Justin & Marie Frendal - Their Story


Among the fjords of Fosnes, Norway, Justin Meyer Jorgensen was born on April 4, 1866. His father, Jorgen Ingebrigtsen was a farmer and fisherman, and was a native of Fosnes as was Justin's mother, Anne Marie Matiasdatter. The family lived at Leirfjord, which originally consisted of just one farm owned by the Norwegian church, with a pastor living there. There were five "husmannsplasser", which were smaller farms available for rent, and Justin was born and raised on one of them.

Anne Marie ("Marie") Evensdotter, the daughter of Even and Olea Ganesvik, was born in 1868 in Vemundvik. There they lived at Ganesvik, which is now completely deserted, but the foundation of their home still stands.

 Justin married Marie, probably about 1894, and they lived on the same farm as his parents. Afterward they moved to another location called "Breivik." A person's surname could be changed in Norway, with someone either taking the name of their father, or the place at which they lived. Justin was born with the surname "Jorgensen" ("Jorgen's son") but later changed his name to reflect his residence. His daughter Agnes was known as "Agnes Brevik," so perhaps he, as well, was known as "Brevik" or "Breivik" during the time they lived at that place.

While at Breivik, Justin, like his parents, rented a "husmannsplass," and operated a saw mill. Under a typical arrangement for that time, those who rented one of these small farms were usually given just enough provisions to survive, and a small salary, but little else. The majority of the profits typically went to the owner of the main farm. When Justin and Marie lived here, their farm was only accessible by boat. Despite this somewhat unprofitable situation, Justin was a hard worker and managed to save enough money to purchase the Frendal farm on the island of Ja in 1904. He was known thereafter as "Justin Frendal."

 At Frendal, Justin liked to fish, often getting up at 5 a.m. to go out to sea; he also operated a blacksmith shop and a sawmill. He and Marie had six children: Emil, Oddvar, Agnes Johanna, another daughter named Agnes Johanna, Ole (Matt), and Ingvar.

Justin and Marie's first daughter named Agnes died at the age of 2 weeks.

Marie was a fantastic cook, with lefse being a specialty, but she also made good blood pancakes. She made her own cheese, and also made rhubarb wine, once inadvertently getting a traveling preacher drunk on it. She had an iron pot in her kitchen where in the evening she'd make oatmeal for herself and Justin. While her kitchen had the luxury of an indoor water pump, she never did get electricity.

She loved animals, and was a collector of everything, never throwing anything away. She loved to sew and regularly hosted "sewing meetings" where the neighbor ladies would gather at her home and bring their sewing projects, to enjoy some coffee and conversation. From time to time they'd work on group projects to benefit the "Seaman's Mission," with the money they made going to local churches to help convert the sailors to Christianity. Both Marie and Justin were deeply religious.

Marie was known for her wisdom, and people frequently sought after her to dispense advice; she always seemed to know what to do, regardless of the situation. She was a compassionate person, caring for Justin's parents in their home for the last 10 years of their lives.

Their only daughter Agnes grew to adulthood, married Adolph Hammer, and came to the United States in January of 1923.

 Our cousin Tove related a bit of background on Justin: "Justin was said to have been a difficult man, short-tempered and intolerant. His son Ole (Matt) and a friend had been accused of some sort of relatively serious crime... something more serious that simply getting a girl pregnant. It was not known if he was guilty or innocent, only that being accused brought shame on him and the entire family. One can only imagine that Justin did not react well. Shortly afterward, Ole disappeared, and had little or no contact with his family back in Norway. They did not know what became of him, if he went to America, if he committed suicide, or if he was still in the country. Marie said that not a day went by where she didn't think of him and wonder what happened." It was said that Justin never spoke of Ole again. While it might be easy to be critical for that, it was obvious that honor, integrity, and protecting his family's good name meant a great deal to him.

Ole left Norway about two months after his sister Agnes. Ole appears to have worked as a sailor for a number of years before settling down in Emmetsburg, Iowa where he worked as a carpenter. A stepdaughter there said he was a fine craftsman, but newspaper accounts show "the bottle" tormented him for most of his life. Oddvar never married; when some paneling was pulled from the wall of his parents' home, a ring was found inscribed with a girl's name. It was supposed that Oddvar had gotten this ring for someone who didn't want it, and it ended up behind the wall. He was said to have been a bit of a loner. He died of tuberculosis at about age 30. Emil and Ingvar stayed in Norway.

Justin and Marie lived in their home at Frendal from 1904 until they died - Marie in 1952 and Justin in 1957 (aged 90), both from cancer. Their house still stands, but Tove noted that "it is in poor condition and used primarily for storage." Both Justin and Marie are buried at Dunn Church, Ja, Fosnes.