Harold Thorson (Fessenden, ND)

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(Need photo of Harold Thorson)

Harold Thorson (November 16, 1841 – February 18, 1920) was a prominent banker, owning around 24 State and National Banks in North Dakota and Minnesota between 1887 and his death in 1920. Before becoming a banker in 1887, he was a successful merchant, and was instrumental in founding St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN in 1874.


Early life and family

Harold Thorson was born in Norway on Dovre farm, November 16, 1841. He emigrated to America in 1857, settling in Manitowac, WI, where he attended school for 3 years before starting a country store. On December 26, 1864, he was married to Anne Olsensdatter, who passed away the next year in 1865. Mr. Thorson then moved to Northfield, MN and started a mercantile business, which was very successful. In 1870, he married Karen Carrie (Lajord) Engebretsdotter, and they had 6 children. While in Northfield, he was a primary founder of St. Olaf College in 1874, and a major benefactor. One of the college's dormitories is named in his honor.

Banking career

Around 1887, desiring to go into banking, Harold Thorson closed his mercantile business in Northfield, and moved to Elbow Lake, MN, where he started the Bank of Elbow Lake (a State bank) with L. J. Brown as President, and Thorson as Cashier. Thorson then served as President of this bank from about 1890 to 1906.

In 1892, Mr. Thorson became the first President of the German-American National Bank of Little Falls, MN (Charter 4655), which succeeded the Morrison County Bank (John D. Maxwell's Bank) of Little Falls, MN. He served as President there from 1892 to 1897.

George W. Hughes, in his memoirs, said that during the time of his banking partnership with Harold Thorson in the Farmers State Bank & First National Bank of Starbuck, MN (from 1905-1915), Thorson owned 23 banks in ND and MN, including 6 National Banks: 2 in North Dakota (FNB Fessenden, and FNB Kramer), and 4 in Minnesota (FNB Halstad, German-American NB Little Falls, FNB Roseau, and FNB Starbuck).

Later life and death

Harold Thorson's 2nd wife Karen Carrie passed away in 1913, and the 1915 ND Census has him living in Drake, ND with his son Thor Dovre Thorson and wife Ida. By the 1920 U.S. Census (dated January 15, 1920), he was living with his daughter Clara J. Ickler, and son-in-law Louis H. Ickler in St. Paul, MN. L. H. Ickler was V.P. (soon to be President) of the American NB of St. Paul, and would take over as President, in place of Mr. Thorson, at the FNB Halstad and FNB Roseau.

Harold Thorson passed away on February 18, 1920 in St. Paul, MN.

Bank Officer Summary

During his banking career, Harold Thorson was involved with the following banks, as well as several other State Banks not listed:

  • Bank of Elbow Lake, MN (State Bank): Cashier 1888; President 1891 - 1906
  • German-American National Bank, Little Falls, MN (Charter 4655): President 1892 - 1897
  • First National Bank, Halstad, MN (Charter 7196): President 1904 - 1919
  • First National Bank, Roseau, MN (Charter 6783): President 1905 - 1918
  • First National Bank, Fessenden, ND (Charter 5408): President 1909 - 1919
  • First National Bank, Kramer, ND (Charter 8029): President 1909 - 1918
  • First National Bank of Starbuck, MN (Charter 9596): President 1910 - 1915

$5 Series 1902 Date Back Serial Number 1A note issued by the First National Bank of Starbuck, MN signed by George W. Hughes, Cashier (1909-1915), and Harold Thorson, President (1909-1915).