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The Omlies of Grafton

0. M. Omlie

0. M Omlie (Ole), born February 19, 1852, in Iowa, came to Grafton in 1880 and built a livery barn. For many years he bought horses in .southern Minnesota, Iowa and Kentucky, and sold them to farmers and businessmen in the Grafton area. The livery stable was located on the northwest corner of Griggs Avenue and Fourth Street. Later this was the site of the Omlie and Hogansen farm machinery firm.

O.M. Omlie 1852-1917Caroline (Wicker) Omlie
1861-1952

In 1883 he married Caroline Wicker and they lived at 323 North Kittson where five children were born. In 1898 they built a large home, which is still standing, at 1113 Western Avenue. O. M. Omlie died Feb. 17, 1917, and his wife survived him by 35 years unlil Juy 9, 1952. Three of their children are worth noting. Two presently live in Grafton. They are Lillian (Omlie) Tverberg, and Myron Omlie. The third, Vernon, deceased, gained Fame as an early pilot.

Lillian Omlie Tverberg

Lillian Tverberg

Lillian (Omlie) Tverberg was the second child and only daughter of the O.M. Omlies. She was born April 7, 1888, graduated from high school in Grafton in 1906. and from the University of North Dakota two years later with a teaching certificate. She taught fourth grade in Grafton for four years before her marriage to Albert Tverberg, Jan. 20, 1917. Tverberg was sheriff at the time of their marriage and so they first lived at the county jail. One son and three daughters were born to this
couple, and she presently lives with her son at 926 Griggs Avenue. Mrs. Tverberg's husband was the last publisher-editor of The Grafton News and Times. Mrs. Tverberg has in her possession the newspaper files dating back to September, 1881. She has made them available to this book committee and they have been
invaluable in researching the early years of Grafton's history.

Myron Omlie

Myron W. OmlieBoys like bikes, and so did Myron Omlie, when he was about 8 years old, before the turn of the century. This picture was probably taken at the gate of his parents' first home at 323 North Kittson Avenue. Note the garb for boys of that day, the high shoes, dark stockings, knickers, white shirt with ruffled front and collar, and the jaunty hat.


Myron Omlie was born on Christmas Day, 1889, two months after North Dakota became a state. At the age of 11 he lost the sight of his left eye in an accident involving a jammed B-B air rifle he and a friend were trying to loosen. Educated in Grafton and at NDAC where he was a member of the ROTC, Myron, at age 16, joined Company C of the 164th Infantry of the North Dakota National Guard and remained a member until his discharge after World War I. As a member of Company C he served on the Mexican Border in 1916. This was necessary because of the actions of Pancho Villa, but Company C saw no action and spent most of their time at Mercedes, Texas, guarding the pumping stations. In May, 1917, the unit was federalized again, and in September, 1917, Myron was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant. Company C of the 164th Infantry then became part of the 41st or Sunset Division and were sent to Europe. When they first reached Europe, their work was the training of recruits. Before the armistice Company C, without their original privates who had been transferred to other divisions, were a Prisoner of War Escort Company, in charge of a German prison camp near St. Aignon in France.A charter and now a life member of Post 41 of the American Legion, Myron has been a continuous member since 1919. On June 17, 1920, Helene Bakewell became his wife. They made their home in Chicago for 35 years where Myron was
employed by the Veterans Administration. In 1956 they returned to Grafton to make their home at 906 Griggs Avenue where they presently live.

Vernon Omlie

Vernon C. Omlie

Vernon Omlie, the youngest son of the 0. M. Omlies, was born in Grafton June 27, 1895. A contemporary of Lindberg, Stinson, Doolittle and Rickenbacher, he achieved fame as Walsh County's first airplane pilot and held the coveted wings of a "Quiet Birdman," an exclusive organization of crack pilots. It is a conservative estimate to say that Omlie flew over 10,000 flying hours and a million miles over America's skyways. It all started at Scott Field in Bellview, Ill., where he learned to fly. His career ended 19 years later when, as a passenger on a commercial plane bound for Chicago from St. Louis, he was killed, when the plane crashed in a fog.
On Feb. 18, 1922, he married Phoebe Fairgrave who shared his interest in flying, and likewise made a name for herself as the first woman in the United States to receive a license as a pilot. Vernon taught her to fly, assemble, and repair a plane. Together they organized an aerial circus and toured Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and other southern states. They took up residence in Memphis, Tenn., because after a barnstorming tour they reached Memphis in 1922, "stranded and broke." In the years that followed the Omlies established the first flying school and first commercial aviation company in Memphis. They taught hundreds of young men and women to fly; they carried thousands of passengers; they flew mail, food, first aid supplies, doctors, nurses, and Red Cross officials into the flooded Mississippi Delta; they made aerial maps of rivers, and power lines; in short they did practically everything a pilot is ever called upon to do. In 1920 as pilot for the Non-Partisan League he was flying A. C. Townley on a speaking tour when they ran into a violent electrical storm. Electrical static from the strut wires conveyed a series of electrical shocks ;o him through the metal "joystick." He managed to land in an old "hog wallow" and he and Townley ran for shelter in an old barn. When the storm cleared, they found the plane had stopped rolling in front of a barbed wire fence. At the time of his death Omlie was directing his own company, Mid-South Airways, Inc. He was a charter member of the Memphis Aero Club and was instrumental in the establishment of Armstong, the first municipal flying field in Memphis.

Vernon Omlies' Airplane. In 1919 Grafton had no airport so Vernon Omlie took off and landed in a field near the courthouse and jail, shown in the background of this picture. He anchored the plane by tying it to stakes in the ground.