My Norwegian EmigrantsBy Louise M. Olson
By way of introduction, Louise M. Olson, wife of Roy Olson, and the youngest daughter of Casper and Gjertine Cornelius; and the youngest sister of my brother Martin who emigrated to America in 1887. I am 79 years old and Roy 84 years old now in 1977. We are retired and now living with our daughter Doris and Oscar Garcia in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I am very much interested in our relatives as well as our folks who emigrated from Norway, so now in my spare time I have decided to write this article.
I have been able to write this article with the help of several sources. My father was secretary of the “Viknalag Society” which edited their book “Viknavaeringer in America.” Also my niece Ruth, my brother’s daughter had attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and she wrote an article for the college entitled “How I Became an American.”
This is Ruth’s 1940s article.
Way up under the Arctic Circle on the Norwegian Coast, there is a chain of islands known as the Vikten Islands. Here the fisherman’s huts are smaller and less frequent, and the vegetation more scanty. It is a place where the midnight sun softly shines night and day with a strange unearthly light. Here because there is something new and strange, wild legends of trolls who lived in the mountains have been told for centuries. In Lekø, where Gjertine lived, they told the legend of the Lekø Lady. This is how she told it to Ruth.
A long time ago all the islands were inhabited by big monstrous giants or trolls. In there lived a troll and a fair lady with great charms, and at Hestmanden, 9 miles north, a valorous giant. The giant fell in love with the Leka Møya, but she refused his proposal of marriage. Enraged by this he resolved to kill her. As most of the inhabitants were and are today good archers, he took his bow and shot an arrow at the maiden. At first the arrow passed through Torghatten and pierced a round hole in the mountain which can be seen today and then the arrow struck off her head. As it was getting near morning the rays of the sun touched them and they turned into stone for they had ventured out too long in the day. This legend has passed down generation after generation in our family and the Lekø lady is still standing today.
Here in these islands Casper’s ancestors had lived for many generations in tiny fishermen’s huts made of flattened logs, painted red and roofed with earth and birchbark. In these secluded islands far from the turmoil of the outer world, Casper’s grandfather, Korneilius Hallesssen was born in 1824. He was a tailor as well as a farmer and a fisherman and was well known all over the islands. He married Ane Paulsdatter of the Vikten Islands. She was born in 1831. On Christmas Eve, in 1865, he was drowned at sea. This left her and her three sons and one daughter practically penniless. Nine years later in 1874, she married Anton Taralson.
One of these sons was Casper Cornelieus, who was only five when his father drowned. Casper was alos a fisherman. He worked on Leka Island for a Mr. Sverdrup. Gjertine also worked there. They were married in 1884. When Gjertine came to Vikna to live, Casper and his stepfather Anton and her brother-in-law Albert, rowed her in a boat the 28 miles between the islands. Gjertine brought along from her home a spinning wheel, a goat, a sheep, a trunk and a “skrin.” When she came to America, she brought her spinning wheel with her.
Gjertine’s grandfather drowned at sea going to another island to buy Christmas presents. Her grandmother was only a small girl when her father drowned. She was born on Leka Island in 1825.
She married quite young to Ole Baardsen, a fisherman, and moved to the island of Hortavaer, near Leka.
This drowning left Gjertine’s mother with three girls and a boy. This boy died of some kind of fever or croup on the Lofoten Islands. Aunt Mary was six year old, my mother Gjertine was four and Aunt Lena was born in April after her father drowned. My mother remembered the last time she saw her father. My mother’s name was Gjertine Nikolena Olsdatter, and she was born in Hortvaer in 1856. As her father drowned when she was five and a half, her mother lived with her sister in Kolvereid for a while. Gjertine then left home to live with relatives in Rappen. She attended school there and was confirmed. When she was eighteen, she left for Vaagen where she worked with her mother until she was twenty-two.
My mother Gjertine, and her mother while working for Mr. Sverdrup, tended sheep, goats and cattle and took care of the barns. In addition to this they made butter and cheese and took care of the housework as the men were seldom home during the fishing season. They also carded and spun wool and knitted cloth out of the wool for clothes and blankets. Mother brought a “skinfeld” with her to America. This had a woven cloth on one side and a sheep skin on the other side. My mother was working at this time for Mr. Sverdrup where she met Casper. They were married in the Garstad Church in Vikna on June 8. 1884. Casper served in the army for a time as was required of all young men. The army post was at Steinkjer.
Continued next time.