It’s hard to believe my grandfather’s grandfather was born almost two centuries ago. This week is the 196th anniversary of the birth of my 2nd great-grandfather, Peder Malum. Peder was born in Oyer, Oppland, Norway, in 1824, to Arne and Marit Hovren Mahlum, and died in Kamrar, Iowa, United States, in 1900.
As the nation wrestles with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been thinking about my ancestors even more than usual. Illness and death that could have been avoided in our current era are something every family historian wrestles with when looking at a death record, given the less developed systems of medicine available to our ancestors and the occasional epidemic claiming multiple lives. The current crisis has been truly humbling that regard … almost like a glimpse into an earlier time. Nevertheless, Peder Malum is one ancestor who seems to have defied the odds of his era by living to the then-advanced age of 76.
Peder married Christina Roening in Norway in a year unknown to me. He moved south to the village of Faeberg, just north of Lillehammer, where his daughter Petra, my great-grandmother and presumably Peder’s namesake, was born in 1867.
Peder and Christina migrated with their family, which eventually included four children, to the United States in the mid 1870s. The family is believed to have arrived first on the coast of Quebec, and by some accounts, first made their way to Chicago by water and rail, before arriving in Iowa. Peder’s first days in Iowa were spent in Linn County. The 1880 U.S. Census places him in Monroe township, just northwest of Cedar Rapids.
By 1885, Peder had settled with his family in the central Iowa town of Kamrar, in Hamilton County, and this is where he would farm and live for the remainder of his life. Peder helped to organize the local Lutheran cemetery, where his own grave is now located. I’ve visited this country cemetery twice. It is a lovely and peaceful little place surrounded by farmland. The family seems to have moved between the Lutheran and Methodist denominations, and at the time of his death Peder belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church.
I obviously never knew Peder. The first of his descendants who was known to me was his grandson, my grandfather, Carl Hendrickson. For that reason, I’ll let Peder’s obituary in the Webster City Tribune of April 13, 1900, tell his story:
“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, in 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.”
He sounds like someone I could have learned from and would have enjoyed knowing. Rest in perfect peace, Peder Malum. And happy 196th birthday.