St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Frac oil drilling insights

My old high school friend Bill stopped  over last weekend to catch up on what is happening with us. He had just spent a week trout fishing with his son down in frac sand country.  It got us to talking about the sand and oil wells and fracking.   

The conversation turned to his son who works in the oil fields in ND with one of the major drilling companies as an oil engineer, working with fracking well development.  What follows is my best recollection of what I learned from Bill, who had spent time talking to his son about the work.  I pressed him about safety and other issues.   Although these are not his words exactly, but I will write it conversationally as I remember him telling it to me. 

People worry about oil well drilling and fracking polluting the water.  That happens only if the oil driller is not careful when grouting the wells.  A well is drilled deep, maybe 10,000 feet, right through the water table.  On the way down, and as the well is created, it is grouted—concrete is pumped down to line the hole.  It is critical that the grouting is done responsibly—that the right concrete for the conditions and the right amount and procedures are used and experienced engineers are in charge.  The problems that have shown up are from careless drilling.  Our company is very very fussy to do this right—you don’t want to pollute the water and have all the problems that come from that any more than the folks who live nearby.  So when you hear about that kind of thing, it means the drilling company hasn’t done things the way they should.  We spend a lot of time getting things exactly right—doing more than what is needed instead of cutting corners.  Oil wells make enough money that there is no excuse to do them on the cheap.  

The holes go down deep—maybe 10,000 feet and then turn and head off in side directions—maybe even 5 different pipes.  Each pipe is double – a pipe and a liner.  There is a shortage of pipes, and some of the foreign ones are not good enough quality to use.  The American steel industry is starting back up some plants just to make the miles of pipeline (maybe 15 needed on a well).  Takes them a while to get the plants back in production, but should create jobs for mining iron ore and steel making.   Most of the steel comes from recycled materials now. 

Living in ND is difficult.  Housing is hard to find and expensive.  Going out to eat is a problem—way to many folks to get served quickly.  The most profitable McDonalds is out here and it doesn’t serve inside, just drive through.  Even Wal-Mart doesn’t look the same—stuff is not put on shelves, just left on pallets.  They can’t get enough employees and things sell so fast. 
You don’t want to go out to a bar—too much chance of getting in a fight.  Just like the wild west.  

Anybody who can pass a drug test can get a job if they are willing to work—lots of overtime, lots of truck driving jobs; even construction as they build more housing.    Very good pay for most jobs—have to or people won’t work for you.  There is no tolerance at my job for any folks who are on drugs or even come in tipsy—don’t want anyone messing with your safety and the well being done right.  

There are about 218 drilling rigs active right now. You can find out that stuff at   My son is headed to Alaska later in the year where a group of Texas investors have been drilling upslope from the existing oil wells.  You know, production up there is down, and they think there is more oil further up the hills.   He might go to Australia next year.  They are heavy into natural gas there.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Polk Fair Winners

I entered two stories and a poem at the 2012 Polk Co Fair and got 2 blues and a red.  Here they are
Yarn of Yesteryear

Sex Education on the Farm or Udderly Stumped

   I grew up on a farm where animals were making love all of the time, often without proper marriages or courtships and sometimes in polygamous relationships.  We milked cows for a living, had dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese and sometimes borrowed the neighbor’s bull for a visit to our farm.  Visits by the Inseminator added a little confusion, but by 7th grade we farm boys were fully educated, just a little in the dark as to correct terminology. 
   My church gave me clear guidance.  Everything before marriage was absolutely wrong—dancing, petting, kissing, thinking, TV, movies, self-abuse, etc. all leading to moral decay, drugs and spindly girly men headed straight for hell. After marriage advice was limited to divorce, coveting your neighbor and adultery as additional paths to hell.
 We began our sex education with questions to the adults around us.
     Why is the bull so ornery?  “You would be ornery if you were kept in a pen or tied up all day long too!”
     What does the bull do when you shut the barn doors and leave the cow in?  “He is being a Daddy.”
     Why can’t we watch the bull being a daddy?  “When you are older.”
     How long does it take?  “Oh about 20 seconds.”
     Why does the rooster keep jumping on the hens and pecking their heads?  “He is ornery too.”
     Why did the Tom Cat kill the baby kittens.  “They had a different Daddy.”
     Why is the momma cat yowling so much today?  “Give her some milk, she must be hungry.”
     Why did Lady have one puppy that looks so different?  “He had a different Daddy then the others.”
     Does Lady have two husbands?  “Dogs are different then people.”
      Why is that cow jumping up and riding the other cow?   “She is just lazy and wants a free ride to the pasture.”
     When does the ‘seminator man come again?  (He gives us kids a piece of candy!)  “The artificial inseminator comes when a cow is in heat”
     Does he give the cow some aspirin for her temperature?  “You got it wrong, he is putting a calf inside the cow.”
     Can we watch?  “When you are older.” 
     Why does he wear such long gloves and what are the straws for?  “I hear your mother calling.” 
     Why did our heifer jump the fence and run away to the neighbors?  “She wanted to visit the bull over there.”
     Why are we pulling so hard?  “The calf is stuck and the cow will die if we don’t pull him out.”
     My farm friends at school were no better educated.  “Gina raised her hand and I could see her bag through her armhole!” bragged Don at recess. 
   “Listen you dummy, you don’t call it a bag on a girl, that’s only on a cow”
   “Well, what do you call it?”   We were stumped.  Udders?
     Finally SCFHS gave a sex education class.  The boys were in one and the girls in another.  Dr. Riegel talked to us with a priest and minister sitting in.  There were no pictures and very few words we understood in the short talk.  We did gather that it took a guy and a girl to have a baby and that we shouldn’t be thinking about it until after we are married.  “Cold showers will keep you pure.” “Self abuse is wrong—more cold showers”  “Are there any questions?”   Of course no one dared ask a question.
     Eventually I got married and got on the job training.  

*****   Story of 500 words or less -- I wrote this story to explain my knee brace to my great nieces and nephews

A Great Fall

Once upon a time, there was a not too young prince, Prince Russ, who liked to build and fix things.  One day, he said to his brother, Prince Everett, and his nephew, Prince Bryce, “Let’s fix the roof on the sawmill shed on Thursday.”  After the usual amount of grumpling, Prince Everett and Prince Bryce agreed.

On Thursday, they met at the sawmill shed.   “Who will fix the roof?” asked Prince Russ.  “Not I,” said Prince Everett, “I have to fix the posts.”   “Not I”, said Prince Bryce, “I have to use my tractor to clear the slabs.”  “Well, then I will,” said Prince Russ.  And he proceeded to climb to the top of the 100 foot step ladder with a huge board to fix the roof. 

Just then a terrible earthquake started shaking the ground.  Prince Russ hung on to the ladder with all his might.  The ladder swayed left; the ladder swayed right; the ladder jumped up and down.  Prince Russ had a great fall.  All of Cushing’s First Responders and all of St. Croix’s doctors couldn’t put Prince Russ together again. 

A big white ambulance rushed Prince Russ to the World Famous Mayo Clinic where Dr.  Sems, cut open his leg on both sides to look at the bone.  “Oh, my,” said Nurse Johnson.  “Bring me my Sears electric drill,” ordered Dr. Sems, “and bring me all the metal screws, plates, and hinges that are in the janitors shop.”  Then Dr. Sems took the bones from the knee to the ankle, which he called the Fibula and Tibia, and started putting them together again.   He put in 12 stainless steel screws.  He put in two silver spoons.  He put in a stainless steel strap that was used for holding a muffler on a car.  “Good as new!” he exclaimed after three hours and using up all of his hardware. 

“Go home and wait for 100 days and then learn how to walk and everything will be fine, said Dr. Sems.  And he was right, except for one thing, Prince Russ had so much iron and steel in his leg, that every night in bed, he rolled and turned around until his leg pointed north like a compass.  Although this was a bother at first, Prince Russ never got lost again when he was hunting or camping, because his leg always pointed north!  

Poem (only a Red ribbon here)
                     Deer Santa
Twas the night before Christmas, at the cabin on the lake
The only creature stirring was Margo beginning to bake.
The stocking were hung by the stove pipe with care
In hopes they’d dry out before day would be there.

The mice were all snug in their tiny little beds
While visions of cookie crumbs danced in their heads.
And Margo in her apron, while I took a nap,
Had just started mixing some fresh ginger snaps.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains and scraped frost off the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a grizzled old buck, a huge white-tail deer.

He made not a sound, but went straight to his work,
And emptied all the feeders, then turned with a jerk.
And giving a snort from way too much greed,
Bucked trash can over and spilled all the seed. 

He ate forty dollars worth of fancy bird food,
Then turned to the feeders in a dangerous mood.
And knocked them about and then to the ground
And stomped them to pieces with nary a sound.

He searched all about for any more plunder,
While I yelled curses and hollered like thunder.
I opened the door and gave a sharp whistle,
As he headed towards my bucket of thistle.

He chomped it all down, with hardly a pause,
Then turned to examine my air filled Claus.
With sharp pointed antlers, he gave it a poke,
And down went Santa, air spewing like smoke.  

I took out my gun, and shot high over head
To to scare him away with a hail of lead.
He looked all about, to find more to eat
But nothing was left, so he made his retreat. 

As he walked slowly off, he turned back his head,
And I read in his eye; it gave me much to dread. 
“I’ll be back real soon,” ere he went out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to you and to all a good night.”

There were about 10 entries in all.  We earned many ribbons on apples, butter, maple syrup products, and some other of our 25 entries.  We spent most of our time hosting the 160 year old school house museum on the fair grounds and counted a total of over 1400 people stopping in to visit during the 4 days of the fair.  This was our 8th year to help out.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Polk County Fair St. Croix Falls, WI

Margo and I are helping host the historic school house at the fair this year

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Margo ailing

Margo, my wife of 40 years, has been having tests this week at Mayo Clinic.  The results show breast cancer with a possibility of having spread to some lymph nodes.  She has more test Friday and next week and it appears that she will begin treatment after that.  The treatment will start with chemotherapy.  More information as things happen.  She is handling it well.

Send her a note to margowh at and wish her good luck.

Update Monday July 23   -- tests show cancer in one breast spread to some lymph nodes.  More tests yet this week, visits with the treatment people and probably chemo starting in early August for 4 months, followed by surgery followed by radiation. She is taking it OK.  Generally we are quite optimistic that things will turn out fine after a long stretch of treatments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

County Fair, Haying, and Health

Most July days in the 1950s and 60s would have found the Hanson Boys
out in the hay field sweating away whether it was 90 or 100 degrees.
When I first started we still used a hay loader pulled behind the hay wagon
that brought the hay up onto the load.  I started driving the B Farmall on
a real steep hill.  The loader came loose, rolled backwards down the big steep hill,
and gracefully a big arc at the bottom never even tipping at all.  I was 9 at the time.
Dad just had me circle around and come back and re-hook up (better this time) and we
just kept on working.  Quite exciting for a kid.  
Spent the first two days of this week at the Polk County Fair grounds preparing the Red Schoolhouse for next week's county fair.  The Polk County Genealogy Society is hosting it this year.  I put two window air conditioners in and will have the school the Cool Spot at the fair.  Centurylink is putting wireless in at the fair office and at the 4-H building and we are hopeful of getting a signal to the school house so we can do some online genealogy, the way everything is going nowadays.  The building has metal clad siding which does present a problem for getting the signal through the walls.  If it works, we will bill ourselves as "The Coolest Hot Spot at the Fair."  Drop in next Thursday - Sunday 9-9 and you may catch us there taking a urn being hosts.  We have a lot of fruits, vegetables, and other stuff to take as exhibitors, so this coming week will be getting it all ready.  Have a decent pumpkin already to go--just have to disconnect the IV with growth hormone going directly into the stem.

An early hay rake was made to look like a bunch of hay forks  each helping
to gather the hay into windrows.  The photos were taken a few years ago near
Grantsburg at the Morris Blomgren auction.  It was huge, and I took photos of

Nothing new to report on my 9 weeks of Myasthenia Gravis. Still waiting for prednisone to slow down the production of antibodies attacking my nerve-muscle connection.  My latest description of MG;   A bunch of beavers are building dams on the streams that run from my brain to my muscles.  Medicine one, mestinon, puts them to sleep for a few hours and medicine two, prednisone, attempts to kill them off.  

Generally I can function OK--nothing much physical because I tire almost immediately trying to do anything that involves voluntary muscles (breathing, eating, walking, typing, etc.).  However, my mind is razor sharp; I have no pain, I am comfortable and can do the normal things of daily living--just not the strenuous things.

Margo is having tests today at Mayo.  She had a mammogram that picked up a lump and also had a few lumps under an arm.  Today she gets a biopsy and MRI.  This is to rule out cancer, and rule in benign cysts.  She will find out the results tomorrow.  Scary business getting old.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stokely's Finest String Beans

    Stringbeans spilled out from the broken 4x4x4 wood box and spread all around it on the ground.  It was my first day on the job with Stokelys field crew and I already had screwed up!  Riding around the field, standing on the back of the Chisholm-Ryder bean picker while Conrad drove it slowly down the two rows of beans, my only responsibility was to make sure the box dumped safely to the ground so Clarence could pick it up and load it on the truck with the forklift tractor. As Conrad pulled the trip lever, I hopped off the trailer as the box slid off quickly onto the ground hitting with a jolt that broke it apart and spilled the beans. 

   Clarence climbed off the backwards Ford forklift tractor, “Some of these bean boxes are rotten and should be thrown away—but Stokelys is too cheap to buy new ones.  You gotta hold it back so it comes sliding down real slow”   He helped me clip the box back together and drove away as I spent the next half hour refilling a handful at a time.    

   We worked out of the Frederic plant.  The harvest season started after the 4th of July holiday and lasted until the freeze in September or until all the fields were done and my brother Everett and I returned to River Falls College

    Each machine was a modified tractor—raised higher and underslung with double rollers on each side to pick the beans, a conveyor belt under the belly to run them back under a hydraulically run fan to suck out the leaves and then up to dump into one of two adjacent wood boxes on a short trailer behind.  They were big, clumsy, noisy machines that along with we 16 field crew, ground our way through thousands of acres of string beans spread from Hastings MN to Indian Creek WI over a three month season.   

    There were eight machines, each with a two-man crew along with a couple of fieldmen, mechanics, and the truck drivers.  At Hastings we were put up at the old Gardner Hotel on main street – no air conditioning, a bathroom per floor down the hall, and three or more per room with cots here and there.  We bought and paid for our own meals and kept the receipts for reimbursement during the two weeks we stayed at Hastings before moving the machines back to Wisconsin and again living at home.

        The work was dull; in the field from sunrise to sunset for three months; seven days a week with most weeks between 90 and 100 hours.  We drove the machines 1.25 miles per hour back and forth on fields moving from farm to farm as the beans grew ready for the factory in Frederic.  We needed to pick enough to keep it going 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   

    What kept the job entertaining were the people who worked on the crew.  There were a mixture of retired farmers, a few college students like my brother Everett and I trying to make enough money for another year of school, and some “regulars” who worked there every year starting early in the spring with bean planting and continuing into late fall with the picking and then machinery maintenance.  The regulars depended on unemployment during the winter.  Most of them were in their 50s or early 60s.  Uncle Lloyd, a regular, got us on.  We were “farm boys, used to running machinery, needing money for college.”  He personally vouched for us and we didn’t want to let him down!

    While we were at Hastings, a few of the men who were away from home and their wives, went directly to the Gardner bar when they came in at 9 pm and spent the next 4 hours drinking, a few hours in bed and then at 5:00 am getting up for breakfast at the café across the road and heading to the fields.  After a few days of this they were pretty tired and cross. 

    Coogan was probably in his 60s (or maybe in his 40s showing signs of a hard life) whose nickname meant “little barrel” in Norwegian, was named for his ability to hold beer.  After a hard night, he fell asleep on the tractor and soon the huge unit was heading cornerwise across the field aiming for the fence.  Reynold chased after him and hollered until he woke up.

    Levi was normally an easy going guy.  He doubled as a mechanic and did a good job.  However, after a few days at Hastings, away from his wife, he started to look pretty haggard; unshaven, unbathed and bleary eyed.  Clarence drove the forklift and came up behind Levi riding on the back of the picker and motioned to dump the bean box for loading on the truck.  Levi got off and jumped on the forklift and punched Clarence in the mouth.  Later when we asked why he did it, “It just seemed to me Clarence needed to be punched” was all he would say.

    Most of the time we road to and from Frederic with Emeryn in Marty, his 1949 Chevrolet four door.  The car was falling to pieces with boards covering the holes in the floor.  Every time he hit a little bump, the front wheels would start wobbling and the whole car shook until he wrenched the steering wheel hard left and back straight to calm it down.  He raised beans on his farm near Trade River.  Some years were good, many not so good.  After a very good year with his whole farm in beans we kidded another Trade River crewman, Conrad, “You must be rich now!”  “No, yust moderately well ta do,” he replied with a broad smile in his Swedish brogue.

   One summer was particularly dry and dusty.  By the time we came in to punch out on the Stokelys factory time clock in the late evening, we were really dirty.  There were always some other people from the plant waiting in the timeclock line to punch in and out.  “Must be pretty dry out there someone would usually comment,” looking at us.  “Yup,” replied Lloyd one night, “it’s so dusty it gets in your lungs real bad,” and then raised his closed hand to his mouth with a loud long cough sprayed the room with dust to the shocked then laughing people.  He had brought a handful all the way back from the field and with his cough blew it all over for a joke!

    One day, Emeryn finished a field last and headed out fast to catch up with the others already leaving for the next field.  He took a shortcut through the ditch and in the tall grass dropped the front wheel into a cement culvert and folded it right back under, bending the whole mechanism of bean picker #1.  He was kidded mercilessly thereafter and at any new field it was “better let Emeryn go first and find the culverts.”  Old #1 was never the same after that.

   I got old #2 in its fourth year when the engine was pretty worn.  It used a quart of oil and had lost some of its power and road speed.  Ray, the mechanic, said it was due for an engine overhaul that winter.    

    Whenever we finished one farmer’s field, the fieldman, Martin or Ernie told one of the crew where the next field was.  Often it was a few miles and a complicated set of directions.  As we finished, we emptyed our loads and in sort of a strung out parade headed to the next field following the leader.  Sometimes we were too far behind and got lost.  Number 2 and I straggled farther and father behind the parade as the season progressed.   

   I mentioned this to Uncle Lloyd, who said with a hint of a smile “a person could adjust the throttle rod to get more rpms, but the mechanics would not approve.”    Parking away from the others, one night after work, Everett and I got our wrenches out and adjusted it a lot.  After that, even with a weak engine, I could now keep up, and actually pull away from the others if I had wanted to.  Over the winter, #2 was overhauled and next season, Clarence (who had seniority) took it.  He seemed to be the one that always struck out first for the next field, and driving wide open with a fresh engine and the speeded up throttle, left us in the dust.   After a few weeks of this, Everett and I stayed late one night and undid our previous adjustment and added a few extra turns for good measure. 

   “I don’t know what is wrong with #2, but it just don’t seem to have any git anymore,” Clarence complained a few days later while we were greasing up.  Uncle Lloyd looked over at Everett and me and with a mostly suppressed grin replied, “You know Clarence, maybe you damaged it driving it so hard when you were breaking in the new rings.” 

    With little to keep from getting bored, people did odd things.  One week, Willie chose to pull up tightly behind Everett with his front wheel almost touching the big back trailer wheel ahead.  When Everett speeded up, so did Willie.  Getting very annoyed, Everett watched until Willie was daydreaming and then suddenly stepped on his clutch coming to a stop while pretending to have trouble with the blower.  Willie drove right into the back wheel ahead of him, snapping the bolt on his own front wheel requiring a long explanation to the mechanic how he drove into a machine in front of him.  Everett never looked back.
    The first years we all rode to the field in a beat up old Carryall passenger van.  It was in pretty 
rough shape, but the motor had been overhauled.  Stokelys was notoriously cheap and although we complained, never got around to fixing many problems it had.    One day when I was driving the crew through Osceola coming home from the fields, a cop pulled us over and said “Your brake light is burned out.  I’m giving you a fix-it ticket.”  “This vehicle belongs to Stokelys not me,” I replied.  “Well, I’ll give you a fix-it ticket to give to Stokelys.”   “You know,” I said, “the turning signal doesn’t work either.” “OK, I will add that to the ticket,” said the Cop.    Then Everett said, “The emergency brake won’t work either.” “The dash lights are out too” added Willie.  “You know, the front end shakes and it steers bad to the left,“ added Lloyd and Conrad said “you should look at the front tires—they are almost down to the threads,” as the cop wrote it all down grinning hugely.    I turned the ticket in that night to the boss, “We got a real hard nosed cop.” Two days later the Carryall was back, all fixed!

    I didn’t tell you about our wildcat strike; trucks rearing up on the St. Croix hill; agate and Indian artifact finds and lots more.  Everett said “The main reason I went back to college each fall was so I wouldn’t have to work 100 hours a week at Stokelys anymore!”  

Bears at the Cabin

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Indianhead Gem and Mineral Society Meeting

Attended last night's meeting where we learned about Geology.
Lunch is served by the Guys

Show and Tell 

Is it a Laker or is it from Brazil?

Door prizes for everyone

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Down in the St. Croix Valley Song

Several Years ago I found out about a song written by a Grantsburg woman, Cora Meade Hegge, called "The St. Croix Valley.'   I managed to get a copy of it and heard it sung by Cora's great grandson.  Somewhere I have a tape of him singing it--hope to find it and add to the post. 
Here is the music and a little about Cora. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Myasthenia Gravis Update

I am in the waiting period gradually increasing prednisone to slow down my immune system that is creating the antibodies that are attacking my nerve muscle interface.  I am up to 40 mg of prednisone a day on the way to 60 eventually to hold at that for a few months to see what happens.  In the meantime I take Mestinon, a pill that helps with the symptoms.  Sometimes I almost feel normal, and other times I am just slow/tired/and weak.   

It is a waiting game--a few months and I should find out if this strategy is working OK.  The hot weather aggravates MG, so I haven't done much outside for the week.  

Trying this week to update the 3 history websites I support as a volunteer.   Sterling Eureka and Laketown History Society now has a donate button that lets you use credit card or paypal to donate Luck Area Historical Society has minor changes for hours open.  Hope to add some photos and stories.  The Polk Genealogical Society has minor updates on contact person as well as is up-to-date on the great monthly newsletter by our member Helen Stoltz-Wood.  This one needs a lot of updating with information we have. 

   One of these days I need to start putting more content into the pages!   I start typing now and often my fingers quit working, so I take another Mestinon, wait 40 minutes and if it works, can type another 30 minutes.   Wreaks havoc with my writing and getting books together. 
The Firestone family from the Twin Cities built a log cabin on Balsam
Lake in 1931. They used it for 20 years and then sold it.  Last week, their
daughter traveled from California to see if she could find it again.
With help from the Polk County Genealogical Society, she not only found
it, but toured it and found it very much like it was when she last went there
in 1949.  Even the furniture her grandfather made was still inside!  The
major change was that the cabin was raised in the air and a basement added.  

   A wonderful story I am working on is how a woman from CA and her daughter from WA came to WI to find the mother's log house on Balsam Lake where she went as a child in the 1930s and 40s, through contact with the Polk Genealogical Society.   I have photos, the cabin was still there, and they stopped at the museum in Luck to visit about "going home" again.  Have a phone interview to do about what it was like to leave the Twin Cities for a weekend at the cabin in 1940,

We had 1.2 inches of rain this week (according to neighbor Loren Nelson on Bass Lake) that really watered the gardens well. They are growing wonderfully!

Preparing for Lucky Days and making aebleskivers is next, then comes the county fair where Margo and I help with the School House with the Genealogical society.  We have a lot of exhibits for the fair this year with fruits, vegetables, writings, baked goods, butter and more.  We aren't submitting any maple syrup this year as we didn't make any and I help judge it.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Norwegian Emigrants II

Continued from last post -- Great Grandpa's cousin's story of the Norway to America journey and life.  Note:  .Family members left the Vikna area starting in about 1864 coming to northwest Wisconsin in the area around Baldwin and Barron.  The Vikna book by Rovik and others in about 1930 details most of this.

Louise M Olson story continued in her own words

The church was the center of society in those times.  Casper says that they would leave home on Sunday morning at 7:00 am, walk a mile, row five miles, and then walk four miles arriving at Garstad Church at 11 am.  They would sit in the unheated church until about 12:30 when they could start their journey back.  They would walk back the four miles, arriving at their boat about 4 pm.  Then they would eat and row, walk again, and arrive at 7 pm.  This trip to the church totaled 12 hours.  Casper said that in the winter, they made this same trip by sled over the frozen lakes.  The church was built in 1592 and was foremost in the minds of the Vikna and Leka folks.  It was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.  It was rebuilt but fell to down.  They used a house for worship until 1856.  Then it was rebuilt and it is still standing today.  Martin was born on June 5, 1886, and was baptized in the Garstad church.  By the way, he used this baptismal certificate and his father’s naturalization papers to get a passport to Cuba in 1921 when he made the trial run of the U.S.S. Tennessee ship to Cuba.  I’ll tell you about that later.

Now I am going to tell you about Casper’s trip from Norway to America.  Martin was only ten months old when his folks, Casper’s brother Albert, and their tow mothers, Anton Taraldson (won was married to Casper’s mother) came over.  This was in 1887.  John Johnson, a friend of Casper’s, had emigrated to America in 1884, and he had written to Casper, telling him that he would loan the money to them all for the tickets.   I neglected to tell you that at this same time mother’s sister Lina, also came with them.  Casper said that each ticket would cost s$40.00 at that time.  They left Vikna about April 17, 1887 by steam-boat to Trondheim.  Then another steam-boat took them to Hull, England.   From there, they went by railroad to Liverpool.  He said that it took them about three weeks to make the trip by steamboat.  From Liverpool they went to Philadelphia.  This trip took twelve and a half days.  Then they came through Chicago and Madison and then to Baldwin where Norway acquaintances took them in.   John Johnson had advanced them the money for the tickets as neither Casper or Albert had the money.  John gave up his place on the Nils Nordby’s section crew for Casper [railroad building] and they moved to Roberts in the next few months.

Until we moved to Roberts, my Dad, used to walk the railroad tracks from Baldwin to Roberts twice on the week-ends, back and forth, in order to visit with mother.  Mother stayed at Nils Nordby’s home in the meantime, until they moved to Roberts.  My dad did this for a couple of months.  Martin said that John Johnson went to work on the Great Northern [railroad] out of Minneapolis, for a couple of years on a section crew.  Martin also told us that John lost the sight of one of his eyes in a fist fight while working there. 

Martin also said that Uncle Albert worked on a section crew at Marine on the St. Croix in Minnesota, on the Soo Line – so Albert got his start on the railroad too.  Nils Nordby was transferred to Baldwin as a section foreman, when he gaveup his job to Casper. 

Albert Cornelius was my Dad’s brother.  You remember I told you Dad, Albert, their tow mothers, Anton Taralson (who married mother after her husband was drowned on Christmas eve), Martin who was only ten months old, and my mother’s sister Lina, all came to America in 1887.  And you remember John Johnson loaned them money for their tickets as they didn’t have the money to pay for them themselves.  Dad went to Roberts to work on the section. Albert and his mother and her husband Anton Taralson, went to Barron, Wisconsin and became farmers.  They lived close to each other.  Albert and Casper’s sister Lina, had married Ole Olsen form Norway.  They also had a farm close to Albert Cornelius and Anton Taralson.  Lina had two children, Chris and Anna.  When Chris was seventeen, his mother had contracted T.B [tuberculosis].  On her death-bed she asked my father, Casper, if he would take Chris home with him and raise him.  Dad brought him to Roberts.  Being seventeen, Dad managed to get him work at the Roberts train Depot.  He learned telegraphy in the depot. He was transferred to Deer Lodge, Montana, where he was the chief train dispatcher, for twenty years.  Chris was born in Lysø in 1885, came to America with his parents in 1888. His mother died in 1902. His father took Anna, his sister back to Norway; where he married again. His sister is still living and lives in Madison, WI  She never married.  [hand written comment by Dena Paulson Pedersen—Not current—this was her copy of the book and I will include annotations made by her].

There is something else I want to tell you about Albert Cornelius.  I don’t knokw when, but he donated an acre of his farm to the Maple Grove Baptist Church; also an acre of gorund to the church to be made into a Cemetery.  The cemetery is called the Maple Grove Cemetery.  I’msure that he emigrants from Norway built up the church, being Norwegian, as they talked mostly Norwegianinit. He was a religious man, as well as his brother Casper.  And I will add this; when the members either died ormoved away, they decided to tear down the church, but the cemetery is still being used.  Most of those buried there are relatives of mine.  When they tore down the church,tghey elected new people to take care of the cemetery.  They elected Gunner Jackson as the head man; and they elected me, Louise M. Olson, as Secretary and Treasurer.  When I had to retire andmove here to Dorise’s home in Oconomowoc, I retired from the job and Mrs. Nina Wagner has it now. 

Now I’m going to talk about John Paulson [Russ Hanson’s great grandfather].  His wife was a cousin of Albert and my dad, Casper Cornelius, which makes Dena Paulson my second cousin.  Mr. Paulson lived on a farm amongst the ones who emigrated form Norway.  This was in Maple Grove township, Barron County, Wisconsin.  John Paulson and his wife are both dead now [wife died in April 1929  tornado and John a few months later from injuries], but I’m going to start by telling you  that John Paulson’s father was Johan Edvard Paulsen, born March 3, 1852 on Harldsøy in Vikna.  [Dena, John’s daughter has written over this:  Wrong—the  name and date are actually for John Paulson, not his father].  John’s father and two other men were drowned at sea in 1869. Johns was supposed to go with them, but he had been sick for several days so they told him to stay home.  John’s father and the other two men drowned at sea in Gjaeslingen in 1869.  That was the last time he saw his father.  Dena’s mother was Olianna, born Oct 12, 1845.  John’s half brother [Ole Mikelsson] had been in American and John and his wife Olianna and her four children went to America with the half-brother when he returned to America. [Dena has written—incorrect, John and Olianna were married in Baldwin, not Norway] [the confusion here is likely that Gurine, John’s mother and her four children came to America and Louise mixed that up with John and Olianna].   John bought a small farm and lived there for 20 years.  Then he bought another farm in Maple Grove Township and worked that farm for 30 years.  Part of the time he worked on the railroad.  He was also a school clerk and school treasurer and a very religious man. 

Olianna and John Paulson had three children.  [incorrect:  Olaf, Hannah, Edwin and Dina].  One child Olaf died [in middle age].  The third child was Edwin, who became a missionary in China for seven years.  After he came back he was in Minneapolis where he was a teacher.  The fourth child was Dena.  Later in life, Dena married Andrew Pederson, and they lived Hillsdale, WI. Andrew is now dead and Dena is living with one of her sister’s sons.  She is now 88 years old – in 1977. [she lived with Russ’ parents until she died at a few months past her 100th birthday]  John and his wife Oliana, as well as Dena’s husband Andrew Pederson, are all buried in the Maple Grove Baptist Cemetery in Barron, WI.   I might as just as well tell you that Seaver and Hannah are buried lthere too.  Roya and I are going to be buried there too, when we finally pass away. Also, our children too. 

Continued next time

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Norwegian Emigrants

Beginning of copy of story by Grandma's cousin, Louise Olson about the family roots from Vikna Norway.  It is a story of drownings at sea and coming to America.

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.   

Murphy Family of Atlas WI and Alabama

An acquaintance of our died yesterday, July 3, 2012, age 98.   I include his obituary and a 6 year old newspaper column about him.

The Murphy Family of Alabama  by Russ Hanson
               We have been looking at the ghost town of Alabama Corners in North East Laketown Township--just west and south of Atlas.  This week we see if we can track the Murphy Family.  Justus L. Murphy joined the Bells, Addingtons, Lakes, Freemans, Martins, McKees and Enloes coming from Wedowee, Randolph County, Alabama who migrated north to Wisconsin in 1869 to get away from the aftermath of the Civil War.  Some members of these families were Union sympathizers during the War (1861-1865) and found the post war South still dominated by the same southerners who fought to preserve slavery.

               Margo and I have a winter tradition of going south for a week or two in February to escape the cold.  This year we decided to go to Wedowee (wah dow' ah) and see what the settlers left who came to Wisconsin left behind.  The settlers came from two areas:  Cleburne County and 30 miles south in Randolph County.   The nearby large city of Anniston, about 100 miles west of Atlanta GA., has a very good local history room with all sorts of records and books from the area.  We were able to locate the farms the families had by looking at the government land records. 

               We decided to first look at the farms they left, then the local cemeteries and then see if we could find any traces of the families still in the area.  The Lakes, Addingtons and Murphy's all owned land adjacent to each other in Randolph County, about 3 miles SE of Wedowee in a valley on the edge of the Talladega national forest--the SW edge of the Appalacian  mountains.  The area was mostly forested with pines grown by lumber companies for paper pulp and lumber.  We parked our popup camper high in the mountains at Cheaha State Park, 20 miles from Wedowee.         It was sunny and 70 degrees when we headed out for Wedowee.  The Daffodils were blooming in the yards and here and there in the woods and ditches.  We found Hwy 15 that took us down through the Wildcat Creek Valley and located what we thought were the lands of the three families.  We had a county map that showed cemeteries and all of the roads.  The area was mixed woods and cow pastures with some nice houses and others more rustic.  There were no very old buildings--so we guessed they were all gone.  We found several cemteries but not Wild Cat Cemtery.  To get directions, we stopped where an older gentleman was picking up his mail. 

               We told him we were looking for Wildcat Cemtery.  "Next dirt trail to the right ahead.  Follow the road to the end."  I explained what we were doing and asked him if he knew of any families named Addington, Lake or Murphy in the area.   "Well,  my name is JL (John) Murphy.  I am 92 years old and my Daddy and Grandaddy lived here all of their lives."  "Back in 1938, a man named Adams and his son stopped to visit Daddy and said they were down here to see where their relatives lived before they went to MN.  The man was 85 years old then and said he had gone north with 6 families to MN when he was a kid.  He wasn't a Murphy but lived right next to our farm and his house was across the road. " 

               After checking some of family records I had brought along, we agreed that his grandfather John was a brother to Justus Murphy who had gone to Wisconsin.  We wondered if the visitor in 1938 might have been Addington rather than Adams.  It was over 65 years ago, but John's memory was excellent--so it might have been Adams

               We visited  two different times with JL as he is called.  We walked around the old cemeteries and he told us stories of the early days.   His Granddaddy and Daddy were small farmers and raised small crops on the bottomland in small fields where the soil was better.  They ran a store and post office and had a dam on Wild Cat Creek where they ground corn and wheat.  They raised a little cotton, corn, sorghum and cane, and a large garden.  He remembers riding out to the cotton field with the crew of blacks who picked the cotton.  His dad moved up from the bottoms to the higher ground to get electricity in the late 1930s.   He built a new mill there and had a huge one cylinder gas engine to power it instead of the waterwheel.  He has the millstones in his yard for decorations.

               I asked about the Civil War.  He told a story of his grandmother having  a brother in the South's army visiting the house while at the same time her son was hiding in the cotton pile while at home from the Union army recuperating from a wound.  Randolph County was opposed to the war as was most of Northern Alabama.  They had very few slaves and believed the war was a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight" who had nothing to gain   and everything to lose.  

John Larkin 'J.L.' Murphy

Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 2:37 pm
(WEDOWEE) Funeral services for John Larkin "J.L." Murphy, 98, of Wedowee will be at 2 p.m., Friday, July 6, 2012, at Quattlebaum Funeral Chapel with Revs. Cloise Johnson and Jimmy Yates officiating. Burial will follow in Cedarwood Cemetery, Roanoke.
Mr. Murphy died, July 2, at Lineville Nursing Home.

Mr. Murphy was born Dec. 8, 1913, the son of James Larkin and Lena Thornton Murphy. He was a member of Midway United Methodist Church, had worked as an aircraft mechanic for the U.S. Department of Defense, and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Mr. Murphy is survived by one sister-in-law, Lura Sudduth Browning of Wedowee; a nephew, Roy Murphy; and several other nieces and nephews. Mr. Murphy was preceded in death by his wife, Maggie Sudduth Murphy, and his parents.

Pallbearers will be Walter Sudduth, Donovan Murphy, Robert Stubbs, Patrick Murphy, Rayford Edmondson and Jerry Pollard.

The family will receive friends from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 6, at the funeral home. Condolences may be expressed at
Quattlebaum Funeral Home, Roanoke.