In Memory of a Young Teacher

In Memory of a Young Teacher – 1898

Some paper ephemera can be linked to sad stories, and this is an illustration of that phenomena.

Some time ago, I found this “Reward of Merit”, the sort of prize that school teachers or Sunday School teachers would present to students in recognition of achievement.

This award was printed in Cincinnati, Ohio and reflects a style common to the 1890’s.

On the reverse is a faded inscription in pencil, “To Louise Gilbertson, From Mattie Duxstad”.

Uncommon names are a gift to researchers.

Unless they are misspelled, the unusual name can be found more easily – less “clutter” of the same or similar names.

So it is with Mattie Duxstad.

It was not hard to uncover a larger story about her.

The Duxstad family was part of a sizable immigration of Norwegians into the Midwest in the early 19th century.

The Duxstads were from Voss, Norway, and were Lutherans.

Mattie’s father, Knute Duxstad, immigrated to Wisconsin in 1844, but traveled to California in 1850 to seek gold.

He returned to Illinois and became a prosperous farmer and businessman. He served in local government and as Justice of the Peace.

(Knute’s letters, including his account of taking a ship to California, were translated from Norwegian, and are archived at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.)

Mattie was born in Illinois in 1873. I cannot find any biographical information about her life, except that she once presented this award to Louise, who I assume to be her student.

Mattie died in 1898, at the age of 25, of unknown causes.

The family story was recorded in a published history after her death, and Mattie is described only as “deceased”.

A newspaper story from Belvedere, Illinois in 1903 announces the consecration of a new Norwegian

Lutheran Church building and reports that a window was dedicated to the memory of Mattie Duxstad.


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