Chris Knutsen: Vignettes of a Life

by Jean Cammon Findlay, as part of The Knutsen Archives

The following stories are the first and only reminiscences about Chris Knutsen ever published. I hope there is more to come! -GM

Jean explains their source:

Finding first-hand anecdotes about Chris is very difficult. Linda's grandmother, Margaret Cammon, Frank Cammon's daughter, is my best source. Linda sat down once with her grandmother and took copious notes on the family history. Linda has a good memory and can remember a lot of what her grandmother told her. Chris was a great favorite in the family - especially, I believe, with Frank and the youngest brother, Eddie. Linda has a wonderful family picture of Bergitte, the mother with her children. Chris and Anna are shown on one side with Anna seated and holding baby Myrtle on her lap - great primary source information for a genealogist as Margaret had labeled all the people in the picture. And it dates the picture, since Myrtle is a baby and she was born in 1907.

I have read the newspapers for Milnor, ND. There's a wonderful story about a wet summer and a lake near town re-establishes itself. Chris built a sailboat, lent it to three friends who promptly went out and were capsized in the wind. Chris did not capsize in any of his sails.

I have read the paper from Sauk Center on Chris' arrest and the subsequent prison record for Chris. He was arrested for breaking and entering a lumberyard office - caught red-handed. When arraigned the next day and the charges were read, he told the judge he did enter, but he didn't break anything. Smart Aleck? Bravado? Great sense of humor? He was only 18. The prison record has a complete physical description, which is most useful. I think Chris fell in with the wrong crowd, had a bad week, went to jail for nearly a year, then went home and lived with his family for 8 years where he worked as a mason and built a sailboat. Then he got married. Don't know how to put the first marriage into context, but certainly his relationship with Anna demonstrates constancy. Jonathan Kellerman gave me a wonderful psychological description (apologizing for doing so) in which he called him "restlessly creative."

Other Sources: Research in primary sources such as court files, public vital statistics records (birth, death, and marriage certificates, coroner's reports), and state and federal censuses, plus secondary sources such as contemporary newspaper stories and items, county history books and histories of institutions such as Minnesota's Stillwater prison.


Coming To America

Building a Boat

Years of Decision
                 Chapter 1. A "Miserable Scamp"
                 Chapter 2. The "Fresh Fish"
                 Chapter 3. Released!

                 Chapter 4. Mason to Manufacturer

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