Monday, November 11, 2013

Drengman Olsen Aaker (1839-1894)

Portrait from the Iowa State Legislature Historical database.

    Born of humble origins in a small village in Norway, Drengman Olsen Aaker migrated to the United States with his family when still a child and upon reaching manhood became a highly regarded figure in Winneshiek County, Iowa, where he was a lumberman and creamery operator. Aaker was later honored by his adopted state by being elected to two terms in the Iowa State House of Representatives in the early 1880s.
    One of several children born to Ole Drengmansen and Aslaug Gunleiksdatter Moen Aaker, Drengman O. Aaker was born in Hjartdahl, Telemarken, Norway on September 29, 1839 and in 1848 immigrated to the United States with his family via the ship "Lolland". A genealogical website denoting the history of the Aaker family notes that the "Lolland" reached New York in August of 1848 and Drengman and his family later settled in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. The family resided here until around 1854, whereafter they removed to Iowa, settling near the town of Burr Oak Springs. 
   Despite being a recent transplant to the United States, Drengman Aaker proved that his patriotism ran high, and in 1862 enlisted in Co. G. of the 12th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He served throughout the Civil War's duration and was mustered out of service in 1866. Following his return home Aaker removed to the town of Ridgeway in Winneshiek County and married in 1869 to Christina Andersdatter Turvold (1849-1922). Aaker and his wife later later became the parents of four children, Lena (1870-1944), John Theodore (1873-1947), Adolph Oscar (born 1878) and Casper Drengman (1883-1960).
   In the years following his marriage, Drengman Aaker grew to become a successful business figure in Winneshiek County, being the operator of a lumber yard. Later he was a member of the mercantile firm of Galby and Aaker, dealing in grain throughout the 1870s. In the latter part of that decade, Aaker sold his lumber yard and became the owner of the Ridgeway Creamery, which later burned to the ground in March 1884. 
   Active in Winneshiek County political affairs, Aaker served in a number of local public offices prior to his election to the Iowa Legislature. He had earlier been an unsuccessful candidate for clerk of the Winneshiek County court in 1880, being defeated by Myron Hardin. In November 1881 Aaker was elected to the State House of Representatives as a Democrat and after taking his seat in the new year was named to the house committees on Constitutional Amendments, Elections, Railroads, the Asylum for the Insane and the Soldier's and Orphan's Home.

                                                                    From the 1884 Iowa Legislative Roster.

    Aaker was reelected to the house in November 1883 and during his second term sat on the committees on Schools, State University, Engrossed Bills and the Soldier's and Orphans Home. In the 1885 election year, Aaker ran for a seat in the Iowa Senate but was defeated by Republican Theodore Weld Burdick (1836-1898). During the latter period of his life Aaker's business as grain merchant encountered financial trouble due to a "wheat blight", and his death notice in the 1894 Reunion of the Twelfth Iowa V.V. Infantry notes that "from this Mr. A. never recovered."  Suffering from ill health and a "broken down constitution" Drengman Aker died at his home in Ridgeway, Iowa on March 30, 1894 at age 54 and was later memorialized in his obituary as being
"Socially and personally always genial; more than usually intelligent, "D.O" was always popular before the people. He had his faults, as all have. His antagonisms were all political, not personal; and the grave covers them all with a mantle of love and oblivion. Peace to his ashes."
  Following his passing a lengthy funeral possession consisting of "nearly 100 teams" carried Aaker from his home to his burial site at the Lincoln Cemetery in Ridgeway. He was survived by his wife Christina and all four of his children. Caspar Drengman followed in his father's stead and went on to become prominent in his own right, being a lawyer and delegate to the 1940 Republican National Convention from North Dakota.

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