Dakota Datebook

Osmund Gunvaldsen


Osmund Gunvaldsen, North Dakota politician, developer, inventor, and newsman, was appointed U.S. Marshal by President Calvin Coolidge on this date in 1927. Gunvaldsen, a Renaissance man of many talents, may perhaps be considered the most diverse lawman ever to serve the state.

A native Norwegian, Gunvaldsen was born in 1893 in Kristiansand, Norway. After finishing school in 1910, he left home and immigrated alone to the United States. He made his way to North Dakota, fueled by the promise of work and free land for homesteaders. For the first five years, Gunvaldsen worked as a farmhand, saving money to buy his own farming equipment. In 1915, he started his own farm near Battleview, North Dakota, and also began taking night classes at the North Dakota Agricultural College and later at the Aaker’s Business College in Fargo. He served in the U.S. Army at Camp Hancock, Georgia, from 1918 to 1919, before returning to North Dakota and marrying Inga Ostby. In 1923, Republican friends in the Nonpartisan League convinced Gunvaldsen to run for Sheriff in Burke County. He won the election, and served until 1927. On March 1st of that year, he was appointed U.S. Marshal of North Dakota. Shortly after, Gunvaldsen purchased the state-wide Norwegian newspaper, Normanden. The newspaper served to tie the state’s Norwegian community together, and also as a political mechanism. Heavily aligned with the Nonpartisan League, Gunvaldsen made sure the paper espoused their views. Busy with the marshal-ship, he hired Gustav Amlund to edit the paper. Four years later, Gunvaldsen was reappointed as District Marshal by President Herbert Hoover, and served until 1934. Then, free of his duties as Marshal, Gunvaldsen took over as publisher of the Normanden paper.

Despite the existence of several foreign-language papers in North Dakota at the time, the Normanden and the Grand Forks Scandinav were the only two immigrant papers to survive the 1930s Depression. In 1941, Gunvaldsen sold the paper, and founded the Northwest Development Association, buying and selling mineral rights across the upper Midwest. He also spent his time working on various inventions, several of which were patented. A member of the American Legion, the Sons of Norway, and the Masons, he also helped found the Republican Organizing Committee in 1943. After such an active and diverse career, Gunvaldsen retired in 1976. He passed away in Fargo in 1982.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job





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