Memorable Manitobans: Niels Steingrimur Thorlaksson (1857-1943)
Born at the farm StoruTjarnir in Thingeyjarsysla in northeastern Iceland on 20 January 1857, son of Thorlakur Gunnar Jonsson and Henriette Lovisa Neilsdottir, he emigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his parents in 1873. They later settled at Mountain, North Dakota. In 1875 he enrolled in Luther College at Decorah, Iowa, graduating with a BA in 1881. He returned to Mountain where his brother Pall Thorlaksson had become pastor in the fall of 1882. He became the first schoolteacher in the community and served as the district’s first Justice of the Peace.
In the summer of 1883 he enrolled in the Department of Theology at the University of Christiana Hospital, Norway and, on graduation in 1887, he returned to North Dakota where he was ordained by Rev. Jon Bjarnason, President of the Icelandic Lutheran Synod. He served the Icelandic congregations in Minnesota until 1894 when he accepted a call from congregations at Park River, North Dakota. In 1900 he was invited by a small congregation at Selkirk to become their first permanent resident minister. He served the congregation and community at large for more than the next quarter century, until his retirement on the 40th anniversary of his ordination on 21 August 1927.
Over the years he held numerous offices of the Icelandic Lutheran Synod: Secretery (1888-1893), Vice President (1899-1915), President (1920-1923), and Honourary President (1940-1943). He was also Chairman of the Synod Board of Education (1913-1921), and a member of the Executive Board (1921-1927). For many years he was President of the Icelandic Ministerial Association in America and member of the National Lutheran Council. In 1939 the Government of Iceland made him a Knight in the Order of the Falcon.
On 19 May 1888, he married Erica Kristofa Rynning (?-?), a daughter of a prominent Norwegian family. Their children included Paul Henrik Thorbjorn Thorlakson.
In Memoriam - The Rev. Niels Steingrimur Thorlaksson (1857-1943) President Emeritus of the Icelandic Lutheran Synod of America. The Columbia Press Limited, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1943.
This page was prepared by Ken Howard.
Page revised: 17 June 2017
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