Benedikt Samson


He was not famous, as it is understood; nevertheless my friend Benedikt Samson - for a long time a blacksmith in Selkirk, cannot be buried without saying something. I hope that Heimskringla, a paper that he cherished and bought for a long time is willing to publish these lines, since the  papers in Iceland have still not mentioned his death.

I saw Benedikt for the first time when I came to Reykjavík in March 1886, and I noticed the man more than others that I met in town. He was about 5 foot and 9 inches tall, but so stout and muscular that it was obvious that he was exceptionally robust. He was fair haired, blue eyed and big-boned, broad-faced and with high cheek bones. He had rugged features and not expressly handsome but far from being considered bad looking. He looked frank and kind and had the overall neat and clean appearance that attest to the honorable traits that grace all men.

He was limber in all movements, had a manly appearance, and he was naturally cheerful and pleasant in conversation. This is how he appeared to me, then at our first meeting and after having had close acquaintance with him until death - nearly 40 years - I think he deserves to be mentioned with a few words.

Benedikt was born in Miđfjörđur in Húnavatnssýsla July 10, 1857. His father was Samson Samsonarson. The elder Samson, the grandfather of Benedikt was the brother of Jón Samsonarson from Frostastađir in Blönduhlíđ in Skagafjörđur who became the first Member of Parliament from Skagafjarđarsýsla; his son was Jónas from Keldudal,

the father of Samson and Jón who have for a long time worked as policemen in Winnipeg and live here.

The mother of Benedikt was Margrét Gunnlaugsdóttir, and her mother was Oddný Ólafsdóttir who lived at Enni in Refasveit in Húnavatnssýsla. The mother of Oddný was Margrét the sister of Mrs. Oddný the mother of Guđrún who was married to Sheriff Björn Blöndal. This overview demonstrates that Benedikt was well descended and it was evident in his inner and outer person.

When he was three years old he was brought to the couple Helgi and Guđrún who farmed at Miđhús in Vatnsdalur, he grew up there until adulthood. He learned blacksmithing from the mastersmith Tómas Jónsson from Brekkukot and later married his daughter Guđríđur. Benedikt moved with her to Reykjavík in 1882, during the first year he worked in commerce for the partners Vídalín and Eggerts. He then bought a house in town, built a smith´s shop and began his trade as a blacksmith and continued doing so all the years that he stayed in Reykjavík. Benedikt had 4 daughters with his wife, 3 of them are married and live in the town but the fourth - Svanlaug passed away there a few years ago.

Benedikt immigrated to Canada in 1896 and settled in Selkirk but his wife and daughters stayed behind in Iceland. After a year’s stay here the couple obtained legal separation.

Shortly thereafter Benedikt married for a second time to Miss Ţórdís Jónsdóttir, who is descended from Rangárvallasýsla and they had one daughter - Jónína, who is married to Ţórđur Thompson, this couple lives in Swan River district in Manitoba. Ţórdís also lives there on her farm.

Benedikt had one son who is almost an adult by now with a domiciled woman in Saskatchewan in Canada.

The established home of Benedikt was always in Selkirk. He did however work for a few years in the city of Boston in the United States and during that time he made one or two trips to Iceland to visit relatives. In Selkirk he pursued his trade in a competitive spirit and soon acquired a reputation for accomplishing blacksmithing tasks that other smiths lacked the confidence to perform.

Benedikt did not meddle in other peoples affairs and was reserved about his own. He did not attend to public matters, but he did have determined and grounded opinions and he expressed those views firmly when he was prompted and earned for that and all his conduct in general the trust and respect of his fellow citizens.

Benedikt was an uneducated man, however by natural disposition he had great intellect and sound judgment. He had a temper though I personally never noticed it, but I knew that he held firmly to each decision that he considered correct and never surrendered his position to any man. He did not cultivate church attendance and never

joined a congregation, nevertheless he did have a definitive religious believe and conviction about the afterlife but while he didn’t attend church he made considerable contribution to the Lutheran congregation in Selkirk when he was approached and he also made some contribution to the building of the congregation´s new church there. As physically and temperamentally inflexible as he was he was just as childlike in his sensitivity for the condition of the poor and I´ve been told that he was very helpful to many when it mattered the most to them.

Benedikt enjoyed good health until the beginning of 1924 when he noticed the illness that would later lead to his death. A disease of the liver made it inescapable that he undergo an extensive and dangerous surgery, in March that year. He was forced to permanently close down his smith´s shop at that time. When he was released from Selkirk hospital he needed to secure housing where he would be comfortable, he was hired by Mrs. Elín Emsten who ran a store in town and she took care of him with full dignity until the end. The great surgical wound never healed but with secure bandaging he was able to walk and perform light work in the store, until he became bedridden and passed away November 11. His funeral was in every respect dignified and the funeral procession was one of the largest seen in that town.

B. L. Baldwinson. 

Heimskringla January 27, 1926 page 2.