Museum the New Llano Colony

Ole Synoground

Birth: He was born in Aberdeen, Brown County, South Dakota on Washington's birthday, February 22, 1882.  

Family Information: He married Lillie Synoground in 1908 at South Dakota.

Father of Ruby, Mabel, Clifford, Laura, and Buddy Synoground.  

Description: Described in an issue of the "Llano Colonist:" A big man was Ole Synoground, standing 5'11" in his socks and weighing about 190 pounds. He had sandy hair, high cheek bones, prognothous jaw and in his face all the linaments of a fighter.

He apparently didn't change much over the years because on his draft registration card dated April 27, 1942 he was described as 5'11" tall, weight 192 pounds with blue eyes, blonde hair and a light complexion. It also noted that his right arm had been removed at the elbow.

Colonist Theodore Cuno described him: "a real man, the likes of whom you will not find among many thousands. Tall, six-footer, an ideal worker, a constructor; a man of original ideas, of an inventive mind; of inexhaustible resources, tireless, ever bent upon work, work, work! Look at his features, the determined mouth, the aggressive chin, the powerful body, the penetrating eyes..." He continues, "his voice is soft and mellow; he smiles when he's talking to you and he is replete with good humor, often bordering on sarcasm.  

Pre-Colony History: His father had been a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, and he came to the United States when Indian tribes still roamed over the prairies of the West. As a child, he spoke Danish at home, learning to speak English and German from people living in their neighborhood. Because there was so much to do on the farm, Ole attended school only intermittently until he had to drop out completely at age 12. He got his first ideas about co-operation as a member of the Farmers Co-operative Corporation in South Dakota, of which his father was president.

He left home at the age of twenty-two, when he worked his way through two years at South Dakota University studying mechanical and agricultural engineering. He married in 1908 and a year later moved to Fresno, California where he built and sold houses for himself, as well as contracting and building for others, becoming what is known as 'well-off'.

He bought his membership in the colony in 1914, but never actually lived there until August, 1918, when he arrived in Louisiana, bringing his wife and children with him.

At that time, colonists were eating sweet potatoes and beans three times a day, with an occasional onion to help give them strength to carry on. There were only two industries at the time -- the print shop and the sawing of stove wood which was then shipped to Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, where it was sold. Those were the times that tried men's souls and Ole was not found wanting.

With boundless energy and confidence, Ole renewed the enthusiasm of the remaining colonists.  He gathered from here, there and yonder the material and parts to put together a small sawmill. It was mostly assembled from what had been thrown aside by other mills as "junk", but under Ole's management soon began turning out lumber for the colony.

Home in Colony: In 1932 the Synoground family was living at and running the Premont location.  

Job in Colony:

He ran the sawmill and wood industries and was a member of the Board of Directors.

In July 1931 the veneer plant was going in full force with Johnny Dougherty, Long, Ole Synoground, Carl Bradshaw, George Jensen, Slaughter, Ray Bradshaw, Fred Hamel, Hoag and Roede on the job; as well as Bennie Brown, Jimmie Brown, Helen Joe Dougherty, Lucille Oberlitner, Rhea Mae Baldwin, George Maki and Jimmie Dix.

In 1929 he and Newman were "assembling a new "sander". This was a machine on which all kinds of wood surfaces [could] be sandpapered and finished, obviating the slow and laborious hand work. A belt of sandpaper [did] the trick, as it revolved over "idlers", two at the lower and two at the upper corners of the framework. No idler, Comrade Hoag made [those] idlers. In fact, the whole machine [had] an interesting pedigree, being a concrete demonstration of co-operative creation. The plan [was] by Hank Stevens. Comrade Eldred brought the framework into being. Jimmy Maxwell concocted the metal parts by frisking an old Ford. Hoag tuned in on the idlers, as aforesaid. Somebody made the sanding belt. And lo! Ole and Newman assembled the creations of all those co-operators into a machine capable of doing the work of a score of men. [They] simply needed the machine and forthwith got busy and made it."

In 1930 he was listed as the Industrial Foreman for the colony on the US Census.

In September 1931 one hundred fifty sacks of beans and peas were picked in the forenoon by a volunteer crew of men, women and children. The crowd gathered a little after 7 am and was divided into different crews to look after different fields; by 11:30 the job was done. Volunteers included: Killian, Butts, Lloyd, Baldwin, Waters, Doc Williams, Quentin, Fred Busick, Roscoe Busick, Byron Busick, Vivian Busick, Graves, Webb, John Allred, Melvina Hullinger, Fred Levan, Goeke, Eldred, Tom Farrell, Claud Allred, Earl Swenson, Mackie, Frank Collins, George Collins, Boydelatour, Cleve Campbell, Mr. Caves, Clarence Long, Harry Rennick, Dee Kurtz, Pittman, Edminster, Walter Fread, Clarence Fread, Mrs. Herron, Woodruff, J.W. Gilbert, H.M. Wood, Winegar, Bert Moore, Lindwall, Ole Synoground, Rohr, Carnahan, Hoens, Mrs. Wooley, John Neill, Robert Roe, Warren Roe, Nesnow, Bartrum and B. Stevens.

In 1932 he was running the Premont location.  

Other Info: He was one of the members of the colony when George T. Pickett first named General Manager and together the two men began making things work. Several times over the years, he, along with others, put his hand into his pocket and brought forth the dollars that helped tide the good ship, Llano, over its financial shoals.

Ole was a practical man who believed that if a theory wasn't working, then it was time for practical ideas to supersede.

In 1928 he was one of the founding members of the local Conscientious Objectors Union; Theodore Atworth served as the first Secretary-Treasurer with O.E. Enfield serving as the President. The organization was planned to be international, composed of people who refused to go to war as a matter of conscience. Charter members included: Theodore Atworth, Mary H. Atworth, Emily H. Dougherty, I.A. Dougherty, Carl H. Gleeser, S. Weislander, Charlie C. Black, John Hight, Lowell H. Coate, W.A. Shutt, F.O. Jernberg, Reka Jernberg, Anna Tabb, Peter Kemp, F. Rosenburg, B. Wade Hewitt, Hamilton H. McClurg, W.J. Hoag, Theodore F. Landrum, C.N. Butts, Mary Snyder, George Snyder, Anna Garrett, Emma Shutt, M.A. Brattland, Richard P. Condon, Jr., Emily Swenson, W.J. Newman, George T. Pickett, Raymond DeFausell, S.E. Baldwin, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Molenar, Earl L. Bosch, Guy F. Rogers, Ora E. Newman, James J. Miller, Bert Busick, Mabel D. Busick, Ole Synoground, C.C. Mickey, Fred A. Jensen, Katie Mickey, F. Rahn and Isaac H. Keyes.

He lost his right hand and fore-arm in September, 1930 after blood poisoning set in following a very slight accident. But he didn't let it get him down, adjusting to a left-handed existence with alacrity and skill. He continued to drive his car, operate the Anacoco sawmill, and manipulate the many levers of the big veneer machine. Esther Allen said that one didn't even realize Ole had only his left hand, except when you saw the right stump, which he used as a peg to hang his hat on.

In June 1931 he and Lenna Mae Bays were speakers at the Forum -- both emphasizing the importance of accurate thinking and hygienic living.  

Post-Colony History: After Lillie died in 1938, he married Catherine, who died in 1950, and Henrietta, who died in 1964.

In 1940 he was living in Texas with his second wife Catherine and his youngest son, "Buddy". Carl and Eugene Swenson were lodgers with them.  


He died in 1971 and was buried in the Leesville Cemetery at Leesville, Louisiana.

Sources: South Dakota Marriages; US Draft Registration Cards: WWI and WWII; "Llano Colonist": November 24, 1928, December 22, 1928, March 23, 1929, October 26, 1929, September 13, 1930, June 6, 1931, July 4, 1931, July 26, 1931, September 5, 1931, December 10, 1932, March 3, 1933 (Story of Llano), April 11, 1933 (Reprinted from the Colonist May 17, 1924); Undated clipping from "The American Co-operator" by Theo Cuno; US Census: 1930, 1940;  

(L to R) Ole Synoground, Laura Synoground, Lillie Synoground

Synoground family (sitting) Lillie Synoground (middle row L to R) Ruby, Laura and Mabel Synoground (back row L to R) Clifford and Ole Synoground.

Board of Directors, 1925 - Septer Baldwin, Sid Merrel, Ole Synoground, Carl Gleeser, Louise Gaddis, George Pickett, Bill Burton, Peter Kemp, Dan Cryer.

"Ole Synoground -- Pioneer Member of the Colony from California, Now Manager of Premont Unit (Clipping from the "Llano Colonist" dated February 24, 1934.)

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