A Short Biography of the Founder

Anders R. Kilen was born November 24, 1846 to Erick Rasmussen Kilen and Johanna Endresdatter Kilen near the town of Luster, Sogn, Norway. In 1858, at the age of eleven, he arrived in America with his parents and six siblings. After settling for five years in Dane County, Wisconsin and then for another four years in Fillmore County, Minnesota, the Kilen family again moved westward. They arrived by covered wagon in Belmont Township in 1867 where they lived in a prairie sod house on their homestead. Later that same year, Anders turned 21 at which time he staked his own claim in section 20 of Belmont Township on a parcel of land adjoining his parents’ homestead claim. There he built a log cabin where he lived until 1891.

On November 15, 1876, Anders Kilen was married to Anna Isaacson in High Lake Township, Emmet County, Iowa. She had been born in Norway and was the daughter of Erick and Andrianna Isaacson, early pioneers in Emmet County. Anna, Mr. Kilen’s first wife, died July 20, 1905, at the age of 50 years. They had no children.  

Anders Kilen was always interested in real estate and had begun to acquire land in various parts of the area. It was this interest in land and an eye to the future of Jackson County that led him to purchase the west half of the southwest quarter of section 33, Heron Lake Township, and to found the town of Lakefield on this site on September 5, 1879.

Mr. Kilen never sought public office, but as an early pioneer of Jackson County he was always interested in the growth, development and welfare of the area. In 1867 he helped organize the Belmont Lutheran Church, and in 1890 he successfully solicited funds and helped to build a new church building for the congregation. It is told that he even solicited and received funds from the governor of the State of Minnesota for this purpose.   Anders Kilen also met with success in farming, so much so that by the year 1890 he was probably better known than any other farmer in southern Minnesota as a grower of choice grain and a producer of fine livestock. He received top awards for grain at the World’s Fair of Chicago in 1893. He won the Gold Medal Award for first premium wheat, barley and oats at the World Columbian Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. He was also invited by the U.S. government to contribute to their exhibit at the Paris Exposition of 1900. He sent fifteen samples of choice grain and won the Grand Prize Award.

Anders Kilen’s second marriage took place on June 30, 1906, to Kristina E. Morkrid. Kristina had been born near Skjolden, Sogn, Norway, on November 11, 1876, only six miles from Anders’ birthplace and childhood home. Her parents were Ole Morkrid and Bertha Berge Morkrid. She came to America in the spring of 1905 and for a short time before her marriage taught school in Christiania Township. To this marriage were born six children. Except for one daughter who died in infancy, the remaining five children spent their childhood years, obtained their early education and lived most of their lives in the town founded by their father. Their names were Anne J. Kilen, Bertha B. Kilen, Arnold B. Kilen, Agil O. Kilen (who sold his land and lent his name to Kilen Woods State Park), Astor O. Kilen, and Andres R. Kilen. Kristina Kilen died on November 9, 1927.

Anders R. Kilen died on April 11, 1916. This pioneer of Jackson County lived his life devoted to God in heart and mind and treated his fellowmen with honesty, respect and dignity. He began his life in poverty and experienced many hardships but worked hard and used his means prudently. He always kept his mind open to the future and to opportunities as they presented themselves. He started out with nothing but a hope and a dream, and ended his days on earth with wealth, success and satisfaction far beyond his hopes. Such are the opportunities that make America wonderful. Such are the people who make it great.