The Violins of
Edward Knudson

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On Sunday, December 5, 1948, the readers of the Grand Forks Herald would have been treated to an article about my grandfather, Edward Knudson. He made violins, even wrote tunes. There was even a picture of him in the paper playing his violin. You can read the article below. It's interesting that the idea of making violins would be considered newsworthy.

I would have been seven years old at the time. Grandpa K, as we called him, lived on the second floor of the home I grew up in on Chestnut Street in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He lived on one side of the second floor, my two sisters had a bedroom on the other side. It was always a little mysterious going into grandpa's room which had its own little kitchen. My father would have been forty-three at the time this article appeared in the paper. He must have been proud.

Notice that grandpa's mother, Ingeborg Trydahl Knutson, is referred to in the article. She was worried playing the violin would lead to "sin". If you click on her name you will find here an article written by another son, Osmund, about her and her religious beliefs. There was a movement in Norway called Lutheran Pietism that influenced the Norwegian immigrants. It was a lay movement led by Hanse Nielson Hauge who opposed dancing and carousing, card playing, and movies. It emphasized the importance of an internal spiritual life. While there was much good in this movement it tended to devolve into a legalism that contradicted the characteristic Lutheran focus on loving grace as a gift of God, a contradiction revealed in the experience of Ingeborg as we read that account of her life. Even in 1948 the attitudes of Ingeborg were considered "old-fashioned".

Linda and I have in our home a mandolin that my father told me his father played at home on the Manvel farm. The children would sing to the tunes. This reveals there were, indeed, merry times in that home. Making violins and playing them was not something my grandfather was going to give up after he retired.

Here is a photo of Grandpa Knudson with his wife and adult children. See more about him on the Ancestors page.

My grandfather was not a perfect person. From time to time he went on binge drinking episodes. I was with my father one time as he went to search for his father in the bars of Grand Forks. But for all that he lived a long life, born on May 2, 1876, he died on March 19, 1958, at eighty-two years of age. He spent his last years at the home for the aged in Grand Forks. He is buried at the Middlegrove Cemetery west of Manvel with his wife, Julia.

In the article below Grandpa K. says that his parents lived in Fillmore County in Minnesota. This is a detail also in the Ingeborg page. But I had never checked where that county is in Minnesota. If you click on the county map of Minnesota you will see that Fillmore County is in the far southeastern part of the state, quite a long distance from Grand Forks. I had not known that my grandfather had come from this part of Minnesota. We have visited the area with our good friends, Chuck and Anne Austad, who live in Bemidji in northern Minnesota. Anne's mother and father owned a farm there. So here is something more to explore in the future. Is the name Kvasaker known there?

I hope you enjoy reading about grandpa Edward Knudson and his violins.

Ed Knudson

Hobbies Main Interest of Retired Farmer


A keen interest in hobbies and an all-around zest for activity make retirement anything but lonely and dull for Ed Knudson, retired farmer of 72 years.

Leaving his farm near Manvel only three years ago, Knudson took up his residence at 1402 Chestnut Street, the home of Clarence Knudson, Grand Forks post office inspector, who is one of the septagenarian's 10 children.

Immediately upon coming to Grand Forks, the old-timer resumed his main hobby of making violins, a pastime which occupied his spare moments ever since he was a child. How he happened to take up this difficult work as a hobby is an interteresting story in itself, recalling a rather peculiar attitude of a day gone by,

Knudson relates that when he and one of his brothers were still trying to raise their first beards, they each happened to to get a violin. Even before the present "atom age" a youngster coming into possession of a musical instrument would receive encouragement from his parents, already envisioning their junior as another Yehudi Menuhin, Oscar Levant or Benny Goodman.

Too Much Sin

But apparently such was not the case in those days, at least not in the Knudson stronghold. Instead of a sweet "Now you go in the parlor and practice for 15 minutes," the boys heard their mother issue a stern warning that she would have no violin playing in her house because it "brought too much sin." Knudson said his mother referred to violins pepping up an old time square dance which then too apparently saw the usual amount of drinking and "sin."

Consequently, the boys had to harmonize with the cats in the barn or their instruments would have gone to pieces from a maternal jolt well before normal wear and tear could take its toll.

Repairs Needed

And here is where the hobby part comes in. Continued scratching and perhaps an occasional kick on the shins of the Stradivarius from ole Dobbin in his stall, necessitated a bit of repair if the shows were to go on. Funds were lacking for new parts, so the boys began making the missing pegs, finger- boards and tail pieces from any convenient and unnecessary bit of wood - like a leg of a table or bed.

From there the step to making violins wasn't difficult, Knudson states. Farm work during summer made him limit manufacturing to winter months, but ever since his retirement this hobby has flourished. He thinks he's made about 15 violins altogether, giving most away but selling a few, and with another winter well under way there are more to be made so the days won't seem long.

Was Champion Grower

But Knudson didn't spend all his time with violins. For proof he has a cup and plaque tagging him the "champion beet grower" for three years in the late 1920s. The awards were made by the East Grand Forks plant of the American Crystal Sugar Co. to the sugar beet grower reporting the highest yields. Knudson said he won with yields up to 15 and one half tons per acre.

Still another hobby in the line of music has helped the oldster while away his evenings, and this time it's playing the flute. Knudson said he picked this up when he was about 15 years old and living at the home of his parents in Fillmore county, Minn., his instructor being a veteran of the Civil war who fifed his way through battle. Knudson said he can't recall if the ex-soldier was a Yankee or one of Jeff Davis' boys, but it was probably the former since he taught him to play such dit- ties as “Dunkin' Davis," "Yankee Doodle," "Marching Through Georgia," and "John Brown's Body."

Although a widower, Knudson has six children in this area to comfort him. They are, in addition to his son Clarence, Mrs. M. B. Lester and Mrs. G. H. Barnes of Grand Forks, and Mrs. A. C. Storstad and Clifford and Julian Knudson of rural Manvel. His other children, are Theodore Knudson - of Redwood City, Calif., Mrs. Lloyd Sorenson of San Francisco, and Joel Knudson and Mrs. Ray Larson of Everett, Wash.

Knudson thinks nothing of the fact that he is still very active, even to the point of shoveling snow for hours at a time. He said there are some persons in Grand Forks who are in their 90's and just as active as he, and they make him feel "kind of ashamed."

However, probably few persons who, have reached his age can also say they have never been hospitalized, a fact of which he is justifiably proud.

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