Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Torkjel Mikalsen Hornnes, Update

 Torkjel (Torkild) Mikalsen Hornnes
[photo:  courtesy of Alf George Kjetså]

Torkjel Mikalsen Hornnes (1871- 1924) the fifth child of Mikal Alfsen Hornnes and Anne Gundersdatter Uleberg, worked as a foreman at the Vennesla aluminum factory.  Recently we have located more photographs, some from the Vennesla postcard club, of the company town in Vigeland and I thought it might be interesting to post them.  It gives us a better idea of where and how he and his family lived.  The first two pictures below are aerial views showing the layout of the town and the location of the railway station.  The third photo is of Rødbyen or Red City where he lived.

Smia, Liebermanns første bygg, arbeiderboliger, spisebrakke, rødbyen formannsboliger  [Forge, Liebermann’s first building, workers housing, dining hall, Red City, foreman’s housing]

Jernbanestasjonen [Railway station] at Vigeland


Rødbyen as it is today.
[photo:  courtesy of Rune Jensen]

The company built the houses for the employees; the red duplexes were housing for the foremen, the white fourplexes were for other workers.  From the photos it looks as if the white houses were separated from the red houses by the rail line.  Torkjel and his family lived in one of the red houses.  The company houses were said to have been a high standard with reasonable rent for the time period.  It got its name, Rødbyen, or “Red City” from the color of the houses.  Most of the white houses are now gone but parts of Rødbyen” are still there.  In addition to the forge and houses there were a post office and a grocery. 

Below is an early photo of people waiting at the train station at Vigeland.  Notice all the books or cards displayed in the windows of what looks to be the ticket kiosk.  There is a railroad employee standing in his brass buttoned uniform.  There is even a black dog near one of the small girls.  Judging from the skirt lengths it would appear that the photo was taken around 1915.

Aluminum production requires a lot of water, which may be partly why this area was selected for the factory.  The aluminum produced at this factory was labeled “super pure” and 100% recyclable.  Pulp factories for paper manufacturing also require water and that type of industry is found here as well.  Wallboard manufacturing is found here too.  Below is a picture postcard showing the waterfalls at Vigeland.

Torkjel was said to have died in 1924 as a result of a brain tumor and to have had up to 50 or more operations.  Rune Jensen told me that the number of operations seems to increase with each telling of the story though, so it is not really possible to discern the absolute truth at this time.  This story a good illustration of oral family history stories in that things change with each telling.  It is just something that we need to be aware of and accept.  There is generally a kernel of truth with the oral histories but many of the details get distorted with time and re-telling. 

Torkjel’s widow, Ingeborg, took work at the factory in order to keep the house after he died.  She later remarried to Olav Dallen.  Several descendants of the family still live that general area.

Thanks again to Rune Jensen for helping with the family information and photos.  


There was a recent family gathering of Torkjel's descendants at Dallen that Rune attended.  He sent some photos and if I can gather enough additonal information or stories there may be another update in the future.

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