Johannes Einarsson

(1863 - 1950)

 

Community Builder/pioneer        Grenivik,Iceland/Logberg, SK


Johannes Einarsson was born on June 19, 1863 in Grenivik, Iceland to Einar Johanessson and Elina Jonasdottir. At the age of one and a half he was adopted by his mother’s sister Ovida and her husband Jon Loftsson. His foster father, for whom he had enormous respect, was captain of a shipping fleet based at Keflavik. As Johannes wrote many years later “we lived on a bleak shore. I never saw another child until I was six. The great breakers and the Arctic coast were my playmates.”

When Johannes was six they moved to Haganesvik where Loftsson established the first school for sailors in Iceland. There he received home schooling. In 1875 the family moved to his Amma’s farm at Hvammi. In 1883 Loftsson died and Johannes, instead of pursuing a more academic career, took over the management of the farm and the sea operations. The fishermen of the area became involved in a number of enterprises and Johannes was active with them in establishing a trading company and a savings bank. Johannes was also a leader in the local cooperative movement. 

In 1886 he married Sigurlaug Thorsteindottir. Their thoughts gradually turned to the notion of emigration, which was common at the time, especially from northern Iceland. His birth mother had already emigrated as had a brother and sister. Later he would claim that the primary reason for emigration was ‘utpra’ or the yearning to reach beyond. 

In March, 1889 they had their first and only Icelandic born child, Elina. Three months later Johannes, Sigurlaug, Elina and Ovida journeyed to Akureyi where they boarded an emigrant ship for Leith on the east coast of Scotland, near Edinburgh. From there they caught the train to Glasgow and from there sailed for Quebec City. From Quebec City they took the train to Winnipeg. And after a brief stay in Winnipeg they went to the Mountain/Gardar district of the Dakota Territory where his birth mother, Ovida’s sister, was living. That would be their home for the next year – the trip from Iceland to the United States had taken three and a half weeks.

While North Dakota came into the Union in November of 1889, Johannes did not find it to his liking and so he and his young family made the decision to move to Canada in 1890, more specifically to the Assiniboia district of what was then the North West Territories and what would become, fifteen years later, the Province of Saskatchewan. 

They settled north and east of the tiny village of Churchbridge. Five years earlier an Icelandic community, Thingvalla or the Plains of Parliament, had been established just north east of Churchbridge. Johannes and his family went a little further north and east. Johannes had gone on ahead to gather hay and to build a house and barn. Then went back in October and gathered up his family and they returned to their new home where he would live for the next six decades. They called the community Logberg – the Law Rock from which the Speaker read the laws at the Plains of Parliament.  On December 5, John or Jon, their first born son arrived, a symbol of new beginnings. 

Sigurlaug and Johannes had 11 more children, 9 of whom survived. They raised their family of 11, 9 boys and 2 girls, and ensured they had a good local education at Rothbury School, which Johannes helped build and later served as both Treasurer and Board Chairman. All of the children were sent to Winnipeg to complete their education. The younger ones attended the Jon Bjarnason Academy. Five of the boys and the elder son in law, Pall Egilsson, saw service in the two wars. The first born son John was killed at Passchendaele. Sam was captured and imprisoned fighting with the American forces at the Battle of the Bulge.

Joe Einarsson was not only a pioneer and successful farmer but he was also a community builder. The Einarsson farm became the centre of the Logberg settlement. A store and post office [until 1927] were located at the farm and an Evangelical Lutheran Church was built on the property in 1902 with a graveyard for the Logberg families – the Einarssons, the Egilssons, the Thorleifssons, the Andersons and the Thorarensons. The first pastor was the Reverend G. Guttormson.

Joe Einarsson was a founding delegate of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool from his District and served as such from 1925-1935.  Joe was also very active the local community. His achievements were many. Amongst them were

-       establishing the first cooperative in what is now Saskatchewan, a creamery in Saltcoats;

-       President of a much larger cooperative creamery in Churchbridge;  

-       first President of the Churchbridge Agricultural Society; 

-       leader in establishing the Rothbury and Logberg Agricultural Fair;

-       Chairman of Local Improvement District 12-A-1, the forerunner of the RM of Churchbridge;

-       first Reeve of the Rural Municipality of Churchbridge;.

-       participated in the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities and the Saskatchewan Agricultural Societies;

-       founding member of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool;

-       Progressive candidate in the Saltcoats constituency in the 1925 provincial election; 

-       attended the 1928 International Wheat Pool Conference.

In recognition of his contributions he was nominated Honorary President of the Churchbridge Agricultural Society from 1925-1928 and in 1950 he was presented with an Honorary Life Membership.

Joe Einarsson died on Aug. 2, 1950 in the Yorkton Hospital but is buried in the Logberg cemetery along with his wife and mother, who both predeceased him, and two of his children.

In his book on the Saskatchewan Icelanders written in 1955, Judge Walter Lindal chose Joe Einarsson as one sixteen inviduals to be included in his section on ‘Achievement Record’, a veritable Hall of Fame of Saskatchewan Icelanders. He also quoted the Yorkton Enterprise, 

"Death Wednesday afternoon removed from the Yorkton district one of its most colorful pioneers in the person of Johannes Einarsson ...  Mr. Einarsson was a public-spirited man all his life and a community leader of the first magnitude ... The Wheat Pool found in Mr. Einarsson a strong supporter from its inception and he served as a delegate for many years… Mr. Einarsson might be termed a philosopher. He was a man of strong convictions… He attended almost all public meetings in this wide area as long as his strength would allow and invariably entered into any discussion when the opportunity arose. It is said he served more often as chairman of meetings throughout this district than any other man."

Grandson Joe Martin, is Executive in Residence and Director of Canadian Business History at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto 

April, 2014

SOURCES:  

Lindal, Walter [Valdimar] Jacobson, The Saskatchewan Icelanders, A Strand of the Canadian Fabric, The Columbia Press, Winnipeg, 1955

Lindal, Walter [Valdimar] Jacobson, The Icelanders in Canada, National

Publishers Ltd. and Viking Printers, Ottawa and Winnipeg, 1967

Thordarson, Jonas, Vestur-Islenskar AEviskrar, Bokautgafan Skjaldborg, 1992 

Swanson, Ruth, The First Hundred Years Around Churchbridge, 1880-1980,

Friesen Printers, Altona, Man., 1980

Sawkey, John Andrew, Those Were the Days, The History of MacNutt, Calder, Dropmore and the surrounding districts, ‘Pioneer to Present’, 1972

 

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