Swan River Valley, Manitoba, Canada: Icelandic Settlers
Tent Town First Train To Swan River

The Swan River Valley is located in north western Manitoba, Canada, close to Saskatchewan, about 300 miles north west of Winnipeg. Like all the other  valleys on the great prairies of centralAlmanak North America, this valley is merely lower flatland along the rivers limited on two sides by hills formed in the gradually rising landscape. Deep valleys are non existent except where there are high mountains, and therefore there are no actual valleys on the vast prairies, but rather wide depressions along riverbeds. The Swan River Valley lies between the  Duck Mountains to the south and the Porcupine Mountains to the north; while  Thunder Hill stands like a gable on its west side. All these hills are low, they are the first stage in the rising landscape from western Manitoba to the Rocky Mountains. Although the hills are low they add a sorely needed diversity to the lowest and flattest areas in Manitoba.


The Swan River Valley is more than 60 miles long and about 30 miles wide. Small hills are scattered here and there throughout the valley. The Swan River runs along the center of the valley. It originates in the northern Porcupine Mountains and runs in a large curve west and south into Saskatchewan, where it turns east and runs into a small lake, Swan Lake, from which the Shoal River runs into Lake Winnipegosis.


In the spring the Swan River can swell greatly and amazingly quickly, when the ice breaks up.  Beside the Swan River, the Little Woody River and the Big Woody River run along the valley, as well as many small brooks. These areas were very important in earlier times when the Native People alone inhabited the land and also excellent hunting and trapping grounds.


 The Province of Manitoba was sparsely settled until after 1870.  A white settlement existed on the banks of the Red River, where Winnipeg is located today. This settlement was named after Lord Selkirk, a Scottish nobleman who in 1812 brought a few Scottish farmers to settle the North West, a term used for all of mid-western Canada. The settlement grew slowly as could be expected as transportation to other settled areas was very difficult. In 1870 immigrants began arriving in Manitoba from eastern Canada and further afield. Manitoba became a province in 1870. The southern part of the province, from the U.S. border, was settled first, while the north-western part was settled later, because of distances and lack of transportation; generally that land was also considered to be of lesser value.

 Map of Manitoba

Settlement in the Swan River Valley did not begin until around the turn of the century. At that time work began on lengthening the rail line north west from Dauphin. Dauphin is a  fair sized town located about 190 miles north west of Winnipeg. The rail line was extended all the way to Prince Albert, one of the larger towns in Saskatchewan. Settlement soon began along the proposed rail line. The Swan River Valley was especially sought after for its excellent soil conditions. People arrived from far and wide, Eastern Canada, Great Britain, the U.S.A., and elsewhere. Some Icelanders were among those settlers.

  Map of Original Homesteaders

Around 1898 many Icelandic families were living in the Argyle district, some were recent
Sigurdur Christophersson
arrivals from Iceland who were unable to obtain land because most of the homestead lands were already taken and the price of available land was too high. These people were eager to find farmland to move to, and they were working on several plans. Sigurður Christophersson, farmer at Grund in the Argyle district, had been much involved with matters of immigration. In the summer of 1897 he travelled to the Swan River Valley to take a look at the land available there. When he returned he praised the quality of the land and encouraged landless Icelanders to move there. His reports may be read in the Icelandic newspaper Lögberg.  24 June 1897 page 1 and 29 July 1897 page 8.  Or in English here.  In the winter of 1897-1898 a meeting was held at the home of Skapti Arason, a farmer in the Argyle district, to discuss moving to the Swan River Valley. Sigurður Christophersson was asked to make another trip to the valley to inquire about land for a few families. While he was there he made arrangements for A. J. Vopni´s quarter.


The first men to move from Argyle to the Swan River Valley were Ágúst Vopni and Gunnar Helgason. They began the journey on June 15, 1898 with all their belongings on wagons pulled by oxen; other transportation was not available. They travelled the shortest distance, but it was slow going as could be expected and took them a whole month. The entire valley wasSam Mer uninhabited when they arrived, but during the previous winter the government had made a road from Dauphin across the Duck Mountains. Although, it could hardly be called a road, rather a trail had simply been cleared through the woods, and they had to build bridges over every bog and brook they came upon to get across. The rail line had been laid to Sifton, which lies a short distance north of Dauphin, and work on extending it to the Swan River Valley was beginning.  A campsite had been set up at the end of the colonization trail about 1 ½ miles west of Minitonas and was called Tent Town.


The Land Agent Hugh Harley arrived in Tent Town on May 2, 1898. His Land Office and living quarters were in a tent. Here he received and recorded homestead entries and imparted information to incoming settlers as to the lands that were avaliable.  Hugh’s wife arrived in Tent Town Mar 6, 1899, by that time he had a log house built, and the rail extended to Cowan. The First Train got to Tent Town Sept. 1899, and the First Train to Swan River arrived on Oct. 10, 1899. By the end of November Tent Town was no more.

Hugh Harley was thinly disguised as "Hugh Hurley" in Douglas Durkin's book the "Heart of Cherry McBain" (1919)
which may be read on-line here, or downloaded.

Ágúst and Gunnar settled a little west of the mid-valley. They were the first Icelanders to settle there. In the fall two more Icelandic families arrived; Snorri Sigurjónsson Lögberg 8 Sept 1898 page 5  arrived with his family and Invgeldur Jónsdóttir  with her sons.  After this more and more families arrived to claim land.


At this time there were many Icelandic families in the Mouse River settlement in North Dakota who wanted to move from there. That settlement is in northern North Dakota, quite far west of the main Icelandic settlement in Pembina County.


Halldór Egilsson lived there at the time. In the spring of 1899 he travelled with Sumarliði Kristjánsson north to Canada to look for available land. Lögberg 1 June 1899 page 6  Halldór had thought about settling close to Morden, just north of the border, as that area was being settled at the time. However, after discussions and advice from Wilhelm Paulson who was an immigration agent for the government, they decided to move to the Swan River Valley. They returned to Mouse River and reported on their findings. This news caused a stir in the settlement and many planned to move. In the fall Halldór and Sumarliði, along with a  sizeable group of people, moved north. At this time the rail line had reached Cowan, about 30 miles from where they chose to settle. They moved their household on wagons  from Cowan. However, the roads were so poor that it was impossible to transport the heaviest articles and people had to leave some items of their household behind. Some of these articles were moved later, but some were completely lost. The land was heavily wooded with a lot of wetlands. The outlook was not good for poor people to settle there.  As often is the case with settlers and pioneers, the people had unfaltering courage and the hope for a better future carried them over the greatest difficulties. All settlers in this country, in every settlement, are familiar with  stories of struggles and difficulties during the first years and know it from first hand experience. As a rule they do not complain, or feel that they lost out on the good life, although they experienced several years of hardship. The victory most of them won has more than made up for that.


These are the events which lead to the Icelandic settlement in the Swan River Valley. Most of those who arrived there had earlier spent a longer or shorter time in one or two other settlements, Argyle or Mouse River,  but a few were from other points, including  The Narrows,  Churchbridge, Keewatin, Winnipegosis, Brandon and Winnipeg. Stefan Bjornsson had arrived in Canada in 1873. After ten years in Muskoka he moved to North Dakota and from there to Swan River. Finnur Bjarnason, born in Iceland in 1838, arrived in New Iceland in 1876, moved to North Dakota in 1881 and to Swan River in 1899.


Twenty-five years later there were ap­proximately forty Icelandic families in the Swan River Valley.

The Icelandic settlers in the Swan River Valley were consider­ably dispersed, some being located ten to twenty miles west of the village and a few ten miles to the north-east. Despite this fact and in addition to taking an active part in the life of the general community, they developed a measure of their own organized community life. A congregation was formed, which by about 1920 was being visited by a pastor once a month in summer. There were also two women's societies and a community library.

A J Vopni Arnbjorg Vopni
Jakob Ágúst Vopni           Arnbjörg Jónsdóttir        

Jakob Ágúst Vopni – He was  born at Ljótsstaðir in Vopnafjörður on February 1, 1867 and grew up there. His father was Jón Jónsson, carpenter, who lived many years in Ljótsstaðir. He was a well known man in all of eastern Iceland, a good carpenter, who built most of the churches in the area at that time. His father, Jón Illugason, reeve, lived many years at Djúpilækur, Langanesströnd. Ágúst´s mother was Arnþrúður Vigfúsdóttir of the  Hauksstaða-family, on one side of her family, and Hákonarstaða-family on the other. Ágúst had many siblings, among them was Jón in Winnipeg, Vigfús, Karl, Halldór, Jona and Kristbjorg. Half siblings Olafur, Gudbjorg and Gunnar. Gunnar stayed in Iceland. Ágúst´s wife was Arnbjörg Jónsdóttir from Rjúpnafell in Vopnafjörður, born in February 1865. On her father´s side she was of the Haukstaða- and Hróaldsstaða-families in Vopnafjörður, her mother, Aðalbjörg Friðfinnsdóttir was from Aðal-Reykjadalur and related to the Friðriksson brothers in Argyle. Ágúst and Arnbjörg were married in Iceland in 1890 and lived at Böðvarsdalur, Vopnafjörður.
Ágúst bought his ticket to America in Vopnafjordur on August 6, 1892, Svein Brynjolfsson was the agent,  Ágúst, Arnbjörg, and Siurlaug  took the S.S. Thyra to Granton, Scotland. From there they were taken overland by train to Liverpool, and boarded the S.S. Toronto of the Dominion Line on August 19, arriving at Montreal, Canada on August 30, and Winnipeg on Sept  3, 1892. They settled in the Argyle district. They lived there for six years. In the spring of 1898 they moved to the Swan River Valley. Their children were: Aðalbjörg, married to Magnús Gillis, they lived in Wynyard, Sask.; Sigurlaug Jósefína, married Eggert Friðrik Sigurðsson, who farmed a short distance from Swan River; Jóna Arnþrúður, lived in Winnipeg; Jón Valdimar, Árni, Ágúst, Halldór, and Anna Sigríður.


As mentioned earlier Ágúst Vopni and Gunnar Helgason were the first Icelandic settlers in the Swan River Valley. Ágúst arrived in the middle of summer, in July, and started by building a temporary shelter, but in the fall he built a more substantial shelter for the winter. The house he built in the fall was a log house, measuring 14x14 feet, built from lumber he cut on the land he had claimed. Ágúst had a wife and five children, a family of seven. While he was building the house another settler, by the name of Snorri Sigurjónsson, arrived. He asked Ágúst to give him shelter. This was late in the fall, at the beginning of November, and winter was approaching. Ágúst told him that he had enough space, and that he was welcome to stay for the winter. Snorri and his wife had four children at the time and the fifth was born during the winter, bringing the number of occupants of the 14x14 feet house to fourteen; you can imagine that there was little room to spare when everyone was indoors.


One incident which happened during the first summer is a good example of the difficulties and inconveniences of the pioneer life. Ágúst had brought some sheep with him from the Argyle district. The following summer he wanted to slaughter a lamb, but because he did not have enough salt at home he had to travel 20 miles, to Minitonas, to fetch it. When he returned the sheep had disappeared and he was unable to find them until in the fall. The entire area was wooded, making it almost impossible to find a lost animal. In the early years he made good use of the native food avaliable, such as fish from the river and ducks and other game. They would use hops from the bush for making yeast , and he made his own shoes from the hides of animals.


At this time people were streaming into the area to claim land in the valley. The government representative, Hugh Harley, sent many of them to Ágúst Vopni for  advice and guidance as he was becoming familiar with the area. The sections were numbered with Roman numerals on iron pegs, which were driven into the ground in a corner of each section. Some local people were unable to read the Roman numerals. At one time a man from Brandon, of English background, arrived and received guidance from Ágúst. When he was ready to leave he asked Ágúst to help him get  across a brook a short distance away without getting wet and promised to pay him 25 cents for the trouble. The brook had a bridge made from two wooden planks laid across it, with the ends dug into the ground on both sides, making the bridge even with the banks of the brook; other planks were then laid across these two. When they arrived at the bridge only the two foundation planks remained, while the upper planks had been washed away in a flood. Ágúst took the Englishman on his back and intended to carry him across. Water flowed over the two planks which had become very slippery, making them almost impossible to walk on. This ended with the Englishman plunging head first into the brook. Ágúst pulled him out, helped him remove his clothes and wrung the water from them. There they parted. Ágúst went home with the money in his pocket, while the visitor made his way to the train station and probably back home to Brandon, or at least he was not seen again in the area.


On another occasion four men called on  him and asked him to plow a piece of a field on their homestead lands, so that others would not claim that land. Ágúst left home and did what they had asked him. The work took him three days, including the time of his travel. Only one of the men returned to pay him; he paid him $4.00 for the job.


Ágúst  fared well, he was well off and owned six quarter sections of land with more than 600 cultivated acres. Usually his harvest had been good and was often excellent. He had about 20 horses, two tractors, two large cars, a threshing machine, and a variety of tools needed for farming. He did not own many cattle, but the ones he had were excellent, purebred animals. He had built an excellent, large barn. His home was built in about 1907 , and it was good, although it  lacked some conveniences which are now common in the best new houses. He also had good buildings on the land he bought  from one of his neighbours who retired from farming. His four sons farmed  with him and they ran the farm with great efficiency. Everything was in excellent order and it was obvious that they were hard working men.


Ágúst had been quite involved with community work in his district. He had been a president of the local Icelandic congregation and sat on the board of the reading society. He had frequently had a seat on the School Board in his school district, served as president of the local Grain Growers chapter and been its representative to annual conventions. He had also served as president of the Agricultural Society in the valley. This shows that he had gained the trust of the people in the district, as well as with Icelanders. He undoubtedly ranked  among the most important Icelandic farmers in Manitoba. His prosperity was due to his hard work, as he had to borrow money for his fare to Canada and when he arrived in the Swan River Valley he only owned a few animals and $10.00 in money.


Snorri Sigurjónsson- “yngri” (Snorri Johnson) born at Einarsstöðum in Reykjadal, his
Herman Johnson
parents were Sigurjón Jónsson and Margrét Ingjaldsdóttir, and his wife Halldóra Friðbjarnardóttir, daughter of Friðbjörn Jónsson, born at Fremstafelli, moved into the Swan River Valley from Glenboro, Manitoba. Their children were, Sigurbjorg Augusta (Sarah), Herman, Elin Margarete Julina, Oli Gustav, Laura Svankvet, Kristian Albert married to Mary Koons. Laura, was born in the Harlington District, January 24, 1899, and as far as known was the first pioneer child born in the Swan River Valley.  The children were among the first students at Harlington and Kenville schools.  Elin later taught school at Kenville.


Gunnar Helgason – the second Icelander to settle in the Swan River Valley came from eastern Iceland. He was born at Geirólfsstaðir, Skriðdalur, on August 15, 1859. His father was Helgi Hallgrímsson; his mother was Margrét Sigurðardóttir from Mýrar. She was a well-known, noteworthy woman in eastern Iceland. Gunnar’s wife was Kristrún Sigríður Jónsdóttir, from Vopnafjörður, a sister to Jósep Jónsson, carpenter in Winnipeg and  siblings. She died in 1900. Gunnar emigrated from Vopnafjörður to America in 1893, Gunnar,  Sigríður, and Jóna arriving in Canada Aug 11, 1893 on board the SS Lake Huron, the same trip as the Hrappstead's. He settled first in the Argyle district where he lived for five years. In 1898 he moved to the Swan River Valley. Gunnar’s land claim had been made on Nov. 5, 1898.  He lived in the valley to his dying day in 1921.  Gunnar and his wife had six children: Helgi Hallgrímur and Jósep Sigurður lived at their father’s homestead. Bergþór lived at Oak Point and married Alexandrina Munro, Ólafur Guðmundur, Jóna Aðalbjörg was married to Jón Sæmundsson who lived in the town of Swan River, and Margrét Sigríður was  married to a man of English descent, by the name of W. H. Woodcock. Two of the youngest children were for the most part brought up with other people after the death of their mother. Ólafur was with Finnur Bjarnason, and Margrét was first with Halldór Eigilsson, but later with Jóhann Sveinsson.


Guðrún Jónsdóttir from Andakýl in Borgarfjörður took on running Gunnar’s home after the death of his wife. She arrived from Iceland at the turn of the century and she later lived with Jón Sæmundsson in Swan River. Gunnar did prosper; being a hard working man. He was quite involved in community work, in the congregation and the reading society. He was an  intelligent man, a lively man who was well liked by all who knew him. His memoirs were published in the newspaper Heimskringla, 3 Aug 1921 page 5 shortly after his death where his life story was traced in detail. Generally speaking, he was among the most prominent men of his district, popular and had a good reputation, according to his neighbours.

Halldor Egilsson Margret Jonsdottir
Halldór Egilsson                   Margrét Jónsdóttir            

Halldór Jóhannes Egilsson – his father, Egill was the son of Halldór Ásmundsson, dean at Melstaður, Miðfjörður, Húnavatnssýsla. Halldór Ásmundsson´s wife was Margrét Egilsdóttir, the daughter of Rev. Egill Jónsson at Staðarbakki, Miðfjörður. Egill Halldórsson´s wife was Sigurveig Jóhannesdóttir, Kristjánsson from Laxamýri, Þingeyjarsýsla, a sister to Sigurjón, farmer at Laxamýri the father of the poet Jóhann Sigurjónsson. Halldór Egilsson´s wife was Margrét Jónsdóttir, Guðmundsson, Þorsteinsson from Langahlíð in Eyjafjörður. Margrét´s mother was Jóhanna Jónsdóttir, Sigurðsson from Marbæli at Óslandshlíð, Skagafjarðarsýsla.


Halldór was born October 14, 1850 at Laxamýri. During his youth he spent some time in
Þingeyjarsýsla, but mainly grew up at Húnavatnssýsla. He farmed at Mosfell, North Húnavatnssýsla before he left Iceland. They moved from there to America, Halldór, Margrét and Egilsína taking the  SS Miaca to Scotland, arriving in Canada on board the SS Buenos Ayrean on 27 July, 1887, and going to Winnipeg. He left his wife there with her cousin, Sigurður Jóhannesson, while he travelled to North Dakota. They stayed for three years in the Icelandic settlement in Pembina County, from here they moved to Mouse River and lived nine years. Then Halldór moved to the Swan River Valley in 1899; having first gone on a fact finding mission with Sumarliði Kristjánsson, as mentioned earlier. Halldór claimed land about 12 miles west of the present day town of Swan River. At that time the rail line reached Cowan and the land was difficult for travel. To give you an example of Halldór's financial situation at this time it is worth noting that  for quite some time he had no animal for plowing. He lived for two years in the settlement before he acquired an ox.  He built a log cabin on the banks of the Little Woody River and  everything has changed from the time Halldór first arrived.


Halldór and Margrét´s children were: Egilsína Sigurveig, married Sæmundur Helgason; Jón Jóhann, lived at home with his mother and father after the death of his wife, who was Hilda, (Tillie) daughter of Stefán  Björnsson, she died in 1921; Arnór Konráð,  farmed with his parents,  married to Þórunn Salóme Oliver from Selkirk; Helga Sigurrós, married Jóhann Björnsson; Kristján Halldór, worked with his father; Jónas, married to a woman by the name of Ethel Abrahamson, of Norwegian descent, they lived in the Swan River Valley.


Halldór appears to have been a man of great energy. He was spry and quick in movement, in spite of his age. His wife had been blind for  several years. His farm was well maintained. He owned it in cooperation with his sons who lived with him, one section of Reading Societywell cultivated land, and his house was well built. It was heated with hot water pipes, and equipped with electricity. It was considered to be the most elaborate house in the area, owned by an Icelander. Father and sons owned a saw mill and a planer which the sons operated. They were able to produce most of the lumber needed for house building including most of the lumber in Halldór´s house. They also owned up-to-date farm equipment. Halldór was a bookish man; he owned good books and was a librarian for the Reading Society (Lestrarfélag). He said that people´s interest for reading Icelandic books had dwindled as time passed, a development which did not please him. He was very interested in teaching his son´s children, three of whom lived with him, and they talked with each other in Icelandic. He remembered well many events from his youth and had an interesting way of recounting them. He spent many years on fishing boats in southern Iceland, when he lived at Húnavatnssýsla, and had many stories to tell from his travels. It was not for the faint-hearted to travel on foot across mountains in the middle of winter in changeable weather, nor was fishing on open boats, as was the custom at that time. The men who were familiar with that type of work in Iceland were well prepared for the difficulties of pioneer life in this country.

Egilsina Margaret Sam Helgi Jakobina
Egilsína, Margaret, Sæmundur Helgi Daníelsson, Jakobína

Halldór´s sons-in-law who have been mentioned above, lived a short distance from him. Sæmundur Helgason was from Langanes but grew up in North Dakota. Sæmundur at age 7 left Iceland on board the SS Craikforth going to Scotland with his Aunt, arriving in Canada 31 July 1883 on board the SS Buenos Ayrean. His parents were Helgi Daníelsson and Friðrika Jakobína Sæmundsdóttir. He moved north with Halldór and  lived in the Swan River Valley after that.  Sæmundur and his wife Egilsína Sigurveig had eight children. Margaret, Halldor, Helga Jocobina, Ellen, Rose who married Thomas Thomasson in Westbourne., Harold, Julius, and Fred.

Johann Helga
Jóhann Björnsson, Helga          

 Jóhann Björnsson-  was from Bóndastaðir, Fljótsdalshérað. His parents were Björn Jónsson and Gróa Eiríksdóttir. Jóhann arrived in Canada 29 July 1912 on board the SS Hesperian. He moved to the Swan River Valley in 1917 and bought land there a short distance from his father-in-law, Halldór. Jóhann and his wife Helga Sigurrós’s children are Haldor, Jonas, Kris, Elmer, Lawrence, John, and Dorothy.


 Halldór Egilsson's half-sister (on his mothers side) Snjólaug Þorsteinsdóttir,  (Lily) was married to a man of English descent, Robert Dennison, and they lived close to Halldór. Their children were Elizabeth, William, and Charles.

John Hrappstead Abigael
John Hrappstead               Abigael                
Jón Jóhannesson Hrappsteð (John Hrappstead) – his family came from Kelduhverfi, Norður-Þingeyjarsýsla. Jón was a son of Jóhannes Einarsson, who lived at various farms in
Johannes Thora
Kelduhverfi and later at Hrappstaðir, Vopnafjörður. Jóhannes was a man of great energy and a good carpenter. Jóhannes´s wife, Þóra Einarsdóttir, was related to Bólu-Hjálmar, on her mother´s side of the family. Jóhannes moved to Canada in 1905 and settled in Selkirk, where he died.


Jón Hrappsteð moved to Canada in 1893, with him were Margrét, Ottó and Einar. He lived first in Winnipeg and in the Argyle settlement, in 1899 he moved to the Swan River Valley where he claimed land about 11 miles west of the town of Swan River. The settlement was just over one year old at the time, but no one had settled nearby.  Jón did not live on his homestead, rather on the land Sumarliði Kristjánsson claimed, which was three miles closer to the town of Swan River.


Jón married twice. His first wife was Margrét Jónsdóttir, from Vopnafjörður, her parents were Jón "skörsi" Jónsson and Kristín Jónsdóttir. Margrét's brother was Jakob Jónsson Vopnfjörð. Three of their sons reached adulthood. One son, Jóhannes, who was brought up by Jón´s parents drowned in Lake Winnipeg at the age of 20. The other two sons were Ottó and Einar and they lived close to Leslie, Saskatchewan. Ottó´s wife was Ágústa Gísladóttir Bíldfell, and Einar´s wife was Marta, daughter of Sveinn Halldórsson.


Jón Hrappsteð´s second wife was Abigal Ólafsdótir, from Þistilfjörður. Her father was Ólafur Jónsson from Kúðá in Þistilfjörður, and her mother was Friðrika Jónsdóttir,  a half-sister to Valdimar Ásmundson, editor. Ólafur and Friðrika moved to Canada in 1888 and settled in the Hólar settlement, a short distance from Glenboro. Ólafur died there, and after his death Friðrika has mainly lived with her daughter, Jón´s wife.


Jón has seven children from his second marriage. Their names are: Þóra married Oscar Brandson, Tryggvi, Valdimar married Florence Rooks, Óli  married Mary Firestine, Friðrika  married Harry Sigurdson, Karl  married Oddny Sigurdson, and Jóhannes Hermann  married Bernice Smith.


Jón was well to do. His farmland was one square mile and buildings on his farm were kept in good condition; the home was solid and well built and the same was true for the outbuildings.  Jón was straight forward, interesting and communicative.  He was  quite firm, although he was guarded and unaggressive. He was intelligent and independent in thought. He took an active part in community life of his district.

John Margaret
Jón Sigurðsson, Margrét                              

Jón Sigurðsson - was born on September 5, 1874 at Indriðastaðir in Skorradalur, Borgarfjarðarsýsla. His parents were Sigurður Jónsson from Deildartunga and Ingveldur Jónsdóttir from Snældubeinsstaðir, Reykholtsdalur. On his father´s side, Jón was of the Tungu-family, a well-known family in Borgarfjörður, descended from Björn Jónsson, son of Bishop Jón Arason, and Egill Skallagrímsson. When Jón was eight years old his parents moved to Engjaland in Lundarreykjadalur, and four years later to Stóri Kroppur in Reykholtsdalur. After living there for four years his father died and Jón spent one more year with his mother, and moved after that to Akranes where he trained as a carpenter with Ásbjörn Ólafsson. He worked as a carpenter until 1896 when he moved to North America. Jón arrived in Canada July 12, 1896 on board the SS Sardinian. At first he lived in various places: in Winnipeg, Argyle district, at Lake Manitoba, and in Keewatin. In December, 1898 he moved to the Swan River Valley and claimed land there. His brother, Þorbjörn, had moved there the previous spring and claimed land for himself and for Jón and their mother.


Jón had been sick before he left on this journey from Winnipeg. At first he stayed with Gunnar Helgason, while he and his brother built a shelter for themselves. They walked six miles back and forth, morning and evening, while they were building. They began by building a barn and after that a log house. They used the barn for shelter while they were building the house and kept their horses in one end of it. Unfortunately, one night a fire broke out in the barn and they lost a considerable amount of food and clothing. They managed to put the fire out, although Jón had difficulty moving. He had earlier stepped on a nail and his foot hurt quite a bit. After completing the buildings, Jón moved onto his land. He  operated a good farm and had acquired more land. Jón was married to Margrét Sigmundsdóttir whose family came from Skagafjörður, her parents were Sigmundur Þiðriksson and Kristín Jóhannesdóttir.  They had eleven children, Aurora Sarah, Ingvar Harold, Olafur Carl, Lily, Haldor, Hakon Skuli, Gustave Daniel, Oddny Margaret, John Thomas, Vera Pearl, and Olive Helen.


Jón´s farm was located about 15 miles from the town of Swan River, or some distance from other Icelanders in the valley,  all his neighbours were English speaking people. Understandably, he found it a little difficult to maintain the Icelandic language in his family. He was  however, a good Icelander and anyone who visited him could expect an interesting conversation.


Jón was an intelligent man who benefitted from a good, traditional education in his home in Iceland. In his opinion young people in this country receive a less substantial education than could be expected, or as it is made out to be. In conversations with Jón, one would quickly realize that he thought a great deal.

Ingveldur Jonsdottir
Ingveldur Jónsdóttir

Ingveldur Jónsdóttir - Jón´s mother, claimed land in the Swan River Valley and lived there for a few years until she moved to Elfros, Saskatchewan, where she died in 1920. She was a woman of distinction who spared no effort in helping others. She was a midwife who enjoyed success in her work. Both Icelanders and others sought her assistance. She frequently travelled by foot or on horseback through woods and across wilderness, often receiving little or no remuneration for her efforts. Many people were poor and unable to pay for her nursing assistance. Although she had reached an advanced age, it did not hinder her from fulfilling her duties. Those who knew her considered her to be among the most noteworthy women of Icelandic descent who moved to this country as adults.


Ingveldur had three sons, besides Jón, who settled in the Swan River Valley: Þorbjörn was mentioned earlier. He moved to Saskatchewan and died there in 1917. Sigurður  farmed close to Elfros, Saskatchewan. Böðvar remained single; he owned land a short distance from Jón Hrappsteð and lived with him. Böðvar was said to be well to do. He was an intelligent man, guarded and very unassuming.

Jon Eggertsson Sigridur Jonsdottir Eggert Jonsson
Jón Eggertsson                 Sigríður Jónsdóttir         Eggert Jónsson          

Jón Eggertsson - was born on August 20, 1865 at Höll in Þverárhlíð, Mýrasýsla. His parents were Eggert Jónsson from Leirá, Borgarfjarðarsýsla and Sigríður Jónsdóttir from Deildartunga. Eggert´s father was Jón Árnason at Leirá, appointed sheriff in Borgarfjarðarsýsla, whose family was from Kalmanstunga. Eggert´s mother was Halla Jónsdóttir, a daughter of Pastor Jón, junior, at Gilsbakki. Before moving to North America Eggert farmed at Hrafnabjörg in Hörðadal, Dalasýsla. In 1887 he moved to North America. He first settled in New Iceland, two miles north of Gimli. A year later he moved to Winnipeg and lived there for six years. He then moved to the Narrows, at Lake Manitoba, where he died in 1897. Eggert had many children. One of them was Árni Eggertsson, a real estate salesman in Winnipeg.


Jón lived with  his father off and on while he was living. As a rule he worked as common labourer in Winnipeg in summers. He moved from the Narrows to the Swan River Valley in 1899. His brother, Halldór, had moved there two years earlier and claimed land close to Minitonas. Jón lived there for five years. He claimed land in 1900 and lived there until 1906, when he moved to Winnipeg. Jón´s mother lived with him and moved with him to Winnipeg. She died in July, 1906. Jón lived for 12 years in Winnipeg. At that time he moved again onto his land in the Swan River Valley where he remained. Jón´s farm was on the banks of the Swan River, a short distance from J.A. Vopni´s. From there he had a good view of the surrounding district and to the mountains on both sides of the valley.


Jón´s wife was Guðrún Þorbergsdóttir Fjelsted. Her mother was Helga Guðmundsdóttir from Hamarendar, Borgarfjöður. Guðrún had many siblings, among them is Guðmundur, former MLA in New Iceland. Þorbergur, her father,  lived for many years at Mikley, on Lake Winnipeg, then moved to Selkirk. His family was well known both here and in Iceland. Jón and Guðrún had six children: Ingiríður, Helga, Lilja, Eggert, Kristín, and Lára.


Jón Eggertsson had a good farm. He was a hard working man and well liked by everyone who knew him. He was a peaceful and moderate man. He was intelligent and knowledgeable, a conversationalist with a good sense of humour, but unpretentious. He had been active in social life in the Icelandic community from the time he arrived. In Winnipeg, Jón worked as a plasterer and made out well in that trade.

Gunnar Palsson Deesa
Gunnar Pálsson                     Haldora, Þórdis, King      

Gottskálk Pálsson – his family comes from Kelduhverfi, Norður Þingeyjarsýsla, of  the Fjalla-family, his parents were Páll Magnússon and Þórdís Helgadóttir. Gottskálk was a hard-working entertainer, a prolific poet and considered clairvoyant. He was from a so called Mountain Family, took somewhat after his grandfather Hlaupa Magnúsar [Magnús the runner], considered eccentric and higly intelligent, he was closely related to Erlendur Gottskálksson a member of parliament in Iceland. Gottskálk emigrated to North America in 1887. He settled in New Iceland and claimed land there. After a few  years in New Iceland he moved to the Hólar settlement north of Glenboro. In 1891 he had been in the Glenboro area helping with  harvesting, the crop had been good and he was very enthusiastic. He came to the district in 1892 and homesteaded SE 16-8-13, and lived there with his family. Ólafur Mikael Jónsson homesteaded on the same section, on NE 16-8-13-W1. From there he moved to the Swan River Valley in 1899 and claimed land again. Gottskálk died in 1919, Heimskringla 14 Jan 1920 page 5  his obituary. He was married to Þóra Jónsdóttir, she was a half-sister of Valdimar Ásmundsson the editor of Fjallkonan, his wife was the famous Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir. The  parents of Þóra were Jón Jónsson "yngri" and Bóthildur Björnsdóttir. The couple lived at a farm called Hvarf in Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla. After her husband’s death Þóra  lived with her daughter, Kristín, who was married to a Canadian by the name of Roy Sedore from Ontario. They farmed in the Swan River Valley. Gottskálk and Þóra´s son, Gunnar Pálsson, also lived in the settlement. He  married in 1901 to Þórdís Helgadóttir whose family came  from Langanes. Her parents were Helgi Daníelsson and Friðrika Jakobína Sæmundsdóttir.  She was a sister of Sæmundur Helgason. Þórdis arrived in Canada July 11, 1889 on board the SS Corean. The children of Þórdis by earlier marriages were Haldora Svava Jonasina Danielson, who married Abe Hanson, and King Sannes.  The father of Haldora Svava was Haldor Baker (Halldór Sigfússon Baker) Haldor’s parents were Sigfús Sölvason and Sigríður Guðmundsdóttir. Sigríður remarried in Parry Sound, Ontario to Richard Baker.  more>>

Finnur Bjarnason Jarþruður
Finnur Bjarnason           Jarþrúður Eyólfsdóttir      

Finnur Bjarnason – his family came from Suður-Múlasýsla. His father was Bjarni Bjarnason who farmed for many years at Kolsgerði at Skógar.  His mother was Guðfinna Einarsdóttir. Finnur was born in 1838 and lived in Fljótsdalshérað most of the time while he was in Iceland. He spent some time as a merchant with the Gránufélag in Seyðisfjörður. He emigrated to America in 1876 with a group of immigrants who came with Halldór Briem, Finnur, Jarþrúður, Bjarni, Guðfinna and Ragnhildur left Iceland on board the SS Verona heading to Scotland, arriving at Quebec city July 31, onboard  the S.S. Phoenician of the Allan Line. He first settled in New Iceland, a short distance south of Hnausa, where the road turns west toward the Geysir district. He called his farm Finnsmörk and lived there until the spring of 1881, when he moved south to North Dakota and claimed land a short distance from Akra. In 1899 he moved to the Swan River Valley where he claimed land once more, 10 miles north-east of where the town of Swan River is today. Several Icelanders farmed in the area at that time and for some time thereafter.  Finnur died on October 25, 1914, at the age of 76. He was a man of great strength and a hard working man. His wife was Jarðþrúður, a daughter of Eyjólfur Benediktsson, who farmed at Litla Snæfell, Suður-Múlasýsla, and Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir.  She died almost a year before him. Two of their daughters were alive: Borghildur, married to Jóhann Sveinsson in Bowsman, and Anna Kristbjörg, married to Jóhann Finnsson Laxdal. One of their daughters, Guðfinna, wife of Björn G. Finnsson, who lived close to Akra, North Dakota, died in about 1920. Another daughter Ragnhildur, died in childhood from smallpox, in New Iceland.


Bjarni Finnsson, Finnur´s son  - lived a short distance from his father for ten years, but moved to the town of Swan River. He was in charge of  postal services and worked at gardening in the summer time. His wife was Júlíana Málfríður Jónasdóttir, Danielsson. Their children were Anna, Jonas, Finnur, and Lilja. Anna married Wilmer Andrews, they had three daughters, Shirley, Ardith and Barbara.


Jonas Johanna
Jónas Daníelsson – his family came from Dalasýsla and lived at Borgir, Skógaströnd, before moving to North America. His parents are Daníel Kristjánsson farmer at Litla-Langadal, and Ingveldur Jónsdóttir.  He arrived in North America in 1888 and settled at  Sandhills, south of Akra, but moved a few years later to the Mouse River settlement. In 1901, or eight years later, he moved to the Swan River Valley. Lögberg 6 June 1901, page 1  He claimed land five miles east of Bowsman (the first train station north of the town of  Swan River) and farmed there for some time.


Jónas married twice. His first wife was Guðbjörg Jónsdóttir, whose family came from Skagaströnd.  Her parents were Jónas Jónsson and Solveig Oddsdóttir.  Their children were: Solveig,  Jónasína, wife of Guðmundur Laxdal; Júlíana, wife of Bjarni Finnsson; Guðný wife of Einar Breiðfjörð in Upham, North Dakota, and Ingveldur in Iceland. Jónas´s second wife was Jóhanna Jóhannsdóttir, also from Skógaströnd. Her parents were Jóhann Jónsson and Ingibjörg Þorkelsdóttir.  Jónas was a farmer and a midwife: Their children were: Kristín, married to a man of English background in Bowsman, Frank Meadows; Guðrún, also married  a man of English background and living in the same area, Hilliard Donaldson; Guðbjörg Ingibjörg (Bertha) married to Bodvar Johnson; Halldór farmed close to Bowsman, married to a woman of English background, Gladys Wait  (the daughter of William Wait),  Sigurhlif married to Jon Skagfjord, Ingibjorg,  and Jóhann remained at home farming with his mother and father.



Einar Einarsson-  married Solveig, the daughter of Jónas Daníelsson and Guðbjörg Jónasdóttir. Einar´s parents were Einar Einarsson from Syðri Skógum in Kolbeinsstsðahreppi, and Elínborg Jóhannsdóttir.   Einar came from Iceland in 1887 at age 21 and homesteaded near La Riviere, Manitoba, (south east of Baldur). Solveig died in 1917.   Einar moved with some of the younger children and farmed close to Bowsman.  Einar moved into the Kemulch school district in Bowsman in 1920, and farmed south of William Wait, then bought the next quarter east of the Wait’s. In 1925 Einar took his sheep and went to live on the farm of Tom Colbert in the Craigsford district, leaving the farm to his sons. The next year he went to live with his son in law Alfred Colbert. He lived in a small house on the Wait farm in the 30’s, and then in the town of Bowsman.  The children of Einar and Solveig were, Agnes, Freeman, Ellenborg, Daisy, Jonas, Daniel, Alexander, Christena (Teny) who married Alfred Colbert,  Annie who  married William Wait,  they farmed near Bowsman, and Einar Casper who married Maggibel Francess Simpson. Einar Casper lived at Bowsman and worked for the Burrows Lumber Company for a few years, and then farmed about 5 miles north of Bowsman, in the Wild Rose school district.  When he retired he sold his land but kept his house and the land it was on.

  Freda, Emma, Kristin,
Guðmundur, Jónasína
Dan, Emily, Anna, Hannah, Ingvar.

Guðmundur Laxdal – was born in 1864. His family is from Laxárdalur at Skógaströnd, Snæfellsnessýsla. His parents were Jóhann Jónsson and Ingibjörg Þorkelsdóttir. Guðmundur arrived in America in 1887. He lived for 12 years in Pembina County and Mouse River, North Dakota. In 1899 he moved to the Swan River Valley where he claimed land. During his first years in the valley he co-operated with Halldór Egilsson and they have always been neighbours. Guðmundur´s wife was Jónasína Guðrún, a daughter of Jónas Daníelsson, mentioned earlier. They had nine children. Malfriður  married Harry Stewart, Kristin married Harry Corrigal, Hannah married to Wesley Taylor, Emily married to Steve Einarsson, Anna Salome  married Hugh Danard, Emma, Jon Ingvar, Dan, and Jonas.


Jóhann Laxdal – Guðmundur´s half brother was born in 1868. His parents were  Jónas Jónsson and  Ingibjörg Þorkelsdóttir from Skógaströnd. He emigrated to America in 1888 and lived first in the Sandhills settlement in North Dakota and later at Mouse River. He moved to the Swan River Valley in 1899 and claimed land on the same section as Jón Hrappsteð. His wife was Guðbjörg Valmundsdóttir, daughter of Valmundur Sverrisson, from Forsæti, Vestur-Landeyjar, Rangárvallasýsla. They had no children.

Monroe, Fia, Finnur Laxdal and Oli.

  Finnur Laxdal – Guðmundur´s brother, arrived in North America with his family  on July 7,1901 on board the SS Australasian, and  lived  in the Swan River Valley, except for two years when he lived in the Þingvalla district. He farmed two miles from Bowsman. Finnur´s wife was Herdís  Snæbjörnsdóttir from Hraunholt, Kolbeinsstaðahreppur. Her parents were Snæbjörn Guðmundsson and Engilráð Guðmundsdóttir.  Two children, Björn and Ingibjörg stayed in Iceland. Their children in this country were: Jörundína, married to a man of English background, by the name of George McCotter; Soffía married Monroe Brown,  Ólafur was at home, and Jóhann Kristján, lived in Bowsman. Jóhann claimed land a short time after arriving in America, in 1900, but moved to town in about 1918, and operated a Livery Business with his brother-in-law George McCotter.  His wife was Anna Kristbjörg Finnsdóttir, Bjarnason, as mentioned earlier, their children were, Anna, May, and Johann.

Helga Willy Tillie
Helga Egilsson, William, Tillie Björnsson

Stefán Björnsson – from Gil, Jökuldalur arrived in North America in 1873.  His parents were Björn Árnason and Hildur Bessadottir.   He lived for ten years in Muskoka, Ontario, then he moved to North Dakota. In 1901 he arrived in the Swan River Valley from Pembina and claimed land. He died in Vancouver in 1911. His wife  was Margrét Guðmundsdóttir  from Akureyri, her parents were Guðmundur Magnússon and Þorbjörg Magnúsdóttir. Their children were: Björn, farmer at Windhurst, Saskatchewan, married to a woman of Norwegian background, Ida Rhygg; Paul, Mable, married to a man of English background, by the name of Johan Cook, who farmed in the Swan River Valley; Tillie married to John Egilsson, Stefán and William who farmed  their father´s homestead.


Jóhann Sveinsson (Joe Swanson) – was born at Bálkastaðir, Hrútafjörður. His parents, Guðmundur Sveinsson and Lilja Oddsdóttir, last farmed at Stóra Hvolsá, Strandasýsla. Jóhann emigrated to North America in 1887 and settled in North Dakota, close to Hallson. He lived at various places in North Dakota for 12 years. In 1899 he moved to the Swan River Valley where he claimed land. He farmed there until about 1921 when he retired from farming and moved to Bowsman. His wife was Borghildur Finnsdóttir, Bjarnason.

William Byron Bertha
William Byron                           Bertha Byron                    

Sigurbjörn Friðbjörnsson (William Byron) -  Sigurbjörn´s father, Friðbjörn Pétursson, lived for many years at Stóragerði, Óslandshlíð. His wife was Sigurborg Jónsdóttir, a cousin to Pastor Sigurður from Stórinúpur and  Grímur Thomsen.  Sigurbjörn´s wife was Guðbjörg (Bertha) Oktavía Helgadóttir, her father was Helgi  Daníelsson from Hrollaugsstaðir, Langanes. His wife was Friðrika Jakobína Sæmundsdóttir. Helgi Daníelsson lived for some time at Garðar, North Dakota. Guðbjörg was a twin sister of Sæmundur Helgason. Guðbjörg left Iceland with her parents on board the SS Camoens going to Scotland, arriving in Canada on July 10, 1887 on board the SS Norwegian.


Sigurbjörn emigrated to North America in 1884. He lived for some time in Winnipeg and after that at various places in North Dakota, among them in Grand Forks and the Mouse River settlement. He moved to the Swan River Valley in 1899 where he claimed land and  farmed, close to Jón Hrappsteð and Jóhann Laxdal.


Sigurbjörn and Guðbjörg´s children were: Blanche, married  Frank Zinger; they lived in Swan River; Anna, married to a man of English background, by the name of George Schell, they lived close to Sigurbjörn; Garibaldi, Daniel, Rosefield, Friðrika Þórdís, Victor, Clara, Theodora, Adolf Bertel and Vilhjálmur Júlíus. more>>

Levia, Slim, John, Mindy, Cecelia, Rose, Fjaler, John (Sr.), Louise, Goodie, Gudridur, Rooney, Ted.                      

Jón Sigurðsson- was born at Ölvaldstaðir in Borgarhreppur, Mýrasýsla where he grew up. His parents Sigurður Jónsson and Sesselja  Guðmundsdóttir farmed at Ölvaldsstaðir as did Sigurður´s father, Jón Árnason, before him.  Jón emigrated from Iceland, his family arriving in Canada on July 12, 1898 on board the SS Beunos Ayrean  He first settled in Brandon where he lived for 14 years. He worked at various jobs in town, at the sawmill and the meat market. He moved to the Swan River Valley and claimed land ten miles from Bowsman.


Jón was married to Guðríður Jónsdóttir from Hamrakot, Andakíll, close to Hvanneyri, where her parents, Jón Sigurðsson and Þórunn Ólafsdótir farmed.  Jón and Guðríður´s children were: Ingimundur, worked for the telephone service in Churchbridge, Jón, was a manager at a factory in Brandon, Sigurrós, was a nurse for the Red Cross, Þórður, was a student at the University of Manitoba,  Sesselja  sold women´s hats in Aberdeen, the State of Washington,  Ólafía Þórunn, Guðmundur, Reimar (Slim), Kristrúm, Fjalar, and Lovísa.

John Paline
Jón Sigurðsson, Pálína          

Sigurður J. Sigurðsson – was born at Ásólfsstaðir, Árnessýsla in 1877. His parents were Jón Sigurðsson, from Bárðardalur, Þingeyjarsýsla and Jórunn Ólafsdóttir, b. Jan. 15 1850, Giljur Stórólfshvólssókn, Rangárvallasýsla. Jón´s second wife was Pálína Þórðardóttir.  Jón’s parents were  Sigurður Kristjánsson and  Margrét Indriðadóttir, Pálína’s parents were Þórður Erlendsson and Jóhanna Pálsdóttir.    Sigurður emigrated to North America in 1888, arriving on Sept 18, 1888. on board the SS Carthaginian.  During the first two years he lived in North Dakota, from there he moved to the Narrows, at Lake Manitoba, where his father lived. In 1898 he moved to the Swan River Valley and claimed land there. At that time he lived for five years in the valley before moving to Winnipeg where he lived for 12 years. He moved to the Swan River Valley again in 1918.


Sigurður´s wife was Eggertína Sigríður Eggertsdóttir, Jónsson Árnason from Leirá. She was born at Hrafnabjörg in Hörðudalur in 1882, a sister to Jón Eggertsson, mentioned earlier. Their children were: Eggert, Leó, Percival, Sigríður,  Árni, and Florence.


Kristján Kristjánsson Skagfjörð – his family came from Skagafjörður, but he lived in Eyjafjörður for the most part while he lived in Iceland. His parents were Kristján Kristjánsson and Þóra Tómasdóttir.  He emigrated from Stóragerði in Hörgárdal,  to North America in 1876 and lived in New Iceland, North Dakota and Winnipegosis. He came to the Swan River Valley in 1902 and claimed land there. He lived there to his dying day in 1921. His wife´s name was Ásta Þóra Jónasdóttir who was an aunt to Pastor Jóhann Bjarnason in Árborg. Ásta’s parents were Jónas Jónsson and Guðrun Jónsdóttir. Ásta died in 1908. Their children were Jón Kristjánsson and Þóra Kristjánsdóttir,  their children have passed away. They adopted Jon Skagfjord and Adalsteinn Skagfjord.  Jon Skagfjord  married Sigurhlíf Jónasdóttir and their children were Ásta who married Henry Durand, and Adalsteinn.  more>>


Sumarliði Kristjánsson – he was mentioned earlier in connection with the Icelandic settlers from the Mouse River district in North Dakota, at the time they began moving to the Swan River Valley. His family came from Ísafjörður. His parents were Kristján Einarsson and Anna Jónsdóttir. His brother was Jónas Kristjánsson who lived in the Grunnavatn’s district (Shoal Lake). Sumarliði lived for some time in the Swan River Valley, where he claimed land and bought additional land. He moved to California. Almanak 1929 page 65 and 66.

Chris Anna
Chris, Anna              

Guðríður Kristjánsdóttir – Sumarliði´s sister settled in the Swan River Valley in 1902. Her husband was Jón Guðmundsson and they lived at Bær in Súgandafjörður, Ísafjarðarsýsla. He drowned  and  Jón’s  brother,  Halldór, took over running the farm. In 1901 Guðríður and Halldór emigrated to North America and lived for one year in Baldur and after that in Swan River. Guðriður’s children were Anna Jónsdóttir (Anna Gudmundson)  and Kristján Pétur Jónsson (Chris Gudmundson). Chris Gudmundson married Flora Self and they lived in Cashmere Washington. Anna married Lee Osbeck and they also lived in Cashmere.


Ólafur Jakobsson and Jakob Halldórsson his nephew, from Húnavatnssýsla were of a well known family there, the Samsonar- family. They arrived in the Swan River Valley from Mouse River in 1901 and claimed land there in the neighbourhood of Halldór Egilsson. Jakob´s mother, Guðrún Ólafsdóttir, accompanied them. She died in 1915. Ólafur  moved to Árborg and lived close to Árborg, then  retired in Swan River, and lived out his days with John Hrappsteð. Jakob lived with Þórdís Samson and operated the farm with her. Jakob Halldórsson’s parents were Halldór Jakobsson and Guðrun Ólafsdóttir. Halldór Jakobsson and Ólafur Jakobsson were “twins”, their parents were Jakob Samsonarson and Guðrún Jónsdóttir.

Thordis Samson                      

Þórdís Jónsdóttir (Thordis Samson) – from Pétursey, Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla. Her parents were Jón Ólafsson, Högnason in Pétursey and Elín Bjarnadóttir, Kjartansson from Drangshlíð, Rangárvallasýsla. Þórdís emigrated to North America in 1894. Her husband was Benedikt Samsonarson (Ben Samson).  At first she lived in Selkirk for seven years and after that in Iceland and in Winnipeg. She moved to the Swan River Valley in 1905 and claimed land there.  She was a midwife and a very proud woman when she finally got a buggy and a black mare.  Her daughter, Elín and her husband, Thordur Thomson from Rauðafell, Rangárvallasýsla lived with her. Ben Samson's life story.

Thomson and family
Gudrun Thordur Thomason
Jennie, Thordur and Family         Guðrún Tómasdóttir       Þórður Tómasson          

Þórður Þórðarson (Thordur Thomson)-  married Elin Jóna (Jennie) Elizabet Samson.  Thordur’s parents were  Þórður Tómasson and Guðrún Tómasdóttir.  Thordur was a carpenter and did a lot of building in the valley. He homesteaded in Crestview district. Their children were Inga,  married Casper George “Bud” Einarson, Sigríður (Sigra) (Sarah),  married Gabriel Assoignon, Thordis Elizabeth (Dia)  married George Simpson.

Thordur´s nephew Þórður Tómasson was the founder and curator at Skógasafn in Iceland. 

Gisli Arnason
Gisli Arnason

Gísli Árnason- from Ísafjörður.  His parents were Árni Jónsson and Guðbjörg Jónsdóttir. He came from North Dakota and claimed land in the Swan River Valley in 1899.  In 1905 he moved to the Þingvalla settlement. Gísli´s second wife was  Margrét Sigurðardóttir, they married Oct 30, 1877 at Eyir in Skutulsfirði. Margrét's  parents were Sigurður Rósinkransson and Guðrún Hallgrímsdóttir. One of the couple´s daughters, Hallvarðína Sigríður, was married to Þorleifur Anderson in Churchbridge, another daughter, Guðríður, was married to Jakob Normann who farmed close to Leslie, Saskatchewan.

Páll Jóhannsson, Guðbjörg
Pall and Gudbjorg

Páll Jóhannsson -  his family was from Skagafjörður. His parents were Jóhann Höskuldur Jónsson and Guðrún Arnoddsdóttir. He married Guðbjörg Jóhannsdóttir in North Dakota.  Páll came to North Dakota the same year as Gísli Árnason. He claimed land in the Swan River Valley and farmed there until he moved to Foam Lake, Saskatchewan in 1905.


Jón Jónsson-  from Hróaldsstaðir in Vopnafjörður emigrated from Iceland in 1893. His parents were Jón Sigurðsson and Arnbjörg Arngrímsdóttir.  He first lived in the Argyle district and in Winnipeg. He moved to the Swan River Valley in 1900. His wife was Aðalbjörg Friðfinnsdóttir.  Their children were Jósef, Arbjörg, married Águst Vopni, Sigríður,married Gunnar Helgason, and Guðmundur.

Guðmundur, son John, Imba
Mundi and Imba
Guðmundur Jónsson- Jón´s son, claimed land in the Swan River Valley in 1900 and lived there until 1905 when he moved to Winnipeg and later to Baldur. His wife was Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, daughter of Jón Jónsson from Gilsárbakki in Fáskrúðsfjörður; she was a half sister to Árni Sveinsson´s wife, who farmed in the Argyle district. Ingibjörg´s mother was Arnfriður.


Einar J. Breiðfjörð – was born at Laugum in Hvammssveit,  Dalasýsla. His parents were Jón Jónsson and Þuríður Grímsdóttir. He emigrated to North America in 1894. He lived in the Mouse River settlement and moved to the Swan River Valley in 1901 where he claimed land. He farmed there until 1915 when he moved back to North Dakota and  lived in Upham. His wife was Guðný Jónasdóttir, daughter of Jónas Daníelsson and Guðbjörg Jónasdóttir. Einar was among the founders of the Reading Society (Lestrarfélag) in the Swan River Valley. Their children were Thuridur Ingibjorg, Thuridur (Thura) Ingibjorg, Vilhelm Steinn, Vilhelm Steinn, Daniel and twin Malfreda, and Asta. more>>

Gudni Halla Eggert front
Gudni, Eggert and Halla

Eggert Friðrik Sigurðsson – was born in Winnipeg, a son of Guðni Sigurðsson from Borgarfjörður, brother of Sigurður Sigurðsson who farmed at Svignaskarð and later at Rauðimelur. Eggert´s mother was Halla Ingveldur Eggertsdóttir, a sister to Árni Eggertsson and  siblings. Guðni and Halla left Iceland going to Scotland on board the SS Copeland, arriving in Canada July 8, 1888 on board the SS Norwegian, the same trip as Jónas Daníelsson and his family. Eggert grew up in Winnipeg and at the Narrows and at Deerhorn, where his mother lived with her second husband, Gísli Lundal. In 1914 Eggert  bought land in the Swan River Valley and settled there. He has lived there ever since. Eggert’s wife was Sigurlaug, daughter of Ágúst Vopni. They were married in 1915.  Their children were Ethel, Lillian, and Fred.

Gisli Jonsson Kristin Grace
Gisli Jónsson             Kristin Jóhannsdóttir       Gróa (Grace)          

Gísli Jónsson- his family was from Hrútafjörður, Gísli was born at Kjörseyri. His parents were Jón Gíslason and Gróa Daðadóttir.   He moved to the Swan River Valley in 1920 from Mouse River. His wife´s name was Kristín Jóhannsdóttir, her parents were Jóhann Jónsson and Ingibjörg Þorkelsdóttir. Their daughter, Gróa (Grace) was married to a man of English background, Thomas George Colbert; another daughter of Gísli´s from his first marriage was married to a man of Irish background in Mouse River. Gísli farmed close to Bowsman.


Jón Sæmundsson – was born at Loftsstaðir in Gaulverjabæjarhreppur, Árnessýsla. His parents were Sæmundur Sæmundsson and Guðrún Magnúsdóttir. He arrived in North America in 1900. He lived in Winnipeg until 1907, and after that in the Grunnavatn´s district for a year and a half, from where he went to Oak Point for four years. Jón moved to the town of Swan River from Oak Point. He worked as a carpenter. Jón was married to Jóna Aðalbjörg, a daughter of Gunnar Helgason. Their children were Anton, Margaret, Connie, Sarah, Alfred, Bruce, Emily, and Theodore.


Guðrún Hannesson (Pípa Gunna) –  mother of Jón Sæmundsson, lived by herself a short distance from the town of Swan River. She moved there from Oak Point in 1918. Guðrún was the widow of Jón Hannesson who farmed for many years in the Grunnavatn´s district. Guðrún was born at Keldnasókn, Rang. Her parents were Magnús Jónsson and Guðrún Brandsdóttir.

Thordur Margaret
Þórður and Margrét Jónsson
                                                           Photograph Courtesy Nelson Gerrard

Þórður Jónsson - was from Uppsalir in Borgarfjörður. His parents were Jón Einarsson and Guðríður Thorgrímsdóttir.  He came to the Swan River Valley in 1899. He lived for many years at various places in the valley, and for some time close to Minitonas. His wife´s name was Jóhanna Margrét Jóhannsdóttir. They  moved to  Riverton in 1920.

Önundur Guðbrandsson (Unondur Brandson) – his parents were Guðbrandur Guðbrandsson and Guðbjörg Magnúsdóttir who lived at Fróða,  Snæfellsnes. They are descended from Arngrimur “the learned”. He married Kristín Ólafsdóttir. In 1905 they immigrated to Canada, with four children, Guðbrandur Björgólfur (Oscar), Hjörtína Birgitta (Bergetta), Sigurvin (Sam), and Julius Dagbjartur, arriving July 3, 1905 on board the SS Mongolian, and settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Unondur was employed in the construction industry. Olafur (Oli), and Birgitta (Bertha) were born in Winnipeg and Bergetta passed away from pneumonia.  In 1910 the family moved to a farm near Arborg. During this time Una (Ann), Charlie, Stanley, and Margaret were born.  In the fall of 1919, Oscar and Sam, two of the eldest sons had gone to work harvesting in the Swan River Valley. Upon returning to Arborg, they told of better farming opportunities.  In the spring of 1920, the family moved to the Big Woody district, eight miles west of Swan River. Thomas, the last child was born in 1920.



There were two young men who lived a short distance from Minitonas. They were returned soldiers who settled there after WW I. One was Stefán Einarsson,  the other man was Hermann Jónsson, Hjálmarsson from Brekka in Mjóifjörður, he came with Stefán  Einarsson, and tried his hand at homesteading for a while.

Arbjorg Sigurdur
Arnbjörg Stefánsdóttir       Sigurður Einarsson                  

Stefán (Steve) Einarsson- his father was Sigurður Einarsson, reeve at Hánefsstaðaeyri, Seyðisfjörður, Sigurður´s  family was from Sævarendi in Loðmundarfjörður, Sigurður´s parents were Einar Eiríksson and Sigíður Sigurðardóttir,  and Steve´s mother Arnbjörg Stefánsdóttir from Stakkahlíð in Loðmundarfjörður, Arnbjörg's parents were Stefán Gunnarsson and Þorbjörg Þórðardóttir.  Arnbjörg Stefánsdóttir  had come to Canada in 1910 with her two children Stefán and Sigríður. They departed from Glasgow on April 16, 1910 on board the S.S. Sicilian, arrived in the port of Quebec April 28, 1910, and arrived in Winnipeg on May 10, 1910.  Her husband Sigurður Einarsson from Sævarendi  had died in 1901, age 42. He had come to Canada and worked in Winnipeg for a few  years. In 1894 he returned to Iceland and married Arnbjörg Stefánsdóttir.  Sigurður  operated a fishing business.  After her husband´s death in Iceland Arnbjörg carried on his business for a while, then emigrated to Canada. For a few  years she lived with her sister Vilborg Stefánsdóttir in  the Arborg  Manitoba area. She had bought land, and her daughter and husband Archibald McDowell farmed there for some time.  When her son Steve , a returned man from WWI, took up land NE of Minitonas, she moved up to live with him, staying there untill her death in 1937. She is buried in Minitonas Cemetery.  Arnbjörg  was known to recite, by memory, the Sagas, by the hour and had memorized the family tree back to settlement times as was common practice in Iceland.  Steve married Emily Guðný Guðmundsdóttir (Emily Laxdal), daughter of Guðmundur and Jónasína Laxdal.


Elizabeths father
Guðmundur Auðunsson     

Elizabeth Goodmanson- and her mother Guðrún came from Iceland in 1892 and settled in Brandon, Manitoba.  Her parents were Guðmundur Auðunsson and Guðrún Bjarnadóttir from Jafnaskarði in Borgarfirði.  In 1903 she married Charles William Smith, and in 1911 they moved north to homestead in the Brierley school district NE of Bowsman. Their children were Nellie (Glassman Smith), Edwin, William, Russel, Harold, Florence, Vera, Irene, and Ray.


Ben Sigurdson- came from Mouse River, North Dakota in 1899 and filed on land in Big Woody.  His father Ásgrímur Sigurðsson came to Big Woody in 1901 and filed on land. In order to prove his homestead  Ásgrimur  was to break 15 acres or fence the quarter and have 20 head of cattle. He built a small shack on the river bank.  In 1902 they left and headed for Churchbridge, Sask.

John Frederickson- His parents were Illugi Friðriksson of Akranes Iceland and Guðbjörg Halldórsdóttir of Hvanneyri Iceland. The family with children Fred, Victor, Valgerdur and Johnnie had been living near Sinclair Manitoba but during the "dirty thirties" moved to Benito Manitoba. Illugi and Gudbjorg were Naturalized in Benito on Sept 14, 1934. Fred farmed on SW 30-36-29 for a while, Johnnie farmed near Thunder Hill and worked in Benito. Johnnie married Doris Eleanor Person and their children where Derwyn Ardelle and Doreen.

Doug Bjarnason  (Douglas Carroll Bjarnason) born 15 July 1913 in Saskatchewan, lived in Bowsman, Manitoba. His father was Jón Bjarnason born at Hausthús, Garðasókn in Iceland, he died in Bowsman  9 Jan 1943,  Doug’s mother was Ingibjörg Sigríður Jónsdóttir, she passed away in Winnipeg  4 Dec 1926. Jón was a shoemaker in Kipling and then in Bowsman. Doug went to school in Winnipeg, Gimli and Kipling Sask. Doug had been cattle ranching at Moose Mountain in Saskatchewan. He and his brother drove their cattle up into the valley in the 30’s. He worked for Burrows Lumber Co. and Caverley Lumber Co. and for several farmers and ranchers around the Swan River Valley and latter sharpened saws in Swan River. In 1934 Doug lost his arm in a sawmill accident in Nipigon, Ontario. Doug was married in Bowsman September 6, 1942, to Dorothy May Beadle daughter of Mr and Mrs E Beadle of Lavender district.
Their children are Shirley, Nora, Betty, Donald, Dennis and John.

The Community Hall
In about 1916 the Icelandic settlers to the west of Swan River decided to build a community hall. Logs were taken out and sawed into lumber at the Egilsson Mill. The hall was built in 1917 with volunteer labor under the supervision of Jon Sæmundsson who was a carpenter. It was built on the NW corner of Section 11-36-29, across from the Guðmundur Laxdal home and a kitchen was added later. It was used by the Icelandic community for a variety of social functions for a number of years. In the early years of the 20's interest in  local district activities began to flourish.
For some years the hall was mostly used for dances, around 1927 the United Church bought it and moved it to where the Fairdale Cemetery had been established. There was not enough support to carry on as a church so in 1930 it was sold to people in the Swan Valley School Division. where it was changed into a house to replace a house that had burned.


Understandably, it wasn’t entirely possible to maintain varied cultural activities among these few Icelanders living in the Swan River Valley. They were widely scattered throughout a large settlement, mainly settled by people of other nationalities. It was amazing that these few Icelanders were able to maintain a congregation, a reading society and women´s auxiliary. The congregation was organized by Pastor Pétur Hjálmsson. It belonged to the Lutheran Synod and most Icelanders in the settlement beloned to it. The congregation received pastoral service one month every summer and several of the synod pastors, among them Pastor Steingrímur N. Þorláksson, the son of Pastor Paul Thorlaksson, Pastor Guttormur Guttormsson and Pastor Jóhann Bjarnason from Hnausa, had delivered this service. The fact that these people, as few as they were, had tried to organize associations shows how much the people valued their Icelandic cultural heritage.


It is my hope that the above history will give encouragement to the descendants of  these families, and be helpful in  their  search to find their roots, and also be helpful to historians and genealogists.  Most of the above families have been identified by genealogists in Iceland and their family trees are known.

Many of the Icelandic settlers were buried in the Fairdale Cemetery
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  Nonni Jonsson
Box 1337
Swan River, Manitoba
Swan River