In recent years, I’ve come into possession of a lot of information about our Norwegian ancestors who settled in Iowa. Sometimes it’s the result of diligent, focused searching, and sometimes it’s somewhat random … what some would call “luck” but I prefer to call “gifts.” My great-great grandfather Malum’s obituary was somewhere in between, but more the latter than the former.
I sometimes search old newspaper archives for those little stories published in the first half of the 20th century … about family visits, reunions, vacations, business trips, and celebrations, looking for glimpses into our ancestors’ daily lives. It was in such a casual search that, to my surprise, I came across Peder Malum’s obituary from a 1900 edition of the Webster City (Ia) Tribune. I already knew a lot about Peder Malum, but historic obituaries are treasures, whenever I find them. They help to verify basic genealogy information but also to draw a more complete picture of our ancestors. Like most of its era, Peder’s obituary was more a story than an announcement … strikingly direct in describing his death, yet reassuring, focusing on his strengths rather than his inevitable flaws, and eager to evoke the eternal …
I have visited the quiet Lutheran country cemetery in Iowa where he and my great-great grandmother are buried … but honestly, I wish I’d known him …
“The death of Peter Malum last Wednesday near Kamrar, Iowa, was indeed a sudden and unexpected blow to family, friends and neighbors. He was an old man, beloved by all who knew him; hale and hearty, apparently, but like a wise man, prepared for the future while well, by getting a heart knowledge of the Great Savior of men.
He left his home Wednesday morning, telling his daughter, Mrs. Hendrickson, with whom he lived, that as he felt unusually well, he would walk over to Kamrar. He had gone nearly the entire distance of two miles when he stopped at a friend’s home and chatted for a few moments, in his light, lively manner and took luncheon, when suddenly, as he was about to leave, he fell dead. His death was caused by heart disease, and though sudden, was easy.
“Peter Malum was born in Norway, March 22, 1824; came to this country in 1872, and settled in Linn County, Iowa. In 1882 he removed to Hamilton County, where he has since lived.
“At the time of his death he was a member of the M. E. Church, of Kamrar, and was always considered a good, faithful Christian man. The funeral took place Friday at 2 p.m., and was conducted by his pastor, Rev. E.S. Benjamin. He was buried in the Lutheran cemetery, four miles south of Kamrar. His daughters, two of whom reside near Kamrar, and one near Thornton, Iowa, and his son of Des Moines, were present at the funeral. Besides his immediate relations, Mr. Malum left a large circle of friends who will sincerely mourn his death.
“His daughters and son have lost a good Christian father, but their loss is only temporary. Their ultimate gain is eternal. The sympathy of the whole neighborhood goes out to these in our midst who weep. May God bless them, and may they receive divine sympathy from on high, so freely offered to them and to all who mourn.”
Webster City Tribune, April 13, 1900