Amongst the many people who first called Forest Lake home, some names have lived on. Below are three of those families and their history in Forest Lake.
Ole Alm, a native of Sweden, was born in 1850 and was the son of Andrew Alm, the first Swedish settler in Forest Lake. He followed his parents, who had gone before him, to America in 1869 with his sister Christine Carlotta. In 1873, he moved to Forest Lake with his father. Ole and his brother August opened the first store in Forest Lake three years later. They sold the business the following year and devoted their time and attention solely to farming. Ole’s farm was across the road from Forest Hills Golf Course.
Ole Alm married Gustina Erickson, also a native of Sweden, in 1876. They had two sons: Charlie and Frank. His wife died in 1879. Andrew froze to death and was buried in Scandia, since there was no cemetery in Forest Lake at the time.
Ole married his second wife, Gustave Ryquist and they had three sons, Johannas, Robert and Vernon. Vernon died at birth. They also had four daughters, named Minnie, Hedwig, Clara and Alvinia.
Around 1900, Ole went west to find work, leaving his wife to develop their homestead, which is now Forest Hills Golf Course. She cleared land and built a house and farm buildings. She raised sheep, spun the yarn and knotted stockings. She would take the train to Taylors Falls and sell hand-knit stockings.
On April, 5, 1929, a tornado leveled all of the buildings on the farm. All that remained was a pump. After the tornado, Gustavia built a house in town and boarded teachers for many years. She also raised her granddaughter Ruby Franseen. In time, she moved to Minneapolis and lived into her 80s.
George Martin Thurnbeck and his wife Mary emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1885. In 1893, they bought 80 acres in Columbus township, which formed the nucleus of what later became the Thurnbeck Farms. George and Mary had four children: Jake, John, Mary and Lena.
In the early days, they raised potatoes and cattle. The huge oak trees on their farm were cut into cord wood and sold for firewood. This was hauled into St. Paul by horse and wagon in the summer. Sleds were used in the winter.
John and Jake grew up on the farm. John married Catherine Hauble and then bought the farm from his parents. John was an original founder of the first Catholic church in Forest Lake. He was also a supervisor of Columbus Town Hall.
Successive additions to the original 80 acres of 340 acres followed. In 1947, the Thurnbecks sold their herd of 50 beef and 25 dairy cattle to concentrate on raising turkeys. The turkey project had begun 18 years prior with Clem and George, sons of John and Catherine. After the boys graduated from the University of Minnesota Agriculture School they decided that turkey raising was the field for them.
Darrell Thurnbeck sold the last of the farm in 2016, and stopped turkey operations. Though there is a portion of the property that remains in the family name.
Former Mayor John F. Skoglund traces his roots from his great-grandfather Jonas Johnson, who is considered to be Forest Lake’s first Swedish settler. His paternal grandfather is John Skoglund.
Jonas Johnson settled in Forest Lake in 1871. He married Carlotta Alm of another pioneer family. They had six children. Their daughter Matilda was recognized as the first Swedish child born in Forest Lake. She was the great-grandmother of John F. Skoglund.
Carlotta willingly gave her time and knowledge to help the sick and injured. As a midwife, she assisted her neighbors during childbirth. Sometimes she was away from home for a week caring for her neighbors, while Jonas coped with the six children at home.
All Elsie Vogel material is excerpted from her book, “Reflections of Forest Lake.” Vogel was a former columnist at The Forest Lake Times.