Branch: U. S. Army

   Rank:  Private

   Status: Died of disease

   Date of Service: WWI

   Home Town: Rice Township

Nels Klepp’s marker in Rice Free Lutheran Cemetery in Zerkel

Knute Nels Klepp was born January 21, 1892 in Kristiansand, Norway to Gunsten and Gyro Olavsdtr Heistad Klepp. Kristiansand is the fifth largest city in Norway as well as being the southernmost city in Norway.  It lies on the sea on the southern coast and has many fjords.

The Klepp family decided to pack up all their worldly goods and head to America in 1904. Along with Gunsten and Gyro were Nels, age 12, Olav (Ole), age 6, Ingeborg age four, Berget, age 2 and Emma, age 1.  The family settled near McIntosh, Minnesota where two more children, John and Anna were born. In 1908 the family took a homestead about 30 miles southeast of McIntosh and became pioneers of Rice Township in Clearwater County. Gunsten’s farm spanned sections 20 and 29 in the southeast corner of Rice. Nels also filed on 120 acres in section 16 just south of Zerkel near Rockstad Lake when that section of government land became available for homesteading. Nels’ land remains in the Klepp family to this day. The family was known to be of “high Christian character” and were members of Rice Lutheran  Church.

Nels was tall and of large build, with blue eyes and light hair when he registered for the draft in Bagley on June 5, 1917. Single men in their 20s like him were favorites of the local draft boards, and by August 1918 Nels was on his way to France. The transport ship Euripides sailed from the port of New York on August 16th with Private Nels Klepp of Company A, 34th Engineers aboard.

Nels never returned alive. It is not known what his cause of death was but records say that he “died of disease” in France on October 2, 1918, which was the height of the Spanish Influenza epidemic both in troops stationed in the U.S. and abroad. His body did not come home for two years, however. It was loaded aboard the Pocahontas at St. Nazaire, France on October 1, 1920 and arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey on October 18, 1920.  Nels was buried in the Rice Free Lutheran Cemetery in Zerkel where other members of his family rest.

Nels’ heirs posthumously received a patent deed on his homestead on July 18, 1919. His sister Bergit became a nurse in Chicago, Emma became a clerk in a bakery, and John farmed until his death by drowning in Rockstad Lake in June of 1969. Ole, a plasterer, also died in 1969.