The Solmundson Family

Gudmundur Solmundson
Guðmundur with his nets.

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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
The Solmundson Family

By Roy Solmundson

My lang afi, Sólmundur Símonarson was born June 25, 1845 at Mávahlíð in Andakilshreppur, Borgarfjarðarsýsla, Iceland, the son of Símon Sigurðsson and Guðrún Þordardóttir. Afi married Guðrún Árnadóttir and six of their seven children were born in Iceland. Jóhann Pjetur Sólmundarson (1872), Guðrún Sólmundardóttir (1875), Margrét (1877), Guðmundur Eyólfur, my afi who was born at Hvítárós in Borgarfjarðarsýsla on November 3, 1879, and Júlíus Jóhann (1883) Kári (1888). In 1888, the family immigrated to Canada along with hundreds of others leaving their homeland which was devastated by volcanic turmoil. They first settled in Mikley (Hecla), then moved to Riverton. Their seventh child, Guðný, was born in Canada in 1890.

My afi was only 12 when he started his first job as a “cookee” at a lumber camp on Black Island. As a teenager, he worked as a cook on the freight boat “Gimli”. At the age of 18 he worked at Winnipegosis for Mr. Armstrong, founder of the Armstrong-Gimli Fisheries. A short time later he received his captain’s papers and his first boat was the “Lady Ellen”. Afi spent 30 summers as captain and was master of 14 boats. His last boat was the Carrie which he commanded for 8 years and when it swamped on rocks at Warrens Landing, he vowed that his captains days were over. After that, he spent his time fishing. In 1960, at the age of 80 and still fishing, Afi was honoured by the Manitoba Federation of Fishermen and received the order of the Buffalo Hunt from the Province.

On October 17, 1901, Afi married Lovísa Petursdóttir Buch. They had eleven children. Both Amma and Afi were very active in community and church life. They donated the land where the present Gimli Lutheran Church stands today. Afi gave a clock to the church in her memory. Friends also donated money in her memory to purchase a new organ for the church.

 Ben, Gudmundur, James, Solmundur in 1943
Ben, Gudmundur, James, Solmundur in 1943



Of their children six were actively involved in the fishing industry. Sigurbjörg Lilja (Lily) born 1904, married Herbert Johnson and worked with her husband at several fish camps as did Ingrid Louise (Inga) born 1908, who married Traverse Johnson. They spent all their summers and falls fishing on the North of Lake Winnipeg. Jóhanna Fiola, born 1914, and her husband Mike Olender also fished for some time in the Gypsumville area. Joseph Theodore, born 1916, served in the Canadian Army in Germany in World War II as did his brother Benedict, born 1919. Both men returned to the fishing industry upon their return when the war was over.

My father, Solmundur Gudmundur was born in 1910. He started working as a shorehand with his uncle Dori Peterson at George’s Island when he was 14. At the age of 19, he worked as a deckhand on the Goldfield. After that he began fishing commercially.

Dad married Eleanor Marion (Nora) Jóhannson. Mother was the daughter of Jón Ólafur Jóhannson, born 1875. Afi Jon was the first Icelandic child born in New Iceland. The White Rock at Willow Island on the shores of lake Winnipeg bears his name. It was there that afi Jón was born in a skin tent amid a raging October snowstorm. Lang afi Jóhann Jónsson (b. 1851-d. 1923) and lang amma Sigríður Ólafsdóttir (b.1849-d. 1932) were among the first group of Icelanders to arrive by flatboat from Kinmount Ontario. They had come on the SS St. Patrick from Akureyri, Iceland. At that time the living conditions in Iceland were very harsh due to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and poor climatic conditions in which the local economy suffered due to poor fishing for many years. Promises of a better life at Kinmount Ontario turned to disaster again. Here they suffered overcrowding in riverbank shanties, bitter cold, unemployment, poverty and illness which took the lives of most of the children in the group. At this time, many immigrants were relocated to Gimli where tragedy again struck in the form of smallpox. Afi Jon was one of the victims and bore the marks of this disease all his life.

Afi Jón married my Amma, Oddfríður Sveinsdóttir (b. 1877), who had come from Kálfanes, Strandasýsla, Iceland.

Dad was forced to retire due to ill health and passed away on May 12, 1981 at the age of 71. Mom passed away April 6, 1996 at the age of 84.