Leland Morken’s daughters, from left, are Candace Oefstedahl holding Edwin Morken’s Army uniform trousers and legging, and the telegram stating that the body had arrived in the United States; Cindy Groth holds the uniform top, while Cheri Wolf shows the remembrance card and memorial flag. PHOTO: GARY BUXENGARD/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Leland Morken’s daughters, from left, are Candace Oefstedahl holding Edwin Morken’s Army uniform trousers and legging, and the telegram stating that the body had arrived in the United States; Cindy Groth holds the uniform top, while Cheri Wolf shows the remembrance card and memorial flag. PHOTO: GARY BUXENGARD/SPRING GROVE HERALD
He left his home in perfect health,

He looked so young and brave.

We little thought how soon he'd be

Laid in a soldier's grave.

This was the verse printed on Edwin Morken's "In Loving Remembrance" card, along with a photo of him at the top.

Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May.

Recently learning about the discovery of a World War I uniform and some documents packed away in the home of Leland Morken, sparked the idea for family members and this writer to do some research to learn more about Edwin Morken, the soldier who gave his life while serving our country in that uniform.

Leland Morken's daughters, Candace Oefstedahl, Cindy Groth and Cheri Wolf, stated they've known for years that the uniform was stored in their father's home, but never knew much about the man who wore it. They were told it belonged to the nephew of their grandfather, Gerhard.

In the box is the uniform - coat/shirt, trousers, leggings, and hat, and also a telegram, remembrance card and the memorial flag. It is interesting to note that the size of the uniform is so small that it would fit a 10 to 12 year old boy in our present day and age. Also the girls shared some handwritten letters and documents that pertain to their relative.

Information for this article was also gleaned from church records and, with the help and research of Thomas Carlson and Georgia Rosendahl, numerous documents and newspaper articles were located, shedding some light on the soldier and his life.

With today's technology, it was amazing to be able to locate this much data from more than a century ago. It should be noted that there were differences found in some dates and spellings of names, but what is reported here is as it was recorded. Since Edwin's last name fluctuates between Larson and Morken, to avoid confusion for this article, he will often be referred to by his first name.

Growing up in Wilmington

Edwin Morken was born Edwin Larson on February 12, 1889, son of Ole A. Larson and Berit Sophia Solandson Morken, who were married Sept. 22, 1886, in Wilmington. Ole was the son of Anders Larsen Kuraas and Lucie Olsdatter Haugen, who came to America in 1857 and settled a mile east of Quandahl. Berit was the daughter of Imbright Solandson Morken and Gjertrud Morken. Gjertrud was born in Trondhjem, Norway, and came to America about 1850. She married Imbright in 1863, and they settled on a farm in Wilmington, where they lived until their death. Both are buried at Waterloo Ridge.

The infant Edwin Larson was baptized on March 10 at Wilmington Church. And, he was confirmed at the same church on March 27, 1904, as "Almer Edwin Larson."

Berit Sophia died March 3, 1891, at the residence of her parents, leaving a 2-year-old child (Edwin). Too young to realize the loss of its mother, the child remained with the grandparents, Imbright and Gjertrud. A news item published in the Caledonia Journal stated, "The husband of the deceased has been away for some time and his whereabouts are said to be unknown."

Census records from 1900 and 1910 show Edwin living with his grandparents. When he left for North Dakota is unknown. At the time of the death of Edwin's grandmother, Gjertrud, on March 16, 1915, 10 years after her husband passed, Edwin was then living at Maddock, North Dakota, and did not attend the funeral.

Military service

At the time Edwin registered for the draft, he was living in Bremen, Wells County, North Dakota, and then working for Jens Strand, a farmer. On the registration "he says he has a father dependent on his income. He says he has a weak heart, but apparently enlisted anyway."

On June 29, 1917, Edwin Morken enlisted in Company B, 2nd Infantry of the North Dakota National Guard at Bremen. On July 15, 1917, the company was called into federal service in World War, serving until Oct. 10. Next he was with Company H, 164th Infantry until Jan. 5, 1918, and then with Company A, 26th Infantry with American Expeditionary Forces in France. Edwin served overseas from Dec. 15, 1917, until his death. On July 19, 1918, he was wounded, degree undetermined.

Among the text of a letter dated March 29, 1939, from Edwin's aunt, Mrs. Peter (Margarite) Bergrud, to Carl Haugen, Adjutant American Legion, Spring Grove, she gave additional information from what was already known about the soldier. She wrote: "He left New Rockford October 1, 1917 for Camp Green, Charlotte, N.C. He got to France for Christmas."

While overseas, engagements Edwin participated in were: Defensive: Montdidier-Noyon. Offensives: Aisne-Marne; St. Mihiel; and Meuse-Argonne. Defensive Sectors: Ansauville and Saizerais (Lorraine); and Cantigny (Picardy).

An article in The Washington Post dated Oct. 5, 1918, lists American casualties in fighting on the French front. A list of the wounded (previously reported missing in action) includes Private Edwin Morken, Maddock, North Dakota.

Records show he was killed in action on Oct. 6, 1918, at the Battle of Argonne Forest, at the age of 29 years, 7 months, and 22 days. He was buried in France, and two years later, his remains were returned to the United States.

Soldier brought home and laid to rest

On Oct. 7, 1921, Sam Morken of Maddock, North Dakota, Edwin's uncle - his mother's brother, received a Western Union telegram from Hoboken, New Jersey, stating, "Body of Private Edwin Morken 52,569 has arrived Hobokken, New Jersey, and will be shipped to you at government expense, but not until you telegraph at government expense confirming above shipping instructions. Wait shipping notice before making funeral arrangements or departing for burial destination. From Graves Registration SVC."

On Oct. 26, 1921, the Spring Grove Herald published the following:

"Soldier Brought Home from Across and Laid to Rest in the Wilmington Cemetery"

The remains of Edwin Larson Morken, a nephew of Gerhard Morken and Mrs. O. A. Myhre of Wilmington, who made the supreme sacrifice for his country in the late war, arrived at Spring Grove last Saturday. The funeral took place at the new Wilmington Church Monday afternoon (October 24) and interment was made at the old Wilmington Cemetery under the auspices of the American Legion Post of Spring Grove who attended in a body, accompanied by the Spring Grove band. Burial was under full military honors. Rev. F. O. Fredriksen from here officiated at the church and cemetery. The deceased was born and raised in Wilmington. He grew up in the home of his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Embret Morken. He left for North Dakota several years ago and enlisted at New Rockford and was among the first to go across. He was twice wounded and had just returned to the front when he was killed in action at the Verdun front in the Argonne Forest. Uncle Gerhard Morken, Edwin's uncle - his mother's brother, received the flag.

Edwin's grave is located in Row 6 on the north side of the Old Wilmington Cemetery. Every year for Memorial Day, the American Legion places a flag at his grave in remembrance.

Further information

In Thomas Carlson's research, he found information that Ole A. Larson went from Wilmington to Hendricks, Lincoln, Minn., where he was found in the 1900 census with a brother. He married Gena Johanna Buseth there in 1901, and had six children by his second wife. He died there on Feb. 2, 1950.

The Morken girls shared a hand-written letter signed by Nels Ellestad and Halvor T. Olerud and sent to G.M. Langland, Notary Public in Houston (County), Minnesota, regarding the character of Edwin's father, Ole A. Larson.

Ellestad and Olerud, who both resided in Wilmington Township, stated that they knew Edwin's father, Ole Larson, who lived in or near Spring Grove in the year 1895. They stated that prior to that time Ole Larson lived most of the time in Waterloo Township, Allamakee County, Iowa, where he was born and raised to manhood.

They stated that Ole was married to Sophia Morken, who are the parents of Edwin.

Ellestad and Olerud stated Ole Larson was a man of questionable character. They further emphasized and stressed to the notary public that Ole Larson was at that time a shiftless, immoral, indifferent person who had always been given to drinking, and never supported his family at the time he lived with them. He deserted them altogether, left them to the mercy of others, and did not support his son, Edwin, after his mother's death. The young child was left entirely to the care and support of his grandparents, Ingebrigt and Gjertrud Morken. Ole deserted his family and did not even appear at the funeral of his wife when she died in 1891.

Ellestad and Olerud further stated in the letter that they considered Margarite (Mrs. Peter) Bergrud of Bremen, North Dakota, aunt of the deceased soldier, morally entitled to the benefits of all and any insurance in the event of Edwin's death while serving his country.

A document dated March 6, 1919, from the United States Treasury Department, Bureau of War Risk Insurance, was received by Mrs. Peter Bergrud, notifying her that she was named beneficiary of Edwin's insurance in the amount of $10,000, issued by the United States Government.