They were among the earliest pioneer families to settle in Cokato-doing so before the village had even come into official existence. Yet mention their name now and you are likely to get no recognition in response.

Arriving in Cokato in the summer of 1869, the same year that the First Division of the St. Paul & Pacific Railway Company stretched their rail line from Smith Lake (a small hamlet between Cokato and Howard Lake) to Willmar, Berger Thurstenson quickly became a fixture in the Cokato business scene. A hotel, saloon, real estate, loans, and emigrant tickets were all part of Berger's dealings. He also served on Cokato's first board of commissioners (later known as the Cokato Village Council) in 1878-79.

The circuitous route Berger took to arrive in Cokato--born in Norway, emigrated to America in 1861, resided in Carver, served in 9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantryduring the Civil War, and working for the St. Paul & Sioux City Railway--was typical of many of Cokato's early residents.

In July 1872, Berger married Julia Evenson, of Minneapolis. To their union two children were born: son Ludwig Conrad Wilhelm in 1874, and daughter Jeanette Frauziska Theodora in 1885. Julia died in December 1893 from what her obituary in the Cokato Enterprise described as "cancer of the breast."

Berger continued to be a part of the Cokato business community until his death in May 1907. The Enterprise noted that "at the time of his death [Berger] was considered the oldest continuous resident of the village." Two years prior, Jeanette had married Ernest E. Carlson, one of the publishers of the Enterprise.

The only remnants of the Thrustenson family today is their burial plot in the Cokato City Cemetery-a two-ton granite marker, and footstones for Berger and Julia.

At the time of his father's death, Ludwig was living in Seattle. He came back for the funeral, but by all indications never again returned to Cokato.

Jeanette and her husband eventually moved to Cambridge where he ran a local newspaper. He died in December, 1935. There is no record of Jeanette's passing or what happened to her two children.

With so many families that now reside only in someone's memories, it is important that during Cokato's 125th year, we acknowledge their contributions to our history.

Photo: Jeanette, Berger, Ludwig, and Julia Thurstenson, taken at the J.E. Stadon studio, c1890.

©Cokato Historical Society, 2003