Portrait from the North Dakota Magazine, Vol. I. February 1907.
One term North Dakota representative Tollef Jorgenson Flamer is another new odd name found via a recent cull through that state's legislative annals, and I was extremely surprised to have found a picture of him in a February 1907 edition of the North Dakota Magazine (where his name is misspelled as "I.J. Flamer"). While his name may have been misspelled, mention of his being a hotel owner and native of Norway confirmed his identity, and a further biography of him (via W.B. Hennessy's 1910 History of North Dakota) detailed his first name and legislative service.
Born in Norway on April 16, 1854, Tollef Jorgenson Flamer was the son of Jorgen and Agatha (name also given as Anna) Flamer. His early education occurred in the country of his birth and in 1872 left Norway for a new life in the United States. Following the boat trip to America, Flamer migrated to Red Wing, Minnesota, where he engaged in farming through the late 1870s. In 1880 he removed to North Dakota, and after settling in Fargo farmed and worked as a grain buyer in the employ of the Pillsbury and Hulbert Elevator Co. Flamer later purchased additional farmland near Moorhead in Clay County, which he would "farm at long range" for a number of years afterward.
In 1883 Flamer entered the business life of Fargo when he erected what would become known as the "Flamer House." Originally constructed as a store, Flamer and his family would move into the establishment following the original client's abandonment and soon began work on adding a restaurant and boarding house to the existing structure. The hotel later added a west wing and early in its existence was utilized by Fargo physicians "for surgical procedures" in the years prior to the construction of Fargo hospitals. The Flamer House continued as a cafe and boarding house until its destruction in 1959, being torn down during an urban renewal project.
Tollef J. Flamer married in 1884 to Olina "Lena" Erickson (1859-1947), with whom he had five children, Augusta Bertine (1884-1904), Henry (1883-1908), Pearl (1888-1983) George (1890-1966) and Erma (born ca. 1904). In addition to his hotel business, Flamer was remarked as having had
"A number of other interests which take a good deal of his time, and has not only built up a snug fortune, but also a long list of friends.As an avowed non-office holder, Flamer repeatedly cast aside calls for him to run for political office and continued along this route until 1906, when "public sentiment practically compelled his acceptance of the nomination for the lower house in the state legislature." In November of that year, he was elected as one of three Republican representatives from the 9th legislative district and during the 1907-09 session sat on the committees on Charitable Institutions, Immigration, Labor, Public Debt, and Corporations Other Than Municipal.
The remainder of Flamer's life following his legislative service remains a mystery, other than his continued affiliation with the aforementioned Flamer House. He died in Cass County on August 28, 1929, aged 75 and was survived by his wife Lena, who died in 1947. Both were interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Fargo.