Submitted by: Richard Gustafson
Tobias Eurenius Gustafson
was the second oldest of a family of five, born in Karlstad,
Varmland, Sweden on 2 November 1876.
Tobias went to
sea working on a ship on 25 June 1890, then again 5 June 1892, eventually settling in
Minnesota. The first record of his doings in this country appears when he was in business
in Duluth, Minnesota. He is listed in the 1907 Duluth city directory as a
"Broker"(stocks?) under the name of Boden & Gustafson. This is the same year
he married Signe Cecelia Holmberg, who had a 5 year old son,Walter, from a previous
marriage. After that, he is found in the 1915 Duluth directory, listed as a real estate
dealer, this time with his residence given as Bain, Aitkin co., Minnesota.
In 1918, Tobias ran for County Commissioner, and lost the
election by a vote of 202 to 211, in favor of a Mr. Heft.
In 1918, Tobias had a home in Palisade, which was totally
destroyed by the 1918 fire which swept through the area. In his campaign advertisement in
the Aitkin Republican newspaper, he states:
"Owing to the serious calamity that has befallen the people of this immediate
community, I deem it unwise to at this time embarrass them with any extended political
campaign for the office of County Commissioner for the first commissioner district, so I
am taking this means of calling your attention to my candidacy. But even would time to
permit, I still would be unable to solicit your support, because in the fire that swept
over this county I was one of the heavy losers. My home, together with it's contents(sic),
which is located about one-forth of a mile east of Palisade, was completely destroyed, and
I shall be busy for the next month or so in rebuilding it.
In seeking this office I have but one purpose in view, and that
is in being of service to the people whom I represent. Therefore, before I ask for your
support I believe that I should briefly state the position I shall take in the handling of
the county's business, if elected.
I am of the opinion that during the duration of the war that no
new expensive undertakings should be commenced by the count, but that we should try and
confine ourselves to finishing up work which is now uncompleted. In other words, I believe
that owing to the extra duties and burdens imposed upon the people of this county by the
war and our recent fire, that taxes should be kept as low as possible. It will always be
my purpose to see that every dollar that is spent shall be in the best interests of the
I believe that my business experience amply qualifies me for the position, and I wish to
say that I shall at all times carefully listen to suggestions from my constituents and try
to be honest, faithful, and courteous in the performance of my duties."
Tobias' business as a real estate agent was apparently quite
profitable, as he owned several homes and pieces of land around the state. His work ethics
also was taught to his step-son, Walter. While Walter never knew the financial success of
his step-father, he always believed in self-sufficiency and hard work. This trait was
passed on to Walters sons as well.
There does, however, seem to be a bit darker side to Tobias. He
and 3 of his friends were not especially liked in Palisade. It is not exactly clear who
the other three were, but one of them is believed to have been the bank president in town.
Anyway, Tobias was shot and killed on 10 August 1922 by a local farmer, Eli Corey, over a
land dispute, as Tobias sat talking with another fellow in front of the blacksmith shop
owned by Axel Franzen. One newspaper article says it was Axel that Tobias was talking
with, but two other articles say it was a Mr. Lester Berglund. Eli had come into town that
morning with his family in the car and stopped at the gas station across the street. He
saw Tobias across the street in conversation, walked across the street, said "good
morning, gentleman", then pulled out his gun and started shooting. Tobias was killed
instantly with the first shot in the chest, the second shot hitting him in the arm. Then
Eli shot at the other man, who had taken off running after the first shots,but missed him.
Eli then walked across the street to the gas station where he had been fueling his car,
reloaded his gun, stepped out on the sidewalk and shot himself in the head. Eli lived for
a few hours afterwards, but then passed on.
According to the Corey family descendants, there's another reason
that Eli was after " the four". One of Eli's sons had gotten some bad moonshine
from one of them, and subsequently died in a Duluth hospital. This fact proves out the
suspicion of the Gustafson family that Tobias may have been involved in moonshine, since
that was during the Prohibition and a lot of people found easy money in the production and
sales of illegal liquor. It is said that much of the town felt that Eli did the town a
favor by killing Tobias.
After the death of Tobias, his widow, Cecilia, lost most
everything by way of land and homes. The family has always held that the remaining three
were responsible for this. She really didn't know anything about her husbands business
dealings, and probably didn't have a way of holding on to everything. She shortly
afterwards moved to McGregor and lived there for a few years. in 1931, she received
$10,000 from the state in settlement for the losses in the 1918 fire, which she apparently
gave most or all of to her son Walter. Walter purchased a farm in Wright, Carlton county
with the money. Shortly after that, Cecelia moved there to live with them until health
forced her into a rest home in the 1950's. She passed away in 1963.
Tobias is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery outside of Palisade.
There is a large black stone with the name GUSTAFSON on it, right along the lane that
passes through the cemetery. Behind that is his headstone which says Eurenius, Aug 10,
1921. The year for some reason is wrong. He died in 1922. Eli Corey and his son are buried
across the lane from him.