Nels Dokken was born August 9, 1901, in Antler, North Dakota, to Erik N. and Ester Johnson Dokken, the first boy born in Sherman Township. His father, Erik, was born in 1848 and immigrated to the United States in 1882. Ester Johnson was born in 1861 and came to the United States in 1888. The two were married in 1896.
Dokken moved with his family to Mekinock, North Dakota, in 1903. He farmed there from 1916 to 1972, and also worked for the railroad beginning in the summer of 1942. He served as Mekinock school board clerk from 1938 to 1944. In 1943, Dokken was elected church superintendent of the Ness Evangelical Lutheran Church where he taught Sunday School for many years. In 1945, he built a house in Mekinock. On June 30, 1946, he married Gertrude Davis.
Gertrude Davis was the daughter of Simon and Hannah Davis. Her parents were married in 1894. She had one brother, Frank Davis. The family lived near Northwood, North Dakota, in Pleasant View Township. Simon Davis farmed along with his son.
Gertrude Davis attended Moorhead State Teachers College where she earned her teaching degree. She taught in Grand Forks County for over thirty years. She was the principal of the Mekinock school in 1938.
Nels and Gertrude were married in a triple ceremony in 1946. Gertrude's brother, Frank, married Signa Rike, and Signa's sister, Julia, married Earl Mallinger in the same ceremony.
Gertrude died in February 1972. In 1983, Dokken moved to Tufte Manor in Grand Forks, and then to the nursing home on October 7. He died October 18, 1988.
The Nels Dokken Papers consist mainly of correspondence between Nels Dokken and Gertrude Davis during their courtship from 1938 to 1946, when both were around 40 years old. The letters discuss food rationing and the purchase of war bonds during World War II. In addition, Dokken mentions his activities in the Ness Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mekinock, North Dakota. He also writes about farming conditions and working on the railroad. The papers do not mention a great deal about Gertrude's teaching. The collection also includes Dokken's school papers (1913-1915), records of the Mekinock school (1932-1941), Gertrude's teaching materials, business papers (1920-1983), and newspaper clippings (1930-1965).
420 photographs were separated and placed in the photograph file cabinets. The photographs are primarily of family members, but include several photographs of towns, schools, and churches in Grand Forks County. Some photographs are unidentified.