a living doll to them.

Harold remembered his family in Belt having Sunday School at home when the snow was deep outside.  He always went to Sunday School when the weather was good and stayed for the church service as soon as he was old enough.  His mother often said of him "Here is my little preacher."

At home there were chores to do.  He fed the animals, milked the cow and gathered the eggs.  His father was often away – being a wanderer at heart.

Harold became a Boy Scout as soon as he was old enough.  Once, on a hike, one of the boys was bitten by a rattlesnake.  Harold carried him home to the doctor and the boy lived.  All of his life, he killed every rattlesnake he saw.

He graduated from high school at the age of 16 and that summer held his first local preacher's license and student charge.  From that time on, he was always in the employ of the Church.  He studied at Intermountain Union College in Helena, graduating in 1926.  During his time in Helena, it was necessary for him to work – so he washed dishes at the dormitory and scrubbed pans and even cooked at times.  He was an athlete and had a good bass voice.  He was better at singing than at sports and spent much time in the music department, often singing bass in a male quartet.

Harold sang base with a quartet of Methodist ministers in Montana.  He sang solos for funerals, weddings, church services and family gatherings.  He used to visit an invalid home in Choteau Montana and delivered songs to brighten the lives of those unable to leave their beds.  One constant request was for Mountain Railroad: "Life is like a mountain railroad with an Engineer that's brave.  We must make the run successful from the cradle to the grave."  The music of the church was always important to him, and singing was as natural to him as breathing.

There was also plenty of song in the Engdahl home.  Four-year-old Lynn used to sing the famous Christmas Carol "Hark the Harold Engdahl's sing!"  When grown, his sons, Lynn and Dennis joked that when they sang together, they could almost match Harold's mighty voice.

The Intermountain Glee Club gave concerts in various towns and at a concert in Great Falls Harold became ill and had an emergency appendectomy.  Betty Fifield, a Methodist Deaconess, was working in Montana Deaconess Hospital and met Harold there.

When Harold left college, he applied to the Methodist Conference for a preaching position.  He was appointed to a little church in the town of Fairview on the Montana-Dakota border, about three hundred some miles from Great Falls.  All the ministers in the conference were called to a seminar in Great Falls in February 1932.  His brother and one of his sisters lived in Great Falls and while Harold was there, each invited Betty Fifield to dinner and that was the beginning of a romance.  They were married in Great Falls October 2, 1932 and Harold was moved to a parish comprising three little churches called the "Golden Valley Circuit" – Lavina, Ryegate and Shawmut, Montana.  Harold and Betty had three children, Claudia, Lynn and Dennis.

Harold served many pastorates in Montana between 1930 and 1952.  In 1937 they moved to Colorado where Harold furthered his studies at Colorado College in Colorado Springs and attended seminary at Iliff School of Theology, receiving his Th.M. there in 1940.  They finally moved to California June 15, 1952.

Wherever he served, the young peoples work in the church prospered.  He was Dean of summer youth camps in different parts of Montana.  He was also a good pastor – at home, when he visited on a farm, or in the town – often working a few hours along side of a farmer.

Harold was non-judgmental.  He always explored knowledge.  He never condemned anyone for an action or a belief.  Rather, he used stories and the force of his spirit to help folks find a path suited to themselves.  Lynn remembers him as a Protestant minister who respected all other belief systems, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam or Indian spiritualism.

In Quincy, California, the Engdahl's heated their home and the church with wood.  Harold could swing a splitting maul with one hand and follow with a regular maul in the other.  Lynn recalls that in spite of considerable experience chopping wood, unlike his father, he could never swing a maul with one hand with any accuracy and force.  Harold was a gentle giant.

Material positions were not important to Harold.  He had few new cars.  He rode a bike to make pastoral calls when gas was rationed.  Sometimes, a slab of beef substituted for a raise.  Harold and Betty always tithed a tenth of what little they had.

Harold loved to hunt and fish and ride horses, having had a blind one in his youth.  Years later, Lynn invited him to his ranch and to ride his favorite, "Duke".  Harold, who had gained weight through the years, started to mount and then decided to lengthen the stirrups.  When he didn't immediately mount, "Duke" let out a great sigh!!!  Harold said, "If a horse is that smart to talk to me like that, I shouldn't make him carry me!"

His death by heart attack came suddenly and absolutely unexpected as he hunted pheasant on the farm of a church attendant December 15, 1965.  He was, at the time, pastor of Grace Methodist Church in Yuba City, California.


7.  Esther Christina Asplund

Esther was born in Anoka, Minnesota, May 16, 1887, the youngest child of Jan (John) and Britta (Betty) Asplund.  She had two sisters, Ida and Alma and two brothers, Victor and Arthur.  The Asplunds left Anoka in about 1887 or 1888 for Great Falls, Montana when Esther was very small.  The Great Northern Railroad had just reached Great Falls in the Fall of 1887 and the Asplunds probably arrived there by train.

Great Falls was a boomtown.  The first house was built in 1883 and the town incorporated in 1888.  In 1890 the town's population was 3,979.

Jan (Esther's father), a tailor in Sweden, became a carpenter in the US and worked for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in Great Falls until Britta became sick with cancer.  Britta (Esther's mother) died of cancer (Aug. 22, 1897 in Great Falls) when Esther was 10.  Jan then started a dairy farm on the bank of the Missouri River, South of 6th Ave. South, on land that is now part of the Gibson Park grounds and city center.  The deed to the property was in the name of J. Engdahl, Jan's son-in-law, possibly in anticipation of Jan's death due to consumption (tuberculosis).  There were many squatters living there on the banks of the Missouri so the authorities forcibly tore down the squatter's houses but the Asplund home was safe.  Jan didn't want to sell the farm but after his death, the dairy herd was sent to the Engdahl ranch at Belt, Montana, but it wasn't long before these animals had to be killed because of an epidemic being spread by the cattle.  This was a disaster for the Engdahl family.

Jan (Esther's father) died (Mar. 30, 1903) when Esther was 15 in Spokane, Washington where he went for tuberculosis treatment.  Esther's parents were both buried in the HighlaCemetery in Great Falls, Montana as Betsy K. and Jno Asplund.  Probably sometime in 1902 Esther went to live with her older sister Ida Engdahl on a ranch near Belt Butte at Belt, Montana, who had two daughters (Esther and Nora), a son (Percy) and a baby on the way (Edythe).  Esther always talked of the happy times - the love, laughter and music.

Apparently Esther didn't stay too long with the Engdahls because when she was 16 or 17 she went to Great Falls to go to Commercial College and then to work at a "Bon-Bon" shop.  This was a soda fountain and candy making business.  She learned how to dip chocolates, and mark each one to identify its contents.  This started her love for chocolates, which continued throughout her life.  Esther was working there when she met her future husband, Jacob Albert (Bert) Reed.

Esther married Bert July 18, 1914 and they homesteaded on 160 acres of land at Genoe, 50 miles north of Great Falls (near "The Knees") where three of their five children were born.  Their children were: George Reed (1916-1971), Betty Hogan (b. 1917), Marie Browning, James Reed and Calvin Reed.  Bert was a successful wheat farmer and cattleman for over twenty-five years.  The family spent winters in the Rainbow Hotel in Great Falls.  Their daughter, Marie Browning, remembers that the dresser drawers were used as beds for the little ones.  After several years of drought, the Reeds moved off the farm and bought a house in Belt in 1928 where the children attended school.  Esther sold milk from the house in Belt.  Their son, Jim, remembered that some of the kids would sleep on the front porch under a bearskin.

Esther is remembered as a wonderful mother; she was always fair and kind to her children.  She also had good common sense.  The children were taught to tell the truth at all costs.  She said heaven to her would be raising her children again.

Ida Asplund Engdahl's oldest child was Esther Marie, a few years younger than Esther Asplund Reed.  In the 1920's they both had daughters a few years apart....Ellen Marie Engdahl (Bost) and Dorothy Marie Reed (Browning).

After all the children were grown and gone, Esther and Bert were divorced.

In later years Esther moved to Sacramento, California where here son George Reed lived.  For a while she worked in George's office in the bookkeeping section.

Esther had five children and seventeen grandchildren.  No doubt all of them have many fond memories of Esther.  Nancy Reed McClusky remembers visiting her grandmother in Sacramento during her lunchtime in Junior High School (1957).  "We always had sweet times together.  She was gentle and kind and never complained.  She would say the Lord's prayer in Swedish and sometimes while I was there.  Grandma always had cookies for us grandchildren.  We never knew if the cookies were homemade or store-bought.  Grandma would say, "If you like them, I made them; if you don't like them, I bought them!"

Jan White remembers her grandmother, Esther, as being very warm and wonderful.  She writes: "Since there were 16 grandchildren, it's a wonder that any of us got special, one on one time with her.  But we did - sometimes if you spent the night, you'd wake up in the morning with a cousin or two there.  They may have come late that night or early that morning.  We were always coming and going.  It was great at her house; it never felt packed with people (especially children) but it must have been pretty hair-raising on holidays.  When you'd spend the night you knew you would bake cookies the next day, for sure.  I still bake grandma's cookies to this day - she had a very definite impact on my life and how I grew up.  She was kind, loving and accepting of us no matter what.  She was always a lady to the end.  Grandma was very upstanding and "proper" but would laugh the hardest at herself.  She was a great mama and Grandma and also pretty strong, considering she was the first woman (or one of the first) to have land deeded in her name in Montana."