Biography of J. O. Melham

J. O. Melham, a prominent businessman from Minnesota, was born on a farm in Fillmore County in 1866. He grew up in a family of Norwegian heritage, and his father was a teacher before immigrating to America. J. O. Melham excelled in his education, attending schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. After leaving school, he worked on the family farm before embarking on an independent career in the agricultural industry. Eventually, he found success in the lumber and hardware business, establishing the Melham Brothers Lumber Company. Mr. Melham is also involved in banking and holds significant land holdings in South Dakota and British Columbia.

J. O. Melham is a native of the state of Minnesota, having been born on a farm in Fillmore County on the 20th of April, 1866. He is the son of Ole O. and Ann Melham, both of whom were born and raised in Norway, where they got married. The father of the subject was engaged in teaching until 1861 when he immigrated with his family to America. They briefly stayed in Wisconsin before moving to Fillmore County, Minnesota, where he bought land and started farming. He was one of the pioneers in that area and lived there until 1877. In that year, he returned to Wisconsin, purchased a farm in Buffalo County, and was actively and successfully involved in agriculture until 1881. After selling his farm, he moved with his family to what is now the state of South Dakota and settled in Deuel County. There, he bought a 160-acre claim in Brandt Township and developed a good farm. He became one of the early settlers in the region and gained prominence as a respected citizen of the county. He passed away on his homestead on the 19th of September, 1887, at the age of fifty-six. His wife still lives on the farm with two of their children. They had six children in total, all of whom currently reside in Minnesota. Their names are Julia (unmarried), Emma (married to O. C. Halverson of Brandt), Ole (operating the home farm), J. O. (the subject of this review), Andrew (associated with J. C.), and Anna (a clerk in Watertown). The father was a Republican in politics, and he and his wife were devoted members of the Lutheran church.

J. O. Melham spent the first ten years of his life on the farm where he was born. He received his early education in the district schools of Fillmore County, Minnesota, and continued his studies in the public schools of Wisconsin and South Dakota. After leaving school, he worked on the family farm in Deuel County, South Dakota, until he reached legal adulthood. He then began his independent career by getting a job at an agricultural implement store in Clear Lake. He worked there for four years and also engaged in buying grain during the autumn seasons. Afterward, he worked as a bookkeeper at the Bank of Toronto in Deuel County for one year. In 1892, he resigned from his position and entered the lumber and hardware business in Brandt, Deuel County. He partnered with Ole Halverson, and together they formed the firm Halverson & Melham. The partnership dissolved in 1895, after which Mr. Melham continued to be involved in the lumber business on a large scale. He joined forces with his brother Andrew, and they established the Melham Brothers Lumber Company, a state-incorporated enterprise. Mr. Melham serves as the company’s president and treasurer. The company operates well-equipped yards in various South Dakota towns, including Albee, Brandt, Bryant, Volga, and Hazel. They have invested around fifty-six thousand dollars and generate annual sales of approximately one hundred thousand dollars. In addition to his lumber business, Mr. Melham owns two valuable farms in Deuel County. He also holds the position of president in the State Bank of Brandt and the First State Bank of Hazel in Hamlin County. Furthermore, he is a stockholder in the First National Bank of Volga in Brookings County. Apart from his extensive interests in South Dakota, he owns nine hundred and sixty acres of land in British Columbia. In 1903, Mr. Melham relocated from Brandt to Watertown, where he currently resides and conducts his business. While he maintains a strong allegiance to the Republican party, his primary focus has always been on his business ventures, and he has never pursued public office. Both he and his wife are devoted members of the Lutheran church.

On June 1, 1896, at the bride’s home in Deuel County, Mr. Melham married Miss Julia H. Tolrud. She is the daughter of T. O. Tolrud, a wealthy and influential farmer in that county. Mr. Tolrud moved from Fillmore County, Minnesota, to South Dakota in the early 1880s. Mrs. Melham was born and raised in Fillmore County and received her education in South Dakota. She is described as a woman of gracious presence and distinctive refinement. Mr. and Mrs. Melham have four children: William Oscar, Mark E., Arnold Gerhard, and Thomas Walter.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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