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The Rogstads of
Bosque County

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

Children grew up fast along the Texas frontier, the difference between a boy and a man more a matter of necessity than biology.

When the U.S. Army left the state on the eve of the Civil War, initially only citizen volunteers stood between the settlers and hostile Indians. One of those volunteers was Berger Rogstad, a Norwegian who had come to Bosque County in 1854.

Rogstad had emigrated to America from Oslo, Norway, first settling in Wisconsin. Later, he relocated to the Four-Mile community of Van Zandt County in East Texas. There he became acquainted with Anna Borgstad, a widow from Norway who operated a boarding house. Soon, several Norwegian families--including Anna--decided to move westward to Bosque County and Rogstad joined the party.

They traveled in two ox-drawn wagons, but Rogstad and Anna walked most of the distance. Along the way a romance bloomed and they got married in Bosque County in the latter part of 1854. The newlyweds bought some land on a hill later known as Rogstad Mountain and Berger built them a rock house. On Nov. 22, 1855 they had their first child, a son they named John.

In 1864, Berger joined the home guard and spent much of the rest of the war on patrol to keep the Indians in check. Before he left the first time, he summoned his nine-year-old boy.

"Son," he said, "here is a six-shooter. Take care of your mother and the other children, you are now the man of the house."

Berger went on to show his oldest boy how to use the weapon. Fortunately for the Rogstad family, the youthful "man of the house" never had to use the revolver.

Not that he and his family did not have some interactions with the Indians. As a now-rare family history published in 1954 put it, "The Indians came around once in a while, but this was a friendly tribe [probably Tonkawas] and caused no trouble."

Occasionally, the Indians even came to the assistance of the family and others in the area.

"One time they [the Rogstad family] were hunting a calf that had disappeared and an old Indian came up and realizing they were hunting some animal--sniffed the air a time or two and pointed to a weed patch a short distance away--the children ran over there and found the calf resting peacefully in the weeds."

Of more concern were lawless Texans.

Four Anglo men no one locally knew showed up at the Berger cabin one evening demanding food for themselves and their horses as well as a place to sleep. Mrs. Rogstad deemed it best to comply with their request, though she did not sleep that night. And young John went to bed with the six-shooter under his pillow.

Later, according to family lore, someone asked him what he would have done had the strangers caused trouble. "I would have used the pistol like papa told me to," he replied.

John may have been the man of the house, but that didn't mean he had entirely given up on boyish behavior.

Playing in the woods one day, John, his younger brothers and some friends saw an old man walking along a nearby trail. They quickly climbed a tree and began making noises like crowing roosters and Indians.

The victim of the prank tore through the brush at full speed until he reached the Rogstad cabin. There he breathlessly reported that a band of Indians was nearby. Word quickly spread from cabin to cabin as the settlers prepared to defend themselves.

That's when Mrs. Rogstad realized her boys were missing. Clearly, the Indians had captured her children.

Meanwhile, John and his cohorts realized that adverse consequences might arise from their having frightened the old man. Accordingly, they decided the best course of action would be to remain in hiding until their respective parents had a chance to cool down and appreciate the true humor of it all.

In time, John grew to real manhood. As the Clifton Record noted in its centennial edition, "He became one of the pillars of the community, a staunch patriot, and one of the leaders in social, economic and spiritual life of his people."

Rogstad died at 85 on May 19, 1940 and is buried in Our Savior's Lutheran Cemetery at Norse in his native Bosque County.

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" October 26, 2017 column

Our Savior's Lutheran Church and Cemetery, Norse Texas
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, October 2003
Norse, Texas - Our Savior's Lutheran Church and Cemetery

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