Friday, December 12, 2014

Marthinus Fredrickson Hegge (1856-1924)

From the July 29, 1904 Minneapolis Journal.

   Joining a shortlist that includes Gullick Nelson Risjord, Jetlee Bryngelson Nordhem, and Dregman Olsen Aker, Norwegian native Marthinus Fredrickson Hegge removed to Hatton, North Dakota in his early twenties and in the succeeding years built up a reputation as one of that area's foremost bankers and merchants. In 1889 he etched his name into the history books when (as a delegate to the North Dakota constitutional convention) became a signer of that state's constitution. Hegge would go on to further prominence in 1904 when he became the Democratic nominee for North Dakota Governor. 
  One of eleven children born to Frederick and Ingeborg Hegge, Marthinus F. Hegge's birth occurred on November 27, 1856 in Norway. He is recorded as having attended the "national schools in his native land" and also engaged in farm work prior to his removal to the United States. In June 1876 he and two of his sisters left Norway and after arriving in the United States settled in Wisconsin. Marthinus would remain here for six years and during this time would attend a business school/college at La Crosse
   In 1882 Marthinus married at Chaseburg, Wisconsin to Karen "Carrie" Nelson (1856-1923), with whom he had six children: Clara Josephine (1883-1960), Fredrik (1884-1906), Erick M. (1886-1945), Anna Oline (1889-1974), Marie Constance (1894-1980) and Adolph (1898-1939). Following his marriage he and his wife removed to Traill County, North Dakota, settling in the town of Hatton. He would enter into the general merchandise business in that town, being located in "a large two story brick structure, one of the most pretentious business blocks in that section of the state." 
  Hegge continued to run his business in Hatton for decades afterward and was active in other business and financial affairs in the town, serving as President of the First National Bank of Hatton and was a stockholder and past president of the Red River Valley Telephone Company. In 1889 he was elected as a Democrat to the North Dakota Constitutional Convention, being held at Bismarck. The statehood of North Dakota (having been authorized in February 1889 by the Enabling Act) provided for a constitutional convention to be held, with the opening occurring on July 4th of that year. During his time in Bismarck Hegge served as a member of the committees on Accounts and Expenses, Elective Franchise and Schedule and Revenue and Taxation. He would also introduce File No. 93 at the convention, proposing that:
"In case prohibition of  the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor is not adopted and incorporated into the constitution, then the legislature shall provide a system of licensing the manufacture and sale of such liquors, fixing the license fee or fees for such liquor at a minimum of not less than one thousand dollars per annum." 
Marthinus Hegge, from the 1889 North Dakota Constitutional Convention composite.

   At the conclusion of his service at the convention, Hegge returned to his earlier business pursuits in Hatton. In 1904 politics would again beckon to him, and on July 29th of that year, he received the Democratic nomination for Governor of North Dakota. Running in a state that was then "overwhelmingly Republican", Hegge faced an uphill battle that election year, with the Bismarck Daily Tribune noting that Hegge:
"Is a Scandinavian, and from that nationality in Traill County it is figured will receive a large vote. While the Democrats have little hope of carrying on a successful campaign for any of the state offices, more enthusiasm has been shown in the ranks than for many years." 
   Opposing Hegge for the Governorship that year was another oddly named man, former Hillsboro, North Dakota mayor Elmore Yocum Sarles (1859-1929). On election day 1904 it was Sarles who triumphed, besting Hegge in what can only be described as a landslide, 47,828 votes to 16, 744. Despite being trounced in the election, Hegge made three further unsuccessful campaigns for public office, being the Democratic nominee for State Treasurer in 1906, 1914 and 1918.
   In addition to his business pursuits and political doings, Marthinus Hegge took an active role in the Sons of Norway fraternal organization, being a member of the Ulabrand Lodge #89 in Hatton. He would serve as a vice-president of the Sons of Norway from 1916-18 and in 1923 suffered the loss of his wife of 42 years, Karen. Hegge himself died a year later on October 24, 1924 at age 68, and following his passing was interred alongside his wife at the St. John's Cemetery in Hatton, North Dakota.

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