Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Skapti Brynjolfur Brynjolfson (1860-1914)

From the Minneapolis Journal, May 21, 1904.

   The first Icelandic native to warrant a profile here on the site, Skapti Brynjolfur Brynjolfson also resided in Nova Scotia before his eventual removal to the United States in the mid 1880s, settling first in Minnesota and later in the town of Beaulieu in North Dakota. During his residency in the latter state Brynjolfson worked at farming for a short period of time, and in 1890 was elected to represent the county of Pembina in the North Dakota State Senate for one term.
   The fourth of seven children born to Brynjolfur and Thorun Alifsdotter Brynjolfson, Skapti B. Brynjolfson's birth occurred in Forsealudal, Valley of Shade, Iceland on October 29, 1860. He is recorded by the 1900 History and Biography of North Dakota as having received his education "under his father's guidance" and "in his own tongue." For the first 14 years of his life Brynjolfson resided in Iceland, and in 1874 joined with his family in a "colony of emigration" of 352 native Icelanders readying themselves to seek a new life in North America. This contingent of Icelanders left their homeland on the ship "St. Patrick" and arrived in Quebec, Canada in October 1874, and soon after their arrival the Brynjolfson family relocated first to Kenmount (near Toronto) and later Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Brynjolfson resided on a farm with his family, and during his time there was mentioned as being a gold miner by a 1904 edition of the Minneapolis Journal
   In 1881 the Brynjolfson family left Nova Scotia and removed to Duluth, Minnesota, where Skapti found employment in "the elevators and flour mills" in that city. While residing here Brynjolfson is noted by the 1900 History and Biography of North Dakota as having:
"Applied himself to the study of the English language, gleaning his knowledge from books and papers and made remarkable progress in that direction, and as is the characteristic of the nationality, acquired a pure pronunciation and thorough understanding, with a good grammatical style, although paying little attention to the study of grammar."
   Skapti Brynjolfson later removed from Duluth to North Dakota, settling in the township of Beaulieu in Pembina County. He took over the daily operations of his father's farm in that town and during the succeeding years both Skapti and his brother Magnus went on to distinguished careers in the state, with Magnus Brynjolfson serving as state attorney for Pembina County for a time. In 1889 Skapti Brynjolfson launched an unsuccessful candidacy for a seat in the North Dakota State House of Representatives, but proved successful in the following year in his bid for the state senate.
  Brynjolfson's term in the senate extended from 1890-1894 and during the 1893 senate term served on the committees on Federal Relations, Immigration, Military, Ways and Means, Cities and Municipalities and Agriculture. He served as chairman of the committee on Public Health and while an incumbent senator married on November 21, 1892 to Groa Johanneson (died 1940.)  The couple are recorded as being childless throughout the duration of their marriage.

                         A portrait from the Compendium History and Biography of North Dakota, 1900.

     Leaving the senate in 1894 after one term, Brynjolfson and his wife removed back to Canada in 1902, settling in Winnipeg in the province of Manitoba. His later years were spent engaged in religious work, with his obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press noting that he had been a devout Unitarian, as well as being an organizer of the Icelandic Unitarian Conference of Manitoba and the Northwest, later serving as the organization's first president. He served in this capacity until his death in Winnipeg on December 21, 1914. He was just 54 years old, and had died shortly after having undergone an unspecified operation at a local hospital. Brynjolfson was survived by his wife Groa and both were interred at the Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. 

From the Winnipeg Free Press, December 23, 1914.

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