History of the North Dakota Kjonaas Family

We do not have much information about the first of the North Dakota Kjonaas Family who came to America. If anyone can supply us with more information we will add it to this Web Page.

From our information it appears that Halvor Wetleson and his sister Gunhild Wetleson with some of their children immigrated from the Lunde/Skien area of Telemark, Norway about 1900. When they came to America they all adopted the Kjonaas name because they came from a farm called "Kjonaas" in Norway. Prior to 1900 it was common to change a persons family name when they moved to a different farm. The Wetleson name was some times spelled Vetlesen .

Gunhild, although being single and with several children, along with a "Mike" and "Pat" Kjonaas, all three homesteaded on adjoining farms in the Glenburn/Bottineau/McCanna/Maxbass area of North Dakota, north of Minot and very close the Canada line.

Halvor (Vetlesen) Wetleson Kjonaas, forefather of this family, was born in Norway in 1816 and at that time spelled Kjonaas as "Tjo(/)nnas". Ancestors of the Minnesota Kjonaas family also spelled their farm name that way in the 1700's. I understand that the name Kjonaas means a grassy meadow overlooking a body of water. No doubt a number of farms used thast name. By Manley Kjonaas May, 1998.

A Note from Barbara Kjonaas

Barbara's mother was a Bryan from Devils Lake, No. Dak. and her father was Brown from a farm near Yankton, So. Dak. Her mother's father was a descendant of a brother of William Jennings Bryan. Barbara's mother-in-law, Helen Baker Kjonaas was the daughter of the No. Dak. State Auditor. When he died her mother, Berta ran for that office and won. She held the office for a good many years and was a dear sweet lady with whom Barbara spent time in Minot where Carl and Helen were living in 1946.

Obituary of Robert Kjonaas
From the Bismarck Tribune, May 31, 1997
Robert was born June 22, 1922 in Kenmare, the son of Swen and Claudia (Russell) Kjonaas. He lived in Coulee and then Leeds, where he completed High School. Robert then joined Company D of the 164th Infantry of the North Dakota National Guard. The unit was activated in February 1941 and was sent to Camp Claiborne, La. for training. During World War II, Robert was in the Southwest Pacific Theatre and saw acton on Guadalcanal and Bouganvillle of the Soloman Islands and in Leyte, Cebu and Negros of the Philippine Islands.
After the war, Robert entered college and was then recalled by the Army in 1947 and was placed on a Competitive Tour program, receiving an Army commission in 1948. In 1948 he was united in marriage to Donna Frost.
During the Korean War, Robert commanded Company B of the 9th Infrantry (Second Division). His unit was given official credit for being the first United Nations force to actively engage Chinese Communist forces when they crossed the Yalu River into North Korea. He retired from the Army as a Major in 1962. In January 1965, Robert joined National Farmers Union Property and Casualty Company as a resident adjuster in Bismarck. He beame area claims supervisor in 1981 and retired in January 1984.
Robert was a mamber of Faith Lutheran Church.

He is survived by his wife, Donna, two sons and daughters-in-law, Richard and Christine, Hutchinson, Minn., and Robert B. and Britta Renstrom, Middleton, Wis.; two grandaughters, Stephanie and Angela, Hutchinson; one grandson, Eric, Middleton; three sisters, Margaret Hedlund, Dent, Minn., Claudia Tischman, Belvidere, Ill., and Marilyn Sorenson, Reno, Nev,; and nieces and nephews. (Bismarck Funeral Home)

Lithtning Knocks ex-Bismarck Woman from Bed
From the Bismarck Tribune, July 23, 1996
Stephanie Kjonaas was blown out of bed by a lightning strike Sunday evening and told the world about it Monday.

K jonaas, a 19-year-old sophmore at the University of Duluth, is the daughter of Richard and Christine K jonaas of Hutchinson, Minn., and formerly of Bismarck.

Stephanie's grandmother, Donna Kjonaas of Bismarck, described Stephanie's survival as "miraculous".

"I was watching television last night and on the weather I saw this big storm cell headed for Duluth," Donna Kjonaas said, "I thought, Oh no, Stephanie is going to get it. I was thinking about her."

A sever thunderstorm rolled into Duluth and one lighting bolt smashed through the roof of Stephanie's apartment building. "It hit her pillow, blew that apart, went into the mattress, then the box spring where it spiraled around and around and around her," Donna said.

"It came out of the box spring and went to an electrical outlet. When it hit that it backlashed with fire. It burned the mattress and went back the way it came and set the roof on fire. They found a hole in the pillow where it came in and a hole in the mattress where it went out. It's and absolute miracle she's alive."

Donna said Stephanie's roommates called for help, including an ambulance. Through it all, Stephanie suffered a temporary hearing loss from the tremendous bang of the lightning strike. She also reported tingling feet and hands and Donna said there was a "spiderweb" pattern on her face. "Not a burn, but like a spiderweb."

Donna said her granddaughter lost "most everything" in the resulting fire. "Christine and Richard went down there right away to be with her."

Stephanie and her mother were staying in a Duluth hotel Monday night, ready to find a new place for the teen-ager to life.

PS: Can anyone give us an update on this story?

October 21, 1998 Stephanie Kjonaas reported that she is fine, with no long term damages.


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