NAHA Header


Knud Knudsen and His America Book {1}
    by Beulah Folkedahl (Volume 23: Page 108)

We have everything we had longed for, and are convinced that we will find what we are looking for," wrote Knud Knudsen, concluding the description of his journey from Drammen, Norway, to Buffalo, New York, in 1839. Thus he expressed his faith in America.

Knudsen was born September 29, 1810, presumably in Numedal, and emigrated to America with the group conducted by Ansten Nattestad. When the party reached Chicago, some remained there and others continued with Nattestad to Jefferson Prairie, Rock County, Wisconsin, about ninety miles northwest of Chicago, where Ansten’s brother Ole had settled two years earlier. Ansten Nattestad seemed reluctant to encourage more Norwegians to settle there, much of the land having already been taken, so Knudsen and Clement Stabæk traveled on foot to Rock Run, Stephenson County, Illinois, about thirty miles southwest of Jefferson Prairie. After surveying the area, they returned to Chicago for their families and goods and, with some of the others who had remained there, went to Rock Run to establish their homes. {2} [109] Within a short time Knudsen migrated north again, this time to Wiota, then in Iowa County, Wisconsin. The exact date of this move is not known but he seems to have been well established there by 1843. His conviction that "we will find what we are looking for" apparently was justified. Probably the lead mines in Iowa County attracted him to that region. Hamilton Diggings or Settlement (named for William S. Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton and founder of the mines) offered him an opportunity to work as a smith, making various types of articles, not only for farms and households, but also for the mine. And so he set up shop in the settlement, became owner of a 160-acre homestead, and purchased land in the village of Wiota. {3}

The Norwegian immigrant leader, Johan R. Reiersen, wrote about Knudsen on December 12, 1843, in a letter to Hans Gasmann, who had recently settled near Pine Lake, Waukesha County, Wisconsin: "Several of the Norwegians here in Wisconsin have by their outstanding ability and enterprise during their few years’ residence already attained the acknowledged respect of Americans. Among them I believe I should mention Knudsen, a smith from Drammen, who has a large farm in Hamilton Settlement, thirty miles southeast of Mineral Point, and plies his trade besides, employing several men." {4}

Knudsen expressed his continued faith in America in a letter written for publication in the Norwegian press, dated at Wiota December 20, 1843: "I have recently become acquainted with one Mr. Reiersen from Kristiansand, Norway, who alleges he has come to look over the country and the [110] conditions here in behalf of several Norwegian families who are thinking of emigrating. The aforesaid Reiersen showed me a letter dated Galena, December 12, addressed to Mr. Gasmann, in which he gave his opinion of the conditions which he had thus far observed. I found the letter in question to contain such unvarnished truth that, after my four years in America, I can with a clear conscience recommend its publication in the Norwegian press as advice for those of my countrymen who might decide to emigrate to this country." {5}

Knudsen lived in Wiota for a number of years, but then the lust for gold impelled him, like so many others, to California, first in 1849 and again in 1852, when he led an expedition which, besides his own family, included a large group of other Norwegians. For the 1852 expedition, Knudsen and his sons, Hendrik, Christen, and Søren, had money enough to equip themselves with two wagons, eight yoke of oxen, and four cows, and to purchase more livestock during the journey. From the gold fields the Knudsen family moved north to Oregon, where their son John was born about 1856. {6}

Apparently the western adventure was successful, for by 1860 Knudsen was in Barre, La Crosse County, Wisconsin, on a 290-acre farm, 160 acres of which he had purchased in 1851. The farm had a cash valuation of $3,000, and his stock and machinery, of $280; he had on hand 600 bushels of grain as well as a goodly stock of hay and potatoes. During the 1860’s he acquired, probably for speculation, several hundred additional acres in La Crosse County, and later in that decade he moved to La Crosse with his wife and son John to a house he bought in 1867. Most of Lot 9, Block 7, in downtown La Crosse, known as Knudsen’s Block, was his property. Meanwhile he was disposing of land in Lafayette County, including [111] the Knudsen homestead, which he sold in 1867 to his daughter Sørena for one dollar. {7} Sørena, who was born aboard ship during the emigrant journey in 1839, had married Isaac Miller, a member of the 1852 California expedition. Members of the Knudsen family occupied the farm until 1920. {8}

Knudsen participated fully in community life. In 1847 he undertook to gather subscriptions for Nordlyset, the first exclusively Norwegian-language newspaper in America, which began publication in Norway, Wisconsin, that same year. Naturally, his name appeared on the subscription list. {9}

He was the leader in organizing a Lutheran congregation in Hamilton Settlement, and it was in his house on February 13, 1844, that Pastor C. L. Clausen conducted the first Norwegian Lutheran service in the area. {10} In the same month Knudsen wrote a letter on behalf of the Norwegian settlements at Hamilton Diggings, Rock Run, Jefferson Prairie, and Rock Prairie (Rock County, Wisconsin) to the bishop in Christiania, Norway, asking for a pastor. The communities offered an annual salary of $300, plus ministerial fees and use of a parsonage and of eighty acres of land. The bishop referred the congregations to Pastor J. W. C. Dietrichson, who had emigrated in 1844, but the latter declined the position except on an occasional basis, because of his previous decision to serve the Koshkonong congregation. Then C. L. Clausen, who had already accepted a call from Rock Run for a resident pastor, agreed to serve the Hamilton Settlement also. The letter of call to [112] Clausen was signed by the members of the congregations November 28, 1845, but Knudsen’s name was not on it. Knudsen continued, however, to participate in church affairs and was mentioned on a local monument erected in 1937 in memory of the charter members of the Wiota Lutheran Church. {11}

Knudsen was said to have been an ardent Democrat when he was soliciting subscriptions for Nordlyset. His zeal for politics continued during the 1868 presidential campaign, when Ulysses S. Grant and Horatio Seymour were the chief opposing candidates. Knudsen became the editor, for a few months, of a new Norwegian newspaper, Amerika, established in June, 1868, and published from his print shop in the Knudsen Block in La Crosse. Amerika declared that the main issue of the campaign was "whether Lincoln’s prudent statesmanlike plan or the rash plan of the radical Congress should be followed in an effort to effect a lasting relationship between the North and the South. Amerika has in several of its leading articles shown Scandinavians that Lincoln’s plan is the right one." {12}

Marcus Mills (Brick) Pomeroy, Jeffersonian Democrat and propagandist, was editor and publisher of the La Crosse Democrat. He undoubtedly chose Knudsen as his agent in this presidential campaign. The selection of Knudsen to publish a campaign sheet for circulation among the Norwegians is an indication of his standing in the La Crosse County community. {13} [113]

From the meager evidence garnered above, Knud Knudsen apparently attained success in America and was able to find what he was "looking for." He died October 10, 1889, and lies buried in Miller Cemetery, Wiota. {14}


Because I believe that many of my friends both in Drammen and in the surrounding area would like to hear how we fared on our long voyage, and especially about our experiences, I have in all honesty and to the best of my ability written the following report.

On Wednesday, June 12, 1839, at four-thirty in the morning, we weighed anchor preparatory to beginning our journey to America aboard the ship "Emilie" with Ths. Anchersen of Drammen, the ship’s owner, as captain. Since the wind was contrary and of low velocity, the vessel stopped at the moorings right next to the Tangen Shipping Company. From there the captain went back to secure a steamboat to tow us down the fjord. The boat arrived at ten o’clock. As we passed out through Drammensfjord, [Peter] Valeur, the [ministerial] candidate who accompanied us to Goteborg, gave a moving ad dress, admirably adapted to the circumstances of our journey, in which, with obvious spiritual earnestness, he encouraged us all to live moral lives and always have God in our thoughts. By one-thirty we were at Rødtangen, three [Norwegian] miles from Drammen. {16} [114]

After we took leave of an acquaintance from Sandsvær and the captain’s brother, who had accompanied us thus far, lively hurrahs rose from both vessels as a last farewell from the fatherland, friends, and acquaintances. After that we had variable wind and weather through the Christianiafjord.

At ten-thirty that evening, at the Fuglehuks Lighthouse, we dropped the pilot, who was from Svelvik. In every respect the ship was well equipped to continue the journey, and at eleven-thirty we arrived at Færder [Island]. There we got a brisk breeze from the north-northeast, and beautiful weather.

On the thirteenth, at two-thirty in the afternoon, Marstrand [Sweden] came into view. At four-thirty we took a pilot aboard from Wingoe and at six-thirty we passed that point. All sails which could be hoisted were set, in order to reach Goteborg that evening. At nine we passed Ny-Elfsborg Fortress, where we were inspected by an officer who took our passports, which were returned just before our departure. At eleven o’clock we anchored at the dock at the Hotel Klippan, where for the next few days we loaded iron ballast.

Experience revealed to us that it was impossible to exchange money at the official market quotations because there were Jews there who supported themselves by conducting trade in foreign moneys. Their zeal for profit caused them to raise the prices exorbitantly — as of any other merchandise — when many people arrived who needed foreign currency. This situation they were clever enough to detect quietly; when they met people on the street whom they took to be foreigners they engaged them in conversation and inquired where they came from, where they were going, and if they had exchanged their money. If they had not, they promised to exchange at a much lower rate than anyone else. With their remarkable gift of persuasion they were able to dupe many an uninformed per son who believed their smooth words, that it was precisely with them that money could be exchanged and that they were the only ones who could furnish the needed currency — the exact [115] kind that was most valid in America. If the people then replied that they would like to inquire elsewhere, the answer was, "I am offering you such a good bargain that I cannot repeat the offer another time; take it or leave it; I am not making any thing on it," and so on.

If it happened that they already had changed their money, the Jewish brokers immediately asked what rate they had received. Even if the rate were ever so moderate, the Jews claimed that their offer would have been even better. If the foreigners impressed them favorably, they were simply told that they had made a bad mistake, but if he [the broker] sized up the strangers as lacking in understanding, he would declare, "You blockheads! You have surely done it! You have lost a great deal of money. Why didn’t you come to me? I would not only have done better by you, but I would have furnished you with money that is worth more in America."

Because of this situation I would advise everybody from Drammen and that vicinity wishing to emigrate to America to exchange his money with one of the brokers in Drammen well in advance (even five weeks before embarkation), so the money can be ordered and secured by mail from abroad if there is no other way of obtaining it. In this respect these [Drammen] brokers are the most reliable men one can meet, because they are officials commissioned to advise the inexperienced. When we left, Bang, the Drammen broker, displayed such praiseworthy solicitude for us, as to both the contract and other matters we did not understand, that I heartily recommend him to others who may desire to emigrate to America. I am sure he will be just as helpful to others of his countrymen as he was to us.

As the wind was contrary, we lay in Göteborg until four o’clock in the morning of the twenty-second, when we weighed anchor, and, with a light breeze from the east, sailed past Klippan in company with several Norwegian ships. At five thirty we passed Elfsborg, where we had inspection and then continued on our way. At nine we dropped the pilot near [116] Wingöe, after which the ship headed out to sea [the Skaggerak]. The winds were variable but always westerly.

On the twenty-fourth, at eight in the evening, we arrived at the Oxøe Lighthouse outside Kristiansand [Norway]. We tacked our way westward, bucking the contrary wind. On the twenty-fifth, because of the stiff breeze, some of the passengers were very seasick. At eleven o’clock that morning we arrived at Udøefjord, from which harbor we were accompanied by a pilot. We zigzagged back and forth without advancing very far, but as the passengers wished to go ashore and the wind was contrary, the captain decided to seek harbor so they might be refreshed. This port is about one [Norwegian] mile east of Mandal, and at four o’clock in the afternoon we anchored there.

On the twenty-ninth there was wind from the east. We weighed anchor at six-thirty in the morning and set sail after we had taken on a little water and all the passengers had re turned to the ship. At nine o’clock we dropped the pilot at Lindesnæs and set all the sails that could be hoisted. At twelve noon we arrived at Lister [Lista]. On June 30 in the forenoon we set our course toward the English Channel, since the wind was unfavorable for our going north of Scotland. At nine o’clock on Tuesday, July 2, we took our bearings from Gallopers Lightship and at ten-thirty we passed it. This ship lies out in the ocean to serve as a lighthouse for seafarers. At four o’clock in the morning we sighted South Foreland and at seven we passed Dover and Calais. As we sailed close to the English coast, we had a chance to see many towns along the shore. We also observed numerous ships engaged in the coastwise trade and we passed lighthouses, of which there are many along the English coast. Among these I want to mention only the Eddystone Lighthouse, which lies five miles out in the ocean on a small cliff. When the water is high, it rises ‘way above the cliff. During the night of the ninth we sighted Falmouth Lighthouse. During the evening of the tenth we had a pilot cutter from Falmouth alongside the ship and at ten we passed Lizard [117] Point. Because we had contrary wind and weather the whole channel through, we worked our way forward by tacking. That went excellently, as the ship sailed very well. We passed all the other ships in our group. {17}

We then headed toward Ireland. There we wove back and forth for two days before we got past the island and out into the Atlantic Ocean. The winds were variable with alternating rain and sunshine, and storms besides.

My wife, who was pregnant, was delivered of a daughter out on the mid-Atlantic on a quiet, beautiful day. The birth pangs lasted scarcely an hour and a half, the easiest confinement she had ever experienced, she declared. On this occasion the captain was very obliging, both in having food prepared especially for her from his provisions and by practically always supplying her with the same kind of food that he had himself.

Moreover, he showed a sympathetic and friendly attitude toward everybody. Every evening a prayer was said and then we all sang a hymn. This gave us comfort and inspiration during our journey. Nothing is better than thanking Providence, and we lifted up our prayers to him. While we were thus surrounded by the three elements — fire, air, and water — we were all happy, not fearing any danger but thinking only about reaching our destination in that faraway continent.

On August second we grounded on the Newfoundland Banks, the largest and richest fisheries in the world. Here are stationed Frenchmen, Spaniards, Englishmen, Icelanders, and Americans — all engaged in fishing. On the third of August we tried our gear and caught about 70 bismerpund [of fish]. {18} My brother, Jest Knud, caught two halibut, and one of the crew also pulled out one, the three together weighing 15 bismerpund. That was both relaxing and enjoyable.

We often saw large whales, both close to the ship and [118] farther out. They spurted water through the blowholes or nostrils on top of their heads as high as we could see, the water sometimes appearing in the far distance like a great pillar of vapor or smoke rising from a chimney or steamship. More frequently we saw the so-called springer[?] whales that followed the ship. One morning early, when the air was still, we enjoyed a strange spectacle of the grampuses[?] or dolphins. I believe there were thousands of them; they played with one another on the surface of the quiet water at sunrise. At times they hurtled their whole bodies out of the water, or made such other strange leaps that we were filled with wonder. We also saw many other types of fish, such as sharks, mackerel, and so on.

On August twenty-third we sighted Long Island, with its several lighthouses along the coast. On the twenty-fourth a pilot came aboard. Their boats are so beautiful that they appear to have been cast or molded. This made me immediately aware of the artistic sense and greatness of the Americans. This large cutter was manned by several pilots. Only one boarded our ship and the boat sailed on to direct other vessels.

Late in the evening of the twenty-sixth we arrived in New York, where we first sighted two large lighthouses. Later, there were so many lights along both sides of the channel that the ship was all lit up. During the night we reached the quarantine station, where we anchored, about half a Norwegian mile from the city proper. There we stayed almost two days, washed our clothes, and cleaned up in every respect; otherwise we could not land. On the twenty-ninth we went around in New York and saw sights such as we had never expected. Everything astonished us. Here was a numberless fleet of steamboats and ships; here were buildings constructed of hewn marble and elaborately built, most of them seven or eight stories high. In my opinion, it would take days and years to give an adequate account of this city, for in the short time we were there it seemed incomprehensible to me and the others.

I talked with three Norwegians there. One of them was [119] called Captain Tybring, a brother of Mrs. Horn and Mrs. Blich in Drammen; the second was John Brons, son of a man in Tangen; and the third was a skipper from Kragerø. My wife’s two sisters could have obtained jobs there, for the three Norwegians wanted very much to employ them. They could have earned $60 a year, but since wages are higher rather than lower in Illinois, they preferred to accompany us. We applied to a company in New York, where we obtained tickets clear to Illinois at $14 per person; two children under twelve years went for one adult fare; and children under two needed no tickets. We were allowed to take along a hundred pounds of baggage free, but anything in excess of that cost us $1.75 per hundred pounds. That was the arrangement on the Hudson River; farther on we were allowed only fifty pounds per person.

I sincerely urge everyone who wants to go to America to communicate early with the skipper he wishes to travel with. Anyone more skilled in his trade than Captain Anchersen or his mate Overwein can scarcely be found. Despite the fact that neither of them had ever been in America before, we arrived precisely at the place where we were to dock, quite an accomplishment on such a long journey and with such variable winds. They were courteous and attentive toward the passengers in every respect. The captain always provided medicine for us passengers without cost when we were ailing. I would also counsel everyone who undertakes such a journey to supply himself with the kind of provisions that Rynning suggests. {19} We paid too little attention to this and regretted it often later. Since seasickness leads to nausea and exhaustion, it is well to have on hand a variety of provisions for changes in diet. Therefore Rynning’s advice should be care fully heeded. I know from experience that this is true. Lübeck sausage and smoked sausage are very good. [120]

On the twenty-ninth, at six o’clock in the evening, we were ready to depart on a steamboat which towed seven large boats that were just as long as the ship on which we had crossed the ocean, but not so wide. We started up the [Hudson] river at night. In the morning we enjoyed a pleasing scene as we be held the beautiful countryside on both sides. We saw luxuriant trees and delightful meadows with heavy vegetation that was foreign to us. Often when the boat stopped we went ashore to pick apples, which were growing wild. In the pastures, where livestock was grazing, grew large, luxuriant fruit trees.

Along the banks of this river lie many towns, some large, some small. There are numerous steamboats, some carrying passengers, some towing other boats. These steamboats are very skillfully designed. We met one that had two wheels on each side and moved very rapidly downstream. At the same time another came up the river that had quadruple-powered machinery and also moved speedily. Otherwise, there were so many I could not keep count of them.

I feel sincerely that I should mention some of the kindnesses which our noble and kindhearted Captain Anchersen showed us. In Goteborg he gave all the passengers a fresh-meat dinner; in Udøefjord he served us fish; twice in the English Channel and again at the Newfoundland Banks he provided us with halibut, which cost him a lot. Going into Albany ahead of us, he ordered an excellent meal for us passengers at a large hotel. I am sure it cost him between 30 and 40 dollars. The Americans were greatly surprised at this generosity, for they had never before known such concern on the part of captains for their passengers. On the contrary, there was often complaint about their [the captains’] unreasonable demands, and their rudeness was even publicized in the New York press.

I can’t help mentioning that while we were ashore in a little town on the river, John Pedersen from Eger jumped down from a pile of boards on the wharf and broke a leg. Since, in the rush, cloth for bandages required by the doctor could not [121] be had at any price, the captain hurriedly removed one of his shirts — he generally wore two — and immediately tore it up for bandages, saying: "Look at him as in a mirror. {20} God has brought you and me safely across the ocean; now misfortune had to overtake us. For God’s sake do not forget to help him in every way possible." This aroused great admiration among the Americans.

I sincerely hope that many of my countrymen can come over with this great-hearted man. Since both he and his mate are brave, excellent seamen, and since the ship, furthermore, is a remarkable sailer, he is a most dependable man whom I can wholeheartedly recommend to you. {21}

While I was traveling from Albany to the town of Schenectady in a railroad car, I felt the urge to describe this mechanical wonder in the following words:

  Oh Norway’s son! You rest content
With the little you know and comprehend.
But I go forth to far-off lands
And see the beauties of the arts.
Here numerous wonders I behold
Which liberate man from sweat and toil.
Wherever improvements can be made,
This land will surely take the lead.
  No sooner had the clock struck eight
Than the iron horse began to roll.
The speed with which we raced along
Was indescribable and strange!
All fourteen heavy railway ears,
Which totaled many hundred tons,
Were pulled along by one machine:
Our marvelous steam conveyance. [122]
  We rolled up hill, We rolled down dale;
We passed through channels in the earth
And over bridges spanning valleys wide.
Strange indeed the railways are
Which carry us forward with such ease
Entranced I sat and gazed about
But time, alas, was all too brief!

On the first of September, 1839, we said farewell for the last time to Captain Anchersen, who had accompanied us by train to Schenectady, a distance of about sixteen English miles. There we began the so-called Erie Canal trip. This canal is 363 English miles long and has eighty-five locks or sluices measuring between eight and ten feet in height. It starts at Albany and ends at Buffalo. Along the canal are located sixty-four towns or cities, some of which are two or three times as large as Christiania, Norway’s capital, and each has seven, eight, or nine churches. Besides these, there are many smaller towns with one or two churches. Also, there are stores at every lock. We marveled often at how this canal was laid through the hills and across dales; but when we arrived at Lockport, there were even greater things to see. This city is situated thirty [English] miles below Buffalo. {22} There we floated up a high hill through five successive locks, ten to fourteen feet tall. The job done there was amazing. The canal was dug through a mountain ridge which I estimated to be nearly half a Norwegian mile in extent. The whole canal, when completed, cost nine million dollars.

Now they are going to spend fifteen million dollars extra on this same canal, some for digging new channels where the old one curves, and some in making it twice as wide and several feet deeper. This project employs several thousand people, besides machines and horses. I estimated that about a third of the work was already finished. When it is completed, [123] steamboats will be used instead of horse-drawn boats. There are over four thousand canalboats continually making stops at the docks. These boats are provided with beautiful rooms and a cargo space in the center for chests and other freight. They are drawn by two or three horses. Along the canal is a railway, where those who want to go faster and who do not have much baggage may travel by train. It is sad to see how the land along the canal lies untilled and how little work the farmer does for his own well-being. But since much of the land in the state of New York is covered with extensive forests, people generally pass it by and go farther west to Illinois and Missouri. There lie large, level, almost treeless plains which do not need to be cleared, and yet there are woods enough for essential needs.

After being on the canal for six days, we arrived at Buffalo late one evening. In the morning I was out early to tour the city. I soon spied a great many vessels at the docks, among which were large full-rigged ships. But I was still more astonished when I saw sixteen steamboats, all fired with wood in stead of coal. I had found the same phenomenon in New York also. When I expressed my surprise to a man in the city at seeing so many steamships this far in the interior and on inland waters, he said there were not so many here now; most of them were cruising in other places. In all the cities there are many different kinds of factories, operated by either steam or water power. But since the land is so level, there are few waterfalls and consequently nearly all machinery is run by steam. It is difficult for anyone who has not seen this country’s riches to appreciate them, and if I listed some of them, probably people in Norway would accuse me of lying. Therefore, I have decided to keep quiet and not say anything. Should any of them happen to see these things for themselves, they would undoubtedly realize the truth.

When we arrived in Rochester, we talked to a Norwegian from Stavanger who lives there. He told us that Ole Aasland of Numedal, who came over last summer, lives thirty [124] English miles north of Rochester. {23} Since the boat continued on its way, however, none of us could get in touch with him.

The tanner, Christian Knudsen from Drammen, also lives in Rochester. I learned about this half an hour before we left the city, and hurriedly went to see him but found only his wife at home, and she was much surprised to see me. She said they were well satisfied but also told me that they would like to go farther west, to Indiana, which many others are doing, as the land there is more fertile.

On September 8, 1839, at eleven o’clock, we were ready to take off on a large steamship loaded with hundreds of persons of different nationalities, traveling on this vast body of water beginning at Buffalo, called Lake Erie. The boat was equipped with tremendously large machinery and sped along rapidly. There were also three engineers on board. The ship touched at all ports along the coast to take on passengers and wood and to let other passengers disembark. The waves were so rough that the water gushed across the second deck, which was very high. Even the first deck was far above the water. There are always Negroes on board these steamboats, to serve as cooks and attendants. Since I could speak the language somewhat, I engaged them in conversation and found them to be especially good-natured and polite toward strangers. I believe they surpass all other people in kindness.

I would not advise anyone to take along Norwegian and Danish money, as it is not exchangeable here, at least not without a great loss. On the other hand, English, Spanish, and French money are accepted at the regular rate. The Dutch l0-guilder piece is worth $4.00 here; the sovereign, $4.84; the franc, 94 cents; the Spanish piaster is equal in value to the American dollar, which is worth 100 cents or 100 [Scandinavian] shillings; likewise, the Spanish doubloons are among the best (doubloons are figured in piasters) . Often you cannot get a quarter of a dollar for a Dutch guilder, but sometimes you get [125] a little more. It happens frequently that these have been clipped; one must always beware of these coins. The Americans often toss such coins on the scales and then one has to be satisfied with their silver value or else take them back.

On Lake Erie I was moved to write two verses, inspired by my wonderment over America’s varied accomplishments. (They are set to the tune of Blandt Norges fjelde er jeg født.)

  O noble freedom, you are great,
You crown the lands both far and near.
You scatter over lands and seas
The gifts of art to all mankind.
The steamers ply the watery ways
And railways serve the land meanwhile.
The giant, steam, with mighty arms
Turns the wheels on sea and shore.
At times we rode the billows high
Or floated o’er the glassy sea.
Mighty streams in valleys deep
Furrowed the bosom of the earth.
Canals are dug where’er demanded,
To serve the heart land of the nation
And bring the overflowing yields
To cities where the thousands dwell.

From New York to Detroit we traveled 825 miles and moved our chests only twice. We have everything we had longed for, and are convinced that we will find what we are looking for. {24}


<1> Knudsen’s original account, Beretning om en reise fra Drammen i Norge til New-York i Nord-America, appeared in Drammen, Norway, in 1840. A facsimile reissue was published by O. M. Norlie (Decorah, Iowa, 1926). A copy of the latter is in the archives of the Norwegian-American Historical Association at St. Olaf College, Northfield.

<2> Theodore C. Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825—1860, 115 (Northfield, 1931); Ministerial Records, Wiota Lutheran Church, Wiota, Wisconsin, NAHA Archives; Ansten Nattestad to Peter Valeur, November 6, 1839, in Theodore C. Blegen, ed., Land of Their Choice: The Immigrants Write Home, 65 (Minneapolis, 1955); S. G. Miogan], "Clemet Tostensen Stabeck og Rock Runsettlementet," in Numedalslagets Aarbok, no.11, p. 49—53 (1925).

<3> Johan R. Reiersen to Hans Gasmann, December 12, 1843, quoted in Reiersen, Veiviser for norske emigranter til de Forenede Nord-Amerikanske Stater og Texas, xi (Christiania, 1844). In 1846 Iowa County was partitioned into Iowa and Lafayette counties, and Wiota became part of the latter.

<4> Reiersen to Gasmann, December 12, 1843, quoted in Reiersen, Veiviser for norske emigranter, xi.

<5> Quoted in Reiersen, Veiviser for norske emigranter, xxviii.

<6> Tosten Kjttlesen Stabæk, "Beretning om en reise til California i 1852," in Numedalslagets Aarbok, no. 14, p. 62—85 (1928); United States Census, 1870, Population, 215. Stabæk’s account was translated by Einar I. Haugen in Norwegian-American Historical Association, Studies and Records, 4: 99—124 (1929). Knudsen came to be called "California Knud" and "Cal Knud"; C. O. Solberg to O. M. Norlie, July 26, 1944, Knud Knudsen Papers, NAHA Archives. C. O. Solberg was a grandson of Ole Nattestad.

<7> Information about Knudsen’s property holdings came from the following sources in Wisconsin: register of deeds of La Crosse County, La Crosse; register of deeds of Lafayette County, Darlington, courtesy of Mr. O. C. Monson; Charles R. Whaley, tax assessor, La Crosse; assessment rolls for Iowa County, State Historical Society at Madison; Mrs. Gilman Hansen to the writer, July 15, 1965, quoting the abstract of deed of the Knudsen homestead. Mr. and Mrs. Hansen are the present owners of the property.

<8> Ann Van Meter of Browntown, Wisconsin, to the writer, July 15, 1965. Mrs. Van Meter’s husband was a great-grandson of Knudsen.

<9> Clarence A. Clausen and Andreas Elviken, eds., A Chronicle of Old Muskego: The Diary of Søren Bache, 1839—1847, 210 (Northfield, 1951); "Nordlyset and Maanedstidende Records Book," 12, in NAHA Archives.

<10> At this service Knudsen’s son George, who was born August 6, 1843, was baptized, and Knudsen and his wife, Johanne Hendrichsdatter, were communicants; Ministerial Records, Wiota Lutheran Church.

<11> "Kirke bog for de norsk lutherske menigheder paa Jefferson Prairie," 166, 168, 176, 188, 207—209, and Ministerial Records, Wiota Lutheran Church — both in NAHA Archives; J. W. C. Dietrichson, Reise blandt de norske emigranter i de Forenede Nordamerikanske Fristater, 80—83 (Stavanger, Norway, 1846). Other Sons born to Knudsen were baptized in 1846 and 1849. He signed the by-laws of the congregation in 1851, and contributed toward the building of the church and the parsonage. Wiota Lutheran Church Archives, Wiota parsonage; Wiota Lutheran Church 1844—1937, 7, 25—27, 37 (Darlington, Wisconsin, n.d.); United States Census, 1870, Population, 215.

<12> Clausen and Elviken, eds., A Chronicle of Old Muskego, 210; Amerika (La Crosse, Wisconsin), September 10, October 22, 1868; Arlow W. Andersen, The Immigrant Takes his Stand: The Norwegian-American Press and Public Affairs, 1847—1872, 13, 115, 141 (Northfield, 1953). A partial microfilm file of Amerika is in the library of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. The quotation is from the issue of October 1, 1868. In the October 22 issue, Johan Schroeder, who was pro-Lincoln, announced himself as the new owner and editor.

<13> Skandinaven (Chicago), June 24, 1868; Fædrelandet og Emigranten (La Crosse), June 24, 1868; La Crosse Daily Democrat, May 28, 1868; Dictionary of American Biography, 15:53.

<14> Mrs. M. O. Monson of Wiota to the writer, June, 22 1965.

<15> The writer is greatly indebted to Professor Clarence A. Clausen of St. Olaf College for assistance in editing and translating, especially with reference to maritime terminology. The translation of the verses is his.

<16> The emigrants had petitioned the church of Norway to ordain Peter Valeur for pastoral service among them in America. In November Ansten Nattestad, one of the group, wrote from Jefferson Prairie, Wisconsin, that his community could not support a pastor; Clausen and Elviken, eds., A Chronicle of Old Muskego, 191n; Blegen, ed., Land of Their Choice, 65. A Norwegian mile equals seven English miles.

<17> The Eddystone Rocks are a reef in the English Channel south of Plymouth. On, a peninsula to the west are Falmouth and then Lizard Point, the latter the southernmost spot in England and the last to be passed in a direct westward journey.

<18> A bismerpund equals about twelve pounds.

<19> See Theodore C. Blegen, ed., Ole Rynning’s True Account of America (Norwegian-American Historical Association, Travel and Description Series, vol. 1 —Minneapolis, 1926). Rynning’s book originally appeared in Christiania in 1838.

<20> The original phrase, "Speil eder nu ham," is meaningless as it stands, and must be incomplete. The captain probably wanted to emphasize that misfortune might strike the other passengers next and that it would be wise for them to help one another.

<21> Here these lines are interpolated: "Albany, September 1, 1839. Knud Knudsen. Ansteen Natstad. Clemet Stabæk. T. Hougkjem. L. Røstoe. Gullik Gravdal." The second part of the account follows.

<22> Lockport, one of the last points on the westward journey along the canal, is actually northeast of Buffalo.

<23> Ole Aasland took a group of poor emigrants to Kendall Township, Orleans County, New York, in 1888, on condition that they repay him in labor. See Blegen, Norwegian Migration, 1825—1860, 108, 109n.

<24> At the conclusion of the narrative these words follow: "Detroit, Michigan, September 10, 1899, Knud Knudsen. Gullik Holt. Jens Bagge. S. Berghei. Clemet Stabæk. Ansteen Natstad. Lars Rostoe from Land. Kittil Nyhuus. Gullik Blag stad. Hellik Glaim. Hans Langruud. Niri Fulsaas."

<<   Previous Page   |   Next Page   >>

To the Home Page