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BIOGRAPHIES OF TRAILL COUNTY
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BOLD DIGHTON ECKLER

B. Dighton was born 25 January 1840 and died 21 May 1921.
This writer could not find his civil war records. His tombstone indicates he was in Company I, Michigan 22nd Infantry Regiment. He started receiving his pension in North Dakota on 9 August 1893 and his unnamed wife started receiving a widow's pension on 1 July 1921 in North Dakota.
In the 1890 Veterans Federal Census and in the 1900 Federal census he is living in Hillsboro.
He is buried in Thompson, North Dakota.
Burial, Tombstone Picture.

EIELSEN FAMILY

Hatton-Eielson Museum and Historical Association

The following is from the Hjalmor R. Holand book Coon Valley, published in 1928 by Augsburg Publishing, Minneapolis

Page 172
Ole Eielson is the son of Eivind (Even) and Gunhild Eielsen who came from Telmarken, Norway, and settled in Coon Valley where the village of Chaseburg is now located in 1856. The father, Even Eielson, took a prominent part in the early church work of the valley. Ole Eielson was born there in 1863 and lived on the old homestead until he was 22 years old. He then moved to Hatton, N.Dak., where he became a prominent merchant and later president of the Farmers & Merchants National Bank.
In 1893 he was married to Clara Baalsen of Brooten, Minn. He father came from Flaa in Hallindal, Norway, and in 1865 became the founder of the large Halling settlement northeast of Brooten. Ole Eielson's principal distinction is that he is the father of the world-famous aviator, Carl Benjamin Eielson, who thus comes from two generations of Coon Valley stock.

Page 241
Even Eielson was born in Telemarken, Norway, September 20, 1825, the son of Eiel and Karen Kallok. He emigrated to America in 1853, and settled on Section 33, Town of Hamburg, in 1856, where he owned 160 Acres. In Norway he was married to Gunild Olson Strand, with whom he had the following children: Eiel, Ingeborg, Thone, Eiel, Anna, Ole, Helene, Elias, and Halvor. His wife Gunild died June 25, 1882. He died April 12 1904. Both are buried in the Middle Coon Valley Cemetery.


The following is from the Fargo Forum, InForum, published May 15, 2011 and written by Curtis Eriksmoen

Eriksmoen: Pilot Eielson a hero in Alaska as well as North Dakota

Carl Ben Eielson was the first airmail pilot in Alaska and Atlanta and the first pilot to fly over the North Pole. Special to The Forum

The first pilot to fly over the North Pole was killed 18 months later when his plane crashed while he was trying to rescue passengers and cargo from a ship that was lodged in the ice off the shore of Siberia.

Carl Ben Eielson was also the first airmail pilot in Alaska and Atlanta. Not only is Eielson a hero in North Dakota, but Alaska honors him as one of their own.

Eielson was born July 29, 1897, in Hatton, N.D., to Ole and Olava (Baalson) Eielson. Ole owned a general store and, in 1905, organized the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Hatton.

While growing up, Carl was better known as “Ben,” and he “did a lot of reading.” The one topic that appeared to be his greatest fascination was flying. In 1908, when the Chautauqua came to Hatton, it had a model of the plane that the Wright brothers used when they made their first flight, and Eielson studied the model in great detail.

Besides doing well in class, Eielson excelled on the basketball court and in debate competitions. After graduating in 1914, he enrolled at the University of North Dakota, majoring in commerce. At UND, Eielson played coronet in the college band, played basketball at the YMCA and was on the debate team. He transferred to the University of Wisconsin at the end of his sophomore year.

When the U.S. entered World War I, Eielson dropped out of college after the first semester of 1917-18. He enlisted in Omaha, Neb., and was called to active duty as a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on Jan. 17, 1918. He was assigned to the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of California in Berkeley.

While participating in flight training at the Air Service Flying School at Mather Field, near Sacramento, Eielson received word that the war was over. He remained at the school, receiving his wings, and then was briefly a flight instructor. Eielson was commissioned as a first lieutenant on March 1, 1919, and discharged three days later.

Eielson returned to North Dakota to help in his father’s store and finish his degree at UND. During the winter of 1919-20, he and others founded the Hatton Aero Club, the first flying club in North Dakota. On Feb. 11, 1920, the club purchased an airplane, and Eielson gave flying lessons, put on exhibition flights, charged people for joy rides and chartered flights for people with commercial or medical concerns.

After graduating from UND in 1921, he pursued a law degree at Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. Olger Burtness of North Dakota helped Eielson get a job as a guard at the U.S. House building. Eielson became friends with Daniel A. Sutherland, the newly elected congressional representative from the territory of Alaska.

Sutherland convinced him there was a great future in Alaska if the territory could be tied together through air travel. When Sutherland became aware of a school opening in Fairbanks, he told Eielson, who applied. In fall 1922, Eielson was hired as the school principal. He also taught English and science and coached the school’s basketball team.

“Intrigued by the vastness of Alaska and the potential for aviation in the area,” Eielson convinced several Fairbanks citizens to join with him on a business venture. He ordered a surplus army aircraft, which arrived in Fairbanks on July 1, 1924.

During an Independence Day celebration, Eielson was billed as “the Flying Professor.” He put on a show that included aerial stunts and then charged customers $50 for an eight-minute plane ride. By the end of the day, the airplane was paid for.

Eielson used the plane to carry passengers and medical supplies to interior mining camps and communities. He also continued to perform aerial acrobatics at shows and events throughout Alaska. In the meantime, Sutherland had secured a contract from the U.S. Post Office to begin experimental flights delivering mail to a remote village. He awarded the contract to Eielson, and the town chosen was McGrath, a regional supply center about 300 miles east of Fairbanks.

After the post office withdrew its contract after six months, the government purchased Eielson’s services and sent him to Langley Field in Virginia where he remained for a year. He then returned to North Dakota and became a bond salesman.

Late in 1925, Eielson received an offer from Sir Hubert Wilkins, a noted Australian explorer who was planning a journey from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitzbergen, Norway, by flying over the North Pole. In 1913, Wilkins was second in command of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic expedition.

Wilkins asked Stefansson who he would recommend as a pilot. Stefansson said the best pilot for such a venture was Eielson. Stefansson grew up on a farm near the town of Mountain, 70 miles north of Hatton, and both he and Eielson attended UND.

Next week we will conclude our story about Carl Ben Eielson as we focus on his remarkable accomplishments during the last three years of his life.

The Continuation was published May 22, 2011:

The North Dakotan who owns the most world records is also the person born in the state who has the most structures and geographic landmarks named in his honor.

Carl Ben Eielson has a peninsula in Antarctica and a mountain in Alaska named after him. Also in Alaska, he is honored by the Eielson Air Force Base, the Carl Ben Eielson Memorial Building on the University of Alaska campus, the Eielson Visitor Center at the base of Mount McKinley, and the Eielson High School in Fairbanks.

A liberty ship, the SS Carl B. Eielson, was launched during World War II. In North Dakota, there is an elementary school at the Grand Forks Air Base and a middle school in Fargo named in his honor. In his hometown of Hatton, there is the Hatton-Eielson Museum located on Eielson Street.

Late in 1925, Eielson received an offer from Hubert Wilkins to be his pilot as he prepared to fly from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitzbergen, Norway. The flight was to take place early in 1926. In early April, they arrived with their supplies at Point Barrow. Eielson attempted to fly to Spitzbergen the next month, but because his plane was too heavy with supplies, he couldn’t make it over the 10,000-foot mountain crest. Other factors that attributed to the failure of their four attempts that year were damage to the plane, bad weather and Wilkins’ broken arm. Before returning to Point Barrow, Eielson became the first aviator to fly over the Arctic Ocean and the “first to land a plane on the Arctic slope.”

Until Wilkins’ and Eielson’s next attempt, Eielson accepted an offer in Atlanta to accept to fly airmail to Macon, Ga., and Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami, Fla. On Sept. 15, 1926, he became the first pilot to fly airmail in America’s Deep South.

The two men again flew out of Point Barrow on March 29, 1927. Fierce headwinds forced them to turn back after about 500 miles, and they landed on an icepack about 100 miles from their base. The drifting current carried them about “200 miles in six days,” and they decided to abandon their plane and walk 80 miles to the nearest outpost. They made another failed attempt in May.

Undaunted, the two men prepared to try again to fly over the polar ice cap to Europe in 1928. On April 15, flying northeast out of Point Barrow, they crossed the Arctic Ocean and 20 hours later landed near Spitzbergen. This was a monumental accomplishment: Eielson flew in a major snowstorm, had few landmarks and constantly had to readjust the plane’s compass. Famed newscaster Lowell Thomas called this a “flight that changed history.” Wilkins was knighted by England’s King George V, and Eielson was given the Harmon Trophy by President Herbert Hoover for being the year’s outstanding aviator.

Later that year, the two men set their sights on flying over the Antarctic. On Sept. 22, they set sail from New York on a whaling vessel to Argentina. On Nov. 4, they set up their base on Deception Island in Antarctica. On Nov. 16, they made their first preliminary flight, which was the first flight ever made in the Antarctic. With more flights, they were able to map new areas of the continent and discovered several islands.

When Eielson returned to Alaska in summer 1929, he was hailed as a hero. He was the first pilot to fly over both polar regions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Later that year, he received financial backing to purchase and merge several independent air companies and establish Alaska Airways.

In late October 1929, the Swenson Fur and Trading Co. was hauling 6 tons of furs when its freighter, the Nanuk, became ice-bound off of Russia’s Siberian coast. Eielson was contacted to help rescue the 15 passengers and the million dollars’ worth of furs. On Oct. 24, Eielson announced that he agreed to fly one of the two planes for this mission. He made one flight carrying passengers and furs to Teller, Alaska, and was set to make a second trip early on Nov. 9. That morning, Eielson was waiting out a blizzard when he received word from the Nanuk that “the weather was clearing.”

Eielson decided to head back to the stranded vessel. Because of the storm, he had to rely on his instruments. As he reached the east Siberian coast, his plane slammed into the shore at full speed. Eielson and his mechanic, Earl Borland, were killed instantly. On Jan. 25, 1930, his plane was found with the needle of the altimeter stuck at 1,000 feet. After Eielson’s body was recovered, it was flown to Hatton and buried in the family plot in St. John’s Cemetery. His airplane was not returned by the Russian government until March 1991.

In July 1985, Eielson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and on Aug. 26, 1997, he became the first posthumous recipient of the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award.


LEWIS O. ELLIOTT

Lewis was born November 1837 and died 26 May 1905 in Muncie, Delaware County, indiana.
He enlisted as a Private from Indiana on 1 December 1861 into Company C, Indiana 57th Infantry Regiment. He started receiving his pension in North Dakota on 17 April 1890 and his wife, Minerva, started receiving a widow's pension on 31 May 1905.
In the 1890 Veterans Federal Census he is living in Portland. In 1900 he is in Fargo.
He is buried in Muncie, Delaware County, Indiana.
Burial, Tombstone Picture.

AMBROSE ELSESSER

Ambrose's surname is recorded as Elsesser and Elsasser.
He was born about 1843 in Germany and died in 1921 in California.
He enlisted as a Private from Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan on 1 December 1862 into Company B, Michigan 9th Cavalry Regiment. He mustered out on 21 July 1865 at Lexington, North Carolina. He started receiving his pension in Michigan in 1905 and his wife, Mary, started receiving a widow's pension on 24 June 1924 in California.
In the 1880 Dakota Territory Census he is in Traill County. In the 1890 Veterans Federal Census he is living in Norway Township. In 1900 he is in Hillsboro.
Ingvold held a land patent in Section 12, Township 146, Range 50.
He is buried in Fillmore, Ventura County, California.
Burial, Tombstone Picture, Obituary.

TOSTEN ERICKSON

Tosten's given name is also recorded Torsten and Forrester. He was born about 1834 in Norway. He enlisted as a Sargeant in Company K, 15th Wisconsin Infantry from Dane County, Wisconsin on 30 November 1861 and received a disability discharge 28 July 1862 in Jacinto, Mississippi. He started receiving his pension on 10 March 1865 and his wife, Anna, started receiving a widow's pension in Iowa on 18 March 1918. In 1880 he was living in Traill County in the 68th District and he was serving as a Justice of the Peace.

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