Edward Lian was born on a farm near Ringerike, Norway, on January 20, 1885. In April 1906, he and his brother George immigrated to the United States. They traveled from New York to Fairdale, North Dakota where Edward began farming. After farming elsewhere in North Dakota, Canada, and Montana, he moved back to Fairdale in 1915. On July 25, 1917, he married Martha Haug, in the Aadalen Lutheran Church, in rural Fairdale. In 1920, he began a position as manager of The Fairdale Mercantile Company, while in 1926 he purchased a farm in rural Fairdale. The Mercantile Company failed in 1929, but Edward was able to open a grocery store the following year. Unfortunately, this store also closed in 1935, due to poor economic conditions. Following the death of Martha, on July 28, 1970, Edward moved into Tufte Manor, a retirement home in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Edward Lian died in December 1976 in Grand Forks.
Elmer T. Lian, Edward and Martha Lian's first son, was born on April 17, 1918 in Fairdale. He graduated from high school in Fairdale in 1936 and from the University of North Dakota in 1940 with a business degree and four years of training in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in June 1940. He entered the Army Air Force in 1942. Elmer married Edwina Amundrud, a native of Silvesta Township, Walsh County, North Dakota, on July 16, 1942. The ceremony took place at the Fort Dix (New Jersey) Army Air Force Base Chapel. On June 14, 1944, Elmer was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, for flying a crippled bomber safely back to England. A daughter, Linda Rae, was born several weeks later on July 2, 1944, in Grand Forks. On September 27th of that same year, Elmer Lian was shot down over Germany and taken prisoner. He was taken to a Stalag Luft I, a POW camp in northeastern Germany, near the Polish border. He was eventually liberated by the Russian Army in May 1945, and returned to Fairdale in June 1945. He arrived just in time to witness his daughter’s first birthday party, on July 2.
Elmer remained in the Air Force following the end of World War II. A son, Steven Craig, was born September 22, 1946, in Greenville, South Carolina. In November 1964, Elmer retired from the Air Force, having attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. The family then moved to Grand Forks, where he taught mentally challenged young adults for over ten years. Following the death of his father-in-law, he returned to Fairdale to manage the farm and estate.
In 1996-1997, under the auspices of the University of North Dakota AeroSpace Network, Elmer Lian interviewed 22 ex-POWs from World War II and the Korean War. Over 30 hours of videotaped interviews were produced and broadcast on Grand Forks Cable Channel 3 in February 1998. A second installment of the series was aired in 2000. The series, entitled Kriegieland: Conversations with ex-POWs, is recorded in its entirety in the Department of Special Collections
Elmer Lian died on June 2, 2001 in Grand Forks.
Elmer T. Lian of Grand Forks, North Dakota, donated numerous additions: July 20, 1982 (Accession 82-1008), February 1983 (Accession 83-1057), the summer of 1984 (Accessions 84-1317 and 85-1368), and March 30, 1989 (Accession 89-1646).
A donation was received from Steve Hoffbeck, Grand Forks, North Dakota, on July 28, 1993 (Accession 92-1840).
Donation; the original acquisition records are unavailable.
Stalag Luft I POW 55th Anniversary, Video #1460-1462
The Edward and Elmer T. Lian Papers date from 1969 to 1995 and have been divided into two series.
Series 1: Edward Lian
Series 2: Elmer T. Lian