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   Norwegian Gold Seekers In the Rockies, by Kenneth Bjork (Volume 17: Page 47)

During the long period between the California gold rush and the beginnings-about 1888-of a heavy flow of population to the Pacific Northwest, Norwegians in America circulated restlessly about the Rocky Mountain area in search of gold and other precious metals. Between Forty-Nine and the stampede to the Yukon and Alaska after 1897, a succession of rushes and less dramatic movements of argonauts from east and west, north and south, crisscrossing a vast expanse of mountains and foothills, brought the region before the public eye, stimulated the development of towns, and contributed much to permanent settlement on ranches and farms. Very few Norwegians “hit it rich” in the mining fields. Most of them soon returned to their homes in the Middle West; others remained for some time, drifting from camp to camp, taking such employment and wages as were offered; but a few, observing the opportunities for profit taking in business, ranching, farming, or in combinations of several activities, remained as pioneer residents and lived to see territories become states and social life both altered and stabilized.
Whether lucky or unlucky as prospectors, fortunate or unfortunate in the quest for high wages, successful or unsuccessful in the ranching, lumbering, and business ventures usually linked with mining activities, the Norwegians who went to the mountain area wrote letters to the Norwegian-American press, either urging their countrymen to migrate or counseling against it and depicting both the life of the Far West and the prospects there for bettering their economic lot. It is abundantly clear that these writings stimulated a [48] keen interest if not a heavy migration. Gold has always been an almost irresistible lure, drawing unattached young men and many an adventurous family head from a relatively secure life to the uncertainties of the mining camp. Furthermore, discoveries of precious metals followed the panic of 1857 and continued during the years of depression after 1873. From the panic of 1873 until the late 1890’s the farmers of the Middle West, while only occasionally plagued by drought and grasshoppers, struggled against a sustained deflation of agricultural prices and gave expression to their discontent in a variety of agrarian movements. At the same time, workers in the cities knew continuing low wages and the uncertainties of employment in an economy jolted by panics and shackled by depressions of long or short duration. Mature farmers and laborers, as well as younger men, saw in the Far West an opportunity to escape indebtedness, to express their many dissatisfactions by migrating, and at the same time to ac quire an easy fortune. The Rockies were nearer than California, and the construction of the Union Pacific and other railroads lessened considerably the terrors of travel. Nevertheless, the journey to most fields remained hazardous, life in the camps difficult, and gold hunting what it had always been - “a will-o’-the-wisp business that nearly always promised more than it paid.” {1}


A few Norwegians participated in the gold rushes of the 1850’s that followed the decline of production in California. That is, they moved into the area that is now Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona; went north to the present states of Oregon and Washington; and joined the stampede to the Canadian Fraser River field in 1858. They journeyed up the Columbia and Snake rivers when gold was discovered in their vicinity and took part in the rush to the Salmon River in Idaho. The extent and nature of these activities, however, [49] must be inferred largely from remarks made later in life by Norwegian prospectors; they went all but unnoticed by the foreign-language, newspapers, whose interest in the Far West naturally declined after the California gold rush.
The discovery of gold in the vicinity of Pike’s Peak in 1858 was the signal for a great stampede to Colorado during the next year. Among the thousands who ventured the overland journey was Tollef Beistad of Jefferson County, Wisconsin. With two “Americans,” he left home in February, 1859, in a wagon drawn by three yoke of oxen. The party lay over at Omaha during most of April because of limited forage along the western route. Finally setting out, they reached Fort Kearney after a journey of eleven days; there they met a host of returning gold seekers, whose reports of Pike’s Peak gold deposits were so disappointing that Belstad’s company thought it unwise to continue. They sold the oxen and much of their provisions at Fort Kearney, purchased a team of horses, and began the return trip to Wisconsin. They met, on the average, about a hundred westbound teams a day until they reached Omaha. Arriving at the Mississippi River, they were joined by a fourth disappointed prospector. Beistad, asked by Emigranten in Madison what the fruitless trip had cost, explained that each of the original party had contributed a yoke of oxen and $120 in cash to the venture. They had purchased provisions and prospecting equipment with the money and had used the oxen as security in acquiring the wagon. All that was left to them of their investment was the team of horses. {2}
An interesting feature of the Pike’s Peak story was the fact that Anton M. Holter, who became famous in Montana, spent several years as one of a host of gold seekers near Denver. Having little success there, he returned to northern Iowa, where he had previously worked at his trade of carpenter, and in the spring of 1863 set out again for Colorado [50] with a yoke of oxen. There he entered into a partnership with E. Evensen, another Norwegian, and joined a company of two hundred men who had organized to try their luck at Stinking Water, Idaho (now Ruby River in Madison County, Montana). Holter and Evensen eventually left this party in the interest of making better time and arrived late in the year in the vicinity of Alder Gulch. {3}
Gold remained king among the prospectors, but occasion ally they also became interested in silver and even in baser metal. “T.A.M.,” who was a personal acquaintance of Emigranten’s editor, C. F. Solberg, wrote in 1861 from an undisclosed point in California that, following the excitement over gold on the Fraser River and over silver at Washo, western miners had now lost their heads over copper. Nearly every man the letter writer met “takes a green-colored stone from his pocket and asks with a triumphant look what one thinks of it; he has naturally ‘struck it.’ If one enters a cabin, one finds both table and floor macadamized with the same green stones.” Half the population were “busily engaged in crushing every green stone they can find, placing the dust in a glass, pouring first a little nitric acid and then a little water over it, finally sticking a knife in the mixture.” If the blade took on a copperish red color, “the experimenter has ‘struck it sure’ and he offers in the friendliest manner possible to journey to the warmest place a Christian can imagine before he would take $30,000 for his claim.” The correspondent assured his readers that copper was indeed present in California and that its ore also contained gold and silver. A town called Copperopolis was being laid out and there was talk of linking it with Stockton by rail. A Swedish prospecting company had been organized and some of its members were [51] already busily engaged in mining. Probably, “T.A.M.” added, one would soon hear much concerning “the Scandinavian copper claim.” {4}


Such incidents and news items, however, were hardly more than flashes in the pan. Except for occasional individuals, the Norwegians showed little interest in the gold fields until the important discoveries in Idaho Territory (Montana) were publicized after 1862. {5} Fædrelandet utilized the occasion of the resulting enthusiasm among its readers to issue a solemn warning to those who would strike out for the West. It seized upon a lecture delivered by Captain James L. Fisk in January, 1864, at Anoka, Minnesota. Fisk discussed mining along the eastern slope of the Rockies and proposed a direct overland route to the gold fields. He told his audience of four hundred people that he had taken expeditions to Idaho Territory (Montana) in 1862 and 1863. The groups thus escorted, he said, had had considerable success in the gold mines; while advising no one who was in good circumstances at home to accompany him on a proposed third expedition, he nevertheless painted a favorable picture of the new and easily accessible gold region of what is now Montana. {6} [52]
Fædrelandet carried a story of Fisk’s lecture, but accompanied it with an editorial entitled “The Gold Fever.” {7} The editor remarked that many in the Upper Midwest, among them several hundred Norwegians, were eager to set out for the gold fields in the spring of 1864. A large party was planning to leave from St. Paul and would take the short route proposed by Fisk - a distance of about eight hundred miles. Fædrelandet considered it necessary to present certain facts to be carefully considered by Norwegians before they entered into such arrangements. The editor had recently discussed the matter with two Norwegians who had tried their luck in California. They had advanced three major arguments in favor of caution. First, the journey was long and dangerous. Indians would attack the caravans, and it was unreasonable to expect the government to maintain cavalry protection along the entire route. Secondly, during the excitement of a gold rush, provisions are invariably scarce, with the result that the great mass of incoming prospectors suffer from hunger. After a gold region has been worked for a year or two, on the other hand, supplies become plentiful, because certain speculators make a regular business of bringing in food and other necessities. Finally, those who are ignorant of mining techniques usually move about helplessly, seeking the most profitable locations, and waste both time and money.
Fædrelandet’s editorial also explained that steamboat and other companies - in paid newspaper stories - often painted glowing pictures of land containing little or no gold. Similarly, private claim operators frequently “salted” their mines with gold dust after they had ceased to pay off, and sold them at high prices. Meanwhile, transportation companies [53] conducted a lively business, carrying passengers to and from the mines. Other firms, too, tended to foster the illusion of a distant rich country, and earned a profit of several hundred per cent by selling necessities to gold seekers. Scandinavians were therefore advised to resist the immediate temptation to leave their homes; they were urged, instead, to take up a collection among themselves in order to outfit an experienced man who would leave in the spring for Idaho Territory, investigate conditions there, and record his observations and experiences in a letter to Fædrelandet. {8}
The same issue of the paper contained a letter from Ole Viig in California under the caption “Do Not Go to Idaho.” Viig said he had worked in the richest mines there and could not agree with the newspaper stories that they were a haven for the poor. The lack of water limited operations to the months of April, May, and June. It would cost at least $800 to live there the remainder of the year. Provisions were expensive, averaging from 45 cents to $1.00 a pound; stories of large nuggets worth from $50 to $300 were spun out of whole cloth. He knew miners in Idaho who were unable to earn enough to return to San Francisco. {9} Fædrelandet listed food prices in Idaho during 1863. Flour sold for $30 per hundred pounds and smoked and salted meat for 30 cents a pound; tea was offered at from $2.50 to $3.00 a pound and whisky at $10.00 per gallon. The paper prophesied that prices would be higher in 1864 because of the anticipated large influx of gold seekers. Daily wages in the mines were said to be from $7.00 to $10.00 a day, with payment in gold. {10}


Despite such warnings and some confusion as to precisely what was meant by “Idaho,” a number of Norwegians [54] departed from the Middle West for the Montana gold fields in 1864. “S” left Omaha on May 11 and followed the familiar Platte River route in a large wagon train. Grass was scarce and as a result the company was frequently forced to lie over at places where forage was available. Indians were constantly poised to attack stragglers, and in fact made one vain attempt to steal the six mules of the last wagon in the train. The size of the caravan was proof against a general attack, but “S” noted at least five graves of persons recently killed. The Indians had learned to stampede the horses, mules, and oxen of emigrant trains and to hide the animals in mountain canyons, where they were later divided in leisurely fashion. This train, however, proceeded peacefully to Salt Lake City, which was described as “worth seeing.” Though the travelers were impressed by the beauty and fertility of the irrigated country around the Mormon capital, they were rudely awakened to the realities of life when they purchased supplies from the Saints. A ton of hay, for example, cost $40.00 and a bushel of oats $5.00. The next lap of the journey went over a desert road; there the dust, which was full of alkali, burned the mouths and eyes of all, and for stretches of many miles the drivers, unable to see their horses, wore both masks and goggles to protect their eyes and throats. {11}
Chr. Northfos left Rock Prairie, Wisconsin, on April 20, 1864, journeying pleasantly to Council Bluffs, Iowa. At Omaha, across the Missouri River on the Nebraska side, he and his companions outfitted themselves with the customary food and equipment. After making their way along the three hundred-odd miles of good, level road that reached westward from Omaha along the Platte, they encountered both sand and wretched trails. Deciding to follow “Bozeman’s Cutoff,” they left the familiar California trail a hundred and twenty five miles west of Fort Laramie. The train, numbering in all some hundred and forty wagons, made a wearisome advance over rough, dangerous terrain, through which it was necessary [55] to open a road, before coming to a more inviting country which, Northfos remarked, “until now has been completely abandoned to the roving herds of elk and buffalo as well as bears. Here is no evidence of human life, and I am inclined to believe that the trappers of the great West are the only whites who have visited these parts.” The caravan met no Indians from the Platte River to Clark’s Fork. On the morning of July 20, the men released their horses, mules, and oxen as usual from within the circle or square of wagons that served as a nightly enclosure, to permit them to graze during the breakfast hour. Suddenly they spied sixteen Indians riding out from a hiding place behind a thicket and galloping toward the grazing animals. The gold seekers, each carrying a revolver in one hand and a rifle in the other, set out on foot after their horses, which were half a mile distant. By the time the whites had mounted, the Indians had escaped with six horses and as many mules. The resulting chase was fruitless; the men, fearing an ambush in the hills, soon returned to the camp. The train arrived at the Yellowstone River the following day; there it divided, some of the company remaining and others, among them Northfos, going on to Virginia City. {12}
There was another route to Virginia City. This was by river steamer up the Missouri to Fort Benton, a point of debarkation. Stages ran from Fort Benton to Silver Creek and from there to Virginia City. Provisions were easily conveyed over this route in wagons. The water passage, which was pleasanter and easier on the passengers than the over land route, was not devoid of danger. Indians lay in wait along the river for persons who went ashore for wood or for other purposes, and in 1874 Fædrelandet printed a story of the massacre by Indians of a boatload of returning gold seekers. The boat was sunk, the men scalped, and their gold stolen. {13} [56]
Northfos reported that there was no unemployment in Virginia City during the summer of 1864. He knew several persons, presumably Norwegians, who worked as drivers for Holter; they received $75 a month in gold dust valued at $18 an ounce. He admitted that life was unpleasant in the town but opined that he and his friends had come to earn money, not to amuse themselves. And it was quite possible, he added, for an industrious fellow to earn money in the gold mines. There was no danger of hunger, thanks to the regular freight service from Fort Benton and a plentiful sup ply of fish and wild game. Some miners, in fact, went on hunting trips lasting four or five days, returning with a goodly supply of game which they sold at from 10 cents to 12 cents a pound; in this manner they could earn from $6.00 to $10.00 a day. {14}
Most of the miners who joined the stampede to Montana worked for others at good wages. This became increasingly evident as the output by crude placer methods declined; the old diggings called for better equipment and for reserves of capital which only the larger mining companies could command. As the same was true of the quartz mines, individual claims gradually passed into the hands of a relatively few mining firms. The “lucky strike” and the small mining company disappeared only slowly, however, from the Montana gold region. The Virginia City Post reported on November 4, 1865, for example, that a Norwegian by the name of Brown (Brun?), one of the original members of the Gould and Myrrg Company of Nevada and later owner of the Brown Lode at Nelson Gulch in Montana, had recently made a great discovery while exploring near Helena. There he opened a vein considered rare in the history of mining, and the gold was in almost pure nugget form. For two weeks he worked the vein alone, informing no one of his good fortune, but as he carried sack after sack away from the mine, he found it impossible [57] to keep the secret and accordingly filed a claim to protect his discovery. {15}
Whatever Brown’s subsequent fate, the greatest success story of the Montana gold region was that of Anton M. Holter. A Norwegian immigrant of 1854, he is frequently referred to as the first Norwegian in the territory; certainly he became one of the state’s leading entrepreneurs, with interests in lumbering, mercantile, mining, electrical, and other businesses. He was born at Moss and learned the trade of carpenter in his homeland; at the age of twenty-three he left for the New World. Holter worked as a carpenter in northern Iowa, using Osage as a center of his activities. He earned $20 a month, saved his money, invested it in town lots, and as they rose in value, saw his small fortune grow to $3,000 within one year. The panic of 1857 wiped out the greater part of his investments, and in 1859 he became ill with “brain and swamp fever.” Holter recovered from the illness but his money was gone. Thus, in 1860, he set out for Pike’s Peak in the company of his brother Martin M. and a group of other gold seekers. The brothers earned a little money in Colorado during the next two and a half years by digging and farming, but fortune did not smile on them. Holter learned that while gold seeking was indeed a “will-o’-the-wisp business,” there were other ways of earning money in a gold region. Gold was discovered at Alder Gulch and Virginia City in 1863; there was his opportunity. {16} [58]
As stated above, Holter went to Montana with his partner E. Evensen; their plan was to supply the Alder Gulch-Virginia City area with building materials. With crude machinery for a sawmill loaded in two wagons pulled by oxen, the two men left Denver on September 16, 1863. They arrived at Bevin’s Gulch, about ten miles from Virginia City, in December and immediately decided to locate at near-by Ramshorn Gulch. They hauled their outfit to the summit between Bevin’s and Ramshorn gulches. What followed has been described in interesting detail by Holter himself. He recalled at a later date:
“We found deep snow and more snow falling. . . . I re member seventeen days in succession that it snowed every day. We camped there under some spruce trees . . . and the wind blowing all the time. There we made a hand sled to handle the machinery and built a brush road a distance of a mile and a half to get the machinery we had down to the creek, where our water power was to be had. . . . [We built] a cabin . . . without doors or windows and moved into it the day before Christmas, 1863.”
The mechanical difficulties encountered by the partners were innumerable. “I didn’t know a thing about the sawmill business,” Holter explained, “and my partner, who had represented himself to be a millwright, proved that he didn’t know much about it either.” Parts of the mill, the purchase of which was Evensen’s responsibility, were missing. “The feeding apparatus was gone, among other things. We set to work and invented a new movement, which, by the way, was after wards patented-by other parties.” He went on to relate:
“In the first place, we had to have blacksmithing done, and we had no tools, so we set out to make some. We had a broadax and we drove it into a block of wood and used it for an anvil. We had a sledge, and made a pair of bellows out of some wood and our rubber coats. There was a nail hammer with the outfit, and with it and the sledge, and the [59] anvil and a forge we got together, we managed to make the other tools we absolutely needed. We made our own char coal and finally got that part of the preliminary work done.
“We had no lathe to turn the shafting, and we finally rigged a contrivance in the cabin wall to thrust one end into. We fixed up a wheel for the other end and made a belt out of rawhide to turn the thing by hand until we got the shafting turned. The lathe was even more primitive than the blacksmith shop, but we got the work done after a fashion, although it was a slow process.”
In spite of all these handicaps they were able to begin operations:
“After that we whipsawed some lumber, made our water wheel, fitted up the mill, and got out several thousand feet of lumber before spring set in. That was my first winter’s work in Montana, and it was a hard one too; part of it was all the more trying because I had my face cut up in a little unpleasantness with the road agents about that time.
“We had no belting, and we made some of rawhide, but there was no way of keeping it dry, for we had a water mill. We heard of eighty feet of six-inch belting at Bannock. I went over and tried to buy it. The man that owned it had no use for it and said so, but he wouldn’t set a price and I made him several offers, finally telling him that I would give him $600, all the money I had with me. He wouldn’t sell even then, and I had to go back without it, and we made a shift to use a canvas belt that we made ourselves. It was a poor affair but we got along somehow.”
The work was hard and the difficulties legion, but the re wards were great. The story of marketing the crude lumber is best told by Holter:
“Lumber brought high prices, though, and we made some money after all our trouble. We got $140 a thousand for sluice lumber, and $125 for common lumber. The sluice lumber was finished on the edges and the other wasn’t. The [60] second year we started a yard at Nevada City, and I remember that the demand was so great that whenever we expected a wagon in there would be a crowd of men waiting for it, who wouldn’t let me get to it at all. As soon as the binding was taken off the load, they would make a rush for the wagon and every man would take off what he could carry. The demand was so keen that they felt justified in taking it by force, and I wouldn’t even have a chance to keep an account of what was taken. As far as I know, however, it was always correctly accounted for and I do not believe that there was ever a stick that went out that way that I didn’t get my pay for.” {17}
During the summer of 1864 Holter and two other men- Cornelius and Olsen - built a crude waterworks in Virginia City. Pipes and hydrants were constructed of logs, and it was impossible to find so much as an auger with which to bore three-inch holes in the logs. They had a blacksmith make three augers and paid $150 apiece for them. Water was brought from a distance of two miles. The logs which served as conduits were tapered at one end and fitted together by means of iron bands that had once served as wagon hubs. All faucets and valves had to be made by hand.
Evensen meanwhile had gone to Denver for more sawmill machinery and a planing mill. For no understandable reason, in addition to oxen, wagons, and a primitive planing mill, he bought wheat flour and nails. At Snake River, Idaho, he was snowed in. Evensen left his outfit with strangers, made a pair of skis, and traveled to Montana. What was salvaged of the supplies was brought to Virginia City on pack animals in the spring of 1865 at the cost of 30 cents a pound. These goods, consisting of two kegs of nails and twenty-six sacks of flour, sold at fabulous prices. Ten-penny nails brought $150 a keg and retailed at $2.00 per pound. As flour had [61] fallen from $150 to $60 a sack in Virginia City, Holter re-shipped their supply to Helena, where it brought $100.
In June, 1865, Holter bought out Evensen’s interest in the business and entered into a new partnership with his brother Martin under the firm name A. M. Holter and Brother. During the next winter they acquired a second-hand portable steam engine and boiler, built a more suitable sawmill, and set it up at Ten Mile Creek west of Helena. To this they added the first planing mill in Montana. A yard was opened in Helena, where they received $100 per thousand feet for their lumber, somewhat less than the price in Virginia City. The demand continued to be insatiable. In the fall of 1866 Anton went east to Chicago by the overland route; there he purchased a new steam sawmill, machinery for a door and sash factory, equipment for a distillery, and a large supply of general merchandise. The goods were shipped by rail to St. Louis and from there by river to Fort Benton. Two years later the last of the supplies arrived at Fort Benton. Some justification for the fantastic prices attached to goods in Montana at this time is found in the fact that freight charges were 12 cents a pound on the Missouri and 10 cents a pound from Fort Benton.
Upon his return, Holter erected a store building in Helena and entered the retail business. The sawmill and door and sash factory were set up by 1869, as was the distillery, which he later disposed of. The sawmill and planing mill burned in March of 1869, and in April the Holters sustained further losses in Helena’s general fire. The firm, however, re covered from these losses, and Holter was soon pioneering in the mining industry as well as in the lumber field. When the Rumley mine was discovered in 1871, he bought an interest in it and acquired the American rights to a concentrating jig, a device for separating ores invented by Frederick Utch in Cologne. After almost endless delay, one of these jigs arrived from Germany and was set up at Legal Tender [62] east of Helena. As fate would have it, the first concentrator in the Rockies proved to be a failure because of inexperienced mechanics and fragile machinery, but its use marked a pioneering step nevertheless. Holter also acquired part ownership of the Parrot mines, which in 1880 were organized as the Parrot Silver and Copper Company. Some time earlier the Holters had erected a sawmill on Stickney Creek and a lumberyard at the mouth of Sun River - the present site of Great Falls.
During the early 1880’s, Holter, with others, bought the Elkhorn mine at Ketchum, Idaho, and he acquired an interest in the Maginnis, Kit Carson, Stuart, Silver Bell, and Peacock mines in Idaho, as well as the Elkhorn in Montana. Holter also participated in the Helena Mining and Reduction Company, later known as the Helena and Livingston Mining and Reduction Company, a firm that put up a plant in East Helena, built the first street railroad, and organized a gas company in Helena.
Retaining a strong interest in concentrators, Holter was active in organizing the Helena Concentrating Company in 1886; this company erected the first concentrating plant in Idaho, at Wardner, bought a part of the Helena and Victor Mining Company, and set up a concentrating plant at Victor. In the same year Holter and others formed the Livingston Coal and Coke Company and opened mines and erected a washing plant at Cokedale. In 1887, the Holter Lumber Company and the A. M. Holter Hardware Company were incorporated, with A. M. Holter as president of both firms. Thus his interests and activities expanded until a recital of them becomes monotonous. Mention should be made, however, of his leadership in the Cascade Land Company, which was started in 1890; of the mine development work that he and his associates pursued during 1892 and 1893 in the Trail Creek district of British Columbia; and of his participation in the purchase of the Blue Canyon coal [63] mines and the building of the Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad. It is interesting, too, to note that Holter and his partners had a bill put through Congress permitting them to build a dam across the Missouri River for power purposes, thus making the first move in hydroelectric development in Montana. Holter engaged in ranching, put up a great number of residences and business structures in Helena, established branch retail stores in Great Falls, Wallace, Idaho, and elsewhere, and acquired timber tracts in various states and territories. {18} He appears to have been not only a born businessman, with boundless energy and a sharp eye for profits, but also a public-spirited leader who served, at varying times, as a state senator, as mayor of Helena, and as president of Helena’s chamber of commerce.


Partly because of Holter’s many-sided interests and largely because of the universal tendency of a mining area to develop a varied economic life, the newspaper discussion concerning Montana from the late 1860’s dealt with much more than the mining camps. When a Norwegian named Hakelien wrote to Skandinaven praising the country and speaking of an abundance of free government land in the rich but unsettled valleys of the territory, he was immediately accused of harboring ulterior motives. {19} A writer who concealed his identity claimed that Hakelien had the idea that when the governor of the territory arrived in Helena, he, Hakelien, would be named general agent for Scandinavia and that he would be sent abroad to interest both capitalists and working people there to migrate to Montana, either to invest their funds in the country or to dig in the mines and become farmers. Such an arrangement might indeed be [64] profitable for a few individuals with reserves of capital, the writer continued. Land was cheap because those who held it were eager to sell; government land was available in fertile valleys, all right, but how could farmers living in them get their produce to market? He wrote of the Indian peril, devastation by grasshoppers, and the lack of rain in Montana. People were also eager to sell their mines, he added, and houses could be purchased for very little. Many “rolling stones” arrived during the summer months; they would sell their bedclothes for something to eat, as there was little work to be had. The simple truth about Montana was that it was dependent on gold, that food and manufactured goods came from afar and freight charges were high, and that gold and credit - not farm products - were used to pay for goods and services. He advised people neither to come to Montana nor to speculate in its resources. {20}
Others, too, warned their countrymen against coming to Montana. But as in all such discussions certain men rose in defense of the territory. One, John Warley, who was book keeper for Holter, wrote specifically in answer to P. W. Larson, who was the author of another letter unfavorable to Montana. Warley said that Larson was merely one of those who had come to dig gold, had not at once found it, and now insisted that only Chinese could live off the yield of the mines. He explained that A. M. Holter and Brother operated a sawmill, a distillery, a lumberyard, and a store at Helena. During the past summer the firm had been paying the saw mill workers $60 to $80 per month and board, while workers having mechanical skills received $8.00 a day. Now during the winter months the wage was $40 to $50 a month. In the distillery the summer wage was $60 to $100 and the winter wage $40 to $80 and board. While putting up a new store building, the firm paid stonecutters $8.00 a day, bricklayers $6.00 to $8.00, carpenters $5.00 to $6.00. Common labor [65] received $4.00 per day during the summer months. During a six-month period, Holter had paid out a total of nearly $18,000 in wages. Warley did not specifically advise anyone to come to the West, but he did insist that any young fellow in the States who received a wage of $20 a month during the summer - and bread and butter and coffee in the winter -could do better in Montana, especially if he had confidence in his skills and was willing for a time to take such employment as was available. The journey to Montana, he added, would cost about the same as one to California-$200. {21}
A newspaper item from Helena in 1871 indicated that there were a fair number of Norwegians there. Another revealed that they used skis to get around Montana during the winter months. As yet the Norwegian population of the Upper Midwest had shown very little interest in the territory. The long depression that followed the panic of 1873, however, at least opened their minds to the idea of moving to the West. Groups, especially workers in the cities, encouraged or assisted individuals to travel to Montana and investigate conditions there. One such investigator was A. R. Sørensen, apparently from Minneapolis, who, because of skepticism at home concerning Montana, had been urged to take a trip to the territory in the spring of 1875. He found Montana to be essentially a mining country. But people were already reworking places that had been mined before. No influx of workers was needed, for the great day of gold mining had passed; a tenderfoot had little chance of finding work when a great number of experienced miners were on hand and there was little work other than mining available. He believed that quartz mines would open up when railroads made their appearance; at present it did not pay to haul the ore by team and steamer to the nearest railroad and then to ship it on to the East to be smelted. He found Helena full of new arrivals, many of them willing to work for their [66] board, but there was no work to be found. Sørensen summed up his advice to hardpressed countrymen in the following words, “Anyone who has some kind of work to do should not leave home. {22}
Despite these wise and objective reports, stories appeared even in the cautious Norwegian-American press giving currency to rumors of untold wealth in Montana. Thus, a silver mine thirty-five miles south of Helena was described as having no equal in the world, and the placer mines were also said to be rich. It was admitted, however, that lack of railroad communication was a serious handicap. Stoppage of work on the Northern Pacific Railway after 1873 was recognized as a severe blow, for silver ore still had to be hauled hundreds of miles to a railroad. A projected line from Ogden, Utah, to Montana offered some consolation. The Norwegian press tended to believe that when transportation was made easier, emigration to Montana would be heavy and that the incoming people would find great opportunities in developing the resources of the territory. {23}
Though A. M. Holter no doubt inspired, directly or indirectly, some of the articles favorable to Montana - especially in Skandinaven-he did not personally enter the newspaper discussion about the territory until the spring of 1878. Gold, he recalled, had been discovered in 1862, and during the next two years the territory had received a considerable number of immigrants from both the eastern states and the west coast. After the richest mines around Virginia City had been worked out, a large percentage of the people left for other points and gold digging declined from year to year. Now, Holter maintained, mining had revived. In 1877 about $3,500,000 worth of gold, silver, copper, and lead had [67] been extracted, and he expected that production for 1878 would far exceed this figure. Wages in recent months had been about $60 a month and board, in the mines; common laborers received from $40 to $50. A large influx of people would naturally drive wages down, and therefore he “would not advise Scandinavians of the working class to travel to Montana." {24}
The search for precious metals continued, however, and the area of settlement in Montana thereby expanded. The Norwegian element joined in the quest during the 1880’s. As each new mining region opened, letters were written from it; many were addressed to the newspapers and printed by them. Thus, Glendale, only ten miles from the Trapper silver mine and home of two smelting furnaces in 1880, attracted a few Norwegians. A trickle of Scandinavians continued to flow to the Helena area, while Butte City became a real point of gravity. Butte’s amazing growth was caused in part by the fact that it was a terminus of the Utah and Northern branch of the Union Pacific. In 1884 one letter writer claimed that Butte was the most important mining camp in the country and that its silver ore exceeded in quality that of the Comstock Lode in Nevada; furthermore, one of Butte’s gold mines contained ore that was over a hundred feet in depth and yielded an average of $30 to the ton. Quartz mines also continued to draw immigrants to Alder Gulch during the mid-1880’s. {25}


Gold seekers meanwhile had moved hither and yon over the entire Rocky Mountain area and elsewhere. Andr. Berger, writing in 1865 from Black Hawk, Colorado Territory, described the “gulch” and quartz mines there, explained that the daily wage was from $4.50 to $6.50 during the winter [68] months and would be higher in the spring when all mines were in full operation. In the winter, when a shortage of water closed down the mines, idle workers turned to cutting firewood and hunting. “He who is willing to work,” Berger maintained, “will at all times find employment, but during the worst part of the year there can’t be much left over from one’s pay because of the high price of every article here.” A good many persons were prospecting in the neighborhood, and “returns from the occupation are naturally most varied, for while a large percentage are just able to meet the costs of living and many squander what they have gained, there are others lucky enough to accumulate a fortune in a short time.” Prices, Berger said, would fall as soon as the trails were made free of Indians. {26}
Skandinaven printed a story late in 1867 about a so-called Scandinavian quartz mine in Nevada County, California. A person signing himself “A” enclosed a clipping from the Nevada Gazette of October 31, which described this mine, located between Pleasant Valley and Anthony House on Deer Creek - ten miles below Nevada City. It was discovered by two Norwegians. A mining company had been created; it consisted of Norwegians, “loyal Americans” (meaning Northerners), and a Southerner who had served as an officer in the Confederate forces. The Scandinavian company was building a quartz mill, confident that it owned one of the most promising mines in the area. Tests had indicated $30 to the ton. This mine apparently justified optimism, for a year later newspapers carried a story to the effect that it was operating day and night and its directors were busily enlarging its capital. {27}
By 1868 the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed at the speed of three and one-half miles of track a day, and in the spring of that year it extended westward from Omaha [69] a distance of 580 miles. The railroad company had broken ground for car shops at Cheyenne and Laramie. Simultaneously the Central Pacific was being built eastward from California. Together, as the newspapers expressed it, they were doing the great work of an army of civilization. {28}
The dramatic linking of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads occurred in the next year. Thereafter, the relative ease of travel, coupled with the depression of the 1870’s, led many a Scandinavian laborer and farmer of the Middle West to seek his fortune in the mining regions of the West. One correspondent reported there were at least a hundred Scandinavians at Central City, Colorado, in the fall of 1873, but he added that this number included few family groups. The men had worked in the now idle mines for $3.00 a day, but as 1873 was a panic year, the mining companies had tried to drive the wage down to $2.50 - only to have a strike on their hands. Four hundred men held out against the companies, which had resorted to the use of militia to intimidate the workers. “We mountain boys,” the writer said, “were armed with Henry rifles and Colt marine pistols. . . . We let them know we weren’t afraid of soldiers.” {29}
All was not violence at Central City; neither was it all contentment. Only a few of the new arrivals in 1876, for example, were satisfied with the town. They found the work hard and unprofitable, and life unpleasant. Many had left jobs in the East to go to the mines and now they were forced to start at the bottom doing work as laborers with no knowledge of their tasks. What was worse, a goodly number found no steady employment. When a stamping mill was forced to shut down because of a shortage of ore, jobs would suddenly terminate; if props burned in a mine, workers were unemployed. Savings melted quickly because of the still high costs of living. As a consequence, a steady stream of people [70] flowed in and out of the town. It is clear that most of the Scandinavians employed in the mines, stamping mills, and smelters of Gilpin County, especially in Central City and Black Hawk, were Danes and Swedes. {30}
Colorado was the chief goal of Norwegian gold seekers in the 1880’s. Crowds of argonauts milled about in Denver and speculation was rife. K. Berven noted that most of the prospectors came back from the mountains tired in body and soul and eager to take work as unskilled laborers in order to buy a little bread. He advised farm boys in the Middle West to stay at home and plow the fertile prairies; they would find gold enough in them. Leadville, some ten thou sand feet above sea level, was the main attraction in 1880. One traveled from Denver on a narrow-gauge railroad to Fairplay - in the mountains - a distance of over sixty miles. Supplies went from Fairplay to Leadville and other mining towns by wagon, and people by stagecoach. The rough, steep road to Leadville called for three teams of horses on the stages and four to six teams on a pair of wagons. Leadville, though only somewhat over two years old, had a population of twelve thousand in 1880, several “first-class” hotels and four banks, and gas, water, telegraph, and telephone services, in addition to some sixteen smelters. It was reputed to have in its vicinity more mines than any other city in the country. Wages were good and meals and bed could be obtained at a hotel for from $20 to $30 a week. {31}
Th. L. Knudtson went to Columbia in 1881 and was well satisfied with his lot in Ouray County. Wages were high and the town was growing rapidly because of its sawmills, planing mills, and stamping works; Knudtson thought it would be come another Leadville. K. J. Jacobson arrived at Kokomo, Summit County, in June, 1882, and described it as a lively town with two smelters in operation and others building. Mining was active and the ore was said to be worth $75 a [71] ton. Many claims were owned by poor people who were unable to work them properly; they were therefore willing to sell. More commonly, however, the adventurer set out for Colorado with the idea of making a fortune in the mining country, only to settle for a job in a mine owned by a large firm. Quite probably he swung a hammer from morning to night for a wage of about $3.00 per day and board. “B” did just this at Dotsero, in Eagle County, yet dreamed of setting out alone in search of a new mine. {32}
By 1886 the golden period for mine workers seems to have ended in Colorado. From Denver a worker lamented that only a few years earlier one could earn $5.00 or more a day, and that now, by contrast, good laborers had to be satisfied with $1.50 and still must pay $4.50 or $5.00 a week for board. Experienced men, however, received $2.50 or $3.00 a day in the mines and smelters. He observed that there were many Scandinavians, especially Swedes, in Denver; the Swedes had their own churches, while the less numerous Danes and Norwegians had to get along without a regular pastor. {33}
L. Olson Enestvedt had spent three years in Idaho Territory by 1874. He had seen few Scandinavians in the Rockies, but such as he had met were mostly Norwegians and their chief occupation was gold mining. At Placerville, where he resided, the only other Norwegian was a saloonkeeper who carried on a lively and orderly business. Only gold was “raised” at Placerville; it was washed from the earth, often to a depth of from thirty to forty feet; the water came from a spot seventeen miles away, and was purchased from companies owning the aqueducts. Prices of commodities had dropped considerably since the earlier days. {34}
The Wood River Valley in Idaho attracted some [72] Norwegians during the 1880’s. A. T. Moe reported from Ketchum that a mineral belt over fifty miles in width and a hundred miles in length had been discovered there. in the lower part of the valley the ore contained lead as well as gold and the metals were separated by chemical processes; in the upper end the gold was of a freer nature and was extracted in the customary mills. Ketchum in 1882 had four smelters; the Oregon Short Line would soon give the Wood River country a rail connection with the west coast. Wages were reasonably high, a miner receiving $3.50 a day and a carpenter $4.00. At Placerville, hydraulic methods continued to be used through the 1880’s; at that point young Norwegians apparently gathered, for a shortage of Norwegian girls was soberly noted. {35}
“J. C.” reported from Empire City, in Ormsby County, Nevada, that despite unemployment at the silver mines in 1877, there were many Scandinavians in the area, a majority of them apparently Danes. Those fortunate enough to have jobs received $4.00 a day in the mines, somewhat less in the mills. “J. C.” advised Scandinavians not to come to Nevada, though he noted an absence of pastoral controversy there and remarked that one could send one’s children to the public schools without worry. Times were better in Nevada in the late 1870’s. At Eureka, seven smelters were in full operation and a railroad connected the mines with the smelters. Unemployment, however, continued, and “A. T. M.” stressed the uncertainties of mining and spoke of the Indian peril in Idaho and northern Nevada. As if to punctuate the hazards of mining, he reported the death of a Norwegian killed in a sandslide. The victim, Tom Newton (Knudson), a native of Arendal, had gone to San Francisco as a sailor during the early California gold rush; like so many other veteran prospectors, he later drifted to the silver mines of Nevada. {36} [73]
Seemingly Nevada had lost its charm for miners by 1881. Early in that year G. Olsen warned that no one should come to Empire City looking for work in the spring. Workers al ready there were leaving as quickly as they could raise sufficient funds, for the mines had been worked out. A year later John Christiansen confirmed this opinion. During the previous three-year period little silver had been dug from the mines at Virginia City, and what had been taken was of low grade. In the resulting hard times, the mine workers who remained, though they might own shares in the mines, had very little money. {37}
Arizona and New Mexico never exerted a strong appeal to the Norwegians, but interested elements at times at tempted to draw their attention to these regions. “Norse man,” who was perhaps a railroad agent, wrote a long account of the Southwest, pictured its economy in a favor able light, and said his countrymen could better themselves there. Reports of lawlessness and crime, he said, had been grossly exaggerated. However, mining was the only temptation offered by the arid Southwest, and it appeared to be a mild one. A. Mathison was one of a few who were drawn to Bisbee’s large copperworks in Arizona Territory, about thirty miles from Tombstone. {38}


The Indian danger as well as the now familiar story of gold seeking was dramatized in the extensive coverage given the Black Hills rush by the Norwegian-American press. Miners moved into the Black Hills region after General George A. Custer’s expedition of 1874 seemed to offer security against the restless Indians. In March, 1875, stories appeared in Fædrelandet og emigranten concerning the gold mines, of the movement of people in and out of the [74] mountains, and of the continuing danger from Indians. Budstikken in Minneapolis ran a long front-page story which spoke directly to Scandinavians who contemplated making the trip as gold seekers. Sympathetic to the cause of labor and deeply concerned with the depressed conditions of the 1870’s, Budstikken eagerly passed on to its readers information obtained by the editor from men recently returned from the mines.
A man with ordinary equipment, the paper said, might earn $100 a day, as the Black Hills ore was worth about $2,000 a ton. The distance to the fields was not great, nor was the transportation cost prohibitive. From Sioux City to Custer the distance was three hundred and fifty miles; from Bismarck to Custer it was only two hundred and fifty-two miles. But a railroad ticket from Minneapolis to Sioux City was only $12.50, whereas one to Bismarck cost $22.00. In Sioux City an expedition of six men could equip itself with oxen or mules, wagon, provisions, and weapons for $754, or about $125 per person. Another estimate, for four men, placed the figure at $1,015, or about $252 per person. Budstikken admitted that reports of the metals taken were per haps exaggerated and explained that land was not yet available because of an Indian treaty of 1869. Yet the paper did nothing to discourage its readers from trying their luck. {39} Subsequent issues carried front-page stories about life in the Black Hills and told of one expedition after another starting out for the West.
O. C. Berg of Ashland County, Wisconsin, was one of many Norwegians who set out early in 1876 to seek his for tune in the Hills. He looked for locations between Custer, Hill, and Rapid cities, and finally located a spot where the men in his company were able to earn $4.00 each per day, but it washed out in less than a week. By May he was in the predicament common to many prospectors - without supplies and with no money to buy them. Finally, Indians [75] were closing in from all sides and killing white men every day. Berg had come upon a murdered Scandinavian gold seeker between Hill and Custer cities. A pocketbook found on the corpse contained $15 in cash and five letters from Minneapolis. Though the letters were soaked with blood, Berg thought the man’s name was 0. A. P. Vold (or Volf). The Indians generally were in such an ugly mood that if military aid was not sent, no miner would come out alive. {40}
K. J. Homland of Fillmore County, Minnesota, had contracted gold fever. His experiences in the Black Hills, how ever, lowered his temperature considerably and caused him to advise others to desist from get-rich-quick ventures like his own. There were, he admitted, excellent ore deposits in the Hills, and if one had both time and money, one might succeed in opening a mine after a few years of trial and effort. Ole O. Øyen had gone from Dell Rapids, Dakota Territory, to become another disappointed gold seeker. I. H. Ness was still another. He doubted that one out of ten per sons who had been at Deadwood during June, 1877, was still there, for most of the placer claims had been worked out. Of those who departed, some had set out for the Big Horn, where gold had been reported. Indians were plundering and killing on the west side of the Black Hills, and Lawrence County had been offering a bounty of $250 for every Indian taken - dead or alive - but the county treasury was no poorer than before the bounty was agreed upon. “It is superfluous,” Ness concluded, “to warn people against coming out to this highly lauded Canaan; therefore I throw away the pen and prepare myself soon to take the return trip.” {41} [76]
Nils I. Bomsta found that there was work for neither common laborer nor craftsman in the Black Hills; further more, there were only six small hills where gold and water were found in combination and where profitable workings were possible. Therefore he had left in a large company bound for the Big Horn. The lowest note of pessimism was struck by “P. G.,” who had gone to the Black Hills believing that the mines would be a wonderful place for hard-pressed laborers. He found that the very opposite was the case. The worker spent what little reserve cash he had traveling to the mountains, took a job in a mine, and received in wages what the owners wished to pay. “The common worker here,” he wrote from Rockerville, “is so under the lash that he is obliged to stay on the job if he is not to die of hunger. . . . One who comes to the Black Hills with empty hands in the hope of laying up a little money is indulging in crazy mathematics.” {42}
More nearly typical of Norwegian experience, however, was the career of “L,” who arrived in the Hills in the spring of 1878. Though knowing nothing of gold mining, he prospected like others during the summer and went into a partnership on several quartz claims. Then, fearing winter and worried about his wife and children, who had followed him to the Hills, he threw away shovel and pick and took up hammer and saw to work as a carpenter at $4.00 a day in the booming town of Rockford. When he arrived at Rock-ford, the place had only three log cabins; a year later it was a lively place, next in importance to such centers as Dead wood, Lead, and Central City. In such a place one could earn money easily and spend it fast. {43}
Something of the problems inherent in travel to and from the Black Hills is revealed in an interesting letter from O. E. Lee. He and a comrade had left Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in mid-April, 1877; they went from St. Paul to Yankton, in [77] Dakota, via the Fort Terry route, and boarded a Missouri River steamer. After fourteen days on the river, they arrived at Fort Pierre, which only a year before had been destroyed in a murderous Indian attack. At this debarkation point they joined a company of seventy men about to begin the trek overland to the Hills in some twenty wagons. The route of their travel, which was marked by the graves of whites killed by Indians, brought them thirteen days later to Crook City. Four months of prospecting resulted in no success. Therefore Lee, Thor Wiig of Clay County, Dakota, and Martin E. Westad of Eau Claire left the Hills on August 23. Arriving at the Cheyenne River three days later, they were held up by three masked men armed with rifles. The robbers, being “gentlemen,” took only weapons, money, clothing, and most of the provisions, leaving a supply of flour and syrup and a pony that served as a pack animal. Seven days later Lee’s party arrived at Pierre, where the highwaymen, thinking their victims had already left, suddenly made an appearance. The welcome the robbers received was such that, while they escaped with their lives, they were forced to leave the plunder behind. {44}
In the summer of 1880 the Reverend C. L. Clausen saw fit to undertake a mission trip to the Black Hills in the interests of the Conference of the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, of which he had been president. He, too, traveled by steamer up the Missouri to Fort Pierre. He noted that Fort Pierre, lying at the mouth of the Bad River, had no fortifications at all and consisted of an irregular assembly of houses and shacks, but nevertheless served as a landing place for freight and passengers destined for the Black Hills. Mile-long trains of wagons pulled by hard-driven mules and oxen hauled the freight to the mining camps. In the river town assault and murder were daily occurrences, and few arrests followed the nightly brawls. [78] Saloons and gambling houses flourished and murderers were openly pointed out to the visitor. {45}
In the Black Hills, as elsewhere, firms with adequate financial reserves took over after the initial discoveries and crude working of claims by individual prospectors or by gold seekers casually grouped into companies. Scandinavians, as relative newcomers in the American business world, were not prominently represented in the wealthier mining firms. They were, however, frequently members of smaller companies, as indicated above. Christian Melby reported from Custer City that among the Scandinavians in the Black Hills were some who had been sent out as representatives of companies made up exclusively of their countrymen in Calumet and Ishpeming, Michigan. These agents had taken possession of a number of claims and were now (in 1879) working several of them that appeared to be especially promising. Melby gave no more information about these companies, nor did he explain whether the Scandinavians were Danes, Swedes, or Norwegians, or a combination of all three. {46}
Pastor Clausen was more specific in writing of the Scandinavians. He said Albert Steele, overseer of the Homestake mills in Lead City, was a Norwegian. A Scandinavian company at Elk Creek had been organized by a young Swedish woman, Mary Anne Larsen (Larson?). He had visited the company’s mine, twelve miles from Central City, and there, in addition to Miss Larsen and her brother Otto, he found Ch. Thurnval and B. Petersen and his wife and children. The last persons were Norwegian, as was Siph Anderson, who had an independent digging near by. The Scandinavian company had sunk three shafts and the quartz samples indicated ore worth from $5.53 to $12.00 per ton. [79]
Clausen, in appraising the Scandinavians in and near the Black Hills, said that some were “industrious, enterprising, and honorable people in good circumstances and enjoying the well-earned respect of society.” Others, equally deserving, had not been so fortunate in a material sense. “But,” he added, “it cannot be denied that a not insignificant part of the Scandinavians there, especially among the unmarried men or those who have left their families elsewhere, live a frivolous and profligate life.” He had seen plenty of drinking and gambling in the Hills, much sin and ungodliness. {47}


The Norwegians who wrote of their experiences in the mountains usually accepted the lawlessness and the bawdy aspects of the mining town as inevitable phases of camp life, in which young men were concentrated in large numbers and the social restraints and recreational facilities of a settled society were almost totally lacking. When they discussed the familiar preponderance of saloons, dance halls, gambling and other joints among the flimsy structures of the new towns, they wrote in either a humorous or offhand vein and then proceeded to the important matters of wages, prices, and general opportunities for fellow countrymen.
“S” admitted, for example, that there was a shady side to life in Glendale, Montana, in 1880, but marveled that it was not darker. He said that a saloonkeeper had shot and killed a gambler a few days before, and that earlier a Chinese had been hanged. But, to his surprise, people dared let their clothes hang out at night and left their working tools at the places where they used them; he had never heard of any property being stolen. “But,” he added, “if one has a good deal of loose cash lying around, he does well to keep an eye on it.” At Placerville, in Idaho Territory, L. Olson Enestvedt found that murders were frequent during the early 1870’s, but that the people were for the most part friendly [80] and quick to lend a helping hand to one who was down on his luck. {48}
Leadville, Colorado, when only a little more than two years old, was said to have about three hundred saloons and other drink dispensaries, in addition to five theaters and four dance halls that were never empty. As in all other mining towns, the gambler and the prostitute were ready and eager to relieve the miner of his earnings. Robbery and murder were normal features of daily life, despite the fact that Leadville was full of police. {49}
It was in Norden, a paper edited by a pastor that appealed to the more conservative element among the Norwegian people, that Colorado life was painted in its darkest colors. A correspondent, “r. h.,” dwelt at some length on crime in Leadville and other towns, and attempted an explanation of its prevalence. These mining communities, he said, constituted the “frontier,” and the frontier was characterized by violence-first in dealing with the Indians, then in coping with white robbers and murderers, who were often worse. He offered the following interpretation of the goings-on that he had witnessed during a turbulent period:
“After Leadville was started, many wanted to go there and become rich in a hurry, and in many cases in a way that was neither legal nor honest. That honorable people also came in to better themselves in a decent manner is apparent in the fact that this camp was not plundered by vagrants and is not more unsafe than it is; but truly there were often fewer of those who desired the maintenance of law and order than of those who wished to act without regard for the rights of others. It therefore became common to steal another’s lot and mining claim, and this led to many murders and threatened legal actions. Such conduct was a great hindrance to business, for when one could not be sure of keeping what [81] one had, he couldn’t very well either work his claim or sell it for what it might be worth. Such authorities as were elected appeared to be too weak to defend the innocent and punish the bad. Therefore a vigilance committee was organized; it broke into the jail one dark night, dragged out two of the worst criminals, put ropes around their necks, and hanged them to a scaffold right on the street in front of the jail door. Their guilt, sentence, and form of death were recorded on a scrap of paper pinned to their backs, together with a threat that the same would happen to anyone guilty of crime. The unlucky culprits remained hanging until late the next day. Wasn’t that a terrible and tragic drama? . . . One of the criminals was a young man, hardly twenty years old. . . .One might think that many would learn a lesson from it. . . . In any case, a large gang of Black Hills highwaymen, who had stationed themselves in and around Leadville, broke up and were forced to decamp. At that time, when the migration to the Black Hills was at its peak, raids and robbery were regular in that area up north. The corrupt dregs of human society planned to do as good a business down here, but they were disappointed. This region is too closely populated to have room for bands of robbers. . . .
“There is one business in particular out on the frontier that is very harmful to society. It is the trade in intoxicating drinks. In a town where there are police many evils can be prevented, but out in a little mining town with only a few business houses, the first that one finds as a rule are a saloon and a gambling house. Merchants have whisky in their shops and give drinks away. When prospectors and others come in to buy provisions, they normally drink and gamble. A little misunderstanding can arise, and it is settled with revolvers. Not long ago two men in their cups up at Como decided to resolve a little dispute with their six-shooters, and it so happened that neither mourned the other’s death; they killed one another and were buried in a common grave with [82] revolvers in hand. This is so common out here that we take no special notice of it {50}
Iver Hanseth wished that Bjørnson, the great Norwegian poet who at the time was tilting with Norwegian-American Lutheran pastors, might take a trip to Colorado, where he would not be bothered by preachers; and if he liked to climb over mountains, “we could help him ascend fifteen or six teen thousand feet above Brooklyn. . . . Yes, he should travel a little right here in this state before he goes home; for here nearly everyone lives as he wishes, without regard for preachers or the opinions of theologians.” A short time later he reported the death, at Leadville, of an Easterner who was shot and robbed of $175. Leadville, however, he said, was becoming somewhat civilized. But Durango, at the end of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in the south west corner of the state, was having a gay time. It was a town of adventurers, gamblers, robbers, and murderers, many of them Mexicans, where two gangs of rival rustlers were shooting it out and many people, finding it impossible to carry on, were leaving. The postmaster at Nathrop, a man of considerable wealth, was shot in his own home by one of his employees in a disagreement over $16 in wages. Bert Reinert, the worker who did the shooting, was possibly a Norwegian. {51}


The effects of the colorful search for gold and other metals were many, and in the fields of finance, commerce, and transportation they were profound. But the most significant result was that the search familiarized the American public with a vast unclaimed area suitable for farming, ranching, and varied business activities, and therefore speeded up the process of permanent settlement. Into the letters written by [83] prospectors and miners there gradually crept an increasing amount of comment about the land near the camps, or distant from them, that the writers had observed in their travels. An alert businessman like Holter in Montana or the spokesman of a railroad or land company could see profits inherent in a growing population and appealed, through the columns of midwestern papers, to the immigrant desire for cheap or free land. Pastors on mission tours through the thinly populated territory of the Far West and other disinterested persons described what they saw and heard in their travels, and thereby stimulated a growing interest in western settlement.
The Norwegian newspapers contain an extensive discussion focused on the possibilities and advisability of migration to the western states, and they reveal that small beginnings of Norwegian, or Scandinavian, settlement took place in the Rocky Mountain area - and beyond - at a time when transportation was still difficult and the hazards of frontier life were great. Thus, the Norwegian gold seekers of the period from Forty-Nine to the 1890’s contributed to something more than a growing folklore of the Far West. However transitory their residence in the Rockies, they, too, helped to build


<1> Robert E. Riegel, America Moves West, 435 (New York, 1947).
<2> “Hjemvendende Pikes Peakere,” in Emigranten (Madison, Wisconsin), June 13, 1859.
<3> The story of Anton M. Holter, who was destined to become the “father of the lumber industry in Montana,” is told later in this paper. An account of the trip from Colorado and of his subsequent experiences in Montana is given by Holter in Pioneer Lumbering in Montana, an undated pamphlet issued by the Timberman of Portland, Oregon, a copy of which is in the library of the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.
<4> Emigranten, August 5, 1861.
<5> Though gold was discovered in what is now Montana during the 1850’s, the fields were not seriously worked until 1862 The Alder Gulch-Virginia City mines were opened in 1863. In Last Chance Gulch (Helena) operations were begun in 1864. These areas, as well as that of Bannock City, were then a part of Idaho Territory. Montana as we know it today became a separate territory in 1864.
<6> Captain Fisk dwelt on the success of Minnesotans at Bannock and Virginia cities. He also stressed the significance of opening up a direct overland route from St. Paul to Montana, which would draw emigrants and goods through Minnesota; Saint Paul Daily Press, January 16, 1864, and Saint Paul Pioneer, January 15, 1864. A memorial to the president of the United States was introduced in the Minnesota legislature asking for authority to raise additional cavalry forces to act against Indians and to escort emigrant trains. Another memorial called for a line of military posts from Fort Abererombie to Bannock City; Saint Paul Daily Press, January 16, 17, 22, 24, 1864, and Saint Paul Pioneer, January 20, 1864. See W. M. Underhill, “The Northern Overland Route to Montana,” in Washington Historical Quarterly, 23, :177-195 (July, 1932) for an account of Fisk’s expeditions. Considerable literature on the subject, including Fisk’s diary and a map of the proposed direct route of 1864, is available in the Minnesota Historical Society. It is of interest to note that the expedition of 1864 was disbanded at Fort Rice after the army had relieved it from an Indian attack.
<7> Fædrelandet, which was founded at La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1863, generally took an unfavorable attitude toward mining ventures in the West. Its able publisher, Frederick Fleischer, was himself a disappointed argonaut from Norway who had dug for gold and farmed in California after 1853. In 1869 he purchased Emigranten and combined it with Fædrelandet. See Fædrelandet og emigranten, November 20, 1878.
<8> Fædrelandet, February 4, 1864.
<9> Fædrelandet, February 4, 1864. Viig seems to be writing about present Idaho country rather than the Montana gold region.
<10> Fædrelandet, March 17 and August 4, 1864. By contrast, Emigranten of February 25, 1867, described Denver and suggested that Norwegian miners would be wise to go there.
<11> Emigranten, August 29,1864.
<12> Emigranten, January, 16,1865.
<13> Emigranten, February 11, 1874.
<14> Emigranten, January, 16,1865.
<15> The story is reprinted, in translation, in Fædrelandet, January 4, 1866.
<16> Accounts of Holter’s interesting career may be found in the following: Robert Vaughn. Then and Now; or, Thirty-six Years in the Rockies . . . 1864-1 900, 275-287 (Minneapolis, 1900); Helen Fitzgerald Sanders, History of Montana, 2:903-907 (Chicago and New York, 1913); Joaquin Miller, Illustrated History of the State of Montana, 2:497-499 (Chicago, 1894); and the Helena Weekly Herald, May 12, 1887 (a story taken from the Helena Daily Herald of May 6). Interesting details are added by Martin Ulvestad, Normændene i Amerika, deres historie og rekord, 1:219-222 (Minneapolis, 1907); Arne Kildal, De gjorde Norge større, en bok for ungdom, 32-36 (Oslo, 1945); and Minneapolis tidende, June 30, 1911. Indispensable is Holter's Pioneer Lumbering in Montana, which should be checked carefully against his earlier account in the Helena Independent of September 7, 1899.
<17> Helena Independent, September 7, 1899, quoted in Vaughn, Then and Now, 276-278.
<18> Holter became, in time, part owner and a director of forty-eight companies, president of sixteen of them, and cofounder of forty-six.
<19> “Skandinaven (Chicago), June 2, 1869. Hakelien had written to answer a disparaging letter by Andrew Osland in the March 24 issue of Skandinaven. Os land had no faith in either the mining or the agricultural future of Montana.
<20> “Guldlandet Montana,” in Skandinaven, July 14, 1869.
<21> Skandinaven, December 28, 1870. Larson's letter appeared in the November 16 issue of Skandinaven. He spoke of Deer Lodge City in particular.
<22> Skandinaven, February 1, 1871; Nordisk folkeblad (Rochester, Minnesota), March 19, 1868; Nordisk folkeblad (Minneapolis), June 23, 1875.
<23> See, for example, Skandinaven, July 11, 1876. In 1880 Skandinaven still spoke of the great abundance of Montana land but admitted that the labor market was overfilled. The great need then was stated to be for men with sufficient capital to survive during a two-year period, until farming or mining or cattle raising could yield profit and independence. Skandinaven, July 13, 1880.
<24> Skandinaven, May 7, 1878.
<25> Norden (Chicago), April 21, 1880; Tillæg til Skandinaven, November 28, 1882; Skandinaven, December 16, 1884, April 1, 1885.
<26> Emigranten, March 20, 1865.
<27> Skandinaven, December 5, 1867, March 3, 1868.
<28> Skandinaven, May 28, 1868.
<29> Skandinaven og Amerika (Chicago), December 9, 1873.
<30> Norden, October 5, November 23, 1876.
<31> Norden, April 7, May 19, 1880.
<32> Skandinaven, January 24, 1882, August 5, 1884; Norden, August 2, 1882; Fædrelandet og emigranten, November 13, 1883. In 1884 Knudtson reported only two Norwegians besides himself in near-by Telluride.
<33> Budstikken (Minneapolis), July 27, 1886.
<34> Skandinaven, September 8, 1874.
<35> Skandinaven, January 24, March 7, 1882, December 25, 1889.
<36> Tillæg til Skandinaven, March 6, 1877; Skandinaven, June 25, October 15, 1878.
<37> Skandinaven, February 22, 1881, April 18, 1882.
<38> ‘Paa reise i Ny Mexico,” in Skandinaven, June 7, 1881; Decorah-posten, August 21, 1889.
<39> Budstikken, March 23, 1875.
<40> Budstikken, May 30. 1876. That the fear of Indians was great and the miners exceedingly nervous is revealed in a humorous incident near Deadwood, where a herd of pigs was shot at when mistaken for Indians by the watchmen at a camp; Fædrelandet og emigranten, September 26, 1877. Several gold seekers with Scandinavian names were among those killed by Indians on September 8, 1877, accord mg to the story of one of two survivors in the Deadwood Pioneer, reprinted in translation in Norden, February 27, 1878.
<41> Tillæg til Skandinaven, June 19, 1877; Skandinaven, July 17, 1877; Budstikken, August 8, 1877.
<42> Budstikken, August 15,1877; Fædrelandet og emigranten, May 6, 1879.
<43> Fædrelandet og emigranten, April 12, 1881.
<44> Skandinaven, October 30, 1877. Lee's letter, printed under the caption "Til og fra Black Hills," was postmarked Vermillion, September 18.
<45> “Reise til Blackhills,” part 1, in Folkebladet (Minneapolis), November 4, 1880. Parts 1 and 2 of this interesting record appear in English translation in H. Fred Swansen. The Founder of St. Ansgar: The Life Story of Claus Laurits Clausen, 209-215 (Blair, Nebraska, 1949).
<46> Skandinaven, November 2.5, 1879. H. Solem, writing from Lead City in the next year, merely maintained that the Scandinavians were well represented in the Black Hills. Skandinaven, April 6, 1880.
<47> "Reise til Blackhills," part 2, in Foldebladet, November 11, 1880.
<48> Norden, April 21, 1880; Skandinaven, September 8, 1874.
<49> Norden, May 19, 1880.
<50> Norden, January 12, 1881. This letter, dated December 28, 1880, was sent from Nathrop, Chaffee County.
<51> Norden, March 30, May 11, November 30, 1881. Hanseth, too, wrote from Nathrop.

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