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About Stefßn ┴rnason

The following is a translation by Thorgils Jonasson (Reykjavik, Iceland) of an account in a book written by a former Minister of Education, Vilhjalmur Hjalmarsson, who grew up in Mjoifjordur region and has lived there most of his life and who has written extensively about the area and the people who lived there;

Stefan Arnason was born on January 27, 1850. His parents were Gudny Palsdottir and Arni Jonsson farmer at Hvoll and at Gilsarvallahjaleiga in the eastern Borgarfjordur [on the east coast, north of Mjoifjordur]. To judge from the sensus, Stefan appears to have arrived in Mjoifjordur in 1877.

Ragnhildur Sveinsdottir, Stefan's wife, was born on December 25, 1857. She was from Brekkuborg in Mjoifjordur, but appears to have been away for two years. She returned in 1877, with Stefan. They were married on October 26 of that year. They lived at Brekkuborg with Ragnhildur's parents for the next three years. From there they moved to the Reykir farm in 1880, where they spent another three years. In 1883 they moved again, this time to Skogar, where they spent a year. In 1884 they moved once again, this time to found the farm at Hofdabrekka.

Stefan appears to have been a hardworking and enterprising man. While at Reykir, he already had two cows, a horse, and at least 70 sheep, to judge from tax records. This indicates that he was doing well, since these were the hardest years of the nineteenth century. After moving to Hofdabrekka, he had fewer sheep. The hayfield was difficult there, so steep, in fact, that the more cautious used crampons working the field. At one time a cow fell to it's death from the steepest part! Fishing made up for the decresded livestock, and during the first three years at Hofdabrekka, Stefan owned one boat, then two for the next six years, and four in 1894.

Stefan's enterprise came to a sudden end. He died on June 8, 1895. [Vilhjalmur Hjalmarsson does not say in so many words that Stefan died by his own hand, but it can be read between the lines.] The rumoe was that worries because of debts incurred by expanding his enterprise had weighed heavily on him. This is unlikely, however. When the estate was settled on June 18, 1896, the debts were listed as 1,558 kronas, and the net worth, after subtracting the debts and some accured expenses, was listed as 13,340 kronas. This was quite a tidy sum at the time, and it constitutes evidence of Stefan's hard work and enterprise.

These were the children of Ragnhildur and Stefan:
Sveinn, born November 10, 1878
Johanna Sveinbjorg, born October 16, 1879
Gudni, born February 22, 1881, died July 23, 1883
Stefania Ragnhildur, born June 17, 1882, died November 26, 1882
Osk, born July 9, 1884
Gudny Palsdottir, (thusly name for Stefan's mother) born September 27, 1888
Elisabet, born July 28, 1891
Soffia, born March 14, 1893, died April 13, 1893.
Stefan, born August 31, 1895, died September 26, 1895

Gunnlaugur Johannsson had arrived at the farm in 1894 as a worker. After Stefan's death, the widow appointed him manager of the farm, and a year later, on July 19, 1896 Gunnlaugur and Ragnhildur were married. Gunnlaugur was born on December 31, 1873, so there was a considerable age difference between them, he was 22 at the time they were married, and Ragnhildur was 38.

Ragnhildur and Gunnlaugur lived at Hofdabrekka for another five years. They did not manage to do as well as she and Stefan had. And as the century drew to a close, it may be said that bankruptcy was inevitable. In the Sheriff's records, there are letters pertaining to this. From those, it seems clear that the general store was the largest creditor.

In 1901 Ragnhildur and Gunnlaugur left the farm at Hofdabrekka and moved to Nordfjordur [also on the east coast] along with five children. These were Osk, Gudny, and Elisabet, daughters of Ragnhildur and Stefan, and two children of Ragnhildur and Gunnlaugur, namely Johann Olafur, born November 22, 1897, and Lara Hildur, born June 20, 1899.

The family emigrated to the New World in 1903 and is reported to have done well there.

This is where Vilhjalmur's account ends. Some was left out as of probable limited interest.