Sunday, May 28, 2017

Great-Aunt Inga: Love in Her 40's

Inga Oritzland/Orsland Colby

My grandfather’s family came to America in three waves: 1886, 1888, and 1889.

His sister, Brønla Torbjørnsdatter (who later changed her name to Hilda Hovick, 1863-1950) bravely came over by herself in 1886 to see if America really lived up to all the hype that they heard in Norway. She went to live with their mother's brother Bård Nilssen Oritzland (by then going by the name of Barney Orsland, 1851-1927), who farmed outside of Linn Grove, Iowa. It turned out that America offered so much more than their poverty-stricken lives in Norway, so after two years of work, she was able to send enough money home for half of the family to join her. 

My grandpa was Tjerand Torbjørnsen (who later changed his name to Charles Hovick, 1873-1948), and at the age of 15, he was part of that second wave in 1888. With him were his older brothers Nils Torbjørnsen (who later changed his name to Nels Hovick, 1868-1942) and Andreas Torbjørnsen (later Andrew Hovick, 1871-1957), and their aunt, Inga Nielsdatter Oritzland (1848-1931).

Inga was a younger sister of their mother (and my great-grandmother) Inger Nielsdatter Oritzland (1838-1924). The two sisters decided that Inga would shepherd the second wave, and as soon as there was enough money (1889), Inger would follow with the remaining children: Esther (born Astrid, 1865-1945), Tom (born Torger, 1875-1967), and Ida (born Inga, 1878-1956).

More information on Inger and Inga's family can be found reading Inger, Inga, and the Family of Aursland Farm

Inger and the boys arrived in New York on June 23, 1888. The ship's passenger list has her listed as Inga Torbjørnsen (line 8, below). I assume that they found it easier to travel under the same surname. She was thirty years old, and listed as a spinster (dreadful word!).

They joined Hilda and Barney in Iowa. In 1903, Inger and her family, reunited since 1889, moved to Madison, Minnesota. However, Aunt Inga didn't move with them. So what had become of her? No stories about her had been passed down. So I got to work, and slowly, I've been able to piece together the rest of her life.

It turns out that the reason Inga stayed in Iowa was because she had gotten married! She had met a Norwegian-born widower four years her junior, named Thore Thorerson Colby (1853-1917). Thore had been married to Eliza Johanna Newgard (probably born Elise Johanne Johannesdatter Nygard in Norway in 1856).

Married in 1883, they had five children: 

a.  Ella Marie Colby Olson (1884-1974)
b.  Carl Johan Colby (1885-1965)
c.  May Theodora Colby (1887-1951)
d.  Johannah Martina Colby Wellmerling (1889-1977)
e.  Nora Anetta Colby Carlson (1891-1987)

His first wife Eliza died in 1892, when their children ranged from eight to less than a year old.

Here is a photo of Thore and his five children, perhaps taken in 1893.

Ella, Mae, Nora, Thore, Johannah, Carl

Two years later, on March 8, 1894, Inga, who by now, like her brother, had traded Oritzland for Orsland as her surname, married Thore Colby at Den Norsk Evangeliske Lutherske Menighed (the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church) in Sioux Rapids. (The marriage record incorrectly says that this was his first marriage.)

Ella, Carl, May
Thore, Johannah, Nora, Inga
I do hope that she married for love, and not just because Thore needed help with the children. But it seems to have been a good fit. Helping care for her sister Inger's seven children seems to have prepared her well for motherhood, for her step-children speak lovingly about her in her beautiful obituary (below).

The family built a farm in 1900, which has since been torn down.

Thore died in 1917.

At the age of 77, Inga (line 94, below) is listed in the 1925 Iowa Sate Census as the head of household, and living in Sioux Rapids on First Street with her brother Barney, age 71, and her step-daughter May, age 37. 

In the 1930 United States Census, she is 82 (line 25, below) and still living with May, now 42. 

She passed away the following year on August 28, 1931.

Inga Orsland Colby
[Note: I found this posted on However, no information on the newspaper or date of publication was included.]


Mrs. Inga Colby nee Orsland was born at Skjold, Norway on March 8, 1848. As an infant she was grafted into Christ in holy baptism and later she was instructed and confirmed. Her childhood and youth were spent in her native land.

In the fall of 1888 she emigrated to the United States. Here she was received by her brother, Mr. Barney Orsland, who then resided near Linn Grove. In the fall of 1894 she was united in marriage to Mr. Thore Colby. It became her duty to mother five children, the youngest of which was three years of age. She proved herself worth of the name Mother: the children all cherished her memory as their real mother.

In the year 1914 she moved to Soo (sic) Rapids, where a new home had been built. Here she resided until her departure from this life. Her husband departed this life on July 31, 1917.

The departed had not been in the best of health for many years. During the past five years, she has been practically an invalid. Her daughter Mae, made her home with the departed during the last years of her life. She very ably and lovingly ministered to her mother’s wants. On August 28th at 1:15 p.m., she passed away peacefully at the age of 83 years, 5 months and 20 days.

The following are left to mourn her departure: Mr. Carl Colby, Linn Grove; Mrs. Alfred Olson and Miss Mae Colby of Sioux Rapids; Mrs. H. A. Wellmerling of Rembrandt and Mrs. H. Carlson of Lansing, Iowa. The deceased came from a large family of children, most of who have gone before. One brother, Erik Orsland and one sister, Mrs. Aasa Borgenvick reside in Norway. There also remains a number of nieces and nephews who cherish her memory.

The departed loves the church of God. She was always in attendance at church services even after she needed assistance to do so. Her place at the communion table was never empty. She spoke little to anyone of her relations to God, but when she spoke she revealed a humble spirit, that felt unworthy of Christ and his Grace. She appreciated the excellent care she received during her helplessness. She said at times, “I am receiving the best of care.” Those who have called her mother, today join in thanking the Lord for the blessings bestowed upon them thru the departed and they also united in blessing her memory as one who has filled a mother’s place in their lives.

Funeral services were held Monday afternoon from the Lutheran church, Rev. K. G. Hatlen having charge of the services. Interment was made in the Lone Tree Cemetery.

Thanks, Aunt Inga, for helping to get my grandpa safely to his new life in America!

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