Ole J. Prestegaard
Ole J. Prestegaard was born at Odda, Hardanger, Bergen Stift, Norway, April 23, 1841 – the son of Jorgen Olson Prestegaard (1800 – 1883) and his wife Gunhild Buer (1815 – 1906). Ole J. was the oldest of six children, began life as a sailor at age 13. In 1864 he left Norway on the “Victor Immanuel” – arriving five weeks later in Chicago, where he worked in a lumber yard for six weeks. After that he came to Lee County and began his new life as a laborer in the harvest field at $2 a day.
In the spring of 1865 made his first investment in land – built a frame home on it in 1868. The same year, December 23rd, married Jorund Peterson Maakestad from the same community in Norway. She had crossed on the same ship.
“At the time they settled on the home farm, there was no Lee and if they brought eggs and other farm products to be shipped, they had to flag the trains. There seemed to be such a demand for a little store and warehouse, that Mr. Prestegaard with another pioneer (Christopher) build a little warehouse where the telephone office now stands (1919) and here farmers brought their farm produce. Mr. Prestegaard was the first man that ever slept in Lee, he sleeping in the little store.” (Lee Gazette) He is also given the distinction of having built the first house in what is now the village of Lee (back part of Kenneth Risetter’s home). His grandson, Ole, remembers being told that the family lived in town in the winter and on the farm in the summer.
The family moved into Lee in 1871. Here he engaged in the lumber, coal, and grain business for 16 years – returning to the farm in 1887. By 1888 he owned over 1000 acres in Lee Co. He was a school director, school trustee, a deacon and trustee of the Lutheran Church, and a stockholder and director of the Lee State Bank. In 1888, he built a brick home on the homestead (now Otto Oleson’s home). In 1916, retired and moved back to Lee. He died at age 85; she at 74 – after 54 years of marriage.
Children born: Gunhild (Mrs. Berthelsen) 1869, Lars (1871), Jorgen (1873), Annie Sarah (1875), Peder Olai (1877), Sarah (Mrs. Lewis Oleson) (1879), Peder Olai (1881), Olaf Gerhard (1883), Anna J. (1885), Odmund and Berent – twins 1888, Henry Odmund (1890), and Joachim (1892).
Source: Lee Then and Now; Compiled by The Committee on History for the Lee Centennial Observance June 13 – 16, 1974.