The boy with the red hair

How these moccasins became a special family heirloom

Submitted by Edward Pederson, Oak Lawn farm, of Benson


Charlotte Gomer Haugen grew up on the adjacent Nermoe homestead, but now resides at Lillehaugen, a Scandinavian bed and breakfast on the north side of Lake Moore. I wish to thank her for her generosity in sharing this story of just how these moccasins came to be.

Julius Nermoe was the first known Caucasian child to be born in Benson Township. The year was 1868, and his parents, Peder and Karen Nermoe, had been married in Wisconsin a year earlier. They settled on the Arnold Gomer farm just east of Oak Lawn farm. The story has been documented, but details are somewhat sketchy, and the event has been passed down mostly in the oral tradition. The year was likely 1870, and little Julius was playing alone outside. When his mother noticed he had been missing for some time, she became frantic when he was not immediately found…and worriedly glanced to Lake Moore as she saw a group of men on top of the point, a prominent landmark of Oak Lawn farm just immediately west of the Nermoe farm site.

The Indian Uprising of 1862 struck within 15 miles of Oak Lawn farm, but by 1870 the native Indians had been forced to leave the lands for the most part. Occasionally, Indians would travel through the countryside but they were generally known to be peaceful as they traveled and camped at convenient or familiar sights where they had been or lived.

The group of men (and maybe a woman) did indeed have the young Julius with them. Whether Julius followed, or was taken by the Indians, is not clear. The mother Karen, however, was not deterred by the men, and by her lonesome, determinedly headed toward the group of persons she suspected knew of what happened to her firstborn son. When she arrived the short distance, her fears were confirmed, for there was the young Julius, the center of the group’s attention. She bravely entered the group and snatched back the young child and headed back for the homestead. The Indians did not follow and had not harmed the mother or the son.

Some days later, the Indians returned to the Nermoe homestead. Somehow they were able to communicate that they had returned to give Mrs. Nermoe a gift for her bravery and to explain their previous actions. It seems that young Julius, even at the age of 2, had a brilliant head of red hair that had fascinated the Indians! They were curious as they all had black hair! They felt remorse for upsetting the mother and presented her with a pair of ornate moccasins for the young Julius. The story and the moccasins have been treasured since 1870 and are in the current possession of Charlotte Gomer Haugen.

Julius continued to live and farm in Benson Township. He died in 1906 of a heart condition at the age of 38 years leaving a spouse and four young children. Julius and his parents, Peder and Karen, are all buried at the Lake Hazel Cemetery, ironically adjacent to and just east of their lifetime neighbors, the Pedersons.

#BensonTownship #PedersonFamily

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