Fourteen descendants of Elias and Anna Stensland gather at Valley County Pioneer Museum in memory of the Stensland daughters: Agnes, Bertha, Elise, and Gladys. From left are Jed Kirkland, Elise Kirkland, Jim Kirkland, Lorin Flesjer, Sally Irwin, Mick Reyling, Ken Molvig, Alyce Tracy, Matt Reyling, Gina Reyling, Floyd Nelson, JoLynn Reyling, Lilla Flesjer and Lee Tracy.
Anna (Olson) and Elias Stensland, Norwegian immigrants to Valley County in 1908, could hardly have imagined the impact their family of four daughters would have on Northeast Montana stretching even to now – August 2013.
Those four daughters – Agnes, Bertha, Elise and Gladys – have now been recognized by their respective families with the donation of a fine glass display case at the Valley County Pioneer Museum.
Situated in the newly added foyer to the museum, the case will house temporary rotational exhibits. A patriotic theme was featured in July, and August features the Valley County Fair and 4-H.
It was 4-H, culminating in the fair activities, which those Stensland daughters and their families predominantly excelled.
The eldest, Agnes (Chris) Molvig, a life member of the Valley County Historical Society, prided herself on school perfect attendance grades 1-8 at the Highland School northwest of Tampico. Active in Home Demonstration (which evolved into Homemakers), she was recognized by the Extension for her 50+ years' contributions.
It was as Tampico Boys 4-H leader, though, that Agnes took particular satisfaction. Both Montana Democratic Gov. Ted Schwinden and Republican U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan commended Agnes and her sister, Bertha, for their outstanding contribution to 4-H leadership.
Community members remember Agnes' delicious angel food cakes that she shared. Agnes and Chris Molvig were parents of eight children: Dorothy Kolstad, Carol Kreer, Robert, Alyce (Lee) Tracy, Charles (Coni), Donna (John) Whittle, Ken (Jean), and Rick (Alison). All eight were active members of Tampico Boys 4-H and the fair. There are 15 grandchildren.
Fairgoers can see the esteem in which Bertha (Floyd) Nelson is held by viewing the Memorial Park in her honor on the grounds. She was longtime fair Superintendent of the 4-H Quonset Building housing the many 4-H club displays and individual projects. Nieces Dorothy Kolstad and Alyce Tracy have also served with her.
Bertha especially loved serving as Tampico Boys 4-H leader – more than 50 years – overseeing sewing, cooking and livestock. This versatile lady supervised the very popular 4-H concessions booth, serving countless meals to attendees. Her granddaughter, Theresa Nelson, wrote a tender state prize-winning entry essay about “Grandma's Hands,” citing the achievements of her beloved family member. Bertha and Floyd Nelson were parents to Floyd, Jr. (Deanna); Beverly (Rollin) Pederson; and Donald (Sheila). There are six grandchildren.
Elise (William) Kirkland, third daughter, enjoyed both livestock and flowers. Their four sons – Brian, Terry, John, and Jim – were also active in Valley County 4-H, especially in the livestock area. The three older sons all live out of state, but Jim and Bobbie Sue's children – Jake, Jed, and Julia – participated in the Fort Peck Honeybees and later in the Cherry Creek 4-H Clubs. Jed and Aimee's older daughter, Elise, bears her great-grandma's name. Jim remembers riding in the back of a pickup to the Great Falls State Fair when cousin Donny Nelson showed the grand champion steer.
Gladys (Floyd) Flesjer, youngest of the Stensland daughters, was the first person to win the Rosette for Senior Citizen Award for most points in the culinary arts department at the fair. She was prolific in making quality entries. She said she began canning as a necessity and then continued it as a hobby. Gladys and “Slim” were the parents of Lorin (Lilla) and Gail (Edina). They have four grandchildren. Daughter-in-law Lilla served as a 2013 judge in the horticulture department at the fair.
Fourteen descendants of Anna and Elias Stensland and their four daughters took time away from the first day of the fair Saturday, August 03, 2013, to gather for photos at the display created to honor the fair and 4-H in the case given in the memory of their mothers.
They and other relatives – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws – were continuing the family tradition by superintending the 4-H Building, earning the reserve grand champion beef, receiving all-around horse project, judging horticulture, winning in the ranch rodeo, entering food, crafts, handiwork, livestock, and singing the national anthem at the 2013 Northeast Montana Fair.