The Ohman Family

by Darwin Ohman,
grandson of Olof Ohman

I have wondered at times what my grandfather, Olof Ohman, would have done with the Kensington Rune Stone if he had known of the events that would unfold for the next 112 years.  I think that is a fair question. I’m going to try to answer it in a roundabout way.Ohman_Family-A[1] 500

The discovery and some major events are covered in other areas on this site, but I want to make a couple of points up front as to why the rune stone story that unfolded was set on such a distorted path from the start.  There were two different handwritten copies initially sent out to scholars for review. Not only were the two copies different from each other but they both were missing many dots and score marks that were discovered during the photo study done by Scott Wolter in the early 2000s. Secondly, shortly after the discovery, my grandfather cleaned the inscription on the front of the stone with a nail. This retooling gave the inscription a fresh appearance to those examining it in later years. A good question is “Why would someone do this?” Lets back up to 1898 for a moment.  It is winter. There was no electricity, and kerosene lamps were used for lighting.  The level of sunlight is low and it becomes clear to me why someone would use a nail  to clean the inscription.  Another question,  would the retooling and the bad copies of the inscription be something a forger would have done? There is no logic to that.  It was off to a bad start out of the gate.  Both of these factors were innocent and logical, but both contributed heavily to the misunderstandings and rush to judgment that overtook common sense in those first few years.

There were scholars who accused my grandfather of forging the stone and inventing many of  the runes unknown to scholars at that time. There was never a doubt in our family that this accusation was ridiculous. We knew Olof had not created a hoax. The local people in Kensington never had a doubt either. The Minnesota State Geologist, Newton Winchell, made three different trips to Kensington after 1909, and talked with Olof several times. He interviewed locals and reported that he believed Olof was an honest man, and concluded that the Kensington Rune Stone was a genuine historic artifact.

There was a flurry of activity from 1907 to 1929, involving many different scholars and Hjalmar Holand. Holand borrowed the stone from my grandfather in 1907, as a young scholar and wanted to do research on it. Several years later it was offered for sale by Holand to the historical society. He was asked by Olof more than once to return it and Holand refused.  It was never returned and eventually ended up with a group of businessmen in Alexandria,  MN, where it still resides today. The last attempt by my grandfather to obtain the stone from Holand  was a letter, from a lawyer representing the family, sent to Holand who lived in Wisconsin. Holand’s response was that Ohman should come to Wisconsin and sue him.  Obviously my grandOhman_&_Holand[1] 500father did not have that kind of money. The photo of Olof and Holand below makes clear the tension between them.

Things were fairly quiet until the late 40s. Both Olof and Karin had passed away by then and my Aunt Amanda had returned home in 1949, to live with her brothers Art and John on the home farm.  Amanda’s husband had passed away a year earlier.  In  the fall of 1949,  a professor from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, Johan Holvik, stopped by the farm to visit with Amanda.  He wanted to look at the family scrapbook and the Rosander Swedish Dictionary owned by the family. He asked Amanda if he could borrow them to help clear the Ohman family name.  She finally agreed to let him take them. Less than a week later, she received a check from Holvik for five dollars and a letter telling her to cash the check and he would keep the books. A few days later an article appeared in the Minneapolis Star saying that he had new evidence that Ohman had planted the stone under the tree.  Holvik was requested by a lawyer representing the family to return the books but never did. The books ended up at the Minnesota Historical Society after Holvik died. Documentation shows that the family scrapbook was returned to Art Ohman in the 70s, but we have never been able to find it. Less than two years later, Amanda took her own life on the farm by hanging herself. One can only imagine how much the Holvik incident and the loss of the precious scrapbook contributed to her grief.Amanda,_Ida Below is a picture of Amanda (standing) and her sister, Ida.

I visited Art often in the 60s and 70s, until he sold the farm. As kids, we never talked about the stone as it was never in the forefront of our thinking. We knew about it, but it was never an issue for us. We made trips to Kensington in the summer time and we had stopped at the bank in Alexandria and looked at the stone when I was probably 10 to 12 years old.  There was never any discussion about it being a hoax, it was the real thing in our minds. Whenever I was asked about the KRS, the question was always “is it real”? The answer was, absolutely,  Columbus was too late.  It wasn’t until I had graduated from school and used to stop by and see Art frequently, that I realized he would get agitated when strangers would stop and want to see the discovery site.  This is when I started to experience some of the things that Art  was dealing with regarding the rune stone. 

In the late 60s, a film crew showed up from BBC. They told Art they were doing a documentary on the Rune Stone that would be positive. Instead, it portrayed the stone as a hoax. After that, when strangers would stop by and ask to see the site where it was discovered, Art would usually send them on their way.  In the 60s, I would ask Art questions, especially after someone would stop and talk to him about the stone, and he would always answer, in a disgusted manner, as to what they wanted. I could tell that it bothered him to talk about it. I now understand what Art had been subjected to.  I need to mention that Art was the only child that lived on the home farm his whole life until 1974. He may have had a closer relationship to that land thJoanne & Discovery Spot 1959 sman anyone, even Olof.

As children we seldom talked about the rune stone but my dad (William Ohman, youngest child of Olof and Karin) would always answer the questions.  We would ask questions like what did the inscription say? My father, as youngest of the nine children, probably had the least exposure to the conflict that surrounded the stone or information about the stone.  He would tell as much as he knew about the stone but did not have the information that I have become familiar with in recent years. We talked about my grandfather finding it with a lot of pride, but we did not know what the stone really meant. My serious research involvement started in 2004, when I was contacted by Scott Wolter. It was both exciting and sad as I started to become familiar with all the details of more than 100 years of turmoil surrounding the rune stone.  People and events from the past that I was aware of in a matter of fact way became real and alive to me. I felt firsthand a sense of grief and frustration as I relived just a little of what the family must have gone through. But I also felt that we were going to set the record straight and that we were on the verge of triumph and redemption!

As a musician, I was always looking to the next “gig.”  My involvement with the KRS has been the gig of a lifetime! I have met some wonderful people. I have made two trips to Sweden since 2004, and met about sixty relatives. I have witnessed first hand the discovery of new findings and information that continues to surface about the KRS. I have been asked many times if I wished that the rune stone had never been found because of the impact to the family. The answer is that I am so happy that it was discovered! I know that my grandfather would be delighted if he were here today. I am a very lucky person to be involved in this effort.  I have been overwhelmed at times by the support that many of you have shown. 

There are still some negative issues that come up, but there has been no new evidence for the naysayers in recent years, and the new evidence and information to support the rune stone is almost overwhelming.  There is much more coming that has to be verified and will be known soon!  As you will discover on this site, there is much new evidence and it has been proven that my grandfather could not have carved the stone. There is no doubt in my mind that it is a medieval artifact  from 1362, and the new information coming forth weekly is going to solve the question of who and why. So stay tuned and I  thank you for viewing this web site.  I want to thank Scott for all his diligent work, as well as the many people who are sharing new information almost daily. Thanks to Lynn Brant, who as webmaster has spent a lot time on the construction of this site. And I especially thank you, the reader, for the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of the Ohman family!


Darwin Ohman

Scott Wolter (left) and Darwin Ohman stand next to a modern rune stone carved by Wolter to commemorate his 2006 book: “Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence.”


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