First Emigration

The first Emigration
from Søndre Aurdal,Valders and Other Places.
Translated From "Norsk-Amerikaneren"
by Martin Ulvestad, 1930

In 1848 the first from Søndre Aurdal, Valders, went to America. They were: Harald H. Hoff, Ole Finhart (bachelor) and Marit Dolven; They traveled in company with Aslak O. Lee, wife and 6 children; his brother, Ole O. Lee and wife, Ole O. Granum, Christian O. Skogen, Halsten Haaden, wife and 2 sons, Thore Maanum, wife, sonn and 2 daughters, and maybe more, whose names we cannot remember, from Nordre Aurdal. There were in this company many from Slidre. They went over the mountains to Lærdal then to Bergen to New York by sailship. All the aforementioned settled in the Blue Mounds Settlement in Wisconsin. Many of those who went from Slidre that year, settled in the Town of Liberty (Valders Settlement), Manitowoc Co., Wis., America.

Our father, Levord Anderson Lien, had meant to be in the aforementioned company, but could not get prepared, so he postponed the date a year. Early in the spring of 1849, we went down Aadalen to Drammen, so father became the first, who went from Søndre Aurdal down Aadalen on a trip to America. Father had 6 children in ages of 8 months to 131⁄4, years. In our group were Arne A. Hoff and wife, Guldbrand O. Throndrud with his fiancee, Elli Dølve, Endre and Amund Johnson Lindelien and Anne Juvesæteren from Søndre Aurdal, Valders, Iver Lund, wife and 9 children, Knud Syvrud, wife and 5 children, Ole K. Jelle and wife, Nils Syvrud, wife an 1 child, Guldbrand Ruud, wife and 5 children, Tolief Syverson Anmarkrud, wife and 2 children, Anders Bøe, wife and 1 son, Erik O. Skogen, wife and children, Nils Brændingen (bachelor) and Inga Lund, ( a maid) from Nordre Aurdal; Johannes Rebne, wife and a large family, Knud Syverson, wife and children, Syver Røe and wife, Knud K. Jelle with a son and 3 grown daughters, Halsten Fystru (bachelor) and others, from Slidre. The above with several and a number from Nummedalen, Ole Ose (or Oset) with a large family, and many, whose names we cannot remember.

We went aboard a large, new ship (a three-master), owned by merchant Rønnich of Drammen and commanded by Captain Mørk. After 9 weeks and 3 days we landed in New York, went by steamboat up the Hudson River to Troy, N. Y., then by canal boat to Buffalo (drawn by horses), then on a large sidewheel steamer over the Great Lakes and landed first in Wisconsin. In Manitowoc all from Slidre disembarked and went to the Valders Settlement (Town of Liberty, Eaton and Cato). We from Nordre and Søndre Aurdal got off at Milwaukee, but the Nummedalings went further, since they were going to Iowa. From Milwaukee we then went westward, some by horse wagon, others by ox cart, some over Rock Prairie, others over Koshkonong with the Blue Mounds Settlement as a destination. We reached our uncle, Aslak O. Lee, the 6th September after having been on the trip the whole summer. What is called the Blue Mounds Settlement, consists of several Townships, namely Blue Mounds, Springdale, Perry, Vermont and Ridgeway (now Briggham), and can also contain parts of Primrose, York and Moscow, or as far as they can see the Blue Mounds knolls; these knolls were at that time known as the highest in Wisconsin, and the Settlement got its name from them. The first Norwegians who settled in the Town of Blue Mounds, were Peder Dusterud and his sons, Lars and Sebjørn, Gullick Svendsrud, Guldbrand Frogne, Neri Dahlen, Tov Kittilson, from Tindal, and Peder Johnsen Klemoen, from Land. The first in the Town of Springdale were Thore T. Spaanum, Halvor and Nils Grusdalen, John J. Berge, Ole and Knud Kvistrud, Ole O. Steensbolet, Hans Guto, John Syland, Kittel Luraas, Knut Stenersen, Knud Skrader, Tosten Thompson Rue, and his brother, Ole Thompson. (He was with the very first, who went over the mountains to California and became in his time known as Snowshoe Thompson, U. S. mail carried over the Cascade Mountains on skis, and was several times nearly captured by the Indians, but he moved so fast that they could see no more than the snow plume behind him as he skied down the mountains. He came back once and visited his brother, and we spoke to him, he had been in Washington, D. C., and negotiated his affairs with the government as mail carrier.

The abovementioned settlers in Springdale were all from Tindal, Norway, but had first lived in Muskego, Wis., and then came all in a group, since they were all related, like brothers. brothers-in-law, cousins etc. Also here when we came were, Knud Ness, Jørgen Lee and his son, Thore Lee and family, and Ole Sanderson, from Hallingdal, Iver Thorson Aase, Hendrick Johannesen Skogen, Ingebrigt Fortun and Enok E. Sølve, from Sogn, had been here a couple of years before we came. In 1848 uncle Aslak O. Lee, his brother Ole, and Helge Tisla settled in Springdale. Our father, Levord Andersen Lien, Arne and Harald Hoff bought land in 1849 and settled there. Later Guldbrand Throndrud bought land and was the first Norwegian that was trusted to collect taxes in this town. John J. Berge was Justice of the Peace, Tosten Thompson the Constable. In 1848 Thore Maanum, Halsten Haaden, Christian Skogen and Ole Granum had bought land in Blue Mounds and the latter two married daughters of A. O. Lee a couple of years later and built on their land. In 1849 Iver Lund, Knud Syvrud, Gulbran Rud, Erik Skogen, Anders Bøe, Ole Jelle, Nils Syvrud and many adults of their families took land and settled at Blue Mounds. Tolief Anmarkrud settled in Perry, where his brother-in-law, Halvor Halvorsen, had settled the year before. In the following year, many of their relatives and friends came from Nordre og Søndre Aurdal and all settled in the aforementioned Townships, so that the majority of Norwegians were from Valders. After a few years, some began to sell their homes to newcomers and joined with other relatives and went west, some to Minnesota, others to Iowa, some to Crawford, Vernon and La Crosse Counties, and some to Buffalo Co., and later to Pierce Co., Wis.

At first the housing was very simple, many dug into a hill, built with logs in the front, put a door in the middle of the wall, a little window on one side, another on the other side of the door, made a fireplace in the other end, and lived there for several years until they had the means to build better. Getting a roof over your head was one thing, but there was more to do, there were provisions to obtain and for those who had a big family, this demanded a great deal of time. There were few here who had anything to hire workers for, and only a few of those who had come so far, that they had to harvest their own. The pay was at 50 cents per day for ordinary work, 75 cents for haying, $1.00 in harvest, but the pay did provide something to live off, flour 2 cents a pound, meat 20 cents etc. In the evenings the women sat and spun by firelight. The men made axe handles, repaired shoes and clothes and made fun of those who spun. Bed clothing was woven of linen.

We lived well and were well satisfied, had good health and everyone wished to get ahead and none wished to go back. It took a longer time before we normally had cook stoves, but the fireplace was used for cooking. It took money to buy a stove, and we were so far from the market, about 60 miles from Milwaukee and about the same to the Mississippi River, and no railway before 1854.

The Norwegians used a great deal of flat bread, and also we had what they called bread pots, that the dough was placed in, and these had an iron cover and they were placed in the fire and the glowing coals were laid around the bottom and on top and they were baked, and father made the hole in the fireplace and mother baked delicious wheat bread.

Everyone lived as much as possible of what they harvested and each one had his own corn and wheat milled.

Thore T. Spaanum was the first Norwegian in our area who had anything to sell of his harvest. He had come here with a bit of money, thus bought a half section of land and also owned a horse and oxen. The first years, the wheat was threshed by laying the sheaves in a circle and walking the oxen over them, whereby the wheat was tramped out. This was done on a frozen field in the fall. But everyone worked in the hope of improvement, which came little by little. It was a long way to the mill at first and with very poor roads, and there were no bridges over the creeks so we had to travel long detours to get there. When we finally got to the mill, it was often full of others waiting, so everyone had to wait their turn. On these trips we often got stuck in swamps and we had to carry the load over and empty the wagon to get it out again.

It could be a great advantage for the young, who are growing up now, to see how hard their forefathers had things to get through life so their descendants could have things better, which also happened. It will then be understood that the daily work was done to bring all the necessities for an earthly life, but in the evenings and Sundays, it was not forgotten to instill in the young Christian teaching and faith in the life after this one.
Knud Levordsen Lien,
Andrew Levordsen Lien,
River Falls, Wis.

Translated by Olaf Kringhaug
Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
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