Biography of O. C. Melbye of Ulen Minnesota

O. C. Melbye, born in 1852 in Christiania, Norway, immigrated to America in 1877, settling in Lake Park, Minnesota. He later moved to Ulen, where he built the first house and established a successful grocery and farm machinery business. Appointed postmaster in 1887, he served for fourteen years under multiple presidents. Active in the community, Melbye was involved in local governance, education, and the insurance industry. Married to Annie Burgerson, they had nine children. A committed Republican and member of the Lutheran Synod, Melbye’s contributions significantly advanced Ulen and Clay County’s development.

O. C. Melbye, the subject of this sketch, is one of the key proponents and developers of Ulen village and Clay County. He immigrated to America in 1877 from Christiania, Norway, where he was born in 1852. He received his education and preparation for life’s challenges in Christiania.

After completing his education in the public schools, Mr. Melbye enrolled in the Military Academy in Christiania. He graduated with honors in the class of 1876 and subsequently pursued newspaper work, engaging in writing and editorial tasks for the next year. Intrigued by the positive reports from his brother about Becker County, Minnesota, he decided to venture there in search of better opportunities. He initially settled in Lake Park, where he worked on a farm for a year. He then acquired a claim in Highland Grove, located a short distance from Hawley. During the early years, he supplemented his income through trapping, as furs were abundant at the time. However, his primary focus was on proving and improving his land. Hawley served as his trading point, and he resided there until 1887. He had previously constructed a comfortable residence in the newly established village of Ulen, becoming the first to build a house there. He immediately ventured into the grocery business and later expanded to include a stock of farm machinery. Since then, he has enjoyed a thriving business. He sold his farm approximately two years later. In 1887, he was appointed as the postmaster of Ulen and served in that role for about fourteen years under the administrations of Presidents Cleveland, Harrison, and McKinley. Known for his amicable nature, he managed the office to the satisfaction of all. He also erected the first post office building for that purpose.

Mr. Melbye has also been involved in the insurance business for several years and represents three of the best companies in America: the German-American from New York, the Home from New York, and the Phoenix from Hartford, Connecticut. He has been an invaluable contributor to the development and progress of his community. He has actively participated in endeavors aimed at enhancing educational facilities in the county. Prior to Ulen’s incorporation, he served as the township clerk for six years and held the position of assessor for both the township and village of Ulen for a total of approximately twenty terms. In 1879, he married Miss Annie Burgerson of Becker County, Minnesota, and they have nine children together—six sons and three daughters. They are members of the Lutheran Synod church, and Mr. Melbye served as its secretary from 1888 to 1892. He also holds a significant interest in the electric light plant of the village.

Throughout his life, Mr. Melbye has staunchly supported Republican principles. He can rightfully be regarded as the “backbone” of Clay County—a public-spirited and generous man who has garnered a multitude of steadfast friends.


C.F. Cooper & Company, History of the Red River Valley, Past And Present: Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns And Villages of the Valley From the Time of Their First Settlement And Formation, volumes 1-2; Grand Forks: Herald printing company, 1909.

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