Nels Knutson Ranum

Revised March 8, 2009

edited by Mark Alan Ranum, his great grandson

Name Variations in order of appearance: Nils Hageset, Nils Knutson, Nils Knutson Ranum, First name Nels on some documents. Ranum can be spelled Raneim or Ranheim in Norway. Other spellings have been used.


For most of us Ranum's and cousins, Nels is the "trunk" of our family tree. A grand patriarch, father of 13 children (note 5), and an enduring bond that links us to the forefathers and Nordic kings of ancient times. It is with him our Ranum story and heritage really begins here in the new world.

Nels was born August 22,1829 to Knut and Guri Hageset. Nels birthplace was in the Opland Fylke (like a province or county) of the Valdres area of central Norway on the North Hageset farm. The farm was located on a lake called Steinsetfjord which was just across the boarder of Nord Aurdal and in the very east-most portion of Etnedal. Nels father and mother had just purchased this farm in 1826 (note 1) and thus as in Norwegien tradition, took the Hageset farm name for their last name (note 2). Nels had six brothers; Knud (the elder), Mikkel, Anders, Haldor, Ole, and Knut (the younger). His two sisters were Anne and Barbro.

Nels and his folks apparently lived on Hageset until 1846 when his folks bought one half of a farm called Ranheimsmarken about 11 kilometers to the south and west of the Hageset farm. The name Ranheimsmarken literally translates to Ranheims clearing or feild. This property was part of a larger group of properties called Ranheimsbygda or the Ranheim farms. and was located in Nord Aurdal on the Strandefjoud (lake). Nord Aurdal and Etnedal are what we would think of as a township in America.

Photo of Nels Knutson Ranum

Root archive # 02100306. Edited as 02100306ahr.jpg

The Ranheim farms at that time were located on the east bank of Strandefjoud and overlooked a breath taking view of water, earth and sky to the west. Much of the area was woodland at the time and though beautiful, the rocky, tree covered ground was harshly difficult to clear and farm. When buying a cleared area as Ranheimsmarken was, you were also buying the hard labor of its previous owners. Nels had undoutedly been a part of the hard work of clearing the stone and woods around the Hageset farm as he was about 17 years old when they moved off of that property. The purging of mountain stone from the land was an ongoing process when you farmed, even after a feild had been cleared. Nels probably helped to improve Ranheimsmarken with his father in his late teen and early twenties. Nels was probably still known as Nels Hagaset even though he had moved off the Hageset farm in 1846. His family was probably in the process of acquiring the new last name, Ranheim as new occupants of the Ranheim farm. Nils had six brothers; Knud (the elder), Mikkel, Anders, Haldor, Ole, and Knut (the younger). His two sisters were Anne and Barbro.

We have a rare view from a family member as to what might have been going through young Nels mind in those formative young adult years. Nels nephew, Gilbert O Hageset, wrote a never published book that chronicles the transatlantic adventure of fictional character Elof. Although it is a fictional work, it contains many names that were familiar to the old Hageset area in Norway. Names like Dalen, and Baken. Author Gilbert was much closer to the actual events of that time and undoubtedly listened to stories of the old country as told by his immigrant father, Knut Hageset. His book "The Prairie King" may paint a picture containing more fact than fiction. The following excerpts are of Elof and a neighbor boy talking about the dream journey to America:

From page 9 of the original manuscript, "The Prairie King" by Gilbert O. Hageset. (not sure when written but perhaps just before WWII)

- - - - -

With the growing of years had come a slight knowledge of that land of opportunity across the mountains and beyond the sea to which a varitable stream of emigrants constantly wending its way. Occasionally one of those comprising the stream returned with glowing reports of that Wonderland. To Elof it became fuel added to the flame already burning so intensely in his being.

One day Nils Bolstad, a neighbor boy called on Elof who was digging stones out of a two acre plot which was to be added to the upper field. "I see you are still making a slave of yourself," smiled Niles."Yes, I am that," replied Elof as he took off his hat and with a large red handkerchief wiped his beaded forehead. "The evil one take these hell's rocks," he continued savagely.

"The devil choke me if I'll break my back either for rocks or land," retorted Nils. "I'm leaving for America tomorrow. Just came up to say good-bye."

- - - - -

We can only imagine the circumstance of Nels Knutson Hagaset/Ranheim and family back in those old country days. Not much is known of their lives at that point but much can be drawn from the stories chronicled by their neighbors and fellow countrymen. It is clear that folks would return for a visit or more often write back to their relatives in Norway with stories of the vast opportunities in their new home in America. Those stories of vast areas of rich, flat, and cheap or sometimes free prarie land, with no rocks, must have been a powerful draw to those with rock caloused hands and sore backs.

There is a writing that is particularly fascinating that is included in a wonderful genealogical compilation named "The Historic Perry Norwegian Settlement". Chapter 1 is titled " The Area and Its People" and provides a very well written overview of both native and immigrant cultures who called this area home. One point brought up is that during the 1800's, Norway had less than three percent tillable land while the "post plague" population was increasing to a point where the land simply could not support its people. Sons found themselves unable to maintain the family farm lifestyle they were accustomed to and increasingly sought homes on the higher, less accessible, and less productive grounds of Norway. That meant more rocks, more isolation, and less income, I.E. a harder life! These "Sons of Norway" found themselves with fewer and fewer options in their homeland and consequently looked across the vast Atlantic for answers their Norway could no longer provide.

In 1849, Nils bought the farm named Raniemsmarken from his father Knud and mother Guri. The name Ranum, later adopted by Nils, came from the name of this farm (note 2). Nils married Berit Olsdatter in 1850 and they lived on the Raneimsmarken farm until they sold it in 1852.

The Valdres House
This is the "Valdres House" and is part of the Vesterheim museum collection in Decora, Iowa. It was relocated from the Valdres area in Norway. Our family historian, Maurice Ranum was involved in its move. It represents a typical land owners dwelling in the 1700's and is mentioned in "Ranum Roots". This may by representative of the type of house Nels and Berit lived in.


Journey to the New World!

In 1852 Nils and Berit began their journey to America. (see the article, "The Crossing" for details) (Note 4) Nils worked as a laborer and carpenter during his first summer in America. He soon bought forty acres of land in the southern part (note 3) of Perry Township on which he built a log cabin. It was in this log cabin that Nils and Berit had their first child, Guri (or Julia) on February 7, 1853.

Nils and Berit became Citizens of the United States in 1854. Probably during that same year, they sold their log cabin and bought eighty acres of land in Highland Township, Iowa County, Wisconsin. They soon added another 40 acres to that farm, cleared part of the land, and built farm buildings. More research is needed on the location of this farm but it may have been east of the Town of Highland on Nels Knutson road. During their stay on this farm, they had four children, Sena (July 20, 1854), Knute (May 28, 1875 (note 9)), Ole K. (September 23, 1858), and Andrew (October 4 1864).

By 1862, the Civil War had been raging for about a year. On November 10, 1862, then Wisconsin Governor Salomon scheduled drafting to begin town-by-town in the state based on the local sheriffs records. Nels at the time already had five children and was providing for by them by working his 120 acre farm in Highland township. The draft effort, being very unpopular and disorganized at that time, probably did not have a primary provision to release Nels from the call to fight. Andrew, however, who had just arrived from Norway offered to be enrolled in place of Nils. Andrew was enrolled in the drafted militia for a term of nine months on November 21, 1862 at Madison, Wisconsin. He was mustered there on December 2,1862 as a private. Andrew died of fever at Memphis, Tennessee, on May 30, 1863, only months after being mustered and probably only about a year after arriving in America. He was buried in the cemetery at Memphis but his remains were later moved. It is unclear at the time of this writing, where Andrews final resting place is. It is ironic that only 6,812 Wisconsin soldiers reported to duty of the 38,495 called in that draft. Andrew had answered the call to fight in a battle that was threatening to tear his new country apart. He fought when others fled and in the stead of his brother. If he hadn't, most of us "Nels" Ranum's may NOT be here today. I can only imagine the pain that Nels must have felt at the loss of his brother. I also do not believe that it is coincidence that Nels next born child was named Andrew, perhaps in honor of his fallen brother.

Hard times would again visit Nels and Berit in the summer of 1865. One hot summer day that year, Berit went bear-foot into a spring-house and stayed long enough to churn some butter. Berit was a strong and healthy woman but apparently caught a cold from her stay in the cool spring house. She later developed pneumonia and died that year. This left Nils with 5 young children ages 1 through 12. Berit is thought to be buried on that farm in Iowa County though attempts to locate her grave have not been successful.

This is an example of the type of spring house that Berit may have entered on that hot summers day. Spring houses were very important in those days before refrigeration. They not only protected the spring and kept it active and clean, but they also provided an area where the temperatures stayed near stable at fifty some degrees year round. Butter, Milk and other perishibles could be kept cool during the hot summer and the spring waters actually worked the other way around in the winters keeping them from freezing. This spring house is located at Stephans Falls in the Governor Dodge State Park near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. This particular springhouse actually has a cement box like structure that at one time held milk cans to keep them cool.
Farm life was hard in those days and being a single father of 5 young children would have been extremely difficult. Nils was fortunate to find a young lady to keep house and help him raise his children. This young lady was Marit Gulbranndsdatter who had taken the name Marit Gilbertson when she arrived in America in 1861. Marit and Nils were married in May 1, 1866. (Note 6) They apparently lived on the farm in Iowa County for only a short time and moved onto a rented farm near the now ghost town Martinsville (note 7). During their stay on that rented farm, Marit presented Nels with child Ann Marie (Mary Ann) on January 29, 1867.
This photo of Nels and Marit was probably taken in Mt. Horeb in Nels latter days. It is the only photo currently available to the author in which Nels appears. Root archive # 02100306. Edited as 02100306web.jpg
Somewhere around 1867, Nels and family moved to the little but thriving town of Annaton located in Iowa County. Annaton was located in a small valley on the south side of a meandering creek. The town was down stream from a mill and hosted a post office. It is here that Nils worked as a carpenter and wagon maker. It is not certain how long they stayed at Annaton but it is possible that they were there until 1870. It is then that Marit presented Nels with child Eddie Olaf on March 22, 1870. (note 8)
The photo to the right is of the wagon factory at Annaton. It is probably where Nels worked as a wagon maker when he was in Annaton. This photo is from the book entitled "Livingston" which contains a wealth of information about that area. Plans are to make this book available on line in the year 2010 depending on copywrite etc.

It is around the year 1870, that Nels purchased a farm in Wolf Hollow, near Martinsville. It is on this farm that Nels and Marit were blessed with Gilbert Martinius (March 22, 1872), Peter (November 18, 1873), and Carl William (June 18, 1875) Bennie Julius (April 16, 1877), Anton Sherman (February 26, 1879), and Martha Sophia (December 13, 1880). This brought their family to a total of 13 children. It is possible that three additional children died in infancy(note 5). Around the time that Nels and Marit move to Wolf Hollow, Nels brother, Knut emigrated to the United States and apparently lived near or with Nels and Marit. Knut had been a tailor in Norway and for a short time worked as a tailor here as well. Knut went by the last name Hagaseth.

On May 28, 1875 , Nils son Knute, from his marriage with Berit, died during a barn raising incident When Knute was about 18 years old, he was helping in a barn raising event on the John Hunter Farm (later owned by Bryan Knutson). A timber slipped and fell on him, causing his death. He was buried at the John Hunter gravesite, Rock Church Cemetery, Livingston. Not much is known about Knute other than what is mentioned in the breif text posted on rootsweb by Roger Knutson (note 10). It is also important to note that Nels and Berit were refered to as "Nels & Betsy Knutson" on the headstone of Knute.

In 1887, Nils son Gilbert, aquired a colony of bees from his brother who took them in trade on a sewing machine. This was to become the beginning of a family business and tradition that would last well over a century and is in fact continuing at the time of this writing. The business has been named Ranum's 1887 Brand Apiaries in honor of Gilbert. From the start, Gilbert was known for his love for perfection in all that he did. The following of customers that enjoyed his honey and sorghum was a testoment to this.

Shortly after this, it is said that Nels had the longing to move back to Perry Township in Dane County. This is where he had first lived when coming to America. His brother, Knut had become a pastor and moved to Perry where he had accepted a call in 1881. Knut owned a farm there(note 11) in 1887 and donated a portion of it for the construction of the (new) Hauge Church in that year. After his close association with Knut in Wolf Hollow, Nels may have wanted to move to stay closer to his brother. Whatever the reason, it appears that around the year 1893, he rented a farm or farms in the Perry area. In 1895 (abstract says November 28, 1892), Nels and Marit purchased a small farm (note12 ) east of Daleyville and about a half mile North of the Hauge Church. They initially constructed a small log dug-out and lived in it during the construction of a comfortable and roomy farm house that stands there to this day. This house is currently owned and occupied by Nels' great-great grandson, Jonathon Ranum.


To the right is the dugout/log house that was used during the construction of the new farmhouse in the backround. It was used as a chicken coop at the time the picture was taken.

At the time they lived in the dugout, Nels would have been 66 years old, Gilbert would have been 23, and youngest child, Martha would have been 15.

Root archive # 09022301

These photos are of the Hauge Church that Nels brother Knut pastored from the time it was built in 1887 to the time of his death in 1906. The photos were taken in 1976 or two decades after it's last regular use.



Nels Grandaughter Ella recalled attending church with Nels and Marit at the Hauge church. "One of my clearest memories I have of Grandma is in our little country church. She always sat in her customary place in one of the front pews. She loved the Hymns and her shoulders swayed gently as she sang the words. Her face beamed as she drank in the message from the Pastor." "I remember going to church with grandmother and grandfather in a surrey with a fringe on top. I sat there listening to a sermon in the Norwegian language. I could not understand a single word, but I sensed the reverence, holiness, and sincerity of grandma and grandpa as they worshipped that Sunday."




Nels and Marit sold their farm to son Gilbert in 1903 but reserved the use of a part of the house and lived there with their Son Gilbert, and his wife Alice for the rest of their lives. After Nels passed away on January 19, 1911, Marit remained on the farm in a small house that had been constructed a stones throw from the main farm house. Marit on December 1, 1927. Today Nels Knutson Ranum and wife Marit and his brother Knute Hageset and wife Kjorste lie buried in the beautiful yard that surrounds the church of their choice - the Hauge Lutheran Church east of Daleyville, Wisconsin. While the church has since been removed, the site still remains well kept and in direct view of the land on which they once lived.


Nils and Marits final resting place is at the (new) Hauge Church about a half mile due South of their home farm in Perry Township of Dane County. The church building is gone but the cemetary grounds are well kept.

Nels and Marit, and Berit before her definitly lived a full and fruitful life. I think it is fitting to end this page with Lucille Britts poem, The Dash Between The Dates.


by Lucille Britt

Memorial Day was over now,
All had left and I was alone,
I began to read the names and dates
Chiseled there on every stone.

The dates which showed whether it was Mom or Dad or daughter or baby son,
The dates were different but the amount
The same, there were two on every one,
It was then I noticed something,
It was but a simple line:
It was the dash between the dates Placed there, it stood for time.

All at once it dawned on me
How important that little line.
The dates placed there belonged to God,
But that line is yours and mine.

It’s God who gives this precious life
And God who takes away;
But that line between He gives to us
To do with what we may.

We know God’s written the first date down
Of each and every one,
And we know those hands will write again,
For the last date has to come.

We know He’ll write the last date down,
And soon, we know, for some.
But upon the line between my dates
I hope He’ll write “well done.”




Please comment if you can provide correction or clarification!

Email me at:

Return to


References, Notes, and Additional Information



As was briefly stated in last week's issue, Nels K. Ranum, one of the earliest settlers of the town of Perry, passed to his last reward on Thursday morning, January 19, 1911.
Mr. Ranum was born in Valders, Norway, August 22, 1829, and was at the time of his death 81 years, 4 months and 27 days.
He was married to Betsy Olson in 1850, and to this union five were born and four of them survive him: Julia, Mrs. T. O. Smesrud of Joice, Iowa; Sena, Mrs. Sever Munson, Livingston; Ole Ranum, Dodgeville; and Andrew Ranum, Primrose.
Mrs. Ranum passed away in death in 1865, and later he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Gilbertson, and to this union was born eight children: Mary Ann, Mrs. K. Knudtson, of Livingston; Edward O. Ranum, of Iowa; Gilbert M. Ranum, on the homestead; Peter, of Eldon, Missouri; Carl W. of Freda, N. Dak.; Ben J. Ranum of Lisbon, N. Dak; Sherman A. Ranum, of Eldon, Mo.; and Martha, wife of Peter Helden of Albany.

Mr. Ranum came with his family to America in 1852, locating first in the town of Perry, one of the first of the Norwegians in that township. He worked as a common laborer for a year and then bought a 40 acre tract in the south west part of the town on which he lived for about a year then sold it to Hans Hegdahl, and it is now owned by Andrew Jeglum, then bought 80 acres in Iowa county, near Highland, where he resided with his family for 10 years and before he moved away, had bought and improved 40 acres more so that his farm then contained 120 acres which he sold and moved to Grant county where he bought 120 acres on which he resided for 25 years, then sold out and having in mind where he first settled in this country, he moved to Perry, bought a small farm and has since resided there.

In 1903 he retired from active work and sold his farm to his son Gilbert M. Ranum, but the old folks retained their residence on the farm with their son and his family.

Few of the pioneers experienced more fully the trials and hardships of the early settler than he, but he had a brave heart, strong constitution, youth and courage and was not afraid of work.

In a social way they had but few attractions, but they would often come together at the home of some neighbor and have an enjoyable time. All were friends, all striving to the same purpose, making a home for themselves in this new and glorious country, all willing to work and to assist one another if it were needed and though poor in this world's goods, they were rich in human feeling and love for their fellowman. They were very hospitable and no one who came to their door for food or shelter were turned away.
Those early settlers were a God-fearing and God-loving class of people and had family services in the home every day and would go many miles on foot to hear Divine services, oftentimes under the spreading boughs of some giant of the forest in the summertime and at other times in the primitive log cabin of some neighbor.

They had a sound mind and a strong healthy body and they did not forget to teach their little ones and bring them up in the faith of their forefathers and have them confirmed in the faith.

When we have thus spoken of the early settlers of Perry, it applies very fittingly to the deceased. he was devoted to his God, his family and country and we believe it was said to him, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of the Lord."
His work was all done and well done and he was entitled to rest and his soul is with his God.
He leaves an aged widow, 12 children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren to mourn his death and revere his memory.
Funeral services were held Monday at the Hauge Lutheran Church, his pastor, The Rev. J. A. Johnson of Mt. Horeb, officiated, and the remains were interred in the cemetery by the church. A large concourse of people were present to pay the last sad tribute to a worthy man and his family.

Those of his children who were present from a distance were: Mrs. Munson, Mrs. O. K. Ranum and daughter Mabel, Peter Ranum and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Hilden; Andrew Ranum and family, B. J. Ranum, Mmes. James Riley and Elmer Davidson, nieces of the deceased, and a host of other relatives and friends.
The floral offerings were many and beautiful, contributed by his children, relatives and loving friends.
The pall bearers were four of his sons, Andrew, Gilbert, Peter, and Benjamin, and his sons in law Knudt Knudtson and Sever Munson.


We desire to express our sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those who so kindly and unselfishly assisted us during our late sad bereavement, the death and burial of our beloved husband and father, their kindness shall be kept in grateful remembrance.
Mrs. Mary Ranum and Children

- - -

Both Obituary and Card of Thanks as transcribed to rootsweb by Roger Knutson.

Rootsweb freepages listing:



Family Tree Snapshot

First Wife Berit Olsen (Olsdatter)
Nels Knutson Ranum
Second wife Marit Gilbertson (Gulbrandsdatter)

Guri (or Julia), February 7, 1853

Sena, July 20 1854
Knute, May 29, 1856 - May 28, 1875
Ole K., September 23, 1958
Andrew, October 4, 1864

Ann Marie, January 29, 1867
* Gina, April 28, 1868
* Ben, February 9, 1869 (died same day)
* Gustav, February 9, 1869 (died April 12, 1869)
Eddie Olaf, March 22, 1870
Gilbert Martinius, March 22, 1872
Peter, November 18, 1873
Carl William, June 18, 1875
Bennie Julius, April 16, 1877
Anton Sherman, February 26, 1879
Martha Sophea, December 13, 1880
* See (note 5)


Notes and Referces:

Notes: Lettered notes are used as temporary until all article is done. They will then be numbered.

1.) Conflicting dates are given for the purchase of Hageseth. Ray Ranums "Our Heritage" says "a few months" after Nels birth. That would put it in 1829 or 1830. A revision of that document compiled by Bennie Ranum in 1981 indicates a date of 1826. A new look at this date is needed as the "Our Heritage" document cites schoolmasters records. If the 1830 date holds true, then Nels birthplace would actually be on the Skrindsrud farm just to the east of Hagaset. That would also add a new dimension to Nels name. He would technically become Nels(Nils) Knutson/Skrindsud/Hagaset/Ranum. A small point but more importantly, on what farm was he actually born? At this point, I'm inclined to addopt the information presented in the "Our Heritage" as Ray cites the schoolmasters document in the text. I am not however changing the text of the biography until more work is done on this.

2.) Names were handled differently in Norway. In America, it is most common to have a first or given name, a middle name, and a last or sir name. In our custom, the sir name is determined by the male lineage. In Norway, during the 1800's, it was their custom to have a first or given name as in our culture. The middle name of a man was usually that of his fathers with a "son" added to it indicating that he was so and so's son. The last name was usually determined by the farm on which they lived. Thus, Nels Knutson Hageset was Nels, the son of Knut, of the Hageset farm. When Nels moved to a different farm as he did in 1846, he took on a new last name and hence became Nels Knutson Raniem as he moved on to the Raniem farm. You can imagine the confusion when coming to America and being asked what your last name was when you we no longer associated with a farm. That is why I believe that on the boat during the crossing, Nels signed passage as Nels Knutson and just dropped the last name. When he got to America, he appeared to go by the name Nels Knutson for awhile. It is only my guess that he found that to be confusing as my research has found several Nels or Nils Knutsons in the same county in Wisconsin. He then apparently went by the name Hageset. Family tradition holds that he felt that name sounded too much like the English word hogshead and thus addopted the last name of Ranum which is the Americanized form of Raneim or Ranhiem. I also believe that Ranhiem is a later spelling of the name in Norway. It is also common to see the spelling Ranum currently used in Norway.

3.) See the article "Places Nils Knutson Ranum Lived"

4.) Nils appeared to use both names Nils Knutson Hagaset and Nils Knutson when he first settled in the Town of Perry, Dane County, Wisconsin in 1852. If the passenger list in the above "The Crossing" article indeed show our Nils and Berit, then he used the Nils "Knudson" name to register for the passage. Berits name was spelled Berith Knudson with an asteric behind it indicating she was with the above name which was Nils. We can't be 100 % sure this is our Nils and Berit. See "The Crossing" for details.

5.) Mentioned on bottom of page 69 of Ranum Roots are probably 3 additional children who died in infancy. There would then be 16 children total.

6.) Marriage is shown as Knudson, Nils to *Gulderanson, Margit 5-01-1866 vol 2a page 686 as found in the Iowa County court house
* Spelling shown on index

7.) Stay on rented farm and birth of Ann is indicated in "Our Heritage" by Ray Ranum

8.) These dates are somewhat speculative and need to be verified by plats or abstracts etc. See Places Nels Knutson Ranum Lived

9.) This date is calculated from the time lived and time of death as listed on Knutes headstone.

10.) Not sure of original source for this information at this point.

11.) Knut Hageseth lived on farm #4 as outlined on page 96 of "The Historic Perry Norwegian Settlement"

12.) Nels K Ranum purchased farm # 14 on page 80 of "The Historic Perry Norwegian Settlement"